Horses on the beach, fried fish and sherry: Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Andalucía, Spain

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A life-affirming spirit of joy and entertainment builds from noon at the beach bars and restaurants in this laid-back coastal town near Cádiz

Even the geology conspires to make Sanlúcar de Barrameda feel laid-back. Spain slows and drifts out peacefully in this coastal cul-de-sac of estuarine sandbanks, wide beaches and shallow rippling sea in the corner of the province of Cádiz. It certainly helps that there are no rocky cliffs and surfer waves, and that the thick sand keeps the beaches soundproofed and free from the rattling drawl of pebbles.

I live among uneven green mountains in the Sierra de Cádiz, so a visit to this flat expanse of navy blue and cream is tantamount to therapy. Each August, horses thunder down the sands in a series of evening races, but that burst of exertion aside, the mood on its several beaches is generally tranquil. Especially in winter and spring.

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