30 Days in Spain Sept.-Oct. 2019

Old Apr 10th, 2020, 02:51 PM
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30 Days in Spain Sept.-Oct. 2019

In early 2019 I posted questions, and got great suggestions from you, for a trip to Spain planned for mid Sept to mid Oct 2019. Thank you for your help! (Link to that thread)
We did it ... it was one of our best trips ... and we will likely return.

In this thread I will gradually post links to trip reports about segments of the trip as I gradually finish them. So far, I have published the following:
Index to my blog Lee's Random Ramblings: click here
Part 1 - Overview: click here
Part 2a - Introduction to Barcelona: click here
More segments will follow, I'll post links when I get done with each

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Old Apr 10th, 2020, 03:26 PM
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Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts of them things we love about Spain is dining late and a vibrant
night life ..we enjoy seeing people out and about at night , especially in warm weather. Totally different from our cold country.
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Old Apr 17th, 2020, 08:20 PM
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New part to my trip report

I've added a new part to my trip report about my 30 days in Spain on my blog Lee's Random Ramblings:
Barcelona - Part 2b - Exploring Barcelona
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Old Apr 18th, 2020, 12:16 PM
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Mea culpa:
Fodors reminded me that it's best if I post directly on here rather than links to my blog.
In appreciation of the great help that Fodors Forums have been to me in planning trips, I will be copying the wordage from my blog on here, one chapter at a time per day til I get caught up to where my blog is. So for those who have been reading my blog, this chapter and the following 2 chapters will be a repetition. After that, I'll try to keep the 2 concurrent.


In September & October 2019 we spent 30 days in Spain. The trip turned out to be one of the best we’ve taken. Unfortunately, I never got around to finishing up a trip report until now.

Now, in these dire pandemic times both in Spain, at home in Seattle, and around the world it’s time to post a trip report to (1) help take our minds off of the coronavirus, (2) recall better times, (3) to encourage others to experience Spain when better times eventually return, and (4) most importantly, to thank all of the hosts and people we met in Spain – we hope that you survive the pandemic and can eventually get your lives and businesses back in order. It is heartbreaking. It’s going to be hard … very hard. Hopefully blogs like this, although they are only a tiny drop of water in the ocean, may help a tiny bit as we all struggle to look to the future and to reach a new normal together.


For one month a year, from early September to early October, my wife and I are the same age. Since during that month we were both 75, we planned a special trip to Spain. It seemed an appropriate destination in these days when intolerance, bigotry, and autocracy are trying to raise their ugly heads both in parts of societies and many of our governments. Spain’s history seems to encapsulate the present time, having alternated between Roman, Visigoth, Islamic, and Christian rule. It experienced a rich multi-cultural harmony at many times, but at others ruthless intolerance. From that history Spain has evolved a unique and fascinating culture.

As usual, we began planning the trip using standard guidebooks. But we quickly graduated to internet searches including blogs by MaiTaiTom’s photo blogs (linked here), Maribel - her guidebooks for Spain were unusually helpful (her website links to her guides), and numerous travel forum postings.

First, here’s a summary of our trip. In a series of successive posts, after I’ve sorted our thousands (thousands plural!) of photos, I’ll comment and post photos of each leg on my blog at Lee’s Random Ramblings. As they gradually get posted, I’ll post links on here.

We flew Lufthansa’s premium economy from Seattle to Frankfurt where we transferred to Barcelona. The extra leg room and seat width, (and the small amount of additional recline) was worth the extra expense. It was a comfortable flight and we were able to sleep a bit. Unfortunately, I screwed up. I accidentally booked an onward flight to Barcelona that resulted in 5 boring hours of layover at FRA; there were a number of earlier flights we could have taken.

Barcelona: 4 days, 5 nights: Highlights: biking, attending a castell festival, seeing some of Gaudí’s and Lluís Domènech i Montaner’s architecture, experiencing Cerdà’s storied city planning, and enjoying the streets and plazas of our favorite areas: Eixample, Gracia, and El Poblenou.

Travel day: flight on Vueling to Granada

Granada: 3 days, 4 nights: Highlights: Alhambra and exploring the streets, history, walls, and alleys of the Albaicin

Travel day: Renfe bus & train to Ronda

Ronda: 2 days 3 nights: Highlights: Biking on the Via Verde de la Sierra, seeing how cork is grown, and exploring three varied ways down into the gorge.

Travel day: Train to Cordoba

Cordoba: 2 days, 3 nights: Highlights: Seeing the Mesquita, the history, discovering that Rome’s Seneca was from Cordoba, and enjoying the pedestrianized major shopping streets near Plaza de las Tendillas.

Travel day: Alvia high speed train to Seville while incongruously watching on the overhead screens a portion of the movie “Green Book” without sound, subtitled in Spanish.

Seville: 3 days, 4 nights: Highlights: biking and exploring the Alcazar, Cathedral and La Giralda, and constantly (delightfully) getting lost in the maze of streets.

Travel day: bus to Merida. Other passengers gradually got off at intermediate stops until finally we were the only passengers left. We began wondering if we really wanted to go to Merida.

