Truly Travel Spain: Essential Destinations by Frank Johnson
There is no superior starting place for your travel to Spain than the grand and enchanting streets of Barcelona. There is never a dull moment in this city that literally never sleeps, especially in the summer months. Barcelona is studded with the unmistakable modernism of Antoni Gaudi, who single-handedly landed the city on the architectural map. A stroll down the grand avenue Passeig de Gracia will take you directly in front of both Casa Batllo and Casa Mila, which are incredible feats of art and design and fully accessible to the public. Make reservations to have cocktails and watch the sun set on the Alice In Wonderland-like rooftop of Casa Mila (only available for the summer season). Wind your way through the narrow passages of the Gothic Quarter, the oldest part of town, until you find the overwhelming and unmistakable Gothic Cathedral (just remember to watch your pockets!).
Just an hour north of Barcelona in the town of Figueres is Northern Spain's most interesting and unique museum. The Dali museum is so extraordinary because it was designed and constructed by the artist himself and the collection of his works is unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. The coastline north of Barcelona, extending to the French border, is known as the Costa Brava and is one of the Mediterranean's most exclusive and beautiful vacation destinations. Additionally, Catalonia's countryside is spotted with superb Spanish wine vineyards and olive groves. Once you fall in love with Barcelona, it will be extremely difficult to leave; however, there are a few other gems in the north to explore in order to have really traveled Spain.
San Sebastian (Donostia)
A blend of cosmopolitan chic and sophisticated resort town, San Sebastian offers all the luxuries of a big city while providing the Atlantic coastline with its most popular beach getaway. San Sebastian, the heart and soul of the Basque region, is widely known for its world-class restaurants and irresistible tapas bars; its location just south of the French border has added a unique flare to the culture and cuisine found nowhere else in Spain. Just a short bus ride inland takes you to Bilbao, home of Frank O. Gehry's spectacular architectural triumph, the Guggenheim Museum. This is one stop that must be made when you travel Spain!
The captivating words of Hemingway and the dangerous art of bull running are inescapable symbols of this historic township. Another cultural staple of the Basque region, Pamplona should be a stop on as you travel Spain in July when La Fiesta de San Fermin (The Running of the Bulls) takes place over 14 days. The population of 250,000 explodes to over 1 million, so reserve a place to stay early or simply do what the locals do: eat, drink and dance in the streets until the sun comes up and the bulls begin to run!
Months would be needed to travel Spain's diverse cultures and distinct regions. With more limited time, these fascinating destinations provide an intimate window into the authentic Spanish way of life.
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Latest update: April 16, 2013