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A Charming Weekend in Arcos

Photos by Ashley Maer

By Ashley Maer

It was an eyebrow raising 37C when we arrived in Arcos de la Frontera just after 6pm last Friday.

Which leads to a somewhat obvious question, why on earth would we want to spend a couple of days sweltering in inland Spain when coastal towns are so much cooler?

Well, the short answer is, it was substantially cheaper.

But we were also keen to have our first family holiday away together, having recently become first-time parents — and Arcos had long been on our list of places to visit.

So, after a substantial amount of packing for the little one, we set off from the Rock in our car and, an hour and a half later, found ourselves in the white-washed hill-top town.

For those of you who have not visited Arcos before, let me give you some good advice now. Do not attempt to drive into the old town — the streets are the narrowest we’ve seen anywhere in Spain, and they are filled with slow-walking tourists and precariously placed restaurant tables, making for a somewhat stressful drive where the chance of scratching your car on Medieval town walls is a very real possibility.

We had visited Arcos briefly several years ago and made this rookie mistake – we just about got out of the old town alive. But this time around we parked in the new part of town and caught a stress-free taxi (7 euros) up to our hotel in the old town.

We had booked two nights in La Casa de Bovedas Charming Inn, which was, as the name suggested, quite charming.

It cost us 180 euros for two nights and, for this, we had our own private terrace for watching the sunset in the evenings (make sure you book the Azul Room).

We also had access to a little pool in a gorgeous little terrace area, that was shared with the other six rooms in this boutique hotel.

It’s worth mentioning that the hotel owners put a cot in our room free of charge and gave us access to their private kitchen to use the microwave to sterilise our daughter’s milk bottles, which made life easier.

After unpacking we took a mosey around the old town’s tangled labyrinth of cobbled streets on Friday night, in search of a good tapas bar where we could indulge in a bit of people watching. We settled at Bar La Carcel, where we bumped into the obligatory couple from Gibraltar, who said they were in town to watch a Flamenco Festival, which we knew nothing about.

Needless to say, we skipped the festival and retired to the hotel for an evening on the terrace.

On Saturday, we got up early to avoid the heat and, after a traditional Spanish breakfast and some coffee, went off to explore the old town. Built on a hill, pushing a pram about was hard work in places, but there were plenty of small craft and gift shops to look around and we managed to buy a rather cute, locally made flamenco dress for 39 euros for our daughter. Unfortunately, the lookout point at the top of the old town was closed due to renovation works, so we missed out on the picture postcard view from the top of the town.

Lunch was, hands down, the best tapas we've had in a long time. We ate at San Marcos, which can be found in the heart of the old town and boasted on its menu that its tapas had won some awards in recent years. We devoured chorizo al infierno, crispy prawns, patatas bravas, crispy chicken and gambas pil pil, before nodding in agreement that we should also try the three-chocolate dessert.

Stuffed and satisfied, we retreated from the mid-day heat and spent a few hours by the pool back at our charming abode. It goes without saying that later on we got a tap on our shoulder at the hotel as, lo and behold, another local was staying in our hotel!

It’s worth noting that the town was declared a national historic/artistic monument in 1962, due to its exceptional architecture and its positioning on a sheer cliff face, which make for some great photos.

It’s not the biggest place — but if you like a traditional Spanish old town with a good selection of restaurants, this is a great weekend away that is very close to Gibraltar.

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