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SPAIN & PORTUGAL

Sights & Delights of Spain & Portugal

Luxury Food, Wine & Cultural Tour

Description

From the metropolitan excitement of Madrid to the incredible sights of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, this tour will thrill with the opportunity to see some of the finest sights in Spain's Andalucia, including a fantastic ham producers visit and lunch, the delicious food and port of Lisbon to the incredible beauty of the Douro Valley.

DAY 1 MADRID

On arrival at Madrid Airport our chauffeur will be awaiting you with a luxury vehicle and will transfer you to your boutique 4* Hotel in the heart of Madrid. Formerly the residence of the Duke of Noblejas, the hotel has maintained its frescoes, mirrors and stained glass whilst being equipped with modern comforts, and is a stones throw away from the Prado Museum and the famous Santa Ana square.

Relax and unwind after your flight before meeting with our Gourmand Breaks representative, also an Officially Licensed Guide, who will meet you this afternoon in the hotel lobby to go through your itinerary and answer any queries you may have. You will also receive the printed Personal Travel Journal for your private tour, with daily itinerary details and plenty of suggestions for restaurants and free time activities.

You will then set off on your private guided tour which will first take you to El Prado Museum, the biggest art gallery in the world. It has more than 7,600 paintings, but can exhibit only one part of its collection due to lack of space. However, a recent addition to the museum increased the space by 50%, so more paintings will gradually be displayed. Prado means meadow, and the museum got the name of Prado because there was an open meadow where the museum now sits. Your private guide, additionally qualified in Spanish History and Art, will make sure you don't miss anything, you are in excellent hands.

Your private tour of Madrid will then take you to the Plaza Oriente to see and learn about the Royal Palace - Palacio Real or Palacio Oriente - and the Cathedral. You will then walk through the Old town to the Plaza de la Villa, with the town hall, and on to Mercado de San Miguel, the hottest gastronomic spot in Madrid where its bars and restaurants make it the place to meet in Old Madrid. You will also visit the Plaza Mayor and finalize your tour in Santa Ana Square (near your hotel). On your journey you will enjoy some fantastic bites to eat, and a beverage or two, as you sample the best variety of wine and tapas the city has on offer! By the end of your private guided tour you will have discovered the key to the Madrid gastronomy (some of it is for the fearless only!) and heard many anecdotes of 17th century Madrid, along whose streets you will stroll.

In a Nutshell: Chauffeured transfer from Madrid Airport to Hotel, Private Guided Tour of Old Madrid and a Selection of tapas and wine on your Tapas Hopping, Overnight in a 4* Boutique Hotel in Madrid

DAY 2 MADRID

After breakfast, and based on the insider top tips your guide left you with, you have a free day to wander around Madrid and see all the fantastic Museums, art galleries and famous parks of this fantastic city. Perhaps you wish to visit the Reina Sofia Museum or the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in the company of your expert guide, this can be of course arranged.

The Reina Sofia Museum - The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, also called the Museo Reina Sofia, (Queen Sofia Museum), is the national museum for 20th century art in Spain. The museum was officially inaugurated in Madrid in 1992 and is named after the former Queen of Spain. The museum collection consists of more than 20,000 works from the late 19th century to the present day, mainly dedicated to Spanish art with highlights including two of the greatest 20th century masters, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Probably the most famous masterpiece in the museum is Picassos 1937, oil on canvas painting, Guernica.

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum - Madrid's acquisition of this treasure trove of art in the 1980s was one of the greatest coups in European art history. Amassed by a central European collector beginning around 1920, and formerly displayed in Lugano, Switzerland, its 700 canvases, with works by artists ranging from El Greco to Picasso, are arranged in chronological order. This fantastic collection rivals the legendary holdings of the Queen of England herself.

Maybe you wish to return to the Royal Palace, Palacio Real (often referred to as Palacio Oriente after the nearby square of the same name), to view its interesting interior. The palace is used by the King for ceremonial purposes only; he actually lives in the Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of the city. Or, take a leisurely walk through El Retiro Park, a great place to enjoy the open air as you stroll along the paths, of this once royal garden, passing fountains, statues, the delicate Palacio de Cristal, the boating lake and maybe the odd street entertainer or art exhibition. You might like to do a little shopping and if your pleasure is designer clothes why not spend some time wandering around some of the finest boutiques in Spain on Calle Serrano. Whatever you decide, enjoy your day! This evening we have many recommendations for fine dining in Madrid, be it old style Spanish food or Michelin starred extravaganza.

