Spain in the Spring

spain mapI’ve made a slight travel itinerary adjustment.  Rather than packing everything in one trip this summer, I am going to split my travel between spring break and summer break.  I will be visiting Barcelona and Madrid with a day trip to Toledo in March, and I am eager beyond belief.  I originally thought it would be more economical to pack everything in one trip since I was already flying over to Europe, but this was a misconception.  Instead I will spread the joy throughout the year.

I’m sure many of you have been to Spain already, so I’m looking for some advice.  If you haven’t been, you are welcome to post questions here and I will do what I can to cover them.  Here is what I’d like to know:

As readers, what do you want to see most in my live posts?  It is easy to write follow-up posts later, but what do you want to read about as it is happening?

Which is better: tapas tour or cooking class?  Do you have any recommendations for companies in Barcelona or Madrid?

What is overrated and perhaps something that should not be a priority?

I’m taking a Rick Steves’ tour, so here is the basic itinerary.  Am I missing anything that I must see?

Day 1: Welcome to Barcelona

Barcelona, the proud capital of Catalunya, may be the most festive city on the Mediterranean. Meet your guide and group around 5 p.m. at our centrally-located hotel for an orientation meeting — then we’ll join the party with a stroll along the surprise-filled, people-packed Ramblas boulevard before having dinner together. Sleep in Barcelona (3 nights). No bus. Walking: light.

Day 2: Gaudí Day

Today is devoted to the swirling, Modernista architecture of Antoni Gaudí. We’ll tour the greatest works of Barcelona’s master builder, including the towering, dizzying Sagrada Família church and his Casa Milà apartment building. The remainder of your afternoon is free to explore more Gaudí delights throughout the city. This evening we’ll wrap up our day learning about what goes into Catalan cuisine including a visit to the lively, legendary La Boquería market, before setting you free for dinner on your own. No bus. Walking: strenuous.

Day 3: Barri Gòtic and Picasso

This morning, we’ll explore Barcelona’s maze-like Gothic Quarter, from its Roman foundations to the spires of its candle-, relic- (and geese-!) strewn cathedral. We’ll end our tour at the Picasso Museum, Europe’s best collection of Picasso paintings, where we’ll trace the story of this hometown boy-genius’ art as he evolved from a kid who painted like an adult…to an adult who painted like a kid. This evening we’ll toast to our last night in Barcelona with a paella dinner together. No bus. Walking: strenuous.

Day 4: Montjuïc and a Speedy Train to Madrid

We’ll start today with a panoramic bus tour of Barcelona, beginning atop the historic Montjuïc Hill. After a visit to the Museum of Catalan Art, it’s “all aboard” for one of Europe’s speediest trains (the AVE) to Madrid. Upon arrival we’ll meet our bus for a tour of Madrid’s major monuments and classy boulevards. Once we’ve settled into our hotel in the heart of Madrid, we’ll take a neighborhood orientation walk, ending with a tapas-style dinner together. Sleep in Madrid (4 nights). Train: 3 hrs. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.

Day 5: Madrid’s Royal Palace

Today, we’ll take a historical walking tour starting at the very center of Madrid, the bustling Puerta del Sol. From there we’ll walk to — and through — the sumptuously-decorated Royal Palace. With 2,000 rooms, tons of luxurious tapestries, and a king’s ransom of chandeliers, this is truly one of the great palaces of Europe. You’ll be free for dinner on your own tonight, but first we’ll prepare your taste buds with a Spanish wine tasting. No bus. Walking: moderate.

Day 6: Masterpieces of Madrid

This morning we’ll tour one of Europe’s premier art museums — the masterpiece-packed Prado — where you’ll see paintings by Velásquez, Goya, El Greco and others. Then we’ll visit the Reina Sofía, Spain’s greatest modern art museum, home to Picasso’s Guernica. The rest of the afternoon is yours to stroll through the majestic Retiro Gardens (Madrid’s most popular park), do a little shopping, and maybe even catch a performance of flamenco. No bus. Walking: strenuous.

Day 7: Toledo

A short bus ride after breakfast will take us to Spain’s old capital city of Toledo (and back in time about 500 years). We’ll take a traffic-free walking tour that includes Toledo’s magnificent cathedral, the historic Sinagoga del Tránsito and El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz in Santo Tomé Chapel. This afternoon you’ll have time to enjoy the winding medieval streets of Toledo. We’ll catch the bus back to Madrid for our final dinner together to share travel memories and toast new friends. Salud! Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.

Day 8: Tour Over After Breakfast

Madrid’s airport is an easy bus or taxi ride away — or you may want to continue your Iberian adventures on your own. Hasta luego!

 

Time to start working on my Spanish!

 

One thought on “Spain in the Spring

  1. Sherrie Hitchcock says:

    I have been to Spain with another small group tour, not Rick Steves. I highly recommend the Walks of Spain Tapas Tour in Madrid. It is one of the best things I have done on any trip. It is reviewed in TripAdvisor under Madrid Activities. The Prado is beyond wonderful. It is too bad your itinerary isn’t flipped so you go there second; so you could linger there – one masterpiece after the other… I also enjoyed the Parque Buen Retiro. Our hotel was close by the park and we strolled there on a Sunday, when all of Madrid seemed to be passing through – it gave a good feel of the family culture, etc. What I didn’t like was the Royal Palace, partly because it was at the end of my tour and I had already gone through so many palaces and churches dripping with gold gained through the raping of the New World. This was more of the same but even more over the top – sort of made me sick (which I know is more about me than the building). I did linger in the instrument room and drooled over the violins, etc.
    Your day in Toledo seems very similar to mine. Nothing to add, other than be sure to wander around the side streets.
    My tour went to Andalusia, not Barcelona; so I can’t comment on that city. I look forward to your comments, as it is on my visit list.

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