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The train in Spain: seeing Andalucía by rail | Andalucia holidays

The train in Spain: seeing Andalucía by rail | Andalucia holidays

Lunch in Granada is not a calm affair. At 3pm in Bodegas Castaneda, a crowded, old-school tapas bar, every inch of the cluttered bar counter is taken. Waiters shout orders and squeeze between standing diners, plates of rose-pink jamón serrano and sizzling croquetas held above their heads, beer taps flick back and forth, wedges of tortilla Española and golden calamari pass above chilled glasses of fino.

We’ve come to try the Calicasas – the Bodega’s infamous mix of vermouth, gin, rum, soda and spices – and sip it gingerly while tucking into a mountainous platter of jamón serrano and local cheeses. One glass apiece and we’ve adjusted to the volume and have a feeling we could settle in for the rest of the day. A second glass is tempting, but we can’t spare the time; with only two days in one of Spain’s most fascinating cities, there’s simply too much to see.

Granada is our third stop on the well-trodden path across the arid landscapes that lie between three of Spain’s most extraordinary cities. Few regions in Europe can lay claim to such a fascinating hinterland; the last stronghold of the Moors, Spain’s southernmost region was under Islamic rule from the early eighth century until Granada finally fell to the Catholic monarchs in 1492. What was left behind, across Seville, Córdoba and Granada, is an astonishingly rich legacy of palaces and mosques that gives an insight into the power of the Moors – and the scale of their reign.

‘It’s like stepping into a geometric maze of claret-striped archways’: inside the Mezquita in Cordoba. Photograph: Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

The beauty of these three cities is that they are linked by fast train routes (no more than two hours), with another quick link down to Málaga, where we top and tail our trip with a night by the sea. It’s a vibrant city – rather like a Spanish mashup of Brighton and Nice, with an old town crammed with restaurants and a waterfront fringed with leafy, palm tree-dotted parks. It’s also a great introduction to Andalucía, but as we step off the train in Seville, it’s clear we’re somewhere very different from Málaga’s breezy, beachy charms.

One of Spain’s biggest draws, Seville’s maze of streets throngs with visitors, all heading in the same direction as us: towards the gargantuan cathedral, the largest…

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