In a Nutshell: Free Day in Madrid, Overnight Madrid

DAY 3 GRANADA

This morning, after a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, you have the morning to relax in Madrid, before heading off to your next destination - to the South of Spain.

The hotel will gladly call you a taxi for the short journey to the train station, where you have preferente basis (1st class) tickets on the fast and comfortable high speed train to Andalucia.

On arrival at the train station, our chauffeur will be waiting to drive you to Granada where you will check in to your excellent 5* hotel.

Your hotel is a luxuriously converted former convent, a restored masterpiece that has also been declared an artistic and historic monument, and is ideally located in the historic center of Granada.

Granada has its usual quotient of churches, museums etc. typical for a southern European city. However, Granada also has the incredible Alhambra (which you will be visiting tomorrow). While in Granada you may like to visit the Royal Chapel "Capilla Real" commissioned by the Catholic Monarchs and built in a flamboyant Gothic style. Here you will find the mausoleums of Isabel and Ferdinand and their children Phillip "The Beautiful" and Joan "The Mad". The Cathedral stands next to the chapel and is considered as the first renaissance church in Spain although it is a mixture of styles with it's Baroque exterior, Renaissance interior and Gothic Roof Vaults. You may like to visit the Old Arab market "Alcaiceria". It is an interesting place to wander around and besides looking at the goods for sale, there are some good examples of Islamic architecture, and tiled wall decorations. The small archway off the famous Bib Rambla Square magically transports you to North Africa and into the narrow, tented streets of this market which is full of color, scents, music and vendors.

This evening we have many suggestions for dinner locally, perhaps something typically Andalusian.

In a Nutshell: High Speed train on a 1st Class basis to Andalucia, Private chauffeured transfer to Granada, Overnight in 5* Luxury Hotel in Granada

DAY 4 GRANADA

Today, after breakfast, our Officially Licensed Guide will be waiting for you at your hotel and you will leave to commence your private guided tour.

You will be heading to the incredible Alhambra which is considered, by some, to be one of the 10 wonders of the world. The Alhambra - gardens, fortifications and sumptuous palaces - was home to many Arab Sultans who ruled the whole province over the years. Stretched along the top of the hill known as La Sabika, the Alhambra is the stuff of fairy tales. From outside, its red fortress towers and walls appear plain, yet imposing, as they rise from cypress and elm woods, with the Sierra Nevada forming a magnificent backdrop.

The Alhambra was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 AD and was then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-11th century by Moorish king Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar who built the current palace and walls. Later, in 1333, it was converted into a royal palace by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada and in 1527 Charles V, demolished part of the architectural complex to build the palace which bears his name. With each new section that was added the consistent theme of "paradise on earth" was followed. Column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools were used to add to the aesthetic and functional intricacy. In each case, the exterior was left plain and austere. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was rediscovered in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers, with restorations commencing.

Today, the Alhambra exhibits the country's most significant and well known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century, and later Christian, building and garden interventions. You will surely be marveled by this incredible place and the stories and anecdotes your guide will reveal.

The rest of your afternoon/evening is free to perhaps have a wander around the Albaicin, the old Arabic quarter located on the hill opposite the Alhambra. It is characterized by cobble stoned streets with white washed houses. Despite several centuries of neglect and architectural barbarities allowed by the town council it still retains a strong Arabic feeling (the Arabic population was ethnically cleansed just over 500 years ago).

There are many squares with terraces and places to laze about and have a bite to eat. The Albaicin is an oil painter's paradise and almost at every turn of the head there is an attractive view, almost always involving glimpses of the Alhambra.

In a Nutshell: Private guided tour of Granada including entrance to the Alhambra, Overnight Granada

DAY 5 RONDA & JEREZ

This morning, after breakfast, your private chauffeur will be waiting to transfer you to Seville, but on the way you will be stopping in beautiful historical Ronda with time for a bit of sightseeing and a delicious lunch, for which we have many recommendations.

