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Laura Hunt

It is Spain

Johanna Kaestner

Here you will discover wonderful hotels. The Spanish government operates a system of about 85 prestige hotels called the Paradores . Some are in castles, some in cloisters, palaces, or in country estates. We stayed in an impressive castle in Cardona. From the outside this 13th century complex looked completely authentic. The inside, however, with some of the original walls visible, had the comfort of a luxury hotel. In Cuenca we slept in the former convent San Pablo with a fabulous view of the "Hanging Houses", the main attraction of this quaint little town. The Parador in Granada, on the grounds of the Alhambra, is so sought-after that it is booked months ahead. All prices in these government hotels are the same, couples pay about $100/night.

There is also a number of small cozy hotels in the old parts of the cities. The former residences are often built around courtyards. They are shaded by trees, filled with the scent of flowers, and the babble of a fountain. A finca is a farmhouse. Attractively renovated, it makes a great Bed & Breakfast. We fell in love with the Finca Listonero. It is located close to Almeria, about 5 miles from the ocean. You can spend a lazy day next to the pool, and in the evening have David, a former chef, create a dinner that you certainly will remember.

Time in Spain doesn't seem to exist. Staying up during the night you still can splurge on a sumptuous breakfast buffet at 11 am. After a lengthy siesta life starts again around five. Enjoy a cup of coffee, or a colorful local drinks in one of the sidewalk cafes. You can stroll through the narrow, busy streets in the evening and find dinner or tapa restaurants at least until midnight.

There is also so much to see. Imagine sitting in the sun on the Plaza Major in Madrid and sipping cafe solo from small cups while you watch the colorful crowd passing by. Suddenly you hear soft drumming. When it comes closer, you can make out flutes and cymbals. It is a small group of young musicians dressed in medieval costumes. They stop and announce the place and time of their performance in the evening; then they continue with their music and move on. The music is fading - now there are only the drums - and they are gone.

Granada - doesn't this name already sound like music? The city was the last stronghold of the Moors. The Alhambra, palace of the Nasrid dynasty, is a wonderful example of their superb architecture. Spacious halls and pavilions with hundreds of graceful columns open to gardens with reflecting pools or babbling fountains. The Moors were masters of irrigation. A great example of their craft was the country estate of the Nasrid kings, called Generalife, "The Garden of Lofty Paradise." Here you can stroll hand-in-hand between fragrant flowers or rest in the shade of trees and imagine how life would have been during that time.

The biggest attraction in Cordoba is the large mosque, yet, the heart of the city is the old Jewish Quarter. The houses along the narrow streets are freshly painted. Open doors allow glimpses into their courtyards. The walls are covered with bougainvillea or so many pots with blooming flowers that they look like hanging gardens. Little is known about Alfonso the Wise, a Christian king, who governed Cordoba a thousand years ago. He lived in harmony with Moors and Jews. Arts and sciences reached new heights, the city flourished and became the center of Europe. 

Don't leave Spain without experiencing Flamenco, the wild expressive dance with its captivating music. As the story goes it was created by the gypsies who lived in the caves above Granada. They mixed their own Indian culture with the Moorish and Andalusian folklore. Performers improvise from basic movements. Their feet tap to the rhythms of the guitar, and their bodies and faces express joy and sorrow in a dance that takes your breath away.

This description only touches the surface of this remarkable country. There is so much more to see. As you want to remember your wedding as the beautiful beginning of your marriage, you want to continue with a memorable honeymoon.

Spain is it!

Spanish Sketches - Personal Travel Experiences

Dorling Kindersley Travel Guides Spain

Read other travel articles.

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