Southern Belles

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Southern Belles of Europe

“Travelling: it leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.”

(Ibn Battuta)

The sound of cigals, shutters the colour of artist palettes, the smell of freshly baked baguette and croissants, a glass of wine washing down lunch and a table in the sunshine offering a seat to the best show on earth, people watching, this and so much more is what has drawn artists, writers and mere mortals to the South of France. After days spent wandering her charms, we then head to the south of Italy. Here the food a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Wine to rival the French. Towns crammed with delightful squares where locals gather to catch up on the past few hours since they last saw each other. And then trips out to the coast to beaches to rival those of the Caribbean. A trip which truly is for all the senses.  Bon voyage e Buon Viaggio! 

The South of France

Every man has two countries. His own and France

(Thomas Jefferson)

Provence

Day 1 Aix en Provence arrival day

Upon arrival you head to Aix en Provence, a town synonymous with Cezanne and whose beauty invites you to explore her lovely streets. Having built up an appetite, you will enjoy your first French meal. Bon app! (D)

Day 2 Wine and olive oil tasting

A day spent in the French countryside, enjoying the rolling hills, the picturesque towns and villages that scatter this part of the world and indulging in the wonderful produce this climate encourages. In the late afternoon we return to Aix for an evening at leisure. (B, L,)

Day 3 Surprise Day

No more to be said! This evening is at your leisure in Aix.

(B, L)

 

Au Revoir Provence, Buongiorno Italia

Day 4 Au revoir Marseille, Buongiorno Lecce! 

Today you will fly from Marseille to Brindisi ready for the Italian half of your adventure. This morning you head into Marseille for a walk around and final cafe creme and croissant before bidding adieu to la Belle France.

Upon arrival in Italy you will be whisked away to your hotel in Lecce and enjoy an evening spritz and your first bite of Italy’s most famous export: her food. (B, D)

You may have the universe if I may have Italy

(Verdi)

Italy is known as the boot and it is to her heel that we head on this trip, although, as you will discover, Puglia is anything but down at heel. From water to rival that of the Caribbean, to beautiful Baroque architecture, Roman amphitheatres and the Trulli houses, peeling this region’s history back reveals the true jewel in Italy’s crown. Italy’s olive garden with over sixty million trees and over fifty three varieties, Puglia is also home to some of Italy’s best wines and her food is thought by many to be the best in Italy; no mean feat in a country overflowing with delicious regional delicacies. Therefore, we invite you to kick off your shoes so that you may feel the sand and sea beneath your toes, join us for a glass or two of wine in one of the many beautiful piazzas which adorn the towns of this area and loosen your belts in preparation for some gastronomic indulgence. Buone vacanze!

 Day 5 Lecce, the Florence of the South

Wake up in stunning Lecce today, the so-called Florence of the South thanks to its beautiful baroque architecture and stunning churches and cathedrals. This morning you will be taken on a tasting tour of the city to really get to know its charms, indulging in local favourites such as its tarallisnacks.  The rest of the day and evening are free for further exploration. (B, L)

Day 6 Cooking Like & With a Local

This morning head to the beaches of Porto Cesareo to enjoy water comparable with the Caribbean. After a relaxing morning, head back to Lecce for some free time before enjoying a chance to learn to cook like a Pugliese and then, of course, eat and drink like one! Buon appetito! (B, D)

Day 7 Polignano a Mare

Today you head north up the Italian heel, passing miles of olive groves and whitewashed hilltop villages that dot this fertile region. You will check into a typical masseria for which the area is so well-known, where you could enjoy a swim and a bit of poolside relaxation. This evening, visit the stunning seaside village of Polignano a Mare, home to none other than the man who sang “Volare”, Domenico Modugno, for a wander and surprise dinner. (B, D)

 Day 8 Trulli Houses & Local Villages

Puglia’s Trulli houses are one of the region’s most iconic sights, and it is to Alberobello that you head this morning to wonder at this unique settlement created entirely of Trulli. The Trulli were set up initially as a way for the locals to avoid paying prohibitive taxes to the local landowners, as they could be put up and taken down relatively fast, hence their unique style. This is followed up with a visit to the beautiful village of Locorotonda to enjoy an aperitivo and then lunch in the lovely town of Martina Franca. The afternoon is at leisure for further exploration or a chance to relax back at the masseria. (B, L)

Day 9 Tremiti Islands & Trani

Today it’s time to take to the air once more and fly via helicopter to the gems of the Gargano region, the Tremiti Islands. Once there, you will have free time to explore and enjoy a seaside lunch. Upon your return, a stop in the lovely port town of Trani, a self-proclaimed ‘slow city’ (cittaslow), with a short guided tour to include visiting its iconic cathedral by the sea. Supper in the old town and then back to the masseria for overnight. (B, D)

Day 10 Departure

Time to say arrivederci Italia (until the next time).

