Cruising the Mediterranean along the Spanish coast and through the Straits of Gibraltar to Portugal
Capital of proud Catalonia, Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city like no other. Old and new combine in Barcelona; narrow Gothic Quarter alleyways contrast with grand boulevards. Everywhere, the city celebrates the work of Gaudi, its surreal moderniste hometown architect. The city also boasts an incredible collection of Picasso’s work. Stroll down Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s wide tree-lined boulevard and enjoy the street carnival. Enjoy delectable tapas in the many restaurants and bars.
Tarragona was originally built on a rocky bluff in 218 BC, when it was founded by the ancient Romans as a military base. Remains of its past persist in the form of ruins of the Roman amphitheatre, aqueduct, forum and other buildings of the Paseo Arqueologico, which leads to some panoramic views. The Rambla Nova is the modern main street outside the old city walls. Visitors can explore the old harbour, El Serrallo, to watch the fishing boats dock and fishermen auction their catch. There are excellent beaches near Tarragona, including Playa Llarga, regarded as one of the biggest and best on the Catalonian coast. Among the many museums is an archaeological museum devoted to Roman antiquities; the Diocesan Museum displaying Gothic paintings, sculptures and tapestries; and a house museum detailing the life and career of renowned cellist, Pablo Casals.
Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain
Ibiza is a party town and rocks to a late-night dance beat, but when the sun rises, it draws sleepy sun-worshippers out to the island’s beach scene. No matter what your age, nationality, interest or gender, the fairytale architecture of D'Alt Vila (or High Town), Europe's most ancient fortress city, perched high on the summit, will captivate you. The spellbinding history and romance of D'Alt Vila are evident in its twisty, narrow streets, whose very cobblestones have been polished smooth by the feet of centuries. These streets lead up to the 14th-century cathedral for views of the city and the blue Mediterranean beyond.
Cartagena is a Mediterranean port city and naval station in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula. As far back as the sixteenth century it was one of the most important naval ports in Spain. It is a walled town and has a fine harbour defended by forts.
Cartagena has many archaeologic sites. Ruins identified as a temple to Melqart have been uncovered. Throughout the old centre you can find museums with remains of Roman buildings.
Located on the southeast coast of Spain in a beautiful bay, Almeria was once a thriving Moorish capital said to rival Granada in splendor. It has a 10th-century Moorish castle, the Alcazaba, which is the best remaining example of Moorish military building.
Other sights of interest include a fortified cathedral, built in the 1500´s when pirates terrorized this coast. Also of note is Almeria´s cave quarter, the Barrio de la Chanca.
The Almeria area has many beaches, castles, and quaint villages. For beach lovers, warm weather comes even earlier here than in the rest of mainland Spain, so Almeria should be considered for early or late season beach trips.
While in the Almeria province, also consider visiting the Tabernas Desert, which was used for a number of the ¨spaghetti western¨ movies as well as the film ¨Lawrence of Arabia.¨ Some of the old film sets still remain.
Malaga is the major coastal city of Andalucia and is a genuine and typical Andaluz city with a gritty individualism untouched by tourism and, to a large extent, the passage of time. The Moors occupied the city until the mid-15th century, after which it grew to become one of the foremost merchant centers in the entire Iberian Peninsula. This illustrious past has left its imprint on the historic center, particularly around La Alcazaba, a fortress which dates back to 1065 and is now a fascinating archaeological museum. Also worth a visit is the nearby castle which was rebuilt by the Moors and is today a traditional parador (state hotel) with superb panoramic views.
During the nineteenth century, Malaga was a popular winter resort for the wealthy famed for its elegance and sophistication. The impressive park on Calle Alameda dates back to this era and is recognized as being one of the most celebrated botanical collections in Europe. Pablo Picasso is the city’s famous son, and there are several galleries showing his work, including the 16th century Museum of Fine Arts, adjacent to the Cathedral. His birthplace in Plaza Merced is today an archive of his life and works and open to the public - free of charge. Málaga's main theater is the Theatro Cervantes, where Antonio Banderas still visits.
As well as being a cultural center, Malaga is also a great place to eat out. The Malagueños love their food and the bars and restaurants here are where the real social life takes place. The choice is unlimited and, on the whole, reasonable, with some bars offering a menu of the day with bread and wine for as little as 700 pesetas. Tapas, small portions of many different dishes is an Andalusian tradition and a wonderfully inexpensive way to try a variety of local food. The best known local fare in Malaga is pescaito frito, an assortment of fried fish, including small sardines and red mullet, best washed down with a glass of ice cold fino at one of the many old fashioned bodegas in town. But it is El Palo, to the east of the city which is a typical fisherman’s village and the place to go if you want that veritable ‘catch of the day’ freshness. Try a tapas and a glass of Malaga wine at Malaga's oldest tapas bar called 'Antigua Casa de la Guardia'. Keep to the north side of the Alameda and find no. 16. Malaga is always closed for the siesta period, so this is a perfect time for a long relaxing lunch.
These days, Malaga prides itself on being a modern city with the heart of commerce dominated by Calle Larios which is the local Bond Street equivalent. This is the recommended place to start exploring the city as it is surrounded by attractive small streets and plazas, as well as the magnificent Renaissance cathedral which offers daily guided tours. Garden lovers won't be disappointed in Malaga either. In the center of the city is the beautiful Alameda Gardens, and just outside on the way to Antequera one finds the extensive Jardines de la Concepcion. Málaga airport is one of the major airports in Spain due to the number of tourist arrivals on charter flights from Northern Europe using Malaga airport as a gateway to the Costa del Sol.
Just a hop across the Straits from Spain, Morocco is another world: an Islamic world, intoxicating and intense. In Tangier’s old town, you’ll find a medina (marketplace) filled with carpets, spices, copper, and merchants who expect you to bargain hard. The old world of bazaars is still intact in the form of the Grand Sacco with its makeshift shops, snake charmers, musicians and storytellers. Take time out for a Morrocan specialty, mint tea, in a tea shop along the Petit Soco. Or visit the Kasbah with its palace and mysterious charm.
Tangier was the real model for the famous film 'Casablanca' with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. It still retains its faded mongrel charm - not entirely Moroccan, European or African, but a heady mix of all three. Visit the white-walled Kasbah and the Sultan's Garden with its fountain, fragrant herbs & shrubs, and orange & lemon trees. At the end of the day there's always that erotic Moroccan liquid light that French painter Delacroix painted again and again.
The capital of Portugal since its conquest from the Moors in 1147, Lisbon is a legendary city with over 20 centuries of history. Spreading out along the right bank of the Taugus, its downtown, the Baixa, is located in the 18th century area around Rossio. The Alfama, one of the oldest quarters in Lisbon, still retains much of its original layout since it largely survived the earthquake of 1755.