Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tapas y Vino

I recently returned from a whirlwind family vacation in Spain. What a beautiful country filled with culture, history and fabulous food and wine!
We started off in Madrid, the capital of Spain. The highlights of our stay included visits to the Royal Palace, the Reina Sofia and the Prado. Did you know that there are two Mona Lisa's? A twin of the famous painting in the Louvre was on display at the Prado museum, just before it was transported to Paris for a temporary exhibition. There is a bit of controversy surrounding the painting, sparked when a lush, background landscape was revealed during a painstaking restoration. There are several theories about who really painted it, but it was perhaps painted by one of Leonardo da Vinci's pupils.

Our home for three nights was at the grand hotel Ritz Madrid. The lobby and guest rooms exude European elegance. You feel like standing up a little straighter when entering through the revolving door into the beautiful lobby. The lobby lounge is the place to see and be seen, for both business people and the "ladies who lunch". They serve afternoon tea daily, with 3-tiered tray presentations of sandwiches, scones and pastries.Yum!

We spent a night in Granada at the fabulous Palacio de los Patos. This 40-room hotel was a former palace, and also has served as the Swedish embassy. A hotel for the last six years, the rooms and suites are all individually decorated, using both contemporary and traditional styles. We enjoyed the Virtuoso complimentary amenities of a massage in the spa, and a tapas tasting in their Senzone restaurant. While in Granada we visited the Alhambra, the famous 14th-century Moorish fortress and palace. We also enjoyed strolling the city and wandering through the winding streets of the Albayzin (the old Arab quarter).

We drove on to Seville, with a stop at the white village of Ronda. This is a beautiful city, perched atop a mountain, with a river winding through it in a deep gorge. The views are spectacular and it is a very romantic spot where you could spend a night or two. We visited the oldest bullring in Spain where the sport of bullfighting is still very popular.

Seville is the largest city in the region of Andalucia. It is a very walkable city at its heart, and most tourist sights are easily accessible. You must visit the Alcazar, the residence of many generations of Kings; the Cathedral, housing some of Christopher Colombus' remains (long story) and climb the Giralda (bell tower) where you can get a 360 degree view of the city. Interestingly, the climb to the top is all on ramps, not stairs, because they used to ride horses or mules to the top.

Plaza de Espana, Seville
A visit to the Plaza de Espana is well worthwhile as some consider it one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. It was constructed in 1929 as the centerpiece for the Ibero-American Expo. It now is home to government offices, but the plaza has fountains, canals and little rowboats for rent. It's a nice place to spend a sunny afternoon. This city is also the birthplace of flamenco. If there was anyplace to learn or watch flamenco, this would be it! There are informal flamenco bars throughout the city as well as professional performances on most evenings.

Good to know: Spaniards eat dinner very late by American standards. Most restaurants don't even start serving dinner until 9:00pm!

Book your vacation with us and receive extra-value Virtuoso amenities such as complimentary breakfasts, massages, afternoon tea, and upgrades to your room.

Would you like more information on Spain? Contact the travel specialists at Bee Kalt Travel!
Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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