Category Archives: Spain

Pintxos: Tasty morsels popular in Basque region

Traveling is an enriching, eye-opening wondrous experience from the scenery to the people, to the food. Sure, preparing octopus in your kitchen may seem like a daunting task that you’re likely to skip — but eating it in a restaurant prepared by chefs who make it their business to create an epic seafood dish is something entirely different. At GetAway Travel we are big proponents of adding adventurous eating and drinking to your list of things to do on vacations, because we do. That’s one of the reasons we can make your next getaway a vacation to remember. 

Every country, region, city, town and even tiny village you visit while traveling likely has specialized cuisine you should not pass up. Whether you are eating in a five-star restaurant or a cafe by the side of a canal, it’s a sure bet the wait staff can give you a great dining recommendation. When traveling in the Basque region of Northern Spain, the wait staff or the bartender, will likely advise you to partake in a pintxos or two. 

 What exactly is pintxos? 

 First, it’s not a tapa. Tapas are small versions of larger meals. Pintxos are more like appetizers, although it is possible, certainly, to make a meal of them. Pintxos (pronounced peen-chos because in Basque the tx is pronounced like the ch in cheese) are delightful little skewered bites. The literal meaning of pintxos or pinchos, is skewered.  Continue reading

Experience the passion, vitality and architecture of Seville


Although flamenco is often referred to as a dance, it is truly an art form. So much so that it is recognized by UNESCO as part of the world’s cultural heritage. Without question, the best flamenco in the world can be found in Seville. Said to have been built by Hercules himself, Seville is brimming with history, emotion and experiences that visitors remember for a lifetime. GetAway Travel is ready to map out your trip to Seville.

Southern Spain’s largest city


Seville is the capital and largest city in the province of Seville. It is one of the three most famous cities in Andalusia. The two other cities are Cordoba and Granada. Andalusia references the area of Spain bordering on the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The area was under Moorish rule from 711 to 1492 and the Moorish influence can be seen in architecture around the city.
Seville has some of the oldest universities in the world, some of the most fabulous outdoor plazas as well as superb flamenco presentations, tapas, sangria and bull fighting. Cafes everywhere offer tapas, small plate appetizers and many times tapas are free with a beverage. Ask for the house offerings and feel free to ask around to find out who has the best tapa choices. Likewise, many bars and nightclubs offer flamenco, but the experience will vary. Smaller venues, where you might have to inquire about seating options, give the best up-close and personal performances.

View from the Giralda Tower

plaza de torros

Before we talk about history and architecture, a word or several about the food. Gazpacho is a cold soup of tomato, cucumber, peppers, garlic, oil and vinegar and it often served with diced ham and hard-boiled eggs. Pescaíto Frito is fried fish — all varieties of fish including anchovies, squid, cuttlefish and cod. Bascalas con tomate is cod cut in large pieces served with tomato. Don’t skip the cocido which is chickpea stew with all types of meat.


Serranitos and montadillos are delightful different sized sandwiches filled with any ingredient you can think of served with French fries. Even though the idea of eating a bull’s tail might be a bit off-putting, rabo de toro is bull or ox tail slow simmered in onions, garlic and wine.

A common site in Spain

Architectural marvels

The Catedral de Sevilla is a world heritage site and it was built in the late 15th century. Nearly a mile long and a mile and a half wide, it contains 40 separate chapels and is thought to be one of the largest cathedrals in the world. It has a classic exterior and the interior is even more impressive. The main altar consists of 36 gilded panels. When you finish marveling at the interior, take a break in the Patio de los Naranjos just outside and enjoy the orange trees. Then, climb to the top of the nearby La Giralda which is the stand-alone bell tower for the cathedral. It is part of the original 12th century mosque from the Berber-Muslim dynasty. Views from the top are breathtaking.

Rooftop – Catedral de Sevilla

The Universidad de Sevilla is one of the oldest higher learning facilities in the Spanish speaking world. Constructed in the 16th century, part of the university is actually a former tobacco factory that was operating until the 1950s. The university took 42 years to build and it actually has a moat and a drawbridge.

