Monday, May 12, 2008

Travels to Spain: Paradors

A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.
-Isabelle Eberhardt-
I started traveling, REALLY traveling late, or what I consider late in my life.  My daughters ranged in age from 11 to 8 when we started taking them to Europe.  Prior to that, we were on a first name basis with Minnie and Mickey and felt it was time to spread our wings.  London was a first overseas destination; nice but not my favorite place.  The next year, my hubby wanted a beach vacation.  So, leave it to us, we came up with one--Marbella, Spain.  He would tell you he was thinking along the lines of the west coast of Florida.   Hard to argue with this selection; it was on the Mediterranean, the Rock of Gibraltar made itself known in the distance and the sun poked it's head out every day.  It's been our most memorable trip to date. 

So many things stand out for me but I would have to say, hands down, our visit and overnight stay at the Alhambra in Granada was the highlight.  Nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, this compound of Islamic inspired buildings dates back to the 9th century built initially as a military fortress and four centuries later becoming the royal residence of Mohammed ben Al-Hamar.  It's history is rich in peace and conflict that is too complicated to go into here. Currently, it is one of Spain's most popular tourist attractions and worth the trip!

We were fortunate enough to stay on the grounds of the Alhambra at Hotel San Francisco, a fifteenth century convent that has been transformed into a small four star hotel.  Referred to as a Parador, it is one of many  historically significant buildings (convents, castles, palaces and monasteries) throughout Spain that have been transformed to accommodate guests in some spectacular settings.  Once the last tourist was ushered off the grounds at the end of the day, we were able to roam about certain parts of the grounds as if we alone lived there.  It was amazing.  To watch the sunset and have millions of stars appear as we stood at the highest point in the watch tower will never be equaled for me.  

I have found tours through the Smithsonian that initiated this whole post idea.  Travel to Spain this fall for two weeks as you make your way through this beautiful country, staying in beautiful Paradors at each stop.  I can't help but think you would have an experience of a lifetime.  

Photo credits:  Personal collection,