Always Enchanting Spain
Spain is always at the top of everyone’s list of favorite getaways.
(Barcelona, Gauidi’s La Pedrera)
It’s not surprising with its fascinating Iberian culture. Here you’ll find Moorish palaces, remarkable art, world heritage sites, flamenco, tapas, fine wine, top luxury hotels and more.
Tapas, flamenco and reveling ‘til the wee hours in those cool Madrid bars, no wonder everyone takes a siesta in the afternoon. The fabulous nightlife is just one reason to be enthralled with this happening and sophisticated capital city. Get up close and personal with Spanish masters Velazquez, El Greco and Goya, among many others at the world famous Prado Museum.
The opulent 4,500 room Royal Palace, one of the most beautiful in Europe with its Royal Armoury, Royal Pharmacy and Royal Theatre, is a sight to behold. Other attractions include: The famous Alcalá Gate, a neo-classical monument in the Plaza de la Independencia Square, regarded as the first modern post- Roman triumphal arch built in Europe, located next to Madrid’s most popular Park, El Retiro; pretty Plaza de Colon where a giant statue honoring Christopher Columbus towers over the square; and Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s grand arcaded popular central square.
Madrid is also a foodie paradise and the bustling Mercado de San Miguel offers a dizzying array of yummy specialties. Savor artisanal ham, cheese and other tasty delights with a glass of excellent Spanish wine. Fashionistas will love the stylish boutiques on Serrano Street, which runs through the heart of the Salamanca district. On Sundays, everyone heads to El Rastro Flea Market for clothing, antiques, collectors items and more.
Leave time to stroll Madrid’s atmospheric streets taking in the architecture, art galleries, cafes, bars, jazz clubs and winding pathways of the Literary Quarter, pulsing Santa Ana Square, vibrant Chueca and authentic La Latina.
BARCELONA: VIBRANT METROPOLIS
Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona, a vibrant, cosmopolitan city on the Mediterranean, is renowned for its acclaimed architecture, illustrious art, rich culture, world-class drinking and dining scene, happening nightlife and great shopping. Stroll Barcelona’s popular tree lined promenade, La Rambla, lined with outdoor cafes, galleries, chic shops and kiosks selling fragrant flowers of all colors. Take in the impressive Art Nouveau, Gothic, Modernist and avant-garde balconied buildings. Treat yourself to some indulgent retail therapy at upscale boutiques like Adolfo Domingues on fashionable Passeig de Gracia. Relish a tapas and wine lunch at one of the many stylish eateries nearby. Then visit Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces: La Pedrera with its phantasmagoric roof
(www.lapedrera.com) and be certain to make an online reservation (required) to see the dazzling La Sagrada Familia Basilica
Near to the city center, hilltop Montjuïc offers many exploring options amid beautiful botanic and sculpture gardens, an ancient castle, and museums with striking views at every turn. In the evening, dine at one of Barcelona’s superb gastronomic restaurants. Afterwards, hit the nightlife in this lively town and have a blast.
Take an excursion to explore the beautiful countryside and Mediterranean coastline with its lovely beaches. Don your sunglasses and enjoy scenic Costa Daurada, (the corridor of land south of Barcelona), and the stunning Costa Barcelona. Along the way, a Cava tasting is a must!
Flamenco, tapas, gypsies: Andalusia captures the essence of what we think of as Spanish, and so much more. This enchanting region on Spain’s southern coast boasts remarkable cuisine, art and architecture. The magnificent land- marks from the 8th-15th centuries when it was under Moorish rule, such as Seville’s Alcázar and Granada’s Alhambra, are sights to behold. Today, wine and culinary tourism are some of Andalusia’s main attractions.
