Our springtime visit to this surprising corner of Iberia is timed to coincide with Camellia season, for which the entire region is justly famous. Of course, the area is most renowned for the celebrated Pilgrim's Route to Santiago de Compostella, yet along the way there are some fine historic manor houses and palaces (locally known as 'pazos') that are surrounded by charming gardens.
The north of Portugal - the provinces of Minho and Trás-os-Montes - almost meld into Galicia, which is not so surprising when you consider that the language of Galicia, Galego, was called 'Galician Portuguese' until the 19th century.
With a mild, humid climate, tangible Ibero-Celtic origins, wonderful cuisine and surprising wines, this tour is designed to elaborate on all the cultural uniqueness and authenticity that is so intact in this region.
It was the Portuguese who first brought the 'Chinese Rose' to Europe, and the soils and climate of both northern Portugal and Galicia are ideal for their cultivation. Unsurprisingly therefore, some of the oldest and most stately specimens and camellia avenues in all of Europe are to be found here.
We're really certain that you'll wonder why you've never been to Galicia before!
Contact us for the 2020 dates.
PORTUGAL & SPAIN
Lisbon, one of Europe's most ancient cities is also one of its most photogenic - and one of our favourites. Steeped in a kind of genteel charm that has all but gone from the modern World, and strewn with mementoes that whisper inspiring tales of the 'Golden Age of Discoveries', or 'Descobrimentos', as the locals would say. The Portuguese have their own, unique emotion - 'saudade' - a kind of bittersweet combination of wistful longing, retrospection and nostalgia. To understand it and indeed, to live it, you must visit Portugal! "Everything is worth it if the Soul is not made small", as Fernando Pessoa once said.
The Atlantic jewel that is the island of Madeira needs little introduction. Often referred to as "the floating garden", anything from anywhere will grow somewhere in Madeira. With its head in the clouds and its watery feet submerged deep in a trough of the great ocean, many superlatives apply to such a tiny place. When visiting the island, never forget that you are, in effect, standing towards the summit of a great mountain - a long extinct volcano - most of which is submerged. Once a staging post during Portugal's Golden Age - a little 'blip' of home off the coast of Africa, often the first or last call of the marathon voyages undertaken by the long list of navigators that were born in ancient Portugal.
Why not combine a visit to the Lisbon Coast with Madeira, or commence in Lisbon and follow a cultural trail up through the country - or why not combine all three?
The walled city of Carcassonne sits astride a hill that has been inhabited since at least 600 BC. Crowning this ancient oppidum, it dominates the surrounding landscape. Occitanie is one of the most prolific wine-producing regions in the World - there are many authentic wineries we may visit with a varied selection of products, often produced from historic grape varieties. The Canal du Midi meanders through the landscape, flanked with platanes. This watery corridor was first conceived by the Romans to connect their port at Narbonne on the Mediterranean sea, to the river Garonne at Tolosa (Toulouse) and thereby connect the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean. Comprising a large part of what was not even French territory until the 13th Century - the watershed moment of the history of the region - the story of Occitanie is inextricably linked with the tragedy of the Albigensian Crusade. With easy access to Roussillon (French Catalonia) and to many other bucolic towns and villages, the region can truly claim to possess an 'embarrassment of riches'.
There are many permutations of touring possibilities that we can suggest for this region - contact us and let's turn our European guided tours suggestions into reality!
The Lake of Garda - known to the Romans as 'Benacus' - is one of Europe's great pre-alpine, subtropical oases. Indeed, it is Italy's largest body of fresh water. Fringed by land that was once attached to three different polities - that of the Republic of Venice, the Tyrol and of the Kingdom of Lombardy, the lakeside towns are surprisingly diverse in flavour.
The happy marriage of Italian and Austrian cultural influences that we encounter in the South Tyrol, has created a hybrid region where we may enjoy the best of both Worlds. Italian style, zest for life and cuisine, combine with Austrian orderliness and meticulousness. The South Tyrol was part of Austria-Hungary until the end of the First World War, though the multifarious origins of the region are more complicated than this may imply. In such towns as Bolzano/Bozen the locals will happily switch between Italian and German in the blink of an eye. Astride one of the World's great trade routes, the area could almost not help but be wealthy and successful, yet its past is littered with memories of the sometimes bitter squabbles that erupted between feudal families and then empires as Europe's history unfolded.
Perhaps combine your programme with a stay in Venice, the peerless 'Old Lady of the Lagoon'...
Tréguier, Côtes d’Armor, Brittany, France
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