By Popular Demand: Andalucia and Valencia, take two, May 12 to 28, 2020
Within a dramatic landscape of mountains, plains and coast, Andalucía has been shaped or enriched by the cultures of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The Moors invaded Iberia in the 8th century and it took the Spanish almost 800 years to drive them out. Islamic Spain left behind magnificent monuments including Granada's Alhambra and Generalife gardens. Later, with the reconquest of Spain, Christian taste and Moorish style mingled to create something unique: the hybrid Mudéjar style, exemplified in Seville's Alcazár and Casa de Pilatos. Christians built some of Europe's greatest Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque chapels and cathedrals in Seville, Granada, Baeza, Úbeda, Jaén, and Málaga. This outstanding heritage – complemented by synagogues as well as prehistoric sites – is the focus of our 15-day journey through these fascinating lands. Discover this rich and captivating culture with us!

This is an exceptionally rich itinerary. It is also strenuous, involving full days and a good deal of walking,
much of it on hilly terrain and uneven surfaces; participants should be in good physical condition.
In contrast, most of our evenings will be relaxed.
    The tour is limited to 22 participants; space will be allotted according to the order in which deposits are received.    
All photographs are by Dean and Zsofi, unless otherwise indicated; click on any thumbnail to access the slide show.
CONTENTS AND PRICES

Prices, per person


Basic 15-day tour
  $ 4,950 sharing a double
$ 6,550 single occupancy


Madrid Extension
$ 750 sharing a double
$ 1,200 single occupancy
(4 nights/3 additional days,
hotel and transportation only
)


Prices are stated in
U.S. Dollars

calculated on an exchange rate of $1.15 to the Euro.




Package prices include
Accommodation in these
carefully chosen four-star hotels


Vincci La Rabida, Seville

Molina Lario, Málaga


NH Amistad, Córdoba


Parador de Úbeda

Vincci Palace, Valencia


Parador de Cuenca


Maydrit Hotel (airport)




Four nights in Madrid optional
Iberostar Hotel
Las Letras Gran Vía




Breakfast each day

  13 lunches or dinners
(drinks included)

Wine and olive oil tastings

Airport transfers

Ground transport by
private coach

  Three performances
(rebate if any fail to materialize)

  Tours with expert guides as described to the right



All performances in Madrid and any other optional performances that may become available will be provided at additional cost
(subject to availability)



You may tentatively reserve space by submitting the online reservation form, accessed via the button below; we will send you a final reservation form. Your place on the tour will be confirmed
when we receive that form, completed and signed,
along with your deposit.



Suggested Flights:

There are good connections from Houston to Seville and returning from Madrid available on:

United
(in combination with Lufthansa, Brussels Air, and Air Canada)

American (in association with British Air and Iberian)

Delta/Air France


All outbound itineraries involve two connections.
Most returns require only

a single change of plane.


You will receive detailed information with confirmation of your reservation on the tour.
 
ITINERARY


May 12: Depart for Seville. We will provide a list of flight options.

May 13 - 16: Seville
Seville gained great importance and prosperity when the Almohad dynasty made it the capital of Muslim Spain (Al Andalus) and again, in the 16th century, when it was the center for trade and transshipment of gold and tobacco from South America. Seville therefore boasts fine Moorish, Gothic, Mudéjar, and Baroque monuments. During our two full days in Seville, we will visit Casa de Pilatos (a 16th-century Sevillian mansion), the Santa Cruz Quarter (the medieval ghetto), the Cathedral (the largest Gothic structure of its type in Europe), and the 17th-century Hospital de la Caridad (whose amazing Baroque chapel contains works by Murillo). The royal Alcázar is also on the list: a fine Moorish palace built, not by the Almohad dynasty, but by 14th-century Christian king, Pedro the Cruel. This UNESCO-listed building, originally begun as a Moorish fort, is the finest example of Mudéjar architecture in Spain. The Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra season is still in progress, under the baton of music director John Axelrod, born and raised in Houston, where he got his start conducting, under the tutelage of Christoph Eschenbach. We are hoping for a concert.

May 16: Zahara de la Sierra and Ronda, en route to Málaga
Picturesque scenery is in store for us today, as we wind our way toward Málaga, surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and undulating hills. We will make a stop at one of the most stunning of the famous white villages of Cadiz, Zahara de la Sierra. Here, you have the choice of just relaxing while having refreshments or snacks, with great views over the turquoise Zahara Reservoir and the surrounding Grazalema mountains; or walk up to the town center and stroll around the labyrinthine streets with pretty whitewashed houses and historic monuments.

We then continue to a small, family-run organic winery in a beautiful valley, where the owner will give us a tour before sitting down to taste the wines, accompanied by a light lunch (tapas) homegrown and prepared by his wife.

