1: SPAIN! Spring Break 2011 | Early spring; sunny warm days, lush green vegetation combined with white, snow covered mountains. This was the perfect time to visit southern Spain. Our itinerary included Madrid, Seville, the Costa del Sol and the Alhambra.
2: We began our trip in Madrid, capital of Spain and with over 6,000,000 inhabitants, its' largest city. | The Palacio Royal de Madrid is the official residence of the King of Spain
3: Madrid highlights include Museum Triangle and its' crown jewel, Museo del Prado, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, the Gran Via, the Palacio Real, and el Retiro Park | Madrid was a kaleidescope of parks, museums, plazas, street performers, stores, restaurants and beautiful people
4: Window shopping on the Gran Via | Street performers were everywhere. This one was in front of the courtyard next to the Palacio Real | Statue outside the Royal Palace | The Campo del Moro gardens
5: Madrid is the 3rd largest city in the EU and boasts a modern infrastructure combined with historical treasures. | We enjoyed wandering the streets from our hotel; stopping to window shop, visit the Prado, eat, and finding surprises around every corner
6: The Plaza Mayor, shopping on the Gran Via | Modern buildings but Spanish style
8: Built on the Rio Guadalquivir, Seville is an enticing, sensual mix of Moorish and Christian culture, architecture, art and ideas. Seville highlights include the Real Alcazar, the Seville Cathedral and La Giralda, Torre del Oro, La Maestranza and the twisting claustrophobic streets. | The Seville Cathedral is the world's largest Christian church by volume. Built in the 15th century on the site of the Almohad mosque, it contains priceless works of art, Christopher Columbus' tomb, and the best view of the city.
9: La Giralda, the bell tower of the Seville Cathedral | The Puerta del Bautismo leads to the Baptism Font inside the Cathedral | La Giralda was built between 1172 and 1195 and is the symbol of Seville | The main entrance into the Cathedral
10: The climb to the top of La Giralda involved ascending 35 ramps wide enough to accommodate a man on horseback. The view from the top is spectacular
13: Built over hundred of years by Moorish and Christian monarchs the Real Alcazar is a lavish respite in the bustling city.
14: The gardens of the Real Alcazar are laid out with terraces, fountains and pavilions and provided a wonderful escape from the outside world. | Queen Isabel I dispatched Christopher Columbus and other navigators to the New World from her apartment within the Real Alcazar.
18: During the 16th century, after Columbus sailed to the New World from Seville, the city saw treasure fleets carrying astonishing wealth return up the Rio Guadalquivir. The resulting riches made Seville one of the wealthiest ports in Europe.
21: From the lush gardens of the Real Alcazar, to the dramatic spaces of the Plaza del Toros, to the intricate details of Moorish architecture, Seville is a feast for the senses
24: We drove from Seville to the Costa del Sol and Nerja, stopping at the spectacular pueblo blanco of Ronda. Situated on both sides of the Tajo gorge, this impregnable town was one of the last Moorish bastions in Spain, finally falling to the Christians in 1485. The Puente Nuevo pictured above was an 18th century civil engineering feat.
25: Ronda | Enjoying the Costa del Sol sun | Cliff diving near Marbella | Wildflowers
26: European chic | Above the beach at Nerja | "The balcony of Europe" | View from our apartment
29: From an unremarkable beginning as a modest fortress, the Alhambra evolved over the centuries into a Moorish vision of paradise on earth. The Nasrid monarchs created a fairytale palace of intricate patterns. Geometric and floral motifs dazzle with their complexity and beauty; Islam taboos generally prohibit depictions of humans and animals.
31: The Alhambra sits on a 35 acre plateau above the city of Granada and is divided into different sections; the fortress where soldiers and military personnel lived, the palaces of the Nasrid monarchy and the gardens of the Generalife.
33: The Generalife, the architect's garden, has a fountain laden canal which supplies water to the lush beds of fragrant flowers and shrubbery as well as to innumerable pools and fountains.