Portugal and Spain Tour Preview

By Pat Burbank – Reprinted from the Winter 2016 edition of the Milepost.

It’s been a few years since MATC has done a European tour… Those who participated before will remember Carla Oudenhuijsen-Matze, who’s helping us arrange a fantastic tour of Portugal and Spain.  Save the dates:  May 3 through May 23, 2017.  Here is our tentative plan:

On DAY 1 of our tour (Wednesday, May 3), we arrive in Lisbon, Portugal, and transfer to a hotel in the nearby Cascais or Sintra area.  If possible, it would be wise to arrive early enough in the day to attend our tour welcome and briefing.  This is when we’ll learn about picking up our cars at the harbor and other important details such as our European insurance coverage, getting gas, etc. In fact, if you can arrive a day before the tour (on your own dime), you’ll be better adjusted to the time zone…  However, remember that many places in Lisbon are closed on Sundays, and Monday, May 1st  is a major European holiday (roughly equivalent to our Labor Day).

DAY 2:  In the morning we will pick up the cars and in the afternoon we’ll visit the Castle and Sintra, before returning to our first night’s hotel.

DAYS 3 and 4:  We will drive north along the Portuguese coast, which is known as the Costa Verde.  We’ll probably stay one night in the Figueira de Foz/Coimbra area.  The next night we will stay in the Porto area.

DAY 5: This day (a Sunday) will probably be spent sightseeing in Porto and may include a visit to a winery. (The photograph above is of Porto. Credit: cmup.fc.pt) We will remain at our Porto area hotel and there may be an option of hearing Fado music, which is a form of Portuguese singing that is often associated with pubs, cafés and restaurants. The music has much earlier origins but is generally thought to have originated in the 1820’s in Portugal.

DAY 6: we’ll travel through the Douro Valley to Lamedo. The Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Lamedo is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Northern Portugal. We will probably climb the famous steps leading to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies, built in 1750. (Photo Day-6 Credit: http://www.travel-in-portugal.com)  The city is considered the seat of Portuguese Baroque architecture. We’ll overnight in Lamedo (Photo DAY-7 Credit: http://www.panoramio.com).

DAY 7:  We will leave the valley of the Douro River for a full day’s drive south through the Portuguese countryside to Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain.  We will overnight in or near Ciudad Rodrigo. (Note:  There is a one-hour time difference between Portugal and Spain.)

DAY 8:  We will drive to Salamanca to the Automobile Museum for a reception.  We plan to have a group dinner and overnight in Salamanca.

DAY 9: We will cross back into Portugal, via Ledesma and Fermoselle, through the Douro National Park to Miranda do Douro Here, we will embark on a river cruise through the Douro River Gorge. (Photo DAY-9 Credit: portugalholidats.com) Again, we’ll have to remember the one-hour time difference between Portugal and Spain! We’ll return to Spain to overnight in the Zamora area.

DAY 10: We’ll have a day of leisure.  Zamora is the city with the largest number of Romanesque churches in all of Europe. (Photo DAY-!0 Credit: en.wikipidia.org) We may also have the opportunity to sample local foods such as “las natillas almendradas” (Spanish style custard with almonds). Zamora’s cultural heritage derives from its role as part of several of the Jacobean Routes to Santiago de Compostela, including the famous “Vía de La Plata” (Silver Way) or “Ruta de la Plata” (Silver Route).  The Silver Route links the northern and southern parts of western Spain and follows an ancient (but still used) Roman road whose origins date back to the late Bronze Age.  We may make a side trip to Toro, where the famous Spanish wines are produced.  We’ll return to our Zamora area hotel.

DAY 11: We will travel winding little roads through the vineyards and visit a Toro bodega.  Wine has been made in Toro since the end of the 1st century BC, when the ancient Greeks taught the local Celtic tribes.  Red wine from Toro is made from the Tinta de Toro grape (Tempranillo). Possibly we’ll have a wine tour. We will overnight in Tordesillas. (Photo DAY-11 Credit: arrangementsabroad.wordpress.com)

DAY 12: We’ll revisit the Douro Valley on our way to Aranda de Duero.  There is a labyrinth of cellars under the town center, dug between the 12th and 17th centuries.  Originally they were used to store the food and wine that makes the Ribera del Duero wine-producing region famous. Aranda de Duero also has a pottery museum that displays pottery from all over Spain.  We will overnight in Aranda de Duero.

DAY 13:  We will travel via Santo Domingo de Silos, which is famous for its abbey with its Gregorian chants.  We’ll continue to Santo Domingo de Calzada. (Its name refers to its founder, Dominic de la Calzada, who built a bridge, hospital, and hotel here for pilgrims on the Way of St. James.) The town’s network of medieval streets has been declared a National Historic Interest Site. We will overnight in Santo Domingo de Calzada.

DAY 14: We will drive to Bilbao via the Pozalagua Cave.  Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, this cave contains the highest concentration of stalactites in the world, defying gravity and branching out and intertwining in all directions. It is located in the Peñas de Ranero peaks, inside the Armañón nature reserve in Carranza. We will overnight in Bilbao. (Photo DAY-14 Credit: http://www.housesittingtravel.com)

DAY 15: Will be spent in Bilbao.  We may visit the Guggenheim Museum on Day 15 unless we are able to do so on Day 14 by combining it with a visit to the caves.  Nearby is the private car collection of Miguel de la Via, which is the only Rolls Royce Collection in Europe with all models manufactured between 1910-1998.  The Rolls Royce car collection is located in the countryside, and the medieval Loizaga Tower also houses other unique collections of vintage cars.(Photo DAY-15 Credit: http://www.minube.sg) We’ll return to our Bilbao hotel.

DAY 16:  Will consist of a full day of driving from Bilbao to Pamplona, which is well known for the Fiestas of San Fermin.  It is internationally known because of the running of the bulls, where the bulls are led through the streets of the old quarter. This event originated from the need to transport the bulls from the fields outside the city (where they were bred) to the bullring.  During this ‘run’, youngsters would jump among the bulls to show off their bravado. The bulls in the event are those that will be featured in the afternoon bullfight of the same day.   We will overnight in the Pamplona area.

DAY 17: We will have a morning tour of Pamplona. Then, in Huesca we will visit the oldest store in Spain: Ultramarinos La Confianza.  It’s a lovely old-fashioned shop filled with lots of interesting foods, herbs and spices etc. (Photo DAY-17 Credit: http://www.pamoramio.com) We will try to get group dinner reservations here, and we’ll overnight in the Huesca area.

DAY 18: We plan to travel to Lleida on to visit the Roda Automobile Museum.  For special interest groups, (Photo DAY-18 Credit: ispaniagid.ru) the museum offers advice and collaboration of mechanical and automotive experts.  We’ll overnight in Lleida.

DAY 19: We’ll continue to the Mediterranean coast and overnight in the Barcelona area. (Photo DAY-19 Credit: ispanagid.ru)

DAY 20:  (Monday May 22):  Time to hand in the cars and have our farewell dinner. We’ll overnight in the Barcelona area.

DAY 21: (Tuesday May 23):  We’ll transfer to the airport for our flights back home unless you want to extend on your own!  Barcelona is a great jumping off place for many European cities.

MORE INFO: In addition to our multilingual Carla who will accompany us the entire tour, we plan to have local English-speaking guides in the Lisbon, Porto, Lamedo, Pamplona, and Barcelona areas.  We also hope to have a luggage vehicle and a trouble trailer – just in case! Make plans to join this first “overseas” tour since New Zealand in 2011! You’ll Like It!