SPAIN & PORTUGAL - June, 2017

A CULTURAL AND CULINARY ADVENTURE

Lisbon, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville, Granada, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, and more. tour videos

Look at our photo albums from previous trips

Our customized tour will bring you to some of the most interesting and beautiful places in Spain and Portugal, with a leisurely pace that enables you to get the most out of the experience; your accommodations have been selected on the basis of character, comfort, and convenient locations. A professional bilingual local guide in each destination will unveil its culture, history, and character.  We have carefully chosen our itinerary of the Iberian Peninsula so that you will experience a variety of cultural highlights, ranging from the romance of Sintra, the medieval towns of Segovia and Toledo, the Moorish centers of Andalusia, the Mediterranean flavor of Barcelona, the Basque country and the sophisticated culture of Madrid, and Lisbon. You will see a wide range of high and popular architecture, and visit some of Europe’s most impressive art museums and historical landmarks, and along the way enjoy the social and culinary achievements of this remarkable European peninsula.  Price to be announced (international air transportation not included).

Arrive in Lisbon. Afternoon at leisure.

lisbon cascais Lisbon tram

LISBON

LISBON
We begin our grand tour in this charming old capital of Portugal. The center of Lisbon is an ideal place for strolling, people watching, shopping, and eating. This is one of the earliest and best examples of town planning, for Lisbon was completely re-built after the city was destroyed in a massive earthquake 200 years ago. The resulting comprehensive design created one of the most pleasing and pretty cities in the world.
There are many historic landmarks that survived the quake, including the fortress of Saint George overlooking the town, and the medieval hillside Alfama district, with its winding pedestrian alleys and friendly residents. This afternoon we enjoy a visit to the monuments built to the memory of the great Portuguese sea adventure along the river Tagus, visiting, the Belem Tower, and the Jeronimos Monastery, with its mix of gothic and baroque architectural elements; built with money gotten in the profitable India trade, is one of the most outstanding example of Manuelin style, an elaborately ornamented architecture embellished with natural and nautical motifs. (B, L)

sintra LISBON - SINTRA - LISBON
Today’s full day sightseeing will take us to the outskirts of Lisbon where we visit the Rococo Palace of Queluz, the summer residence of Portuguese royalty, built in 1747, with rich interior gilded decorations, and beautifully laid formal gardens. Next we visit the Medieval Palace of Sintra, and return to Lisbon via the coastal villages of Cascais and Estoril which are famous for their pleasant weather and for the nobility of past residents, including deposed kings, queens and other aristocratic types who found in the Portuguese shores a friendly home. (B) barcelona marina

BARCELONA

LISBON – BARCELONA (La Merce)
Flight to Barcelona. Transfer to your hotel. This afternoon we will enjoy a tour of the old city, including the fabulous Ramblas, the main pedestrian shopping zone where people love to stroll and show off their stuff - where the “paseo” reaches its absolute zenith in an entertaining display of chic fashion and style. This cutting edge modernity contrasts beautifully with the medieval atmosphere of the Gothic Quarter, which we will explore on foot.
Barcelona La Merce Festival, lasts for around 5 days and is a festival held in honor of Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona.  The festival, which officially first took place in 1902, bids goodbye to the summer with a bang and welcomes in the cooler months of autumn. There are hundreds of activities that will be occurring in the Merce Festival, The streets will be filled with events, parades, fire runs (Correfoc) - and people! Lunch today will bring the Catalan cuisine to our palate’s attention.  Rest of the day free to enjoy the La Merce Festival.  (B,L)

barcelona ramblas


Today’s sightseeing will take us to visit some of the main works of the famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, among which are the Sagrada Familia, the Casa Mila and the Parc Guell; our visit will also bring us to the “modern” district where the city expanded at the end of the19th century.  Rest of the day at leisure to enjoy the La Merce Festival.

barcelona merce

BARCELONA (La Merce)
Day to enjoy Barcelona activities.  The holiday has enjoyed immense local popularity ever since.
Among more recently introduced traditions are the annual Catalonian Wine Fair; a special correfoc (fire runs); a marathon race; and the particularly popular pyromusical, a spectacular display of synchronized fireworks, water fountains, and music conducted at the base of the mountain of Montjuïc. (B)

