Eight Reasons why your inspiration will be lifted by Casa La Celada

Eight Reasons why your inspiration will be lifted by Casa La Celada


Art holidays, walking holidays, painting holidays, retreat, Spain, Andalucia, Iznajar,

La Celada – a beautiful, soulful, happy sleepy village in the heart of Andalucia

I would like to introduce you to La Celada – a tiny little village about 2km from Iznajar in the heart of Andalucia where olive groves create a dotted patchwork landscape and where donkeys still carry both farmer and produce around the campo.  A complete step out of time, a long jump away from the rat race, a haven for unadulterated luxury in a rural community where time stopped still about 40 years ago.

If you are ready to step away from the madness and explore the road less travelled, here are some reasons why previous artists, writers and poets have chosen to stay at Casa La Celada, one of Andalucia’s most luxurious self catering holiday homes.


1.     Inspiration

Light  : If your inspiration has become ensnared in a cobweb of tedium and sameness, and you are finding it difficult to feel fresh ideas or shed new light on a concept, painting or plan, perhaps you would benefit from allowing quite literally a totally different quality of light into your world.  The difference between northern European and southern European light is enormous.  Aside from the almost guaranteed sunshine month after month with its known effects on our serotonin levels and therefore its ability to lift our spirits and ease depressive tendencies, southern light can have a dramatic effect on our art, our poetry, and our prose.  And with more than 30 windows through which the light can shine, truly you can breathe brilliant aliveness into every cell of your being, whether in winter or summer months, by a roaring fire or on a sunsplashed roof terrace with 360 degree views.

art holidays, painting holidays, retreats, walking holidays, andalucia, iznajar, mezquita, cordoba, alhambra

Stunning and relaxing roof terrace hot tub

Subject Matter : Depending on the subject of your prose, paintings or poetry if you have come for a creative break will depend on which direction you would need to be pointed, but here are a few diverse options to give you a flavour of the range of inspiration we can offer :

Writing about long ago times, ecology, topography or stone and rock formations? ….. The extraordinarily beautiful and Europe’s largest example of carstic erosion in the hills of El Torcal, just south of Antequera.  A 45 minute drive to Antequera, El Torcal is the other side of the town with views reaching all the way to the Malaga coast on a clear day.  It is said that ancient aquatic dinosaurs would have swum between and around the incomprehensible rocks that teeter atop each other defying balance and gravity.  And now that the water levels have receded, you can walk through the endless corridors of Stone People, climb the faces, sit and sketch or paint, chase children and make believe the dinosaurs are still there.  If you love the art of balancing stones, this is extreme stone balancing.


Carstic erosion, Antequera, dinosaurs, rocks, stone balancing, casa la celada, walking holiday,

El Torcal, Antequera, one of two sites of carstic erosion in Andalucia, southern Spain


Needing a new muse?  The rabbit warren of unbelievably narrow brilliant white streets that knit the city of Córdoba together catapults you back in time to when the Moorish influences shaped Andalucia.  The city that was once keeper of the world’s largest library during the 10th and 11th centuries, Cordoba, with her bougainvilleas dripping over the top of high walls oozes history, romance, power and splendour, captivates.  Both ancient and modern in its architecture, Cordoba city offers Banos Arabes Turkish Baths, the Andalucian Tea Houses, the Mezquita, the Alcazaba Gardens, the vast Parque de los Nin@s for children, to list a tiny few.  Festival months are February (Carnival), May (Fiesta de los Cruces, the Patios de Cordoba) and August (Flamenco fills the night streets).  Named a World Heritage Site, Cordoba city is oozing inspiration and beauty for the artist, writer or gentle holidaymaker.

360 degree views – Casa La Celada’s roof terrace is a fine place to start – as evidenced by a sketch left by one of our many guests in our Visitors’ Book.  The carpet of olive trees, spread out in all directions, undulating over the rolling foothills of the Sierra Subbetica backdrop cast a silvery grey/green light over the Andalucian landscape.  Dotted with traditional white houses, and spiralling coils of bonfire smoke, there is no shortage of artistic inspiration without leaving your front door.
Meat on the bones of new characters : While you might not want to make the journey to the further reaches of La Mancha, some 3½ hours away from La Celada and the setting of Cervantes’ delightful 17th century book Don Quixote, there are several copies of the book in the house for your delight.  Reading Don Quixote while staying in a rural Spanish village will make you smile as you realise you are surrounded by reflections of the book’s three main characters.  La Celada has seen her fair share of harmless but fabulously amusing drunken wanderings, the naïve yet agenda-soaked opportunists and one or two feckless asses like the loveable Rocinante in its time!  Each character brings humour, life and reality to the iconic Andalucian Pueblo Blanco reputation, offering dimension and depth to your musings.

