The favourite places of Manni Coe
Born in England, Manni made Andalucia his home in 2000 and now lives and breathes all things Spain. He has explored most nooks and crannies of Andalucia, and after 10 years of working for other tour operators, set up TOMA & COE, a boutique tour consultant, with a vision of sharing the more authentic aspects of this part of the world with smaller groups and families. He talks to Mr Hudson about some of his favourite places.
Tell us about yourself
I was born in the North of England, spending most of my summers in the Yorkshire Dales, which rooted me in my love of nature and landscape. After studying Spanish at university, I fell in love with all things Latin American and Spanish, guiding in South America for several years until eventually calling Andalucia my permanent home.
What makes TOMA & COE special?
I set TOMA & COE up to slow down the way I guided. After leading tours for other companies for several years, I understood that I wanted to do something a little different. TOMA & COE’s speciality is surprising our guests and sharing with them the very best that Andalucia has to offer, in a personal and insightful way. We like to push the boat out, go the extra mile and make sure our clients leave beaming with joyful memories.
Why are your tours in Andalucia so popular with gay travellers?
We are a gay-friendly, inclusive agency and have run tours for gay travellers for many years. We understand the way certain people like to travel, anticipate their needs and set up refined experiences in quirky and authentic places. All of us are foodies and a well-stocked table with flowing wine is a huge part of our daily routine. We also create a sense of fun, and while our tours are very informative, we do lend ourselves to animated conversation. A sense of humour is key to any guiding success.
What destination has lived up to the hype?
Seville never fails to impress. For me, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world but it´s important to visit at the right time of year, so you´re not battling either crowds or extreme heat.
What is your favourite place in the world?
The place I long to go back to is the Salt Flat of Uyuni in south-western Bolivia. I spend a night in the Salt Hotel there with my parents. We were by ourselves. There were no other guests. I remember being awed by the total silence of the place. I had never experienced total silence before and I long to repeat that experience.
What is it about travel that you enjoy most?
The freedom it gives us. It’s a total privilege to travel and one that not everybody has the possibility to enjoy. When I am in a new city, I get a buzz from the unfamiliarity of the place and the people. The challenge is always to turn those feelings of awkwardness into a newly learned behaviour that enables you to partake in a new culture. It’s all about enriching ourselves and learning about other lifestyles and behaviour.
What is the best hotel you’ve stayed at?
Finca Cortesín, in the South of Spain. It’s a golf resort, but I have never played golf there. I’ve never needed to. The hotel has absolutely everything you could possibly hope for and the rooms are the most palatial I have ever seen. It’s a remarkable experience from the minute you drive into the grounds.
What does your ideal trip look like?
Scheduled but not too scheduled. Hotels booked and a couple of top restaurant reservations. The rest is left open to chance and serendipity. I don´t buy guidebooks anymore. I research before I travel and I have in the back of my mind a few ideas, but for the most part, I leave it open. Otherwise, there is no room for surprises.
What are your favourite places in Andalucia that people need to know about?
The rural gems that are hidden away in the hinterlands of inland Andalucia. The cities warrant a visit for sure, but where I like to take guests are my favourite secret places that are hidden in the hills; where the old Andalucia, ancient and traditional, vies for existence alongside the push for modernity.
What is your best-kept travel secret?
A few days before a stay, I always write an email to reception and concierge, to introduce myself, my party and reason of travel. I find the welcome is always warmer and there is an initial point of reference to make the stay more personable. We take a great interest in the background of our clients, and I like to think that good hotels do the same.
Any recommendations for gay travellers?
Tons! We know all the great spots for gay travellers to the South of Spain. Which bars to hit and when, beaches to discover, spas, gyms, and restaurants also. We can also share with them our favourite beach clubs for that summer vibe.
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