Jim and I had heard story after story from friends who raved about their travels through Spain. So, when my daughter Taylor graduated from college, we thought there could possibly be no better gift to give her than a cultural, educational and fun family adventure in this amazing part of the world. It exceeded our expectations!
We started our travels in Barcelona. What a spectacular city! We loved the Gallery Hotel Barcelona as the entire area (and city in general) is very walkable, which we did a lot of! The first full day in the city we had a private tour with our guide Fabio. He might have been the most perfect guide for us – knowledgeable and fun (we learned and laughed a lot that day).
That day was full of awe-inspiring sites – Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, Olympic Park, the old Gothic part of town and much more. We loved the blend of new, vibrant city life with the old, historic architecture and tradition.
Before leaving Barcelona, we did a guided daytrip out to Figueres and Girona. This is the region where Game of Thrones is often filmed and medieval architecture seems to exist around every turn. The flower festival was going on in Girona, so we enjoyed the beautiful colors, fragrances and people enjoying the town.
After Barcelona, we flew to Granada. The ornate palaces, Gothic quarter and intricate winding streets were fun to explore and admire. The Alhambra, a grand palace and fortress, was definitely a site to behold. It was fascinating to us to learn more about the influence of both Muslim and Christianity in this area and how it transcends into today’s life. The Alhambra site itself is the best-preserved example of a Moorish fortress-palace in all of Europe and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
We then rented a car and drove the “scenic” route to Ronda, which meant winding roads and sheer cliffs. I’ll never forget the smell of orange blossoms and seeing the thousands of olive trees along the way. Pique Travel recommended we stay at Molina Del Arco and the property was beautiful. The gardens were gorgeous, the food was excellent and we felt like we were eating a gourmet meal every time we ate onsite.
We visited the Plaza de Toros in downtown Ronda, which is one of Spain’s oldest bull rings. The ring itself and its museum were fascinating. We learned so much through the art and history of this intriguing (yet sad) sport. Their heritage is steeped in bull fighting so no matter how we felt we came to respect that.
After Ronda we continued on to Seville. On the way (about 20 km outside of Ronda), we stopped at Acinipo Ruins. We were shocked to be some of the only people walking around this massive site. We spent two hours exploring through the ruins, amphitheater and the beautiful grounds. We could have spent many more hours there and fascinated the entire time.
We then had short stays in Seville and Cordoba. Both provided friendly atmospheres and easily walkable squares, streets and gardens. In Seville the well preserved Alcazar Palace was a highlight, as was walking the parks and gardens along the water front and university area. Cordoba was an amazing stop if just for the Mezquita (Grand Mosque), which dates back to 785 and is so massive that it contains a Catholic Cathedral right within its walls.
We ended our 16-day Spanish journey in Madrid visiting the Royal Palace, the National Archaeological Museum and the Reina Sofia, which houses a large Picasso painting and many pieces of art from the civil war. We loved going to some of the museums that are perhaps off the beaten path a little. They were equally intriguing and educational, yet had less tourists! The evening tapas tour we did was a trip highlight as we would have never stepped into some of the most quaint places we ate at if it weren’t for our guide Carlos.
One of the last things we did while in Madrid was a guided daytrip out to Toledo. Because the city is set up on the hill, the panoramic views were breathtaking. With the help of our guide, we explored the expansive tunnel and maze system that runs under the city. Shops existed several levels under the street and we walked out with many unique treasures!
We are so thankful we turned to Pique Travel to help us build this trip together. We loved the pacing of the days – a great mix of activity and leisure time. Pre-arranging the tours with private guides made the trip for us. It made us feel comfortable and we learned so much more than we would have if we just wandered on our own. An amazing gift to Taylor (and she agrees!).
Want to learn more about traveling through Spain and its unique experiences and sites? Email Ann at AnnC@PiqueTravel.com