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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 38.6276, -90.199Looking Back
Friday, October 14, 2016
Patrick and I arose at 4 am to be sure we were ready at 5 when the driver was to arrive to take us to the airport. Luckily for us, she was on time and we sailed to the airport.
Our pals Barcy and Anne, however, were not so lucky. They ended up with the same driver as ours but she had several runs in between, got caught in traffic and was very late. It stressed them out because they were afraid of missing their flights. The whole driver thing – arranged through Visit Barcelona/Bilbao – was not a pleasant experience for us. Nor was the organization (or lack of organization) of the supplier of tour guides. We are spoiled from traveling with Tauck. And my high expectations of travel operations start with 23 years with Maritz. I have been exposed to the best.
We flew Iberia to Madrid, and again to Chicago. We spent our Madrid layover in the VIP Lounge where I had breakfast and a latte. Perfect. The overseas flight was quite lovely – the old fashioned way of flying in what used to be first class. Seats that fully recline, elegant
meal, lots of movies, lots of food.
Looking back on our trip, for those of you who are considering a trip to Spain/Portugal, I have this to say:
Travel with Tauck – the tours are good, the tour guides are good, the hotels are wonderful and so are the meals.
Spanish food leaves a lot to be desired. Good fish but not at all dolled up. Plain Jane.
Activity: Horse-drawn carriage ride in Maria Luisa Park in SevilleHotel: Alphonso XIII in Seville
Hotel: Convento do Espinheiro in Evora
Hotel: Four Season Ritz in Lisbon
Meal: Grilled octopus at T-Bone Grill in Marbella Meal: Postigo10 paella in Seville (value!)
Meal: Tempora, a Mediterranean café in Marbella
Meal: Three-course gourmet meal (in my case, foie gras appetizer, sea bass with shrimp risotto and a passion fruit panna cotta) at the Convento do Espinheiro in Evora
People: 50-member Escolanía de Montserrat, renowned boys' choirs People: Joe Pereira, our very entertaining Tauck tour director
People: Jose, our driver the first day in Barcelona – charming, knowledgable and cute
Sight: Alhambra in Granada
Sight: All things Gaudi! Esp. La Sagrada Familia, the still-under-construction Basilica
Sight: La Boqueria market in Barcelona
Sight: Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba
Sight: Rock of Gibraltar's pack of Barbary Apes
Sight: Roman ruins of Evora and Merida
Sight: Tile Museum in
Lisbon – nothing like it
Sight: Toledo skyline
Sight: View of the Mediterranean Sea from our balcony in Marbella
Ground supplier in Barcelona: way too many disappointmentsIllness on the bus: 24-hour virus and upper respiratory stuff that hit almost everyone
National Coach Museum in Lisbon – yawn
Prado/Spanish Masters: I know, I know … many people love Goya and the boys, but I'm not one of them
3 "statement" necklaces, all costume jewelry: Lisbon: Tile necklace from Tile Museum; Sintra: black/white polyester wire; Toledo: navy beaded flowers (MANY bought Majorca pearls here and Damascene swords and related items)Starbucks mugs for my collection: Spain, Seville, Portugal, MadridFood stuff: saffron, olive oil, cheese
Evora: 3D porcelain tile 6x6
Marbella: many bought shoes and purses here
Granada: Christmas ornament in tile pattern from The Alhambra
Toledo: Tee shirt from Zara
Barcelona: Sagrada Familia tote bag
On the whole, I did pretty well – for a change – in packing the correct clothes. It was fall but the temperatures were lovely throughout. Mostly 80s during the day and low 70s at night.I packed a lot of black bottoms with a big variety of cotton long sleeve shirts.
I brought three black skirts: one golf (in case we played), one short skirt, one long skirt.
I found I wore the long skirt a lot at night, just switching out whatever I had on during the day and making it look more formal for evening. It wasn't required but many of our dining rooms (e.g., Evora, big city hotels, etc.) were quite elegant.
We all brought clothes we didn't wear because we anticipated some cool days, which we didn't have at any time on the Tauck trip. Those of us who extended to Barcelona where it was cool and rainy, finally wore the cooler weather items, including raincoats. But on the whole, most went home with clothes they never wore.
During the day, most of the men wore shorts. The women wore slacks, capris, skirts or dresses.
There were very few in denim.
Hardly any of the women were in tennis shoes. Most had nice looking travel shoes with closed toes. I had a new pair of Skechers black lace flats with memory foam that were sort of tennis shoes with a big city look. They served me well. I took black flats with a ½” heel for evenings. I took four pairs in all, so I could switch out the wear and tear as we went along.
We took raincoats and umbrellas. One day it was cool enough with a slight drizzle to use them. Otherwise, they didn't get real use until our Barcelona extension.
I have something I travel with called a Mobius. It is black and swirls around my shoulders like a shawl. I found myself wearing it most days as the weather was cooler in the mornings and I could easily ditch it when it warmed up. It is one of best items I packed.
I packed 2 fancy scarves which dressed up basic black on several evenings. Nice to have. Not necessary.
I packed a swimsuit but didn't use it. Could have used it several places, especially at the beach at Marbella but I found other things to do instead.
I packed a floppy hat, a sun visor and sun glasses but found I didn't use them much because they all interfered with photo taking. As a result my "blonde" hair is much blonder.We now own 5 adaptors for converting electrical outlets in Europe. We carried two iPhones, two iPads, one PC, electric curlers and camera battery charger (OK, Patrick didn't bring curlers) so we used every socket they allowed and did a dance of moving electronics in and out of plugs.
I wish I had packed more flash drives. I needed one to back up photos when I overloaded by PC and ran out of space. I could have used others to give the full set of photos to Anne and Barcy before we left each other. I can always send later but I'm making a note to myself for next time.
I bought a Madrid travel coffee mug at the beginning of the trip from Starbucks and it served as a great beverage mug on the bus. I filled it with coffee in the morning from the hotel dining room, and filled it with ice at lunch to chill my afternoon beverage.
FYI: Tauck provides bottled water. Mostly room temperature. There was often a cooler in front with chilled refills. But not in Madrid.
I packed breakfast bars, individual packets of peanut butter, instant coffee (VIA Starbucks) and Crystal Light. All came in handy at some point. A final word:
Bring every drug you think you will need ... prescriptions, vitamins and anything else you can think of. The group went through tons of Ibuprofin (aching knees), Pepto Bismol (upset stomach), allergy/cold meds for runny noses, Cipro (antibiotic for whatever disease ran through the bus). There was an excessive amount of illness.
And for heaven's sake, bring lots of tissues (TP was not available many places), Wet Ones and hand sanitizer.
It was a grand trip. The people were fun. Our tour director was highly entertaining. The sights were awesome – with maybe 1 or 2 too many churches. I highly recommend it.
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