August 1 - 15, 2010
This travel adventure started on Sunday
afternoon, August 1st. The USAir flight from
Binghamton connected with a flight directly
to Madrid from Philadelphia. The flight left at
6:15 pm and my overnight flight arrived
in Madrid at 8:25 am.
The Plaza de Espari: Monument to Cervantes.
Our main stop of the morning was at the famous Prado
Museum. Above is the side of the museum
you pass to enter the exhibits. The museum is
world class and has a very large display areas.
Very close to the Museum is the Church of San Jeronimo
el Real. This much-restored church has played
an important role in the history of Madrid an the court.
One of Madrid's many decorated buildings.
Note the teams of horses found on the building roof.
The Sculpture of the Bear and the strawberry tree
represents the coat of arms of Madrid.
A band of Spanish musicians performing in Plaza Mayor in
the early evening. The Plaza was a great place to enjoy
dinner and the night life of Madrid.
This is one of the attractions to visiting Plaza Mayor.
There were mime's and other characters all around.
This three headed man is entertaining two of the
many children in the Plaza. There are many more
photos of Madrid but the tour must move on!
Day 4 of our trip found our group of hardy travelers on the
bus and off to Vitoria with stops at Segovia and Burgos.
Above is the 2,000 year-old Roman Viaduct that greeted us
when the bus drove into Segovia. It is truly a marvel
of engineering from many centuries ago.
Cathedral of Santa Maria began shortly after the
repopulation of Segovia during the reign of Alfonso VII.
Segovia's Alcazar, a tower surrounded by moated
walls in defense of the city.
Our second stop of the day was at the city of Burgos. Above is
the gateway entrance to the city main Plaza.
Burgos Cathedral, where the legendary El Cid is buried.
A beautiful limestone structure was built beginning in 1221.
The coffin where El Cid is buried. High enough to prevent
grave robbers from attempting their trade.
Our hotel for the night in Vitoria. We spent some time
after our arrival in Vitoria strolling through this
ancient Basque city's historic center.
Our tour bus. It was very comfortable and well driven
by our professional driver.
The first thing on Thursday morning we traveled to the
city of Bilbao, the greatest port city of this Basque region.
We had a guided tour of their Guggenheim
Museum. Pictured above is the exterior shape
of this remarkable building designed by North
American architect Frank O. Gehry.
A modern art sculpture outside of the museum.
A artist depiction of a huge spider outside of the museum.
It was a rainy morning when we arrived at the museum. We
had to wait several minutes before the museum opened. Since
there were no photos allowed inside the museum, we took
advantage of the art displayed outside the building.
The museum's statue of the Pup stands guard near the upper
entrance to the building. It is a magical pup in that its colors
are changed every six months when the season's change.
Its summer colors are bright pretty flowers of several varieties.
The museum was a truly interesting top while all varieties of
modern art on display.
As we drove along the sun came out and we were on
our way to San Sebastian. The city is in the north
of the Basque Country, on the southern coast of the
Bay of Biscay. San Sebastián's picturesque coastline
makes it a popular beach resort. Above
is the City Hall of the city.
The surf was up and the waves were pounding
the coastline beaches.
Bay of Biscay view.
While at San Sebastian I enjoyed my first Tapas lunch
in this restaurant.
A view of the typical Tapas bar with its assortment of
food found in this type of restaurant. Tapas is the name of
a wide variety of appetizers, or Snacks, in Spanish Cuisine.
They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese)
or warm (such as chopitos, which are battered,
fried baby squid). In Spain, patrons of Tapas can order
many different Tapas and combine them to make
a full meal. When in a Tapas restaurant you stand
at the bar and selected the Tapas you desire for lunch.
I had 2 shrimp items and a cheese filled puff along
with a local beer. Cost 9.50 Euros. It was delicious
Another view of the Tapas choices.
Boats in front of one of the off shore islands in the Bay
Biscay. After leaving San Sebastian, known as the
"Pearl of the Cantabrian Coast," we rode on
to Pamplona at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Upon arriving in Pamplona we departed our bus and
began a walk through the downtown where
we followed the route of the famous
"Run with the Bulls.'"
