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Travel made easy. We provide custom itineraries to create a journey that fits your desires and budget. Or learn about and compare the differences of food, landscape and architecture as you explore the world with an experienced traveler as your guide.

Portugal, Spain & Morocco | Fall 2020

Visit the south of Portugal, the south of Spain, and the northern part of Morocco, with your tour director, Maria Galvao. This tour is fast paced and covers vast ground. We will focus on learning about and comparing the differences of culture, food, landscape, and architecture in this region that shares the Atlantic ocean, with its facing ports and mingled history.

15-Day Tour  |  $4,650*
Arrive Lisbon Sept. 14, 2020  |  Depart Morocco Oct. 1, 2020

*Download PDF flyer for details

Cathedral de Santa_Cruz in Cadiz, Spain

Custom Travel Itineraries

Have a custom itinerary built for your destination! Get a planned trip within your budget that meets your desires and interests.

Groups of 2–5 people
$250 5–7 day trip  |  $350 8–12 day trip

Fees for Assistance with Booking Flights:
$59 International
$36 Domestic

In a Moroccan desert, a camel-rider holds his hat as he rides a camel

Tour Director and Guide

Bring Maria along as your tour director. Visit exotic locations without the stress of traveling alone. Enjoy a relaxing yet adventurous trip with an experienced traveler and gastronomy expert.

Groups of 4–10 people
Expenses + $250/day

In Ecaduor – a tower and building roof tops against a background of mountains

Cruises

Maria can help you find the perfect cruise or land-based vacation. Visit Expedia Cruiseship Centers to explore the options.

A Cruise ship pulls in to a harbor

Notes From Our Travels

Iberia: Spain and Portugal

 
Two women sit on a rocky hillside overlooking a river and hills in the distance.While Spain and Portugal share the Iberian Peninsula, they’ve always been separate countries, save for a bit of dynastic overlap a couple of times many years ago. Portugal is the older of the two and very much its own country with its own distinct language and culture. Spend some time exploring both countries to get a true feel for the southwestern corner of Europe. Whether you want to hike in the mountains or loll about on the beaches—or ride horseback or visit palaces and museums or eat and drink your way through every market and tapas bar—you’re sure to have a great time and make wonderful memories.

Portugal: Did You Know?

About 60% of the world’s cork comes from cork oaks that thrive in Portugal. While wine producers have long relied on these trees for bottling their vintages, purses, hats, belts and jewelry are all made from Portuguese cork.

The Portuguese capital of Lisbon is the second oldest continuously-inhabited city in Europe, with only Athens being its senior.

Lisbon’s Mediterranean appearance is deceiving! The capital of Portugal is actually nestled at the confluence of the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean. Its more modern look developed after a massive earthquake in 1755 destroyed most of the city’s medieval buildings.

The country boasts a dazzling array of azulejo art, colorful tile in infinite patterns and colors—a legacy of Moorish occupation that ran from about 700 AD to the mid-13th century. It’s not reserved for trim or decoration—you’ll find entire buildings covered in intricately designed tile. Blue and white tile representations of historic events are scattered about the city.

Pastries are a way of life in Portugal, and none is more beloved than the famous pastéis de nata (on the upper right). The famous Pastéis de Belem turns out thousands of the sweet treats to long lines that trail out the entrance and down the street toward the Jerónimos Monastery next door, but excellent pastéis de nata can be found everywhere. Everyone has an opinion on which pastelaria does it best!

For a splash that is uniquely Portuguese, try Ginjinha, or ginjha for short. It’s a sour cherry brandy that you can order either neat or with the Morello cherries from which it’s made. More than 60 ginjinha shops are dotted around Lisbon, so you can get your fortification most anywhere.

Lisbon is an unbelievably hilly town requiring a network of funiculars to help you deal with the city’s geographic ups and downs. Then there’s the stylish Elevador de Santa Justa, built in 1902 and rising a full seven stories to connect the Baixa neighbohood to the bohemian Bairro Alto. There’s even an observation deck on top, from which you can admire the city and the commanding São Jorge Castle nestled above it.

In spite of all those rocky coastlines, Portugal has some amazing beaches, particularly in the south, and offers an array of activities including swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing and fishing. You can even explore caves that are inaccessible from land! When you feel the need to exchange pavement for sand, you have loads of options.

Northern Portugal boasts forests, mountains and parkland for exploring on foot—or by car. Take a hike, go birdwatching, visit castles and explore the remains of Roman occupation that predate Stonehenge!

To get a bit of recent history in your head, read the novel Night Train to Lisbon, or watch the 2013 film by that name. It shifts back and forth between 1974 and modern day to reveal some of the origins of contemporary, post-revolutionary Portugal.

And go to the internet and look up fado, the soulful music that is Portugal’s answer to the blues. Listen to Amalia Rodrigues, who brought fado to the attention of the rest of the world with her songs of love and longing. When you arrive in Lisbon you’ll find plenty of places to hear it performed live. You’ll find concentrations of fado houses in the Alfama and Bairro Alto neighborhoods.

Spain: Did You Know?

Spain has two completely different waterfronts. Its sunny Mediterranean side to the south is well known to vacationers and sun worshipers, but Spain also has a cool, breezy northern flank on the Atlantic Ocean. These quite different climates and geographies bring with them an array of cultural and culinary delights.

The Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid is the 1916 iron and glass market where the paths of locals and tourists intersect in the center of Madrid. It’s a great spot for eating and drinking, shopping for special treats and people watching.

Most every establishment makes its own vermouth, which is meant to be drunk with tapas or meals. It’s more a beverage to be enjoyed on its own than an ingredient for mixing cocktails. House vermouth is inexpensive and a delicious and authentic taste of Spain.

