Tomes can be written about the rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s primary cities. Blood has been spilled, friends turned to enemies and bitterness drawn out for decades. And that’s just on the soccer pitch. Madrid was the seat of power as a newly unified Spain built one of the most powerful empires the world has ever seen in the 16th century. Barcelona, meanwhile, grew as an industrial power and capital of Catalonia, a prosperous region with a fierce independent streak.
Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between them. In Madrid, you can see many of Europe’s greatest works of art at the Museo del Prado, stroll through the Plaza Mayor and head on a day trip to the well-preserved “city of three cultures,” Toledo. In Barcelona, you can marvel at the architecture of Antoni Gaudi, stroll the major thoroughfare of La Rambla and explore the well-preserved Gothic Quarter. If you’re heading out on a Mediterranean cruise, there’s a good chance you’re leaving from Barcelona, which is also the gateway to the Balearic islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza. Go at the right time — and get your tickets well in advance — and you can view one of the great spectacles in sport, El Clasico between soccer powers Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
Though the two major cities are well worth a visit, they’re just the beginning of the wonders of Spain. In the Basque Country on the northern coast, an enchanting combination of beautiful beaches and Michelin-starred restaurants makes San Sebastian a must-visit. While you’re up there, check out the spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Inland from those gems is the Rioja wine region. Anyone who’s walked the Camino de Santiago can tell tales of the beauty of northern Spain. In the west, along the Portuguese border are the sparsely populated but historically rich Castile & Leon and the hardscrabble Extremadura, birthplace of many conquistadors.
Andalusia spans the southern coast where the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet and Africa nearly meets Europe. The historic cities of Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba and Granada are rich in culture and architecture, while Malaga, Marbella and the rest of the Costa del Sol are renowned for their beaches. Work your way up the east coast and you’ll come to Valencia, whose contributions include L’Oceanogràfic — Europe’s largest aquarium — and paella. While many regions compete for your visit, whatever taste of Spain you choose is sure to be a good one.
COVID entry protocols: Americans can travel to Spain if they have completed their vaccination schedule at least 14 days before traveling. Vaccination certificates issued in Spanish or English will be accepted, on paper. Unvaccinated children from the same family unit under 12 may enter without having to present proof of a Covid-19 test or vaccine. All passengers arriving in Spain by air or sea, including those in transit and those under 6 years of age, must complete a health control form before departure through the https://www.spth.gob.es/ website or the Spain Travel Health app. The completion of the form generates an individualized QR code that the traveler must present to the transport companies before boarding, as well as at the sanitary controls at the point of entry to Spain.
Where to stay
Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid
For 110 years, Mandarin Oriental Ritz has been rolling out the red carpet for the likes of celebrities, politicians, and royalty. Following a highly anticipated and extensive restoration, the hotel will be doing so once again in extravagant style. Picture top-of-the-line spa updates including multi-sensory showers and a vitality pool, room and suite makeovers by renowned French designers Gilles & Boissier, and a completely reimagined dining experience with Michelin-starred chef Quique Dacosta at the helm.
Hotel Arts Barcelona
A dazzling display of contemporary architecture, Hotel Arts Barcelona (operated by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company) is renowned the world over for its impeccable service and lavish accommodations, including 28 duplex penthouses. The penthouses are located on the top floors of the hotel and offer butler service and use of a MINI Cooper. The hotel has an exclusive spa, 43 The Spa, located on the 43rd floor. Visit the terraced gardens, infinity-edge pool, family pool, the stunning collection of Spanish art, or the five restaurants – including the acclaimed two-Michelin-starred Enoteca Paco Pérez, with a wine cellar topping 700 labels.
Hotel Alfonso XIII, Seville
Hotel Alfonso XIII reclaims its place among Europe’s grandest hotels. The 148 guest rooms and suites have custom furnishings and a fusion of Moorish, Andalusian, and Castilian styles. Original marble floors and handpainted ceramic tiles sparkle in the refurbished lobby and common areas; the popular Bar Americano has been redesigned with a hip art deco flair. Sip tea in the tranquil courtyard, stroll the lovely gardens, or relax by the swimming pool before dining at Restaurante Ena.
Richard Branson’s latest dreamscape, Son Bunyola, is worth the splurge. Three spacious, traditional Balearic villas (one has five bedrooms, the others four) lie sprawled across 680 acres on Mallorca’s northwest coast. Each has its own heated pool, sleek kitchen, and courtyard with dining area, although Son Balagueret – housing a bedroom in the original 13th-century turret – has its own magic. The lush estate includes vineyards, olive groves, and citrus orchards; you can walk to the beach, hike and bike on miles of mountain trails, or play some of the island’s almost two dozen golf courses.
Hope you are well. Are you longing for an expedition adventure while still enjoying the aesthetic and comfort of a beautiful small ship that offers fine French cuisine? If so, Ponant, a luxury yacht expedition company that sails around all continents is a great fit for you.
Here in this video, I am with Dale Woods, Director of Business Development in the Northeast for Ponant. He explains why Ponant is unique and tells us some of the places they sail on their Smithsonian Journeys.
Each announcement of a border reopening or removal of quarantine requirements comes with a feeling of euphoria about international travel resuming and the world once again being open to us. Last week was a very good week in that regard.
Italy announced that American leisure travelers can enter without quarantine if they travel on special COVID-tested flights. Italy is perennially one of the most popular destinations for Americans, with more than 3 million visiting in 2019. And what’s not to love? There’s the great cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice. There’s the beautiful regions of the lake country, Tuscany, and Puglia. There are breathtaking coastal areas such as Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. There are the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Capri, and so many others. Pizza, pasta, seafood, all our favorites. And the wine!
