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Starting to plan for 3.5 weeks in northern Spain, May 2015

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I am in the nascent stages of planning a trip to northern Spain in May 2015. Barcelona, Bilbao, and San Sebastian are non-negotiable; everything else is TBD, except that I don’t plan to hike the Camino de Santiago (well, maybe just one half-day segment…).

I already know that I’m going to have a VERY difficult time fitting my list of desired destinations to a mere 3.5 weeks. Even without doing any research at all, I’m sure I’ll want to see the cathedrals of Burgos and Leon, historic buildings in Figueres and Oviedo, prehistoric cave art if any is currently available to tourists, Roman ruins in Tarragona and elsewhere, wineries in Rioja, so much else...! I will do my homework, but decided to ask NOW because in the past, I have waited too long to seek the input that my fellow Fodorites are so generously willing to share. I know I’ll post again with more specific questions, but for now, I would love recommendations on particularly useful resources, tips about unusual events or circumstances, etc. – anything that will help my as I study, plan, and prioritize.

For context, I’m a woman with reasonably extensive experience as a solo, independent traveler. Wherever I go, I seek to maximize the diversity of my experiences -- cities and towns, different styles of art and architecture, varied natural scenery, etc…. I typically enjoy art, architecture, museums, religious sanctuaries, parks and gardens, natural scenery, castles and fortresses, markets (for their atmosphere, not for shopping), picturesque villages, good food and wine, folk traditions, performing arts, and the chance to see and experience other parts of the world. I generally don’t seek opportunities to relax or shop. I’m willing to rent a car when doing so adds substantial value, but prefer to use trains or buses whenever possible.

Thanks in advance!

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