Interior – Catedral de Sevilla

The Real Alcázar palace and gardens was built in the 7th century and occasionally still hosts the royal family. The entire palace is of varied architectural design from Gothic to Baroque styles.

Real Alcázar

Celebrate all things flamenco at the Museo del Baile Flamenco. You will be informed of the art of flamenco through song, dance and guitar. Built in the 18th century, the foundation is a former Roman temple. There are interactive exhibits exploring everything from the music to the costumes; there are daily flamenco shows and you can take a music or dance class!

Christopher Columbus in Santa Maria de la Sede Cathedral – Seville

Hey, that plaza looks familiar!

The Plaza de España is a 540,000 square foot place and more than half of the outer area is a huge neo-Moorish building. The huge mosaic tile covered plaza includes towering marble columns and intricate murals as well as a fountain and a canal. The colorful place includes 48 ceramic-tiled alcoves with a painted bench. The tile mosaics depict important symbols and themes from each of Spain’s provinces. The plaza has been featured in numerous movies including Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars.

Plaza de Espana

The courtyard of the Casa de Pilatos also features intricate tile work and it has statues from the Roman era of Minerva, Ceres and a dancing muse. The Greek statue of Athena dates back to the 5th century.

Plaza de Espana

If viewing a bull fight is not something you are considering, you still should make a visit to the Plaza de Toros when a bull fight is not going on. The Baroque architecture at the entrance is impressive and even though it was constructed in the mid 1700s, the acoustics are considered some of the finest in the world.

Real Alcázar

Tapas, sangria, history-packed sites — there’s something for everyone in Seville and the advisors at GetAway Travel are here to plan your visit. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel

Alhambra – part fortress, part palace, part garden and

Alhambra – Granada, Spain

Part fortress, part palace, part garden and part government city the medieval complex of Alhambra overlooking the city of Grenada is one of the top tourist attractions in Spain.  The eightAlhambra-and-Generalife-Granada-Spain_82h century old site was named for the reddish walls and towers that surrounded the citadel: al-qal’a al-hamra in Arabic means red fort or castle. It’s the only surviving city  of the Islamic Golden Age and a remnant of the Nasrid Dynasty, the last Islamic kingdom in Western Europe.

Alhambra offers up stunning ornamental architecture, lush gardens, cascading water features and breathtaking views of the city.  The impressive complex is deservedly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Here are the 4 primary attractions (there are many more and all you have to is explore)

Alcazaba – This is the oldest part of Alhambra.  The ruins of this massive fortress sit atop the crest of a hill and provides the finest views of the entire city and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

View of Grenada from Alcazaba

Palace of Charles V – The most recent addition, this 16th century building was commissioned following the Reconquista by Charles as a royal residence close to the Alhambra Palace.  It has an impressive circular courtyard and 2 museums inside.

Palace of Charles V

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Diverse cultures leave their mark on Cordoba

Although tourists set their sights on Seville, Granada or Madrid when they think about visiting Spain, it would be a mistake not to go to Cordoba.  

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristiano

Cordoba is the only city in the world with four protected UNESCO sites. It is one of the few places in Europe where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together relatively peacefully. It is the home of the largest mosque in the world which co-exists with a cathedral. It was an important Roman city as well as a major Islamic center. It was the largest economic and culture center in the Western world. 

In southern Spain, Cordoba is a fabulous place to visit in spring or autumn. In the summer, temperatures can reach 100 or higher making sightseeing difficult. 

At GetAway Travel we can arrange your trip to Cordoba and some of the surrounding cities and make sure you have tickets to the bull-fighting museum and/or Cordoba’s month-long flower festival. 

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Granada, Spain retains Moorish influences

Located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Granada was the last stronghold of Moorish royalty who escaped to the area to avoid enemies, but in gentler times escaped to the area to avoid the summer heat. 

 If you are interested in avoiding the heat, or gravitating to warmer climes when the weather turns cold, GetAway Travel can help you plan that perfect trip. Granada has some stunning examples of medieval architecture, you can indulge in tapas and Sierra Nevada Park has Europe’s most southern ski resort. 

