I applied to Almohalla 51 for work experience, as I am studying A level Spanish and have a longstanding interest in Spanish culture. I had an absolutely fantastic time, so here is my summary on spending a week in an authentic Spanish village, Archidona, while assisting a local boutique hotel.
My experience in Archidona was different from what I had anticipated. It was a week I’ll always cherish. When you begin in a small town where everyone knows each other, it might seem intimidating. However, after being in Archidona for a week, I can vouch for the locals’ generosity, friendliness, and compassion. In the mornings my tasks included serving the lovely hotel guests who were delighted with the delicious breakfast cooked by Jo, cleaning rooms and walking to the local shop in search of fresh molletes, water and eggs. I
was able to provide a level of assistance with my ability to speak (a little bit of ) Spanish , this included sorting out problems with the hotel water system, trying to help with a couple who were wanting to collect feral cats… All the things you would never think of!
I feel as though I made the most out of my time there by witnessing the start of La Feria celebrations in the Plaza de Ochevada, hiking in the mountains where I saw fantastic scenery, and visiting the spectacular ‘ el Torcal ‘ a world heritage Unesco site.
Here are some of my highlights :
El Sanctuario de la Virgen de Gracia
It was early August when I was in Archidona, so I decided to start walking up the hill at around 8pm before watching the stunning red-sky sunset from the sanctuary. From the bottom of the path, it took me around 30 minutes to reach the top – a perfect distance for an early morning stroll or even a run.
I would definitely recommend this walk to anyone staying in Archidona – it’s accessible, beautiful and the views are quite frankly breathtaking.
Walking routes in the mountains
While I was there, I followed Jo and Ken’s suggestions and hiked a few of the mountain trails near Archidona. I met a wonderful woman, Mayte Astorga, who knows a lot about the town and who took me to a few of its idyllic spots. The thing I most enjoyed was the minimal amount of time it took to reach the countryside from the centre of the town. You could be sitting and chatting in the local Raffa’s bar ‘Central’ one minute and be walking in the wilderness the next.
It has to be one of my favourite locations ever. I was left speechless after visiting El Torcal and surprised that I hadn’t come across this World Heritage Site when researching the Antequera region. Situated at an altitude of over 1000m, I was still surprised by the decrease in temperature – but very glad of it! After following one of the shorter trails ( around 1 hour ), we sat in the cafe and had an iced coffee whilst admiring the view.
Finally, I can’t help but mention Almohalla 51. Seeing Jo and Ken’s hard work behind the scenes was quite moving. Every morning, Jo prepared an incredible breakfast, in addition to completing a long list of jobs to keep the hotel running. Every day, the serene music area, the accessibility of free cake and coffee/tea, the availability of an alcoholic beverage and the stunning artwork really helps make it feel like a home.
I would not hesitate to recommend Almohalla 51 or Archidona to anyone looking for this type of adventure and immersion in culture.
I am already looking forward to returning…