Private transfers to the airports of Bari or Brindisi, dependent upon where you are flying from. (B)

INCLUDED IN THIS TRIP:

Accommodation & Services:

  • 3 nights in Aix-en-Provence, France, 3 nights in Lecce, Italy, 3 nights in the Bari province, Italy
  • Centrally located hotels/bed and breakfast/masseria.
  • Internal flight from Marseille, France to Brindisi, Italy.
  • Transfers to and from the airport.
  • Private transport, unless otherwise stated, for both France and Italy.
  • All tips. For instance, tips to local guides, restaurants and porterage (where available) are all included in the total price; one less thing to think about.
  • You will be visiting: Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, Gordes, Roussillon, Les Saintes Maries de La Mer, Lecce, Porto Cesareo beaches, Polignano a Mare, Alberobello, Locorotonda, Martina Franca, Tremiti Islands, Trani.

Food & Beverages:

  • Breakfast and either lunch or dinner (unless otherwise stated) (B Breakfast, L Lunch, D Dinner)
  • When lunch and/or dinner are included, alcohol in the form of wine and/or beer is provided, unless otherwise stated.
  • Aperitivi, coffee and snacks where stated.

 Entrances & Tickets:

  • Lecce Cathedral
  • Senanque Abbey

Guided Tours:

  • half-day guided visit of Aix-en-Provence
  • guided tour of the villages of the Luberon region
  • French vineyard and olive grove tour and tasting
  • Lecce
  • Trani

Activities:

  • half-day guided visit of Aix-en-Provence
  • lunch in the village of Cassis
  • guided tour of the villages of the Luberon region
  • French vineyard & olive grove tour and tasting
  • visit to the village of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer
  • guided tasting tour of Lecce
  • hands-on cooking class & dinner
  • helicopter ride to Tremiti Islands
  • A surprise (we are all children at heart after all)

NOT INCLUDED IN THIS TRIP:

  • Visa where required (Please note, visitors from Canada and the USA do not require visas when travelling to Europe).
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Incoming and outgoing flights not included. I suggest that you book flights into Marseille and then a flight back from Brindisi.  The internal flight between Marseille and Brindisi is included in the cost.

Independent Spain: From the Basque Country to Barcelona

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Independent Spain:

From the Basque Country to Barcelona

I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends there!

(George Orwell)

 To paraphrase Orwell, all autonomías are equal, but some are more equal than others, and so is the case with Spain. A country divided into seventeen states, Spain is a rich mosaic of languages, histories and traditions. Two of these regions, Catalonia and the Basque country, are considered home to the very best cuisine that Spain has to offer and some truly spectacular scenery in the form of the coast, mountains and countryside. In the case of the Basque country, the Basques were among the earliest settlers in Europe; some even argue they date back to cro-Magnon man, and their language predates all the Indo-European languages. Catalonia is a part of Spain with as much French influence as Spanish, something very noticeable in the Catalan language. It is also, of course, home to Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. Should you need any further invitation, Catalonia is home to Cava, Spain’s most famous white, sparkling wine, whilst the Basque country borders La Rioja, Spain’s best wine growing region. Salud!

 

The Basque Country

Everyone who has visited the Basque country longs to return; it is a blessed land.

