Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal

Barcelona, Spain

Changi Airport Terminal 1

This adventure is: #tastebud tickling, #far far away, #scenic

Barcelona: Discover the little known side of Spain and Po...

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“Hi, it's u­­­s, Georg­i­n­a, Bri­tt­a, and ­Lee­ Lin­g­”

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Highlights

This will be an unusal trip to Europe to see and understand the 700 hundred years of Islamic influence on Spain and therfore Europe.  I urge everyone to join this trip to come with an open mind and then decide for ourselves if it may be true that the Muslim had made Spain the most advanced, wealthy and populous country in Europe.  If maybe the 700 years of Muslim conquest in Spain had been a precursor to Europe's Renaissance.  Also, there was once a upon a time the Christian, Jews, and Muslim were living harmoniously together for a few hundred years.  I believe it is uncommon to talk about this significant part of Europe history, however, I believe we must understand to appreciate why the world maybe what is it today.  If you may have seen Andrew Graham Dixon's BBC 3 parts series "The Moorish South", I believe you will be excited to join us for this trip.  It is our holiday after all so it won't be all serious stuff, we will be doing many fun things together and more ancient discoveries all the way back to 120,000 years together, so let's go.

Here are the highlights of this trip.
  • Learn the controversial contribution of Moors Muslim to Europe's Renaissance
  • Visit the underground city of Toledo
  • Appreciate Zaragoza influence that spread as far as Greece, Italy and the Americas
  • Soak up the rich culture and lyrical elegance of Seville
  • Guided tour of Seville’s cathedral, the world largest Gothic church
  • Visit Seville’s Real Alcázar, the former Moorish palace and gardens
  • Stroll through the lush and expansive María Luisa Park in Seville
  • Tour the Alhambra Palace, one of Europe’s most important monuments
  • Take in the artistic splendor of Granada’s Cathedral, once a mosque
  • Wander through ancient streets of the old Arab quarter in Granada
  • Take in Andalusia’s rich heritage as you visit Córdoba’s old Jewish quarter
  • See Córdoba’s la Mezquita, one of the world’s most important Islamic sites
  • Experience the history and learn from the passionate flamenco dancers
  • Discover the hidden secrets of Andalucian cuisine cooking tours in Seville
  • Visit the Red and White winery of Seville
  • See all the best art and architecture in breathtaking Barcelona, like Gaudi’s staggering Sagrada Familia
  • Visit a fascinating and yet eerie Chapel in Evora, Chapel of Bones
  • Crossing from Spain to Portugal on a zipline
  • Visit the caves where Neanderthals once lived in Gibraltar
  • Visit megalithic monument in Evora that is 2000 years older than Stonehenge
  • Stay in Parador, hotels converted from castles, fortresses or monasteries

Here is a glimpse of what we will be experiencing.
Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainDetail of the roof in the nave. Gaudí designed the columns to mirror trees and branches,photo by Sabadell licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A large unfinished Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Gaudí's work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainSagrada Família still under construction for more than 130 years, photo by Rob Oo licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainBasilica of Our Lady of the Pillar and the Puente de Piedra bridge on the Ebro River in Zaragova, photo by Paulo Brandao licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In Zaragova we will get to see 2000 years of history in just a block.  We are discovering the Roman and Renaissance Zaragoza, strolling through Aragonese painter Franciso de Goya`s favourite places and appreciate the legacy of the Mudéjar people in the city`s streets, buildings and squares.  To discover the sweet side of Zaragova, we will get into a Chocolate tour!  The chocolate-making tradition started in Zaragoza in the 16th century and since then and over the centuries it has taken root, as evidenced by the numerous chocolate shops, cake shops and companies that exist in our city, some of which were founded in the 19th century and are still up and running.

Another uniquely interesting city Toledo, a UNESCO site and commonly known as "City of Three Cultures" for its Muslim, Christian, and Jewish heritage, and an amazing fact that the 3 cultures manages to live harmoniously together for centuries!  Due to its rich history, there is so much to see and we will choose the best to see and appreciate.  I believe Toledo Cathedral a 13th century Gothic masterpiece, the Alcázar of Toledo from Roman times, the Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, the masterpieces of El Greco, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, Mudéjar style churches and the underground city of Toledo.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainChurches in Mudéjar style, this is one of the many unique buildings that we will get to see in Toledo, mix of style from Gothic, Roman, Moorish, and Renaissance era and from different culure influence.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainAnother unique building the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz in Toledo, that is converted to a church, photo by Ignasilm  licensed under 

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainCave of Heracles hidden under Toledo City, photo by Carlos Delgado licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 

If the city of Toledo has not wowed you, I hope the underground city of Toledo will.  I hope to do a night tour to the underground city of Toledo, to see the wells, caves, Roman, Arabic, and Judaic baths, as well as centuries-old cemeteries. 

