S: Spain and morocco
BC: SIGN, SIGN EVERYWHERE A SIGN | One of the room names at the hotel in Arcos | Caution - Motorbikes crashing into the back of cars!? | All modes of transportation allowed on this road, except cars!
FC: BEST OF SPAIN WITH A TASTE OF MOROCCO September 11 - 26, 2010 Brought to you by Rick Steves' Europe through the back door Hosted by the lovely and always fun Helen inman
1: A most festive and fun-loving group from the United States and Canada.
2: While there are dozens of amazing sites to see and visit in Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia is truly one of the most famous and popular. | BARCELONA (That's "Barthelona" to "Barthelonians") Barcelona, our first stop, is home to dozens of works by Antoni Gaudi, an architect and designer with a vision that was WAY ahead of his time. Our first full day in Barcelona started with a guided walking tour of the Gothic Quarter, Cathedral Cloisters, a visit to the old Roman ruins, and then a Metro ride to see the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's famous church, which coincidentally was consecrated in November, 2010. Gaudi's designs are based on elements of nature, relgion, and architecture.
3: Look Up! Look WAAAYYYYY Up! The group was in awe at the first glimpse of this Masterpiece.
4: From Barcelona to Madrid via bus and from Madrid to Segovia via the Bullet Train. Hold onto your hats because that train can fly - yes that's 300 km/hour! | We had a great day in Segovia, with a tour of the Roman Aqueduct, Plaza Mayor, past the Santo Estaban tower and Cathedral, Jewish District, and the Alcazar. A quiet, but fascinating little town.
5: Part of a great vacation is experiencing the local food and drink. We are always ones to ensure we follow this most important rule of travel. What better way than visiting a local bar for Tapas, Spanish beer and wine? And of course, who can forget the suckling pig dinner?
6: From Segovia we took the bus back to Madrid, stopping at El Escorial on the way. Built in the 16th century by the Hapsburg rulers, it has served as a palace, monastery with cathedral, and now a school. | As in Barcelona, there are many places of worth to see in Madrid. Our guided tour took us to Puerto Del Sol, Plaza Mayor, past the Cathedral and Palace, and then a Metro ride to the Museo del Prado. Madrid has several museums worth visiting, including a "Jamon" museum, and great places to dine and shop.
7: Catching up with the locals | Parque del Retiro
8: From Madrid we were off to Toledo for a night, a beautiful town surrounded on 3 sides by the Tajo Rio. The labyrinthine streets are lined with a real mixture of architectural styles - so picturesque. | A hot Spanish day is best conquered with a cool Sangria.
9: From Toledo we drove through the plains of La Mancha, stopping at Consuega for a tour of the old windmills. Helen treated us to local treats, and we even met Don Quixote on our lunch break!
10: GRANADA | Here we are again, sampling local delicacies - paella and strawberry shisha at one of the local Hookah Bars. | Granada is a city that still displays a large Moorish influence in architecture and culture. There is so much to see here as well, including the Cathedral, the "Silk Road" shopping lanes, and of course the highlight, the Alhambra.
11: The Alhambra was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain before they were ousted by Queen Isabella. The oldest part of the Alhambra dates back to the 13th century. The site consists of the Charles V Palace, Alcazaba (mostly in ruins), Palacios Nazaries, and the Generalife Gardens. It is jaw-dropping gorgeous!
12: After leaving Granada we took the bus to Tarifa with a 3-hour lunch stop in Ronda on the way. Ronda is built at the top of a very steep gorge. We decided to hike in the gorge to the waterfall, only to find we had run out of path. That was okay, though, because it was so very hot that day. We had no choice but to find a very cold cervesa with our lunch.
13: RONDA The birthplace of modern bullfighting | Many places in Spain have outlawed bullfighting, though Ronda has not, as is evidenced by these photos. We were treated to our own bullfight. | O L E
14: MOROCCO | After our night in Tarifa we caught the ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar for Tangier - in Africa. Yes, an opportunity to visit a new continent. We were given a bus tour of the area, including a visit to the very white kasbah in Assilah, before going to "our" kasbah in Tangier. A bit of a study in contrasts with the old, conservative culture mixed in with the new, more liberal culture of today. And how weird is it to see satellite dishes and antennas atop the roofs of the hundreds-year old buildings?
15: And when in Morocco, do as the Moroccans do - ride a camel and charm a snake. | SMILE
16: One of our favourite things to do during our travels is visit the local markets. They are so colourful and you can learn so much about the people. Like how strong this kid was to lift 2 dead pigs!
17: After our return to Spain we spent a very relaxing 2 nights in Arcos de la Frontera, a whitewashed hill town. We relaxed on our room balcony with a lovely bottle of vino tinto overlooking this amazing valley. What a low-key treat after 2 busy days in Morocco. | This statue of the Penitents in Arcos was just a little creepy! | While in Arcos we visited the Andalucian Equestrian Centre and saw a horse show - while impressive I believe the RCMP Musical Ride is much more impressive than these fancy horses. We did get a kick out of the "Andalucian Zamboni" though. Following the horse show we went to Sandeman for a tour of their sherry-making facilities and a tasting. Sandeman Sherry is known for its character(s).
18: SEVILLA Our last destination in Spain was the city of Sevilla. Our guided tour included the Basilica of the Makarena, with a description of the annual processions of the Marys, Giraldi Cathedral, Holy Cross Plaza, and the Alcazar. We also visited the Spanish Palace, from the 1929 World Expo, which never happened, and had a lovely visit to the Arabian Baths.
19: We went to a Flamenco Dance performance, which was pretty amazing. The music was great, the dancing was almost manic, and the expressions on the dancers' faces were full of anger! What a strange form of folk dance. | Our final evening in Sevilla included an amazing group dinner, capped off with horse and buggy rides through the city, complete with a little Spanish Cava for our sipping pleasure. A great tour was had by all.