Don Quixote and Rocinante

Don Quixote and Rocinante



2.     Stress Free


Do you remember the last time you were in a stress free environment? …..Writing, painting, thinking or creating while faced with a frenetic lifestyle around you is stressful.  Pure creativity never thrives when under high levels of pressure – in fact the opposite is true – stress and creativity rarely make good bedfellows.


Added to which we are now being led to believe that unless we are connected to every possible appliance twenty four hours a day, we are not successful.


Yet this lifestyle is not good for us … Our diaphragm muscles tighten, our pituitary gland signals a need for stress hormones like cortisol, we stop breathing deeply and our health deteriorates as a result.


Time out from daily routine and away from machines allows us to breathe deeply, relax our diaphragm muscles and begin to recharge our batteries.  When we decide to step out of “survival mode”, our parasympathetic nervous system – the part of us that soothes and heals us – wakens and begins to take effect.  That makes us feel better!


We can offer you massages with Sarah Jackson, we can offer you quad biking tours with Rob Greville, we can offer you guided walks through the olive groves with Les and Terri Hume – all of whom speak your language if you want to talk …..


And we can offer you custom made delicious food, ready for when you get home.



3.     Year round space to focus


If you are faced with deadlines which have caught up with you, if you struggle with prevarication and procrastination, a visit to Casa La Celada could be the perfect “pratyahara” – a Sanskrit word which means “withdrawal of the senses” away from the distractions of the physical world.

  1. No “season” :  Here, you have unbridled luxury whether sketching in front of the wood burning stove in January or sitting on the roof terrace with a Tinto de Verano in high Summer.  If the project must be finished come what may, there is a space for you, 52 weeks of the year.
  2. Internet Silence : The house deliberately has no internet facility within her walls to close out all opportunities for distraction.
  3. Fully catered : If opening the fridge and finding today’s food ready prepared is your perfect world scenario to prevent procrastination, we will arrange it for you.  If what you need is Gourmet Fine Dining brought to your door, we have local spectacular cooks who will provide you with anything you need from large lasagnes to pick at, or freshly prepared paella cooked to old family recipes, to gourmet fine French dining and a bit of company with cigars, cognac and tales of derring do from the seven seas.
  4. Choices of workspace : Whether you wish to work at our beautiful 17th century walnut bureau, or cover the 2.5m x 1m marble kitchen table with your paintings or story boards, there is an abundance of spaces on which to knuckle down and focus.

Writing holidays, painting holidays, photography holidays, art, andalucia, iznajar, casa la celada

Writing home from Casa La Celada’s luxurious 18th Century Walnut Bureau

  1. No need to drive: If you don’t want the distraction of leaving the village for food shopping, the weekly variety of car horns that pass through the village tell you when fresh bread has arrived (daily), when fish has arrived (Wednesdays) and when fruit and veg have arrived (also Wednesdays).  Every day our lovely Isabel in the village shop 50 paces from the front door takes delivery of fresh and cured meats, cheeses, dairy, fruit and veg.  It is entirely possible to spend your entire time within La Celada and without a car if that’s what you need to knuckle down and get the job done.



4.     Perspective


Have you lost your survivor instinct or started to take things for granted?  Are joy and gratitude being eroded and in their place a disgruntled or resigned complacency exists?  If you can be that honest with yourself, you are already a large step ahead of many who simply can’t see themselves that clearly.   If you are finding yourself feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, suffering writers’ block, your photographs have become prescriptive or you sense yourself to be drowning in the mire of ordinariness, La Celada is the most extraordinary panacea. A stay at Casa La Celada helps us remember what we really do have, in our bare skin, and be grateful for all of it.  We too can become adapted survivors, willing to grow with change and challenge.


  1. a.      Rethinking hard work : The people in our small village and the surrounding areas have survived on nothing for ever.  They quietly accept their role of guardianship of the olive groves, a back breaking labour that has meagre remunerations for the smaller farmers for whom this annual salary is all the finances they will see from one year to the next.  And yet you will rarely hear them complain as they choose instead to set their sights on Higher Ground.


  1. b.      The good of the many before the good of the few : Villagers freely give of their time, expertise and effort to help maintain the village at its absolute best.  The streets are swept on a daily basis, houses are repainted almost every year to maintain their brilliant whiteness, and it’s all done with a cheerfulness that to many westerners is confusing because it is given by those with so little to those with so much and with no expectation of a return.  When it comes to fiestas, they all come together to make the biggest paellas you’ve ever seen – and you would be welcome to go and join in!