Mérida: 2 days, 3 nights: Merida was a surprise and one of our favorite places: Highlights: Parks, Roman ruins, a fantastic museum of Roman antiquities and history, lack of tourists, and very pleasant people.

Travel day: Train to Madrid

Madrid: 3 days, 4 nights: Highlights: Art, Salamanca District, Madrid’s urban experience, and stumbling across a religious procession bearing a gigantic religious paso - (a "float” - I don’t know what to call it) from the cathedral.

Flying home: On the way home we had a choice of flights: get up early enough to catch a 6AM fight in time to connect to our FRA-SEA nonstop, or leave late in the day and spend a night in Frankfurt. For us, the choice was a no-brainer: spend the night in Frankfurt. The daylight flight back gave us views of Iceland, the arctic, and the Canadian Mountains covered in the fresh snow of early fall.

Most of the travel days between Spanish cities involved only 2 or 3 hours travelling, which usually left hours of bonus time for experiencing the cities.

Our biggest regret: time. In every place we were we needed at least one more day or more.


Since returning from Spain I’ve stumbled across the book “The Ornament of the World” by Maria Rosa Menocal and the PBS TV program based on it. I wish I had read it before going to Spain; it would have enriched the experience.

Weather: The timing of this trip was set from early September to early October. But we were worried that at that time of year much of the interior of Spain would still be too for us. Coming from Seattle, to us temperatures in the 70’s F seem nice, the 80’s are uncomfortable, the 90’s are hot enough to wilt us, and anything hotter totally melts our remains.

W.B. Yeat’s poem “The Second Coming” seems descriptive of much of today’s world with all the separatist and nationalist things happening throughout the world:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

But we were fortunate. The center did hold. All was calm for the month that we were in Spain. (Though a few days after we left from Madrid the Supreme Court of Spain convicted some of the separatists, igniting rioting in Barcelona.)

Social life: We are long past the age where night life is important to us. We have heard reports from some that the nightly street life noise was bothersome. Partly to avoid the noise, but mostly because

Coming from Seattle, which some claim is notorious for the “Seattle Freeze” where people are sometimes said to be more private and less publicly social (I don't know if that's accurate, but I guess some might consider ourselves to be friendly but reserved), we found the social life in Spain's streets and plazas a refreshing and welcome change.

We relished in the plazas, surrounded by restaurants, that were filled with families with kids playing and parents mingling until late into the evening.

From new reports it seems that many in Spain and elsewhere have adapted to the current pandemic necessity. Instead of congregating and socializing in plazas, people seem to be finding new ways of connecting with others, including playing and listening to music with their neighbors on balconies or out of windows. See and listen (turn your speakers on): a short article with a link to an audio-video clip here, a youtube link here, and a photo article from around the world here.

Adversity can bring out the best in most people (and the worst in others).
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Old Apr 19th, 2020, 03:03 PM
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Day 1 in Barcelona: Introduction to Barcelona

Below are excerpts from my blog which contains additional information and many photos.

The old city (including the Gothic Quarter and El Raval) is the roughly pentagonal area northwest of the port. It's a very dense old area of narrow streets and alleys originally defined and enclosed by medieval walls.

Northwest of that is Eixample (it's the area that looks like a waffle iron when viewed from above). It was conceived by Ildefons Cerdà in the mid 1800's, arguably the first instance of modern urban planning - "urbanización". It's one of the things that most attracted me to visit Barcelona. It remains my favorite area of Barcelona - and where obviously we would stay.

To grasp the history of Barcelona's urban form (beginning with the Romans) see this article.

(Aerial view from Google Earth annotated by me. 1 = Casa Mathilde where we stayed, 2 = La Sagrada Familia, 3 = Recinta Modernista de Sant Pau , 4 = Parc del Centre del Poblenou where we attended a Castell festival)

Like all modern cities there has been a love-hate relationship with cars. Like cities around the world, Barcelona is trying ways to alter the old auto-orientation of the 20th century to improve our cities, our safety, our human relationships, and the world. Vox ran an excellent 5 article series here. It works better when residences are within a 15 minute walk of most of the shops and services they need daily, like in Spain.

Where we stayed

We had a very delightful stay at Casa Mathilda. It was one floor above street level a multi-floor building. The owner and staff were delightful - they treated their guests like friends.

Usually we don't use cabs much, and on this trip we walked or used transit everywhere. But we did splurge on cabs between the airports or train stations and our accommodations; we had enough, when a bit younger, of schlepping luggage around by foot or on transit. The owner arranged cabs for us, and they were obviously familiar. When we arrive he knew the entrance door's passcode, squeezed us and our luggage into a small gated open elevator like in a classical French movie, and bounded up the stairs beside it, getting to our floor before we did. He, the owner, and we had an chat like old friends. When we left to catch our early flight a different cab driver was waiting in the breakfast room drinking coffee

Two blocks from where we stayed was the intersection of two of Barcelona's major boulevards: Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Gràcia, and also the location of the Diagonal Metro Station, which we frequently used.

