Spain 2017: Moors and Christians, Olives and Wine - Skip Links
After arrival at Barcelona’s El Prat de Llobregat International Airport we check into our hotel, rest, and at 6 p. m. meet in the lobby. Those that arrive earlier in the day can enjoy a stroll through the Barri Gotic, a densely packed area of narrow lanes with a mixture of medieval and stately Renaissance buildings. In the Barri Gotic sits the impressive Gothic Cathedral with its adjacent enclosure where Ferdinand and Isabella received Columbus in December 1492. If you would like to visit the Picasso Museum on your own tomorrow morning, it is advisable to reserve tickets a day ahead of time at museupicasso.bcn.cat/en. Overnight H10 Montcada Hotel (or similar).
For those that are not going to the Picasso Museum, and are not sleeping in, there is an optional morning walking tour which stops at the Casa Mila and other examples of Modernismo Architecture. In the early afternoon we embark on a half day guided bus tour. First, we visit Parque Guell, one of the numerous Gaudi creations in the city, then on to Barcelona's most famous and most photographed attraction, La Sagrada Familia Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Family), an amalgam of fantasy and Gothic impulses, and Gaudi's most unique piece of architecture. The end of the day offers the opportunity to walk down the avenue Las Ramblas, the exotic "spine of Barcelona," stopping at the central market, St Josephis, and possibly going as far as the port or beach for an evening swim. Overnight H10 Montcada Hotel; Meal plan: breakfast
Today we drive to Morella (350 km / 3.5 hrs), a beautiful medieval fortified town high in the mountains near the Valencia-Aragon border. Morella was built in the 13th century by the Knights Templar (crusaders against the infidels). In the afternoon we take a walking tour of the town visiting the Gothic Basilica, the 14th century Aqueduct and the Castle which sits defiantly on the hill in the old Citadel, built by the Arabs during the Moorish occupation. Inside, we see the upper ramparts, the Governor's Palace, the old prison, and the tower. This small town also hosts a paleontology museum which may be visited on your own and contains dinosaur as well as many other fossils from the vicinity. Overnight Hotel Rey Don Jaime (or similar); Meal plan: breakfast
Today we drive to Valencia (130 km / 1.5 hrs). On the route, we pass orange orchards and discuss their distant origins, including the surprisingly “American” origin of the Valencia orange. In Alboraya, we stop at three farms of the coastal plain. At the first we learn all about horchata – the sweet, refreshing, regional drink of Valencia. We see how the chufa bean, from which horchata is rendered, is grown in the field and how it is ground, separated, and filtered. The second is a community supported agriculture farm. And, at our third stop we enter a barraca – a traditional Valencian farm house – where we settle in for dinner. We pull into Valencia at nightfall. Over the last 2000 years, this city has been occupied by Romans, Visigoths, Moors (who stayed for over 500 years!), and Christians. It attracted the attention of legendary Spanish hero, El Cid, who conquered the city in 1094 and chose to spend his final years here. After his death, the Moors re-took Valencia, only to lose it again in 1238, this time to King Jaime I of Aragon. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Valencia enjoyed its glory years, replacing Barcelona as the financial capital of the western Mediterranean. Overnight Astoria Palace Hotel (or similar); Meal Plan: breakfast, dinner
Today we depart on a full day walking tour. We begin with the Museo de Prehistoria y Arqueología (Museum of Archeology), containing many of the city's most precious excavated treasures. We then walk to la Plaza de la Virgin where the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, basilica of the patron saint of Valencia, is located. Here we take lunch in one of the many cafés. Afterwards, we visit L’Almoina, located on the Plaza de l’Almoina where, in the 1980s, an excavation revealed a remarkable number of artifacts and ruins dating from the birth of the city up until the present day. Valencia sits on a crossroads of two major Roman thoroughfares and has had a turbulent and dramatic history. The excavation site has since been converted into a museum displaying artifacts of the city’s five imperial epochs. We then return to the hotel for a rest. In the late afternoon, we can head off to stroll or bike through the Turia River Park. The river’s original course was diverted in the 1950s due to a damaging inundation and the old river bed was converted into a green belt of parks, gardens, and, in 1997, the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. Local celebrity architect, Santiago Calatrava, was commissioned to design the entire project which has resulted in one of the most elegant, modern day, architectural accomplishments in Europe. Overnight Astoria Palace Hotel ; Meal Plan: breakfast
