In 1469 Isabella I of Castile married Ferdinand II of Aragon and set into motion a fascinating chain of events. Their marriage brought together two of the largest kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula and this unification is seen as the basis for “Spain” as we know it today. The “Catholic Monarchs,” a title bestowed on them by Pope Alexander VI in 1494, initiated the Spanish Inquisition, defeated the last Muslim empire in Western Europe, and authorized the expedition of Christopher Columbus to the New World. Reverence — or at least reference — to these two figures is seen repeatedly in cathedrals, statues, parks, and street names, etc all over Spain.
There is more to Spain than bricks and the stories they tell, but I’ll leave that to Lonely Planet et al. Here are a few of my highlights from ten days of driving around Madrid and south-western Spain.