The Passieg de Gràcia was one of the main ways to walk from our accommodations to the heart of Barcelona at Plaça de Catalunya (~1.6 km, 20 minute walk), or to the harbor via La Rambla (~3 km, 35 minutes)

Biking in Barcelona

The first morning, bleary-eyed from our flight, we rushed to the Metro and bought a T-10 ticket for 10 rides, and hurried to our scheduled 3-hour bike tour with Andre at Bamboo Bike Tours.

I enjoy getting introduced to a city on a bike - one sees and senses so much. (Plus, Ginny and I try to bike a far amount at home, and I work with some groups promoting "active transportation" in Seattle.) And the people who lead and go on bike tours are invariably interesting.

I had researched various bike tours on the web, and quickly honed in on Bamboo Bike Tours. I especially liked that their tours were not large. Although it was not strictly a private tour, it was only Andre, Ginny, and me

We had corresponded before and arranged to vary their typical tour: we weren't interested in seeing the normal sights (we'd see most of them in the succeeding days), but I was very interested in seeing Barcelona's bike facilities, especially their Superblocks, which turn car-oriented streets into people-oriented places where cars still allowed, but restricted.

La Rambla

After our bike tour we had lunch then explored La Rambla and Passeig de Gràcia while we walked back to our place. I guess it's because it's so famous that crowds of people congregate on Barcelona's La Rambla. We personally preferred the Rambla del Poblenou, which we discovered several days later - it's more subdued and neighborly

The Bone of Contention

We walked up La Rambla and over to Passeig de Gràcia thence along it to the Block of Discord where 3 former mansions were designed by 3 of Barcelona's leading Modernista architects. All 3 seem to be trying to outdo each other with somewhat discordant styles.

Casa Lleó i Morera by Domènech i Montaner is the first we came to. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public, however it has an excellent website. On the website is a video I particularly like that shows both the history of Barcelona and the house itself, with lots of attention to the house's exquisite details. Often the craftsmen who are the creators of the details, and upon whose collaboration the Modernista architects depend, are overlooked. This website gives the craftsman their due credit here.

Casa Amatller by Puig i Cadafalch is next on the block, immediately adjacent to Casa Batlló.

It's open on guided tours only. There is so much to see in Barcelona and so little time that it's one of many things we had to forego until our next visit. But it, too, has an excellent website that shows its history and its details well.

Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí is next up the street. It was built for the textile manufacturer, Josep Batlló, who "bought a modest building with the intention of turning it into something spectacular. Not only was this building located at the heart of Passeig de Gràcia, but it was also on the same block as Casa Amatller and Casa Lleó i Morera.

"Many say that Gaudí was delighted to accept the commission for the pleasure of sharing space with the best architects at the time: Domènech i Montaner (creator of Casa Lleò i Morera) and Puig i Cadafalch (creator of Casa Amatller).

"The result? Three unique modernist buildings created by the most important architects of Modernism and competing to be the 'most beautiful' construction. That is why, in reference to Greek mythology, they are popularly known as 'the bone of contention'". - from an excellent summary of the architecture variously known as Art Noveau or Jugendstil or Modernism or Modernisme: "Barcelona and Modernism" on the Casa Batlló website.

And another introduction to Spain

On a following night, one of the staff at our accommodations encouraged us to have dinner at one of her favorite small restaurants beside Plaça del Sol, in Gràcia about 1 km north of our lodging. So we walked to it along Gràcia's narrow streets (a cross between those in the old part of the city and Eixample).

That introduced us to one of our favorite things about Spain: the neighborhood plazas where residents gather to eat and socialize. The adjacent buildings were filled with restaurants and tapa bars, each of which had some umbrella tables at the edge of the plaza. They were filled. Many 20 somethings and young families sat cross legged on the pavement picnic-style. There was a small playground in one corner and kids mingles with each other playing there, or running through the plaza. We were instantly in love with it. The current lockdowns must be hard for the Spanish to adjust to. We, like everyone, look forward to the return to better times.
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Old Apr 20th, 2020, 12:51 PM
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Days 2 & 3 in Barcelona: Exploring Barcelona

Continuing with excerpts from my blog at

Exploring El Born and Barri Gòtic

The previous chapter linked to this article that explained that the city had been hemmed in by the old city wall until 1854, when the Spanish government finally allowed the city to expand and the wall to be torn down. The city and its population had been growing, and as a result, the city became increasingly crowded and subjected to epidemics, the buildings became more dense, and open space more constrained.

Prior to going to the Picasso museum we wandered around the Old City getting fascinatingly lost in the maze of narrow roads. Imagine what it was like when the roads were crammed with people and horses pulling carts before the advent of modern sanitation.

Nowadays the maze is a blessing. Motor vehicle traffic is discouraged (but some is allowed with restrictions). Pedestrians rule the roads. Automobiles are the interlopers and proceed cautiously. Tourists enjoy the atmosphere, oblivious to what the atmosphere must have been like in prior centuries.

Picasso - A Bookend

The Picasso museum in Barcelona formed a good bookend at the start of our trip, with art museums in Madrid at the end of our trip.

While many museums don't allow photography, several that we toured in Span, including the Picasso museum, allowed it. See the Picasso Museum's blog and an article in Art News about the issues involved. I took some photographs in del Museu Picasso de Barcelona that are on my blog.