The beginning of our "Run with the Bulls" walk.
The small square spots in the street are where the city places
posts for fencing during the race. This creates a
separation between the bulls, crowd and runners.
A city statue depicting the run with the Bulls.
Another look at the statue of the running bulls. After our
walk along the downtown streets we continued
on to our hotel.
Day 6 and we are in Saragossa after a night in Pamplona.
Above is the Plaza Del Pilar, one of Spain's
On the right is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pilar,
where, according to legends, the Virgin appeared
to St. James.
The Plaza also held a monument honoring Goya.
A life sized statue found neat the Goya Monument.
After the stop at Saragossa, we traveled the next
morning to Barcelona, Spain's second largest city.
Barcelona was the host city of the 1992 Olympic
Games. Above is the coast line at Barcelona. The wing
shaped building in the background of the photo is the
new "W" hotel. As with other city stops we had a
bus tour of the city first thing on Saturday morning.
A modernistic building design located in the harbor area.
Sail boats in Barcelona's harbor.
A view of the city from Montjuic Hill.
We also had a stop at Anton Gaudi's Guell Park. Gaudi
was commissioned by Eusebi Guell to develop the
concept of the park.
Two colorful street performers who were dressed as
Transformer. They became trucks when they curled
up in to their ground level positions.
Motor scooters were the most popular form of personal
transportation in all Spanish cities. There were thousands
of scooters in every city we visited.
Barcelona City Council
The Sagrada Familia is another emblematic symbol of
Barcelona. Designed by Antoni Plàcid Guillem Gaudí
an architect who worked using the Modernist style.
He became famous for his unique and highly
individualistic designs regarded as beyond the scope
of Modernism. Gaudi began to direct the work on this
Temple in 1883. He intended the temple to be a
great modern church of Barcelona. It continues
to be under construction today.
The rear face of the Sagrada Familia.
The monument dedicated to the "Sardana" in Montjuic.
During the afternoon, I took an optional excursion to Montserrat.
Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located in the
Montserrat mountains, in Monistrol de Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain.
The monastery is Catalonia's most important religious retreat
and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia
make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise
from the heights of Montserrat. Virgin of Montserrat (the black virgin),
is Catalonia's favourite saint, and is located in the sanctuary of the
Mare de Deu de Montserrat, next to the Benedictine monastery
nestling in the towers and crags of the mountain . The
Escolania, Montserrat’s Boys’ Choir, is one of the oldest
in Europe, and performs during religious ceremonies
and communal prayers in the basilica.
Another view of the monastery This evening we enjoyed
a typical Catalonian dinner at a local restaurant.
On our second evening in Barcelona we had dinner
in a typical Catalonian restaurant. It was a three course
dinner with local specialties featuring native
meats served at tableside.
After dinner we traveled to Barcelona's "Magic Fountain"
shown above. There was a superb water and multi-light
show that lasted for a long time.
Day 8, We travel from Barcelona to Valencia. Valencia
was once a royal capital. As we drove into Valencia we
stopped at a site of several new buildings focusing
on Arts and Sciences. These building were
very futuristic in design.
The site of these building is the old Turia Riverbed.
The riverbed was moved to prevent river flooding
The Prince Felipe Science Museum.
The Valencia Cathedral was built between the 13th
century and the 15th, and that is why its style is
mainly Gothic. However, its construction went on for
centuries. As a consequence there is a mixture of artistic
styles, ranging from the early Romanesque, the subtle
Renaissance, the heavy Baroque and the more restrained
Neoclassic. This mixture is the most important feature
of Valencia Cathedral and is what makes it a jewel
of universal architecture. In front of the Cathedral
is the Apostles Gate.
The Miguelete Tower was originally built as as
the bell tower of the Cathedral.
One of several beautiful fountains found around Valencia.
Another Valencia fountain.
On our way west toward the mountains we stopped in the
Village of Purullena to visit troglodyte cave dwellings.
