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Santiago, Bilbao & the highlights of Castile & Leon Tour

My husband and I have just returned from the above tour and it was a wonderful trip.
Firstly, your team has worked very hard in providing a marvellous itinerary giving us the experience of seeing both amazing cities and scenery.
Secondly, the hotels were excellent and in ideal locations for visiting the sites.
Thirdly, we cannot praise our courier, Clare, too highly. She was very knowledgeable of the area and gave us just enough information and in a friendly manner; together with this she was very caring. Clare was a gem and added that something special to the holiday.
This was our third holiday with Riviera and they have all been excellent - now we can’t wait for our next trip with you in March 2017 to Classical Greece.

Review by Jan MacKellar on 11 October 2016

I’ve just come back from the tour Santiago, Bilbao and the Highlights of Castile and Leon and I wanted to let you know what a wonderful experience it was.  It was my 6th tour with you so far and they have all been outstanding experiences.  But this tour was so special I would happily do it all over again.  There was the same quality of care for travellers as individuals, the very careful planning of the trip to ensure a rich and varied experience,  very comfortable hotels, a wealth of information and great support from the Tour Manager.  On this tour, our Manager, Claire, was outstanding for her helpfulness, efficiency, friendliness and knowledge.
But what made this trip so special was that it opened up a whole area of Spain which other tour companies don’t seem to visit.  And it is clearly such an important part of Spain culturally, politically and historically, as well as being very beautiful.  I went on your tour to Andalusia and Seville last year, and I’m hoping to work my way through all your Spanish tours to build up a picture of Spain and its people.  For me at least, your tours are certainly holidays, but with a purpose.  I’m off on the Croatia tour in September - I can hardly wait!
Thank you so much.

Review by Susan Rawlings on 2 September 2016

Have just returned from yet another Riviera holiday which was thoroughly enjoyable. Clive was an excellent leader keeping us entertained with his stories en route as well as the history of the region.
For me the highlight of the tour was seeing the ‘botafiera’ swinging in the Cathedral at Santiago. However, to see this meant missing half of the guided tour which was a shame. I noticed some others in the group also slipped away in order to experience the Pilgrim Mass & botafiera.
All the local guides were excellent as were the choice of restaurants.

Review by Theresa Gatward on 10 June 2016

The inaugral tour to Bilbao, Burgos, Leon and Santiago was a great success. The sun shone and the sky was blue; the hotels were excellent and the included meals generally good; each of the towns was fascinating, with lots of historical interest and good guides. Our tour manager, Clive, led the tour with quiet efficiency and 41 people gelled surprisingly quickly into friendships for the week. Three days in an excellent hotel in Santiago provided rest and relaxation, or spiritual sustenance, according to need.

Review by Dr Terry Slater on 15 May 2015

The glorious weather we experienced on the recent inaugural tour to Santiago only enhanced what was otherwise an excellent trip.  I think, although we clearly enjoyed all the pleasures of modern coach-travel (including wide open roads and very competent drivers), we all came to understand something of the original camino and its effects on the pilgrim after travelling virtually the breadth of northern Spain. The tour was extremely well-constructed, the landscape surprisingly varied, the hotels beautifully chosen and located, and the medieval cities and cathedrals fascinating.  I would also single out Bilbao as a stunning first stop-over, and not just for the Guggenheim.  Special thanks go to our tour manager, Clive, who was not only attentive to every detail for our comfort but was kindness itself and ensured at all times that I (as a solo traveller) never felt other than included.  And a particular mention should go to the three local guides, who not only spoke impeccable English but managed to be both informative and very entertaining.  Riviera Travel is to be commended for having put together a really interesting new programme.

Review by Mrs. Sheila Fyfe on 25 May 2015

The tour itself was wonderful! Clare, our Tour Manager was brilliant, a real credit to your company. We would have liked to have stayed another night in Bilbao to be able to see more of the city and the hotel was very good. The journey to Burgos via Bodegas Bilbainas was good and the guided tour of the winery was really interesting.
We really liked Burgos and the hotel was very good with excellent views and very quiet. The guided tour including the Cathedral was very good. We spent the afternoon in the Museum looking at the exhibition on ‘Atapuerca The mystery of the evolution of humans’. This, we feel, needs a mention in your brochure and maybe a visit to one of the ‘digs’ as the team implies that they welcome visitors interested in the sites of the earliest humans in Europe.
We had been a bit sceptical about going to the local restaurant in the evening but the meal was very good (we are vegetarians who are willing to eat fish) - the hake and the salmon were excellent.
The journey through the Picos de Europa was as beautiful as promised and Leon lived up to your descriptions. The guided tour was again very good though again we wished we had been able to stay longer.
The journey to Santiago de Compostela was good. We felt that the hotel in Santiago was excellent with super views and again very quiet. The guided tour with the local guide was great.
One suggestion we have here would be to have the restaurant meal on the evening of day 6 in order to leave day 7 entirely free. This is because on day 7 - Wednesday we decided to go on a tour to Fisterre at a cost of 39 euros which we found out about in the street on the way to our evening meal on the previous evening day 6. We have passed all the details to Clare to forward to you. We had to get to the minibus by 09.30 and we went to various places including a chapel of the pilgrims, to Fisterre the westernmost point of Spain, to the town of Fisterra where we had a leisurely lunch (one and a half hours) in an excellent restaurant recommended by the guide with a menu of the day for 12 euros. This included water, bread, a bottle of the excellent local wine and a choice for 3 courses. After lunch we visited the river which fell, by waterfall, directly into the sea and then to other viewpoints of the coast. We arrived back at 18.30 and were able to get a lift back to the hotel or it would have been very tight getting to the restaurant that evening.
This restaurant meal that evening was excellent!
The final day was enjoyable because we had a really good long morning to again wander around Santiago de Compostela before leaving for the airport.
This is our 5th tour with you and though we have enjoyed all of the previous tours, this without doubt, was our favourite.