Throughout the late 1800's and early 1900's Picasso painted and sketched many portraits, much more realistically than I'd thought of his work - and all are very expressive of the personality.

Picasso's and Velázquez’s artwork by chance bookended our trip. In the Picasso museum was a display with an annotated photo of the original Velázquez’s Las Meninas with the real-life royal characters identified, together with a collection of some of Picasso's 58 (!) studies of it.

We later saw the original Velázquez at The Prado in Madrid at the end of our trip.

See the original on The Prado's website here, including short essays about it. It is one of the most important and discussed paintings in Spain.

See articles about Picaso's studies of Las Meninas from Noble Oceans and more extensively, from the Picasso museum. Articles like these add tremendous value, helping to bring life and interest to what could otherwise be a boring Museum walk-through. I'm not sure whether they are more helpful before or after the visit – maybe both.

The Music Box

Palau de la Música by Domènech i Montaner is one of the highlights of many people's visit to Barcelona.

We stopped for a light lunch at the Palau's annex prior to our scheduled guided tour (the only way to see the inside other than attending a performance) for which we had bought timed tickets months in advance.

On the last night we attended a concert. The hall is a much different experience at night; I'm glad we did both. But if I were to do only one, I'd definitely take one of the tours to see it in daylight and to hear the guides' explanation of the details.

Nowadays architects often create buildings with interesting shapes, using jigs and jogs and twists and unusual shapes. But many of the famous Catalan modernisme buildings, like this one, are basically simple rectangular boxes. It's their detail and ornamentation that brings them to life. And because that detail is so important, the architects relied on close collaboration with a team of master craftsmen - true co-artists.

The Cathedral

Roughly 2,000 years ago the Romans built their Temple of Jupiter near the center of Barcino, which eventually became Barcelona. See the map of Barcino here.

Throughout the entire time after the Roman Barcino fell to the Visigoths, who in turn were replaced by Muslims, who in turn fell to the Christians, that site of the Temple to Jupiter has remained a site of worship to various deities depending on who was ruling. During the entire time there was a continual succession of a variety of buildings of various configurations and styles.

"In summary, Barcelona Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral that has been renovated in the Neo-Gothic style, which was built over a Romanesque cathedral that was built over a cathedral that replaced a mosque (converted from a Cathedral that was upgraded from a church), which in turn was built over a temple dedicated to the main Roman God Jupiter." - From the website "The Legendary History of the Barcelona Cathedral" which condenses a very complex history into a short interesting read.

Befitting that complex history, the Cathedral of Barcelona is known by many names: as Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, or as Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, or as La Seu.

This post doesn't explain much about the early history, but it's a very easy to read summary of the history since 1298. This post explains a bit more.

Saint Eulalia, for whom the cathedral is named and who is the patron saint of Barcelona, was perhaps a 13 year old Roman convert to Christianity, for which she is said to have been martyred. There is also a Saint Eulalia of Mérida. The accounts of the two saints are so similar some believe they reference the same person, others believe they are two distinct persons. Various accounts of her gruesome martyrdom differ in details and dwell on different aspects: (1) here (explaining her crypt and sarcophagus), or (2) here, addressing the 2 Eulalia's, or (3) here, or (4) here, or (5) here or (6) here, which ends on a light note: "Let’s make Eulalia great again and celebrate this weekend in a manner befitting her memory. Let’s lose all of our memories and roll down hills, outside of barrels, but maybe naked." (What? You didn't read all of the accounts? Good choice!)

Her bones are said to have been kept in one of the early churches, then in 711 hidden from the Moors when they invaded, subsequently rediscovered in 877, and are currently entombed in a crypt in the cathedral. (At least, that's what legend says - I can't accurately remember last month but her bones and their stories have been around for roughly 1,700 years.)

The cathedral has a cloister (I've read various reports that you access it from within the cathedral of from outside. When we were there you accessed it from inside, the door that opened onto the street was used only as an exit). It always contains 13 geese to honor of the age of St. Eulailia and/or her 13 gruesome torments.

We had planned to visit the Barcelona history museum, which is just behind the cathedral, but it was getting late in the afternoon. Instead, we explored a bit more of El Born as we walked back to Plaça de Catalunya (which was a bit of a disappointment - I don't know what we expected) and then through Eixample back to our home and then to dinner.

Parc Güell

The next morning we got a late start and were in danger of missing our tickets' entrance time, so we hurried - the only time we used a cab on the trip except when arriving and leaving from airports or train stations.

Like most tourists, we headed straight for the Parc Güell Restricted Zone (Zona Regulada) for which you need tickets. That's the famous part - most people think of *it* as Parc Güell, but it's only roughly 7% of the park. Most of the park is a free, open park heavily planted with many native plants. On a future trip we would like to spend more time exploring it.

We walked back through the upper entrance of the restricted zone (the tour bus entrance), thence down the road (Carrer de Ramiro de Maeztu) to the Alfons X Metro station. The road clings to a hillside with views over the upper reaches of the Grácia neighborhood. By this time we were in a hurry to get to the castell.