  1. c.       Family first : Families live together in the home that has been theirs for generations in this part of Spain.  Matriarchy and patriarchy are still revered, making Old Peoples Homes the place for those who have no family.  When a family member needs a medical appointment, everyone goes to support them.  There is a camaraderie, a closeness and a deep culture of “where you go, I go with you” that underpins family life.


  1. d.      Tenacity : Like the Iberian Lynx, once free to roam the Spanish sierras but now only found in our rugged Sierra Subbetica skyscape, the tenacious and determined Spanish spirit, the laughter and irreverence that fills the streets and houses reminds us of how truly blessed and lucky we are to have indoor latrines, hot running water and a few pounds in the bank.


  1. e.       Where GOD is Head of the Household – The British culture has for many become rather materialistic these days.  Some of our youngsters no longer even sure what the “Easter Story” is all about.  Spain is a deeply Catholic country, and the Semana Santa celebrations leave you in no doubt as to where their faith and belief lie.  Dozens of young men apply to be considered “good enough” to be invited to carry one of the enormous effigies of the Christ or the Virgin Mary, erected on vast plinths that are then carried up the steepest hill in Rute and again in Iznajar.  At the moment when the hill becomes impossibly steep, they raise Jesus up by straightening their arms, an agonising and knee buckling act of humility to honour the suffering of both Jesus and His Mother.  Along the way, families open their doors to passers by offering Anis and dulces (sweets) to hungry and thirsty bystanders.  It is a sobering, awe inspiring and truly reflective week of gratitude and relating to God.  Oh, and there is no chocolate easter egg in sight.




5.     Get the Creative Juices Flowing

Does your passion ooze from every pore?  Or do you feel more like a dried up crisp? … When was the last time that passion took hold of your pen and you wrote feverishly, gripped by the moment, unable to stop?  And how can we help stir the heat within your blood and bring heat to your cheeks and your pen, brush or pencil?


  1. Flamenco IS passion.  The wild, furious, and desperate dervish-like whirling of the exquisite silken dresses worn by the lythe gyrating Flamenco dancers is nothing short of spellbinding.  As their scarves and fans move the air around you, the haunting tones can move your Soul to weep.  The hammering of heels on the hard stone floors as tales of woe, triumph, oppression and freedom are brought forth with sweat, anguish and fervour leave you wide eyed in awe at their fitness, grit and determination.  If you need to wake up, this will rouse you beyond your thinking mind leaving you breathless with awe.
  • Cordoba’s Tablao Cardenal : Our own villages and nearby towns have Flamenco offerings that are usually advertised a day or so in advance, however if part of your creative process is to guarantee a blood boiling Flamenco show, Córdoba city’s Tablao Cardenal is the place to go all year round.  Either as an exotic evening out or perhaps mixed with a few hours in the Baños Arabes Turkish baths just down the road from the Mezquita followed by dinner and then the show?
  • Zambra’s Fiesta de Flamenco : Alternatively, and if you are staying in July, a small village between Rute and Lucena on the A331 called Zambra holds an annual Fiesta de Flamenco each year.  Starting at around 10.30pm, but with the best of the music coming onto the stage around midnight and through the night, it’s an evening you will never forget.  Immersing you in the deep Spanish all night party culture, listening to the most amazing, spellbinding, haunting and spectacular performances.  Organised to take place usually during the first week in July it perfectly suits the nocturnal habits of artists, writers and musicians.
  • Albaicin Flamenco Nights :        If you have given yourself a day at the unmissable Alhambra Palace, perhaps the evening can be finished off with one of the “Noches en el Albaicin” Flamenco nights.  With dinners drinks and authentic flamenco, not a hint of lycra, velcro or nylon in sight but silks, satins and ribbons, perhaps this is your Night of Passion.


Spanish Guitar MusicLa Festival de la Guitarra, usually during the first two weeks of July, will bring you up close to some of the world’s most renowned Latin players.  Musical highs and lows, fervour and passion, contemporary and ancient … this festival is considered to be one of the most important of Cordoba’s musical offerings.  With six to twelve string guitars being played in all styles, with workshops and classes available, your musical heart strings can be strummed back to life and fervour.

