My wife, daughter & I left for a vacation in Spain the day after work & school finished.  Our preparation consisted of booking flights, hotels and rent-a-cars.  Standard stuff for the seasoned traveler.

What we didn’t do was research places of interest, cultural specifics such as dining, language or common manners.  Our saving grace was the purchase of a couple of travel guide books including the Lonely Planet. (We read them on the plane.)  Add a little positive energy to these powerful travel digests and you’ve got a great holiday. 
Lonely Planet Travel Guides and Travel Information   http://www.lonelyplanet.com/
Everything we enjoyed in Spain is well documented in travel books and on the Web. If you’re going for the first time you might review the following list of “no brainers” and compare them to your sources.  These are our favorites:

-1-The Beautiful City of Caragena: Walking the Port, Roman Ruins and finishing with Lunch in the main square of Cartagena.   The warm January morning was perfect for a stroll along the Port, thru the town full of “rich Modernista Buildings” and finishing with lunch outside in the main square.  We loved the restored Roman Theatre, dating back to the 2nd Century AD.  Caveat: plenty of stairs to walk but worth it for the views.
Cartagena Roman Theatre Museum

-2-The Restaurant Cuines Santa Caterina in Barcelona:  The venue has a choice of a nice Tapas Bar or table seating.  Menus come in English and their simple matrix style allows for selections free of misunderstanding and stress.  Everything ordered was delicious and came quickly.  The recommended house wine was reasonably priced and suited the occasion very well. Our favorites were the Sea Food Paella, the Calamari with Vegetables and a Lamb Roast that cut with a fork. 

-3-The La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.  Everything you read and learn in documentaries can only understate a visit to this incredible Cathedral.  We found the following essential to a comfortable and enjoyable visit:  booking tickets on line to reserve a time to enter the Cathedral Grounds, a trip up to the top of a Tower by Elevator and the thrill of the walk down the tight & steep staircase, and the portable audio-guide that connected the history, science and economics of the Antoni Gaudi’s magical architecture and intricate façade.

Sagrada Familia                           http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/

-4-A Guided Tour of the Museo del Prado in Madrid: our knowledgeable art tour director Maria ran us thru 90 minutes with Goya, Velazquez, El Greco and other European Masters.  She made it understandable and fun for our 9 year old daughter while directing us thru a maze of hallways.  After this education we walked 20 minutes to the “Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia to see Pablo Picasso’s Master Piece; Guernica, 1937. 
Museo Nacional Del Prado        http://www.museodelprado.es/en/

-5-Running along the Beach as the first Sun Rise of 2012 brightens the Mediterranean.  Joggers starting the first morning early are in good company as many people enjoyed finishing their New Year’s Celebration by the Sea Side.  Barcelona is an exciting city by night and the Skyline is beautiful in the morning.

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