The Serrania de Ronda is a mountainous area that is famous throughout the world for it's beautiful white villages, in Spanish known as the Pueblos Blancos. This part of Spain is unique, it is only here that the white villages exist in such abundance.

Ronda is remarkably appealing with a beautifully preserved old town, Arab Baths and many great bars and restaurants. Since the 19th century Ronda has attracted a whole host of illustrious visitors and with its stunning position, on the top of the sheer-sided Tajo gorge, it is much-photographed.

Alternatively, here's a proposal for the wine lovers - a detour in Jerez, the cradle of sherry:

If you prefer to go to Jerez (please advise) first, for lunch, you will enjoy a foray to the lively coastal town of Puerto Santa Maria, famous for its "cocederos" - seafood shops/restaurants. Eating sea food in Puerto has turned into an authentic institution and a tourist attraction, the Rivera del Marisco with its popular sea-food restaurants like Romerijo, will all the prawns, lobsters etc. you can dream of.

Your chauffeur will then take you Jerez, which is known as the capital of sherry wine. It is here that Spanish Sherry Grape cultivation dates back to the Roman era and where several different types of sherry are produced today by many famous bodegas.

You have a Sherry date at a fantastic winery, founded in 1896, one of the major producers of Sherry in Spain. After a full tour of the facilities with a bi-lingual wine specialist guide you will then be able to immerse yourself in the sherry culture with an extended tasting of their fabulous sherries.

After a a stroll around Ronda (or a delicious tasting of various sherries if you prefer to go to Jerez - please advise) you can sit back and relax as your chauffeur now transfers you to Seville, where you will check into your boutique 4* hotel in Seville. Situated in a delightful area, in the picturesque and authentic Barrio de Santa Cruz, the hotel is an attractive, converted manor house dating back to the 16th century. Take some time to relax after your journey and soak up the Seville atmosphere with a wander through the orange and jasmine scented Barrio.

This evening we have many suggestions for dinner locally, perhaps something typically Andalusian.

In a Nutshell: Private chauffeured transportation to Seville with a visit to Ronda, OPTIONAL Private Guided visit to a top Sherry Producer with Sherry tasting, Overnight in a boutique 4* hotel in Seville

DAY 6 SEVILLE

Today, after breakfast, your officially licensed Seville guide will be waiting for you and you will depart on a private sightseeing tour of the Barrio Santa Cruz, which is the old Jewish quarter. You will amble around its beautiful squares and narrow streets, which form a labyrinth, but beware, it is very easy to get lost! This is part of the charm of the jasmine and orange scented Barrio because, when one is lost, a convent or a palace may be discovered. Many of the palaces have wrought iron gates that allow a sneak peep into their beautiful patios. The area abounds in small stores and artisan shops, as well as good art galleries.

Your tour continues through historic Seville, including a visit to Seville Cathedral, the oldest and most spectacular Gothic cathedral in the World, and La Giralda, a tower which provides spectacular views of the city. You may also have time to visit The Reales Alcazares, the oldest royal palace in Europe and residence of the Spanish Royal Family when they stay in Seville.

You will have worked up an appetite on this fascinating tour so your guide will lead you now to a tantalizingly delicious tapas lunch. Seville boasts more than 4,000 tapas bars - roughly 1 for every 200 locals so you know they know what they're talking about! Tapas hopping is part of Andalusian life and as you stop into some of the many foodie hot spots you can try a variety of dishes that come freshly out of the kitchen. Plate after plate of hot and cold food appears on the bar to tempt your palate, so maybe try cold roasted pepper salad or anchovies in vinegar, a hot dish of meatballs in sauce or a slice of Potato Omelet ..... the choice is yours. Of course, as is customary, you will accompany your mouth watering bites with a glass of dry Spanish Sherry, wine or draft beer.

In the evening prepare yourself to be wowed with a wonderful Gypsy Flamenco Show, where the swirling skirts and tapping heels of the dancers will excite and amaze the senses.