 Citadel, palaces reflect historic legacy 

 Between 1248 and 1354, during the occupation of Spain, Muslim kings left their mark on the area. Their citadels, or fortresses, were built on high ground to allow them to surveil the cities. When Catholic monarchs drove the Moors out, many palaces and mosques were demolished and new buildings erected on their foundations.  

 Alhambra, or Red Castle, is renowned for its Islamic legacy even though some of the palace had been revamped by the monarchs. 

 It is actually a compound with several palaces. Some wings of the original palace were torn down and a church was built on the site of the original mosque. There are two museums on the grounds. 

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Southern Spain off-season with our Grandson

What better high school graduation gift could there be then a trip to Europe with your grandparents.  In January 2019 we took an amazing trip to Spain with our grandson Aiden.  As he was still in school we did not have unlimited time to spend and had to keep things tight.  We flew in and out of Madrid and spent all our time touring in the Andalusia region.  Even though it was January the weather was fairly mild and as a bonus we did not encounter crowds at any of the sites.  Unless your going for some beach time or just crave the heat, we highly recommend this off-season timing to others.

First stop Seville.  Highlights for us were tours of the Plaza de Toros (Game of Thrones), Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos once the home of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and horse carriage ride through the Plaza de España (Star Wars)

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The Mezquita

The biggest attraction in Córdoba was literally a 5 minute walk from our hotel.  The Mezquita is truly a must see building.  It’s a massive former mosque turned cathedral with an amazing forest of columns topped by red and white striped double arches that have seen over 1000 years of history.  It is not only the largest mosque in the world, but the largest temple in the world as well.   It occupies an area of over 250,000 square feet or almost 6 acres.

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The Mezquita with Red and White striped arches

The focal point in the prayer hall is the mihrab – which identifies the wall that faces Mecca

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the Mihrab

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the dome above the mihrab

 

Originally built in 786, the initial construction lasted for about 200 years.  After Córdoba was recaptured by King Ferdinand III in 1236, the mosque became used as a church.  Currently in the very middle of the Mezquita is a stunning Renaissance cathedral, which was built in the 1500’s.  Although some parts of the original column hall had been destroyed to make room for the cathedral – the building is still a remarkable and dazzling example of Moorish architecture.

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sun streaming in through stained glass

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the cathedral

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ceiling in the cathedral between the organ pipes

 

The Mezquita is certainly a signature attraction in Córdoba and visitors should plan on spending at least a half day to see everything.

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Our fun overcast day in Ronda, Spain

Well we didn’t have the greatest weather in Ronda, however the clouds stayed high enough and held in their rain fairly well so we could get some pretty decent photos.

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Ronda is an impressive town in the province of Málaga; an easy day trip from the Costa del Sol or for us a nice diversion on our car ride from Seville to Córdoba.  Ronda is built on and around a very deep gorge spanned by an extremely impressive bridge.

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Ronda was first settled by the early Celts, and later inhabited by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. The Moors left an indelible imprint in the city, which only fell to the Christian Reconquista in 1485. In more recent times, the town has hosted a number of well-known writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, & James Joyce.

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This large and incredible bridge over the Tajo gorge, is called Puento Neuvo finished in 1793, is Ronda’s principal attraction. The bridge is 230 feet long and 320 feet high, roughly equivalent to a 30-floor building.  It was built following the collapse of an earlier bridge from 1735; this bridge had a single arch of 115 feet but collapsed six years after construction, killing 50 people. There are beautiful views from here of the Natural Park -Sierra de Grazalema to the west – although this was a bit tough to see on the day we visited.

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Views of the gorge and surrounding countryside are amazing, but that was not all we saw in Ronda.  We went on a self guided tour of the very quaint Santa Maria la Mayor church (built on the ruins of an older mosque) -which has outstanding views of the town from the roof and is well worth a visit.

And we of course stopped for a wine tasting.  While not world class at this point – (maybe another 10 years…or so) it was certainly a lot of fun.

Unfortunately the 13th century Arab Baths in Ronda were closed during our visit which just means that we’ll have to see them on a return trip as they are considered to be the best example in Spain.

