CATALONIA – BARCELONA, COSTA BRAVA AND TARRAGONA
Explore Barcelona, Tarragona and the rugged Costa Brava and discover Catalonia’s diverse and proud culture. Few areas have the concentration of architectural treasures from the ancient to the ultramodern that are found in Catalonia and no city has as many UNESCO world heritage sites as Barcelona. You’ll see why Catalonia inspired Picasso, Dali, Miro and Gaudi and see their works. You’ll savor Catalan cuisine, take a cooking class with a local chef and visit premier wineries. You’ll tour Girona’s medieval Jewish quarter, relax on secluded Costa Brava beaches and stand where gladiators fought in Tarragona.
Day 1 (Friday) Sunny Tarragona is where the Romans began their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in the 3rd century B.C. and where St. Paul preached in A.D. 58. Tarragona’s remarkable Roman architectural heritage includes extensive city walls, the Circus Maximus and a beautifully preserved amphitheater where gladiators fought next to the Mediterranean. A maze of narrow streets in the medieval old town makes for intriguing exploration with a vibrant arts scene, great nightlife and wonderful cuisine. In the afternoon our local guide shows you the Roman monuments followed by a group dinner with traditional Catalan dishes. D
Day 2 (Saturday) Priorat wines are one of the best in Spain and today you’ll visit the scenic and rugged Priorat wine region just outside of Tarragona. After learning of the wine making process at a Priorat winery you’ll enjoy a Catalan lunch and return to Tarragona for dinner.The Grenache grapes used for the wines are hand cultivated on the areas soil known as llicorella, made of black slate and quartz, which force the roots deep for water and nutrients giving the wine a unique character. As one local says, “The Priorat wines are alive in every bottle and transmit the tough winter, the soft spring, the tired hot summer and beautiful fall of every year!” BLD
Day 3 (Sunday) The destination today is brilliant and vibrant Barcelona, the heart of Catalonia and a true world class destination with a tremendous variety of spectacular architecture, design, arts, gastronomy, and nightlife. After check in you’ll have a Catalan lunch and our local architect and guide will introduce you to the city and its dynamic and colorful districts. The tour starts in Montjuic, a hilltop area rich with museums, gardens and public spaces and where you can gain a perspective of the city’s layout. The night is free to explore with recommendations from our local guide. BL
Day 4 (Monday) After breakfast you’ll take a tour led by our architect guide of the Gothic Quarter, the ancient part of Barcelona where the Romans founded the city in the 1st century B.C. The area has a marvelous character with a warren of small streets, plazas, and markets spiced with restaurants and shops. The grand monuments of the area include La Seu (the Gothic Cathedral), the Town hall and Government Palaces. The Picasso Museum is here as are the Born Mercat (market) and the Mercat Santa Caterina. Our guide will help make sense of this remarkable area and you’ll enjoy shopping at the markets and lunch at a local eatery. Free time this evening to discover more on your own of this fascinating city. BD
Day 5 (Tuesday) Today is dedicated to visiting the incredible works of Antoni Gaudi with our local architect guide starting with the magnificent Sagrada Familia where Gaudi devoted much of his life’s energy and passion. His works express a genius of fantasy and mathematics inspired by nature that have transformed the materials into fantastic artwork and are one of Barcelona’s greatest treasures. Next is Parc Guell, an incredible public space that was created by Gaudi for a developer attempting to market a new neighborhood. While the urban development failed Parc Guell has become one of the premier urban parks in the world with its mix of fantasy, organic shapes and spectacular view of the city. Lunch is open and in the evening we again join our architect guide to explore the Born Quarter at night and hear of its legends and mysteries and enjoy dinner to finish a great day of adventure. BD
Day 6 (Wednesday) Paella is a traditional dish prepared in Spain and today you’ll have a special class with a master chef who is passionate about teaching the art of cooking Spanish dishes. First our guide will take you to gather the ingredients at one of the great local markets and then to the kitchen to learn the secrets of making great paella for lunch and to share with your friends back home. After lunch is free time and in the evening we have a special private visit to “La Pedrera”, Antoni Gaudi’s remarkable residential masterpiece and UNESCO world heritage site. At night La Pedrera (also called Casa Mila) has a special magic to experience and you’ll learn more about the remarkable man who designed it. BL
Day 7 (Thursday) The setting couldn’t be better for the Monastery of Montserrat (“serrated mountain”) in Catalonia where the surrounding hills rise to 4,055” in a unique Natural Park with paths, caves, and chapels. You’ll be visiting this beacon of Catalan culture with its breathtaking views and Benedictine Monastery that holds the small statue La Moraneta (the dark one) or “Black Virgin” that is the patroness of Catalonia. The monastery with over 1,000 years of history holds a vast library and many artworks by El Greco, Dali and others and has one of the oldest boy’s chorals in Europe. After Montserrat you’ll have lunch in a Catalan house and then visit a premier Cava winery where they make the special bubbly spirit. The evening is free in Barcelona. BL
Day 8 (Friday) After the hustle and bustle of Barcelona you’ll depart for the rugged Costa Brava with its small bays, charming fishing villages and gorgeous coast. On our way to our hotel outside of the town of Begur you’ll stop at Calella de Palafrugell, an ancient fishing village that preserves the unique atmosphere before mass tourism arrived. You’ll also visit Tossa de Mar, with its incredible medieval historic center, and Tamariu, a pretty village on a small cove with one of the most sheltered beaches of the Costa Brava. You’ll enjoy a great Catalan lunch at a local restaurant and be staying at a special hotel with fantastic ocean views. Relax and enjoy with dinner at the hotel. Life is beautiful! BLD
Day 9 (Saturday) Our day start with a visit to Cadaqués, a picturesque village on the north coast where the Pyrenees Mountains fall toward the Mediterranean Sea. Cadaques remains the largely unspoiled village that inspired many famous painters including Salvador Dalí, who lived in nearby Portligat. After visiting the village and Dali’s house museum, you’ll go to Cap Creus, a National Park on the wild Catalan coast and then dine on delicious local seafood and wine! Then its off to Figueres with its Dali Museum, a jewel of surrealism and artistic fun. Prepare to be amazed! You’ll return to our special hotel by the sea to relax and enjoy dinner. BLD.
Day 10 (Sunday) One of Catalonia’s “hidden” gems is the city of Girona. This picturesque city with colorfully painted houses rising beside the Onyar River has a beautiful Gothic area with busy shops, cafes and a magnificent cathedral. There’s also a bridge designed by Eiffel and one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. Perhaps the best reason however to visit Girona is the areas outstanding gastronomic tradition. Indeed, several local restaurants have been named the best in the world. We’ll take lunch in an outstanding restaurant and then return to Begur with stops at Pals and Peratallada, two medieval villages that take you back in time. It’s been a great tour and we say goodbye with a special dinner near our hotel. BLD
Day 11 (Monday) We hope to see you again in Spain on another CultureConnectTour as we bid Adeu, Adiós, goodbye, as we provide transportation to Barcelona’s airport or see you off as you continue exploring lovely Spain. B