In a Nutshell: Private Guided Tour of Historical Seville to include the Cathedral, Authentic Tapas Hopping, Gypsy Flamenco Show, Overnight Seville

DAY 7 CORDOBA

This morning you will take a taxi to Seville Railway Station, where you have tickets to take a very comfortable high speed train to Cordoba. On arrival in Cordoba your excellent Officially Licensed guide will be waiting for you and you will start your private tour of this beautiful city.

Once the biggest city in all of Europe, Cordoba thrived and expanded with its unique blend of cultures. These are beautifully expressed with a visit to Mezquita, the most significant Muslim architectural achievement in the Western world. This 8th century structure was first a church, then a mosque, and today has a cathedral oddly placed in its center.Walk the street leading up to the Juderia, with its whitewashed houses and colorful courtyards and shops. Though not Jewish in its current expression, a few signs hint of the Golden Age of Jewish life. Note, for example, the statue of the great court doctor and Torah sage, Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon) and the tiny, gem-like Synagogue, (the one in which Maimonedes prayed) which is one of only three remaining synagogues in Spain from before the Expulsion of 1492.

The Jewish Quarter is the best-known part of Cordoba's historic center, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984 and is one of the largest in Europe. As you wander down picturesque and evocative streets in the restored heart of Cordoba - one of the largest medieval quarters in Europe - it is not difficult to imagine the days when Cordoba was one of the most important cities in Europe. Cordoba's large Juderia has been recently restored and is now filled with charming shops and cafes.

Your private guide will then take you to some local taverns to savor some typical Cordobese tapas. A Tavern in Cordoba used to be a place where the local people could go to drink wine and every tavern had an interior courtyard with a well, that was not only for decoration but also to refresh the drinks. Nowadays Cordoban taverns are designed as lively, yet less frenetic, venues to taste tapas. Try the specialties such as Flamenquin (battered pork or ham), Salmorejo (cold tomato soup thickened with breadcrumbs), Rabo de Toro (Bulls tail) and for dessert the typical Pastel Cordobes - a pastry filled with sweet pumpkin.

On return to Seville we have many suggestions for a final Sevilliano style dinner tonight!

In a Nutshell: High Speed Return Train to Cordoba, Private Guided Tour of Historical Cordoba to include the Mezquita and typical tavern tastings, Overnight Seville

DAY 8 LISBON

This morning, after breakfast, you will check out of your hotel in Seville and a representative of our car rental company will be waiting with your luxury rental vehicle (Mercedes E, Audi 4 or similar) equipped with automatic transmission and GPS. Please note an International Driving License / Permit is required for driving in Europe. You will now commence your journey into Portugal, to Lisbon.

On the way, however, you will be stopping to visit an authentic and unique family run estate with a long tradition of Iberian Ham produce, started in 1818! Nowadays the 4th generation of the family continues the tradition of excellence and highest quality only in the production of Iberian Ham and Cold Cuts. Their premises are located in a small authentic village, of just 600 inhabitants, which enjoys a micro-climate unique in the Peninsula and very beneficial for the Iberian Pigs pasture. Barely 2 km from the birth of the Odiel River and situated 572 meters above sea level, the village benefits from the wind currents from the Atlantic while at the same time enjoying a Mediterranean climate. Here you will see where the Iberian pigs roam freely in the pasture. You will learn about the area that surrounds you and the life and necessity of the business to transmit the essence of an artisan profession with respect for it's surroundings. You will have a full tour of the premises, following the whole process, including the traditional elaboration of their products and the ham drying process.

At the end of your tour you will enjoy an extended Iberian ham tasting lunch in the bodega of this small, but excellent producer. You will be served their exquisite Jabugo Ham, made from acorn only fed pigs, as well as other fine cured ham products of this authentic ham producers, accompanied with cheeses and of course wine.

