Josie's Andalusian Utopia

The trends and lifestyle guru was lost for a few days in the mountains of Granada, at La Bobadilla, a Royal Hideaway Hotel, to be precise. He was planning a return trip even before he’d left the hotel.

The trends and lifestyle guru was lost for a few days in the mountains of Granada, at La Bobadilla, a Royal Hideaway Hotel, to be precise. He was planning a return trip even before he’d left the hotel.

Josie’s olive grove

There is something very intriguing about Spain in general and about Andalusia in particular. It is the fact that outsiders come here, fall in love with Spain and the Spanish, and develop an obsession with the places where we live but which fail to impress us. Mérimée, Washington Irving, Ian Gibson and so many other lovers of things Iberian, have all helped to fan the flames of a legend that is often not adequately promoted, but which contains enough truth anyway to tempt people to visit its thousands of idyllic haunts.

One such paradise is a 350-hectare estate dotted with olive groves and located between Malaga and Granada, which a Swiss doctor named Egli, yet another foreigner obsessed with the south of Spain and its legends, fell in love with. Thirty years ago, he decided to build his own unique paradise here, set in the midst of the scrubby, yet pleasant landscape and surrounded by centuries-old oak trees. It was to be a world of his own invention, with all the delightful characteristics of a typical Andalusian village: whitewashed houses, a small central square with its own little church, the sound of fountains in every nook, and the architectural legacies of the three cultures (Jewish, Muslim and Catholic) which once co-existed in this land. This utopia, which he named La Bobadilla, is now a luxury rural hotel; its coat of arms still features a sun, a moon and a six-pointed star, symbolising understanding, harmony and peace in those three great cultures.

On Friday morning, I travelled to Antequera, and had no sooner got off the train when I spotted a sculpture by Cristóbal Toral, a local artist who has been awarded a Gold Medal by Andalusia and recognised as an Honorary Academic by the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. The staff of La Bobadilla, a Royal Hideaway Hotel, were there to greet and escort me to the heart of this earthly paradise created by Dr Egli, a mere 25-minute drive from the station.

A flat landscape dotted with olive groves welcomes you as you travel along the roads leading to Sierra Gorda, the location of La Bobadilla, a Royal Hideaway Hotel. On arriving, one is struck by the lush, green setting, as the estate is home to beautiful oak, palm and olive trees tended by Francisco, the Hotel’s very own Edward Scissorhands. Another inhabitant of La Bobadilla who stole my heart is Elisa, the hotel’s public relations officer, a German-Andalusian girl with a doll-like face, who speaks five languages and switches effortlessly from Germanic declensions to a particularly expressive Andalusian accent.

So green

The hotel owes its uniqueness to its incomparable setting, to the silence broken only by the sound of birdsong and the murmur of water and, above all, to its power to restore your peace of mind. Furthermore, the establishment has a commitment to caring for the environment and for its surroundings, tending the olive trees, harvesting the oil and using the olive stones as a fuel supplement; this supplies the energy to run the estate and the filter system of what was at one time the largest swimming pool of any rural hotel in Europe. Here you can have a massage or an exfoliating rub before you sunbathe, thanks to a special treatment based on olive oil and sea salt.

And as evening falls, after a tea-time fruit snack in the pool, you can watch the fiery orange sunset before having dinner on one of the terraces in the cool mountain air, choosing between these options for dining: La Finca and El Cortijo.

The cuisine is delicious, typically Andalusian and, most importantly, served on Pickman de la Cartuja china, which I always find reassuring; whenever it makes an appearance, it strikes me as a sign of good breeding.

All I can think about now is my plans to go back at the end of the summer, to restore my soul among the changing autumnal colours of the hills around La Bobadilla. If you are in need of peace and tranquility, I recommend that you grab a room and take refuge in this Andalusian utopia - it is just perfect in every way.