Hola to all my Rick Steve's friends!! As I begin the process of wading through all the images I captured on this trip, so many moments of "WOW" jump out at me as well as the moments that make me smile with memories of all of you. Such a wonderful trip.....the scenery, the history, the people, the food, the culture.....Javier (best guide ever!!!!), the traveling partners - all coming together to make a trip to remember. I hope these images help to bring this amazing trip back to life for you as it is doing for me.
Barcelona - Tapas, tapas, tapas.....only the beginning.....and lots of wine!!! We arrived a day early so some of these images are from our wanderings of the streets, going to the Picasso Museum ( no photos allowed....), strolling down the Ramblas and wandering into the Boqueria Market and down to the Columbus Monument and the harbor...street musicians. We also tried a few of Rick Steve's favorite tapas places. The drinking and eating began here and never ended!!!! You will remember Placa de Catalunya with its memorial flowers to the terrorist attack, the Church of Santa Anna, Place Nova, the Cathedral of Barcelona, and the Jewish Quarter. The Catalunyan flags poised for the election created some interesting political discussions with Javier. The hotel was fabulous with all its trompe l'oeil. Happy Pills? Candy shop!!!
Park Guel , Casa Mila and other Gaudi inspirations. What a playful genius!!! The view from the cross on top of the hill overlooking Barcelona was in the pouring rain but still an amazing view of Sagrada Familia rising above the city.
Sagrada Familia- stepping into a rainforest of color and light and concrete...... whimsy juxtaposed with serious religious icons. Gaudi......a modernist Leonardo de vinci. Our guide, Monica, guided us through the forest with incredible facts and details about the ongoing building of this modernist cathedral. The details highlighting nature are stunning down to ladybugs and earthworms on the metal doors. Notice Gaudi himself in the passion scene in the front of the cathedral.
Madrid.....thanks to our guide,Javier, we viewed the streets and politics and culture of Madrid through the astute eyes of a native....from the turtles in the train statin to the rallies in Puerto de Sol against the illegal election in Catalonia to a native's perspective on bull fighting. Thanks Javier!!! Rosanna let us deftly through the Goya and Velequez exhibits in the Prado and through the Royal Palace. Frank and Gail even saw the king and queen!!! Rosanna continued to lead us through the Puerto del Sol loop walk catching the street signs that identified professions, Plaza Mayor ( notice the "native" Indian in Calvin Klein underwear!), and the Merca de San Miguel ( the upscale market) and the assassination attempt memorial to King Alfonso and of course some of her favorite tapas places. Love the symbol of Madrid, the bear clawing at the Madrona tree that gives Spaniards a liquor from the berries....drunk bears!! On our own, we went to Reina Sofia to see Guernica by Picasso ( no pictures allowed). What a powerful experience to step into an artist's interpretation of Franco's ruthless rule. Did catch a few legal shots of Dali and Picasso! Then we went to the top of some building and had our afternoon wine overlooking the city! Impressive! Had to stop at a Churreria and the corner bakery and then off for some tapas and sangria.....continuing to eat and drink our way across Spain
Segovia... a lovely bus ride through foothills to an jaw dropping 2,000 year old Roman aqueduct! But the "wow" moments didn't stop there as we wound our way through the narrow streets and steps ("watch the steps because if you fall and hurt yourself, I will kill you"), met one of Javier's favorite nuns for some fabulous shortbread cookies - best "bar nun", past stork nests to the Cathedral and on to the incredible Alcazar with breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and then from the foot of the Alcazar. And roast suckling pig cut with a plate! Are you kidding?? "Did anyone say SHOTS?" Jim's walking stick up for the highest bidder!! A drive back to Madrid through a crazy hail storm in the mountains missed by many who were having a siesta - can't imagine why!!
Holy Toledo!!! A medieval hill town surrounded by the Tajo River, hosts another "WOW" moment in its Cathedral that has its history in the 1300's. The sacricy is a mini Prado with its El Grecos and Goyas and Velequezs. El Greco's The Burial of the Count of Orgaz ( no pics allowed!) in the Santo Tome Chapel was stunning. Jewish community was strong until Ferdinand and Isabella arrived on the scene. No Muslims either! But architecture leaves its undeniable connection. On our own, we walked to the river to look at Toledo from a different vantage point. Our way back to the hotel we passed a fencing match! And then.....of course.......ended the day with local wine tasting. Great pottery!! Who were those girls in pink kitty ears?? Were they left over from the Woman's March on Washington????
Windswept Don Quixote La Mancha.....Marie Jose leads us up the hill to the whitewashed windmills but not before sharing a churro or two. Saffron, pomegranates ( the symbol of Granada), Sangria ( yes...more drinking...) and a delicious lunch and a view of the bull ring where the bull fight took place that we watched on TV the night before in Toledo!
