EUR OPE

Via rail, immersing in Spain’s culture
By Matthew Wexler

Direct flights from the U.S. to
Madrid on Iberia, Air Europe, Delta or American will put visitors at
the country’s epicenter, and a quick
transfer to the Madrid Atocha Train
Station is the launching pad for a
handful of lesser-known cities that
offer insights into the country’s rich
cultural heritage.

Seville
The high-speed train from Madrid to Seville transports passengers to the heart of this Moorishinfluenced city in just over two
hours, less than half the time it
would take by car.
Once there, be sure to visit the
Royal Alcazar of Seville (www
.alcazarsevilla.org). The site of the
marriage of Charles V to Isabella of
Portugal, the stunning compound
features design details ranging from
the Arabic period through the 19th
century.
Adjacent to the Alcazar is the
Seville Cathedral (www.catedral
desevilla.es). Built as a mosque in
the 12th century, the ornate place

of worship was converted to a
church in 1248 when Ferdinand III
conquered the city.
After a day of admiring Seville’s
sights, dine and take in a dynamic
flamenco performance at Tablao
el Arenal (www.tablaoelarenal
.com), as well as the passionate
sounds and movement of this
time-honored tradition.

Cordoba
Nestled along the Guadalquivir
River, Cordoba glows at night, illuminated by the Great Mosque
of Cordoba (www.catedraldecor
doba.es). One of Spain’s grandest examples of Muslim art, the
mosque was converted to a cathedral upon the Christian conquest
in 1523. A night tour is perhaps the
most dramatic way to take in the
majestic surroundings.
To fill your day, Cordoba’s streets
are dotted with shops featuring
local artisans. Be on the lookout
for innovatively designed leather
goods by Curpay Studios or other handcrafted items within the

A view of the city of Malaga and harbor from Gibralfaro. Inset: The firstclass interior of the AVE high-speed
train from Madrid to Seville.

Malaga
Head south to take in the glorious vistas of this coastal town that
resides on the northern side of the
Alboran Sea. While visitors might
be tempted to stroll along the
city’s beach, Playa de la Malagueta, true beauty can also be found
indoors. Malaga was the birthplace
of Pablo Picasso, and some of the

PHOTO BY MATTHEW WEXLER

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.

Make the most of your European vacation with
Central Holidays, and encounter countries
brimming with beauty and grandeur for
which they are famous.

(5) Istanbul

Tuscany

travel throughout Spain and can also assist with hotels, attractions
and even car rental if you want to go off the beaten path. Support
is available via webinars, in-house training, live chat and phone to
ensure the best possible options for booking.
• City Sightseeing Tours (www.city-sightseeing.com) may seem like a
cliche choice for getting around town, but these centuries-old cities
are filled with winding streets that can easily frustrate a newcomer. The
hop-on/hop-off buses are a convenient shuttle
between key points and leave plenty of time to explore specific areas within each destination.
• If you’re looking for an authentic Andalusianinspired day trip, head into the mountains for
a visit to Yeguada Torrehermosa (www.torre
hermosa.com). This fourth-generation, familyrun horse farm breeds and sells what is known
throughout the equestrian world as the “horse
The Yeguada Torrehermosa of kings.” You’ll feel like royalty after a prifarm breeds the “horse of vate showing, lunch and flowing wine. Private
groups only, by reservation.
kings.”
• Throughout Andalusia, it’s not so much
where you eat but how you eat. Cafes and bodegas abound, each
serving its take on Spanish tapas. Eat like the locals and enjoy anchovies either filleted and drizzled with olive oil or fried and served
with a squeeze of lemon. Octopus with paprika oil appears on most
menus, and with good reason. Iberian ham, shaved to order, is a
salty, textural treat and can even be found in vending machines and
train station kiosks. Fried padron peppers offer a mild kick of heat,
while salmorejo riffs on gazpacho with a cool, garlicky puree of tomato, bread and olive oil, often garnished with hard-boiled egg and,
if you’re lucky, crispy bits of that famous ham.
— M.W.

T R A V E L W E E K L Y

The Best of Europe

6 Days from $594

• Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com) is a one-stop shop for train

.

tumbrismo (paintings of everyday
life) and late 19th century works.
Do as the Spaniards do after a long
day and settle in for a glass of wine
and tapas at El Pimpi (www.elpim
pi.com), a bodega that welcomes
tourists and locals alike.

When in Istanbul

Authentic attractions

W W W

artist’s most personal works
are on exhibit at the Museo
Picasso Malaga (www
.museopicassomalaga
ght
.org). The collection spans eight
osed
decades, with galleries composed
useo
thematically. A visit to the Museo
Carmen Thyssen Malaga (www
.carmenthyssenmalaga.org),
housed in a 16th century city palace, reflects the wide-ranging scope
of works from the Old Masters as
well as naturalistic landscapes, cos-

Cordoba Bazaar (www.artesania
decordoba.com).

PHOTO BY MATTHEW WEXLER

F

or the adventurous traveler with a penchant for history, architecture and art, there is no better way to
traverse Spain than by rail.

6 Days

from

$611

(2) Montecatini Terme • (3) Siena

When in Paris
6 Days

from

$616

(5) Paris

Portugal’s Lisbon & Algarve
7 Days

from

$633

(3) Lisbon • (3) Algarve

When in Dubrovnik
6 Days

from

$683

(5) Dubrovnik

Highlights of Greece
7 Days

from

$787

(3) Athens • (3) Cruise

When in Barcelona
6 Days

from

$863

(5) Barcelona
Conditions: Prices are per person, land only based on double room
occupancy. Additional restrictions may apply.

Call 800.720.6716
Visit www.centralholidays.com

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