Subject: Re: Travel in Spain
Etta, What a great adventure is in store for you. Spain is such a beautiful and large country and you have some tough choices to make. El Escorial itself, dating back to the mid 16th century, is an amazing place to visit.

With five days you will only dip your toes into the country so I suggest you choose a region and fly to it, as your time is limited. Madrid would easily absorb your five days and more. You would not be disappointed if you only spent your time there with a two-day trip to Toledo.

Alternatively, if you want a seaside experience, fly from Madrid to Barcelona, rent a car and drive down or up the coast. As I recall, the coastal areas to the north (Costa Brava) are somewhat rocky but I'm sure a Spanish Ziner can offer more details here. The Costa Brava is about 160 kilometres reaching to the Spain/France border.

Or you could fly to Alicante and explore the Costa Blanca. I would skip the Costa del Sol (Marbella/Malaga area). Too many tourists, high rise hotels, "English spoken here" etc. and it's too easy to stop in a pub for fish and chips.

The Balearic Islands (Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, Formentera - that's it I believe) are beautiful but might be too touristy if you're not in the mood. Save them for another visit.

Or you could fly into Sevilla, which is a beautiful place to be, and explore the surrounding area.

I spent six weeks in Spain on my first visit and three weeks the second time. As the Zine is a site for personal recommendations here's my bias. If this is your first visit to Spain and you don't want to spend time in transit, stay in Madrid and also visit Toledo. If you are willing to get on a plane, go to Barcelona and explore the coast or head to Pamplona and explore the Basque region.

If I was going back to Spain tomorrow, I'd spend a few days in Madrid with a visit each morning to the Prado, head to the Extremadura, an area in the interior of Spain that doesn't get many tourists and is one of the least known areas with its Roman, Moorish and Mediaeval influences, then fly to Alicante to relax.

Whatever area you choose, rent a car and explore the area around your location.

Be forewarned: temperatures in Spain can be very high in July. Even now the interior weather forecasts are for temperatures in the low 30s celsius and the thermometer can reach into the 40s during the summer months. We experienced 45 degrees celsius when were in the country. Didn't bother us though, we love the heat.

Have a great time. You will love Spain. Lucy, Toronto