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Selected departures from March to November 2016
Experience vibrant Seville and the magnificent Alhambra Palace in Granada on our escorted tour to Andalucía, one of the most unspoilt corners of Europe.
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Andalucia is simply one of the most beautiful corners of Europe and is, as yet, undiscovered by the majority. It’s a land where the excesses of the twentieth century seem not to have taken root and where travellers are genuinely welcomed.
A land immortalised by the writings of Ernest Hemingway and beloved by Orson Welles, where stunningly beautiful, sun-kissed countryside, covered by green olive groves stretch off into the distance under a perpetual azure blue sky. With biscuit coloured plains, untamed rivers, deep gorges and the spectacular snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, providing the backdrop, there can be few places on earth which can boast such a wealth of natural wonders in such a small area.
Tiny whitewashed villages perch on the hilltops, with narrow winding streets where every house has window boxes crammed with flowers of every colour, adding a touch of vitality to these sleepy hamlets, little changed since Columbus’ days.
Andalucia has a long and violent past stretching from the dawn of civilisation. The Phoenicians and ancient Greeks traded, whereas Julius Caesar fought here, as did Hannibal. The region is crammed with legacies from throughout the centuries from a variety of civilisations. Without doubt, the jewels in Andalucia’s crown are the fantastic cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, which have some of the most important monuments anywhere on earth, many of which are designated as Heritage Sites by the United Nations and protected accordingly. Seville, home of Carmen and Figaro, boasts the world’s largest gothic cathedral. It was from here the conquistadors set sail to explore and plunder the New World and from the sixteenth century unimaginable wealth poured in, building the city we see today. Cordoba has a sixteen arched bridge spanning the river, built by the Romans and amazingly still in use and the Mezquita, built by the Moors is so beautiful and thought-provoking it is beyond words. Granada has the Alhambra, the Moorish King’s Palace so richly decorated, it shames almost anything we can conceive today.
Nowadays though, despite its pedigree, or because of it, Andalucia is perhaps the most Spanish region in the country, indeed, the popular image of ‘real Spain’ of ruined castles, sherry and bullfights has its roots here. The food is a delight, with the area noted for its seafood and its famous drink, the fortified wine from Jerez we call sherry. Try a glass of ‘fino’ - a very dry yet refreshing sherry whilst nibbling ‘tapas’ - that great Spanish titbit invention.
The people are charming – always ready to help and with an attitude towards their fellow man and a love of life so typical of Mediterranean people. So, for a unique blend of superb countryside, famous and stunningly beautiful monuments and cities, wonderful art, all set in a country which welcomes tourists as honoured guests – come with us and see.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at a supplement of £179 per person. The price includes six nights bed and breakfast accommodation as mentioned, all tours as mentioned, guided visit of the Alhambra and Mezquita, airport departure taxes and transfers, return flights to Malaga, and services of a Riviera tour manager. Where hotels feature an outdoor swimming pool, this will be open in the summer months, weather permitting.
Not included: Entrance to Alcazar €9.50, Seville Cathedral €8, or €3 if you are over 65, approximate costs, payable locally.
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Malaga. On arrival a coach will take you to your hotel. The four-star Puerta del Sol hotel is ideally situated in undulating countryside near the village of Mijas, has a swimming pool (open during summer months weather permitting) and is set in its own grounds.
This morning after breakfast we take the drive into the beautiful hills which form the stunning backdrop to the coast and then arrive in Ronda, which enjoys a setting which could be in a fairytale, full of natural drama and is widely acknowledged as one of the most spectacularly located cities in Spain. It is built on a ridge and is split by a most impressive gorge below, and because of its almost impregnable position Ronda was one of the last Moorish bastions of power, only falling to the Christians in 1485. The two halves of the town are joined by a massive eighteenth century stone bridge. In the town itself, there is a palace to see which was once home to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella – paymasters of Columbus. With lots of good restaurants and tapas bars it is a splendid spot to spend a few hours exploring its classic Moorish maze of cobbled alleys, window grilles and dazzling whitewashed houses. Much of Ronda’s appeal lies in its spectacular views and clear, mountain air – Andalucia at its simple best. We continue our drive and see some very scenic countryside which really is quite isolated, so much so it is not unusual to see eagles, vultures and ibex roaming the mountains.
We then arrive in Seville and our hotel, the threestar superior Don Paco where we stay for the next three nights. It is very well situated on the edge of the Old Town in one of Seville’s many squares, is fully air-conditioned and has a rooftop swimming pool.
