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Spain- My favorite things

I had been planning our inaugural journey into our new travel lifestyle for several months and everywhere on a map was on the table as a potential destination. Travel and Leisure magazines were piled high on my nightstand. My head was spinning with possibilities, but I could not seem to find “the place” that felt right for this momentous occasion.


Still seeking inspiration, I was trolling travel channels one evening when I came across an HGTV show called "Mediterranean Life.” The featured episode was on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain. Immediately after the 30-minute episode was over, I knew I had found "the place."


We traveled extensively throughout Spain in the following months visiting 10 cities over 11 weeks. Overall, Spain was an ideal location for our first foray into slow travel. It is easy to travel between cities via trains, short intra-country flights and driving. We were surprised by its affordability. And most of all, we were endlessly memorized by its beauty, history and culture.


There are many terrific blogs about the top places to visit and things to see and do if you are planning a trip to Spain. But I'm going to share my favorite things about our journey in the event you are looking for more personal inspiration.



CALPE

Nestled on the Spanish coast about 2 hours south of Valencia, Calpe is a hidden gem that is often overlooked by tourist. I discovered it on the "Home Exchange" platform and was blown away by its natural beauty. The highlight of our visit was the hike up the Penyal de I'fac, a towering rock formation that offers panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea. It was no easy feat to reach the top - we had to do some serious scrambling to make it to the summit. But the effort was well worth it when we reached the top and were greeted by a stunning vista that took our breath away. There is no doubt that this was my favorite vista in all of Spain.


SEVILLE


We arrived in Seville during Easter week or

Semana Santa. In the days leading up to

Easter, individual brotherhoods or

churches in Seville host grand

parades with religious floats and thousands of parishioners are dressed in traditional Pentecost robes. Despite the initial startling impact of the robes and hats, understanding the history and meaning behind the ceremonies and apparel made it a truly touching sight. Children dressed in their Sunday best would stand in the street with their parents for up to an hour as the processional passed by. It was truly “church in the street”.

It is a religious spectacle that leaves a lasting impression of the importance of religion in the Spanish culture and quickly became by my favorite cultural experience in Spain.



MADRID


Madrid is a city that captured my heart from the moment I arrived. What I loved most about this vibrant metropolis is how easily I slipped into the rhythm of daily life. It wasn't just about the sightseeing or the attractions, though there are certainly endless opportunities to explore, but rather the feeling of being a resident rather than a tourist.


One of my favorite places to visit was a local tavern called La Concha. Tucked away on a quiet street in the historic Barrio de las Letras, this cozy little spot became our go-to for tapas and drinks. I loved watching the camaraderie of the other diners and quickly blended in with the crowd.


Madrid will long remain my favorite city in Spain that I would most like to return to and live

like a local.

COSTA DEL SOL

As the Costa del Sol was the catalyst for our journey, I admit I was afraid it might not live up to my expectations. Never fear as it sparkled just as much in real life as it did in the “Mediterranean Life” TV show.


The Costa del Sol, located along Spain’s southern border, consists of several small towns and villages. Our home base was Almunecar, where we rented a car and explored the area. The beautiful beaches, bordered by perfectly paved promenades, were lined with small cafes filled with abundant seafood options. It was my favorite place for taking a break from the daily tourist agenda and just relaxing.


CORDOBA


Córdoba is an easy train ride from Madrid and is well worth a visit. The highlight of the city is the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. Originally built as a mosque in the 8th century, it was later converted into a cathedral in the 13th century. The cathedral was constructed in the heart of the mosque, creating an unusual hybrid structure that blends the architectural features of both religions. I literally had chills standing in the vastness of this holy space. It quickly became my favorite architectural structure in Spain.




BARCELONA


Barcelona has something for everyone. From the influence of artist Gaudi at Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia to the expansive beaches and great tapas, it’s no wonder that Barcelona is always on the must-see list for places in Spain. Among the top tourist destinations in Barcelona is La Boqueria, a massive public market with stalls of fresh produce and local delicacies exquisitely displayed. Grab a counter seat at one of the numerous small restaurants throughout the market and enjoy the feast for the eyes and stomach!


Local markets always fascinate me as they are a vibrant embodiment of the spirit of an area, showcasing the unique flavors, colors, and traditions that make each place special. La Boqueria, is a shining

example that makes it my favorite market in

Spain.



SAN SEBASTIAN

San Sebastián, located in the heart of the Basque country in Northern Spain, has a reputation for having the most Michelin-starred restaurants per capita in the world. We did, in fact, splurge on a 3-Michelin star dinner during our visit, but the star of San Sebastian for me was the culinary wonder called Pintxos.


Pintxos are similar to tapas but are smaller and are usually held together with a toothpick. They are uniquely Basque and are the cornerstone of their social life. A typical evening is spent visiting with friends in small establishments nibbling on Pintxos and enjoying regional ciders and wines, including this lovely sparkling wine called Txakoli.


I would highly recommend the Devour Tours, Pintxos and Wine Tour for a great education on Pintxos and Basque culture.


You will find amazing food throughout Spain, but Pintxos were my favorite type of food in Spain.


SUMMARY


Our entire journey through Spain was an unforgettable experience that left me inspired and eager for more adventures. Inspiration for travel comes in come in unusual ways. Where do you find your travel inspiration?

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