Subject: Spain Travelogue-Preface
I would like to preface this travelogue with a short explanation for our choice of Spain. We generally make several ski trips each winter (my favorite recreation choice, just tolerable for my wife Sara). Last season I noticed that a national air consolidator was offering rt fares to western Europe at prices comparable to flights into Colorado mountain towns. Although I was unable to use this particular consolidator (the dates of travel were incompatible by a day or two) I was able to purchase two rt tickets from San Diego to Madrid through an auction at Our total rt fare on Continental came to $450 ea. About $100 more than it would cost to fly into Telluride or Steamboat Springs.

Of course, this trip would not be confined to just skiing. I studied Spanish in school earning a BA at San Diego State. Additionally, I have worked with Mexicans, in the restaurant and construction industries, my whole adult life. And, we have traveled extensively throughout Mexico. I am fluent in Spanish but had never visited the madre patria, the mother country. After having visited Eastern Europe in 1997 I had sworn that my next visit to Europe would be to Spain. After all, I had spent a significant portion of my upper education studying its culture. Once I agreed to limit the skiing and focus the first half of the trip on Barcelona Sara was more than happy to agree on this choice. A great fan of architecture (in particular, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Secessionism, &Modernisme) she was intrigued by what Barcelona offered.

Realizing that Spain was far too large and diverse a country for a single visit I decided we should focus on one region. Already having Barcelona and skiing as areas of concentration we threw in another longstanding interest#the Basque Country. So, our travel constraints were outlined; we'd be keeping close to the Pyrenees from Barcelona and the Costa Brava northwest to the Basque Country. During my research I saw a photo of the fortified medieval city of Carcassone in Languedoc-Roussillon and thought perhaps we could take a side trip into France and cross back into Spain over one of the many Pyrennean passes. Adding Madrid as our gateway into and out of the country our itinerary was set.

Obviously an automobile would be absolutely necessary for this trip. I chose AutoEurope booking our rental on-line. The cost for a seven day rental came to $136. Avis was the agency we actually rented the car from, AutoEurope apparently working as a brokerage. We decided we would not need the car to transit from Madrid to Barcelona nor from Bilbao to Madrid thinking we would use the train (although this didn't turn out to be quite true).

We opted not to make any prior bookings (with the exception of the car &airfare) and let our itinerary be completely open. I did alot of research using my local library (from which I brought two guidebooks), the Internet, the Travelzine (you guys were the best), Andorra, French, and Spanish tourism agencies, and guidebooks and maps I purchased (the majority from used book stores).

The guidebooks taken were: Eyewitness Spain, TimeOut Barcelona Guide, Rough Guide's Pyrenees, Blue Guide's Madrid, Michelin's Green Languedoc-Roussillon Tarn Gorges, The Garden Lover's Guide to Spain &Portugal, Let's Go Madrid Map Guide, Michelin's Spain Map #990, and Michelin's Midi-Pyrenees Map #235. Additionally, I had printed several pages from Travelzine suggestions and other Internet sites (such as train schedules from RENFE, Spanish train system; and suggestions on dining in Barcelona &Madrid). Also, some maps and literature culled from the documents received from the various national tourist agencies. All of it came in handy but was bulky. I opted to bring this much due to the fact we'd have the car for the majority of the trip so space wouldn't be a factor.

Our luggage consisted of a convertible travel backpack for each of us. Additionally, I brought another day pack. We also brought a soft bag in our backpacks to fill with souvenirs. All of this easily made it into the carry-on compartments in the plane. On the way back my travel pack was checked and I carried the souvenirs on board with me.

So there you have it. We're ready to go. I'll be writing this over the next few weeks. I'll try and upload two pictures from each day of our trip to the Travelzine Files.

Now that I've got you all hanging I'm going to take the weekend off and work in my garden. We've got gorgeous Spring weather here in San Diego and I'm going to go enjoy it. John Rule San Diego, CA