These dwellings are hollowed out of the soft tufa stone.
Pictured above is the entrance to one of the many cave
dwellings that people of the area live in. The insides
were painted and furnished like anyone's normal home.
As we bussed around Spain we saw many big black
Bulls displayed like this one. It was a challenge to try to
get a good shot out of our bus windows. Luckily, there
are 58 such bulls located around the country, so we
had many chances to photo these black bulls.
Monday morning found our hardy group of travelers
headed for Granada. It would be an all day trip with rest
stops along the way. We are heading toward the
mountains. This fountain was just outside the
entrance to our hotel in Granada.
The Hotel Carmen was nicely located in the city. It
allowed for evening walks and personal sightseeing.
Here we are waiting on entering the hotel for our
The simple, plain facade of the Carthusian monastery.
Founded by Fernando Gonzalo in 1516, it only consists
of the church, the sacristy, and cloister
with some annexes.
The external access to the Gothic Royal Chapel which
houses the moral remains of Ferdinand and Isabelle.
It is Day 10 and we are headed to one of the special
highlights of the tour, the visit to the Alhambra. These guns
guard the entrance into the Alhambra complex.
Our visit to the complex started very early in order
to beat the crowds that descend on Alhambra each day.
The Alhambra, literally "the red one", the complete form
of which was Calat Alhambra, "the red fortress"), is a palace
and fortress complex constructed during the mid 14th century
by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus,
occupying the top of the hill of the Assabica on the
southeastern border of the city of Granada, now in the
One of the building that make up the complex.
some portions were used by the Christian rulers. The Palace of
inserted in the Alhambra within the Nasrid fortifications. After
being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was
"discovered" in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers,
with restorations commencing. It is now one of Spain's major tourist
attractions, exhibiting the country's most significant and well known
Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian
building and garden interventions. The Alhambra is a UNESCO
The circular courtyard of Charles V's palace, with the
Doric columns of the lower open gallery and the ionic
columns of the upper one.
One of the ornate rooms of t he complex.
Reflecting pools were everywhere in the complex.
Beautiful columns appeared at every turn in the complex
Ornate ceiling were in almost every room.
Beautiful gardens were found throughout the grounds.
The complex employs 40 gardeners to care for
the various gardens.
One of several pools found in the "Water
Gardens of the Generalife." The gardens with
their pools and flowers were a joy to see.
It is very hard to capture the beauty and size
of the Alhambra by showing just a few photos of a
complex where we spent a couple of hours touring.
The Alhambra is truly a special place to
visit when in Spain.
One last fountain!
A look back at Alhambra building from the gardens.
It was only a short drive to Costa Del Sol from Granada.
We were now at the coast of Mediterranean Sea.
Above is our Hotel the Melia Costa del Sol. We
had a two night stay Costa del Sol. It was rather
warm when we arrived, 40 degrees C or
112 degrees F. Ugh! Fortunately it was
not a muggy heat.
An interesting statue that adorns the hotel pool.
Another statue along the main beachside street of
Costa del Sol.
One of many seaside restaurants along Costa
del Sol beach front.
Fortunately there were many gelato stands throughout
Spain. This one at Costa del Sol did a
On our last evening in Costa del Sol, I attended
an optional excursion to the small village of Mijas
in the hills over looking the sea.
There were donkeys and horses available to
give cart rides around the village.
Local vendors sold a variety of items.
This young man was selling nuts.
There was a small museum in the village which had
several olive presses on display. This one used cone
shaped stones to extract the olive oil. We saw
thousands of olive tree as we drove around Spain.
After our visit to the village of Mijas, we bussed down
to the seaside village of Torremolino for dinner. The
meal featured sea bass baked in sea salt as pictured
above. The meal was delicious and everyone enjoyed
the seaside setting. After the meal we had a leisurely
stroll along the seashore to our hotel in Costa del Sol.
On day 12, we were on the road early to visit Gibraltar.
We drove through the Spanish countryside in order to
arrive at the Border crossing at an early time. Above is
the border crossing we walked to from our bus.
