We just spent a week in the south of Spain. My favourite place must have been Istán, a small town in the Sierra de las Nieves. The arid mountains in this region shelter beautiful valleys, full of fruit trees, cork trees and charming little towns like Istán. Istán preserves the same compact town plan and white-washed buildings it must have had a thousand years ago when it was built in Islamic Spain. Rare today, the tinkling of water fountains was more common than the noise of cars.
I was less enamoured with Marbella, the centre-piece of the Costa del Sol. While the old town still showed a slice of character, the coast had a decided Los Angeles feel, with enormous sprawling private communities, and the charm of Spainish beaches being subsumed by the need to drive along braided highways to get anywhere.