I decided where we would visit on our trip over Christmas and New Year's based on lists of cities with the best Christmas markets, the dates of said markets, and the proximity of those cities to one another. Since we'd already decided to start in Munich (reasonable airfares from Madrid, lots to see and do, etc), Salzburg seemed like an easy next choice, especially since Danny had been dying to get there so we could do the Sound of Music tour.
Guadalupe was our last stop on our long-weekend road trip through Extremadura this past May. It's a tiny little town of about 2,000 people, and if I'm not mistaken, the primary reason it gets visitors is because of it's UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, or Royal Monastery of Santa María of Guadalupe. The only way to visit the 14th-century monastery is by taking a guided tour (available in Spanish only)...something we weren't necessarily stoked about doing, but we were willing to put our Spanish to the test in order to get farther than the lobby.
Inadvertently, we saved one of the most picturesque cities with a fairy-tale like fortification as the final stop on our road trip around southern France. We visited Nîmes in the morning, drove a few hours to Carcassonne, and then drove a couple more to return our trusty rental car and fly from Toulouse back to Madridas we ended what turned out to be a diverse, beautiful, long, and really special trip.
Over Semana Santa (Holy Week, or the Spanish equivalent of an American Spring break), we flew from Madrid to Toulouse for a road trip around southern France. Before we picked up our rental car and set off on our grand adventure, though, we spent a day exploring France's fourth-largest city. To be honest, I'd never really heard of Toulouse before searching for flights during the planning stages of our trip, and figured since that was the case, well, there must not be much there. I can assure you, even after spending only about 24 hours in the city, I couldn't have been more wrong.
At the end of January we took a quick (think 45 minutes) Iberia Express flight from Madrid to Sevilla for a long weekend. Whether by plane or by train (although I'd say if you can get a train deal - do it!), Sevilla is the perfect weekend getaway from Madrid. Compared to bustling Madrid, Sevilla felt peaceful and relaxing to me, although it's no village with a population of nearly 700,000. We found great food, sunshine, perfect weather (in January, no less!), a very walkable city, and a manageable amount of sites for a weekend getaway.
We took our second day trip on Malta from our resort in Golden Bay to the capital of the island, Valletta. Valletta was established in the 1500s and today the historical city has a population of only about 6,000, but the metropolitan area is closer to 400,000. Valletta is the southernmost capital of Europe, and in 1980 it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.