WHERE:Andalusia, Southern Spain
Travel and sleep aboard the stunning Al Andalús train, a freshly renovated “palace on wheels”, as it winds through Southern Spain, the home of bullfighting, tapas, flamenco and gypsies. You will be in the excellent company of Food and Travel Writer, Fiona Dunlop. Visit the spectacular cities of Granada, Córdoba, Seville and Ronda with their amazing Moorish sights as well as see typical whitewashed hill towns (pueblos blancos) and striking landscapes.
Continue your trip on an exclusive gourmet tour into the heart of Andalusia. This will range from the production region of the world famous Jamon de Jabugo (Jamon Iberico), to premium olive oil and wine tastings as well as a lunch in the fields of a typical farm. An equestrian show and a mesmerizing flamenco performance bring to an end this exciting and unique program.
ITINERARY – 13 Days
DAYS 1&2 – U.S. or Home Country/Seville: October 26 & 27, 2012
Depart the U.S. on an overnight flight. Arrive in lively Seville, the capital of Andalusia, which sits on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, from where Columbus set off to the New World in 1492. Check into our beautiful 15th century hotel, Casas de la Juderia. Gather for a welcome reception and dinner tonight.
Casa de las Juderias Hotel (D)
DAY 3 – Seville/Cordoba - Train Journey: October 28, 2012
Today, after breakfast, we are transferred to Seville’s Santa Justa Railway Station to board our train. As we roll towards Cordoba, medieval capital of Al Andalus (an Arab State), we will enjoy a typical meal of the region. Upon arrival in Cordoba, our coach will take us into the old town, a World Heritage site, where we visit the former royal palace, the magnificent Great Mosque (now a Cathedral), and the Judería (old Jewish quarter). After the visit enjoy some free time. Dinner at a local restaurant and night on the train in the city of Córdoba.
Al Andalus Train (B,L,D)
DAY 4 – Cordoba/Baeza/Ubeda/Granada: October 29, 2012
After a delicious breakfast on board, we arrive in Linares-Baeza, from where the coach will take us to the Olive Oil Museum and the historic part of Baeza, declared a World Heritage site by Unesco, and the seat of the International University of Andalucía. After the visit we will have some free time before lunch in Úbeda, a World Heritage town rich in exquisite Renaissance sights which we tour after lunch. There is free time before returning to the train. Tonight we have dinner aboard the train as we head towards Granada. As night falls, enjoy breathtaking views as we pass undulating olive groves, beautifully preserved white villages, hilltop castles and more. Tonight we spend the night in Granada which sits at the foot of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.Al Andalus Train (B,L,D)
DAY 5 – Granada: October 30, 2012
After breakfast we visit the most celebrated building in all of Spain, La Alhambra, which, along with the Jardines del Generalife, are true marvels and World Heritage sites since 1984. After the tour we will have free time to further explore the beautiful gardens and fortress of La Alhambra. After lunch we visit the main city including the labyrinthine hillside quarters of Albaicín and Sacromonte as well as the Cathedral, which was Spain’s first Renaissance church. We will have free time before dining at a local restaurant, where we will enjoy an inspiring flamenco performance. We spend the night in Granada.
Al Andalus Train (B,L,D)
DAY 6 – Granada/Ronda/Cadiz October 31, 2012
As we breakfast on the train, we take in views of the dramatic Serranía before arriving in Ronda. This city hangs on the edge of a plunging escarpment known as El Tajo, crossed by a bridge, and is the birthplace of modern bullfighting, with a history going back to Roman times. After the visit we will have free time to enjoy the gorgeous views from its walls. Back on the train, we head for the sea at Cadiz, a significant port overlooking the Bay of Cadiz and arguably Europe’s oldest city, going back to the Phoenicians. Visit the city and have dinner at a local restaurant. We spend the night in Cadiz.
Al Andalus Train (B,L,D)
DAY 7 Cadiz/Jerez/ Sanlucar/Jerez: November 1, 2012
After breakfast, we arrive in Jerez, the birthplace of sherry wine, and of some of the most deeply rooted Andalusian traditions. Visit one of the most important wineries of the region and enjoy a tasting. After lunch, we go to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to see these wonderful horses performing and dancing at their best and to visit the school.
We then travel by bus to the neighboring town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, famed for its seafood. It sits on the estuary of the Guadalquivir River, facing the Doñana National Park, the largest eco-reserve in Europe and a World Heritage Site since 1994. After lunch we take a boat trip down the Guadalquivir, to enjoy this wonder of nature. After returning to the train, we will have time to relax before dinner at a local restaurant. A special end-of-journey party celebrates the train journey.