(Victor Hugo)

 

Day 1 San Sebastian

Bienvenidos en España! Welcome to Spain! We will whisk you away to your hotel for you to check in, relax and perhaps go for a wander along the beachfront, before we meet for a welcome drink and your first opportunity to sample the very best food that Spain has to offer. (D)

 

Day 2 San Sebastian

This morning we have a guided tour of the town followed by the Txiquiteo, the tapas tour for which San Sebastian is so famous. The afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B, L)

 

Day 3 Bilbao and Rioja Wine Tasting

Today we are off to Bilbao for a guided visit of the Guggenheim museum. There will then be some free time for lunch and a wander in the city. Having spent the morning working our brain cells, it’s now time to and kill a few off, Spanish style, as we head to the Rioja region for a wine tasting and visit, including dinner. (B, D)

 

Catalonia

Day 4 Into the Pyrenees

Today we say adios to San Sebastian as we begin our trajectory down towards Catalonia. En route we visit the city of Pau, home of King Henri IV. Our first stop is Vielha in the Pyrenees, where we will be based in a parador for the next couple of nights. Paradors were set up by Spanish King Alfonso XIII as a way of promoting tourism. They are high-end hotels, usually situated in converted historic buildings such as castles and monasteries. Upon arrival in Vielha, enjoy a spa, go for a walk or just sit back and enjoy this hotel with a view. And what a view! (B, D)

 Day 5 Aiguestortes National Park

Today we head out to visit Aiguestortes (‘Winding streams’), Catalonia’s only national park. We will be visiting in minivans which will allow us to see as much of the park as possible. We will then hike a short path, before meeting our transport again and carrying on to lunch in a typical Pyreneen village. We then visit a UNESCO world heritage site before returning to our parador for dinner. (B, L, D)

*The weather may mean that the order of this itinerary will be reversed.

Day 6 La Seu d’Urgell

This morning we continue our descent towards Barcelona, stopping at Bonaigua for some truly spectacular photos. Lunch will be taken at Sort, where we will visit the prison which held, among others, Chuck Yeager, the famous WWII American pilot who was the first person in the world to break the sound barrier. The town of Sort was one of the crossing places for Jewish people, political refugees and Allied pilots who had been shot down in France as they hoped to escape back to the US or the UK through Spain. Sort was a compulsory stop in all cases due to Franco’s heavy controls and many of these refugees were caught and kept in Sort prison until judgement in the local court. Some were lucky enough to be allowed to the UK and US, but not everyone was lucky. Chuck returned to Sort in 2010 in slightly happier circumstances. We stay overnight in another parador, a former monastery, in La Seu d’Urgell. (B, D)

Day 7 Parador Stay in Cardona 

Enjoy a morning at leisure to explore Urgell and then head for a visit to a local cheese producer, where we will learn about the local produce. The focus will then be less on the listening and more on the eating, as we indulge in a light lunch sampling the cheeses.

This afternoon we have the opportunity to visit one of the oldest cathedrals in Catalonia, dating back to 1116. We then continue on our way to one of the most beautiful paradors, perched above the town of Cardona, and it is here where we will spend our final night before arriving in Barcelona. You will have plenty of free time to explore the town before we come together for a superb dinner. (B, L, D)

 

Barcelona

“Barcelona is a fountain of courtesy, a shelter of strangers…a reciprocator of firm friendship, a city unique in its location and beauty.”  (Don Quixote, Cervantes, 1605)

Day 8 Barcelona

We drive down into Barcelona and enjoy a panoramic drive around the city, including a visit to the Sagrada Familia, before checking into our hotel and having some free time for lunch.

Our afternoon continues with a visit to the Torre Bellesguard, a recently opened Gaudí masterpiece in the Tibidabo area of the city. This evening we dine at a great local hotspot in one of Barcelona’s loveliest neighbourhoods. (B, D)

Day 9 Barcelona Tasting Extravaganza

This morning we have a guided walk through the Born, stopping off for a food tasting on our way. We then wander down to Barceloneta, the neighbourhood by the sea, where we will sip on a typical aperitif of Cava. We will then take a cable car across the harbour of Barcelona and up Montjuic, Barcelona’s iconic hill that overlooks the city. There we will toast the view with a glass or two of wine and enjoy a typical tapas lunch.  The afternoon and evening are at leisure.

This evening we will meet for some aperitivos and dinner with a view. (B, L, D)

Day 10 Spanish Cookery Class

Today we can all dream of following in the footsteps of Ferran Addrià, the famous Catalan chef and former proprietor of the three-Michelin-starred Elbulli, as we don our very own chef hats and learn how to cook typical Spanish cuisine. Our day begins with a visit to the famous Boquería market to pick up our ingredients, before returning to the cooking school to prepare a late lunch.