Ronda is a beautiful town perched on the edge of a dramatic limestone escarpment sliced in two by the El Tajo Gorge (the Guadalevin River flows 393 feet below). Ernest Hemingway wrote of Ronda, "That is where you should go if you ever go to Spain on a honeymoon or if you ever bolt with anyone. The entire town and as far as you can see in any direction is romantic background... If a honeymoon or an elopement is not a success in Ronda, it would be as well to start for Paris and commence making your own friends."  (1932 - Death in the Afternoon)

May 17: Granada
Today we take a day-trip to Granada to visit the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens, the greatest manifestation of Moorish art in Spain. After lunch, we visit the magnificent Isabelline Gothic funerary chapel (Tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella) with its great collection of Netherlandish paintings. We finish with  a walk through Albaycín, the oldest quarter of town, a rich repository of Moorish vernacular architecture. We return to the Málaga hotel in the evening.

May 18: Málaga
A morning walk will take us through the historic center and harbor, visiting Phoenician walls, the 1st-century BC Roman theater, the 11th-century Alcazaba (probably the most important military fortification remaining from the Arabic period), and the unfinished yet very impressive cathedral. Your afternoon is free to discover the Picasso Museum, if inclined, before a hoped-for performance at the Teatro Cervantes in the evening (title TBA).

May 19: Antequera, on our way to Córdoba
Antequera is a classic white Andalusian city, with narrow cobbled streets and a steep hill up to the 11th-century Moorish citadel. The Baroque period was the most prosperous time in Antequera: 32 churches and as many private palaces were built during that time. Much of the center is like an open-air museum, prime for wandering and exploring.  The town also boasts immense prehistoric burial chambers, the biggest in Europe; the 5,000-year-old Antequera Dolmens are UNESCO World Heritage sites and unique in that virtually all other similar dolmens in Europe face the sunrise at equinox, while these face natural mountain scapes.

May 20: Córdoba
Our half-day morning sightseeing tour in Córdoba will include the Mezquita-Catedral (Mosque-Cathedral): first a pagan temple, then a Visigothic Christian church, later a mosque under the Umayyad Moors, and finally a cathedral after the Reconquista; the Jewish quarter with its synagogue; and the famous "patios of Córdoba:" some of the loveliest small urban gardens in Spain, located in the courtyards of old houses.
 
May 21: Jaén and Baeza en route to Úbeda
Jaén is often overlooked by tourists despite its glory years as a strategic post during the Reconquista of Spain. Dominating the skyline is the magnificent Cathedral, designed by the renowned architect Andrés de Vandelvira, the epitome of Renaissance architecture. The Renaissance Palacio de Villardompardo houses the 11th-century Baños Árabes, one of the best-preserved – and largest surviving – Moorish baths in Spain.
 
According to the World’s Best Olive Oils organization, 8 of the best 10 olive oils come from Spain – and all the top 5. Overall, 29 of the best 50 olive oils hail from Spain; Andalucían mills represent the top 4 and 22 of the top 50. The province of Jaén is filled with over 60 million olive trees, earning its moniker, the “World’s Capital of Olive Oil.” We will visit a mill whose oils rank among the top 25, world-wide; the tasting will be accompanied by a variety of tapas.
 
Baeza and Úbeda are World Heritage towns with many of the best-preserved examples of Italian Renaissance architecture in Spain. The two cities rose to prominence during the Muslim period, and later became Christian bastions against the Nasrid kingdom of Granada. They experienced great prosperity again in the 16th century through agriculture and the production of textiles, and it is from this period that most of their finest palaces and churches derive. In Baeza, we will visit Palacio de Jabalquinto, one of the finest examples of the Isabelline Gothic style, and the Cathedral, the first one of its kind in Andalucia.
 
We will overnight at the Parador de Úbeda, a 16th-century palace that has kept its original, classical-style interior decor. The hotel is located on the main square, Plaza Vásquez de Molina, home to  Spain's greatest Renaissance architectural ensemble: The Sacred Chapel of El Salvador,  Santa María de los Reales Alcázares Church, and Vázquez de Molina Palace (today’s Town Hall). Tonight, we will all get together for sumptuous dinner at the hotel.
 
May 22: Úbeda
Nearly all the buildings in Úbeda, and many in Baeza as well, must be credited to one man: Andrés de Vandelvira.  Our walking tour takes us through the Old Town, visiting the 14th century Synagogue of Water, discovered accidentally during a real estate project to  transform the existing hairdresser's into tourist apartments for the city, and the  Sacred Chapel of El Salvador, the most important work by Vandelvira in town. Built as a funerary chapel or mausoleum for Francisco de los Cobos, secretary of the Emperor Charles V, the chapel is a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance architecture.  The afternoon is set aside for you to explore charming Úbeda on your own.

May 23: Valdepeñas and Valencia
Following in the footsteps of Don Quixote, we travel through the Mancha vineyards to the famous wine-center of Valdepeñas, its roads lined with bodegas. The area is known not only for its long history of exporting wine, but also for the ancient tradition of fermentation in huge jars called tinajas.  In centuries past, winemakers partially buried these large earthenware vessels in the earth, which helped keep the wine cool throughout the fermentation process.  Today, the jars have been replaced by modern equipment and production processes; Valdepeñas now sells more wine than any other Spanish DO except Rioja. We will enjoy a bodega tour, followed by a wine-tasting lunch: a variety of tapas  (jamón serrano and manchego cheese with bread), and “duelos y quebrantos,” a dish typical of Castilla La Mancha. At the start of the novel Don Quixote, a discussion of what the eponymous main character eats on different days, mentions "duelos y quebrantos los sábados." Translated as "griefs and sorrows" to preserve Cervantes's word play (less poetic but more literal: “eggs and bacon”), it is scrambled eggs with chorizo and other cold meats.
 