Castell Festival

The first time I was aware of Castells was when I saw this photo essay in The Atlantic. When we planned our trip I noticed that a Castell Festival was scheduled in Barcelona when we were to be there. We rearranged our entire time in Barcelona to accommodate it. It was a much smaller festival than that in The Atlantic, more like an informal local fair with refreshment vendors and picnics and people milling about with the castellers.

La Rambla del Poblenou and the Beach

From the Castells we wandered through Poblenou down La Rambla del Poblenou to the beach, thence home. Andre had already introduced us to a small part of this area during our bike tour the first day we were in Barcelona. We explored more on this day.

Poblenou used to be an industrial area which became increasingly abandoned and run down (see a short description here). The 1992 Olympics changed that. Barcelona's waterfront, previously derelict, was transformed into a 3 mile long beach running from the harbor to Poblenou and beyond.

A new Olympic village was built along the beach from roughly Citadel Park into the western portion of Poblenou. Like the Olympic Village built for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver Canada, it became a trendy and sought-after residential area. Urban renewal in other areas of Poblenou added new social housing helping to change the neighborhood from a post-industrial legacy.

Like in many cities, the slum areas of Poblenou offered cheap rents for artists, musicians, street people, and those living on the edge. But the lively folk living in edgy areas like that often result in the areas become hip, and once that happens, the areas often become "in". To me, it seems that Poblenou is going through that gentrification - it cuts both ways - for the better and for the worse.

We enjoyed La Rambla del Poblenou much more than Barcelona's more famed La Rambla - it seemed much more intimate and neighborly. Also notice something that we found throughout Spain: almost invariably, when pedestrianizing a road one lane would be left open for motor vehicles to provide low-speed local access for people and deliveries (and for bikes).

Even though we are not "beach people" we very much enjoyed walking back along the beach.

There was a wide paved promenade at the level of the beach and another above it at street level, and there were wide ramps between the two, perfect for bikes, hauling your beach accessories to the beach, and maintenance vehicles.

We stopped to relax on one of the benches where we ended up having a conversation with a guy. He was a student from Albania - a place that has always seemed mysterious to me. I love this cosmopolitan world we all inhabit, and hope that the new world that will develop after the contravirus doesn't change that, and that eventually nationalism retreats to the dark shadows again.

Another bookend: From the beachfront promenade we could see the Agbar Tower which is visible throughout Barcelona. It pokes its head up adjacent to the Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, the important hub of 3 major boulevards. The Plaça is undergoing a major mega-project that demolished a huge roundabout of major elevated highways and is replacing it with an underground rail station, a park, and various public facilities. It will partially fulfill Cerdà's original plan for Eixample - to feature it as a major civic place. On our first day in Barcelona we explored part of the construction on our bike tour.

Walking back to our home in Eixample we walked through the Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park) and along Passeig Luís Companys past the Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona, built as the main gateway for Barcelona's 1888 Universal Exposition.

What a long tiring day, but I guess we triumphed over it (in spite of our feet).
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Old Apr 22nd, 2020, 05:03 PM
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Here's the next part of my trip report on my 30 days in Spain.
It's snippets from my blog Lee's Random Ramblings at which contains additional thoughts and many photos.

Day 4 in Barcelona: Dessert

Like any good meal, sweets are saved for dessert.
It was unintentional, but that's how it worked out:
three of the sweetest sites were on our last day in Barcelona.

Casa Milà - La Pedrera

In addition to the usual looking around La Pedrera (which you are probably familiar with) we spent a fair amount of time in the attic looking at the displays there about Gaudi’s work. Of particular interest was the following:

To quote from the La Sagrada Familia's blog about nature's influence on Gaudi's work:

"... according to Gaudí, the great book that had to be read was that of nature. And what sets his work apart from the rest is this effort to understand nature in order to apply its characteristics to his architecture. He even affirmed that future architects would base their work on imitating nature: “It is the most rational, lasting and affordable of all methods,” he said. This influence, in any case, is associated with another source of inspiration in his work: the Christian message. Because both demonstrated his belief that the work of the Creator is unparalleled."

As an example, this python skeleton shows how ribs can create a curving structure.

And here's a model of the roof structure of La Pedrerera to show how he applied that lesson:

Here's the actual roof structure of La Pedrera taken in the attic that houses the exhibit.
It's amazing how thin and delicate the brick ribs seem, just like the python's ribs.

Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau
(Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul)

We spent lots of time here.
Sant Pau was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850-1923), who lived at the same time as Gaudi (1852-1926). Both personify Catalan Modernisme, the Spanish equivalent of Art Nouveau. A good summary of Lluís Domènech i Montaner, his life and his buildings is here which catalogs his other buildings to be seen in addition to Sant Pau and the Palau de la Música.

My favorite article about Domènech i Montaner is an article in the New York Times "Barcelona’s Other Architect, Domènech", Definitely read it here!!!. It was written in 2010, only a year after the hospital's functions had been moved to a new adjacent hospital complex and while its spaces where being restored and transformed into its current museum and offices for humanitarian organizations.

Construction of the hospital started in 1902. It opened in 1930. That period saw immense growth in the medical sciences and changes in the treatment of patients. The hospital reflects that then-new age.