Cordoba is another interesting city, like Toledo due to the influence of different cutlures over thousands of year, we will get to see many unique architecture that were churhces that became mosques but converted to churches.  Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba is one of those.  Let's hear from our guides the interesting stories of this amazing city.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainMosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, photo by James Gordon licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Mezquita (Mosque) of Cordoba is a Roman Catholic cathedral and former mosque situated in the Andalusian city of Córdoba, Spain. Under the rule of Islam, it was built as the second-largest mosque in the world, and is perhaps the most accomplished monument of the Umayyad dynasty of Cordoba. After the Spanish Reconquista, it was transformed into a church, and some of the Islamic columns and arches were replaced by a basilica in early Baroque style.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainAlcázar de los Reyes Católicos, photo by Gonzalo Castán licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It used to be the residence of Roman governors and Moorish caliphs, and in 1328 it became the home of the Spanish kings when they were in Cordoba.

It is known as the Alcazar of the Reyes Cristianos because the Christian Kings Fernando and Isabella lived in the castle for over eight years while they orchestrated the reconquest of Granada. It was in the Alcazar that Christopher Columbus pitched his idea of looking for a Western route to reach India. 

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainAlhambra Palace at dusk, photo by Jebulon

It was originally constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Seville another interesting city shared similar history to that of Toledo and Cordoba.  In Seville besides visiting the amazing buildings and hear their interesting stories, we will be learning how to dance the famous flamenco dance, learn Andalusia cooking from chefs, taste wine, and staying in hotels called Paradors that is steep in history.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainAlcázar castle complex, photo by Cat licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Alcázar castle complex, built during the Moorish Almohad dynasty, and the 18th-century Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza bull ring.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainPlaza de España photo by Jorge Franganillo licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The plaza framed in the María Luisa Park, this plaza was designed by the great Seville architect Aníbal González as an emblematic space for the 1929 Ibero-American Expo.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainFlamenco dance, we will be learning how to dance the Flamenco dance.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainAlso learn the secrets of Andalucia cooking from chefs in Seville.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainStaying in interesting hotels that used to be fortresses, one of the hotel called Parador of Carmona I am planning to stay in.  This fortress has been shaped over a long period of time by changing civilizations and a variety of different cultures, some of them contradictory, but always different.

One of the interesting stories is from that of King Pedro, he chose the fortress as his favorite residence, a place to indulge in love affairs and no less important political and military events. According to the chroniclers of the time, it was "King Pedro I's place for love and pleasure, with glittering processions escorting María of Padilla in and out of its gates...." King Pedro renovated and decorated this palace and "love nest", using the same craftsman that built the Alcázar in Seville. 

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainCaves of Gibraltar, photo by Adrian Scottow licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Moving to Gibraltar, let's transport ourselves back to 120,000 years when the Neanderthals lived!  The Gorham’s Cave Complex a UNESCO site is of major significance in understanding the global story of human evolution and adaptation. Gorham’s and Vanguard Caves have been archaeologically excavated over the past 26 years, and results have shown that Gibraltar was last refuge for the Neanderthals around 32,000 years ago.. Research has revealed the site was crucial for our understanding of human evolution and that of Neanderthals in particular.  There is a wealth of information on where and how the Neanderthals and early modern humans lived and behaved, what plants, birds and animals they were familiar with and ate, where they acquired materials for their tools and what their environment was like. There is evidence of their complex social behaviour, dress and unique elements including a rock engraving carved by the Neanderthals in Gorham’s Cave, which indicate their ability for abstract thought.

Besides the caves, we will be exploring the Mediterranean Steps where prehistoric man once lived.  It is hard to imagine a small place like Gibraltar has so much packed in for us to discover and explore.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainGorham's Cave complex, photo by Gibmetal77 licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 

Before leaving Spain, let's try crossing over to Portugal without our passports on a zipline!  

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainWe will be zipping from Spain to Portugal, photo by Limitezero  

Our amazing journey is not over, as we continue our journey to Evora and Lisbon.  Evora is one of the rare places where we get to see megalithic older than those of Stonehenge, the Almendres Megalithic settlement.  The Almendres monument is 2000 years older than Stonehenge and built about 7000 years ago, when mankind in Western Europe was making the transition from hunter-gatherers to herders and farmers.  

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainAlmendres Megalithic, photo by Paul Barker Hemings  licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Surrounded by an aura of mysticism and enchantment, the Almendres Cromlech is a true time machine. Walking through the menhirs is going back to a simple and peaceful period, the era of the druids and bonding with nature.  The Bone Chapels in Evora is another one of those unique chapel decorated out of human bones and we are visiting it to see for ourselves!  I will leave the chapel's story to our guide.  Beforing entering the Chapel there is a thought-provoking message above the chapel door that says: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” and it means “We bones, are here, waiting for yours.”  Finally our trip will end in Lisbon.

Discover the little known side of Spain and Portugal starting at Barcelona, SpainThe Bones Chapel in Evora

Itinerary

31st Aug Singapore To Lisbon
1st Sep Lisbon Airport, Lisbon Tour
2nd Sep Lisbon - Evora, Evora Tour
3rd Sep Evora - Gibraltar - Gibraltar tour
4th Sep Gibraltar Tour, Gibraltar - Seville
5th Sep Seville, Seville Tour
6th Sep Seville, Seville Tour
7th Sep Seville - Granda, Granda Tour 
8th Sep Granda - Cordoba, Cordoba Tour
9th Sep Cordoba  - Toledo, Toledo Tour
10th Sep Toledo - Zaragova, Zaragova Tour
11th Sep Zaragova - Barcelona, Barcelona Tour 
12th Sep Barcelona to Singapore
13th Sep Singapore