Al Andalus Train (B,L,D)
DAY 8 – Jerez/Seville - Start of Gourmet Tour: November 2, 2012
As we have breakfast, the “Al Andalus” train pulls into its final destination, Seville, now transformed by its rich historic and cultural heritage into a thriving tourist hub. Visit the Giralda (one of 3 remaining Almohad minarets in the world and built in 1184-96), the Cathedral, the stunning Alcázar (Royal Palace), the Archive of the Indies and the Golden Tower, all of which are World Heritage Sites. After the visit, around midday, we check in back at our lovely hotel, Casas de la Juderia. We have free time for shopping and/or further exploring, maybe including a visit to the Bellas Artes, one of Spain’s top fine art museums. Tonight Fiona will accompany you for tapas at some of Seville’s innovative and classic bars.
Casas de la Juderia (B,D)
DAY 9 – Seville/Aracena/Jabugo/Fuenteheridos: November 3, 2012
After breakfast our gourmet group departs from Seville by small bus to the glorious, unspoiled hills of Aracena, classic nurturing ground for Iberian Ham. Today you will witness the entire process of how pure Iberian ham is made, from where the pigs live in the dehesa (meadows dotted with holm oaks), what they eat and how they are raised, to how the ham is cured, dried, salted, cut, packed and sold. Enjoy a lunch based on the delicious organic produce of the farm. We continue to the Molinos de Fuenteheridos, a picturesque rural hotel converted from 17th century oil and flour mills, set amid bucolic woodland in a protected nature reserve. Sweet chestnuts and wild mushrooms abound in this season. Dinner tonight is on your own; transport is available to Fuenteheridos or nearby Alajar, a pretty white village with a choice of restaurants.
Molino de Fuenteheridos Hotel (B,L)
DAY 10 – Fuenteheridos / Fregenal / Jerez de los Caballeros / Fuenteheridos: November 4, 2012
Today after breakfast, we head off the beaten track to Fregenal de la Sierra, in the neighboring province of Extremadura. Overlooking this attractive town is a 13th century medieval castle of the Templar Order. Visit the old quarter, designated Property of Cultural Interest, the church of Santa Maria and other monuments. Then we will enjoy a special visit to a goat cheese factory to see how it is made. Our visit continues at Jerez de los Caballeros, a lovely little town that takes its name from the Templar knights, whose castle is a major feature. After lunch you will have free time to stroll through the cobbled streets and admire the town’s architecture, with its strong Portuguese influence. Upon returning to Fuenteheridos, free time to relax or walk in the rural surroundings. Tonight we will have dinner as a group.
Molino de Fuenteheridos Hotel (B,L,D)
DAY 11 – Fuenteheridos/Zafra/Cordoba: November 5, 2012
This morning we head straight out to Zafra and the Mill of Zafra, surrounded by a vast olive grove of more than 35,000 olive trees. Here we will indulge in a Mill Style Breakfast (Desayuno Molinero) before visiting the facilities to learn the process of extraction and processing of the extra virgin olive oil as well as tasting different types. Visit the groves and try out some olive-picking. From here, we continue to a Crianza winery located in an old convent and designated a Bodega con Encanto (A Cellar with Charm) for a wine tasting. Lunch will be at the historic Parador de Zafra, a spectacular palace-castle from the 15th century. After lunch our bus takes us through the sierra to Cordoba where we check in at the very elegant Palacio de Bailio, a Renaissance palace built over Roman remains. Free time; dinner tonight is on your own.
Hospes Palacio del Bailio (B,L)
DAY 12 – Cordoba: November 6, 2012
This morning we visit the amazing Medina Azahara, the partly restored ruins of a palace-city built in AD 912-961 by the Ummayad Caliph of Cordoba, sprawling over a hillside above the main city. This was the de facto capital during the heyday of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain). We continue on a private visit to a farmhouse to see the Andalusian Horse and fighting bulls. Admire these animals at close quarters, enjoy an incredible equestrian show and demonstration of animal management in the fields by skilled Spanish cowboys. Lunch will be typical local food in the fields. Spend the rest of the afternoon with free time back in Cordoba. In the evening, we will indulge in a farewell tapas dinner followed by a Flamenco Show by top musicians and dancers.
Hospes Palacio del Bailio (B,L)
DAY 13 – Cordoba/Home Country: November 7, 2012
After breakfast, departures. Group transfers from the hotel to the train station will be available.
B=Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner
Travel writer Fiona Dunlop has been exploring Spain extensively for over 20 years, writing numerous articles about its culture and gastronomy. She is the author of the National Geographic Traveler guidebooks for both Spain and Portugal as well as Spain Chic and the critically acclaimed New Tapas, which explores Spain’s evolving food culture. She contributes to newspapers such as the Financial Times, Independent, Sunday Times, Observer, and Sunday Telegraph and numerous magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Four Seasons and CNN Traveller. Fiona has written more than a dozen guidebooks and food culture books, covering destinations in Asia, Central America, Mexico (Mexican Modern), and North Africa (The North African Kitchen). In addition to living for long periods in France, Italy, and London, her hometown, she has a soft spot for Andalusia where she frequently retreats to her house in the olive groves.
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