Spain Portugal and Morocco
In August 2013 we took long service leave of 9 weeks and set off on a tour of Spain, Portugal and Morocco followed by a stay in Wales and then on to a tour of Ireland.
The tour commenced in Madrid. We had a day in Madrid prior to the tour commenced. We spent the day wandering around Madrid. First stop Plaza Mayor followed by a wonderful market (more about that later). As we wandered around Madrid we spotted some rather interesting sights. Gil couldn't resist pinching a convenient bottom. The highlight of the day was a tour and meal at the oldest restaurant in the world - Sobrino de Botin. They specialise in suckling pig and it was beautiful. We saw the table Ernest Hemingway used as a regular in the restaurant. A nice surprise for us was a gift - we selected a rather nice pottery jug that has the name of the restaurant inscribed – good for Sangria!!.
On the first day of the tour we visited Palacio Real de Madrid, followed by a trip to Segovia to view the aqueduct. What an incredible structure. We had lunch in the square and had roast lamb. Suckling pig and lamb are the specialties of the region and they are sensational eating.
On to Toledo where we bought Damascene jewellery. From Toledo to Salamanca with a stop at Avila to view the rather spectacular city walls. Most memorable thing about Salamanca for us was the Gin and Tonic we bought in a bar that our tour director told us about. Wonderful - Gin - about half a bottle in each glass (I exaggerate - it was only 1/4 of a bottle) over ice with Juniper berries and tonic.
From Salamanca into Portugal with a stop at Fatima. What an incredible place. Even on a Monday there were thousands of pilgrims. Many of them doing a penance by walking down to the shrine on their knees.
We arrived in Lisbon late afternoon and went out in the evening for a tour of the city and a meal of Portugese Chicken. The chicken was liberally coated with a chilli, garlic infused olive oil and was fantastic. We were then taken for a wonderful Portuguese Tart reputedly the best in Portugal.
Next day we visited Cascais and Sintra, Lunch in Cascais was grilled sardines. Gil purchased a pair of cork shoes and cork jewellery at Sintra.
Leaving Portugal, we had a long day's drive to Seville with a stop for lunch at Tavera. On arrival in Seville we were given a tour of the cathedral and the old town. Narrow streets wide enough for a a person walking or on horseback. In the evening dinner and a Flamenco show.
Leaving Seville we had a very long day on the coach as we headed to Morocco for our stay in Fes. Arriving late afternoon we were treated to a great Moroccan meal. In the morning we headed off to the Medina for a wander through the maze of alleys that make up the oldest Medina in Morocco. Incredibly dirty, smelly and wonderful. First stop a rug emporium. We were very tempted, but the prices were much to high for our budget. Next stop the leather store where we had a view out over the tanneries even more smelly – they give you a sprig of mint to hold under your nose. Very interesting.
Another long drive from Fes to Marrakech. On arrival, another great Moroccan meal with entertainment. This time the belly dancer was excellent. After a tour of Marrakech, we explored the souk.
Next stop Casablanca. We visited Rick's bar where we spent the evening sitting at the bar drinking cocktails. Bartender was amazing. Rick wasn't available - apparently he doesn't meet with customers. We were told that he was willing to make an exception in our case, but had been called away on urgent business - something about someone needing exit paperwork for the night flight to Portugal.
Leaving Casablanca we drove via Rabat to Tangiers with lunch at Assila. Quite a nice paella followed by a wander round the town. Bought a picture from a local artist who paints his pictures on old Cement bags. Arriving in Tangier, we were given a whirlwind tour of the city.
With some sadness, we left Morocco for Gibraltar and Torremolinos.
We spent a most enjoyable day in Gibraltar. What a fascinating place. The driver was a Gibraltar native and was adamant that Gibraltar should not be returned to Spain. Leaving Gibraltar we drove along the Costa Del Sol to Torremolinos for a very welcome rest day. Torremolinos is as you would expect it full of English tourists, but we loved it.
Departing Torremelinos headed for Granada and a visit to the Alhambra. What a magnificent place.
Our final day was a drive over the plains of La Mancha, tilting at a windmill or two, to Madrid for our final dinner and the end of the tour.