How many superlatives can we use for one country? If the nation we are describing is Spain, then we’d say an unlimited number.
Beautiful, seductive, historic, engaging, exciting, dramatic, enticing, delicious, charming, alluring, appealing, captivating, fascinating, intriguing, inviting, enchanting, beguiling, mesmerizing, and… OK, you get the picture.
So, as our fellow travelers plan their coming adventures, we highly recommend looking into tours of Spain 2019.
Over the past few years we have come to appreciate the advantages of taking a tour as opposed to exploring on our own. First and foremost, the planning is so much simpler. With one contact everything is taken care of.
It also means never missing the most important sites, and benefiting from the expertise of people who have “been there, done that” many times before. It is so much easier when we can relax and see the destinations we want to see worry free.
In Spain that means Barcelona and Madrid.
The Catalonian capital city certainly tics off every one of those adjectives we named before, and one important one we didn’t, unique.
We know it’s a cliché, but there really is no other place like it on earth. Responsible for that as much as almost anything is the presence of so many structures by the famed architect Antoni Gaudí.
There is one that stands out above all the others, literally and figuratively, the Sagrada Família. This massive basilica is without a doubt the pinnacle of his work, and we do mean pinnacle.
Huge spires rise into the sky over fifty stories high. These frame three entry ways decorated with incredible facades depicting the birth, death, and glorification of Christ.
Inside the cathedral is equally as engrossing. Gaudí set out to make his columns rising to the heavens feel like giant trees in a forest that split like branches to support the ceiling. After some time of gazing up at the enormous tapered pillars we couldn’t help but conclude that he was wildly successful.
More of this master’s work is scattered throughout the city, with a concentration at Park Güell. In this garden not only the structures, but the entire layout of the park was his design. The result is an amazing dream-like urban getaway.
Of course Barcelona has much more to offer than eccentric architecture, a visit wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Gothic Quarter.
This is the oldest part of the city, where there are still remnants of the ancient Roman wall and several structures dating back to the thirteen hundreds.
If this is the heart of Barcelona, then the boulevard La Rambla must be the aorta.
Much more than just a street, the promenade has become like a giant open air theater for performers, artists, and especially human statues.
Culturally quite different from Catalonia, Madrid is quintessentially Spanish. Touring the town means visiting plazas, a palace, and the Prado Museum, because it is famous for all of the above.
From the Puerta del Sol and the bear that represents the city, to the Plaza Mayor with King Philip III at the center, to Plaza Cibeles around the amazing City Hall, each is a veritable smorgasbord for the senses. Architecture and statues galore grace them along with incredible sidewalk cafes. Whenever possible we made a point of stopping for tapas to take time to soak in the atmosphere.
Speaking of eating, we may have never seen an array of tempting taste treats like what we found at the Market of San Miguel. Much more than a typical market, Mercado de San Miguel is a place for gourmet appetites, where more than thirty vendors sell a variety of tremendous tapas with olives, artichokes, seafood, and ham.
The ham! How could we almost forget to mention the ham? Please, please, we beg of you, please do not leave Spain without trying the Iberian ham. Cured pork products will never be seen the same again once you have.
Madrid is the Spanish seat of government, and has been since 1561, so the Royal Palace reflects the status of the time when the empire was perhaps the richest on earth. However, the current Palacio Real, which is the largest in Europe by floor space, was built after a fire destroyed the original in 1734.
The Palace, with the Almudena Cathedral directly across from it, makes for yet another wildly impressive square in this city with no shortage of them.
There are only a handful of museums around the world so well known that they help to define a city, and we would definitely include the Prado on that list. While the Louvre may be more famous, it is widely held that the Prado has the world’s finest collection of European art because of the centuries of collecting by the Spanish Royal family.
None of these attractions should be missed, and every single one is a stop on the tours that we mentioned above. It is also possible to add Cordoba and Seville to the itinerary, but we have not had the pleasure of visiting them yet.
Hmmm, looks as though we will need to book another trip to Spain soon.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
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