The architecture and its details are impressive. But even more impressive, especially for me since I spent much of my career as an architect and facility manager of hospitals, is how its design as a hospital embraced the then-latest thinking on sanitation and hygiene, and somewhat foreshadowed modern hospital design. It was designed as a series of separate buildings for each specialty springing from a central spine, much like the wings of some of the latest hospitals. Operating rooms occupied a building in the center of the complex. Underground corridors and services connected all of the buildings.

The buildings had high ceilings for good ventilation, high windows for lots of light, and use of ceramic tile for cleanliness and durability. The campus landscaping in general, and the buildings' various gardens, the use of light, and the use of pastel colors in the interiors all presage today's movements towards the healing environments that have been shown to accelerate recovery and improve outcomes.

Good summaries if its history and are at the Sant Pau website and at an explanation here.

The San Rafael pavilion is set up with displays. Part of it is set up like an original hospital ward. How times have changed about the concept of privacy with no expectation like today in the U.S . of private rooms each with its own bathroom, each with a color TV, and medical bill bankruptcy.

La Sagrada Familia

We strolled down the pedestrian boulevard Avinguda de Gaudí from the Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau to La Sagrada Familia - it's only about about 1 km. The boulevard was lined with cafes and restaurants. I can't remember eating there, but it was early to mid afternoon, so we may have.

Cranes are at work finishing the planned central tower and adjacent spires. As explained by Sagrada Familia's blog here, Gaudí wanted to emphasize verticality: a high central spire surrounded by five spires, with the height of the central spire to be greater than the overall width or length of the complex. Out of respect for Montjuïc, he planned the top of the topmost point on Sagrada Familia to be very slightly lower than Montjuïc.

We had entered Sagrada Familia through the Nativity Facade, which celebrates the birth of Christ.

We left the Basilica through the Passion Facade that is dedicated to the Passion of Christ: his crucifixion and resurrection.

The story of the passion is told by the impressive and acclaimed work of its sculptor, Subirachs.

As of 2019 the Sagrada Familia was scheduled for completion in 2026 (see milestones here). The big events will be when the central spire in finished (work on that is well underway) and when the main front and entrance - the Glory Facade - is done (work on that has just begun - see here). Will there be delays? We'll be in our early 80's then; will we be able to return to see it finished?

On the way back to our place we wandered walked through parts of Eixample and past the food and flower market Mercat de la Concepció. It was late in the afternoon and we were hoping to grab something to eat there before going to an evening concert at the Palau de la Musica, but alas, it was in the process of closing for the day.

The next morning we got up too early for us, bleary eyed, said good-bye to the staff at Casa Mathilde, and taxied to the airport for our 10:20 AM flight on Vueling to Granada. We were glad that we had paid a little more for Optima fare tickets; the seats weren't better but the flight was packed, the boarding was chaotic, but at least we had reserved seats and a preferred boarding line.

Next: Granada
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Old Apr 25th, 2020, 04:48 AM
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Thank you so much for posting! I have enjoyed reading about spots we have visited, and like you, learning a bit more about them afterwards. Am looking forward to more!
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Old Apr 27th, 2020, 12:56 AM
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Just catching up with your report, thank you, all the links make for an informative read.
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Old Apr 27th, 2020, 06:05 AM
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Enjoyed seeing Barcelona thorough your eyes elbegewa. As you know, our trip to Spain last month was cut short due to the coronavirus and Spain's State of about bad timing.

I look forward to revisiting in a year or two to pick up where we left off and your report will no doubt come in handy!
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Old Apr 27th, 2020, 11:11 PM
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Adelaidean and Melnq8: it was nice to hear that you appreciated my report. I'm feverishly (oops, wrong descriptor to use nowadays) trying to finish Granada, but there's so much I've been learning to add depth. I've been trying to imagine what would have been helpful for me to have known before the trip, hoping that it will be helpful to others in the future.
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Old May 1st, 2020, 08:47 PM
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Granada - Where the World Changed

We originally planned 3 days, 4 nights in Granada figuring that one day would be devoted to relaxing and laundry, one day to Alhambra, and one to the other sites recommended by guide books. But we found Granada so interesting that we used all three days and still didn't see all that we wanted to see.

Except when we arrived at the airport and left at the train station, we unfortunately never had time to venture beyond the Old Town, and the even older Albaycín (where we stayed), and the Alhambra and its Generealife gardens. We walked to everything we needed.

We stayed at the Apartamentos Turísticos Alhambra in a studio apartment in the Albaycín. It was a great place, immediately adjacent to the first mosque converted into a Christian church a couple of days after Granada fell the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. A stairway wound past a portion of an 11th or 12th century wall around which the building had been built. And its roof deck had this spectacular view of the Alhambra.

We became familiar with the area along the Darro River below the Alhambra and explored the Albaycín extensively, especially the Alcazaba Cadima, the first area settled by the Moors in Granada and its 11th Century Zirid walls.

We spent a day in Granada’s Old Town including the Corral del Carbón (the only surviving Arabic caravanserai in Granada), the Alcaiceria, The Cathedral, and the Capilla Real de Granada (the Royal Chapel).

