DAY 5 (Seville & Granada): Today, our departure day from beautiful Seville begins with an optional excursion that offers insight into a very different aspect of Spanish culture. We take a scenic drive to the city of Carmona, to visit a local olive farm. Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world, with 42 percent of the world’s olive oil supply being made here. Since olive oil is central to so many cuisines around the world, the chance to learn the nuances of tasting and appreciating it is a real treat!
We meet the brother-in-law of the farm’s owner, a friendly fellow who walks us through the production process, from harvest to bottling. His passion for his work and the quality of the product is evident, making the lesson very enjoyable. We are walked through a tasting (a real eye opener!) and then the ultimate finale, a study in contrasts, really; a tasting of ice cream paired with vanilla-infused olive oil. Definitely unexpected but definitely DELICIOSO! Before departing, we have the opportunity to purchase items from the gift shop, which features a unique and sumptuous array of handcrafted products, all highlighting olives or olive oil. You come away with a real appreciation for the product and the amount of work that goes into producing quality oil. Liquid gold indeed!
Next, it’s back on the bus for our drive to the next destination on our itinerary – Granada. A relatively short drive and we make a pit stop at a local roadside station for lunch. Then we continue our drive through the magnificent mountainous region that is Granada until we arrive at the Alhambra Palace.
We have seen many magnificent architectural monuments on our trip thus far and this palace is once again a wonderful display of Muslim and Catholic influences uniting to create a beautiful whole. However, so many factors combine here to create the wonder that is the Palace that it is easy to understand why some argue that you have not seen Spain until you have seen Granada and the Alhambra Palace. Beyond the sheer expansiveness of the Palace and its grounds, the architecture here is once again a study in contrasts. The plaster on the walls, although humble, is transformed into breathtakingly ornate designs. At closer examination however the designs are actually very simple in that they consist of three themes being repeated over and over – geometry, vegetation and the Muslim saying “There is no victory without God”. The columns we see do not appear unique at first glance but we learn that they were built with a very special feature to protect the structure against the earthquakes typical of the region. The water systems are extensive yet they operate entirely through gravitational forces. Beauty meets functionality in the most magnificent way here. Finally, the gardens, a true gardener’s paradise! Then we make the short drive to our hotel, where we settle in, enjoy a great buffet dinner and then take a leisurely stroll through the city’s shopping area before retiring for the night.
DAY 6 (VALENCIA): Today we leave Granada with a spectacular mountain view as our backdrop. It’s a long travel day for us but we have many interesting stops scheduled. The first is a very unique opportunity to witness local customs by visiting a cave-dwelling family in the town of Guadix in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This three-level cave (yes, three levels!) is an impressive piece of architecture that is home to a large family (three generations) and houses an impressive array of antiques and collections that make it a very captivating tourist attraction. Resourcefulness at its best!
Our drive continues, with a couple of pit-stops, before arriving in Valencia. Valencia is known as the city of Arts and Sciences so we make a quick stop at the museum of the same name. The museum complex is comprised of several very modern buildings and structures that are in stark contrast to the historical monuments we have visited so far. The complex houses an aquarium, a science museum, an opera house, a convention hall and an impressive harp-shaped bridge.
We then take a panoramic drive around the city before stopping in Valencia’s older area to take in some of the impressive monuments and buildings, including a majestic open-air market, Valencia’s famous bullring (used today for fashion shows and political meetings), the train station, the monastery, and the Serrano and Cuarte towers that are the few remaining remnants of the original city walls.
We make a quick stop at Valor, a chocolate shop famous for its interesting and delectable offerings. It is a reputation that is well-earned, based on the delicious variety of chocolate morsels we sampled (and we sampled many!).
Then the group separates, some exploring the city at leisure and others, our group included, attending a phenomenal optional excursion. Now, delicious food has been available to us in abundance on this tour, to be sure, but to have the opportunity to be taught how to prepare paella, one of Spain’s national dishes, by a well-known local chef, well that was an unforgettable experience.
There were several children in our group; generally, kids enjoy getting their hands dirty so to speak and help out in the kitchen. Well, it’s safe to say the adults in the group enjoyed themselves just as much. Being involved in preparing the ingredients, making the meal and sampling the final product, all while bonding with fellow travelers, having access to a chef’s extensive knowledge and sipping delicious sangria was a recipe for a wonderful evening. It was one of tour’s highlights thus far, for sure. Muy bueno!
Read the third and final Part of Jeff and Tanya’s ‘Spanish Wonder’ Travel Tale next week…
If you enjoyed reading Part 2 of Jeff and Tanya’s experience and would like to learn more about our ‘Spanish Wonder’ itinerary, click here. Or for more information about Trafalgar’s guided vacations, head to our website: www.trafalgar.com