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Travel Experience – Spain & Portugal
By guests, Clare & Colin
Our ‘Journey through Spain and Portugal’ last October-November provided a stimulating and enjoyable mix of Iberian culture, rich and diverse history, tantalising tastes and new experiences.
Arriving in Lisbon, we were met by our European guide, Lucy and had a magnificent welcome dinner at a local restaurant. On tour in Lisbon we learned about the age of discovery and how Portuguese mariners played a key part in opening up the world to Europeans and admired the distinctive decorated tiles, which are a feature of Portugal.
Southern Spain including Seville, Granada and Cordoba was beautiful with a rich Moorish history and architecture. Alhambra palace and gardens in Granada was one of the highlights. Fortunately we missed the 54-degree summer temperatures.
A highlight of our stay in Madrid was a tapas walking tour where we breakfasted on churros and chocolate and tasted typical Spanish delicacies including honey, jamon and olives, washed down with the local sparkling wine, cava. After a morning of tasting we completed the tour in a local restaurant with 6-8 courses of tapas – no need for dinner that night! From Madrid we took a day tour to Toledo.
In Barcelona we visited Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia church and lunched in the famous food market.
Our tour across northern Spain included a visit to the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao and beautiful San Sebastian, staying at the magnificent Maria Christina Hotel. Other highlights of northern Spain included Leon Cathedral, a Knights of the Templars castle and distinctive Roman gold mines.
Part of the way across northern Spain followed the Camino trail, which took us to Santiago de Compostela, which has been a focus for pilgrims over the centuries.
While in northern Spain we enjoyed two particularly long lunches at unique venues out in the countryside.
After travelling for three weeks we arrived in Porto and boarded the Queen Isabella for a week-long Douro River Cruise. The Douro flows through a steep valley with terraced vineyards on both sides where Port and other lovely Portuguese wines are produced. The cruise was a relaxing and enjoyable way to complete the tour.
It was a fantastic tour with too many highlights to cover and we would highly recommend that you include Spain and Portugal in your travel plans.