First, the fizz. Part of Seville’s exuberance is because the city is preparing for two festivals: Semana Santa, over Holy Week, and the April Fair (actually in May). The first involves processions of elaborately trussed religious statues sitting on decorative floats held aloft by men in cream-coloured cloaks and cone-shaped headdresses, a vision that surprised me when I attended, by chance, while interrailing around Europe decades ago. The April Fair is equally flamboyant, although with more frills — Sevillanas in every shade of flamenco dress. Everyone learns flamenco at school, so there’s no excuse for poor footwork. And, naturally, getting a new dress, of slightly different design, is the done thing each year.
After all that, arriving at La Donaira via the white mountain village of El Gastor is a change of pace. Not least because the views are lurking under cloud (the calima again), so I am inclined to make the most of the hotel’s cosiness rather than head out for a grey hike.
What was once a private house, converted into a hotel in 2015, strives to maintain that homely feeling. It’s working — guests wear athleisure at dinner, pad around in socks and Crocs, and children jump on the giant sofa by the living-room fire. The vibe here is so relaxed, we leave our bedroom door open at night to listen to the rain and feel the cool mountain air. The living room is a big, open space — a former barn, with picture windows over the courtyard, a library and plenty of lounging spots.