When you arrive in Lisbon, you will check into your genuine 4* Art Deco Boutique Hotel, in the city center, which echoes the glamour of the 1940's. Classified as a historic building, this small and unique hotel is located on a quiet street right alongside the cosmopolitan Avenida da Liberdade. We are sure you will be tired after your journey, but a short siesta is the answer before you start to get acquainted with this fabulous city. If San Francisco had a sister, it would be Lisbon. Both cities have twin bridges and famously foggy weather. Both are situated on the best natural harbors on the west coast of their respective continents. Both have trolleys rattling up and down their steep hills past characteristic buildings. And both have survived horrific earthquakes. In 1755, an estimated 9.0 earthquake leveled two-thirds of Lisbon. Within a month, a new city was designed, and downtown Lisbon was rebuilt on a progressive grid plan, with broad boulevards and square squares. Today, Lisbon is a charming mix of old and new. Bird-stained statues mark grand plazas, taxis screech around cobbled corners and the hip and trendy hang out in Art Nouveau cafes. Just like it did during the days of Magellan and Vasco da Gama, the city continues to welcome ships into its large port. Even today, Lisbon still feels like Europe's gateway to the world. We can recommend many restaurants in Lisbon for you to discover some local Portuguese cuisine this evening!

In a Nutshell: Provision of luxury rental vehicle with automatic transmission and GPS, Visit and Tasting Lunch at a Ham Producers, Overnight in 4* Boutique hotel in Lisbon

DAY 9 LISBON

This morning, after breakfast, your experienced, Officially Licensed guide will be waiting at your hotel to take you on a Private Gourmet and Historical Tour of Lisbon. Your private visit will start with the Moorish St Georges Castle, renamed after conquering the Moors, where you will be able to take in the impressive views over the sea. Within the walls of the Castle you will stop at a friendly Cafe for your first Portuguese tasting of the day where you may like to try Ginginha, the famous Portuguese Cherry Liqueur, have a glass of the famous fortified wine Port or join Portugal's strong cafe culture with an aromatic coffee.

Leading down from the castle to the river, you will then cross the Alfama, Lisbon's salty sailors quarter. Its tangled street plan is one of the few parts of Lisbon to survive the big quake, making the Alfama a cobbled playground of Old World color. Urban-jungle roads are squeezed into a maze of confusing alleys, designed to frustrate invaders trying to get up to the castle. What was defensive then is atmospheric now. Gnarled houses snuggle together in their romantic shabbiness; the air drips with laundry and the smell of clams and raw fish.

Onward now to the Baixa and Chiado districts where there are many well-known cafes to enjoy another stop for a coffee and a typical Portuguese cake before heading to Rossio, passing by the famous Santa Justa elevator, where you will hear about the only tea produced in Europe, grown in the Atlantic Island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores. You will be visiting a specialized gourmet locale stocked with authentic local delights such as the typical Bacalhau (dried, salted cod), exclusive wines, traditional sweets, chorizo sausages and much more. A taste of the authentic dried salted cod is a must! From here you will head to Praca do Comercio - Commerce Square - a vast waterfront place, where the royal palace stood until the 1755 Great Earthquake. Here you will sample authentic Portuguese Beer and taste the delicious cod cakes. Your tour of Lisbon would not be complete without including Vinho Verde do Minho (the famous green wine of Minho) and you will able to enjoy a glass accompanied with Azeitao cheese, spicy chorizo sausage and delicious bread.

Your private guide will provide you with many personalized suggestions for further sightseeing in Lisbon for the rest of your day but you will surely appreciate a relax at your Lisbon hotel first.

This evening you are set for a fabulous Fado experience, Portugal's national music. You will dine at an authentic, elegant Portuguese Fado restaurant in Lisbon's picturesque Bairro Alto. Founded in 1931 this institution in Lisbon has entertained prime ministers and presidents. The show is composed of Fado Sessions until 2am so you can stay as long as you wish, although most of our guests leave around 11pm.

