Travel

Spain

Spain

Modern Spain offers much more than bullfights, flamenco dancers and crowded beaches. This spectacular and diverse country features tremendous history, distinctive modern architecture and a uniqueness that is immediately recognizable. With rolling, green hills in the north and beautiful beaches in the south, Spain is filled with opportunities for every type of traveller. Spain is also rich in history, with Moorish palaces, crumbling castles, Roman ruins and Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals that spiral straight into the skies. In Spain, there is a perfect destination for every type of traveller.

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Seville

Song of Sevilla Ol! Audience members shout in unison as the staccato from her heels abruptly stops. She is posed: the arm above her hair a graceful Moorish arch, her head a Cathedral tower stretching heavenward, her sinewy body deliberate, curved and tense with passion. After a moment, she smiles, relaxes and acknowledges the enthusiastic clapping while graciously including her fellow performers. I exhale. Her story dissolves, but the spell of Flamenco in Sevilla envelops me like a perfume. On this sultry Friday night in September I follow the crowd, my feet beating a rhythm, along twisting streets to Plaza de la Alfalfa. Children run amuck as parents track them with their eyes while perusing menu boards. Babies bounce on shoulders. Grannies sway, enchanted by an accordion player's melody undulating like a ribbon through the air. Restaurants seduce with aromas; a fried fish here, an oxen stew there, a waft of artichoke and a whiff of garlicky shrimp. Harried waiters with trays of tapas wend through tables offering seats to the uncertain as they deliver plates to the hungry. I sit. Vino arrives. My feet are now still but my heart dances on to the song of Sevilla.

Submitted by:
Brenda M., Toronto


Alhambra

October 2010, Spain: Five hours on the bus from Toledo to Granada, but worth every minute as our destination is the Alhambra, the palace and fortress complex constructed during the mid-14th century by the Moorish rulers of the day. Occupying the top of the hill on the southeastern border of the city, it is a beautiful serene place. Walking through the Alhambra, you not only see the power and vision of the Moors in the architecture, you can feel the significance of the history seeping from the walls. In the Salon de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) a breath caught in my throat as I looked up at the Islamic tile work, knowing that in this square room, Christopher Columbus received Queen Isabel's support to sail to the New World. And we all know the enormous importance these voyages were to play in Western history. Wow, be still my beating heart.

Submitted by:
Gail B., Toronto


Church Procession in Seville

Often the best part of a vacation is that serendipitous encounter. In Seville last year at the start of our Spanish holiday we found ourselves caught up in an amazing procession. Brass bands, banner-toting fraternities dressed in medieval costume and children carrying candles almost as tall as themselves led a huge flower-bedecked float bearing a jewel encrusted statue of the Virgin Mary. The float was carried on the shoulders of a dozen men, visible only as twelve pairs of feet shuffling beneath a canopy of red velvet. We watched in awe as they made their way through the massive doors of the ancient cathedral.

As we strolled through the warm darkness after an alfresco supper drumbeats reverberated nearby. Rounding a corner we saw the procession again and hurried to join the throng making its way from church to church through the narrow streets of the old city. Most of the churches were too small for the float to enter, but the doors stood wide open in welcome, revealing gilded altars aglow with candlelight. It was an unforgettable spectacle and a Spanish experience we were thrilled to share as we wound our way through the night.

Submitted by:
Sheila B., Georgetown


Walking the Camino de Santiago

My best trip, I took a walk on the Camino de Santiago. It was terrific, while walking you have time to enjoy the beauty of the country, time to stop and stare. Be with yourself. The best part of the journey was the people, those of Spain and those I met and walked with. The land, the churches, the food (eating together, laughing and recounting the adventures of the day) the hostels, (some with bed-bugs, most without, the snores of fellow pilgrims) comparing blisters, but most of all the camaraderie and the way everyone was there for each other. The “camino will provide” was our motto and it did. My journey started in France at Jean Pied du Port. Crossing the Pyrenees and on to Pamplona, with nothing but your back-pack. Light in luggage but full of spirit, determination and the sweet joy of life. Los Arcos, a festival and being invited to join a family for dinner. Burgos, with its rosary made of skulls. Spiritually, Tosantos, San Bol, St Nicholas and Samos. Through the mesita, Leon, Sarria and finally journeys end with Santiago de Compostella. A gift of beauty, friendship, and challenge, walking, laughing, talking, eating, not to mention wine and song. There is really no way to explain the camino except to heed the call and walk. This vacation will live forever in my heart.

Submitted by:
Sharon M., Kingston