Review by Ann and John Karabinas on 18 September 2015

Great tour. Well organised, happy helpful tour guide. Really liked the mixture of places to eat, have always been pleased with your holidays looking forward to receiving next years brochure

Review by margaret selby on 16 October 2015

An interesting and varied itinerary with plenty of free time included.
Good standard of hotels with excellent breakfasts - but an almost total absence of vegetables at the main meals. 
Comfortable coaches and the drivers were very quick with the loading and unloading of luggage.
Knowledgeable and friendly local guides with very good English.
And finally, our tour guide, Clare, was superb - always available, helpful and friendly, coped amazingly well with our extremely large group, was a mine of information. In fact, simply brilliant. And a good tour guide really makes a difference (just as a bad tour guide can completely ruin the experience).

Review by Bela Cunha on 17 October 2015

We thoroughly enjoyed this tour having long wished to visit this area of Spain.  The tour met and exceeded all of our expectations.

The itinerary was excellent with the right mix of guided visits to each of the four cities and free time for relaxation and further exploration.  The four hotels were good to excellent as were the included dinners.  It was a bonus to eat in local restaurants on two occasions.  All of the hotels were centrally located making it easy to walk out.  We particularly enjoyed our pre-breakfast walk in Burgos watching ‘pilgrims’ meeting in cafes and setting off on the next day of their Camino walks.

Clare, the Tour Manager, was exemplary - informative, sociable, practical and unflappable.  There was never any doubt about timetable and arrangements but, if there was, the notes she left each day in reception were clear and concise.

We would recommend this tour to anyone with an interest in visiting these little known but fascinating regions of Spain.

The only downside, but not a reason for not going, was the early morning flight from Stansted and the consequent delay in accessing our hotel rooms in Bilbao.  Clare was, however, clear that you are aware of this and seeking an alternative.

We will certainly travel with Riviera again.

Review by Avril & Paul Villiers on 20 October 2015

Our first trip with Riviera, but we will definitely use them again. Excellent organization, great hotels, great food and a wonderful tour guide.
Although it was an early start , it wasn’t until we arrived we realised there are so few flights into these regional N Spain airports.
Could have stayed longer in Bilbao, great fine arts gallery we had to rush around to get to the coach!
Burgos was lovely and we began our drive along the Camino watching pilgrims from our comfy seats! Santiago is something else and really a surprisingly spiritual place for us non religious types. So glad we went. Thank you Riviera.

Review by Jan&Ian; Blackburn on 24 October 2015

Yet another successful Riviera trip that proved both entertaining and educational.  We booked this trip because my husband wanted to go to Santiago but never got round to organising it.  When I saw that Riviera had introduced a new trip I thought it would be ideal - we were not disappointed! On the flight out we were very happy to see Clare, our guide, who we first met on the Classical Spain trip two years ago, who again provided just the right mix of facts and local knowledge, including her personal experiences of walking the Camino.  The amount of free time allowed my husband to investigate the buildings and history he was particularly interested in.  The city tours were good, but a little long-winded for me, but thoroughly enjoyed by my husband.  I really enjoyed the visit to the Rioja winery and the Picos mountain, for me they were a welcome break from the city centres.
As with other Riviera trips the hotels were all good/excellent, we should make special mention of the NH hotel in Santiago, whilst close to town it provided modern services in a picturesque setting across from the Galacian Institute of Music, the staff were all friendly and very helpful.  The 2 meals we had as a group in local restaurants provided examples of typical cuisine of the region - lots of meat!! The meals taken in the hotels as a group had a free seating policy and we dined with some lovely people and the whole group seemed to interact very well.
If we had any criticism and its only minor:
   *Yes, the early flight from Stansted is a little inconvenient, but you get the whole day in Bilbao, also a fact to consider is that to fly back from Santiago, which is very convenient, Ryan Air are the major operator and only seem to return to Stansted.
   *The overnight stop in Leon could have done with the city tour starting at 9.30am instead of 8.30am, which seemed unnecessarily early.
Overall we really enjoyed our trip, I consider this kind of trip “travelling” not “holiday”, I have convinced my husband there is a difference - for obvious reasons -  haven’t decided where my next “holiday” is going to be!
So a big thank you to Clare, fellow travellers and Riviera.

Review by Monica and John Pegg on 25 October 2015

The tour lived up to normal Riviera standards. We were delighted that you were running a tour to N. Spain including Santiago de Compostela. The tour was well organised with excellent guides and the group gelled well under Clive’s leadership.

Review by Pam & Phil Peeling on 25 October 2015

An excellently organised and managed tour. Clare’s sensitivity and skill in handling such a large party was outstanding.  The variety of areas covered in the tour was excellent though some extra time in Bilbao might have enabled us to do more justice to a very interesting city.  Hotels, restaurants and two out of the three local local guides were very good, the one in Santiago was a bit offhand. I was glad to hear that Ryanair’s 20Kg allowance rather than the 15Kg one is to be considered for next year,  This is our third trip with Riviera and I hope it will not be our last.  Altogether an most enjoyable experience.

Review by JDS Jennings on 26 October 2015

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