In a Nutshell: Private Guided Gourmet and Historical Tour of Lisbon, Fado Evening, Overnight Lisbon

DAY 10 DOURO VALLEY

This morning, after breakfast, you will leave for the Douro Valley, however, first you will be stopping off to visit Coimbra, with a rich historical background. Coimbra is one of Portugal's oldest cities and home to one of the worlds first universities. In 711 the city was occupied by the Moors and remained Islamic for more than 300 years, despite brief interludes when Christian troops regained control. With the final Reconquest, in 1064, Coimbra was ideally situated to be a point of contact between the Muslim south and the Christian north and became home to an important Mozarabic community. Today, its atmospheric, beautiful historic core cascades down a hillside in a lovely setting on the east bank of the Rio Mondeg: it is a multicolored collage of buildings spanning nearly a millennium. Take time out to see the Old Cathedral Se Velha - the present church, in the second phase of Coimbra Romanesque style, dating from the 2nd half of the 12th century and the Almedina Tower (Torre de Almedina) which was built above the Almedina Arch in the 11th century, nowadays housing the Centre of the Walled City, an interpretation centre recounting the history of the medieval city and its wall.

Onward now to the Douro Valley and finally, you will arrive at Pinhao in the heart of the Douro Valley, considered one the most spectacular wine regions of the world with its characteristic terraced vineyards as the sloping hills meet the meandering river below. You will check into your hotel, a charming 5-star property dating back to the XVIII century when it was an old Port winery, with a privileged location in the heart of the Douro valley and overlooking the Douro River. Later, you may wish to explore Pinhao. Spectacularly located at the confluence of the Douro and Pinhao rivers, this small town is the epicenter of the Port wine making area and a place where the soil and climatic conditions are considered to be at their very best. Port wine is a wine developed in Portugal by the British. To make the wine, it ferments for only 2 to 3 days, has brandy added, and then is aged in wooden barrels. How long it ages determines the taste and how sweet the wine is.

This afternoon, you may like to enjoy a guided visit to a great Douro Valley winery that is just a short stroll from your hotel. We will be delighted to include a visit and a tasting of their wines in your itinerary if you so wish, please advise. You may wish to eat at your hotel tonight, but there are also many local good quality restaurants we can suggest.

In a Nutshell: Drive to the Douro Valley via Coimbra, Optional afternoon Douro Valley Winery visit with wine tasting. Overnight in a charming 5* Hotel in Pinhao in the Douro Valley

DAY 11 DOURO VALLEY

After breakfast at your riverside hotel, you will head to a fantastic Quinta famous for its sophisticated wines as well as for the dramatic views. This single vineyard property dates as far back as the early seventeenth century, long before the Douro became the worlds first demarcated wine region in 1756. Recently they began a new venture with Jean Michel Cazes from one of our favorite wineries of the Bordeaux region, Chateau Lynch Bages. At the winery, in the company of an in-house expert, you will have a full private tour of the vineyards, with mind blowing views, and cellars, followed by a tasting of their incredible wines and ports with lunch.

What better place to stay for a Gourmet 3 course lunch, with, of course, their wine pairings. Due to the exclusiveness of lunch your main course will be chosen prior to your visit and we will advise of the options in advance.

After lunch you will return to Pinhao where you will join a cruise along the Douro River. You will be able to revel in the fantastic area that surrounds you, considered one the most spectacular wine regions of the World, as you head upstream toward the mouth of the river Tua. This stretch of river is not visible from national roads and is one of the most beautiful stretches of the Douro river. You will see the wine producing farmhouses and the cascading terraced vineyards that spill down the sloping hills to form this unique landscape known today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will most definately be able to imagine how, traditionally, Port wine was carried down the river from the Quintas of the Douro Valley to the Port Wine lodges in Porto on the traditional Portuguese cargo boats known as Rabelo boats. Please note: The group cruise is taken on normal river boats but should you wish to have a private cruise on one of the Rabelo Boats then this can be arranged in advance. Please advise

On return why not take a walk beside the Douro River or even take a train meandering alongside the water. Pinhao station is considered one of the most symbolic locations on the Upper Douro wine circuit, with 25 blue glazed tile panels covering the main building, representing the local landscapes and habits, predominantly of wine making. This is your last evening in the Douro Valley, however, should you wish to stay an extra night so that you can have a free day to explore more fantastic Douro Valley Wineries or just relax in the beautiful area then we can happily customise your itinerary accordingly.

As ever, we have many suggestions for to experience the best of Portuguese food and wine for dinner.