May 24-25: Valencia
From elegant palaces and cobbled plazas to museums and cutting-edge architecture, Valencia boasts a wealth of attractions. Our walking tour this morning will include the Cathedral (incorporating a number of architectural styles and artistic treasures), the Art Nouveau Central Market (a superb feast for the eyes), and the 15th-century Lonja silk exchange (one of the best examples of Gothic civil architecture in Europe and a World Heritage site). The afternoon and the full day tomorrow are free to pursue your own interests. Here are a few suggestions:

  • City of Arts and Sciences: a combined ticket gains admission to the entire complex, which includes a science museum, IMAX cinema and planetarium, opera house and marine park, all housed in extraordinary sculptural spaces.
  • the Ceramics Museum (worth going there just for its opulent alabaster façade)
  • the Fine Arts Museum (works by Velázquez, El Greco, Goya, and Valencian artists)
  • the Church of San Nicolas aka “the Sistine Chapel of Valencia”
Given two important, contemporary performance halls, there is a strong possibility of performances while we are in Valencia.

May 26: Cuenca
Built by the Moors in a defensive position in the heart of the Caliphate of Córdoba, Cuenca is an unusually well-preserved medieval fortified city. Conquered by the Castilians in the 12th century, it became a royal town and bishopric endowed with important buildings, such as Spain's first Gothic cathedral, and the famous casas colgadas (hanging houses), suspended from sheer cliffs overlooking the Huécar river. The town, a World Heritage Site, is one of the most striking in Spain. After our afternoon walking tour, we will be comfortably ensconced at our luxurious parador, the former Dominican convent of San Pablo, overlooking the gorge and the famous hanging houses.
 
May 27: Alcalá de Henares on the way to Madrid
Founded by Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros in the early 16th century, UNESCO-listed Alcalá de Henares was the world's first planned university city, and the original model for the Civitas Dei (City of God), the ideal urban plan that Spanish missionaries exported to the Americas. It also served as a model for universities in Europe and elsewhere. The birthplace of Don Quixote’s author Miguel de Cervantes, the town offers numerous sites connected with its most famous son, and you will learn more about Cervantes's life and work during our walking tour. Spain’s most renowned literary prize, the Premio Cervantes, is awarded every year by the king in the great hall of the university on 23 April, the date when it is believed Cervantes died. That is also the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and, in honor of both writers, the Day of the Book (Día del Libro) is celebrated all over Spain. Our tour will include the interiors of the University with the lovely Chapel of San Ildefonso, which houses the Italian marble tomb of Cardinal Cisneros.
 
From that point, you have two choices:

  • Go directly to Madrid airport where you can relax at a very nice hotel that provides shuttle service to the nearby terminals, making your trip home tomorrow (May 6) as easy as possible.
  • Continue to our hotel in the heart of Madrid for four nights/three days; if you'd like to stay longer (or shorter), we'll be happy to make the arrangements for you. We will stay at the very comfortable and well-located Iberostar Las Letras. The Teatro Real and Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid have not announced their seasons yet, but when we know the full performance options, we’ll send you a list of “what’s on” and get you tickets for the events of your choice (optional). If several of the group agree on an itinerary, we can set up special tours as well.
View from Our Seville Hotel
View from Our Seville Hotel
Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral
Hospital de la Caridad
Hospital de la Caridad
Hospital de la Caridad
Hospital de la Caridad
Alcazar - Seville
Alcazar - Seville
Ceiling, Alcazar
Ceiling, Alcazar
Alcazar - Seville
Alcazar - Seville
Alhambra
Alhambra
Detail - Alhambra
Detail - Alhambra
Detail - Alhambra
Detail - Alhambra
Generalife Garden
Generalife Garden
Alcazaba and Roman Theater, Malaga
Alcazaba and Roman Theater, Malaga
Mosque-Cathedral © Andalucia.org
Mosque-Cathedral © Andalucia.org
Flower Alley, Córdoba
Flower Alley, Córdoba
Olive Groves, Jaén
Olive Groves, Jaén
Úbeda Parador and El Salvador Chapel
Úbeda Parador and El Salvador Chapel
Tinajas and wine barrels
Tinajas and wine barrels
Plaza Mayor Valencia
Plaza Mayor Valencia
City of Arts and Sciences
City of Arts and Sciences
Ceramics Museum Valencia
Ceramics Museum Valencia
Parador de Cuenca
Parador de Cuenca
University Facade Alcalá de Henares
University Facade Alcalá de Henares
Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral
Vertical garden on the CaixaForum
Vertical garden on the CaixaForum
Royal Palace
Royal Palace
 
deandaltontours  | 2011
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