Granada....another major WOW moment!! We were met by a religious parade blocking our way but "OH WELL" we will hoof it through the back streets of Granada. Jim - " Javier, if you take us back the way you brought us, I will kill YOU!" But an unbelievably fabulous dinner on the hillside watching the sun set and the lights come on the Alhambra made the hike well worth it. Absolutely unforgettable! The next day, on our own, we found a Rick Steve's bar just below the Plaza San Nicolas and spent a few hours and many glasses of wine watching the light change over the Alhambra. Mike, sorry you never found Jennifer there!
Inside the Alhambra.....Margarita, the walking encyclopedia on the 14th century Alhambra, led us through the General life gardens and into the Moorish Palace. Notice the Islamic calligraphy because no images of living creatures were allowed. The Courtyard of the Lions didn't flow until 2012!! The Christians didn't get it! The hallway "with a view" overlooks the restaurant that we dined at the night before. and cave houses! Impressive!
A quick stop, somewhere, to allow us to sit down and have breakfast with some delightful Spanish ladies who were willing to open their homes and their lives to strangers who didn't even know their language, and with great hospitality! Thanks Dave for using your Italian to keep the lines of communication open.
Rhonda and our vacation from our vacation...... first a bullring ( the birthplace of bullfighting) and Javier's sell job on bull fighting ( he isn't done yet!) and then on our own to explore the 200 feet wide and 360 feet deep ravine crossed by a bridge dating back to the 1700's that divides the new town from the 15th Century old Moorish town. Then off to our incredible Spanish ranch, turned bed and breakfast, on a hill overlooking Rhonda and surrounding mountains. We sipped wine by the pool and watched the smoke rise over the mountains. Sunset and sunrise....beautiful.
the bull ranch.... Ok, Javier, you have convinced us that the bulls are loved!!! And the handsome matador, Rafael, didn't hurt your mission! Right, Char??? Advocat or not, it was fascinating.!!! Javier, you make a heck of a bull!
olive oil processing in a white washed hill town.... Josefi, our high wedged and sparkly nailed guide, showed us the incredible process of making olive oil. Burrows, on the hill sides, collect the olives after a tarp is laid under the tree and the tree is shaken by sticks. Hard to imagine in our high tech machine country but those hills are steep!! Delicious lunch. Love those beautiful olive trees!!!
Arcos de la frontera.... Another WOW moment as we walked out onto our balconies and peered over the edge and out over the valley spread out in front of us. And of course, we hit it on a holiday!! Everyone dressed up, from little girls to old ladies, in flamenco dresses and partied at the base of the town. And then there was the sherry tasting.....oh my gosh Javier, we are all going to go to AA when we get back!! But good! And a beautiful night on the terrace watching the sun set over a lovely little white washed hill town ( with the BOB visible at the base of the cliff!) On our own we walked DOWN the hill and followed the river to peer UP on our cliff and then climb back UP to our perch on the top of this narrow white washed hill town. Ready for wine when we got back!!
a visit to a Cartusian horse farm.... OK ,this may be Spain's version of our puppy mills but those horses are gorgeous!! Do you see that horse closing his eyes as Lynn kissed him on the nose? Ahhhh. And Cindy...clearly they are connecting with you - especially the one with his nose sticking out of the stall! And Javier, really, that equipment??? Couldn't those poor mares find their own love mate stallions out in the field?
day trip to Jerez....a quick trip to a very cool town with a wonderful market. You were right, Javier, this is where the Spaniards shop.
Seville......Our final WOW!!!! Concepcion (Check her out on the Rick Steve's video) met the bus and took us to the Basilica de la Macarena to see the incredible museum of the statues and the floats that are carried through the streets of Seville during Holy Week. And now we know where to send our extra jewels and gold!! Then off to the Cathedral. I love the guy polishing the silver on a cherry picker for the big meeting of the bishops! The Christopher Columbus remains, no matter how obscure, were pretty cool. As I finish posting these images on Columbus Day, I am awed by the Spanish history that goes along with our celebration here in the "new world". We hiked up the Giralda Bell Tower to get a bird's eye view of the city. And then.......there was the Flamenco!!! And the "Wows" never end!!!
The Royal Alcazar.... Our delightful guide, Alphonso (?), gave us the Game of Thrones version of the Royal Alcazar with the drama and intrigue and sexual exploits that those stone walls have witnessed since the 10th Century!! A 7 foot red haired king sneaking out and walking the streets of Seville incognito??? Ummmm Gardens were extraordinary!!
Hotel Amadeus .... a beautiful musical end to an amazing trip!!! Breakfast on the roof top watching the sun rise over the city. And then....... a surprise carriage ride with a bottle of champagne to the Plaza de Espana. Oh my gosh, Javier, you are amazing!!! And an incredible dinner from a cooking school that benefits poor children. Fitting finale.