The "Rock" from the border crossing.
The Mosque in front of the Rock.
Europa Point Lighthouse
St. Michael's Cave. The cave had many beautiful
stalactites and stalagmites scenes inside the cave.
The famous Rock Apes greeted us at a popular
stop for taking pictures.
Pictured above is Koehler Depression Gun Carrier
located in Casemates Square.
After Gibraltar, we went through the sunny sherry
wine region on the Costa de la Lutz to the
vibrant, festive city of Seville.
On Day 13, Friday the 13th, we started our visit to
Seville with the traditional city tour. The first stop
was at the Plaza de Espana a building in Maria
Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. It is a landmark
example of the Moorish Revival style in
One of the tiled 'Province Alcoves' along
the walls of the Plaza de España.
A beautiful bridge in the Plaza de España
This dog was seen on one of the back streets of
Seville was trying to beat the 99 degree
heat on his balcony.
A beautiful monument in a palm tree lined
area next to the Alcázar's walls, the Jardines
de Murillo (Murillo Gardens) boasts one of
the most enjoyable and relaxing
of Sevilla's promenades.
A typical souvenir store on one of Seville's streets.
The Giralda Tower
The Cathedral of Seville is the third-largest Gothic
cathedral in the world. At the time of its completion
in the 16th century, it supplanted the Hagia Sophia as the
largest cathedral in the world. Previously, the Hagia
Sophia had held the title for more than a thousand years.
The cathedral also serves as the burial site of
After an afternoon at leisure (I needed this for
our pace was early to rise and late to dine),
there was an optional Andalusian night out which
included dinner and a Flamenco show. Above are
two of the very talented dancers doing one of
the several dances performed during the show.
It was a terrific show with a very energetic dance
We had a lunch stop at a very cute Spanish village.
The menu was very simple, a baguette, or fratta, or
Red Pepper soup. I had the soup and it was delicious.
The walls of the restaurant were decorated like our
Cracker Barrel restaurants.
Don Quixote was on display at several
spots in the village.
We left Seville early as it was our last day of the tour.
We traveled through the arid landscapes of Don Quixote's
La Mancha to Toledo. Our first stop was at the Damascene
Steel Workshop where we saw swords in various stages
of manufacture. There was a gift shop where we were
able to shop for pricey gifts. No swords were purchased
as one might not clear security at the airport
when heading home.
The gift shop. Note the racks of swords on the left
and right in the photo.
The "Gate of the Sun" entrance to the
old Town of Toledo.
Toledo like most Spanish cities
had many twisting, narrow streets.
The Museo Sefardi was created in 1964 and inaugurated
in 1971. The ancient Samuel Levon Synagogue, is
one of the two remaining synagogues in Toledo's old
Jewish quarter, the Aljama. It was built between 1336 and 1357.
Following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 it was used as a
hospital and a church before being declared a national
monument in 1877. In 1964 the Sephardic Museum was set up
as a tribute to the descendents of Spain's Jewish
population. The permanent collection charts the history
of the Jewish peoples before their arrival in Spain, during
their presence in the country and following their expulsion.
The St. Martin Bridge over the Tagus River.
After our visit to Toledo were returned to
Madrid for our last night of the tour.
Our last evening in Madrid before flying home was a very
nice dinner at Cafe Gijon. A regular meeting place for
intellectuals and writers since it opened in 1888, this
cafe still attracts a loyal clientele made up of journalists
and literary types. Famous poets and novelists like Federico
Garcia Lorca, Antonio Machado, Ruben Dario and
Perez Galdos all have spent time here. The restaurant
specializes in international cuisine with an emphasis on
meats. However, you can also choose from a range of
regional Spanish dishes. The Asturian varieties are the best.
pictured above are musicians who entertained
us during dinner.
Thus ended a wonderful tour adventure. Spain was a most
hospitable country. The various sights were very eye
catching and interesting. It is a clean and neat country
with good highways and has many marvelous thing to
see, experience. and do. Good food and wines abound!
I would encourage all of my friends to visit Spain!