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Grazalema: Natural Images


Reviewed by: Man_in_seat_61 from UK, review #1751

When: December 2006

More like staying with friends than staying at an impersonal B&B, Clive and Sue showed us the wonders of the Sierra de Grazelema mountains around their home.

We booked the week over Christmas at Clive & Sue's Natural-Images guesthouse in the Grazelema mountains in southern Spain. It turned out to be one of the most relaxing yet interesting Christmases we've ever spent. Clive and Sue say they adjust their programme of hikes, walks and visits to suit how active you want to be. The result is a week that struck exactly the right note between chilling out and walking.

Their place nestles 500 metres up in a valley in the Sierra de Grazelema. They picked us up from Seville station where we arrived by train from Waterloo, and as we climbed out of the valley into the mountains we could smell the air getting fresher. We'd been promised log fires and sunny blue skies, and they certainly delivered on both counts for the whole week we were there.

Our bedroom was spotless, and in effect we had our own equally spotless en suite bathroom, as the upstairs is reserved for guests and that just meant us! Food was top notch home cooking, with most of the vegetables grown in their own garden. I'm just glad we weren't made to eat Nibbles the Rabbit ...

What I hadn't expected is to have seen so much of the flora and fauna of the Sierra de Grazelema while we were there, expertly shown around by Clive and Sue who are keen naturalists and photographers. By the end of the week they'd converted us English suburbanites into keen naturalists and nature photographers, too!

The ibex (wild mountain goats) are wonderful creatures, and we got terrific views of them as they came lower down the hillsides in the colder weather. Colonies of Griffon Vultures in the Gargante Verde are marvellous to watch - I'm grateful to Clive for lending me his 500mm lens (he happened to have a similar camera to mine) so I could get some great shots. We learned far more about the wildlife, the Sierra de Grazelema, and about life in Spain, than we ever could had we stayed in a hotel and arranged visits on our own.

All in all, a wonderful experience, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by: cerf from France, review #1731

When: December 2006

We signed up for one week and stayed for two - a truly wonderful, relaxing holiday.

We discovered Clive Muir and Sue Eatock thanks to reviews on SlowTrav which describe very well their situation. Going there was a last minute decision after a busy season at our own B&B in France, where only 5 nights off from April through October left us needing a break. A complete break.

As they had no booking for the end of November I transferred the required 1000 euros for seven nights. At first I thought this was maybe a little on the expensive side for a week's stay compared to many European B&Bs we've stayed in.

After a week I was overwhelmed by just how inexpensive it was. Consider that the 1000 euros included pickup/drop off at Malaga airport (nearly a two hour drive) and any other transport needed, all meals including breakfast with juice from oranges Sue picked fresh off their own trees every morning, picnic lunches together in some marvellous wilderness spots of the Grazalema, delicious homemade dinners like Clive's filet of porc steaks cooked in the fireplace and Sue's famous "zingly-zangly" lemon/orange tart (almost every night a new kind!), wine, aperatifs and digestives. Also teas and coffees.

Also wildlife and flora hikes into the Sierra de Grazalema with passes they secured. Meredith is a confirmed hiker, having walked the 1000 kms of Camino de Campostelo the last two years, so she spent much time while there preparing her Camino legs for a third go next February.

Last but not least, for my needing to keep up with our own rental reservations, Clive's high speed satellite Internet access was essential. He also showed me how to draft and upload a SlowTrav classified for our Paris apartment.

Not only their warmth and hospitality but their knowledge of the area overwhelmed us. Sue and Clive can spot and name seemingly every bird and flower in the Grazalema and both are accomplished photographers with pictures of most fauna and flora of the Park decorating the interior of the house, or for sale as postcards in the lovely "White Village" of Grazalema. His specialty is Griffon Vultures which drift majestically on updrafts in the Park and with their two meter wingspans are known to float over to Morocco in search of food, returning the same day.

We enjoyed ourselves so much the first days, and Sue and Clive were such good company, that Meredith and I decided to ask if we could stay a second week, if they would have us. So for two weeks we stayed with them. We really hated to leave but we had non-refundable plane tickets on Virgin Express back to Brussels and new guests arriving at our B&B in Champagne so we left December 4th as scheduled.

If you wish to share a special place with special people you can't do better than spending a week with Sue and Clive.

Reviewed by: Shannon from CA, review #1665

When: October 2006

A very different B & B experience in the Sierra de Grazalemas.

Near the Roman Ruins of Acinipo, photo by Shannon Essa

I was lucky enough to win a week at Natural Images in the 2006 SlowTrav contest. It is a very different holiday, as you not only have your room and your breakfast, but you also have Clive and Sue who are really fun people and know the area well, to guide you around the whole time. I have never had a guide before on a trip and it was great! We definitely saw places and things we would not have seen otherwise.

When you book at Natural Images, you stay in the home of Clive and Sue. Downstairs is the common area, but the upstairs is entirely the guests. There are three bedrooms upstairs, one bath and a small outdoor patio. The rooms are very comfortable and the bathroom spotless. Clive and Sue are both photographers of the wildlife and plants in the area and the walls are covered with their photography. We were very comfortable in our rooms.

Guests share the downstairs with Clive and Sue but they are so easy to know that it is great. They also let people use their computers to check email. Included in the price of the room (besides the guided tours of the area!) are all meals cooked at the house. They have a huge vegetable garden so this is a great place for vegetarians as it is not exactly easy to find a lot of veggies at restaurants in the area. Clive grills meat and veggies on an outdoor grill he built himself and Sue is a baker of all manner of delectable treats. It's really great to eat homecooked food outdoors in this beautiful national park - like a really great camping spot, but with a nice comfy bed upstairs!