This morning we start our full day walking tour visiting La Lonja de la Seda (the Silk Exchange). Built by the city's prosperous silk merchants circa 1483, it is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, and arguably, Valencia's best known monument. We then walk across the street to leisurely explore the central market, before taking lunch. Afterwards we visit the Marques de dos Aguas Palace, which contains the National Ceramics Museum. While the original Iberians, as well as the Romans, utilized pottery, it was the Arabs who expanded the palette of glazes and the Christians who added and refined motifs. This ceramics/tile work tradition eventually made its way into Spanish America. For those who wish to continue, we can take a short stroll to the Colegio del Patriarca which contains a small but choice collection of paintings, including three El Grecos. Overnight Astoria Palace Hotel; Meal Plan: breakfast, lunch
We begin Sunday morning by climbing El Micalet, the bell tower of the cathedral on the Plaza de la Reina. This tower offers the best view of Valencia in the city. The cathedral was consecrated in 1238 by the first bishop of Valencia after the re-conquest. It was built over the site of Valencia’s former Visigothic cathedral which, under the Moors, had been turned into a mosque. One of the supposed Holy Chalices is housed in the cathedral’s Capilla del Santo Caliz (Chapel of the Holy Grail) and many Christian historians believe the Valencia chalice to be the cup used at the Last Supper. We, then, head to the harbor district, first visiting the Sana Santa Museum. Semana Santa, or Holy Week (Easter), is the second biggest fiesta in Valencia and consists of ten days of colorful processions in the maritime district of El Cabanyal. The museum displays all the uniforms and regalia of the 28 participating brotherhoods. Next door sits the Rice Museum, which is a completely reconstructed 19th century rice processing factory. Its giant, inter-connected five-floor rice machine is impressive! It is now time to relax with wine and tapas in the Bodega Casa Montaña. This upscale bodega is considered the most authentic tapas bar in the city. Some of the offerings include tangy Santoña anchovies, cod croquettes with pine nuts and michirones (spicy fava beans). Wine is taken seriously: there is a top-notch, by-the-glass selection, and regular themed tastings are organized. We finish the day with a stroll along the beach promenade, or even taking a splash in the Mediterranean. Overnight Astoria Palace Hotel; Meal Plan: breakfast, wine tasting and tapas
Today we drive to Villar Del Arzobispo (50 km / 1 hr). The two days that we spend here allow us a peek into a non-tourist agricultural economy. On arrival, we check into our casa rural - a rambling, two-hundred year old village home. After settling in, we depart to the local markets to purchase ingredients for our paella cooking class, the product of which we will consume for lunch. There will be ample time to relax in the courtyard and enjoy the afternoon. Throughout our stay in Villar, we highlight traditional farming and foods. Late in the afternoon, we walk into the countryside of vineyards, figs, almonds, and olive orchards where we discuss Mediterranean dry land agriculture. Overnight Casa Rural La Boticaria; Meal Plan: breakfast, lunch
The morning can be spent having coffee and pastries in a local bakery or wandering around town on your own. At mid-day, we regroup and head to the local winery. As September is harvest time, the tractors will be coming in from the fields with their grapes. At the winery, we are given a tour, then sample local wines paired with tapas. In the afternoon, we visit the Casa de los Cinteros, a small, house-museum showcasing village ethnography in a building that dates back to the 19th century. The Casa de los Cinteros conserves its history in the preserved stables, workroom, cellar, kitchen, and bedrooms, all of which contain furnishings and tools of the era. Overnight Casa Rural La Boticaria; Meal Plan: wine tasting and tapas lunch
This morning we board our bus and drive back toward the coast, south of the city, to visit La Albufera, an estuary surrounded by rice fields. Here, we take a short boat trip and learn about the cultivation of rice. Rice has always played an important part in Valencian life and, for centuries, has been one of the city's major exports as well as the mainstay of regional cuisine. Since Valencia is the birthplace of paella, and this will be our last day here, we will enjoy this typical dish once again. On the way back to the hotel we stop at La Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias. Overnight Zenit Hotel Valencia (or similar); Meal Plan: lunch
Today we catch the high speed train (186 mph) to Toledo. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel. Toledo is a city with a unique blend of Arab, Jewish, Christian, Roman, and Visigoth elements, located on a rocky promontory isolated on three sides by a looping gorge of the Tagus River. The history of several different cultures is contained within this region represented by the houses, churches, synagogues, and mosques. After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we walk to Mesón Restaurante Corral de Don Diego where we experience some of the culinary specialties of the Spanish high plains such as partridge, quail, and cascaruns (a stew of pork, chorizo and sweet peas). Afternoon is free for exploring the streets or walking down to the river. Overnight Hotel El Cardenal (or similar); Meal Plan: breakfast, lunch
