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Sarah Reeve enjoys a taste of five-star luxury at a romantic Spanish retreat in the heart of Andalucia
Andalucia, just the way it rolls off the tongue when you say it out loud, has a wonderfully lyrical, languid tone to it. Even though I'd never been to the region before, I was already excited after doing some pre-trip research.
The forecast for the long weekend in June was hot, hot, hot and I was prepped and primed for some serious down time. Nestled in a breathtakingly beautiful corner of the Loja mountain range in the Granada province, about an hour's drive away from Malaga Airport, the five-star La Bobadilla Royal Hideaway Hotel is a shining example of the slow travel concept. Things run at a different pace here and from the moment we arrived, my body clock switched to La Bobadilla time. Like a white-washed beacon, the resort nestles in the heart of the remote rural landscape with no other sign of human habitation in sight.
Built to look like a traditional Andulcian village, enter here and be prepared to not want to leave. The rooms are all individually styled and scream luxury, there's even a pillow menu, so you can choose the right one to suit you for a perfect night's sleep. With a wide choice of restaurants to suite all tastes from fine dining, to poolside snacks, an amazing pool area with ample comfy loungers, a spa and gym, you never have to leave the confines of the resort if you don't want to. Ideal for a relaxing mini-moon, you can lay back in the sun, switch off your phones and enjoy a romantic stress-free getaway.
Green and beautiful
Designed not only to impress, but to minimise environmental impact, a number of eco-friendly initiatives are in place, including a biomass facility that transforms the olive stones from the estate's harvest into energy for their heating and hot water systems. A staple of the region, we enjoyed an olive-oil tasting session outside under the shade of the trees. I had no idea it could be so flavoursome as I'm usually pretty undiscerning when it comes to choosing what to buy, opting for price over quality. Now I'm a committed convert, especially after having an olive tree planted in one of the groves, complete with my name on the plaque!
Enjoying the breathtaking setting is a big part of the unhurried, peaceful ethos, with guided eco-tours available and chance to be at one with nature. Shinrin Yoku, otherwise known as forest bathing, was a whole new experience for me. Led by a super-chilled guide, we took a gentle stroll into the surrounding countryside, stopping to admire the plants and wildlife along the way, to sit cross-legged in silence under the boughs of an ancient oak tree to commune with nature. Not wanting to sound too new-agey, I'd highly recommend it if you're looking to unwind and enjoy a life-affirming moment. After shaking off my initial self-consciousness, I was soon drifting off into my own little world; senses fully awakened to all the sounds, smells and sights lost in the everyday rush and tear. If lazing on a sun lounger, glass of fizz in hand, is more your thing, then this is the place for that too. The main lagoon-style pool provides a dreamy backdrop for those all-important honeymoon snaps, you can take a dip, order drinks and snacks and, as if things could get any more romantic, hire a Balinese day bed on the lawn, with Jacuzzi session included. For those that just can't keep still, there's cycling routes and tennis courts too.
Food, glorious food
There's a strong local and regional provenance to much of the cuisine reflected at the hotel's welcoming El Cortijo eaterie. For fine-dining their La Finca restaurant is the perfect setting for a romantic date night. You can put on your glad rags, enjoy five-star food and dine out on the beautiful outdoor terrace in the summer and take in the breathtaking views of the hotel's 1,000-acre private estate – the stuff that honeymoon dreams are made of!