A 14-day exploration, from Thursday, April 13, to Wednesday, April 26, 2023
A leisurely tour of the less known and less touristy but beautiful and fascinating part of Spain tucked between Madrid and the Portuguese border, covering most of Spain’s heartland, Castile, as well as the rugged, relatively isolated province of Extremadura. Superb landscapes will alternate with great centres of art, learning, and religion, such as Segovia, Valladolid, Avila, Salamanca, Merida, Toledo, and Aranjuez. This tour features no less than eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, first-class hotels, excellent food, and fine local wines. It is offered in collaboration with Guelph Arts Council and is conducted by Jacques Pauwels, PhD, author of ‘Beneath the Dust of Time: A History of the Names of Peoples and Places’ (London, 2009) and many other books published in ten languages.
Tour price, from Toronto and based on double occupancy: $4,975 (CAD)
“Land only” from/to Madrid Airport (April 14-26): $3,775. Single room supplement: $750
Morning arrival in Frankfurt, and connecting flight to Madrid, where a comfortable tour coach will be waiting for us. We motor north to the historic Castilian city of Segovia via the picturesque Castilian town of Pedraza de la Sierra. Dinner and overnight in the first-class/four-star Hotel Real Segovia, located on the main street in the heart of the old town.
Excursion to Valladolid, a former capital of Spain’s Castilian heartland, which experienced its golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries. (Incidentally, Columbus died here on 20 May, 1506, but is not buried here; your guide will tell you where!) We view the most important monuments of the old town, such as the Cathedral and the House of Cervantes, and visit the wonderful National Museum of Polychrome Sculptures. On the way back to Segovia, we will view, and visit if time permits, the impressive Coca Castle, a stunning example of so-called Mudejar architecture, typical for Spain in the late Middle Ages. Return to Segovia in late afternoon and dinner in the restaurant of our hotel
Departure after breakfast. We motor to Avila for a visit to this medieval jewel, still surrounded by its mighty city wall; Avila is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the afternoon we continue to Salamanca, one of Spain’s most beautiful and interesting cities, described as “a lovely university city of golden stone, narrow streets, splendid buildings and exuberantly rich façades, a city of domes and spires with a long tradition of learning but still youthfully alive.” Dinner and overnight in the centrally located 4-star/first-class Hotel Eurostars Las Claras.
Morning tour of Salamanca’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with plenty of great sights, including the wonderful main square, Plaza Mayor; the Old and New Cathedrals; the so-called House of Shells; the Patio of the School’s Square, a fine example of the local version of Plateresque (Spanish Renaissance) architecture; the University; the Duenas Convent and cloisters; the Clavero Tower; delightful Plaza San Benito; and the Roman bridge over the river Tormes. Afternoon free to shop or explore the city on your own. Dinner again in the restaurant of our hotel.
Excursion to Zamora, a fortified town on a hill overlooking the Duero River Valley on a strategically important site close to the Portuguese border, famous for its many fine mansions of Castilian noble families. Short stop en route to view the Church of San Pedro de la Nave, built in the 7th (!) century and a fine example of the rare “Visigothic” style, unique to Spain; the church is being considered for status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Return to Salamanca in late afternoon, and free time to shop and/or explore the city on your own. No group dinner this evening.
Departure from Salamanca after breakfast. We motor south to the town of Guijuelo, famous for its ham. Visit to the ham museum and tasting of this fine ham, known as jamon iberico, considered by many to be the world’s finest pork product! Then we cross into the isolated and rugged highlands of Extremadura, a thinly inhabited region associated with pig and sheep farming, cork oak, and…conquistadors! Visit to San Yuste Monastery, where Charles V, King of Spain but also Emperor of Germany, retired and died in 1558. In the afternoon we pause in the quaint town of Trujillo, whose attractive main square boasts an equestrian statue of its most famous native son, Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of the Inca Empire. Late afternoon arrival in Cáceres, the capital of Extremadura. Dinner and overnight in the centrally located 4-star Hotel Don Manuel.
Excursion to yet another urban jewel of Extremadura, Merida. This town was founded by the Romans under Augustus and is today’s Spain’s major showcase of Roman architecture and art, featuring relatively well-preserved villas, bridges, temples, an aqueduct, an amphitheatre (arena), and a particularly impressive theatre. This archaeological complex has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also visit the outstanding National Museum of Roman Art. Lunch OR dinner will be included today.
Departure from Cáceres after breakfast. We motor to another great attraction of Extremadua, the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Guadalupe, a shrine immensely popular in Spain and renowned all over the world, especially in Latin America, where the cult of the Lady of Guadalupe was introduced by Columbus himself; not surprisingly, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After lunch, we leave Extremadura, re-enter Castile, head for Toledo, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most beautiful and historically important cities in Castile and indeed all of Spain -- and the country’s cradle of Christianity, hence the expression “Holy Toledo!”. Panoramic coach tour around the city before we check into the 4-star hotel Sercotel Renacimiento.
Full-day excursion to two nearby towns of great interest! A short drive (50km) will take us to Aranjuez, a kind of oasis in the middle of the arid Castilian highlands and nestled on the banks of the Tagus River, for sightseeing in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, described as a “cultural landscape [featuring] sinuous watercourses and geometric landscape design, between the rural and the urban, between forest landscape and the delicately modulated architecture of its palatial buildings.” In the centre of this complex are the famous Royal Palace and gardens, originally built in the 16th century but renovated and expanded in the 18th century in the style of Versailles. The beauty of Aranjuez has inspired painters and composers, most famously Joaquin Rodriguez Concierto de Aranjuez. In the afternoon we continue to nearby Chinchón, a small but very pretty Castilian town, to admire its gorgeous arcaded Plaza Mayor. Return to Toledo in late afternoon. Today group lunch in Aranjuez OR dinner after our return to Toledo.
Morning walking tour of Toledo’s old town, with attractions such as the fabulous Cathedral, the former Synagogue of Santa Maria La Blanca, and the little Church of San Tomé with one of the masterpieces of El Greco, who lived and worked in this city. The afternoon is free to shop and/or explore Toledo on your own. Final group dinner in a typical restaurant.
- Return flight Toronto-Madrid with Air Canada, including one checked suitcase; - Accommodation based on double occupancy, in 4-star/first-class hotels; the supplement for a single room (mostly a “double for single use”) is $750, but only a limited number of such rooms are available; - Breakfast daily and all but two dinners, usually including water and wine; - Overland transportation by private coach; - All visits and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments mentioned; - Hotel taxes and gratuities.
- All items of a personal nature; - Beverages with dinners, and meals other than those outlined above; - Travel Insurance; available upon request from the Pauwels office.
October 10 - 24, 2023
Tour price from Toronto: $5,295 CAD.
October 14 - 23, 2023
Land only: $3,485 CAD based on double occupancy
November 16 - 30, 2023
$8,895 including air based on double occupancy