Barcelona & the Highlights of Catalonia

Barcelona & the Highlights of Catalonia

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Although Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world, it seems incredible that  vast swathes of it are hardly known at all. But during the past few years, its more historic, cultural and scenic aspects have been brought to the attention of the discerning traveller. For many centuries Spain did not really exist as a nation state, being more a collection of countries such as Aragon, Castille, Cantabria and of course, Catalonia. Often separated by high mountain ranges, they evolved separately becoming strikingly different with even their own languages. In Roman times Tarragona was one of the largest cities in the Empire, and had a population of 250,000 with a wealth of buildings to match, many of which are still in evidence today. Ancient monasteries abound and include some of the most sophisticated ever constructed with many still in use. Lush vineyards sweep off to the horizon and produce that most superb of drinks, the sparkling wine - Cava. Barcelona, the self-confident and progressive capital is a tremendous place to visit. Probably the most prosperous city in the country, it has a sophistication and cultural dynamism way ahead of the rest of Spain which is so strong you can feel it just walking around. Catalonia also boasts the best food in Spain, but that is what the Catalans themselves tell you and to be fair they perhaps have a point, but the only real test is to come with us and see for yourself.

Highlights

  • Return flights
  • Six nights bed and breakfast in excellent quality four-star hotels
  • Visit to Tarragona, the ancient Roman capital
  • Visit to the world famous monastery at Montserrat
  • Visit to a Cava vineyard and discover the ancient art of wine making
  • Visit to the beautiful medieval city of Girona
  • Guided tour of Barcelona - Spain's most happening city!
  • Escorted by our experienced tour manager

Inclusions

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement per person. The price includes six nights bed and breakfast accommodation as mentioned, guided tours in Tarragona and Barcelona, all tours as mentioned, return flights to Barcelona, departure taxes, executive coach travel in Spain and services ofa Rivieratour manager.
  • Not included: Entrance to Picasso museum €11, Sagrada Familia €12, approximate costs, payable locally.

Itinerary

Day 1

You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Barcelona. On arrival a coach will take us south to the delightful town of Tarragona, an ideal base for our visits during the next few days. The hotel, four-star rated, is the Ciutat de Tarragona, centrally located and near the old town.

Day 2

Tarragona is majestically sited on a rocky hill above the sea and it was used as the base for the Roman conquest of Spain and wars against Hannibal. It then became an imperial resort and the most cultured city of Roman Spain. A lovely medieval hill-top town, you can see what attracted the emperors here. The views are outstanding and for all its ancient remains, the heart of the city today is the medieval old town, with its intricate streets and its focal point, the cathedral. Today we will have the opportunity to see the principal points of interest of this delightful city which has an atmosphere so typical of Spain. Tarragona is untouched by the excesses of modern tourism and nothing could be better than watching the locals go about their everyday business, shopping in the market, exchanging a few words with friends in the street or enjoying that most traditional of pastimes, sampling a few tapas in a local bar. Also today we drive inland to the superb medieval town of Montblanc which is surprisingly beautiful and yet, outside the local area, very undiscovered. The ancient walls are astonishingly well preserved, enclose 75 percent of the town and look as though they have come straight from the film set of El Cid! Montblanc is not particularly famous for anything, although there are a few museums here, the monument is simply the town itself. We have time to explore its centre and its very attractive main square. This is provincial Spain at its simple best.

Day 3

This morning we visit the famous Monastery of Montserrat – with a location which can only be described as spectacular! Even if you are not interested in such a visit, you cannot fail to be impressed by the scenery – some of Spain’s finest. Montserrat means ‘serrated mountain’ and describes the site perfectly, perched on a mountain top with sheer drops below. Montserrat has been one of the most famous pilgrimages in Spain for over 1,000 years as its Black Madonna is said to have been given by St. Peter. The Renaissance basilica is quite outstanding with amazingly intricate mosaics and is decorated with gold and silver artefacts made by the most skilled artisans. The art collection is also well worth a visit and displays many works by Picasso, Monet, Degas and Caravaggio amongst others. Spain is well noted for producing wine and Cava, so this afternoon we visit a producer for a guided tour of the cellars. The setting is particularly attractive in rolling vine-covered countryside, and we learn the ins and outs of the making of Cava, which incidentally is the same process as that used for Champagne in France, and then have a tasting of the finished product.

