Genuine Andalusia - Andalusia, Spain
Our first hand experience with Genuine Andalusia was like visiting an old friend with an extensive perspective of the region he/she was raised in. Owner and personal guide, Iván Ricoy, will enchant you with the secrets of every city and town in the southwest of Spain. Having spent most of his childhood years in the province of Cádiz, Iván has a bundle of passion for his region and loves to take visitors off the beaten tracks to share the true sparkles under the Mediterranean sun up to the Atlantic sights. The tours organised by Iván define Travel & Lust's ideas of boutique travel: experienced destination specialist offering visitors a unique travel experience that not only leaves you with an incredible insight to the place, but lets you learn of the locals' way of life, gastronomy and become part of the destination. As opposed to the usual run-of-the-mill group travel deals, Genuine Andalusia has an intimate, customised, and eclectic vocation that is centred on the traveller.
After years of working abroad in different countries such as France, Germany and the UK, Iván is now fully committed to his dream job. Based between the noble city of Jerez de la Frontera and buzzy Seville, he offers private tours to individuals, small groups and families visiting the southwest part of Spain. Whilst on the tours, Iván prefers to keep a genuine local perspective, away from the massive tourism of obvious sites and avoid the usual cookie-cutter travel experiences. Genuine Andalusia shares the authenticity of the following provinces in Andalusia: Cádiz, Seville, Huelva, Malaga, Cordoba and Granada.
We did an amazing two day itinerary that included a custom day tour of the old city of Cádiz and ended the day in the white village of Vejer de la Frontera, and the second day we were taken into the depths of Seville city. On the first day, we were picked up from our hotel in the early morning and were greeted by Iván Ricoy himself. We had an early morning breakfast in the fishermen's town of El Puerto de Santa Mária in a traditional bar/café in the centre.
We had a glorious drive through the old town and then were taken to the historical city of Cádiz (to begin the Colonial Cadiz tour); in which the first known navigators to reach these shores were the Phoenicians, giving it the old name of Gadi meaning 'enclosed or fortified enclosure'. The city rises from the headland in the Gulf of Cádiz and upon crossing the main bridge, we could see how the city is actually an island spanned with two linked pass overs. We were educated about the colonial city and some of its underground secrets. For many years, Cádiz held the monopoly of all trade with the New World and we had the chance to see some of the treasures for ourselves. After a brilliant morning strolling into the old city and catching the Atlantic breeze, we went for lunch to two traditional bars in the area before heading to the second part of our excursion.
This excursion led us near the right bank of the river Barbate and atop a hilltop town called Vejer de la Frontera. This true gem on the Costa de la Luz is squeezed between the country side and the ocean. We were taken through the labyrinth of white washed houses while visiting many prized patios. This impressive town has a rather unheard history that will blow your mind - The story of Vejer de la Frontera goes back to the Moroccan town of Chefchaouen and its origin goes back to Sidi Ali Ben Rachid, Moroccan emir, who fell madly in love in Spain with a beautiful girl named Zhora, who was from the present Vejer de la Frontera (Cadiz). Vejer was under Arab influence for something more than 500 years hence Vejer seems to have some Arabic touch. They married and were soon exiled to Morocco because of the reconquest. When they arrived in Morocco, they decided to settle in a Berber population located on the side of a mountain. The emir gained influence and power in the area but could not ignore the sadness that he saw in the eyes of his beloved, greatly missed his home. The emir impelled by the enormous love that he felt for her it occurred to him to recreate in that place the town where they were so happy and home of his beloved, Vejer de la Frontera.
The second day, we were picked up from our hotel Corral del Rey in Seville. We did the Seville Behind the Scenes tour that left us with a more understanding of the particular character and uniqueness of the city. We were taken into vast courtyards with historic architectures, charming corners and quirky tapas bars frequented by the locals. Resemblance of Phoenicians, Visigoths, Romans, Moors, Jews and Catholic traditions, architecture and food can be pinpointed throughout the city.
The most exciting part of the tour was meeting the locals who keep all of the traditions alive. We met nuns, pastors, the makers of the holy week processions' uniforms: tunics, hoods and masks "nazarenos". The overall experience was beautiful and everyone was so full of life!
Planning the trip of your lifetime can be time consuming and we were so fortunate to have found Genuine Andalusia. They tailored our dream trip that met all of our personal specifications. Iván Ricoy makes sure to be punctual, generous and very involved with the local community. Special thanks to Iván Ricoy, Pepe and everyone who were involved! We have most definitely gained new friends on our travels to Andalusia.