As I mentioned in my post about how this all began, we bought into the Hilton Grand Vacation Club primarily because I had always wanted to go to Spain. In particular, I wanted to see the Alhambra in Granada. It was number one on my bucket list. So, as soon as our points were available, I started planning. HGVC doesn’t have a location in Spain, but you can exchange your points with RCI. We decided to go the week between Christmas and New Years since we both could be certain to get away from work at that time. We were new to this and the thought of a WHOLE week off was a bit daunting.
I knew which part of Spain I wanted to visit and began checking the RCI locations in that area. After a lot of comparison and questions, we ended up staying at the Sunset Beach Club in Benalmadena. The location was beyond beautiful. Our room had a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean that was absolutely breathtaking.
There were however, some surprises. Our room was the size of a studio at most hotels and the furnishings were modest to say the least. The bed was actually in a closet. My husband still comments on that today. You inserted your room key into a slot by the door to turn on the electricity and the bathroom, while very clean, was TINY.
When we checked in, the front desk clerk suggested we buy tickets for the breakfast buffet. You essentially got one day free if you bought tickets for the week. It seemed like a good idea so, we bought the tickets. The resort is owned by Brits and we were more than surprised by the contents of the buffet. There were beans, sandwich meat and canned fruit along with usual eggs, toast and bacon. For experienced travelers, this would probably be expected but as I mentioned this was our FIRST trip. We nibbled at the buffet the first day but on the next we ventured out to a little pub across the street, La Ruta de Iberico. It was amazing. We had breakfast there several times and had a wonderful paella there for dinner. Some of the dishes we had remain my favorites even today.
We did not however come to Spain to sleep and eat. We came to see the sights. We had rented a car for our trip. The woman at the counter took one look at our luggage and suggested a bigger car. (We have since become MUCH better packers.) The car was a stick shift Volvo. You drive on the right side of the road in Spain so that was ok (see post about Ireland for driving adventures) but the signage is minimal and the mountainous roads can be treacherous.
On our first day we headed out to Ronda. A dear friend, who had actually lived in Spain, had highly recommended it and we were not disappointed. Ernest Hemingway had spent a large amount of time in Ronda so we felt a bit of kinship to our native Florida. There is also a street named after Orson Welles. He is buried in Ronda. Ronda is the birthplace of bullfighting. We did tour a bullfighting arena but did NOT see an actual bull fight. That is not on my bucket list. Ronda is situated in the mountains and the scenery is dramatic. We were having so much fun that we stayed a bit late and had to drive home in the dark. We made certain to plan better on our other excursions.
The highlight of our trip was our visit to the Alhambra. The Alhambra dates back to the 9th century and became a royal residence in the 13th century. Many famous people, including Washington Irving have stayed at the Alhambra. The architecture and beauty is beyond compare. We spent an entire day exploring the site and I would have gladly stayed longer! A picture is worth a thousand words so I have posted some of the best. I think they do the site much greater justice than I can.