Although this trip into Spain was dedicated to the Grand Prix of Spain, that didn’t stop us from seeing other sites in the area. Our first stop was the tiny country of Andorra. Leaving Florence, I mindlessly drove north towards Bologna instead of hugging the Ligurian coast. Like Kumar in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, when I realized the error of my ways, I declared “we’ve come too far” and pressed on. The mistake proved costly and tagged on an hour and a half of driving to an already long first leg. By the time we pulled into the mountain town, I was destroyed (hence the lack of photos).
We made some ground through Spain on our last few days. We traveled to Segovia, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, which has a towering Roman aqueduct. After a quick stop in Madrid to drop off the rental car, we took the train to our last stop, Valencia, home to Santiago Calatrava’s City of Art and Sciences complex. Oh, and there was some paella in the mix, some really good paella.
Back in 2002, while Bobby was studying at the USAFA, he was selected for a summer immersion language program (also through the Olmsted Foundation, the same foundation that has given us these three wonderful years in Europe). It was his first visit to Europe and he quickly fell in love. In fact, when we started the Olmsted Scholar application process a few years ago, Salamanca was on the top of his list for places to live. Although we are extremely happy with the way things worked out here in Firenze, it is easy for me to see why he has always loved the Spanish culture and in particular, the city of Salamanca. After a four hour drive in very wet and windy conditions, we arrived in the popular university town.
Our Iberian road trip continued north, first stopping in Guimarães, Portugal before heading into Spain, where we visited both Pontevedra and Santiago de Compostela. With spring comes rain and it seems we couldn’t escape it on this trip. Luckily, we did have a few sun breaks, so we tried to make the best of it.
Every year, the Olmsted ladies (wives and female scholars) from Europe and Africa travel to a different destination for a little girls-only fun. Last year, the girls joined up in Edinburgh for some relaxation and site-seeing. While absolutely beautiful, it was a wee (okay a little more than “wee”) bit cold. Remembering all too well our frozen hands and toes, we opted for a warmer destination this year. My friend and fellow Olmsted wife, Jen Hensarling, planned our trip this year. After a few rounds of voting, seven Olmsted wives and one scholar decided on Mallorca. The island is the largest of the Balearic archipelago and is practically a German colony in the summer, with most of the flights coming from either Spain or Germany. In fact, my flight went from Florence to Frankfurt and then to Mallorca. It is also a common vacation destination for the Irish and Polish, and I can’t say I blame them!… [Read More]
Ronda, a picturesque town in southern Spain, was our last stop this trip. It was a short stop; we got to site-see for a few hours before sundown. The drive was definitely worth it though! Ronda is situated in a very mountainous area, almost directly west of Malaga and southeast of Sevilla. The Guadalevin River runs through the city, dividing it in two and carving out the steep, 100 plus meters deep El Tajo canyon. Because of its dramatic landscape, Ronda makes for some beautiful photos.
I love southern Spain. It’s warm, the people are friendly, and there is lots to see and do. Our next stop took us to Seville (Sevilla in Spanish, Siviglia in Italiano), the fourth largest city in Spain after Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. I was pretty excited about this trip because I have heard so many great things about Seville. We timed it perfectly – the Feria (or Festival) of Seville was going on while we were there, which meant that there was lots of eating, drinking, and flamenco dancing.
A couple days ago, Bobby and I celebrated our three year anniversary. Spending it in Madrid was wonderful! We booked a nice hotel, spent most of the time relaxing (and eating!), and took in a few museums. Although it was difficult to leave our almost-home-like accommodations, we left Madrid after 3 days and traveled on to Cordoba, a small, but charming (and MUCH) warmer city in southern Spain.
Part 2 of our journey led us on a short jaunt to Bilbao, a small-ish city in northeast Spain known for the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. I must admit, we were not expecting much from the actual exhibit inside the museum; I really just wanted to see the building. Surprisingly, however, there were several unique pieces of art on exhibition, including a series of works by American sculptor Richard Serra. We spent 3 or 4 hours exploring the museum before moving on to our next Spanish destination.
Shortly after meeting each other way back when (ha!), I learned that Barcelona is Bobby’s favorite city in the world (well, at least so far). For our anniversary this year, I planned a week long trip to Spain so that we could experience the country together. I figured that since he had been there several times before, he would be the perfect tour guide! A day before flying out, Iberia Airlines sent us a message telling us our flight had been cancelled and we could either a) fly out the next day or b) get a full refund. Ugh. We took the refund. Our 7-day Spanish trip quickly turned into a 14-day excursion when we simultaneously declared “let’s road trip!” We are determined to become Spanish conquistadors, seeing 8 cities in 2 weeks and logging 3,100 miles/50 hours in the car. Yikes! First stop – Barcelona!