Heavenly Food : Owned, dreamed and created by the delightful Joseillo, Las Piolas in the sleepy Granadian town of Algarinejo is a gourmet foodie’s Nirvana.  We can guarantee that you will be wowed with his magical understanding of culinary alchemy.  From olives that are actually grapes, to a washing line of embutidos, his attention to detail and exquisite presentation is beyond belief while being extremely reasonably priced.  The Menu de Gustacion is Joseillo’s signature dish(es) – a string of small, heavenly foods all served on place mats of old vinyl 45s. Algarinejo is a delicious drive through El Higueral and beyond, deep into the olive groves.  And when you arrive in Algarinejo, you need to drive up the hill as soon as the roads allow you to turn left.  And before the very hard right turn on up the hill, there is a plaza to the left – 100m away.  Las Piolas, Granada province’s BEST restaurant bar none, is waiting for you in the bottom left corner of the plaza.  If you need more recommendation, find him on Trip Advisor – he’s worth every gold star.

Delicious food at Casa La Celada

Las Piolas



6.     Move Your Body


  1. “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” : The death of Surrey, King Richard III’s trusted steed from Act V scene IV of William Shakespeare’s historical play at the hands of the Earl of Richmond (who later became Henry VII and ended the War of the Roses) left Richard III crying for another to carry him through the final battle at Bosworth Field.  The Andalusian, or PRE (Pura Raza Española) was prized by the nobility of Spain.  While its recognition wasn’t quite soon enough to have helped King Richard III, this strong, majestic horse known for its prowess and warrior spirit has been exported globally for over 100 years.  Time in their company is moving, powerful and humbling.  Through Actividades de la Subbetica, based in Priego de Cordoba, you can experience first hand their grace and speed, while shows featuring these remarkable creatures may be booked by visiting www.spanishhorseshow.com


  1. Walking : There are no trespassing laws in our part of Spain.  If it isn’t fenced, you are free to roam.  You can walk there, drive there, cycle there or get there on a donkey.  Feel free to take your portable easel, paints, mixing bowls, water (and plenty of water to drink if it’s between May and September) and enjoy recreating the view on your pad.  If you don’t want to drive, we can arrange for you to be dropped off at a viewpoint of your choice with our house mobile and you just call when you want to come home.  We can also arrange guided walks with locals who know the area – either English or Spanish Speaking.


  1. Boating : Have you any idea what a 999,000 hectolitre body of water looks like or how easy it would be to use it in a story when at its depths lie three separate villages?  – The embalse de Iznajar was artificially created in the 1920s by building the enormous dam at Cuevas San Marcos – where the “volcano” sits.  It’s not really a volcano, we hasten to reassure you!  It is possible to hire kayaks and little sailing boats to take out onto the Lake and explore the deepest peace of the water.  You can work your muscles, stretch your spine and at the same time ponder the darkest depths of the lake and the historical journeys that many villagers alive today had to take, on floating pontoons with their worldly goods lashed to the makeshift barges, in order for “progress” to ensure a water supply for the villages between Iznajar and Seville.


  1. Tennis : Valdearenas, the beachside recreation area has a free use policy of tennis courts.  Turn up with your rackets and balls and enjoy the courts for as long as you wish.


  1. Swimming : Our public pools are open during the summer holiday months from mid day til late evening.  A fully operational bar is in place as is a café.  You can take your own picnic if you wish.  Early arrival usually guarantees a shaded umbrella.  If you prefer a more natural swimming experience, the Embalse de Iznajar will not disappoint.  A huge expanse of water, swimming is delicious, warm in the summer and blissfully refreshing.  While you can’t necessarily swim in Casa La Celada’s hot tub, the water can be cooled to a mild 27 degrees to refresh you in the hazy August heat.


  1. Outdoor Gyms : All local towns and our own La Celada has its outdoor gymnasium equipment.  If you start to feel as though you are turning into a watercolour skyscape, perhaps you need to walk down the road and move your bones for half an hour.  If you feel inclined to drive and require a larger amount of equipment, Valdearenas by the lake has more equipment for you to use.


