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Of Serendipity and Spain – things to do on your 10 day Spain trip

Inspired by Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Ramakrishnan and family headed out to Spain with Pickyourtrail. He narrates their epic vacation in full detail.

Here begins the story of our 10 day trip to Spain took us across Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. Like every great story told there was equal parts adventure, beauty, surprise, awe. And, of course, the memories that we still hold dear – thanks to photographs and Pickyourtrail for having let us reminisce the trip again.

Destination Barcelona

We were here, finally! The city of Guell, the bright vibrant Barcelona met us with a moderate temperature and pleasant skies. No surprise that we began our wanderings immediately. With recurring thoughts of the fun La Tomatina, the riveting Flamenco dancers scenes from ZNMD, we waited with pent anticipation for the next day.

Come next day, we jetted off towards Girona in the coach.

Girona

Ramakrishnan's wife and daughter at Girona canal

Seated between the iridescent Costa Brava and the colourful Barcelona, Girona was our first pitstop. Sitting beside the Onyar river; Girona is all winding streets, medieval walls and ancient buildings of a bygone era. What took our breath away most is the Girona Cathedral. Sitting atop a hill, with a long flight of stairs leading up to the Cathedral, the view is even better at the top! So much so that it is often flocked by visitors to the city. We were guilty of it, too.

Costa Brava

After a quick goodbye, we drove off to Costa Brava. This Mediterranean seafront town adorned with pretty white buildings and prettier people, had us faltering in our steps. The waves crashing against the rugged coast, and with the brilliant sun above I couldn’t help but feel like Farhan Akhtar - fresh after scuba dive reminiscing about life and what not. And till today I have no words that can do justice to this beautiful place.

Back to Barcelona after a quick lunch, we spent the evening walking and shopping away on the La Rambla street. Bustling with tourists, this street was lined with souvenir shops, snack stalls, and street performers.

 At La Rambla

Good to know:

There are three metro stops along this street. It is a great point to start your Barcelona sightseeing at.

While getting an accommodation here seems like a superb idea, remember that it is the busiest place in the city. And busy = noise.

You don't need a theatre to perform. Las Ramblas is full of them. Stop and sight human statues, or get an artist to draw your portrait.

El Corte Inglés is a 7 storied departmental store on the northern tip of Las Ramblas where you can buy anything from electric adapters to clothes

Keep your bag zips closed and your wallets closer here. If you plan to go back to your hotel after this, leave valuables behind.

Another beautiful day in Barcelona! Today was dedicated to sightseeing the breathtaking works of renowned architect, Antoni Gaudi. While Barcelona is home to nearly 10 of his works, we managed to catch these two:

Park Guell

Park Guell

This garden city is one of Gaudi’s most impressive work. Envisioned as a gated community away from the bustle of Barcelona, today, this unfinished project is a public park. Walking around is the best way to take in the impressive pieces created by Gaudi - photo ops were plenty, of course.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

Also called Church of the holy family, Sagrada is one of Gaudi’s most celebrated works. Continuing with his unfinished works streak, this one’s touted to be completed only in 2026 - that’s 144 years of being under construction. Even The Pyramids took less time to be built - a measly 20 years. Inside, we were met with fascinating sculptures, symbols and engravings to say the least.  Each detail - even the pillars inside had Gaudi’s eccentric touch. Defying straight lines, they actually resembled trees.


Viewpoint: The Montjuic hill is a great place to catch panoramic views of Barcelona. While here, you could also check out National Art Museum of Catalunia.


Next, we headed on to Madrid →

Barcelona → Madrid

We took the RENFE - Spain’s high-speed rail network - to Madrid. We passed by beautiful vistas of Spain from the comfort of our seats. Once in Madrid, we took walks around its many Plazas.

Plaza de Espana

Plaza de España in Madrid

Don Quixote statue at Plaza de espana

Located in central Madrid, this square faces two magnificent skyscrapers - Madrid Tower and Espana Building. In the centre of this square is an eye-catching monument dedicated to Spanish poet and playwright Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. And just ahead, we marvelled at the sculptures of Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza - characters from one of Cervantes’s popular work by the same name. Towards the southern end of the square we strolled towards the Royal Palace and Gardens and caught one of the most brilliant sunsets. The sun dipping into the horizon behind this ornate building, colouring it ombre is a dazzling sight.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

One of the prettiest plazas in Madrid, Plaza Mayor is most definitely a sight for sore eyes. Bordered by apartments of a uniform ochre hue and laid in cobblestone, the street life here is vibrant. Come December, it even hosts a beautiful Christmas market.

