The reign of Spain
First visit will
have you coming
back for “mas”
By T. Foster Jones
OF THE EUROPEAN countries I have had the
pleasure of visiting, Spain is the country that
held the most surprises. The country’s rich,
diverse cultural heritage; its deep well of world-renowned art, artisans and stunning architecture; and its easygoing, lighthearted approach
to life and the pleasures of fabulous cuisine and
nightlife, made my trip a magical one.
Visiting the Moorish majesty of Granada’s
Alhambra castle, strolling through the expansive gardens of Madrid’s 300-acre Parque del
Buen Retiro or experiencing the nightlife along
La Rambla in Barcelona, I was constantly in
awe. The cities are full of energy and life, yet so
laid-back that you can experience everything
they have to offer at your own pace.
Madrid is a city that can keep up with the
most energetic traveler. Whatever you can
dish out, whatever you want to do, however
long you want to keep going, Madrid can
match you step for step. With its balance of
old and new, Spain’s capital offers a wealth of
wide boulevards, grand public squares,
breathtakingly beautiful gardens and parks,
world-class museums, historic 17th- and
18th-century buildings, fine dining and sizzling nightlife.
Wander through Old Madrid’s Plaza
Mayor, one of the largest and grandest of the
public squares, and a place for meeting, eating
and festivities throughout the day and into the
night. Not far away is the Prado Museum,
which sits just north of Real Jardín Botánico,
Madrid’s famed botanical garden. The Prado
holds the world’s foremost collection of
Spanish paintings dating from the Middle Ages
to the 19th century.
An emotional moment for me was visiting the museum that is home to Picasso’s
The Costco Connection
Costco Travel offers a variety of ways to
experience Spain’s magnificent history and
colorful lifestyle, including vacation packages,
escorted vacations and cruises. Call toll free
1-877-849-2730 or visit Costco.com and click
TOURIST OFFICE OF SPAIN
Barcelona (above) and Madrid (inset)
are just two reasons to experience the
magnificence of Spain.
famed Guernica, a painting that depicts the
bombing of that town during the Spanish
Civil War. The museum is built almost like a
shrine, and filled with art lovers who spend
hours studying the massive, billboard-size
masterpiece. To see this piece, a testament to
the anguish Picasso felt, is truly to be held in
thrall to its power and fury.
Sitting on the Mediterranean, the port
city of Barcelona, home of the 1992 Summer
Olympics, has a distinctly different personality than that of Madrid. Here, edges feel softened, the pace a bit slower. The softness may
have inspired (or been inspired by) the architecture of the artist Antoni Gaudí, whose
drooping, swooping, melting buildings are
scattered throughout the city. The most
famous of these is La Sagrada Familia, a
church resembling a fantastic sand sculpture,
that Gaudi began more than 100 years ago,
and the construction of which continues long
after his death.
Although Barcelona is filled with museums, gardens, theaters and other attractions,
perhaps its most famous site is La Rambla.
One of the world’s most renowned promenades, stretching from the city center down to
the waterfront, the wide street is lined on both
sides by charming restaurants, bars and cafés.
Running down its center is a pedestrian walkway bustling with street entertainers, mimes,
flower stalls and newsstands, bird sellers and
other vendors. Nor is Barcelona lacking nightlife: It’s not unusual to see everything from
revelers to families pushing strollers down the
tree-lined boulevard well past midnight.
Dozens of other cities, including Toledo,
Segovia, Seville, San Lorenzo, El Escorial and
Avila, are close enough to Madrid or Barcelona
for day trips. These two cities are but a taste of
everything Spain has to offer—a taste guaranteed to bring you back for more. C
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