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Journal #34 - Spain and Andorra

White multi-tiered palace with Spanish Flag on it
Cibeles Palace by Mrs. Wanderer

Hola from Spain! 

Our time here has been action-packed. We traveled to and stayed in Valencia, Madrid, Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Barcelona, and more. We also used our proximity to let us visit the tiny landlocked nation of Andorra. This trip was characterized by delicious food, warm weather, and some amazing friends who came to visit us. We made countless memories in Spain and really enjoyed all of the time we spent here.  

We began in the coastal town of Valencia. It was here that we gorged ourselves on fresh paella, got our first taste of Spanish architecture, and also participated in the world’s largest food fight. That is right, we traveled to Buñol to battle it out in the annual Tomatina Festival. This is a one-day celebration, in which tourists from around the world take over a small town and have a giant tomato brawl. We bought specific white clothes and junk shoes for the occasion and that was a wise call. By the end of the melee, our clothes had been permanently dyed a hue somewhere between red and pink. Even worse off were our shoes, which had spent a couple of hours ankle-deep in a river of tomato sauce. The truckloads of tomatoes that get dumped into the arena, mixed with the fire hoses of water that are sprayed on participants, result in a soupy river that you can almost swim in after the fight.  

White palace overlooking a reflecting pool with tall trees on either side
Royal Palace of Madrid by Mr. Wanderer

After our coastal and tomato-based adventures, we moved on to Madrid. Here we caught up with some of our friends for a large group trip. We connected in the capital, arriving over several days and taking in the sights as much as we could. The highlight of our time here was getting everyone together and attending a Real Madrid game. While securing the tickets had been a hiccup, the game itself was a blast. We enjoyed learning all of the team-specific chants and feeling the enthusiastic energy in the crowd. No matter what language the onlookers are speaking, you can always tell when a 7-year-old is telling a referee off for a bad call.   

Soccer stadium with fans holding up a soccer scarf
Santiago Bernabéu Stadium by Mrs. Wanderer

From Madrid, we continued to the town of Granada. This city is built into some hills, and boy did we make a mistake when we tried walking from the train station with our luggage. There were several flights of stairs climbed that day that required carrying some check-sized rolling luggage. Once we did make it to the top though, things got significantly better. We had picked a place with a stunning view of the city, including the Alhambra. It had a beautiful patio overlooking the city and facing the sunset. It was here we made up competitions for each other and tested our stamina in a cold-water plunge. 

Tiled hallway in moorish style
Alhambra Hallway by Mrs. Wanderer

We made a point of visiting all over the city but for sure the best sight, of our time in Granada, was the Alhambra. This giant palace was ornate, stunningly carved and tiled, with beautiful symmetry. We walked the gardens at sunset and took in a breathtaking view of the city below. It was compelling for us to stand in the room where Christopher Columbus would have met with Ferdinand and Isabella before embarking on his journey across the Atlantic. We were even surprised to see so much acknowledgment of Washington Irving (a plaque and a statue in two different parts of the complex).  You could spend days of your trip taking in more and more details. We loved our time here. The Alhambra was one of the most fascinating things we saw in all of Spain.  

Green statue of Washinton Irving in front of trees
Washington Irving Statue by Mrs. Wanderer

After Granada, we moved on to our next stop, Seville. This city held so many special sights. It was probably my favorite of all the cities we visited in Spain. We started with an audio-guide tour of the Seville Cathedral. This building is approximately the fourth-largest cathedral in the world. For a while it was the largest, unseating the Hagia Sofia’s thousand-year reign. It is home to Christopher Columbus’ tomb, a stunning bell tower you can climb up, and something close to 80 side chapels. It was an impressive sight that we each took a long time appreciating on our own. 

White tiled walls with red, yellow, and blue stained glass ceiling
Alhambra Ceiling by Mr. Wanderer

Besides the cathedral, we also made sure to visit the Alcazar. This included not only a tour during the day but also a concert at night. One evening we went to see a duet perform with multiple instruments a conglomeration of Iberian and pan-mediterranean folk music. The singer's voice echoed over the gardens as the instruments’ notes evoked a range of emotions. Their sound put an ethereal spell over the space and created a bubble of music and feelings. 

Series of arches with a central building covered in tiling
Plaza de España by Mrs. Wanderer

The last major sight in Seville that we enjoyed, was the Plaza de España. This location, of Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia filming fame, was not quite as impressive as the other sights we mentioned from Seville; however, catching it first thing in the morning and seeing a live flamenco demonstration made for a cute way to start our day.  

Red and white striped archways
Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba by Mrs. Wanderer

A visit to this region would be remiss without a stop at the Mezquita in Cordoba. This Mosque-Cathedral is a symbol of so many of the phases of Spanish history. Often in history when a city turns over to a different prominent religion the old institutions are torn down, but not here. You can still see the architecture of the mosque encapsulated within the standing cathedral. There are so many different styles at play here from the recognizable red and white striped arches, to the black-wood quire, over-the-top painted chapels, and marble statues galore. We had a field day each spreading to a different corner and checking out the vast amount of history housed in this one building.  

Black wooded seating with ornate white ceiling
Mezquita Quire by Mrs. Wanderer

After all of this, Mr. Wanderer and I traveled to Barcelona alone. Here we were able to see a full stage production of a flamenco performance. The performance involved live guitarists and inspired us to maybe take a lesson or two in the future.  

Ornate facade of a home with wonky balconies and lots of tiles
Casa Batlló by Mr. Wanderer

Barcelona is a massive city, with something for almost everyone. We found, that much of the must-see sights were characterized by their connection with Gaudí. His buildings, his style, and especially his maximalism. This is felt nowhere more fully, than with a visit to Park Guell. We knew the iconic vista from film and photos, but the extent of the park and how much more there was to see than just the balcony made for an enjoyable afternoon. We should have brought some snacks and made a picnic out of it.  

Tiled balcony overlooking a park with arches and palm trees
Park Güell by Mrs. Wanderer

The last major thing we did from Spain, was visit its neighbor, the tiny nation of Andorra. Using a tour company, we were taken to see northern Spain and southern France to get a better idea of the character of the region. Then we were driven through the high-altitude Pyrenees mountains to enter the nation of Andorra. This country, with no airport, is predominantly accessed by land. We were taken to see some lovely vistas as well as the nation’s capital. Known for its neutrality, tax-advantaged shopping, and great winter skiing we greatly enjoyed getting to spend some time in a place that until the modern road was built, used to be incredibly difficult to access.

Round frame pointed out over a valley surrounded by mountains
Andorra Vista by Mrs. Wanderer

Spain has been a delightful place for us to visit. We appreciated the vast variety of character between the coastal towns, Moorish history, and northern agenda. There is so much to learn and see, and we still did not get it all covered. I have a feeling we will be back one day soon. 

Statue of a lion and two children in front of a curved row of columns
Parque de El Retiro by Mrs. Wanderer