Madrid was fast and furious. We stayed for only two days and one night, but in that short amount of time we figured out their subway system, which was a first for me. It was quite a feat: we had to figure out how to buy tickets, then go cash some more traveler's checks to pay for them, then figure out where we wanted to go in the city and then find the right train to take, and then actually board it and then get off at the right time). We traipsed around town quite a bit, and it was fun to see Madrid's beautiful plazas full of Spanish women in fur coats and dour faces walking arm-in-arm, and groups of men enjoying coffee and churros on every corner. Since it was Christmastime, the city was decked out in lights and "Feliz Navidad's."

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Though not originally in our plans (almost nothing is, it seems), we visited the Prado Art Museum, which houses a very prestigious lineup of artists' works. This turned out to be a very fortuitous event, since not only was entrance fee to the museum free that day, but we were lucky to see a special exhibition of Rubens. Fascinating (and sometimes weirdly fascinating) stuff.

We hopped a bus for Granada the next day, ambling through countryside filled with olive trees and grapevines. Ah, Granada … now there's a place that feels like home. Small town with narrow cobblestone streets winding circuitously through neighborhoods and around ornate cathedrals and fountain-filled plazas, bakeries and cafés on every corner, and to our delight: supermercados, and oh yes … olives. Drives me wild.

And then there's the Alhambra. Even if I didn't have a past life there, I'm going to lie and say I did, because if ever there were a beautiful place, this is it. I drooled over the exquisite Moorish architecture of the castles and breathed in the views from atop the mountain they were built on.
The peacefulness and grace incorporated into every aspect of the Alhambra is remarkable, and even though we were there in the winter and the flowers were not in bloom, the gardens touched me with their beauty.
Creative and masterful use of water in fountains, reflecting pools, baths and aqueducts amazed me at every turn. Yes, I believe I really was a princess living at the Alhambra in the 13th Century. Would I make something like that up?

More pictures of the Alhambra