Ever Thought of Taking a Road Trip in Spain? What’s Stopping You?
Does the idea of taking a road trip in Spain appeal to you?
Perhaps you remember when actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Chef Mario Batali made a 13-part TV series back in 2008 called “Spain On the Road Again.” They made the trip with food writer Mark Bittman and actress Claudio Bassols.
Since then, road tripping around Spain is something we have always wanted to do. Did you see the popular series? They had wild times driving convertibles, eating tapas, drinking, eating some more and exploring Spanish culture.
We were recently chatting with some friends of ours about travelling together again. We all just happened to be in Spain at the same time. Could we replicate something similar? Of course, we could! It would not be the same itinerary and not in a Mercedes convertible. We would not enjoy the same restaurants or bars but we could make it our own!
If you are doing a road trip you have to have a theme song don’t you? So what better than Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again?” As we departed Madrid that warm Saturday morning, we started singing but really all we could remember is the chorus. I am not sure whether we can put it down to old age or just that it is the only part of the song we ever knew in the first place. We will go with the latter!
If Those Back Seat Drivers Don’t Shut Up, Leave Them at the Next Servo
When our friends collected the rental car they requested a GPS navigation system. It came in handy especially when we went around roundabouts a few times to try and fathom the right exit road. Like us, they were Australians. They were given one with an Aussie accent and sense of humour.
Nicknamed Slippery Sam, our friend told us off when we ignored his instructions and followed our instincts. He somehow knew when the back seat drivers were at their most vocal, hence the heading above. Servo to those readers who aren’t Australians means Petrol Station. For US readers, that’s a gas station. Perhaps you have travel friends like this.
When we did make it onto a motorway he would say “take the motorway and cruise is too easy mate”. When we arrived at our destination he would announce, “you have arrived, put those sunnies (sunglasses) on and don’t let the seagulls steal your chips.” This was his response even if we were 200 kilometres inland with no beach in sight. He was a hoot!
Toledo was Spain’s Capital up until the 15th century. For hundreds of years the Jewish, Muslims and Christians lived together within the city walls. Have you ever been there? There are churches, mosques, synagogues, palaces and fortresses in this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a coffee in the Jewish Quarter before you start your sightseeing.
Does staying a night in a 18th century renovated palace in a small historic town that dates back to the Neolithic ages excite you? Well then Andujar is the place for you, not too far a drive from Toledo and an hours drive away from Cordoba, the next stop on our itinerary the next morning. At 9pm on a Sunday night, all the locals were out enjoying their Sangrias and beers with Tapas. Their children and grandchildren all played together around the tables.
Cordoba was known as one of the greatest cities in the medieval world and now it is famous for one of the greatest mosques in the Western World. You can wander through the white washed plazas and small narrow alleyways and head towards the Mezquita (mosque). For lunch or dinner try the back streets for small local bars and cafés where you enjoy local not tourist prices.
Seville is a short drive from Cordoba. It is known as the ‘frying pan of Europe’ where temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees centigrade in summer. Walk through the city of ancient winding streets, see the Santa Cruz Jewish Quarter, Moorish great architecture, Seville’s Cathedral, Plaza Espana and experience the home of Flamenco. For authentic Tapas and Sangria head to the Mercado Ferria before 2pm.
Plan to visit Carmona on the way to Granada, it’s a picturesque village on top of a hill. The Tower that is seen for miles is similar to the Giralda Tower in Seville. Carmona has been settled since prehistoric times and contains three Moorish fortresses and has one of Spain’s best examples of a Roman Gate. Enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants in Plaza San Fernando, where you can have a set meal for Euros 9.90 per person.
Even during summer, the Sierra Nevada ranges that hug Granada can be snow-capped. It is Europe’s southern ski resort. Granada is one of the few cities in Spain that has free Tapas when you buy a drink. The most famous building ‘The Alhambra’ cannot be missed sitting proudly on the hill overlooking the city. It is one of the last Moorish strongholds in Europe, a unique complex of gardens, Moorish architecture and cascading fountains.
The Old Town of Valencia needs at least a few days to explore. Visit its Mercado Central, Barrio del Carmen, Mansion Houses and Cathedral. After you have enjoyed the old town head towards new Valencia and the City of Arts and Sciences for the biggest aquarium in Europe, the laser IMAX cinema, Palau de les Artes, Palau de la Musica and the beaches and port area.
You can reach the new Valencia by walking through what was once the Turia River until it was diverted and the river turned into parklands, sporting grounds and cycle lanes.
Sadly, all good road trips have to come to an end, and this one ended in Barcelona mid-afternoon nine days later. We had enjoyed nine days of fun, laughter, food, sangria and beer and of course tapas that Spain is well known for. We covered a total distance of 1658km. Check out the Tourism Spain website for inspiration. You can also check out our blog post on our free walking tour in Seville.
Have you ever taken a road trip in Europe? Would you like to take a road trip in Spain one day? Do you enjoy that kind of travel? Please share any of your road trip adventures in the comments section below.
Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith are nomadic semi-retirees, baby boomers, travellers, House Sitters and co-founders of To Travel Too. Their motto is “Age is no barrier when it comes to travel.” Although not yet pensioners, their goal is to travel the world on what is currently the Australian Age Pension of approx. AUD 33,716 (USD 25,110) per year, or AUD 92 (USD 69) per day for two people.