This famous bridge connects the old and new parts of Ronda spanning a gorge of dizzying proportions that’s deep enough to conceal a building some 30 stories tall! This Andalusian hill town in southwestern Spain inspired key scenes in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and is the home of the country’s oldest bull fighting ring.

Head to the far southwestern reaches of Spain, and Tarifa will be the last stop before Africa. With its stiff winds generated by its position where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet, Tarifa is popular amongst Europeans for windsurfing. It’s just six miles from Gibraltar, with its crazy snack-stealing monkeys and famous rockface and a 45-minute ferry ride to Tangier, on Morocco’s northern coast.

The spectacular Alhambra in the southern city of Granada is an incredible day’s exploration but also a lovely backdrop for dinner at any of a number of outdoor restaurants that line the hillside across from its western façade.

Flamenco is a passionate form of expression, whether it’s dance, singing or guitar. Partake of an evening of flamenco and you’ll get a glimpse into the soul of Spain.

One of Spain’s finest cured hams is Jamon Iberico Bellota, which comes from acorn-fed pigs in the forests of southwestern Spain. Penicillin roqueforti, the bacteria that gifts us with fabulous Roquefort cheese gives this ham a luscious flavor unique among the famous hams of Europe.

You may recognize Seville’s Plaza de España from Lawrence of Arabia or the more recent Star Wars movie, Attack of the Clones, but this is no mere movie set! While the building houses governmental functions, the plaza is a popular spot for walking, paddling in the canal and taking selfies. It’s situated next to Maria Luisa Park, where you can picnic, bike or go for a carriage ride.

Spain was home to some of the world’s most beloved artists, including Picasso, Miro, Dali and el Greco, and troves of their work are available to view in the country’s many splendid museums. Some works of art you can stroll right into, like Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, replete with its dazzling, multicolored stained glass windows. His wavy architectural masterpieces are scattered about the city and make a nice change of pace when you’ve spent too much time indoors.

Donostia is the Basque name of San Sebastian, the crown jewel of the Basque territory, which straddles the border of Spain and France on the Atlantic side of both countries. The language there is Euskara, thought to be the world’s oldest tongue. A local Basque rail line connects towns up and down the Atlantic coastline, running from Bilbao as far north as Saint-Jean-de-Luz in France. Some of the world’s most highly respected restaurants are clustered in this small town.

In the Spanish Basque country tapas are called pintxos and are more elaborately constructed than the basic—but still delicious—tapas you’ll enjoy in the rest of Spain.

Listen to Andres Segovia, mid-20th century Spanish guitarist who made the instrument “respectable” among classical music lovers.

The Camino de Santiago is the world’s most famous pilgrimage route, but there are several paths throughout Spain and Portugal you can walk to reach your destination in the northwestern region called Galicia. Check out the 2010 film The Way to get a glimpse of one man’s journey and the array of people he meets on the path.

When you visit Spain and Portugal come hungry, for you’ll surely be well fed! You’ll be entertained, you’ll be wowed by the scenery, and you’ll be warmly welcomed.

Wonderful Ecuador

Did You Know?

Ecuador may be a relatively small country by South American standards, but it’s chock full of wonders, including the spiky yet majestic Andes Mountains, lush rainforests, and the sparkling clear water on its Pacific coastline, flanked by some of the most desirable beaches in South America.

A collection of vibrant, indigenous cultures, colorful crafts, and colonial architecture fascinate even the most jaded travelers and make Ecuador a dream destination! The oldest Ecuadorian tools discovered date back to 9,000 B.C.

The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador and a two-hour flight from the mainland. This cluster of about 20 volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean is so remote that its residents include animals found nowhere else on earth. There are even species that are unique to individual islands!

Dip Into Ecuadorian Culture

Watch a video, of Pueblo Nuevo an Ecuadorian musical group whose impassioned singing and guitar playing, punctuated by native panpipes, will make you want to grab a cerveza and start swaying and swirling.

While Quito is the capital of Ecuador, the Andean highland city of Cuenca dazzles with its collection of colonial buildings. In fact, the city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The centro historico is home to block after block of grand buildings constructed by the Spanish after the conquistadors landed in the 1550s.

No vampires were harmed in the making of this hat: The unique sheen of the Panama hat so amazed superstitious 16th century Spanish explorers that they thought it was made of vampire skin! You may know it as a Panama hat, but it actually comes from Ecuador and is properly called a toquilla or a jipijapa hat. East Coast Americans traveling through Panama on their way to California during the gold rush in the 1840s saw these hats everywhere and concluded that they were a local product. Their first international appearance was at the 1855 World’s Fair in Paris.

What Do They Eat in Ecuador?

While cuisine in Ecuador varies from region to region, expect to find these standards:

Encebollado is a hearty soup that’s considered a restorative and cure-all. While you’ll find it throughout the country, it’s especially popular in the coastal regions, where it’s made with tuna—and sometimes other seafood—along with yuca and onions.

Humitas, a type of corn cake, is a beloved street food made of corn and cornmeal, onions, eggs, and cheese stuffed into fresh corn husks and steamed.

For the adventurous there is Cuy, a.k.a. guinea pig. It’s beginning to show up in South American restaurants in the U.S., but if you want to sample it on its home turf, Ecuador is the place to do it. Considered a delicacy reserved for special occasions, it is roasted whole and served with potatoes and various side dishes. Roll up your sleeves and eat it with your fingers. It’s messy but good!

One more culinary cultural nugget: While you may gobble up popcorn by the handful at the movies, in Ecuador you’ll find it used as a garnish on dishes including ceviche and soups.

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