The special flights are on Delta, flying to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, Milan’s Malpensa, Naples’ Capodichino, and Venice’s Marco Polo out of select U.S. cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (JFK and Newark Liberty), Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. Be aware that not every nonstop between these cities is one of the COVID-tested flights, so check with your travel advisor.
The good news kept coming when Spain announced that starting June 7 fully vaccinated (14 days after final dose) travelers are welcome with proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated minors who belong to the same family unit as the vaccinated adults traveling to Spain will be required to show proof of a negative COVID test performed at least 72 hours prior to arrival. Children under 6 will not be required to show a negative COVID test. Upon arrival, travelers will no longer be asked to quarantine.
While dates haven’t been announced yet, Italy, Spain and the other members of the European Union have agreed to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the 27-nation bloc without quarantine or testing requirements. Indications are it could be as soon as June, so your summer European holiday might happen after all. A digital vaccination certificate system is in the works and should be ready by the end of June. Some river cruises are getting set to resume in July for vaccinated passengers. With so much pent-up demand, space will be at a premium, so contact your travel advisor to start planning.
Closer to home, Congress passed a bill that will allow foreign-flagged ships to cruise between Washington State and Alaska without a stop in Canada. This could allow bigger and more ships to have an Alaska cruise season this summer. The Alaska Tourism Restoration Act temporarily suspends the 135-year-old Passenger Vessel Services Act that requires foreign-flagged ships sailing between U.S. ports to stop in a foreign country. Canada has banned cruises from the U.S. through February. Cruises must still meet CDC guidelines to resume, but some lines are reopening sales for August and September and there’s real hope for an abbreviated Alaska cruise season.
We love delivering good news, so we’ll keep you posted as more comes in.
This year’s graduating students have gone through challenges generations of students before them didn’t have to deal with. It’s not just getting the grades, passing the tests and writing the papers. It’s navigating the ins and outs of remote learning, trying to learn in-person safely and negotiating a hybrid version of both. It’s been tough, and those diplomas and degrees are especially hard-earned.
The best gift you can give them is the opportunity to get away from all that stress and get out into the world. Travel was already the perfect mind-expanding experience for young graduates preparing to take on the world. Now it’s the thing that can get them out and about after a long period of isolation and lack of socialization. You’ve probably been telling them all their lives to get off their screens and go outside. Now’s your chance to help them have some in-person experiences instead of virtual ones.
As Robin Williams’ character said in “Good Will Hunting,” “Michelangelo? You know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations. Him and the pope. Sexual orientation. The whole works, right? I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.” Experience is the greatest teacher in life. So give the graduate in your life the Gift of Travel.
Our Travel Dreaming gift boxes are a way to give the Gift of Travel with a customized gift certificate for future travel and any materials on specific destinations and experiences you would like to add. As a special thank you, we will also include some of our curated travel items so you and your loved ones can experience your next getaway to its fullest potential.
Giving the Gift of Travel options:
1) Personalized Travel Planning – $250*
This option allows you to purchase four hours of personalized travel planning services, including the following:
15-Minute initial trip consultation
Use of the Wanderlist interest & destination platform
Research of destinations
Flight suggestions and planning
Transport logistics: planes, trains, car, ferry, subway, etc.
Trip insurance recommendations
Travel health review
Currency and banking preparations
Cell phone recommendations when traveling internationally
Packing lists and tips to prepare
Passport & Visa information
Trip financing and payment recommendations
Personalized travel planning certificate
* Note that this option includes travel planning for up to four hours, which is the average time needed for planning a trip. For itineraries that require more extensive travel planning, such as multi-city itineraries, recipients can upgrade the package at the time of planning. This upgrade will always be discussed in advance of travel planning.
2) Personalized travel planning with travel certificate add-ons
Personalized travel planning with a travel gift certificate – $250 plus the value of the travel certificate with a value of your choice, which can be used toward any type of travel.
Personalized travel planning with a specific trip or group departure – $250 plus the cost of the trip booked.
Custom Gift of Travel gift boxes
Once you have selected which option best suits your needs we will begin putting together a personalized gift box that includes a customized gift certificate for future travel as well as any other type of materials on trip specific destinations and experiences you would like to add. As a special thank you we will also include some of our own curated travel items to help you and your loved ones experience your next getaway to its fullest potential.
Have some additional questions, or ready to give the Gift of Travel? Contact Stefany Di Manno Ceccato, Co-Founder/Dream Travel Designer at DMC Travel Tailor and she can get started planning the perfect option for you.
Are you looking for a mix of a retreat like setting not far from a big city? If so, you will love Cavallo Point.
Cavallo Point, the Lodge at Golden Gate is an award-winning luxury Virtuoso resort located on 45 acres of land in a natural setting in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area with amazing views of the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco Bay. The 142-room (68 historic/74 contemporary) hotel was named the #1 Best Hotel in the San Francisco Bay Area by Travel + Leisure and is known as a culinary destination with its cooking school and Murray Circle restaurant. For families, this summer they are having Camp Cavallo, a kid’s program where children can have their own fun.
They are offering a Third Night Free Promotion valid through December 31, 2021. When booking with me, you will also get these Virtuoso amenities:
Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Daily full breakfast for two guests per bedroom
$100 USD Resort/Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay
Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
There is plenty to do here on and or off property- yoga, spa treatments, hiking, biking, sailing, shopping and or exploring San Francisco city! For questions please contact Stefany at: firstname.lastname@example.org and or email@example.com.