Seville is a city which defies words. It is simply one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with a history spanning the centuries and a wealth of monuments and buildings coupled with extensive peaceful parks, with the serene River Guadalquivir flowing through the centre.
It has its origins in Roman times: the Emperor Hadrian, builder of the famous wall came from here. During the 8th Century that most fascinating of peoples, the Moors arrived, stayed for 500 years and left a unique legacy still in evidence today. However, if one event changed Seville, it was the discovery of the New World. Indeed Christopher Columbus is fittingly buried in the imposing cathedral. Immense wealth poured in from the Empire and catapulted Seville into one of the largest, and certainly richest cities in Europe. Much of Seville was built during this time and it seems to have changed little in the last five hundred years, with tiny winding streets, and cool hidden squares where the locals hide from the midday sun in high summer. Today though, it possesses a spirit which is very special. The city of Figaro, the setting for the classic opera Carmen, is here. It’sthe home of Flamenco too, the origins of which are lost in the eons of time. In short this is real Spain at its unspoilt best.
This morning, after breakfast we have a tour of this fascinating city, during which we will see the gothic cathedral, the world’s largest, the fantastic Alcazar – the fortified palace of the Moors with a richness of decoration which will astound you, the Tower of Gold, so named as it was used to store the plunder from the Americas, plus much more. During the afternoon you are free to explore Seville at your leisure, and if you wish, you could take a cruise on one of the many river boats.
Today we have a free day. There are the ‘musts’ such as the Alcazar and the cathedral but take time to wander around the Barrio Santa Cruz – the medieval Jewish quarter and the smart pedestrianised Sierpes full of beautiful shops selling high quality leather goods. The Maria Luisa Park is a beautiful display of colour where you can watch the locals relaxing.
After breakfast we leave Seville and head east to another of Andalucia’s classic cities, arriving in Cordoba for our guided tour. Cordoba was the ancient capital of the Moors and is principally famous for a single building – The Mezquita – the grandest and most beautiful mosque ever constructed in the Moorish World. It stands in the centre of the old town which was once the home of a thriving Jewish community. It is a building of extraordinary power and mystery. One can only wonder at the architectural brilliance of the builders all those hundreds of years ago, whilst northern Europe was immersed in the depths of the Dark Ages.
Another feature of Cordoba is the immense, well preserved Roman bridge. Cordoba is a delightful place full of patios drenched in the colour of thousands of flowers, the Spanish people seem to take so much pride decorating the sleepy whitewashed houses. We then continue our journey to arrive in the greatest city in Andalucia, Granada, capital of the Sultans during the middle ages and home to what can only be described as one of the world’s greatest buildings – the Alhambra. As we approach Granada, there can be no more proof of the diversity of this corner of southern Europe. We pass through some very arid countryside with a landscape of dried river beds, giving way to rolling olive groves. In the distance is the spectacular Sierra Nevada, the highest mountain range in Spain –snowcapped throughout the year, it provides a quite spectacular backdrop. The landscape then becomes more fertile and picturesque with ancient olive trees stretching off into the distance.
Our hotel for the next two nights is either the centrally located four-star Hotel Corona, in the heart of the city and within easy walking distance of the principal areas of interest or the four-star Hotel Alixares, also well located and actually opposite the Alhambra – both fully air-conditioned and ideal for a comfortable stay.
Granada itself has one of the world’s most naturally dramatic locations, nestling below the snow-capped mountains soaring majestically to a height of 11,000 feet. It is the perfect setting for a perfect monument – the extraordinary Alhambra. So individual in its setting, so rich in its history and so perfect in its design, this was the high point in Moorish culture. It is not just a palace though, some of it is a fortress, and much is given over to some exquisite formal gardens full of roses and fountains, giving an incredible impression of peace and tranquillity.
Today we will have a guided tour of this classic building which for many people will be the highlight of the holiday, and you will have time to explore the city as you wish. There is a myriad of twisting streets, the old Moorish quarter and the gypsy area. Full of tiny unique shops, with seemingly every balcony sprouting flowers in a profusion of colour adding a finishing touch to the whole scene. There can be nothing better than taking a stroll through these streets, unchanged for centuries some of them so small, they were designed for mules with the pavements made of pebbles set into mortar. Granada also boasts some of the most distinctive old bars in Spain, many of them lined with antique tiles where taking a drink and a few tapas can be an excuse for a unique experience.
Today the coach will take us to Malaga airport at the appropriate time, to take our return flight home after a really memorable tour.
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