I’ve just now posted our photos and a more extensive trip report in my blog “Lee’s Random Ramblings” at

Of course, the Alhambra was one of the highlights … I’m still working on its report. After that I’ll report on our trip continuing to Ronda and biking the Via Verde de la Sierra.
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Old May 1st, 2020, 09:10 PM
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Appreciate the work you have put into your report, with the links and maps, and the photos in your blog.
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Old May 10th, 2020, 05:04 PM
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The Alhambra and More

I've at long last gotten done with my trip report blog about Granada in Lee's Random Ramblings - the last part of it is about The Alhambra (with a small bit at the end about nightlife). Here's a quick summary:

First, a bit of history:
Each of the individual periods that ebbed and flowed lasted for more than the 254 years that the US has existed as a nation.
  • After Rome fell to the Visigoths in 410, the Visigoths ruled and procreated in Iberia for 3 centuries. Under their rule Roman civilization in Iberia collapsed; Iberia languished and fell into disarray.
  • In 711 Abd al-Rahman arrived in Spain's Al-Andalus from the Arabic world. The Moorish culture spread, intermingled, and flourished throughout most of Iberia for 300 years, centered in Cordoba.
  • During the period from 1009 to 1031 Cordoba gradually collapsed and fragmented under the pressure of Christians from the north and internal Muslim civil war.
  • During that turbulent period various cities became independent, including Granada. The Zirid dynasty was founded in 1013 in Granada which began the period in which the Alcazaba Cadima and the Zirid Walls in the Albaycín blossomed and then faded.
  • In 1212 the disunited Christian factions in northern Spain united, and with help from other European armies began to overwhelm the Moors. Cordoba fell in 1236, Seville in 1248.
  • As a reward for siding with King Ferdinand III of Castille in the battle for Cordoba in 1236, Ferdinand III granted Granada's Ibn Ahmar some autonomy, starting the Nasrid dynasty.
  • During the next 256 years Granada, the last toe-hold of Islam in Spain, blossomed -- the city expanded (the Nasrid walls were built to protect it), and The Alhambra was built, the last, late blossom of the Moorish culture in Spain. Finally, in 1492 Boabdil was forced to hand its keys to the Catolic Kings, Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella, and embark on his exile.
Now, to the Alhambra:
After breakfast, we walked along the Darro River to the Plaza Nueva, thence along Cuesta de Gomérez, past the Puerta de las Granadas, up the hill to The Alhambra's Justice Gate (Puerta de las Juctica) . (From the plaza it was only a little over a kilometre with an elevation gain of about 87 meters = 320 ft..)

It has always been a pleasant and welcome surprise when travelling to unexpectedly run into a friend from home. It has happened to us a couple of times. But this time, sadly, he wasn't friendly - he was as cold as bronze.- a statue of Washington Irving. Washington Irving became enchanted with the Alhambra when he visited and possibly camped in it with a friend during 1828, - a story well-told here. His collection Tales of the Alhambra was instrumental in imparting (in his words) "the witching charms of the place to the imagination of the reader" and, I might, to the imagination of future generations.
During his time in Spain, he also wrote A Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada. Both of those books are now online thanks to The Project Gutenberg.
His well-read writings popularized a fascination about Moorish Spain and seeded an interest in The Alhambra, which led to increasing tourism to it increasing conservation efforts for it.

The Alcazaba
The Alcazaba ia the heavily fortified military complex at the point of The Alhambra that stands guard over it and all of Granada. We spent some time wandering here waiting for our timed entry clot to the Nasrid Palace.

The Nasrid Palace
  • This was a huge fascinating place, but we'll just pause to mention a few rooms*]The Grand Hall of the Ambassadors: the throne room in which the sultan received dignitaries and supplicants.
  • The Courtyard of the Myrtles, like many Spanish patios, was central to everyday life in the the Comares Palace.
  • The Courtyard of the Lions: As the website of the Alhambra states: "On a small scale, the Fountain of the Lions represents the entire technical concept behind the creation of the Alhambra, a structural conception rooted in human and constructive experiences developed creatively over many centuries."
  • Hall of the Abencerrajes is one of the more notorious rooms. But more importantly, it presents a chance to investigate the Mocárabe seen in so many of the Islamic spaces.
  • The Palace of Carlos V: In 1526 King Carlos of Spain (he had other far more important titles throughout Europe including Emperor of the Holy Roman Empires) decided to have this built inside the Alhambra for his occasional use.The work went on past his death until work was finally abandoned in 1637, unfinished. In 1923 Leopoldo Torres Balbas, curator of the Alhambra at that time, devised a plan to finish it. IMHO it was the most "impressive" (in a grandiose way) but least interesting parts of the Alhambra.
The Partal Palace (which was privately owned as a house until the late 1800's.
The Tower of the Princesses was made famous by Washington Irving
And Generalife, the crucial hub for the Alhambra's water systems, but better known for its gardens and its summer palace.

Cuesta del Rey Chico - The Slope of the Boy King
Most of the guidebooks give short shrift to the "backdoor way" to get to and from the Alhambra. But it was our favorite route (it's much easier when going downhill - to some people, parts of it may seem steep, though not to people who walk a lot)

Before we leave Granada I must mention the The Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Granada in the Casa de Castril just 130 meters (~426 feet) from the Paseo de los Tristes down the Carrera del Darro towards the Plaza Nueva.. It has a collection of artifacts on display that encompasses the history of the area around Granada from prehistory and the Bronze Age through to the modern times. One of the best things about the museum is its many explanatory signs concisely describing the history, accompanied by easily comprehended timelines.

