When our youngest child, Lizzy, decided to study abroad in Seville, Spain, Mike and I knew there would be a time we’d hope to visit her. That time came this past March as we traveled with her throughout several parts of Spain and Portugal.
We flew directly into Seville from Amsterdam and spent a few days seeing Lizzie’s favorite stomping grounds and the beauty that surrounds her each day. The city itself is impressive with its ornate castles, cathedrals and architecture (the Palace Alcazar is amazing). Visiting the famous Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza was a highlight for us. This bull fighting arena was spectacular and the history and honor that goes into this “sport.” Regardless of how you feel about the activity itself, we quickly came to respect the nostalgia and tradition of it for Seville and the entire country.
It was the week before Easter, so visitors and locals alike were celebrating Semana Santa (Holy Week) with solemn, yet festive, processionals. We stayed at Hotel Alfonso, which was beautiful and right in the middle of all the action making it easy to get around.
One day, Pique Travel lined up a great privately guided trip to see the White Villages of Andalucia. Our driver and guide was very informative, interesting and entertaining. The beauty of these hillside villages is iconic to the region for a reason! At one point during the day we visited a bull ranch complete with training ring, horses and acres upon acres of land. Mike even got to try his hand at maneuvering a matador cape.
From Seville we flew to Lisbon, Portugal. It was so easy to pair Spain and Portugal (although they each warrant their own time and in-depth exploration). Our first evening there we did a walking tour to see some of the local neighborhoods of the city. The following day we did an historic tour of some of the city’s prominent sites. The rich history, beautiful cathedrals and cobbled streets rival anything seen we’ve seen in the past.
During our time in the Lisbon area we took a full day tour of Sintra and Fatima. Pena Palace, while a bit touristy, was worth the visit. It sits high up on a hill and is literally majestic. We then drove to Fatima, one of Europe’s most important and spiritual sites. The Sanctuary of Fatima is a Catholic pilgrimage site, marking the spot the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared in 1917. It blew us away – so huge, very solemn and moving, regardless of your religious preferences.
After Lisbon, we headed north to Porto. Our full-day private tour of the Douro Valley was so memorable. In fact, we wish we would have stayed in this area longer (just a reason to have to go back!).
We visited a couple wineries in the valley, which are beautiful as they’re built on steep terrain within the hillsides. The Douro River winds its way through the countryside and is truly stunning.
We truly didn’t want our vacation to end (needless to say, saying goodbye to Lizzy was hard). But we also realized how much we fell in love with the Iberian Peninsula of Spain and Portugal. We were so impressed with the personal attention and the ease of travel with all the arrangements made by Pique. Ann customized our days to fit the interests we specifically had and chose guides that really made our trip noticeably memorable! We can’t wait to go back or explore our next destination (and work with Pique to do it!).
Want to learn more about travel to Spain or Portugal? Email Ann at AnnC@PiqueTravel.com.