BILBAO

BARCELONA – BILBAO (BILBO)
Transfer to the airport and flight to Bilbao. Transfer to the hotel.
Afternoon sightseeing medieval Bilbao, with its cobbled streets, charming corners and squares, which have witnessed the port’s hustle and bustle that made the Village grow. Its walls, Saint James’s Gothic Cathedral, the Plaza Nueva (New Square), the emblematic San Antón Church and the ancient ruins it was built on, and the busy Mercado de la Ribera (Seaside Market) account for more than 500 years of history and an urban life not affected by the passing of time.
Bilbainos take pride in the Pintxos bars, where they enjoy socializing among friends and savoring small or large bites of the house’s specialties, and we will encourage all group members to practice this aspect of Basque culture. (B)

BILBAO - THE GUGGENHEIM
ABANDOIBARRA: An icon of the Village’s development.  A tour to see Bilbao’s architectonic and urban development from the 19th century to the present. A look at the throbbing heart of a city where tradition and modernity converge.  Walking around the Ensanche and Abandoibarra, you will experience Bilbao’s thriving spirit and find a genuine outdoor museum of sculpture and architecture which reveals the Village’s forwardlooking character.
This afternoon we continue our visit Museo Bilbao, one of the most admired works of contemporary architecture, the building has been hailed as a “single moment in the architectural culture” because it represents “one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.” The museum was the building most frequently named as one of the most important works completed since 1980 in the 2010 World Architecture Survey among architecture experts.  Today’s lunch will explore the achievements of the Basque cuisine. (B,L)

alhambra

GRANADA

BILBAO - GRANADA
Morning transfer to the airport, flight to Granada.  Transfer to the hotel.
This afternoon visit this stronghold of the Moors in Europe, the Alhambra, still clinging tenaciously to many of its ancient customs in the midst of this modern contemporary social scene.
We will visit two of the most impressive edifices ever built — the hilltop fortress of The Alcazaba, and the palace complex of the Alhambra, the last refuge of the Moors in Spain. The Alhambra embraces hundreds of years of architectural history that includes private dwellings still occupied today. It also includes several churches, a restaurant, gardens, statues and fountains, and the centerpiece 16th-century Renaissance palace. (B,D)

alhambra alhambra granada

The architects of the Cordovan mosque, which was built a long time before the Alhambra, did not influence this architecture. It includes some of the typical elements of the Andalusian architecture, such as the horseshoe arch with sprandel (square wide frame which envelopes the arch) and the arch scallops (arch scallop of triangular shape), as well as its own special elements such as the capitals of the columns of the Alhambra. The greatest concern of the architects of the Alhambra was to cover every single space with decoration, no matter the size of the space. Most of the interior arches are false arches, with no structure; they are there only to decorate. Walls are covered with beautiful and extremely rich ceramics and plasterwork. And the coverings have wooden frames that have been exquisitely carved, etc. Even though the Muslim art bans the representation of figures, the decorating themes in the Alhambra are quite varied. The classical calligraphic decoration is used, in particular cursive and kufic inscriptions, which reproduce the words of Zawi ben Ziri (founder of the Nasrid dynasty): "Only God is Victor", and poems written by different poets of the court. The decorative elements most often used by these architects were stylized vegetal forms, interlacing decoration and the nets of rhombuses. The Alhambra was built with its own special type of column, which is not used in any other building. This column has a very fine cylindrical shaft, the base of which has a big concave molding and is decorated with rings on the top part. The capital is divided into two bodies and the first one, cylindrically shaped, has a very simple decoration and a prism with a rounded-angled base and vegetal forms as decoration.

alhambra op\\pool

One of the most impressive decorative elements used in the Alhambra is the macabre vault, formed by little cells or alveoluses placed one on top of the other one and which may be admired in the Hall of the Abencerrajes (Sala de los Abencerrajes) and the Hall of the Two Sisters (Sala de las Dos Hermanas). The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the inspiration for many songs and stories. Our visit is timed for later in the afternoon when it is less crowded so we can enjoy this sublime ensemble of courtyards, fountains, palaces and exquisite gardens.

