winter sun Andalucian style

As travel restrictions ease, Hanneke Lambert and her husband head off to Spain to find some late winter sun amid the old Moorish settlement of Mojácar in Almeria. Here, they enjoyed a few days of fine food, relaxation, and some vitamin D in the form of Spanish sunshine at the Desert Springs Golf Resort.

Mojácar is one of the Costa de Almeria’s favourite destinations. Located in the south-east, this Andalucian village offers access to historic Moorish architecture and miles of golden Mediterranean beach. With its whitewashed buildings that dot along the long coastline, the resort has a classic feel throughout the day and well into the night. In the surrounding area, and well worth a visit, is Mojácar Pueblo, a whitewashed hilltop village in a picture-book setting. Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Cabrera Mountain Range, it overlooks the beach resort of Mojácar Playa where the Mediterranean Sea washes onto a ten mile-coastline of uncrowded sandy beaches.

 We stayed at Desert Springs Golf Resort – Europe’s only international award-winning luxury family resort and championship desert golf course. Located in Cuevas del Almanzora it is a ten-minute drive from Mojácar Playa. The entrance to Desert Springs takes you on a long orange and olive tree-lined driveway up a hillside road that then brings you into the resort, with golf greens either side. This resort has something for everyone – you definitely don’t have to be a golfer! Desert Springs offers real relaxation, with a spa, a community pool and fitness facilities, tennis courts, running tracks and walkways and, not forgetting, their new cricket pavilion that has recently been chosen by Hampshire CCC and Derbyshire CCC for their training camp for their 2022 season. 

For breakfast we headed to Mojácar Playa and a restaurant called Dolce Vita, a trendy yet popular spot with tourists and locals alike who go to savour the sea front location and listen to the waves lapping up on to the beach. The breakfasts are typically Spanish but there is also more of a European/British option on offer. We had eggs Benedict and eggs royale – both fresh and tasty and served with a freshly squeezed orange juice and a rather good coffee! 

The next stop was Vera for their weekly Saturday market, always a great place for soaking up the culture. Amid enjoying the local colours and flavours, we grabbed a coffee and freshly made Pastel de Nata before heading out to the fishing port of Garrucha. Here, you can see the fishing boats offload their catch before it is auctioned at the quayside, and they are famous for their red prawns. In this traditional Spanish fishing town, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to tapas bars and al fresco dining. 

 The evening saw us meet up with friends and we dined at El Torrente, the main restaurant on site at Desert Springs. This fine dining restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere and is in a stunning setting, overlooking Powder Creek and its Cascade. El Torrente is renowned for its fine Spanish menu, including several special local dishes and fresh fish. Their chef, Sergio Rodriguez, has worked in different Michelin-starred restaurants and his cuisine is based on respect for the regional produce and traditions. The restaurant also opens for lunch and on a Sunday, hosts their special Rock’n’Roast lunch with live music. 

For our meal, we all chose from the Chef’s Menu – three courses set at €27.95 including an aperitif, bread, coffee, and petit fours. An optional wine pairing with each course for €15 is available, but we went for La Montesa, a Spanish blend of Rioja, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Mazuelo, at €19 a bottle. Starters included ham hock terrine with pistachios and pork crackling and Iberian pork cheek stew with prunes and raisins. Among the mains were beef feather blade with potatoes and red cabbage; skate with squid ink rice, clams and aioli; rib-eye steak, a €9 euro supplement but well worth it; and duck confit with ras-al-hanout quinoa and beets. Dessert took us to yet another level: chocolate molten cake with coffee ice cream; dark chocolate mousse with orange sorbet; ginger-herb custard with pistachio ice cream; and a selection of Seron cheeses with quince jelly and nut bread. The whole evening felt very special, and the staff could not have been more helpful.

After a lazy morning, our final day saw us head to Mojácar Playa for lunch at Neptuno, a place popular with locals, famed for its paella, and definitely a place you need to book in advance. This beach restaurant allows you to enjoy the sound of the waves while you dine, and you can imagine how magical it must be in the evening with the reflection of the moon on the sea. Midweek, they offer a fabulous menú del día – two course and a beer or water for €9. We opted to pick from the main menu and shared starters of fried calamari and shrimp croquettes. Both dishes were fabulously fresh and tasty, but we found ourselves defeated!

 Throughout the region, you will see various items depicting the Indalo Man, an ancient symbol found in the province of Almeria over 100 years ago and now a symbol of Mojácar. Found in a cave in the Los Velez Natural Park in Velez Blanco, Spain, and dating back to 2500 BC, the Indalo is a prehistoric and supposedly magical symbol. Historically, it has been customary to paint an Indalo symbol on the front of houses and businesses to protect them from evil. The Indalo Man means Indal eccius – messenger of the Gods – in the Iberian language. Legend has it that the Indalo was a ghost that could hold and carry a rainbow in his hands, thus the arch over the head of the man. the Indalo symbol is a good luck charm in the Almeria region; however, the charm is only beneficial if given to you as a gift.

Our time in Mojácar had come to an end, and it was time to head back to the grey skies of England, but with spring very firmly on the horizon. 

  • The details:
    Stansted – Almeria International Airport with Ryanair, from £60 return flights per person; Car hire varies on the time of year but from April around £200 for 7 days rental  – Desert Springs is a quiet 50-minute drive from the airport. Desert Springs resort – a 3 bed villa for a week in July €2,500 / 3 bed apartment €1,700.

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