Córdoba Spain – Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Castle of the Christian Monarchs)

In January we took our oldest Grandson on a trip to southern Spain to celebrate his upcoming high school graduation.  Coming from the midwest US, most folks think of warm weather beach vacations during the winter.  We wanted to do something with more culture and history – southern Spain in January was a perfect choice.  Mild weather, no crowds, mostly sunshine, tons of extremely interesting history and culture – AND fantastic food.

There are so many things to blog about – but let’s start with some history in Córdoba.  Córdoba was originally a Roman settlement taken over by the Visigoths and then taken by Muslim armies in the eighth century.  The Caliphate of Córdoba encompassed most of the Iberian peninsula and was likely the largest city in Europe in the 10th century.  It was recaptured by Christian forces in 1236.

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No visit to Córdoba is complete without visiting the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral) and the Alcázar.  The amazing Mezquita will be the subject of an upcoming blog – for now let’s focus on the Alcázar.

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The Alcázar had been around for 200 years before the monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand used it for one of the first permanent tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition.  In addition it was the used as headquarters for the campaign against the last remaining (at that time) Moorish kingdom on the peninsula which was the Nasrids in Granada.  After about 10 years, their campaign succeeded in 1492 – the same year the monarchs met Christopher Columbus in the Alcázar as he prepared his first voyage to what we now know was the Americas.

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View of the extensive gardens

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One of many security cats that monitored our visit

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A visit to Southern Spain should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Please let us know if we can help make your travel dreams come true.

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San Sebastián Gastronomic Clubs

What first pops into your mind when you hear San Sebastián, Spain?  Is it the beautiful seaside beach or maybe the wonderful restaurant opportunities within this Basque city?  These two things after all are what why scores of people flock to visit this region of Spain – I mean just think about a day at the beach followed by an evening of the pintxos (small tapas like food available at almost every bar in San Sebastian) or dining at one of the 16 Michelin Star restaurants.  That alone makes me want to go back!

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Ah, but have you heard about the gastronomic clubs or societies?  In San Sebastian, these gastronomic clubs have been around since the 1800’s and today there are approximately 119 in existence in the city (over 600 in the entire Basque region).  These clubs were initially established as a place of refuge for men – a place for them to socialize and cook away from the women at home who were the “boss”.  Today, many of the clubs are still men only and it is not uncommon to find clubs with over 100 members.

To visit, you must have an invitation or be brought by a member.   Well visit I must – I just had to see what they were all about!  In September, I visited San Sebastián and made it a point to book a visit to Los Corcones gastronomic club.  This club has a professional chef (all clubs cook together, but not all have a member who is an actual chef) so I knew I was in for a treat.

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Together with 3 friends, we met the chef and started our walk-through Mercado de la Bretxa, the 150 year old market that was bursting with sights and smells you can only imagine.  Here Bendur, our chef went about choosing items that he would cook during our visit to his club.  He shared samples of his favorite ham and other specialties as we shopped.

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Then it was just a short walk until we arrived at what looked from the outside like any ordinary stone building – that was until he pointed out the club sign announcing our arrival.  The Sociedad Cultural Musical Benefica “Los Corcones”, with its 2-blue fish logo (and yes this club even has a band!).

As he opened the door, I was immediately in love with the quaint set of rooms and old country style kitchen (but with some heavy-duty ovens) and checkerboard tableclothes.  I could not wait for the gastronomical experience I was about to have.  He put us to work preparing the plate of tapas and pintxos – oh did you think this was a sit and be served sort of visit – heck NO! 6-20170911_055746

Up first was a sampling of Spanish cheese, olives, sausage and of course a sardine or two (enough food really for 20 people).  When the sampling began, we sat around a table and talked about his club, the food and the traditions…and somehow the 4 of us polished off a majority of that food.  We felt the pride he had for his country, his food and his club.  Now this is the way to really experience another countries culture.9-20170911_072455

Just when we thought we could not eat or drink anymore and the real cooking began!  We were served some traditional Basque seafood dishes and yes, I must say, they were tasty!   This visit to a private gastronomical club was one of the best foodie experiences I have ever had.  We left with a true understanding of the culture by way of not only the food but through the opportunity to dine with the chef.  It was a truly amazing experience which I encourage you to try.

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