The evening is at your leisure. (B, L)

Day 11 Departure

Time to bid adios to Spain and adieu to France, but we hope it’s more hasta luego, until the next time.

Included in this trip:

Accommodation & Services:

  • 3 nights in San Sebastian, 2 nights in Vielha, 1 night in La Seu d’Urgell, 1 night in Cardona and 3 nights in Barcelona.
  • Centrally located, upmarket hotel.
  • The services of an extremely highly qualified and experienced Tour Manager who will accompany you throughout your trip (dependent upon group size; please contact us for more information).
  • Transfers to and from the airport.
  • Private transport, unless otherwise stated.
  • All tips. For instance, tips to tour managers, local guides, restaurants and porterage (where available) are all included in the total price; one less thing to think about.
  • We will be visiting: San Sebastian, Bilbao, Laguardia, Vielha, Sort, La Seu d’Urgell, Cardona and Barcelona.

 

Food & Beverages: 

  • Breakfast and either lunch or dinner (unless otherwise stated).
  • When lunch and/or dinner are included, alcohol in the form of wine and/or beer is provided, unless otherwise stated.
  • Aperitivi, coffee and snacks where stated.

 

Entrances & Tickets: 

  • Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
  • Cathedral in La Seu d’Urgell
  • Torre Bellesguard
  • Sagrada Familia

 

Guided Tours:

  • San Sebastian
  • Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
  • Barcelona

Activities:

  • cookery lesson
  • visit to cheese factory including tasting
  • wine tasting in La Rioja
  • visit Aiguestortes National Park
  • A surprise (we are all children at heart after all)

NOT INCLUDED IN THIS TRIP:

  • Flights not included. I would suggest flying Bilbao or San Sebastian and flying out of Barcelona.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Visas, where applicable (Please note: US and Canadian nationals do not require Visas when traveling to Europe).

There are no ‘optionals’ for sale. Everything you have in the itinerary is included in the total cost.

Customised itinerary designed by Lucy Loves Travel Ltd.

Copyright ©2018 – Lucy Loves Travel Ltd. All rights reserved.

Tales of Andalucía

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Tales of Andalucía

Like Spain, I am bound to the past.

(William S. Burroughs)

Spain has one of the most fascinating and most debated histories of any European nation. Her eight hundred years under Moorish rule are particularly in evidence in Andalucía, whose very name is Moorish in origin and from where the Caliphate was run, with Cordoba as its prized capital. Since the Reconquista, which ended in 1492 with the Moors finally forced out of Granada, the Catholic church sought to restore Spain to what it was before. The fact that over four thousand Spanish words are of Moorish origin, however, is a testament to how much of a hold this period of history has had on Spain; in this region you will have an opportunity to see how Spanish and Moorish history have combined to create one of the liveliest, friendliest and most fascinating areas of Spain to explore.

Andalucía

Day 1 Malaga
Fly into Malaga where we will be based for the next three nights. Check into our hotel and enjoy some relaxation, perhaps going for a wander through Malaga’s lovely old town before heading out for an evening of aperitivos and tapas, to welcome you to Spain. (D)

Day 2 Nerja Caves
This morning we head to Nerja to visit the largest caves in Europe. For those who prefer not to go in, there will be a wander through the gardens followed by coffee and juices whilst sitting on a balcony overlooking the sea. Lunch at a famous, typical paella place on the beach follows.
We then return to Malaga for a free afternoon and dinner at your leisure. (B, L)

Day 3 Andalusian Village Lunch
Today is a unique opportunity to meet the locals in a typical, small, whitewashed Andalusian town. After a walk through an olive grove, a chance to taste the local olive oil and a talk with some of the residents of the small town, we will then head off to the houses of local women where they will prepare their local cuisine for you and offer an opportunity to find out about life in small town Spain. Following lunch we then make our way back to Malaga where you will be at leisure, perhaps enjoying a wander through the old town stopping in at the Manquita (one-armed woman) Renaissance cathedral, so called because the south tower was never built. As Malaga is also Picasso’s birthplace, perhaps you could include a visit to the museum bearing his name, followed by a quick drink at his favourite bar, the Antigua Casa Guardia. The day ends in truly Spanish style, as we head out for tapas at one of Malaga’s finest tapas and wine bars. (B, L)

 

There is nothing sadder than being blind in Granada.