Plaza Isabel

Plaza de Isabel

Home to a monument dedicated to Queen Isabel and the great voyager Columbus, Plaza Isabel is located along the Spanish equivalent to the Champs Elysees - Gran Via, Spain’s very own upscale shopping street. The grand marble statue in the centre depicts Queen Isabel permitting Columbus to go on his journey.

The Madrid tour

We began the next day with a tour around Madrid. Excited, to say the least, we began with the Financial district. It was one of the few places around the city with towering skyscrapers, while the rest of the city swathed with a spread of heritage buildings.  Our next stop was the famous bullring of Plaza de Toros. It even hosts the San Isidro fiesta every year between May and June - the best time to experience bullfighting.

Plaza de toros

Next on the itinerary, we surveyed the Toledo and Alcala gates. The most recently built of all of Madrid’s monumental archways, this acts as a gate to the city of Toledo. Imposing piece of architecture, the sculptures atop this were added to signify the power. The gate to Alcala is a lot older. Rumour has it that when the Spanish king Charles III had the gateway commissioned to be designed, he fell in love with two designs. So, today the gateway stands differently designed on each side!

Madrid and no football? Blasphemous. Our next stop was the Real Madrid football stadium. It doesn’t take a football fan to appreciate the beauty of this place. One of the most prestigious football venues and sports arena, Santiago Bernabéu is built to be an architectural marvel, too.

Next to Plaza Mayor where the cobblestone path came alive with the sights and sounds of a happening market. A quick glance and we headed toward the Royal Palace - just a short walk away from here. Upon entering the palace, we saw the word grandeur took on a whole new meaning in our minds. Beautiful furnished and richly decorated we couldn’t stop gawking as we toured the throne room, reception rooms and the private rooms of King Carlos and Isabel.

Tapestries, mirrors, furniture, and chandeliers transported us to a realm of luxury we never knew. Even the staircase was leading upstairs was imposing. Just when you think you have seen it all, another wall hanging, another intricate design on the marble bowls you over. When you think you need a break from the awe, luckily there are the lush gardens outside where you can breathe easy. Until the sun dips behind the opulent building - there goes our breath again.

Royal Palace of Madrid

To take things a bit easy now onwards, we headed down the Gran Via, the upscale shopping destination of Spain. We glanced at shops, restaurants and did what we do best - window shop. And when the hunger pangs strike, savour some of that gourmet food displayed tantalizingly at storefronts.

We promised ourselves one last square/plaza for the night and found ourselves at the Peutra del Sol. The place to be when the clock ticks 12 on New Year’s Eve, Peutra de Sol is also where all Spanish roads start. Quite an extraordinary thing to be told. While standing at 0 km, we decided to mark the occasion by enjoying a show put up by street performers. What a fun day - and we were just getting started, Madrid!

Peutra del Sol - where all the roads in Spain start

Street performers at Puerta de sol
Street performers at Puerta de sol

Toledo calling

Two days into Madrid and we were already headed towards our first escapade - the medieval town of Toledo. Known for its Cathedral and El Greco museum, Toledo is listed World Heritage site. With winding streets and tapas bars lining every corner, Toledo’s landmark gothic Cathedral hosts artworks by some of the greats.

The Toledo cathedral
The Toledo Cathedral

Toledo

Another landmark here is the palace-fortress of Alcazar. Sitting atop a hill, we reached the top using five escalators. This medieval castle is partly destroyed but the battlement structures still remain.

After a tapas intervention, we sped back to Madrid. The routine museum tour was still on to-do so, we headed on to explore some Madrid museums on the 1 km stretch Art Walk:

Rene Sofia museum: Regarded as Spain’s national museum for 20th-century art, Rene Sofia is mostly dedicated to Spanish art. It displays collections of Spain’s best - Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

Timings: 10:00 - 21:00

Entry fee: (general admission) 10 euros

On Mondays and Wednesday - Saturday, free admission can be secured between 19:00 - 21:00

Prado museum: Renowned for being one of the world’s best art galleries, the Prado was apparently inspired to live after a Spanish queen’s visit to the Louvre. Today it hosts a huge collection by Italian, Flemish and Spanish artists.

