Review: British Airways First Class SFO - LHR
Review: Iberia Airlines Business Class LHR - MAD
Recap: Sights in Spain
Review: American Airlines Business Class MAD - DFW
After spending a few weeks looking for the best flight deals in and out of Europe for the week after Christmas, Spain emerged as the clear winner of where we should go. This late in the game (early December), there were few options left for using miles to get in and out of Europe on the approximate dates we wanted. It was a plus if we didn't have to fly in economy, so we chose Spain. I'd never been before and it was a big hole in my personal map of Europe, so I was excited to check it out.
Barcelona is the most common Spanish city to visit in my opinion, so I was ok with doing something a little different. Chris had been to Barcelona and thought it was much too "touristy" so we chose to do Madrid instead. He had really enjoyed Valencia, so we were thinking about going there as well, but a friend of mine spoke so highly about Seville that we decided to spend a few days there rather than in Valencia.
We ended up flying in to Madrid and spending the night near the Atocha train station since our flight got in so late that night. The next morning, we got up very bright and early for our train ride to Seville, where we spent the next two and a half days before taking the train back to Madrid for another day and a half. This might sound like a very small amount of time to spend in each place, but we tend to enjoy packing things in and actually felt like we had enough time in each location even though the trip was pretty short.
Seville was, without a doubt, my favorite between the two cities. It was such a cute city with some amazing architecture and I very much enjoyed wandering the streets of the old town. I became obsessed with the incredible Spanish tiles everywhere and the orange trees were almost as ubiquitous. We loved the Plaza de España which was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. It instantly reminded me of the entrance to the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas with the canal circling the plaza where you could take cheesy little boat rides, but it was still incredibly charming. The tile work throughout the plaza was amazing and the whole thing was very grand.
We spent a fair amount of time getting lost in old town Seville, which was such a beautiful area. It was full of bright, colorful buildings and winding alleys that led to surprising little areas after turning a corner.
My favorite thing that we saw was the Alcázar of Seville, which was a royal palace originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. The palace had the most incredible tiles throughout and all I could think about was how long it must have taken for all of the amazing tiles to be put painstakingly in place. Chris noticed I was a bit obsessed and had to retrace his steps multiple times only to find me snapping a million pictures of different tiles in each room. The Alcázar also has extensive manicured grounds, which were just as incredible to see as the inside of the palace. I really could have spent all day there.
As the capital city of Spain, I was interested to see what Madrid had to offer. We spent our one full day in Madrid bouncing around town on a very chilly day and tried to see everything we could. We started out by walking through Buen Retiro park, which is a park that belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century when it opened to the public. The park would have been much nicer on a warm summer day, but we passed the Retiro Pond and then made our way to the Crystal Palace, which was beautiful to see and empty in the early morning.
After the park, we headed to the Prado museum, where we hoped we could warm up a bit after our long walk outside. The Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum located near the edge of Buen Retiro park, so it fit perfectly into our itinerary. We arrived at the museum around 11AM to see an incredibly long line of people waiting to get in. We heard that the wait would probably be two hours long, so we quickly figured out we could buy our tickets online and head to another line around the back of the museum that was long, but moving much more quickly. We made it inside after about 20 minutes.
As can be expected, the Prado primarily displays Spanish art, although I didn't realize that most of it was completed between the 12th and 19th centuries. As far as my uncultured eye could tell, every painting was pretty much the same. If I'm being honest, there are only so many versions of a religious scene I'm interested in seeing, so after we had warmed up, we decided we'd had enough art for the day and went off to find lunch.
After lunch, we wandered over to the Plaza Mayor, which was full of stalls for a Christmas market and was a bit overwhelming. We quickly left and headed to Placio Real de Madrid, which is the official residence of the royal family of Spain, although they don't actually live there. We waited in line to get inside for the tour and busied ourselves with learning about the Spanish royal family on wikipedia prior to making it inside. The palace was quite grand and was worth a visit if only to really understand how impractical palace life would have been. On such a cold day, with so much marble and granite, the place was positively freezing and I couldn't imagine what it would cost to keep the place warm.
After seeing Seville and Madrid, I would definitely be interested in visiting Barcelona and maybe a few other Spanish cities as well. Spain was a very interesting place and although we were there in the off-season, we still had to wait in some rather long lines, so I can't imagine what it would be like in the much warmer summer. I loved the option to have sangria with every meal, but I'm not a huge fan of tapas, so the food got a bit repetitive to me. Overall, I was very glad we took the trip and I was able to see a bit of what makes Spain so special.
Just a girl with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.