(Francisco de Icaza)

Day 4 Granada
Today we head over to Granada, (which means ‘pomegranate’ in Spanish), the home of the Alhambra. Upon arrival we have time to check into the hotel and enjoy some free time for lunch before an afternoon’s tour of the cathedral, Albaicín and bazaar. The tour ends with a visit to the Alhambra and is followed by drinks as the sun sets. We will have dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)

Day 5 Ronda

I have sought everywhere the city of my dreams, and I have finally found it in Ronda” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

It is in the footsteps of other famous writers that we go today, following Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway to one of their favourite places: Ronda. From its spectacular ravine to its lovely little streets and famous bullring, it isn’t hard to see why it attracted so many and continues to do so. There will be free time for lunch and for a wander before heading back to Granada. This evening we will learn how to make that most Spanish of dishes, paella(B, D)

Day 6 Cordoba to Seville
Cordoba once boasted street lighting, three hundred public baths, fifty hospitals and seventy libraries and was the Caliphate, head of Moorish Spain. Today we are off to visit its greatest treasure: the Mezquita, with its 850 columns. It is this building which epitomises Spanish history, as the mosque is now also home to a church which was added after the Reconquista. Having feasted our eyes, and worked up an appetite, we head off to try Cordoba’s typical dishes for lunch. The afternoon is spent wandering the patio gardens in the Viana palace. After some free time for further exploration we then head to Seville where we check into our hotel. The evening is at leisure. (B, L)

Day 7 Seville Highlights
Today we have a guided tour of Seville, which includes entrance to the cathedral and Alcazar.
You are then free for lunch and the afternoon is at leisure. Meet for drinks in a fabulous location and then off to dine in a local restaurant. (B, D)

Day 8 Jerez
The famous dancing Andalusian horses are on our itinerary this morning. After this we head to a bodega to enjoy lunch and a tasting of Jerez’s main claim to fame: sherry. We then return to Seville where the afternoon and evening are at your leisure. (B, L)

Day 9 Seville Flamenco Lesson
This morning, don your flamenco heels and be prepared for some foot stomping, as we are taught how to flamenco. Lunch and the rest of your day is free. Our final dinner will be at a local restaurant and is followed by a Flamenco performance. (B, D)

Day 10 Departure
It is time to say adios or, as we prefer, hasta luego, until we write our next travel story together. (B)

Included in this trip:

Accommodation & Services:

  • 3 nights in Malaga, 2 nights in Granada and 4 nights in Seville.
  • Centrally located, upmarket hotel.
  • The services of an extremely highly qualified and experienced Tour Manager who will accompany you throughout your trip (dependent upon group size; please contact us for more information).
  • Transfers to and from the airport.
  • Private transport, unless otherwise stated.
  • All tips. For instance, tips to tour managers, local guides, restaurants and porterage (where available) are all included in the total price; one less thing to think about.
  • We will be visiting: Malaga, Nerja, a typical Andalusian pueblo, Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Ronda.

 

Food & Beverages: 

  • Breakfast and either lunch or dinner (unless otherwise stated).
  • When lunch and/or dinner are included, alcohol in the form of wine and/or beer is provided, unless otherwise stated.
  • Aperitivi, coffee and snacks where stated.

 

Entrances & Tickets: 

  • Flamenco performance
  • horse show performance
  • Alcazar and cathedral in Seville
  • Patios Viana and Mezquita in Cordoba
  • bullring in Ronda

 

Guided Tours:

  • Seville
  • Granada
  • Cordoba
  • Ronda

 

Activities:

  • cookery lesson
  • Jerez tasting
  • aperitivi tasting
  • Flamenco lesson
  • A surprise (we are all children at heart after all)

NOT INCLUDED IN THIS TRIP:

  • Flights not included. I would suggest flying into Malaga and out of either Malaga or Seville.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Visas, where applicable (Please note: US and Canadian nationals do not require Visas when traveling to Europe).

There are no ‘optionals’ for sale. Everything you have in the itinerary is included in the total cost.

Customised itinerary designed by Lucy Loves Travel Ltd.

Copyright ©2018 – Lucy Loves Travel Ltd. All rights reserved.