Nav­i­gat­ing new sights and cui­sine in the Old World

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - Our read­ers share tales of their ram­bles around the world. To tell us about your own trip, go to www.wash­ing­ton­post.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fond­est mem­o­ries, finest mo­ments and fa­vorite photos.

Who: Jean Lun­ing-John­son (the au­thor) and hus­band Pa­trick John­son from McLean.

Where, when, why: We spent three weeks in Spain, mostly in the south, last month. We were cel­e­brat­ing an empty nest — our youngest child had just started col­lege. High­lights and high points: Mod­ernista ar­chi­tec­ture in Barcelona was a rev­e­la­tion to us. We vis­ited sev­eral places de­signed by An­toni Gaudí, in­clud­ing the still-un­fin­ished Sagrada Fa­milia. We were also wowed by the Palace of Cata­lan Mu­sic de­signed by Lluís Domènech iMon­taner, one of Gaudí’s pro­fes­sors.

Cul­tural con­nec­tion or

dis­con­nect: On a whim, we were able to or­ga­nize a cook­ing class at the Ritz in Madrid. It was just Pa­trick and me with Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Jorge Gon­za­lez and his able as­sis­tant. We spent sev­eral hours in the Ritz kitchen learn­ing to pre­pare salmorejo (sim­i­lar to gaz­pa­cho), Span­ish omelet and oc­to­pus. We also tried our hand at the fine art of slic­ing Iberico ham. Jorge was a fab­u­lous teacher, gen­er­ous with his time and knowl­edge of Span­ish cui­sine. What we learned helped us through­out the rest of the trip.

Big­gest laugh or cry: We rented a car and brought a GPS de­vice with us from home. The GPS was sev­eral years old, so we would also check the route us­ing Google Maps be­fore set­ting out. Sev­eral times the GPS showed us off-road or fly­ing through space and would con­tin­u­ally chant “Re­cal­cu­lat­ing, re­cal­cu­lat­ing.”

How un­ex­pected: We knew the Al­ham­bra palace and fortress in Granada was a ma­jor tourist draw, but we were un­pre­pared for the masses. We were stay­ing on the grounds of the Al­ham­bra and had to get our car to the ho­tel to un­load and then drive it down to the car park through hun­dreds of peo­ple. It was nerve-rack­ing. Pat was grum­bling that we should have skipped the whole thing un­til the next day when we vis­ited the palace and gar­dens. It truly was breath­tak­ing. A thun­der­storm started part­way through, and we felt trans­ported back 1,000 years. It was here that Christo­pher Colum­bus ap­par­ently per­suaded Queen Is­abella to fund his voy­age to the New World. Fond­est me­mento or mem­ory: Spain has so much more to of­fer than we ever re­al­ized. Be­sides in­cred­i­bly kind and help­ful peo­ple ev­ery­where we stayed, the coun­try is brim­ming with amaz­ing art, cathe­drals and palaces. We put miles and miles on our Fit­bits try­ing to get to it all.

JEAN LUN­ING-JOHN­SON

Cel­e­brat­ing their new empty-nest life, Pa­trick John­son and Jean Lun­ing-John­son ven­tured to Spain, in­clud­ing Seville’s Plaza de Es­paña city square, above, a film­ing lo­ca­tion for “StarWars.”

FAM­ILY PHOTO

Wife and hus­band duo Jean Lun­ingJohn­son and Pa­trick John­son hold cer­tifi­cates from Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Jorge Gon­za­lez af­ter com­plet­ing his cook­ing course at the Ritz in­Madrid. They took home tech­niques for pre­par­ing salmorejo, Iberico ham and even oc­to­pus.

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