What does Spain mean to the everyday traveler? Spain is warm, sunny beaches, Romanesque cathedrals, delicious jamón (delicious cured ham), Moorish palaces, darling villages, heavenly tapas, bullfights and bustling entertainment. Many go there for the history and art and fall in love with the people and culture.
When you think of Barcelona, think of a charming seaside town overflowing with culture, history and entertainment. Be prepared to visit Roman ruins, medieval cathedrals and walk along the shores of bustling sea trade that launched Christopher Columbus to the Americas. Plan to tour the Picasso Museum where you will get to know a young Pablo. Visit the Sagrada Familia, the unfinished masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi, a Gothic treasure you will surely enjoy. Barcelona also offer Palace of Catalan Music, La Boqueri Market and, of course, the Barcelona beaches, just to name a few. Plan to spend 2-3 days exploring Barcelona to get the feel of the culture and enjoy the diverse culinary offerings.
Due to a diverse rulers in Spain, Granada has a range of cultures from Roman, Italian, Moorish and yes, Spanish. The Moorish influence is evident here, just take one look at the Alhambra Palace. This palace was ruled by a small group of Spanish Muslims until 1492. This palace, with decadent gardens and courtyard, are one of the best examples of Moorish architecture from this time period in the world. The Roman and Italian influences can be seen in the Royal Chapel or Capilla Real, Granada's most visited Christian site. This chapel holds the remains of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand, the royal couple who took back Spain from the Moors. Their tombs, carved in Italy and shipped to Spain, lay in the center of the chapel. The Moors had been driven out of Spain, but their influence remained with the architecture and cuisine. Expect to find dishes with a distinct spices to create a North African flavor you will savor. Try to spend to 2 day exploring the history and culture of Granada.
Sevilla, once a gateway to the New World, is today Spain's fourth largest city with a population of 700,000. Sevilla is home to the world's largest Gothic cathedral, the Catedral de Sevilla or Sevilla Cathedral, and third largest cathedral in the world, surpassed only by Saint Paul's in London and Saint Peter's at the Vatican in Rome. The Sevilla Cathedral was built after a mosque on the site was torn down following the expulsion of the Moors from Spain. Sevilla is also home to Royal Alcázar, the oldest European royal palace still in use today. Decorated in the Mudejar style, a combination of Islamic and Christian elements, the Royal Alcázar offers a peak into the architectural style of the 14th century Sevilla. One cannot leave Sevilla without taking in two activities for which it is best known, bullfighting and flamenco dancing. Bullfighting is a beloved sport in Sevilla. While many of us outside of Europe may find this unappealing, this pastime is celebrated 45 times a year in Sevilla. The 14,000 seat arena fills up each time to watch the bullfighters, reminiscent of the gladiators of Ancient Rome. Flamenco dancing has deep roots in Roma (think Gypsy) and Moorish (think Islamic) cultures. The flamenco dance is a fusion of graceful dancers, agile musicians, soulful singing, and enthusiastic clapping of the audiences into a passionate display of live art you will never forget! Flamenco dancing classes are available for you give it a spin! Plan on 2-3 days in Sevilla. You can always spend more time in a city of this size, culture and history.
Madrid, the capitol of Spain, is a thriving city with lots to see and do. Museums, churches, parks, and botanical gardens line the streets waiting for you to enter. Madrid's Royal Palace has been home to Spain's royal family for three centuries. Lavishly decorated with antique furniture and posh interiors, the source for this extravagant design can be traced back to King Phillip V, grandson of French King Louis XIV. King Phillip V grew up in Versailles and wanted to make Madrid's Royal Palace his very on Versailles. The Prado Museum is one to visit as it houses a splendid collection of European artist ranging from the Italian master Raphael to German master Durér along with Spanish masters El Greco, Goya and Velázquez. Here you will also find the oldest known copy of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. This copy is believe to have been painted by one of his students while da Vinci was painting the original. Madrid's modern art museum, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, features Picasso's masterpiece Guernica on display along with works from Dali, Miró, and Gris. Fun Fact: the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia building was originally the first public hospital in Madrid. Plan to spend 2-3 days in Madrid. You will enjoy the wonderful, friendly atmosphere and don't forget to try churros con chocolate. You will not regret it.
A Few Last Tips For Visiting Spain
Make sure you know the photography policy in a museum before taking a picture. If you are unsure, ask a guard.
Most meals are served much later than when Americans are used to eating. Lunch is served from 1 pm to 4 pm with many dinner entree's being served after 9 pm.
Tips in Spain are not expected. For exceptional service, they are appreciated, but not expected.
Spain is a leading producer of grapes which for us means wonderful wines to choose from, both red and white. Enjoy!
Try tapas! They are a wonderful and filling for a very reasonable price. Some restaurants still offer one on the house with your first drink, so wait for it!
Spanish is the main language spoken in Spain, but there are also regional languages that still thrive today.
Talk to your wireless provider about a service plan for your trip. Prices have come down dramatically over the last few years and you can stay connected for a minimal charge.
Make sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes that are well broken in. If you have anything on your feet that is "iffy" (think an ingrown toenail or that thing you don't know what it is) schedule a visit with your Family Medicine Doctor or Podiatrist to have a good once over on your feet. You will thank me later.
Make sure someone back home has your travel plans. You will want someone to be able to contact you if something urgent should happen.
Breathe. Enjoy your trip. Make memories to last a lifetime.
Are you dreaming of your family vacation? Or maybe a big celebration for a big birthday like a 4-0 or a 6-0? Are you celebrating a wedding anniversary and just want to go and enjoy? We can help. We can take all the planning off your plate and make it easy-peezy! Now is the time to start booking before the rooms and cabins fill up. If you would like to know more about how we can assist with your dream trip, wherever that may be, please give us a call or schedule your free consultation! We are ready to assist!