Spending roughly one week in each location, you will enjoy the rich cultural treasures of a major cosmopolitan city as well as the beautiful scenery and climate of the historic Balearic Archipelago. With average temperatures in the 60s during the month of March, Barcelona and the Balearic Islands offer a perfect opportunity to escape the cold: stroll the famous pedestrian streets of Las Ramblas, tour the European center of Modernist architecture, taste the distinctive Catalan flavors of Barcelona's gastronomic cuisine, cruise the Mediterranean, admire Mallorca's rugged Costa Rocosa, explore megalithic monuments from the second millennium BC, and soak up the relentless sunshine on the beautiful island beaches.
Day 1: We arrive at the Barcelona airport and take a shuttle to our hotel in the center of the city. After we relax and get settled in, we explore before our first taste of delicious Catalan cuisine.
Day 2: This day begins with an introductory tour of the most important sites of Barcelona. From Montjuich, the hill overlooking the city, we enjoy the best views of the city and also see the Olympic Ring and the Trade Fair site. We visit the Old Port area and the Columbus Monument, the Gothic Quarter and cathedral, and the city's most elegant boulevard, Paseo de Gracia, with its outstanding Modernist buildings and Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, Barcelona's most famous landmark. In the afternoon we have free time to get lost in the tree-lined streets and beautiful architecture. Dinner tonight is a wonderful experience at one of Barcelona's finest gastronomic restaurants.
Day 3: Barcelona is considered to be the best open-air museum of Modernist art and architecture in Europe. This morning we take a guided walking tour, visiting some of the famous streets in the Ensanche and seeing some of the 150 buildings designated to be of particular artistic and historical merit by the autonomous governement of Catalonia. Antoni Gaudi is considered to be the most talented and innovative of the Modernist architects, having created his own unique style. We visit some of his most impressive creations: the Batlló House, the Milá House, Park Güell, and his unfinished masterpiece, Sagrada Familia. Tonight we have a free evening to take in an optional show or concert.
Day 4: Outside Barcelona in a gorgeous Catalan country setting is the most important monastery and pilgrimage destination in northeast Spain: the Benedictine Monastery of Monstserrat. Our full day excursion to this mountain-top monastery offers an opportunity to see spectacular mountain scenery. Inside the basilica is the 'Moreneta' (the Little Dark One), the popular name for the Black Madonna of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia. It is here that Europe's oldest boys' choir sings. After lunch we explore the Penedes wine region. Known also as the 'Land of Cava' (Cava is the official name Spain's sparkling wine or champagne), this region offers us the chance to visit one of the oldest and most interesting wineries. The Codorniu Winery is a delight to visit because of its outstanding Modernist architecture and beautiful location.
Day 5: This morning we follow in Pablo Picasso's footsteps around the streets of Barcelona, his home for ten years and the source of inspiration for many of his great works. Pass taverns and restaurants where Picasso and his circle of Catalan modernists met to develop their ideas. We then visit the museum dedicated to the father of modern art to see the collection of more than 3,800 original works, mainly from his earlier years and up to the Blue Period. Picasso had a deep, intimate relationship with Barcelona and was clear in his wish to leave the imprint of his art on the city. At lunch time we take a "Gourmet Walking Tour", a flavorful journey through Barcelona's historic center, sampling Catalan delicacies and discovering the dishes which have earned Barcelona its reputation for gastronomic excellence. In the afternoon we escape to El Poble Espanyol, a miniature village of 117 buildings, streets and squares, all reproduced to scale and representing an aesthetic picture of Spanish architecture. This evening we visit Palacio Flamenco - "the best Flamenco in Barcelona" -for a concert and paella dinner. The show features classic Spanish dance acts offering a glimpse of various Flamenco dances with live music.
