Scintillating Spain

Spain defines the word passion. From flamenco and bullfights, to pintxos and paella, life is embraced with gusto. The country’s long, rich history is evident in its art, architecture, cuisine, and the daily lives of its people.

Centuries of rule by Romans, Visigoths, and Moors left indelible marks on Spain, as did the Christian Reconquest to regain control of their country. But, this complex and turbulent past created sights and destinations guaranteed to interest everyone.

Today’s religious pilgrims trek through a string of medieval towns along the Camino de Santiago while walking over limestone caves once home to some of the first humans in Europe. In sharp contrast, the northern Basque stronghold of Bilbao sports a gleaming, titanium-clad icon of modernism: the Guggenheim Museum.

Madrid’s big-city vibe makes it the energetic heart of the country. Its world-class museums, serene gardens, and cafe-lined plazas are perfect places to experience today’s Spain.

Since Spain is one of our favorite destinations, we just spent the month of March there exploring old favorites and discovering new, must-see places

One of the delights of our trip was visiting the superbly preserved old towns of Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, and Burgos. Their lavish cathedrals, narrow cobblestone streets, and reconquista castles are the quintessential image of Spain.

So over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing some of our experiences, and we hope that you’ll follow along.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

59 thoughts

    1. Thanks for your comment and for dropping by the blog. Anytime someone asks for travel recommendations in Europe, Spain is at the top of the list. Spaniards have a zest for life that’s infectious.~James

    1. Lisa, this large, exceptionally creepy looking spider is outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. It’s called “Maman” (French for Mother). The artist dedicates the sculpture to her Mother as a sign of respect, but for me, I think it would be easy to misinterpret the symbolism. ~James

  1. If there is such a word as a “Spainophile” then count me in! We’ve made four visits to Spain since our initial one-month stay in Barcelona in 2015 and each time we leave with a feeling I suspect you two also know well – that time has passed by too fast and there’s still much to explore. Loved these teaser photos and looking forward to reading about your adventures! Anita

    1. Anita, over the years w’ve spent a good deal of time in Spain, and on each trip we try to visit new parts of the country. It has such a rich history, and an amazing variety of sights. I speak a bit of Spanish, which helps, but we find the people friendly and welcoming. Overall, it’s an easy country to visit and very interesting. ~James

  2. The first time I got really interested in Spain was after reading some of James’ posts since he had lived in the country for almost a year. Then as we get to know each other better he’ll always rave about Spanish food, cultural heritage and beautiful cities whenever he can. And now I’m anticipating to be tempted even further through your upcoming posts!

    1. Bama, given your fondness for history, I’m sure that you’d enjoy Spain. Each of the invaders brought along influences that remain to this day. As for food, on this trip we particularly enjoyed their “jamon iberica” (cured ham) and tapas tradition. Eating small tapas makes it easy to sample lots of different foods without spending lots of money. ~James

    1. Thanks Kathy. It was good to be back on the road, and Spain is the perfect place. Other than our flights in and out, we traveled by train and bus, and it was really easy. It’s also a great way to see the countryside. ~James

    1. This creepy-looking spider is outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. It’s called “Maman” (French for Mother). Supposedly, the artist did it as a tribute to her mother, but I’m not sure my Mom would see it that way. It’s certainly eye-catching. ~James

    1. Thanks Laura. We’ve been to Barcelona a couple of times and really enjoyed it. The interesting thing about all the large Spanish cities is that they’re all different, and most of these differences are a result of history. Before Spain was united into one country, many of the regions had their own identities and language (e.g. Barcelona/Catalonia & Bilbao/Basque). ~James

  3. We visited Spain a few years ago, flying to Barcelona for a few days, then up to the Bordeaux area of France, then back down into Spain to explore San Sebastian & Gijon along the northern coast. Gorgeous!

    1. Lynn, you certainly hit some of the high points for sure. The north coast of Spain sometimes gets overlooked by travelers and that’s too bad. We visited San Sebastian a few years ago, and on this trip we went back to Bilbao and visited Burgos for the first time. We were in Bilbao pre-Guggenheim, and wow! what a change. ~James

      1. We had so much fun in San Sebastian James. I would love to go back & explore more of the country when time permits!

  4. So glad you enjoyed your visit to Spain. Looks like you visited some amazing places, Toledo and Salamanca being a couple of my favourites. I look forward to your upcoming blogs. I agree, every city in Spain is unique and needs to be savoured.

