I had previously been to Spain fifty years ago and never to Portugal so it was time to revisit Iberia. During my 1969 visit with three friends to Spain, we enjoyed touring San Sebastian and Bilbao in the heavily Basque north, but disliked secret service men in trench coats and hats in Madrid getting in our faces and demanding that we get off the streets at 10 PM and return to our hotel.

The next morning, our group jumped a train to Malaga to catch a ferry to Tangier, Morocco, then on the way back to Malaga, headed to Barcelona by train for a three-hour stopover while transferring to another train bound for Rome, Italy. For fifty years, I’d hungered to return and experience modern Spain and Portugal and was finally doing it.

My friend John Allen of St. Simons Island and I started our trip in Barcelona, one of seven great destination cities in twelve days and enjoyed a wonderful geographic, gastronomic, and cultural experience.

Itinerary: Date, location, hotel / travel, # days

I discovered this Barcelona painted tile mural of a historical map of Iberia while walking along the beach. Barcelona is located in Spain’s far northeastern corner.

Travel agent and dear friend Myrna Cohen, working with GOGO Tours, organized a great trip. The hotels were first class and all of their locations primarily in the hearts of cities that we intended to explore.

One of our favorites was the Hotel Faro located in the heart of the waterfront of the Algarve’s largest and most important city. Their roof top restaurant provided great views of the marina and city and even better food and service.

We rode Spain’s high-speed (170 mph) Talgo inter-city trains from Barcelona to Madrid and on down to Granada and Malaga where we picked up a car to drive to Faro, Lisbon, and Porto. In Malaga, Europe Auto provided us an Audi Q2 diesel SUV and outstanding service overall.

The weather was beautiful, the time of year delightful, and the people simply wonderful to us. The Spanish and Portuguese peoples patiently helped us with directions, served us terrific food in their restaurants, and were gracious to us in their hotels and streets.

The unrest in Barcelona caused by the Spanish Supreme Courts sentencing of nine Catalan secessionist leaders for nine to thirteen years occurred at the end of our tour and did not affect us. I did however capture an image of the nationalist fervor of the Catalan independence movement, the hanging of iconic flags and ribbons from their apartment’s front windows.

Iberian Odyssey Part 2 will focus on fabulous Barcelona located in the rebellious Catalan region that is demanding the right of national self-determination to secede from Spain and become the independent nation of Catalonia.

Map of Spain’s regions and location of Catalonia