Seville intoxicates the senses with its orange tree lined streets, sounds of flamenco and tasty tapas. The capital of Andalusia is known for its ocher color palaces, Baroque facades and elegant ambiance. A visit to Palacio de las Duenas, the palatial residence of the Duchess of Alba, is a must. You can see the rooms where this beloved Seville icon, a bohemian-chic Aristocrat, entertained Jackie Kennedy and had her daily flamenco lessons amid her prestigious collection of Roman sculptures, art and Flamenco fans. Don’t miss the Flamenco Museum where you learn about the dance, view the costumes, watch films of the greats such as the spellbinding Antonio Gades and see a live show.
The Royal Alcázar Palace’s impressive gardens, courtyard of dolls and maids and sumptuous Hall of Ambassadors evoke the stirring images of A Thousand and One Nights. Also stupendous is the gigantic Gothic Seville Cathedral with the world’s biggest altarpiece and famed minaret turned belltower, the Giralda. For dinner try the atmospheric, historic El Rinconcillo, that has been serving up tasty regional cuisine since 1670.
Granada, with its beautiful buildings against the backdrop of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains, contains Spain’s greatest monument. The Alhambra, a colossal Royal City, has long inspired poets, musicians, writers
The magnificent palaces with intricately carved medieval walls, glazed-tile walkways, elaborate honeycomb-domed ceilings and soaring arabesqued archways transported me back to the time of sultans and harems.
The Court of the Myrtles’ reflecting pool and otherworldly star pattern representing the seven heavens of Paradise in the Chamber of the Ambassadors, as well as the Courtyard of the Lions are just some of the dazzling attractions. After the visit I recommend a dinner of excellent food and wine with panoramic Alhambra views at Restaurante Estrellas de San Nicolas.
BEAUTIFUL BALEARIC ISLANDS
Spain’s Balearic Islands boast gorgeous beaches with lovely coves, scenic countryside, quaint villages, rich gastronomy, enchanting culture, and luxurious resorts. After visiting cosmopolitan Madrid or Barcelona, a short plane ride to the idyllic Balearic Isles makes for a great vacation.
Ibiza has recently transformed into a luxury wellness destination and is home to many top wellness retreats and posh resorts with impressive spas. Additionally, the island offers swank beach clubs, superb restaurants, trendy beaches, swimming coves, dramatic cliffs, a luxury yacht marina and a captivating old town famed for its nightlife. An open bohemian atmosphere has long attracted creative types, rich Europeans, jetsetters and celebrities. Its also family friendly. Dalt Vila, the medieval quarter in town, a World Heritage Site, charms with its white-washed buildings splashed with bougainvillea and historic monuments. Outdoor cafes and shops line the ancient alleyways and cobblestone streets.
Benirras, renowned for its Sunday sundown drumming, and in spots – Ses Salines and Talamanca beach will delight sun worshippers. Beach bars like Sunset Ashram or legendary Cafe del Mar are perfect spots to see the golden sunset, listening to Ibiza’s famous chill out music.
Mallorca boasts stunning beaches, majestic mountains, a rugged coastline, luxury resorts and restaurants. Wrought iron-balconied buildings and attractive squares enliven the capital, Palma. Visit impressive Cathedral of Mallorca, stroll Placa del Rei Joan Carles I, lined with designer boutiques and gardens with fountains. Meander the charming old town, teeming with art galleries, flamenco bars and cafes.
Hop aboard the vintage wooden train passing olive, lemon and orange trees for a short ride to the quaint village of Soller and explore. Afterwards, take a tram to Port Soller and wander the historic harbor. Enjoy panoramic coastal views on a drive to the beautiful village Valldemossa, in the Tramuntana Mountains, and Royal Carthusian Monastery where Chopin and George Sand lived. Visit the picturesque coastal village of Deia, renowned for attracting artists and writers such as Robert Graves, of I Claudius fame.
Mallorca boasts many top hotels. I highly recommend, La Residencia, a Belmond Hotel (www.hotel-laresidencia.com) This secluded mountain retreat with two stunning art rich manor houses delivers rustic elegance with glorious vistas, gorgeous gardens and spa.