Day 4

After breakfast we leave Tarragona and head north to the small town of Girona, serene and bisected by the River Onyar, giving an appearance rather like that of Florence in Italy, the banks being lined with tall biscuit and ochre coloured buildings. Part of the pleasure of this lovely old town is simply to wander among the narrow shady streets, old stone buildings, stairways and fine old plazas. There is a superb cathedral with Europe’s widest nave and intricate stained glass. The old Jewish Quarter, the largest in Europe, has now been restored and is a delight to explore. We then take the short drive to Barcelona. Our hotel for the next three nights is the four-star Hotel Catalonia, centrally located and near a metro (underground station) allowing you to explore the city with ease.

Day 5

After breakfast we will have a guided tour of this fascinating city which more than most, can genuinely be called unique. We will see the old town, or gothic quarter which contains the cathedral – one of Spain’s most outstanding buildings, the district of Ribera – a remarkable concentration of 14th century mansions some of which house the Picasso museum, plus much more. But Barcelona is more famous for its monuments and style unique to the city. During the 19th century a new style of art and architecture emerged, Modernism. Essentially it combined bare undecorated materials – wood, rough-hewn stone, rubble and brickwork with meticulous craftsmanship in wrought iron and stained glass often covered with mosaics of uneven tiles. There are over fifty examples of these buildings and we shall see many of them on our tour. The greatest exponent of this style is of course Antoni Gaudí, and he, together with his most famous creation, the Cathedral of Sagrada Familia, arguably Spain’s most instantly recognisable building, have come to symbolise the city. There are countless museums, two of which are dedicated to Picasso and Joan Miró, both of which are well worth a visit. Barcelona as we mentioned previously is a very cosmopolitan city and as such has attracted world class shops, so to visit the shopping areas is a must. Clothes are everywhere and when you compare the quality, the prices are very reasonable. One of the delights about shopping in Spain is chain stores do not dominate, so you find establishments specialising in traditional craft items and handmade goods. The old port area is a must too, once thought rather seedy, but now totally renovated – full of bars, trendy shops and restaurants giving an atmosphere rather like Covent Garden in London. During the evening there is only one place to head for, Las Ramblas the most famous and happening street in Barcelona and indeed, probably in Spain too! Lively beyond belief at all hours of the day and night, lined with bars and restaurants with news-stands, flower stalls, tarot readers, musicians and mime artists thronging the central tree-lined walkway. If you do nothing else all holiday, you must not miss this.

Day 6

Today is a free day to explore as you wish but there is hardly enough time to see it all. There are the musts, or you could do something simple and relaxing such as explore the Ciutadella Park, complete with orange trees and native parrots to see the locals spending their free time – real Spain at its best. You must make time for lunch as this is what everyone else in Barcelona will be doing, but do not try to rush things – eating is a serious business in Spain.

Day 7

Today the coach will take us to Barcelona airport, at the appropriate time, to take your flight home, after a really memorable tour.

Accommodation

Hotel Ciutat de Tarragona

four-star rated, is centrally located and near the old town. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, small outdoor pool, terrace, gym, sauna and beauty centre. Barcelona...

Hotel Catalonia

four-star rated, centrally located and near a metro (underground railway) allowing you to explore the city with ease. It also has a bar and restaurant. Both hotels are air-conditioned and all rooms...
  Cost per person: €1,049pp
  Number of nights: 6
  Dates available from: Sep 2017

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  Call:  01 905 6300