There is plenty to do in the area. Most people go to hike and climb and take pictures of animals and stuff, but Clive and Sue knew we weren't so much into that, so they took us to Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera and Jerez, though we did do some walking. They are great hosts who pretty much match up the activities to the people visiting. We especially enjoyed visiting the Roman ruins of Acinipo and the white villages in the area.

Staying at Natural Images is like staying with two old friends who moved to a really cool area and want to show you all the sights during the day and fill you with good food and wine during the night. If you are considering an alternative to your regular way of traveling, consider Natural Images.

Reviewed by: Susan S from AK, review #1528

When: June 2006

A trip to Andalucia is not complete without experiencing the natural beauty of the Sierra de Grazalema.

Our travels in Andalucia would not have been complete without time spent in the countryside of the Sierra de Grazalemas.

We stayed with avid naturalists Clive and Sue who run Natural Images, a fully catered B&B that offers guided hikes and custom tours. As the late June weather had already turned HOT, our hiking was limited to morning walks, which gave us fantastic views of the area and an appreciation of the spectacular rugged landscape of the Sierra de Grazalema park. We especially enjoyed seeing different types of plants, insects, birds, and seeing the area’s vultures that soar along cliff ledges.

The area also holds a fascinating array of other sights. We visited a number of the old "pueblo blancos," or white villages, that dot Andalucia’s countryside. To wander in these villages is to take a step back in time. Their white walled buildings create stark contrasts with the surrounding golden countryside and their winding cobbled streets made for delightful meanders.

One of our favorite sites was the Roman ruin atop the flat-topped mountain of Acinipo. We wandered among ancient remains of what was once a large and prosperous Roman town with its own amphitheater and baths. Much to our surprise and delight, the acoustics of the amphitheater were astonishing as each whisper from a speaker on the stage could be heard by those sitting on the top tier of seats.

Another not to be missed site we visited was Cueva de la Pileta - a limestone cave that contains Paleolithic and Neolithic cave paintings and pottery shards.

Clive and Sue were exceedingly gracious and knowledgeable hosts who were both generous with their time, information, and their home. Their extensive organic garden produced wholesome and nutritious food, which for us salad eaters was a real treat in "ham haven" Spain.

If you are considering a trip through Andalucia I suggest some time be planned for the countryside where one can experience the real Andalucia. I highly recommend a stay with Clive and Sue who will introduce you to places and sights that could be easily missed, and who can give you not only insights into the natural world of the Grazalema but also into Spainish life and culture.

If you are tired of hot smelly city streets and bored of sitting in cafes, head for the clean air and cool shade of the Grazalema and let Clive and Sue be your hosts. You won’t be sorry – I’m certainly not, for our stay with them was one of the highlights of our trip.

Reviewed by: treeman123 from UK, review #1265

When: October 2005

Staying here exceeded my expectations. Not only did I get some fantastic shots of wildlife but I learned a tremendous amount from my guides Clive and Sue.

Little Owl, photo by David Bryant

Hi there , my name is David Bryant. I am a wildlife photographer and I recently visited the guest house "Natural Images of the sierra de Grazalema" run by Clive Muir and Sue Eatock. On the trip with me was my wife Elizabeth and our two sons David(7) and Jake(12). We found the b+b through Internet searching, coming across the listing on the Slow Travel website. We were particularly looking for a place in the Sierra de Grazalema that could give us guided walks in the mountains and get us close to large birds of prey for my photography.

At first, we were a bit apprehensive that we would be sharing the house with the owners. What if we didn't get on with them, etc.? But after a few minutes with them our fears were laid to rest. Clive and Sue are so easy going and were great with the children. A real home from home.

The house, a traditional but modern and comfortable affair, was the perfect base from which to explore the national park which encloses it. Painted brilliant white, its surrounding fields contain many mature trees, most of which bordered freshly rotovated terraces awaiting their first organic crops to be sown. A small but deeply channelled stream borders one side of the land, whilst over the other you can explore a ruined workshop and water mill which contains much of its original mechanisms. Next to the house is the organic vegetable garden, the produce of which was contained in most of our meals. These were taken outside, under the shade of mature fruit trees, and in view of the mountains.

Sue and Clive are wonderful guides whose knowledge of the surrounding flora, fauna, animal and birdlife, including many species of birds of prey, seems almost complete.

Queries are answered immediately with the name often known in English, Spanish and Latin plus a description of how the animal or plant fits in to the scheme of things.

We visited many different parts of the natural park , some of which we had to get written permission to get into (all arranged beforehand), and walked through some of the postcard perfect local white villages. On another occasion we were driven to a point higher than Ben Nevis, from here we walked even higher, over the peak and slowly descended into the valley containing the house we were staying in. It is quite surreal to see Griffon vultures flying below you! Being that high up, looking down on so much stunning scenery is a memory that will stay with us all forever.

The evenings spent in the house passed far too quickly. Wonderful meals were prepared in the kitchen by Sue and Clive (ask for the lemon merengue pie), and stimulating conversation flowed just as freely as the locally produced wine.

We slept like logs in the rooms decorated with photos of local wildlife, and the kids simply loved the place.

The prices we found very reasonable. We paid 100 euros each per night for myself and my wife and 200 euros per week for Jake. David went for free as he was under 7 years old.

Great food. Great company. Great holiday. I recommend it to anyone who wants an all-in experience in the heart of natural Andalucia. David, Elizabeth, Jake and David Bryant

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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