Timings: 10:00 - 20:00

Entry fee: (general ticket) 15 euros

The entry is free for the unemployed, journalists, tour guides, students (with a valid id) and everyone under 18 years

Thyssen museum: Located next to the Prado museum, it along with Rene Sofia and Prado form the Golden Triangle of Art. While the other two display the best of the best, Thyssen seeks to tell the story of art - displaying works from different eras like Italian primitives, the German Renaissance, Impressionism, German Expressionism and Russian Constructivism and even 19th century American Art.

Timings: 10:00 - 19:00

Entry fee: (general ticket) 12 euros

Buen Retiro Park

 Inside Retiro park
Inside Retiro park

Not too far from Prado museum, the green lustre of Buen Retiro Park called to us. So we stopped everything we were doing and rushed and sat on one of its benches overlooking the lake. Spreading out to a good 118 hectares, Buen Retiro is a premier destination for hosting many events.

After an invigorating Madrid, we prepared to head on to Seville →

Madrid → Seville

Seville

Pronounced Say-vee-ya, quite the mouth-twister, we boarded a train for our two-hour ride to Seville. Driving through narrow lanes, passing by quaint old buildings we checked into our apartment in the historic center of Seville. Andalusia’s capital, we already saw, in hints, what made it Spain’s most charming city. Home to Flamenco, so, of course, we ate a hearty Spanish dinner to the sounds and sights of a spectacular Flamenco performance. Unable to control the anticipation, we headed down the streets of Seville to take in the views - the Cathedral, the Palace, the Bullring, Plaza de Espana, Town Hall and the University buildings. We couldn’t wait to get started!

Seville catherdral and bell tower
Seville catherdral and bell tower

Seville plaza de espana
Seville plaza de espana

Trip to Cordoba

The town of Cordoba

We hustled to this small town that we had heard so much about. This medieval city full of winding streets, famed for preserving a Moorish heritage from an era gone by. To say we were excited, was quite an understatement. What we loved and remembered most from this charming town was the Mezquita. This mosque-turned-church is one of the most beautiful pieces of Spanish Islamic architecture. And, no doubt, it has quite an interesting story. Story time: What used to Visigoth Basilica in the year 1146 came under the Muslim Caliph’s influence and transformed into this masterpiece - a confluence of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque art.

 Inside Mezquita
Inside Mezquita

Mezquita Cathedral

Splendid works of art lined up alongside a grand array of columns, arches and domes, the Mezquita teaches you or one two things about ageing with grace. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of this trip!

Good to know:

It’s home to some old-school tapas bar so a quite bite, if not a lunch break, is a must-do here

Streets of Cordoba
Streets of Cordoba

There is a law that actually limits the height of building here to ensure only Mezquita towers this town’s skyline

Ever heard of being told to stop and smell the flowers? This is the perfect place to smell the flowers - especially the neat potted jasmines and geraniums that line the patio of the houses here.

House patios in Cordoba

 Visiting hours: 10:00 - 19:00, entry fee is 8 euros

 Entry is free for children below 10 years

Granada incoming

Granada

Alhambra

Sitting on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada was next on our list. Known for housing the best of both worlds - mountains and beaches, we were excited to see what else it had up its sleeve. Our first stop was, doubtless, the 13-century city of Alhambra. This palace-fortress complex houses the Alcazaba fortress, the Nasrid Palace and Generalife Palace. We explored the Moorish throne room and courtyards adorned with splendid fountains. Even nestled in mountains, a plaza isn’t too far away.  Plaza Mirador de San Nicolás, catch another dramatic sunset. Don’t take out that camera, just close your eyes and feel the wind gush against your face on this elevated platform. If you open your eyes and look into the horizon, you might just feel serendipity take over your senses.

Moments of Serendipity from our trip;

Our tryst with the Spaniards Gazpacho, Paella, churros with hot chocolate and Sangria struck us first. (Yes, you can be a vegetarian and still not revert to Indian food in Spain)

We recount the friendly Spaniards - always hospitable and fun-loving.

The pleasant warm weather that made walking, driving and just living more pleasant.

Spain’s top class public transport system that made every commute of ours smooth.

Ramakrishnan and family shared their serendipity over sunsets, plazas, churros and more. What about you?

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