GRANADA
Morning sightseeing of the historical center, visiting the Cathedral, followed by the Royal
Chapel and a walk to the Albaicin.  The rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy this charming southern capital and explore some of its famous tapas bars. This evening enjoy a Flamenco show. (B)

GRANADA - CORDOBA - SEVILLA
Morning Drive the Cordoba, one of Muslim Spain’s main cultural center (711-1492), well visit the Great Mosque and the Christian Cathedral built within its walls when the political currents changed. Also visited will be the Jewish quarter. Lunch today is included at one of Cordoba’s best restaurants where we enjoy the regional cuisine. After lunch continue to Sevilla.  Accommodations. (B,L)

cordoba mosque dome

The Great Mosque, La Mezquita, is larger than any Christian church in the world, with awesome dimensions of 425 feet by 570 feet, supported by more than 850 columns and nearly 2,000 arches—but the overwhelming size is secondary to the poetic beauty of the design. The low ceiling is held up by double arches made of brick and cream-colored stone arranged in striped patterns that resonate with pure harmonic energy. Most of these stone columns were taken from a variety of older buildings dating back to Roman times and come in a range of sizes and materials including marble, stone, porphyry, granite and jasper. To maintain the ceiling's low, uniform height of about 30 feet, the taller columns were partly buried and shorter ones were placed on pedestals, all of which contributes to the visual delight and miraculously gives the vast assemblage a human scale. As you wander through this stone forest, it seems you could get lost in the shadows, for the uniform plan is slightly disorienting and you cannot see completely across it because the columns get in the way. There is a mysterious dim light throughout, created by the Christians who took it over as a church after the reconquest of 1236 and closed the open exterior walls to build chapels. Although they did preserve most of the structure, the Catholics under Charles V desecrated the interior by constructing a large Baroque church right in the middle of the mosque, resulting in an oddly beautiful juxtaposition of styles. One of La Mezquita's great glories is the richly ornamented "mihrab" prayer niche that once held a gilded copy of the Koran. Another pleasant section is the Patio of the Oranges, a pretty garden courtyard now used as the entrance but originally served as the traditional cleansing area for Muslims to wash before praying.

cordoba streets

Cordoba's most fascinating streets are conveniently located right outside the mosque in what had been the "Juderia" district. Jews were welcomed by the Muslim rulers and flocked to Cordoba from all over Europe, helping to create a very successful society. Like the Santa Cruz neighborhood in Seville but smaller, this section has delightful narrow lanes and little plazas ideal for wandering, with no automobiles allowed. It is a very popular magnet for tourists, drawn here by the many gift shops that line the little alleys. Easy to navigate as long as you stay within three blocks of the mosque, the main pedestrian streets include Torrijos, Victor Bosco, Luque, Judios and Tomas Conde. To see some of the pretty residential courtyards walk a few blocks beyond the mosque to the northeast into the housing area. When gates are open, they don't mind if you have a quiet look since they decorate these spaces and fill them with flowers to share the beauty. Cordoba is known as the city of courtyards, so don't miss them.

sevilla giralda

SEVILLA

Seville is a theatrical and festive place. Sevilla was Spain's most important city during the glorious "Golden Age" of exploration and conquest. Even today it houses the world's largest gothic Catholic cathedral, a symbol of supreme power 500 years ago, and standing as a monument to the city's sense of history and culture. Sevilla offers a splendid network of pedestrian streets that makes walking around the city stopping for some "tapas," to charge your batteries and continue your exploration.

sevilla cathedral

SEVILLA Our city tour of Sevilla begins with a walk along the pedestrian center of Seville, leading to the world's largest gothic cathedral. Here we visit the famous Orange-tree Court, the Gate of Absolution, the Royal Chapel, the Sacristy, and the final resting-place of Christopher Columbus. You will have time if you wish to walk to the top of "The Giralda," the tall minaret of the former Muslim mosque, enjoying wonderful views across the city. We continue with a visit to the Reales Alcazar where we will admire the beautiful Mudejar architecture (Muslims artisans working for the Christian kings). Pedro I in 1364 ordered the construction of a royal residence within the palace that had been built by the city's Almohad rulers. Within two years, craftsmen from Granada and Toledo created a jewel box of Mudejar patios and halls. Here we visit the Royal Chapel, with its amazing tapestries, and the gardens with the original fountains still flowing with water using simple gravity. We will notice many examples of the Moorish influence on the face of Seville, but you will feel even more the dominance of the highly decorative Spanish baroque of the 16th-18th centuries. We also see the Torre del Oro by the river Guadalquivir, Plaza de Espana, Park of Maria Luisa, and a walking tour of the old Barrio de Santa Cruz through its narrow streets and alleys.

sevilla sierpes
sevilla house of pilate