I recently finished a tour in Spain, Madrid, Cordoba and Seville with a group of 49 people from Queens, New York. It was a great week and my first all-Spanish tour for a few years, it’s not my normal route but it was great to be back there. So here are some highlights;
Tapas – Seriously, is there a better way to eat? With like-minded teachers in tow we were able to find time to explore at lunchtimes and try some great food. The market (San Miguel) next to Plaza Mayor in Madrid is a superb place with a variety of stalls offering great food. Seats are hard to come by but don’t let this put you off. Just by the entrance is one of the finest calamari places in the city. Cordoba did not disappoint and we all tried oxtail and had the, as yet unresolved, conversation about how many pieces you get from one tail. We really should have asked the chef. Finally, the Triana district of Seville, across the water from the bullring allowed me to try calamari even better than that in Madrid. How was that possible? In all places my greatest thanks to my Group Leader Cathy for ordering on behalf of us all – she never let us down.
The Temple of Debod – If you are going to Madrid on tour then I urge you to get your Tour Director to take you here for sunset. I took the group via Plaza de Espana (with its memorial to Cervantes and statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza). The temple dates from the 2nd century BC and was a gift from Egypt to Spain in 1968. Originally located near Aswan the building was under threat due to construction of the dam in southern Egypt and so it was moved, piece by piece to Madrid. The location is a perfect one in quiet gardens on one side of the city but there is a bit more than chance as to where the temple has been placed. Get there for sunset to enjoy the view or come after dark to see both the temple and the nearby royal Palace lit up.
Flamenco – If I am being honest then I have to say, flamenco is not really my thing. Why would it be, I grew up in southern England at the time of The Clash and was suitably led along that path of musical enjoyment. On this tour we arranged to go to a flamenco show in Seville at the Casa de la Memoria, a small place in the narrow whitewashed streets of the barrio Santa Cruz. The eighty or so of us there watched one guitarist, one singer two dancers (one male, one female) just do their thing and it was superb. I heard the sigh of “what is this all about” from some around me at the start, understandable at such an event. These fidgets of malcontent had turned to standing ovations less than an hour later. Again, thanks Cathy for setting this up – wonderful stuff.
Toledo – El Greco knew what he was doing when he moved here. A stunningly beautiful town and an enjoyable chance to breathe following time in a busy city like Madrid. If you get the chance then make sure you go. The views of the town remain seemingly unspoilt over the centuries, the cathedral is magnificent, the streets are a pleasure to amble through and the Damascene showroom gives one a chance to dodge another coming towards you holding a large sword while finally getting to say “Crude and slow clansman, your attack was no better than that of a clumsy child.”
There was so much more, the windmills over Consuegra, boating in the Retiro park and even more tapas. Again, thanks so much to my Group Leader, it made such a wonderful change to have someone else do all the planning and she knows what she’s doing for sure. I’m already looking forward to Barcelona, Florence and Rome next year.
Readers, what was the biggest highlight of your Spanish tour?
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(Editor’s note: Paul Mattesini’s posts appear Tuesdays on Following the Equator. If you have a travel question for our resident expert tour director, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future posts.)