7.     In The Footsteps Of ….


  1. a.                              Blas Infante :  Calle (tr. Street) Blas Infante is the main road through La Celada’s neighbouring town of Rute, and is a main road through most Andalucian towns and villages as a mark of respect after Blas Infante Pérez de Vargas (1885-1936).  An Andalucian politician, writer, historian and musicologist, he earned himself the title of Father of Andalusian Nationalism (Padre de la Patria Andaluza).  Executed by General Franco’s forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, his activities earned him inclusion on their “Liquidation List” on two separate counts.  Walking alongside such heroes of war and peace, whether making your day off a visit to Seville (a beautiful 2 hour drive) or simply walking down Calle Blas Infante in Rute en route to a bar for a midday break, you can allow your imagination to feed itself on the banquet of extraordinarily courageous and auspicious company.
  2. b.                              Diego Velázquez : Considered to be the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age and the creator of one of the most globally questioned paintings of our time, Velázquez’s iconic Las Meninas can be seen at the Museo del Prado.  A day’s adventure and housing so many works of art, the Museum offers suggested routes according to how much time you wish to spend contemplating their major works.  Trains depart from Córdoba’s main train station every hour throughout the year and the journey is a little over two hours.  A fantastic and inspiring full day out.
  3. c.                               General Franco : To this day, the villagers of Andalucía, including our own lovely Iznájan aldea of La Celada, sweep the pavements and roads outside their homes.  Some say it’s to keep the dust down.  Some say it’s to avoid paying municipal costs for street cleaners.  The elders will tell you it dates to General Franco’s regime where meetings of non-followers were disallowed and in many areas of Spain evoked the death penalty.  The only way that information could be passed was from woman to woman, be they mothers, daughters, wives or maiden aunts around and through the streets of oppressed Spanish villages and towns, “boca a boca” or mouth to mouth.  So they began to sweep the streets, coming together at the edge of their pavements, whispering information that would be passed to the next house and so on.
  4. d.                              Pablo Picasso : His birthplace is in Malaga city.  The Casa Natal de Picasso can be found in the Plaza de la Merced, opened to the public in 1988.  The house not only has rooms dedicated to exhibitions, but also houses pictures that give an impression of how life was for the artist during his early years living in Malaga.  Just around the corner from the Casa Natal you can also find the Museo Picasso, or the Picasso Museum which was inaugurated by the King and Queen of Spain in 2003.  It’s in the loveliest part of Malaga city – the old “centro historico”, overlooked by the beautiful Alcazaba Fortress and GibralfaroCastle.  There are many lovely eateries within a stone’s throw too – from the old Lions Tea Rooms in Calle Larios to Tapas bars on every corner.  A worthy contender for that special day off.
  5. e.                               Carlos Pacheco :  Born in Seville and with his work loved all over Spain Pacheco is now contracted to Marvel Inc in the USA.  His work includes the X-Universe, Avengers Forever , Superman and Batman.  With a dining table that’s a metre wide and over two metres long, it is easy to spread your story boards out and see at a glance where you need to add or remove clips.  Being as there are two sitting rooms and three terraces, it won’t harm if you don’t eat at the kitchen table for a few days.


8.   Go Native

  1. Speak a little Spanish with the locals : Silent during the hours of the siesta, but otherwise softly humming with the gravelly voices of the “jubilados” – the retired fathers and grandfathers – sitting in the plaza chewing the daily cud … the sounds of the womenfolk affectionately passing the time of day with their cousins, aunts, sisters and daughters … the Elders, dressed in black, quietly sitting on their steps at the end of the day, gap-toothed and gazing beyond the horizon with many memories.  Speaking a little Spanish would give you the chance to ask a few questions of these wonderful characters, allowing you to learn about their rich and ancient culture and harvesting a myriad of literary ideas as you go.  If you would like some Spanish conversations to be organised, just let us know.
  2. Help with an Olive Harvest –  From November til April the local area is deep within the olive harvest.  The main crop of Cordoba and Jaen, both green and black olives are harvested from the region, the majority of which takes place after Christmas and the Three Kings celebrations on Twelfth Night.  Many of our neighbours and friends would be delighted to take you out into the fields and put you to work.  Just don’t expect to keep up with them.  You would need to take plenty of water and a packed lunch to keep you going through the day.  Layers also advisable in case it should decide to rain, which does sometimes happen!
  3. Visit and help at a village Matansa – The month of December is the annual pig kill.  Villagers to this day feed their family pigs on all the delicious left overs, vegetable tops, peelings and scrapings so that come December, after a year or two of truffling about in the undergrowth, they are killed and butchered without a drop going to waste.  It makes for a stark contrast to the northern European culture of supermarket clingfilm and polystyrene tray meat whose lineage and cleanliness is diffcult to ascertain.



8.     A Day Off Is Needed


There are simply hundreds of fabulous and thrilling diversions for a much deserved day off.  Rather than reinventing the wheel, we beg your tolerance to follow this link to our website’s 101 Things to Do.  There are many and varied exciting, peaceful, thrilling, calming and informative activities there, some of which have been mentioned here.  Everyone needs a day off now and again.  Where will you go for yours?