Day 6: Today we explore the narrow passageways and hidden squares of Barcelona's bewitching Gothic Quarter. This region of the city was named for its many buildings constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries, although in fact the area is much older. There are traces of the Roman settlement as well as of the massive 4th century walls built after Barbarian invasions. Stroll down the cobbled streets, pass outdoor cafés, and take a peek inside bustling tapas bars. Our guide recounts the city's history and its Roman roots. Underneath the Placa del Rei square we discover the remains of the ancient Roman town, with the houses' foundations, canalizations and reservoirs. We can see sculptures dating from the 1st to the 4th centuries and also Jewish and Arab vestiges of medieval Barcelona. This afternoon we can take an optional bicycle tour through the city's most beautiful parks or relax and explore on our own. Tonight experience Barcelona's culinary culture on a guided tapas walking tour of the historic city center with stops at two authentic tapas bars. Sample Catalan and Basque specialties and wine as our guide explains the flavors behind them.
Day 7: No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a stroll through the Parc de la Ciutadella. This beautiful green space is considered an open air museum because of the many monuments, fountains and sculptures here. It also contains the famous Barcelona Zoo, which animal lovers are free to visit. We have choices for our last day in Barcelona: the Pedralbes Monastery with its beautiful 14th century frescoes; the Fundacio Joan Miró, honoring another famous Barcelona artists who left many of his works to his home town; the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, which contains remarkable Romanesque and Gothic collections taken from many churches in Catalunya and Aragon; or the Museu Arqueologic with important exhibits from Paleolithic times through to the Visigothic era, including the periods of Greek and Roman colonization. At the end of the day we head to the port to board our ferryboat for the Balearic Islands. We enjoy dinner on the ship and overnight in private cabins, awaking to arrive at the port of Mahon on beautiful Menorca Island.
Day 8: Menorca is known for its magnificent beaches, but also world-famous archaeological remains, the Menorcan pure breed horse shows, natural parks, impressive natural caves, and gorgeous manor homes. We are greeted at the port by our Menorcan guide, who leads us by minibus to our beautiful sea front hotel, where we will spend the next two nights. We have time to explore the delightful town of Mahon, also known as Maó, which is the capital and principal town of Menorca. When we're ready for a cocktail we can take a tour of an 18th century gin distillery! We have many choices of restaurants along the lively waterfront for dinner.
Day 9: Today we enjoy a fascinating Archaeology Tour, which will take us all over the island and serve as an introduction to the island's mysterious talayotic culture. The taula is a prehistoric monument which is exclusive to Menorca, These stone structures were apparently used as religious sanctuaries and were a powerful symbol in the native culture. We can find them all over the island.
Day 10: Today we head by boat to the largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca, where we spend the next three days. The history of these islands is fascinating. Each group that conquered and settled these strategic islands left its legacy. The Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, and King James I of Aragon were all here. From the remains of the megalithic culture and Punic settlements to the flourishing Modernism at the beginning of the 20th century, the islands offer much to see. We take a beautiful drive into the mountains and check into our lovely hotel where we have time to relax before a delicious dinner. Besides their famous tapas, Majorca is known for its excellent lobster stew and local sea bream, roast suckling pig, and fantastic local chorizo sausages called sobrasada.
Day 11: Today we explore the island, stopping in the capital, Palma, for a guided walking tour. Its Roman, Moorish, and Christian past gives this interesting city a unique flavor. We have free time to explore or relax before a gourmet dinner.
Day 12: In the morning we drive through the countryside to visit a historic olive oil mill. Lunch will be on our way to a local winery for a tour and tasting. The Romans introduced wine making here in the 2nd century B.C. From the local mantonegro grape an excellent red is produced. Cutting-edge techniques are combined with ancestral traditions to produce top-quality wines that boast a number of protected denominations of origin and have won the highest honors at international fairs and competitions. We'll try the most famous red wine called Binissalem from the village by that name. Tonight we have a grand farewell dinner.
Day 13: In the morning we drive to the Palma airport for the return flight home.
Single supplement available upon request.
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