In my lifetime, I have been fortunate enough to travel to all manner of places around the globe. I have liked many, and loved a few. One of those few is Andalusia, Spain. That sultry, sunny Spanish region so fired up my imagination that I set not one or even two but three books there: my award-winning Andalusian Nights series.
Here are ten things I love about Andalusia. You’ll find each of these aspects in my novels Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy. And don’t forget, I am giving away a chapter of Book 1, Indiscretion, each week for FREE when you sign up for my newsletter: https://hannahfielding.net/indiscretion-free-chapters.
The stunning scenery
I love the colours of the landscape; Andalusia is known for its pueblos blancos – white villages – and the sky and sea are so beautifully blue. Here’s a glimpse of the scenery as seen through the eyes of Alexandra, heroine of Indiscretion, when she first arrives in Andalusia:
They were running over gently undulating ground, which rose and sank in larger billows. The yellow Guadalquivir followed the train all the way, through a valley that sometimes widened to the Sierras, blue mountains that walled the horizon, their bare sharp peaks and rainbow-coloured spears of rock – yellow, orange and crimson – stabbing the air. In the distance, Alexandra could see towns, very white, beyond the wheatlands and olive orchards that divided the landscape. One of these towns nestled brightly at the base of a hill, topped by a Moorish castle, golden against the blue sky.
The Moorish influence
The Moors from North Africa ruled parts of Andalusia for 800 years (between the 8th and 15th centuries), and they have left their mark, most especially in architecture. My favourite example is the Alhambra, the amalgamation of fabulous Arabesque palaces and a fortress complex built by the Moors on a steep wooded hill during the mid-14th century in Granada, Spain. It’s straight out of the Arabian Nights, and is startling for its beauty.
The art scene
This is especially important in Masquerade, in which the heroine is writing a biography of a famous Surrealist artist. I was deeply inspired by the Surrealists, whose aim was to explore the line between dream and reality, especially the Spanish artists Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso (from Andalusia) – and the writer Federico García Lorca from whose work I quote in the epigraph to Indiscretion: ‘To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.’
An intrinsic part of Andalusian culture, it is so vibrant, evocative, stirring and soulful. I adore the fashion of flamenco; the beautiful red and black dresses the women wear, in particular. Most of all, I love the music – what Federico García Lorca called, ‘The weeping of the guitar’. There’s no other music like it in the world, and no other music so raw and moving.
The spirit of the people
Andalusia is an autonomous community, and it is more populated than any other autonomous community. So there are many people who are very proud of their Andalusian nationality. The geographical location of Andalusia, on the south coast with a coastline on both the Mediterranean and Atlantic, has made it a popular place for holidaymakers, and I found a real sense of ‘fiesta’ in the places I visited, and an intensity: as Salvador says in Indiscretion: ‘Everything we Andalucians do, we do with intensity.’ Plus the temperate climate makes for such a wonderful life enjoyed in the warmth and beneath glorious blue skies (the dry area of Andalusia enjoys some 300 days of sunshine per year!).
Have you heard of the Andalusian horse breed (also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or PRE for Pura Raza Española)? It has been bred on the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years, and has long been prized as a beautiful, noble and sensitive horse – the horse of kings through history. The de Falla family at the heart of my Andalusian Night trilogy breed Andalusian horses and train them for the cavalry, the show ring and the arena, and so these feature prominently in the stories.
What amazing meals I’ve had in Andalusia! The ingredients are of such a high quality: langostino de Sanlúcar (prawns), jamón serrano and jamónibérico (cured meats), gazpacho (cold soup), alboronía (like ratatouille), and amazing sweets like merengadas and amarguillos (biscuits) – all accompanied by a little jerez (sherry) or local wine.
I love the fiesta culture of Andalucia: how people come together. Sometimes the occasion is a corrida (a bullfight), and while these feature in Indiscretion, I can’t say I love to watch them. The Jerez Horse Fair, however, is one of my favourite events. Held in May each year, the Feria de Caballo has been drawing huge crowds for more than 500 years. It is a riot of colour and noise, and the horses on display are some of the most beautiful and expensive in the world. There is nothing quite like standing at the side of the Paseo de Caballistas y Enganches (Carriage and Riders’ Avenue) and watching the processions of horses and carriages go by. Some are bedecked in the most amazing colourful attire.
The importance of family
Family is an important theme in the Andalusian Nights trilogy (the title Legacy hints at this), and so where better to situate the story than in a country where roots are a source of great pride – and, sometimes, friction.
From the opening of the trilogy: En la sangre hierve España sin fuego. (In Spain blood boils without fire.) This proverb says it all: Spanish is a land of deep passions, the perfect setting for fiery, dramatic romance. Olé!