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Review: Classical Spain

Escorted Tour - Coach

Riviera Travel's Classical Spain tour

  • By SilverTraveller Holland

    35 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon

  • September 2015
  • Solo

35 people found this review helpful

A very important word to learn when visiting Spain (apart from vino and cerveza: wine and beer) is “jubilado” which means “retired” and this magic word will get you into many museums, galleries and churches for reductions sometimes amounting to more than half price. This fact was given us by our excellent tour leader on Riviera Travel’s Classical Spain tour visiting Ronda and Cordoba and staying in Seville and Granada.

Our flight left Gatwick at 4.20p.m. which meant arriving at Malaga after 8 p.m. and thus necessitated a hotel stay for the first night near Malaga. Next morning we set off for our visit to Ronda. I can’t believe how much luggage people have brought for just six days. Miss Goody Two Shoes (me) only has hand luggage and even then will probably not wear everything in my case. We had allocated seats on the coach and will be moved round during the trip. What a good idea; it stops the mad dash for the front seats by the same people – every trip has them. The road up to Ronda was a twisty turny mountain road with magnificent views and on arrival we walked into the centre of town with our tour leader. Ronda is a spectacular town divided into the old and the new parts by an 18th century stone bridge across a deep ravine where the Rio Guadalevin flows. There is a lot to see in Ronda and walking was quite hard up and down very steep cobbled streets, but it was very pleasant weather, not too hot and I stopped for a tapas lunch and a drink of “tinto de verano” red wine and lemonade which I found very pleasant and chose almost daily for my lunch time refreshment with tapas. These bite size bar snacks are a way of life in Spain and come in seemingly endless varieties. Every restaurant and bar had signs outside with special offers for three or four tapas and a drink. So much more appetising than a sandwich or a full meal.

We left Ronda at 3 p.m. for the two hour drive to Seville where we were to stay three nights. Our tour leader took us out for a “restaurant recce” and showed us various tapas bars and restaurants near the hotel. Next morning we were joined by an excellent local guide, actually a Dutchman, not a Spaniard, for our city tour around Seville following which we joined a boat trip up the Guadalquivir River – a very pleasant hour. Then we walked up to the Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, but not the largest overall in area, St Paul’s in London and St Peter’s in Rome being bigger. The queue to go in wound right round the building but after a wait of 20 minutes I was inside, having paid my “jubilado” special price. The second must see place in Seville is the Alcazar , the fortified Palace of the Moors, a huge area with buildings and an amazing richness of decoration. There is so much to see in Seville and one evening we went to a Flamenco show. I had seen a very mediocre one some years ago in Barcelona but this was amazing and very professional with incredible athletic dancing by very good looking and extremely energetic young men. Oh yes, and girls.

Next day we left for a two hour drive to Cordoba and to visit the Mezquita the grandest and most beautiful mosque ever to be built in the Moorish World. It stands in the centre of the old town which was once the home of a thriving Jewish community. In the 13th century the mosque was converted into a Christian church and in the 16th century a Renaissance style nave was added. There are conflicting views on the result of a Christian church in a Moorish mosque. It was not to my liking. Our tour leader took us out for a “restaurant recce” and showed us various tapas bars and restaurants near the hotel. Next morning we were joined by an excellent local guide, actually a Dutchman, not a Spaniard, for our city tour around Seville following which we joined a boat trip up the Guadalquivir River – a very pleasant hour. Then we walked up to the Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, but not the largest overall in area, St Paul’s in London and St Peter’s in Rome being bigger. The queue to go in wound right round the building but after a wait of 20 minutes I was inside, having paid my “jubilado” special price. The second must see place in Seville is the Alcazar , the fortified Palace of the Moors, a huge area with buildings and an amazing richness of decoration. There is so much to see in Seville and one evening we went to a Flamenco show. I had seen a very mediocre one some years ago in Barcelona but this was amazing and very professional with incredible athletic dancing by very good looking and extremely energetic young men. Oh yes, and girls.

Cordoba is a delightful town with a lot to see but we had to leave for our drive through miles and miles and miles of olive tree plantations before arriving at our last stop, Granada where we were to stay two nights.

Of course the highlight of our visit to Granada was to see the Alhambra. Part palace, part fort, part World Heritage site, part gardens one could happily spend days exploring the world famous Alhambra, a superb example of medieval architecture.
We left our hotel at 8 a.m. as we had to be at the entrance for our timed tickets at 8.30 a.m. and to meet our excellent local guide and our three hour tour which could only touch on the main points of interest. Despite numbers of visitors being strictly controlled, it was very crowded and there were rules about showing tickets at the entrance to each part of the palace which necessitated more queuing. But it was worth it.

After the visit some of the group walked back into the town centre but I opted for a little open tourist train which went around the whole city through all the back streets for a very reasonable four euros. In fact one could go round and round on the same ticket and hop on and hop off at various stops which was an ideal way to see the other sites of Granada. “Jubilado” worked again in Granada for discounts on entrance fees but here a photocopy of one’s passport was required. An added bonus in Granada was being offered a free tapas when ordering a drink!

One week could only give one a taster of Andalucia and its most important cultural cities. But it was enough to make me want to return for a longer stay. But first I have to visit Madrid, Toledo and Salamanca, another Riviera Travel destination.

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