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Accommodations in centrally-located three-star or four-star hotels. Rooming on a triple basis. Double rooms: $240 per person.
Round-trip transportation on scheduled airline.
All breakfasts. Five dinners. Dinner on own on Day 5.
Services of a specially-trained passports Tour Director throughout.
Entrances and activities as noted on itinerary.
passports provides and pays for a Post Departure Travel Protection Plan that includes coverage for Trip Interruption, Trip Delay, Baggage Loss or Delay, Medical Expense and Evacuation and more.
Half-day city sightseeing: Local Guide, Visit to the Prado Museum, Prado headset
Optional Flamenco dinner and show
Optional Excursion to El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen
Departure transfer, AVE train Madrid-Barcelona, Arrival transfer
Barcelona City Sightseeing: Local Guide
Visit to the Sagrada Familia Basilica
Optional Excursion to Montserrat: Round trip on the Montserrat Funicular, Visit to the Basilica of Montserrat
A dream comes true as your wide-bodied jet thunders off the airstrip, Europe-bound! Watch the sun rise up to meet your airplane, after a short night. Spain glides by beneath your airplane, in shades of sienna, as you head towards Madrid's Barajas Airport.
Get settled in your madrileño hotel and explore your surroundings.
Stroll in the Plaza Mayor, the heart of the Old City.
For lunch, why not duck into a sidewalk mesón for a sopa de pescado or some calamares?
On a tour of the city, you will be introduced to the sights and the city grand squares: Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Plaza de España with the Cervantes Monument, Gran Vía, Calle Alcalá, Plaza de Colón, and Plaza de Cibeles with its fountains.
A half-day local guide, well-educated and specially-trained on the history and culture of Madrid and its surroundings, will accompany your group.
View world-famous paintings by El Greco, Goya, and Velázquez, and much. much more, at the magnificent Museo del Prado.
The afternoon is unscheduled.
You may wish to visit the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to view modern works by Dalí, Miró and Picasso, notably the haunting Guernica, a memorial to the victims of the Nazi bombing of a Basque village, long kept out of Spain because of the artist's refusal to recognize Franco's dictatorship.
Tonight, enjoy dinner and an evening of traditional entertainment, flamenco! The poet Federico García Lorca called it "the most gigantic creation of the Spanish people." You will long remember its complex and insistent rhythms, castanets, guitars and clacking heels as the highlight of your trip to Spain.
Set out for the the wooded slopes of Mt. Abantos, watershed of the Guadarrama River, where Spanish royalty retreated from the summer heat and from the bustle of the capital city.
Travel to the religious retreat of King Philip II, El Escorial, where he and other Spanish kings lie buried. On a guided tour, see the Royal Pantheon and Crypt of the Royal Children, the apartments of King Philip, and the basilica with Titian's fresco of St. Lawrence's martyrdom, as well as the lavish library which contains 40,000 rare manuscripts, including St. Teresa of Avila's diary.
Then, head to the Valley of the Fallen, nestled in the Guadarrama Mountains. Intended as a monument to Fascism, this site is now a memorial to soldiers from both sides who died during the 1936-39 Civil War. See the world's largest monumental cross and the entrance to the underground basilica (currently closed to visitors) that General Franco ordered carved inside a hill of solid granite by prisoners of war. Walk across the vast esplanade for a panoramic view of valleys and mountains.
The afternoon is unscheduled.
Stroll through Retiro Park. Once royalty's playground, El Parque del Retiro now opens its gardens and recreational areas to the public. You may be tempted by a row boat ride on the lake (you row!), or by a solar boat ride (you relax!).
You may want to check out the elegant El Corte Inglés department store at the Puerta del Sol.
An Alta Velocidad train takes you at high speed across the semi-deserts of northern Spain, from the dusty plains of Castile to palm-fringed Mediterranean shores.
Enjoy a free evening in this Mediterranean town of parks and fountains.
A tour will introduce landmarks such as the wide avenues called Las Ramblas, the medieval Gothic Quarter around the cathedral, Modernist landmarks such as the Basilica of the Sagrada Família, and Plaça de Catalunya, the lively heart of Catalonia's capital city.
A half-day local guide, well-educated and specially-trained on the history and culture of the region, will accompany your group.
Visit the extraordinary-looking basilica whose construction was planned in the 1870s. Antonio Gaudí worked for more than forty years to create a unique and huge sanctuary still far from completion. The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia combines elements of Gothic architecture and the tenets of the Modernista movement associated with Gaudí.
Enjoy a visit to Catalonia's holiest place, the Monastery of Montserrat, located amidst the serrated peaks of the Montserrat mountain range. Montserrat has served as a place of pilgrimage since the 12th century. After being destroyed by the French in 1811, the monastery complex was rebuilt and repopulated in 1844 and now includes quaint shops and cafés.
Enjoy a funicular ride for the last leg up the mountain, which affords stupendous views stretching from the Pyrénées Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea.
You will enter the Basilica to view La Moreneta (Black Virgin). This revered statue, said to have been carved out of wood by St. Luke around 50 AD, has been on the mountain since it was rediscovered in 880 AD after being hidden from the Moors.
The afternoon is unscheduled.
You may want to stroll down Las Ramblas to the Columbus Monument, which marks the spot where the explorer stepped ashore in 1493 after his voyage of discovery. Nearby is Port Vell, the harbor area where you'll find one of Europe's largest aquariums.
You may take a walk to the trendy part of town known as Poblenou, where former warehouses now house the studios of artists and photographers. A palm tree-lined boardwalk leads all the way to the sea.
¡Adios España! Barcelona's airport recedes, and you're 500 miles closer to home with each hour in the air. You'll be back! For now, race the sun westward, arriving home later today, eager to share your experiences with family and friends.
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