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Trip to España

November 7, 2017

My wife and I just completed a magnificent vacation in Spain. The 11 day guided tour might not be the best way to see individual points of interest but it is a great way to see much more than you can reasonably see in such a short period. We had to pack and unpack in five cities but we loved every minute of the journey.

The first stop was Madrid with a short walking tour of the area around the hotel, lunch and then we checked into our rooms and roamed the area by ourselves. We had an “early” 8:00 PM dinner with our group in the hotel. The next day we had a guided tour of Madrid traveling to and viewing the Gran Via, Opera district, Plaza de Colon, the Royal Palace, Puerto del Sol Plaza and Plaza de España ending at the Prado Museum. The guided tour in the Prado was a couple of days too short with its magnificent paintings. We were treated to some of the treasures by El Greco, Velazquez and Goya. We had the afternoon and evening to walk around the city and try some of the local favorites and really great Spanish wine. Dinner in Madrid starts at 8:00 pm with many restaurants not even open until after then.

Our group of 36 had its own bus and tour director with a local guide in each city. The next stop was Toledo, the capital of Medieval Spain with a picturesque view of the Castillian Plains surrounded on three sides by the Tagus River. We had a walking tour that took us to the Santo Tome Church that houses El Greco’s masterpiece, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. We then visited the Santa Maria la Blanca Synagogue [the name is correct but I will not explain it here] that dated back to the 12th Century. We had a local lunch and then traveled through Andalusia via the region of Don Quixote’s La Mancha to Cordoba, the capital of Roman Spain and later Moorish Spain where we spent the night.

The next morning we toured Cordoba, the birthplace of Jewish philosopher Moshe Ben Maimon, known as Maimonides and Roman philosopher Seneca and then visited the 10th Century Mezquita built by the Moors when Cordoba was its capital. It was later converted into a cathedral. We also viewed the reconstructed Roman Bridge and a restored 14th Century Synagogue that survived the various expulsions of the Jews culminating in 1492. Our bus then took us to Seville which was the Moorish capital of the Andalusia region. I was able to get a photo in front of a Seville barber shop, but did not get a haircut.

The next morning started with the city tour viewing the Moorish architecture of the Giralda Tower and the impressive and largest Gothic Cathedral in the world which also houses Christopher Columbus’ tomb. We also did a lot of walking through the narrow streets, many plazas and upscale shops. We finished the afternoon with a boat ride on the Guadalquivir River.

The next morning our bus took us to Granada, a former stronghold of Moorish Spain and the awe inspiring Alhambra Palace with its Generalife gardens and snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance. In the evening we had dinner at a Flamenco show with great food and free flowing sangria.

The next day we had a long drive to Valencia with a stop for lunch where I had the best paella on the trip. When we arrived we had a city tour with the ubiquitous Roman and Arabic architecture and incredible sights of the modern Arts and Science City.

Our next stop was scheduled for Barcelona and we weren’t sure we would be going there until we had breakfast Sunday morning. A Plan B was established in case there was a work strike or excessive demonstrations in Barcelona because of the vote for Catalonia independence. It turns out there was no problem and we spent the rest of the trip in Barcelona. The drive was punctuated by a stop at the Peniscola beach resort for a leisurely stroll and lunch. Another stop was at the Monastery of Santa Maria de Poblet established in 1150.

We arrived in Barcelona on Sunday evening in time for a stroll around the hotel area and a delicious dinner in a local restaurant. Monday morning we had a city tour of this amazing city. We started at the old harbor, went through La Rambla Boulevard (which we went back to later that afternoon), the Plaza de Espana, Plaza Catalunya, the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter and a stop at the astonishing in-progress Sagrada Familia Catholic Basilica designed by the celebrated Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi, and then a drive by some of the structures of the 1992 Olympic Games.

The next day, our last, we visited the Museu Picasso where we saw among many masterpieces, Picasso’s 1957 studies and versions of Velazquez’ 1656 Las Meninas painting which we were able to appreciate because of the tour guide’s explanations when we were at the Prado; then lunch at a sidewalk café and an afternoon visit to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. A nice walk back to our hotel was interrupted by wine at a sidewalk café. Our group had a farewell dinner at a restaurant in a side street off of La Rambla.

Alas, we had to say Adios to Spain and return home on the Iberia Airline that brought us to Spain.

We also had a time bonus – it seems daylight savings time ended the Sunday when we were in Barcelona, so we gained an hour. A week later in New Jersey we had a second daylight savings time – so we gained two hours this year. I mentioned the sangria, but the red wine was excellent as was the cerveza, olive oil, food, climate and people. Our travel companions that were strangers when we started ended up as fine friends and they made the trip even more enjoyable.

The trip included explanations of the rich multicultural Spanish history with Jews, Catholics and Arabs mostly living and working together through 1492 when Spain became solely a Catholic country. All in all it was a wonderful trip and not as tiring as it might have appeared given all the places we went and everything we saw. A suggestion is to try it – you will like it!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Aaronson, Marc permalink
    November 7, 2017 12:14 pm

    Did you see the statute of the Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) in Cordoba? The synagogue m Granada of Shmuel HaNagid (Rabbi Samuel ibn Naghrillah)? The house where Picasso was born in Malaga?

    Marc A. Aaronson, CPA, JD, LL.M. (Taxation)
    First Manhattan Co.
    399 Park Ave.
    New York, NY 10022-4614
    212-756-3152
    212-671-1683 (fax)

  2. Ed Mendlowitz permalink
    November 7, 2017 9:20 pm

    Marc,
    We saw the statue of the Rambam but not the others. I have a photo of me by that statue. We also saw a lot of “vacant” synagogues and abandoned Jewish quarters.

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