In a Nutshell: Private Douro Valley Winery Tour, Winery Gourmet 3 course Lunch with Wines, Cruise on the Douro River, Overnight Pinhao - Douro Valley

DAY 12 SALAMANCA

This morning, after breakfast, you will head back to Spain and the direct drive to Salamanca is an approximate 3 hour journey. But, why not take the drive leisurely and stop on the way to visit Viseu, a fine Portuguese city whose old center still retains its medieval feel with its impressive twin-towered cathedral, and Guarda, which boasts an ancient Jewish Quarter or "Judiaria" dating back to the 12th century. Also, in the Guarda area alone there are over 20 frontier castles to see and while not enough time to see them all we will be delighted to provide you all the information you may require.

Onward now to Salamanca, one of the most beautiful Spanish cities. Salamanca's University is actually the oldest in Spain, and the Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The city's historic center has important Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque monuments. The Plaza Mayor, with its galleries and arcades, is particularly impressive; considered to be one of the finest squares in Spain and known as the living room of the Salamantinos.

Please note: a private guided tour of Salamanca, with our Officially Licensed local guide, can be arranged, if you so wish.

Here, in Salamanca, you will check into your excellent 4* boutique hotel, formerly the private mansion of a wealthy family, an old aristocratic house, which is located at the edge of the ancient city walls in the historical district. The building contains some beautiful sculpted designs over the windows and doors, and black wrought-iron balconies. It is steps away from the Roman bridge, just a short walk to the Cathedral of Salamanca and around seven-minute walk through the old town to the spectacular Plaza Mayor. The main square is the perfect place to sip a glass of wine or cava whilst watching the world go by and there are many restaurants for a delicious dinner this evening. Your printed Personal Travel Journals will include our delicious restaurants recommendations as well as personalized sightseeing options.

In a Nutshell: Visits to Viseu, Guarda and Salamanca; Overnight in 4* Boutique hotel in Salamanca

DAY 13 MADRID

Why not have a lazy breakfast this morning and a wander perhaps in Salamanca's Plaza Mayor prior to continuing your journey to Madrid. The direct drive to Madrid is an approximate 2.25 hours, but, on the way may we suggest a stop in Avila and/or Segovia, we will of course provide you with all the info on what to see and do:

Avila is a small town locally renowned for its harsh winters, but really famous for its impressive medieval town walls, the best-maintained example to be found in Europe. The City Walls were built between the 11th and 12th centuries and today still surround the city. Other top attractions here include the Avila Cathedral, which also dates back to the 12th century and the Romanesque basilica of St. Vincent's.

Segovia is a city with centuries of settlement resulting in a rich architectural legacy, including medieval walls, Romanesque churches, a former royal palace and a Gothic cathedral. The iconic ancient Roman aqueduct of Segovia is remarkably well preserved and forms part of the setting of the magnificent historic city of Segovia. With more than 160 arches, and two tiers, it is comprised of over 20 thousand stone blocks that are neither cemented nor stuck together by any substance! It is well worth staying for lunch in Segovia and the most typical dish is the famous roast suckling pig. Your printed Personal Travel Journals will include our delicious restaurants recommendations as well as personalized sightseeing options for today as in all the areas covered in your itinerary.

On your eventual arrival in Madrid you will return your rental car to the local office and re-check into your 4* Palace hotel. You will then have time to relax after your journey prior to perhaps doing a little last minute shopping or sightseeing in this magnificent city. You may wish to dine at one of the oldest restaurants in the world tonight - yes, it is in Madrid, but we also have several suggestions for dinner tonight, or maybe you would prefer to re-visit the San Miguel market and enjoy some delicious tapas and local wine!

In a Nutshell: Suggestions to visit Avila/ Segovia on the way to Madrid, Drop off rental vehicle, re-check into your 4* Palace hotel in Madrid

DAY 14 TOLEDO

This morning, after breakfast, you are off to Toledo for the day. You have high speed train tickets from Madrid to Toledo, and return. Your local officially licensed guide will be waiting for you at the train station when you arrive and will lead you on a visit to the Cathedral, which is one of the most outstanding buildings in the city and is considered to be one of the high points of Gothic art. The construction of this monumental building, with a basilica floor plan and five naves, commenced in 1226, although it was not finished until the 15th century. On its main facade the outstanding feature is the doorway, made up of three doors: Infierno (Hell), Perdon (Forgiveness) and Juicio (Judgement). The exterior is topped by the two cathedral towers, one of them in flamboyant Gothic style and the other in Gothic-Renaissance.

