A few years had passed since our last visit to Europe and we were looking forward to visiting again, this time on Trafalgar’s ‘Spanish Wonder’ trip – our fourth time travelling with Trafalgar!
Our lovely, friendly Travel Director, Celia Franco, immediately put us all at ease with her cheerful and pleasant manner. On our first evening we were introduced to tapas, the delicious ‘finger food’ of Spain, as we chatted and got to know our new travel companions.
In the Synagogue of R. Samuel Ha-Levy in Toledo, inscribed in Hebrew and Arabic it says: “Blessed be you on your entrance and on your leaving.” I felt truly blessed to be in this amazing country built by the intellect of many cultures.
Spain has to her credit Cordoba, a city once the intellectual centre of Europe. Today the grand mosque converted into a cathedral is declared as a UNESCO world heritage site. I stood in awe gazing at the beautiful ceiling of Moorish architecture, and as the days passed and Spain’s history unfolded from city to city, the historical sights just kept getting better. You must visit the magnificent Alhambra Palace built in the 14th century towards the end of the Islamic rule in Spain. The architecture is indeed a marvel of human invention. The design perpetuates a strong influence of mathematics and science.
Be sure to see the energetic, rhythmic and gorgeous flamenco dances on stage. Watch the expressions of the gypsy dancers close up; their dark, fiery eyes, piercing with passion, as their bodies respond to the rhythm of the guitar. These people dance with heart and soul, to express their suffering, and tell their story through dance.
We loved meeting some of the locals with Trafalgar; we walked through the places they lived, chatted and ate homemade churros dipped in a chocolate sauce with a lovely cup of warm coffee. Yummy!
You cannot leave Spain without seeing the bulls. Approve of bull fighting or not, this is part of their culture. And you must taste the exquisite Spanish olive oil! I never imagined I could swirl olive oil in my palate, and downed the oil in one gulp. So this is the taste of fresh extra virgin olive oil!
Barcelona is home to awesome places designed by Gaudi, giving a different flavour to modern day art. Gaudi’s most famous masterpiece is the Sagrada Familia; once completed it will be the highest church in the world. Sixteen spirals will surround a four armed cross. Imagine that.
All along the rivers we were dazzled with views forming a rich tapestry of nature entwined with human creativity. As we ascended Montserrat and wound our way through the numerous hair-pin bends, we marvelled at nature’s works of art. Mountain tops forming their own special display left us spell bound. At the tip was a monastery built by the Benedictine monks, around the 7th century. These Monks were noted for their piety and encouragement for learning; they kept the Christian faith alive throughout the Middle-Ages. Many pilgrims visit the restored church to see the Black Virgin, the patron saint of Catalonia. Once again our cameras clicked to capture scenes as far as the eye could see. Montserrat is beautiful, and the church is another Spanish wonder. It was cold up there and our noses were red, but a deep sense of peace prevailed.
Gracias, gracias, Celia Franco, for taking good care of us, ensuring we were safe, and enlightening us with precautions. Without your expert organisational skills the trip would not have run so smoothly. We felt very special, like a lord and a lady, as little things like carting our luggage to the room and putting our suitcases on the bus were done for us. All we needed to do was be on time, and not get lost! These touches made for a wonderful, relaxing holiday.
We received gifts: yummy marzipan cookies, Spanish fans and thank you cards. And I must add Trafalgar’s ‘My Journey’ booklet came in handy, with many useful phrases and things to know.
The optional excursions were excellent, and very good value – they provided some of our favourite memories. We cannot forget our dear bus driver Augesto, had it not been for his expert driving we would not have got home in one piece!
I must mention one Local Guide, Aurora, an elderly lady who thoroughly enjoys the work she does. Nothing can compare to the humour she brought with her. When she demonstrated how the ladies flirt with their fans, we almost died laughing! Each of the Local Guides has a thorough knowledge of the history, culture and art of their country. The pride they have for their beloved Spain shines through.
We stayed at five hotels, each with its own unique charm. The service could not be faulted. Thumbs up for the Ayre Colon Hotel in Madrid, the food was excellent! At Seville we stayed at the Tryp Macarena, a beautiful hotel overlooking the old wall.
I hope you enjoy beautiful Spain as much as we did! With Trafalgar you will feel safe, looked after and spoilt, and make some wonderful friends. Don’t forget to take your camera. Spain is a photographer’s delight.
Dreaming of churros and flamenco? Why not browse our exciting Spain itineraries for your next vacation! Then, head over to our Facebook page for the chance to win a trip for two (including flights) to Italy…But hurry, the competition ends March 26, 2013!