(featured photo credit: Royalty Free Illustrations, purchased via dreamstime.com)
Discovering SPAIN during a road trip of about two weeks is one of the itineraries Sinan and I have been putting together for a couple of years now, but still did not get to book and travel there. As the “dream, book, and travel” process evolves I will share it with you - for inspiration, suggestions, and impressions - whether you want to dream, book, and travel it yourself, or you already did it.
Let’s start with the book/as in paperbound books part of it. For me, it started on the 2nd of October 2015 in Bremen-Vegesack. As a souvenir to remember the mild, deserted autumn afternoon in a place where I had previously lived for five years I picked up “The Barefoot Queen” from a bookstore. After devouring the book on my flight back to Vienna and the first couple of days after that, I started to put together my “Spain trip planner" - a folder/shelf to which I added books already read and many more to read, and finally my Eyewitness Travel companions. These I purchase as soon as we get serious about a destination, as we really love the way they visually take you there and provide all the information you need.
A hand-bound notebook with Moorish designs now holds the different versions of the itinerary for our Spain road trip, lists of must-see places, as well as historical and geographical notes, which Sinan and I shared and discussed over a glass of wine several times over. As project Ilinca-Yagmur 2017 took precedence over long road trips, I am still making my way through the reading list and enjoying the books-dream component of our Spain project. The nice thing about it is that I can change the route of our trip every time I come across a new informative website, or I read a new book. Stay tuned for changes, or simply hit me with your suggestions, I would love to hear from you!
Last year, Dan Brown's latest novel ORIGIN was published, and as I am a big fan, I do have to add it to the reading list. In earnest, I have not read through it yet, although I did start it during our trip to the Slovenian Alps. I am just now finding the motivation to get over the slow start and give it another chance. The second addition is a masterpiece, a gripping portrait of Spain during the Civil War, In the Night of Time is a must read before any visit to Spain.
For now, I put together the map for the book-travel part of it to share with you. Although it is way too early to actually book our tickets, when we do, this is how it will look like (for now). First, we only wanted to visit Andalusia because of its rich history and, of course, The Barefoot Queen. But then there was The Shadow of the Wind, and the calling of lively Barcelona could no longer be ignored. While pregnant, I was still reading Ian Morris' Spain and Sansom's Winter in Madrid, thus the capital simply had to be included. Additionally, our experience tells us that we enjoy each metropolis we visit better the second time around. As we are already familiar with the city and know the main attractions, we can focus on what really interests us and go off the beaten path. So we decided we would allocate 3 days to each Barcelona and Madrid to appease our curiosity and keep the focus of this trip to Andalusia. We have never been to Spain, and we still dare to believe we can cover this itinerary in the form of a two weeks road trip. However, considerations from our first trips with the baby might make us reconsider our options in the future. I'll keep you posted!
We were looking for airports with higher traffic, and thus cheaper flights, for arrival/departure - so we settled to arrive in Barcelona and take a few days at the seaside before departing from Malaga. Madrid is, of course, another option to fly into/from, the third being Seville - which is already quite small and only serviced a couple of times a week from Vienna. Depending on how extensive a tour you want to make, another option would be to fly into/from Malaga, and tour Andalusia in a circle.
Have you ever imagined taking “the shadow of the wind walk” in Barcelona? Or simply picking up suggestions from the itineraries proposed in the Eyewitness travel companion? Or going at the very back of the companion and mapping the best places for shopping (like authentic markets and bookshops for more dreams) and entertainment in the city? We normally circle, highlight, and map all places, activities, and restaurants that interest us and at the destination, we choose whatever we are in the mood for, including the occasional hop-on-hop-off tour. We do make sure, however, to read on tips-and-tricks from other travelers before we visit a city for the first time!
We decided to take no more than 3 days in Barcelona and move on. This is the beginning of the holiday, so the relaxation comes from being away from home, and adrenaline levels are still boosted by the excitement to find oneself in a new world.
After three days in Barcelona, we would rent a car and drive to Madrid. We are grateful to have met Amalia and Eric from Move to Traveling, as they have amazing tips on what to do in Spain's capital. Those less inclined to road trips could easily book a flight for this portion of the trip, but we enjoy being on the road in a new country. We'll see if baby does too, but so far there have been no complaints.
After taking in Madrid for three days, it would be time to start the descend towards Andalusia by driving to magnificent Granada. A stop for lunch or coffee in Jaen should still leave enough time to see the UNESCO World Heritage Renaissance towns of Ubeda and Baeza. At the end of a full day, having driven 420 km and made 3 stops, one can take in the atmosphere of Andalusia at its best - for the next two days we would be in Granada, place of dreams for both Moors and Christians.
On the light drive from Granada to Cordoba, we would stop in Antequera and make sure not to miss the 4500-year-old Viera and Menga dolmens on the outskirts of the town. An alternative stop is Aguilar de la Frontera, where one can get locally produced ceramics, wine, and olive oil. Depending on available time, we plan to spend 1-2 nights in Cordoba, a center for trade and learning during Moorish times.
Then it is off to Seville, the region’s capital and a destination where it is worth taking your time. When done with Seville (if that is even possible), we consider spending an afternoon in the El Condado wine region, west of town towards Huelva.
Next, on the way to an overnight stop in Cadiz at the Atlantic ocean (would be my first encounter with the ocean), a mandatory stop is Jerez de la Frontera, the capital of sherry production. Having spent a day in Cadiz, we would drive through the Parque Natural de Los Alcornocales towards the strait of Gibraltar. On this day there is the excitement to see cork oak trees in the natural reserve, Gibraltar, as well as Marbella, one of the poshest resorts on the Costa del Sol.
Finally, it is time to relax and enjoy the seaside, put thoughts and impressions in order before heading back home. Depending on the amount of time available, this part of the trip could include a tour of the Pueblos Blancos (perched villages in the natural parc) - with the option of an overnight stay in one of them. The time at the seaside could be extended either in Marbella or Malaga, the departure point. Nevertheless, one must take some time to explore Malaga’s Alcazaba and Picasso heritage before boarding.
I am very excited about this two weeks in Spain road trip itinerary, and the next step is to put together to do, to see, to eat, to shop lists for each point where we would stop. I would also compile a list of additional locations of interest in the proximity of each overnight stop, in case we find ourselves with more time on our hands than originally planned. This time I will make this interactive. So many of our readers come from Spain or have been there at least once. Sent us your suggestions, or if you are a travel blogger links to your articles, and we will consider them for our final itinerary. Every participant also gets to be included in our Christmas tombola, when we will reward our newsletter subscribers and top fans with Dream, Book, and Travel memorabilia (click here to watch our first live tombola).
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