    1. Darlene, we spent a few days in both Toledo and Salamanca, and they were lovely. Toledo, in particular, is a popular day trip from Madrid, but there’s far too much to see in just one day. I would recommend staying at least a couple of days. ~James

      1. I have been to Toledo but hubby hasn´t so we plan a couple of days there soon. I loved the El Greco paintings in particular.

    1. Pam, I can recommend just about any and all parts of Spain for a visit. It really does have a great variety of sights, and the country is so easy to travel in. ~James

  5. One of my favorite places, and you’ve hit some new cities for me, so I will look forward to what’s coming. I lived in Spain during college and on subsequent trips have found even more to love about it.

    1. I can imagine that living there would be wonderful. We’ve toyed with the idea of renting a series of apartments for a couple of weeks each and thoroughly exploring a few areas. Were you in Madrid? ~James

      1. Yes, based in Madrid, but I did a ton of traveling around the whole country when I had a few days or weeks off. Great place!

  6. Muy bien! I’m so glad to hear you traveled again through one of my favorite countries… including the ever-so-charming city of Burgos, which I remember well from the Camino, where we dined on delicious tapas, visited the library and cathedral, and slept in an albergue in the old quarter. Looking forward to more pix & reading about your adventures and discoveries!

    1. Amit, Burgos was a very pleasant surprise for us. We had a tiny, garret style apartment only steps from the cathedral, and it was perfect. The town itself was delightful, and had a very different feel from the others we visited. The river walk is such a pleasant space and it’s nice that the old town is so pedestrian-friendly. ~James

  7. . We visited San Sebastian a few years ago, and on this trip we went back to Bilbao and visited Burgos for the first time.

    1. Thanks for the comment Mary and for dropping by the blog. We visited Bilbao years ago (pre-Guggenheim) and WOW, what a change! This museum and all the improvements made by city government have truly turned the city around. We were pleasantly surprised by Burgos. It had a more “European” feel than the Spanish towns farther south, and we loved how pedestrian-friendly it was. ~James

    1. Thanks Rusha. As I’ve said to others, Spain is one of our favorites, and over the years, we’ve spent a good deal of time there. When we get a hankering to travel to a place that’s pleasant, interesting, and easy; Spain’s our go-to place. It really does have a great variety of things to see, and I speak a “un poquito” Spanish which also helps. If you visit, you wouldn’t be disappointed. ~James

      1. I’m beginning to panic. The older I get, the more I realize I haven’t seen. We’re going to Lake Como area of Italy and then Provence in June. Looking forward to my first (can’t believe it took so long) trip to the region!

      2. Your trip sounds fun Rusha. Lake Como is an unbelievably beautiful area and June will be the perfect time to see it. And BTW, I believe my old KY compatriot George Clooney has a “cottage” there. If you happen to see him, tell him I said hey. 😉 ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. And to your list I would add tapas, which are a great way to sample lots of different foods without spending lots of money. ~James

  8. Great post. I’m based down in Seville and have seen quite a bit of the north. I love Santander, Bilbao and also Santiago, the best lamb shank I’ve ever had, and 3 course meals with a bottle of wine for only 10 💶, absolute bargain. Are you going to Seville on your travels?

    1. Barry, thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. Sorry for the delayed response, but sometimes comments slip through the cracks. We visited Seville a few years ago and loved it. Usually on our trips to Spain we pick a region, stay a few weeks and roam around. On the Seville trip we also visited Granada and Cordoba, both excellent destinations. I envy your ability to live in such an interesting area. ~James

    1. Jean, if you only have time for one city in Spain, Barcelona is the one to see. If for no other reason than to see all the great Gaudi architecture. ~James

    1. Juliann, we’ve been to Spain many times and just keep returning, and have never been disappointed. The country seems to have something for everyone. I hope you can make it in Nov.~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Ana and for dropping by the blog. Spain has always been one of our favorite destinations and we’ve spent a good deal of time there, but it never seems to be enough. ~James

What do you think? We'd love to know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s