This morning we depart on a half day walking tour of Toledo. We wander through the narrow streets arriving at the Jewish quarter which houses two former synagogues. The most elaborate Mudejar interior in the city is hidden behind the deceptively humble facade of the Synagogue del Transito. It was built in the 14th century by Samuel Ha-Levi, the Jewish treasurer to Christian Pedro the Cruel. The ornate ceiling has carved arabesques, not in Arabic, but in Hebrew. Adjoining the synagogue is a museum dedicated to Jewish Sephardic culture. We then see one of Toledo's most outstanding attractions, El Greco's masterpiece "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz", located inside the Church of Santo Tome. Our final stop on the tour is Toledo’s immense Gothic Cathedral. Afternoon suggestions include visiting the Santa Cruz art museum to view several more El Greco’s as well as Mudejar, Roman and Arabic works, or walking the nature path along the river. Overnight Hotel El Cardenal; Meal Plan: breakfast
This morning we depart by train for Madrid. En route, we discuss wheat, the main agricultural product of La Mancha - the high plain of Spain, as contrasted with those of the Valencian coastal plain. Our Madrid hotel is conveniently located across the street in the heart of the museum and park district. After checking into our hotel we walk to the Royal Botanical Gardens where our focus will be on the great interchange of Old and New World plants that began with the Age Exploration. Lunch is in a restaurant situated at the entrance to the Gardens, and adjacent to El Prado. The Prado is one of the most important repositories of art in the world, including a vast collection of Italian paintings. Following our guided museum tour we have afternoon time to spend strolling through El Retiro Park where musicians, artists, cafes, rowboats, manicured flower gardens, a crystal palace entertain and offer respite for the city residents. Those that have energy for one last night out on the town, can then visit the Plaza Major in the heart of the old town which offers classic bars and restaurants. Overnight Hotel Mediodia (or similar); Meal plan: breakfast, lunch
We prefer to work with smaller groups, and therefore have limited registration to only 20 travelers.
There is fair amount of walking involved every day.
$3750 Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum members; $ 4125 non-members and $880 Single supplement. We will assist in matching up singles with roommates, however if a roommate cannot be found, then the single supplement must be paid. A $2000 deposit will secure your place on this trip. The balance will be due April 1st, 2017.
Should you need to cancel your trip, you must notify us in writing, by letter, e-mail, or fax immediately. Deposits are refundable within the first 10 days after receipt of confirmation letter. After this date, up until April 1st there will be $200/person cancellation fee. After this date, all monies paid are 100% non-refundable, unless the tour is at capacity and your reservation is filled by another. In this case, the $200/person cancellation fee will still apply. Name changes are not permitted. We will not grant partial refunds for any unused trip arrangements. We may cancel departures if forced to do so by circumstances such as war, civil or political unrest or what is commonly referred to as force majeure. In these instances we will refund all passengers in full if cancellation takes place more than 60 days prior to tour start date. If cancellation occurs within the 60 day period, we will offer to postpone your trip to another departure of the same tour code within 13 months of the original tour start date; or, if circumstances do not permit, an alternative will be offered at that time. If we cancel your tour due to insufficient enrollment, we will endeavor to find an alternative tour for you. If this is not acceptable, all monies paid will be refunded in full and will constitute full settlement. We will not be responsible for any expenses incurred, such as visas, vaccinations, airfare, or any compensation. We will not be responsible for costs associated with re-issuance or extension of visas, or airline change fees. Notice of cancellation due to insufficient enrollment in any program will be given approximately 60 days prior to departure. In the case of a documented medical emergency occurring after April 1st, an $800 per person cancellation will apply, with the balance being available for use toward another trip within 13 months of the scheduled departure date. We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance, as insurable risks may be covered under such policies.
You may register on-line, or by calling Reservations Coordinator Beth Mac Farlane at 883-3025 email@example.com. Inquiries regarding logistics and itinerary should be directed to tour leaders Sonya Norman 883-3030 firstname.lastname@example.org or Jesus Garcia 883-3089 email@example.com.
This tour is run by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum with most overseas arrangements being made through Ambia Tours.