Returning to Spain.
It was time to return to Spain. Margaret and I had visited Spain numerous times since 1959, including extended stays, but our last visit was in mid 2008. This time our companions were our son, John, wife Leslie, and our two grandchildren, Andrew (12 years) and Alexandra (Alex, 10). John had frequently joined us in Spain; for Leslie, Andrew and Alex travelling in Spain was a new adventure.
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 of San Baudelio, the impressive castle of Gormaz and the picturesque old village of Calatañazor. We’ll tell you more about them in the following pages.
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.