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Spain: Captivating Capitals, Intoxicating Cultures

Thursday, September 18, 2014

South of the Pyrenees, surrounded by Atlantic and Mediterranean waters, the Iberian Peninsula seems cut off from the rest of Europe. Indeed, some have called Spain and neighboring Portugal "Marginal Europe." This might sound like a reference to their geographic isolation. But as any visit will prove, it is much more.

Indeed, once you've crossed the northern border into Spain—over that massive mountain range—everything changes. There's an energy in those Mediterranean breezes, a passion and an excitement that's somehow harder to come by in the rest of Europe. You might attribute it to a unique mix of Arab and Christian tradition. Or maybe it comes from the country's long past as a multi-cultural crossroads between North Africa and Europe. Or it could be that Spain, mile for square mile, offers every type of landscape you can imagine: from the soaring peaks of the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada to the famous "plains of Spain" to vineyard-blanketed hillsides to the long sandy beaches. Simply put, if you're a Spaniard, there's much to be passionate about!

The good news is you don't have to be a Spaniard to enjoy all that Spain has to offer. Gate 1 Travel introduces you to this intoxicating slice of "Marginal Europe," with welcoming local guides providing the most enriching insight about their country's sweeping history, legendary landscapes, and a multitude of cultural and historic treasures.

In Northern Spain, 2 Centers of Historic Architecture

In Northern Spain, 2 Centers of Historic ArchitectureIn Barcelona, Mediterranean sun washes over one of Europe's most architecturally stunning cities. At its center, La Sagrada Familia Cathedral reaches to the heavens. Even 132 years after its first stone was laid, this magnificent work, designed by surrealist architect Antoni Gaudi, remains the world's freshest and most unusual interpretation of a house of worship. It remains unfinished to this day, with a scheduled completion date of 2028. Gaudi's other works throughout the city include the whimsical Parc Guell, with mosaic-adorned sculptures that look torn from a storybook. Beyond Gaudi's stunning structures, Barcelona is a vibrant metropolis of long boulevards, hopping cafes, ocean breezes, and great shopping. You can experience Catalan culture up close along Las Ramblas, the pedestrian zone lined with cafes, tapas bars, and shops. Outside of town, the inspirational Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat is nestled in a stunning setting on its namesake mountainside. The devout believe it is the fabled location of the Holy Grail from Arthurian legend.

Spain's other famed northern city, Bilbao, is also linked to the water. From its city center, the Nervion River flows to the Bay of Biscay, just eight miles away. Its location makes it a busy and thriving Atlantic port. But it also has a claim to artistic fame: Frank Gehry's 1997 Guggenheim Museum. This fantastical work of glass, titanium, and limestone, a work of art in itself on the banks of the Nervion, houses some of Spain's most incredible modern and contemporary art. Bilbao's Old Quarter, or Casco Viejo, is decidedly less modern, a remarkable preservation of the medieval city's original seven parallel streets.

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All prices are per person based on twin occupancy. Prices are valid as of September 18, 2014 and subject to change without notice. Book by October 2, 2014. Not valid on existing reservations.