Spring in Spain ~ March 8th - 24th, 2018

Trip Leader: Carla Constantino

One of my favorite movie quotes is from ‘The Accidental Tourist’ with Geena Davis who won an Oscar in her role as Muriel.  Muriel is at a hotel in Paris when the concierge says:  “I am sorry it is raining.”  Muriel replies:  “It’s still Paris.”  That was our group’s attitude in Spain.  From the time we arrived, the rain tried to damper our spirits but failed.  We ventured out with umbrella’s ready to see the sights, rain or shine with sunny attitudes regardless.  And while rain descended now and again, we had plenty of good weather too. 

Starting in Madrid, we took in the world-famous Prado Museum, an authentic Flamenco Show and many other sites.  Our visit was topped off with a ‘suckling pig’ dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world; Sorbino de Botin.  The next morning, we were whisked off by train to Granada, where we could ski, tour, roam the city’s endless cobblestone streets with shops, restaurants and eat tapas at every turn.

Those who went to Sierra Nevada can now say they have skied Spain.  Those who chose to tour enjoyed the Spanish countryside and visited an olive oil tree farm, iberico cured ham bodega, and a wine cellar with tasting.  Another day, we visited the Mosque of Cordoba originally built at a temple, converted into a church and then rebuilt as a mosque – impressive beyond words.    

The highlight in Granada was the private sunset tour of the Alhambra Palace.  With no crowds and stunning light to capture the Moorish architecture, we marveled at this UNESCO site.  Our time in Granada was complete with the Gala Party hosted by the people who put on an Andalusian horse show, Flamenco dancers, singers and musicians followed by a DJ playing all our favorite American dance tunes. 

But wait, there’s more.  It was off to Torremolinos directly on the Mediterranean.  While skier’s brave sub-zero temps on the mountain, we had no one dip into the ocean further than their ankles with the water temp at 60 degrees!  People could stroll the beach, visit the old village, and eat the freshest seafood including octopus and sardines paired with the best sangria anywhere.

A day tour took us to Gibraltar where a road runs directly across the airport runway and cars must stop for the planes coming into land!  Best part about the Rock of Gibraltar - the monkeys.  The next day took us by ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tetouan, Morocco.  Turn back the clock as you enter the Medina, the old walled town, walk through the Arab marketplace and partake of a Moroccan lunch.  Many men and women were wearing traditional Arabic robes yet we were reminded it is 2018 with all the cell phones they carried.

Some of the group headed back to Florida while the rest of us went onto Lisbon, Portugal.  Our bus ride was a casual day spent admiring the scenery and listening to one of the best tour guides any of us has ever experienced.  Portugal has much to offer for a trip on its own and we tried to take in all we could.  Start with a city tour including Belem Tower, St. Jorge Castle, St. Jerome Monastery, the famed tram cars and continue by indulging on Lisbon’s famous egg tarts as often as your pants would permit.

One of our last days was spent in Sintra, about 30 miles north of Lisbon.  Sintra is home to Pena Palace and Quinta de Regaliera which are spectacular each in their own way.  If you ever go, you will be awed by the Initiation Well which is also called ‘an inverted tower’.  The area also has a wonderful town to shop and dine along with more sights than time would allow.  We finished by going to Cabo de Roca – the western most point of Europe peering over the cliffs to the Atlantic Ocean – maybe our cue that we are headed home soon.

As with all trips, they must come to an end.  The 33 people who joined me were a delight in every way.  Rain or shine, delays or on-time, seeing what you envisioned or maybe not what you expected, travel always expands our awareness of each other and the world around us.  I like to think we are better for it.  A huge thank you for coming to Spain & Lisbon with me, sharing all that we saw, all we did and yes, conquered!                                                                                              

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