Following on your guide will lead you to the Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca. Remains of the Jewish community are still preserved in the city in the synagogues of Santa Maria la Blanca and El Transito. The former, built possibly in the 12th century, is also a good example of Toledo's Mudejar art. It has five naves with decreasing heights as well as the characteristic geometrical and botanical decoration and horseshoe arches. Meanwhile, in the synagogue of El Transito, built in 1357, you can admire one of the best Mudejar coffered ceilings of all those preserved in Toledo, along with walls richly decorated with geometrical and botanical designs and Hebrew inscriptions. Nowadays, this Jewish place of worship houses the Sephardic Museum, in which an interesting collection of pieces of art and various objects used in Jewish ceremonies are exhibited.

Your fantastic visit to Toledo, will terminate with a visit to the church of Santo Tome, famous for housing the famous El Greco picture entitled El entierro del Conde Orgaz (The burial of Count Orgaz). You will then have free time to enjoy Toledo and have lunch, for which we have several suggestions, prior to returning to Madrid.

Back in Madrid, the rest of the evening is free to do as you wish - relax, have a light dinner, wander around Madrid, the choice is yours. We have many suggestions for great restaurants.

In a Nutshell: High speed return train tickets for a day in Toledo; Private Guided Tour of Toledo to include the Cathedral, Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca and Church of Santo Tome, Overnight Madrid

DAY 15 DEPARTURE

This is the last day of your tour and after breakfast you will check out of your hotel and your chauffeur will be waiting to transfer you to Madrid Airport for your onward journey home.

We do hope you will join us for this very exciting tour to enjoy some of our very best food, wine and cultural experiences, which will surely provide for a truly memorable tour!

In a Nutshell: Chauffeured transfer to Madrid Airport

Your tour includes:

  • Accommodation for four (4) nights in a 4* boutique hotel, in the historical and cultural heart of Madrid (superior room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for two (2) nights in a 5* luxury former convent hotel in Granada (superior room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for three (3) nights in a 4* boutique palace-house converted hotel in the historical heart of Seville (premium room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for two (2) nights at an elegant art deco 4* hotel in the very heart of Lisbon (superior room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for two (2) nights in a 5* riverside hotel in Pinhao, Douro Valley (river-view room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for one (1) night at a 4* boutique hotel in the heart of historical Salamanca (deluxe room, double occupancy)

  • Fourteen (14) full breakfasts

  • Provision of a luxury rental car (Mercedes E, Audi A4 or similar) with automatic transmission and GPS for the days as stated in your itinerary

  • Train tickets on a preferential basis (1st Class) from Madrid to Andalucia, and on a standard basis for the return trips Madrid-Toledo and Seville-Cordoba

  • Private chauffeured transfers on arrival at and departure from Madrid Airport, from Andalucia train station to Granada and from Granada to Seville via Ronda

  • Assistance of an experienced bilingual Official Licensed Guide, as indicated in the tour itinerary

  • All the private guided tours, cultural visits,tastings and meals as indicated in the itinerary

  • Online Personal Travel Webpage including daily itinerary, general local information, details of places of interest, suggestions for restaurant reservations, and your free time, etc.

  • Handy elegant Personal Travel Journal, which includes the extended information from your Personal Travel Website, that you can take with you as you go and keep as a souvenir to look back on.

  • 24/7 Back Office Assistance

Your tour does not include:

  • Flights

  • Meals and drinks not stated in the itinerary

  • Personal expenses such as telephone, minibar, etc.

  • Tips and gratuities at restaurants etc. at your discretion, NOT obligatory

  • Travel Insurance may be included in your quotation on request. We strongly recommend you to take out separate cancellation insurance.

Prices:

Please note our tours are available for PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY and are not scheduled mixed group tours. Price is available upon request and varies depending on the number of guests and time of year. Feel free to contact us for your personal quote