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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report Spain and Portugal in Depth

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It began with an overheard conversation during church coffee hour. A friend who loves to travel with her mother mentioned how she would like to go to Spain and Portugal and thought about Grand Circle travel company. I overheard her and commented, "Yes, I would recommend Grand Circle. We've enjoyed eight tours with them and each was great." There was murmuring at the table and eventually "Well, let's plan a trip together then." Now DW and I had about decided at our age we were done with overseas travel...so instead we'd toured New Brunswick and Maritimes with GCT last year. (Besides going to Maine, the Cape, and other places like Des Moines for a wedding).

Thing is, I had always had a dream of going to southern Spain. Years ago we spent some weeks in Salamanca studying St. Teresa and toured Avila, Segovia, Madrid, etc. There had been a longing to see other places like Alcazar and the Alhambra. It turned out that nine of us from the church signed up for an October 6-20 tour "Spain and Portugal in Depth" recruited by my friend. So this is a report on what we saw and did, not so much accomodations nor transportation details (being with a tour) as impressions on what we saw and did, from Madrid heading south to Andalucia and over to Ronda and Torremolinas and to Lisbon. And we did a few things no average tourist would do.

So first that late afternoon flight to Europe where you don't sleep and suddenly it's morning. We flew via Iberia from Boston. Actually, we survived without being as dragged out as we had feared. Arriving Madrid early morning we were transported to Hotel Tryp Cibeles. The hotel is right off the busy Gran Via with many shops and The Lion King showing down the block. Since the rooms weren't ready some of us friends set forth to tour the Royal Palace. Turned out it was quite a walk and yet worth it...a splendid place with rooms trimmed in gold, including the royal throne room and the marvelous Tiepolo ceiling. Also four Goya paintings of the Royalty. I like Rick Steves' commentary stroll through the palace. Later in the day our program director led us on a stroll down side streets and walkways off Gran Via. Some of our Newton, MA, group relaxed with sangrias outdoors at The Moon and then an evening meal at Public. There are so many little cafes all over, some of course are tapa bars. So typical all over Spain are outdoor tables. More later on food.

Next: more on Madrid. Feel free to chip in anytime on this report along the way.

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