A New Chapter in Spain

Spain has long held a special place in my heart. In the spring of 1984, I studied Spanish for a semester in the southern city of Seville. When I wasn’t squirting red wine out of a bota bag into my mouth, I was traipsing around Spain with a copy of James A. Michener’s Iberia bulging out of my back pocket.

map

Catalonia, Basque Country, and Madrid (photo credit: The Economist)

This fall, in the next chapter of our month-at-a-time travel saga, we are going to return to Spain. Over the next three months, Esther and I will travel to the autonomous region of Catalonia, the enigmatic Basque Country, and Spain’s capital city of Madrid.

Barca Park Guell

Barcelona and Mediterranean Sea from Gaudí’s Park Gūell

Catalonia is a remarkable region in the northeast corner of Spain. It is the wealthiest part of the country, with a rich history rooted in its medieval past. More recently, Catalonia is also where an impressionable Pablo Picasso spent his formidable years, and modernist architect Antoni Gaudí and surrealist painter Salvador Daií called home.

Girona stock

Girona on the Onyar River (photo credit: ei BCN Tours)

To try to grasp the imaginative and independent nature of Catalonia, and experience the diversity of its exceptional landscapes, we will begin the month in the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona. From there, we will continue on to the provincial capital of Girona, and rugged coastline of the Costa Brava. Finally, we will depart the region by crossing the high mountains of the Catalán Pyrenees.

La Concha

San Sebastian on La Concha Bay

Once across the Pyrenees Mountains, we will settle down for our second month in the small seaside town of Orio, located just outside the fashionable city of San Sebastian in the Spanish Basque Country. From there, we will hike the coastal trails in search of the area’s unspoiled beaches, active fishing villages, and movie-set scenery.

Basque Boat

Typical Basque Construction, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

We are also looking forward to sampling the celebrated local wines and renowned Basque cuisine, and learning more about the baffling heritage of the native people. With their own language, unique physical characteristics, and mysterious origins, the Basques continue to perplex linguists and historians.

Madrid Palacio Real

Segovia Bridge and the Spanish Royal Palace, Madrid

For our third month, we have rented an apartment in the modern Hispanoamérica neighborhood of Madrid. Madrid is located near the center of Spain, both geographically and politically. It is home to Spain’s parliamentary monarchy and some of its most outstanding monuments and museums.

El Escorial Family

Family visit to El Escorial, Spain (2014)

In Madrid and its neighboring day trip destinations, we plan to visit some of Spain’s most important historical sites. Places like Toledo, Segovia, and Ávila preserve the past, from Roman occupation to the Spanish Golden Age to Spain’s bloody 20th century Civil War.

Pamplona Bota bag

Me and my bota bag, Running of the Bulls, Pamplona (July 2014)

By traveling for full months in Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Madrid, we expect to expand our understanding of Spain, and fall in love with it all over again. One-third of a century since my semester studying Spanish, I am elated to be returning with a new paperback version of Iberia and my bota bag ready to be filled with Spanish red wine.

 

Feature Image: Madrid’s former central post office building decorated for the coronation of King Felipe VI (June 2014)

Blogger’s Note: Unless credited, we took all of the photos in this post during family trips to Spain in 2012 and 2014.

20 thoughts on “A New Chapter in Spain

    • Hi Janis, Maybe it is just that great minds think alike? Hopefully, I can find the right words and camera angles to accurately represent the wonderful places we are sure to visit in the next three months. I am also anxious to hear about your future travel plans.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Es dancing the flamenco with her castanets and me strumming my Spanish guitar. Thanks for following our upcoming three-month tour of Spain’s street corners and subway stations. How else can a couple of traveling retirees support their addiction to tapas?

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    • Hi Deb, Es and I are disappointed that we will miss you and Jeff this time. I hope you guys enjoy your stop in Reno. Watch out for all the Burner-mobiles on the road.

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  1. That sounds like a wonderful trip! I have a good friend who has been living in Spain for the past ten years, and she just loves it there. I hope to visit her someday, but meanwhile, I look forward to reading about your trip. Don’t forget to include lots of the fabulous photos you take!!!

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    • Thank you, Ann. We have been looking forward to this trip back to Spain for a long time. I hope you do have the chance to visit your friend. In which part of Spain are they located?

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        • We have visited Almería in the past and liked in a lot. It is suppose to be the driest place in continental Europe. There are greenhouses as far as the eye can see growing most of Europe’s tomatoes. A visit during the winter would be lovely. The coastline is spectacular, relatively undeveloped, and probably quite expensive. We haven’t seen too much of the inland areas, but hope to during a future trip.

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          • I hope you do too! My friend had olive, and I think fig trees, growing on her property. It was an old farm which they renovated with the idea of renting out part of it to people on vacation. Sadly, her husband died and she sold that place and moved to a smaller property that she can manage herself. But she loves it in that part of Spain, and has no intentions of moving. And I do plan to visit her there someday!

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    • Hi Sue and Dave, There are so many interesting themes to write about in Spain. We are excited to discover them, and share them with our friends. Thank you for following along, and best wishes in your own incredible travels.

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    • Thank you, Gilda. We are so happy that you are interested in following our travels in Spain. After five months in Mexico last year, I re-learned enough Spanish to get by, and even carry on a simple conversation. I feel like my language proficiency has peaked, but if I apply myself over the next three months, I hope to see some improvement.

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  2. This may seem an odd question, but how did you fit a Michener book in your back pocket?
    The pictures are gorgeous. It certainly is an interesting area and an interesting time politically for them. Sounds like you’ll have quite the trip, looking forward to hearing all about it!

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    • Actually you raise a very good question, Christi. Back then, I had an empty wallet and a very skinny butt. There was so much room back there, I could fit War and Peace on one side and the unabridged Webster’s Dictionary on the other. Nowadays, I need a super-sized fanny pack to carry around my reading materials. Thanks for your query and interest in our wanderings!

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