And I should mention Granada's nightlife (reportedly one of the best in Andalusia - lasting until after dawn). It is driven in part by the tourists, but especially by the 80,000 students at the University of Granada. At our age we weren't interested in it, and because of where we were staying, never come across noise from it. . But if younger, and especially if still single ..... well, .....

The full report on Granada, with scads of pictures, is at my blog Lee's Random Ramblings at An overview of the entire 30 day trip is at

Next up: Ronda, then Cordoba, Seville, Merida, and Madrid.
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Old May 23rd, 2020, 12:17 PM
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At long last I've finished the next part of my trip report: Part 4a: Ronda

When planning our trip we looked for a place in Andalucia to visit near the middle of our trip to provide a change from cities. One requirement: we wanted to bike in the countryside on a route that was interesting but not too challenging for our 75 year old lungs and legs.

We began searching at Spain's Vías Verdes website that features more than 100 "greenways" - bike (and walking) routes that Spain has built on 7,600 kilometers of abandoned railroads. The lengths of the options varied from 1.5 km to 128 km. It took awhile, but we eventually settled on the Via Verde de la Sierra, a 36 km route from Olvera to Puerto Serrano, both near to Ronda. Its features included both mountains and farming countryside, 4 viaducts, 30 tunnels, stations that had been turned into facilities serving cyclists, and it passes by possibly the largest griffon vulture colony in Europe. It should keep our juices running for part of a day.

At first glance Ronda seemed to be the easiest place to use as a home base. It is easy to get to by rail or bus. It is large enough to be interesting for a few days. It's near the small white towns, so we could visit them during a day trip. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles had both lived there for a couple of years (ah, that's the way I would really like to travel ... stay a few years in each place and get to know it and its people).

Although the reviews we got from various people about Ronda were a mixed bag, we were very pleasantly surprised. We're glad we weren't turned off by some of them. There was more than enough of interest! We could easily have added a third day here. But as we had planned, we were there for only 2 days. We spent between a third and a half of one of those days touring the countryside and the nearby white towns, and about the same amount on the second day cycling the Via Verde de la Sierra. The rest of the time we explored Ronda, its history, its gorge, and its walls

More details and photos are on my blog Lee's Random Ramblings Part 4a: Ronda

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Old May 24th, 2020, 01:12 AM
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Thanks for sharing this, I want to do something similar soon where I properly explore a country, such as Spain
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Old May 26th, 2020, 06:46 PM
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I've now finished researching and writing about Part 4b - The White Towns and Biking the Vie Verde de la Sierra.
It seems that before going on a trip I spend an inordinate amount of time researching and planning the trip, but then when returning, prior to doing a trip report, I spend an even more inordinate amount of time researching and leaning more about what we experienced.

Heather from Hike + Bike the Sierras drove us on a half day tour to Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra. On the way we passed Cork Oak and Holm Oak trees, which introduced us to how cork is harvested and how acorns help produce jamón Ibérico.

We were fortunate. When we got to the town of Grazalema the clouds were hanging low on the mountains and it was raining. That was lucky. - it wasn't on our planned cycling day (which was planned for the next day), and this was the only day on our entire trip that it rained (if you exclude our first day in Barcelona when 5 drops of rain fell on us from threatening but rather dry clouds).

Even in the rain the town's white walls, broken pediments, barred windows, strong doors, history of bull fighting, and pleasant plazas resulted in many MB's of photos and good memories.

We came upon a sign about about José Mariá "El Tempranillo". In the early 1800's he had been a local version of Robin Hood . His fame and popularity became so great that King Fernando VII finally offered him a pardon in return for his working for the state, and allowed him to head a group of 60 mounted guards. A few years later he was killed in a gunfight while pursuing the bandit El Barbarello.

Zahara de la Sierra is much like Grazalema (though I'm sure a local would point out many differences). Both are stunning. The whole area is on what had been the fluctuating edge of between Moorish Spain and Christian Spain. But Zahara is lower, nearer the mountain passes. So Zahara has more ruins of significant old fortifications.

The next day Heather drove us to Olvera, another of the white towns, where she dropped us off to bike the 36 km to Puerto Serrano where she picked us up. On the way we bike past Zaframagón where there is a large colony (perhaps the largest in Europe) of Griffin Vultures - a huge bird with wingspans between 240 & 280 cm - 7.8 & 9.2 feet.

Unfortunately we were in Ronda for only two days. If we had an additional day we would have visited the ruins of Acinipo, an old Phoenician trading outpost which had become a Roman town, and we would heve visited the 20,000 year old La Pileta paleolitic cave paintings.

I've put much more information and photos about this part of our 30 Days on Spain on my blog "Lee's Random Ramblings" at

Grazalema - one of the white towns

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Old May 27th, 2020, 01:38 PM
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The cycling trip sounds fantastic, and those towns very atmospheric for wandering.
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