TheRich Tour - Portugal and Spain

LISBON, Sintra, Fatima, Tomar, évoraand BARCELONA

 Our tours are not your typical tour, where most time is spent getting to different cities than actually being in the city.  This tour will have been in the planning for over a year. Our tour is totally custom designed for adults as well as students.  We try to limit our tours to around 20 people.  We stay in centrally located 3 and 4 star hotels and we travel by private coaches when on land in Europe.  We have been designing and leading tours for over 34 years and have many repeat participants.  Our tours are a blend of organized tours, free time, shopping time and eating!  Our goal is to make this as stress free, easy and enjoyable for all participants as possible.

We will begin our tour in Lisbonthe white city, because of the reflected sunlight off the Tagus River.  We will use Lisbon as our base to explore other amazing cities in Portugal.  We are so excited.  Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe and the only European capital along the Atlantic coast.  We will be visiting several UNESCO World Heritage sites: The Monastery of the Hieronynites and the Tower of Belém in Lisbon the cultural landscape of Sintra, The Convent of Christ in Tomar and the historic center of Évora.  Portugal was the first country to begin the age of Exploration which ushered in the golden age of Portugal.  During World War ll Lisbon was neutral and a gateway for refuges to the U.S. and spy central.  We will talk more about the history of Portugal in the travel booklet we will make for you.

Lisbon’s inhabitants refer to the neighborhoods in terms of historic bairrossimilar to New Orleans.  The city of Lisbon is rich in architecture including: Romanesque, Gothic and Manueline, (Portuguese late Gothic), Baroque, Modern and Postmodern.  In the 19th c Lisbon and Portugal became known for the musical style called Fado (destiny, fate) or sad songs.  I remember listening to Amália Rodrigues singing Fado on my little record player when I spent my junior year of collage in Holland.  I also listened to the Dutch group Cuby and the Blizzards but they didn’t have the staying power of Fado!  Lisbon is also famous for its ceramic tiles and has a tile museum.  There are amazing churches, monasteries, monuments, museums, parks and shopping in Lisbon and walking through the different barrios is charming and exciting.  Our guided city tour will take us to the main attractions.

“Once a hotspot destination for Portuguese royalty, SINTRA is one of Portugal’s most beautiful destinations; full of plush greenery, gorgeous mountains, and amazing neo-Gothic structures.  Quinta da Regaleira and its Palace encapsulate the best architecture of the Gothic era, full of amazing gargoyles, towers, and stone façades that we know it will make our hearts race.  There is also the 10th c Castle of the Moors, where it’s possible to walk along the castle walls.

“THE SHRINE AT FATIMA is one of the most important landmarks in the Christianity, attracting pilgrims from all over the world.  In 1917 three little shepherds, Jacinta and her two cousins, Francisco and Lúcia, witnessed successive apparitions of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Initially looked at with suspicion by the Church, but cherished by the people, the phenomenon was not acknowledged by the Bishop of Leiria until 1930.  The world renown of the Shrine increased during the papacy of John Paul II, a confessed devotee of Our Lady of Fátima, who traveled there in 1982 to give thanks for having survived an assassination attempt the year before.  In 2000, on his third visit to the site, he announced the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco.”  Why was Lúcia left out?

TOMAR is “the jewel in the crown of Central Portugal.  The city is a feast for the eyes, a collection of attractive streets and well-preserved architecture.  Tomar is home to some of Portugal’s most significant historic sites. The Convento de Cristo was the medieval headquarters of the Templar Knights and the Order of Christ.  Henry the Navigator planned most of his New World Explorations from here in the 15th c.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Convento de Cristo complex is a fascinating mixture of architectural styles from Gothic to Renaissance, spanning some 500 years.”  But the charm of Tomar is also its setting of deep valleys, winding rivers and rolling mountains swathed in pines and eucalyptus trees with stunning vistas.

“The historic town of ÉVORA, in the heart of Portugal, is another world steeped in history and boasting some of the most famous architectural sites in the country.  St. Francis Church and its famous Chapel of Bones is where the remains of more than 5000 Évoras past inhabitants are cemented into the wall in this large, kind of creepy 16th tomb, created by a group of Franciscan monks.  It is home, too, to the Temple of Diana, one of the best preserved Roman temples in Europe.  Cathedrals, churches, aqueducts and ancient castle walls all serve to create the feeling that Évora is a living, breathing museum to Portugal’s rich past.”

From Lisbon we will fly to BARCELONA, the capital of Catalonia SPAIN .  Most people speak Catalan in Barcelona but Spanish is understood.  One of the characteristic features of the history of Spain is the successive waves of different peoples who spread all over the Peninsula. Spain was inhabited by the Iberians, Phoenicians, Celts, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors.  Roman grid-planning is still visible today in the layout of the historical center, the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) where we will be staying.

The foundation of Barcelona is the subject of two different legends. One attributes the founding of the city to Hercules and the other to Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal.   I’m going with the second!  Some remaining fragments of the Roman walls have been incorporated into the cathedral founded in 343.  UNESCO world heritage sites in Barcelona include the works of Antonio Gaudi and the Palau de la Música Calalana and Hospital de Sant Pau.

Barcelona is a hip vibe against a background of Medieval, Modernisme/ Modernista Architecture in BarcelonaCatalan Art Nouveau, specifically Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech I Mananer. Barcelona is one of the most decorated cities we have been to; there is something unique and fabulous everywhere we look.  The mostly Gothic Cathedral was built on top of a once Roman Temple, and then a Mosque.  There are Renaissance and Baroque additions.  We are especially fond of the 14th c cloister with gardens, trees, and a pond and beneath all of this are the tombs of well-connected members of ancient guilds.  The cloister is home to a group of white geese whose ancestors have lived here for five centuries.  We will also see circles of people dancing theSardana, the traditional national dance of Catalunya.  People join their hands together and with them raised; dance with very small, precise steps, slowly round and round while people join to make the circle bigger. Inside the circle are the dancer’s personal belongings, purses, etc. so they won’t get stolen!

Barcelona is full of monuments and museums, including a Picasso museum showcasing his early work and even a chocolate museum.  There are fountains and parks and one of the most famous landmarks of Barcelona is Las Ramblas; a tree lined, shop lined, market lined people lined, pedestrian mall. Supposedly Spanish poet Federico García Lorca said that La Rambla was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end.”  Ah, it makes us not want to leave and we haven’t even gotten there yet!