We – mom and two girls, 13 and 4 – spent a fantastic week with Carmela exploring Andalucia.

It could not have been smoother: Gonzalo met us right on time at the Airport, gave us thorough instructions for the pop top VW T4 in which we would spend the following week, and we were off.

The kids loved the adventure of being able to stop anywhere, and cooking in the van was a special treat. I had been a bit worried about how much equipment we would have to bring with us, but as Flamenco’s website promised, the bus came equipped with everything needed to prepare meals – pots and pans, cutlery, plates  and cups, MATCHES to light the gas stove – and more! Nice touches included a coffee maker, a bottle opener and a deck of cards – really essentials for a fun trip. Besides, we all loved the plates that were decorated with vintage camper vans. In all, we brought one large but light suitcase with sleeping bags for our trip, and two carry on size bags with clothes for the week. Easy.

Driving and parking Carmela was dead easy, as well. We traveled through some impressive mountains: The Alcornocales Nature Reserve we crossed on the way from Ronda to Gibraltar had steep and winding roads, but the little VW handled them beautifully. In the cities, our ride fit into any parking garage, which was very important in places like Cordoba and Seville, where we really wanted to get close to the old center of town and street parking is very limited. We camped “wild” a few times: outside the Torcal park, a wonderful hiking and rock climbing area north of Malaga, and, very conveniently, right outside the Alhambra in Granada, which was one of the highlights of our trip. Done discreetly, this did not pose any problems.

Eating was a pleasure in Andalucia. We stocked up on goodies in Malaga’s wonderful market, and some of these olives, jamon and cheese lasted us until the end of the trip, thanks to Carmela’s convenient fridge. We supplemented with fresh fruit, bread and pastries along the way and ate like queens. It was especially nice to be able to prepare a few foods that appealed to our 4 year old – whenever needed, without having to do the “restaurant thing” three times a day – with said 4 year old.

Andalucia was beautiful. Spring there smells like orange blossoms and pine trees, and the mix of muslim and crusader castles, the fantastic Alcazar – palace gardens with the maze in Seville, as well as the narrow alleyways in the “White Towns” and the old parts of Granada, Cordoba and Seville, really appealed to all of us. We’ll be back next year  – going to Cadiz and Portugal!