Returning to Spain.
We wanted Leslie, Andrew and Alex to experience some places we enjoyed, and at the same time explore some less familiar ones for us. For flexibility, we rented a vehicle large enough for six plus luggage, opting eventually for a Mercedes Viano Van. It proved a good choice. John drove and I navigated with help from an excellent Michelin Tourist Atlas of Spain and Portugal and our GPS, fondly called “Olivia,” a name suggested by Andrew inspired by olive groves stretching as far as the eye could see.
We had three weeks, but where should we go? After discussions, we decided that “must-sees” included Barcelona, Granada, Córdoba, Seville, Toledo, Madrid and Segovia. Around this broad base, we planned our trip to include some old favourite destinations and some new ones. We stayed in the following cities/towns/ villages: Barcelona, Cuenca, Granada, La Hoya (Antequera), Carmona, Almagro, Madrid, Segovia, El Burgo de Osma, Sos del Rey Católico and Alquézar before returning to Barcelona.
Along the way, we also visited Alcañiz, Teruel “of the towers,” the stunning white towns of Capileira and Papaneira in the Alpujarras (south of Granada), isolated Bobastro, Consuegra (whose windmills Don Quixote may well have tilted at), the walled city of Avila, Berlanga del Duero, the exquisite hermitage ofSan Baudelio, the impressive castle of Gormaz and the picturesque old village of Calatañazor. We’ll tell you more about them in the following pages.
Having said that Seville, Córdoba and Toledo were among our “must-see” destinations, you may think it strange that we did not stay in any of them, and yet spent overnight in the relatively unknown northern towns of El Burgo de Osma, Sos del Rey Católico, and Alquézar, and the tiny Andalusian village of La Hoya. We visited Seville for a day from Carmona, and stopped for several hours in Córdoba and Toledo. These historic cities deserve a visit of several days, but we opted to give Leslie, Andrew and Alex a flavour of these wonderful places without risking “information overload.” The small towns allowed John, Leslie and the children to do some hiking, while Margaret and I enjoyed casual wandering in the Spanish countryside.
The trip was long (about 3,600 kilometres/ 2237 miles), but it gave Leslie, Andrew and Alex (and renewed for Margaret, John and me) the opportunity to experience some of the several “Spains” that travel writers frequently comment on: Catalonia, Castile-La Mancha, Andalusia, Castile-León and Aragón.
What appears in the following pages is a blend of our observations and reflections on what we experienced. Readers should keep in mind that we travelled in spring (April-May), and that some of what we saw in the countryside (e.g. the startling displays of poppies and wildflowers, green carpets of crops) may not apply in the summer or fall/autumn when the dry heat that blankets much of the country turns the landscape brown in large areas.