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Unlocking the secrets of Moorish Spain

AUTHOR TOUR – Jason Webster´s Andalus – Unlocking the secrets of Moorish Spain

An in-depth delve into the fascination of one of Europe´s more impressive civilizations. This unique version of our Classic Andalucia Tour will be led by Jason Webster.

Join Jason as he walks you through the magnificent history of Al-Andalus, for centuries the most sophisticated civilisation in Europe. From the Great Mosque at Cordoba to the sumptuous Alcázar Palace at Seville and the majesty of the Alhambra in Granada, Moorish culture left a spectacular impression on the Spanish landscape, and helped usher in the modern world. A natural storyteller, Jason will take you on a journey like no other to the secret heart of ancient Andalusia, a land where, for long periods, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in relative harmony

ABOUT YOUR HOST

After graduating in Arabic & Islamic History from Oxford, Jason moved to Spain, where he discovered first hand the marvels of Al-Andalus. The event changed his life, and he subsequently became a best-selling author whose work is focussed almost exclusively on Spanish themes. Fifteen books later, and with over a million words in print, he continues to be fascinated by a culture which never ceases to reveal new treasures and mysteries.

Dividing his time between Spain and an enclave in rural Dorset, England, Jason is delighted to lead our guests though the wonders of Al-Andalus. As we walk around the medieval hearts of these three emblematic Andalusian cities – Cordoba, Seville and Granada – his commentary will bring to life the riches of an ancient world which has much to teach us about our own.

“For over five hundred years Moorish Spain – Al-Andalus – was the most culturally advanced corner of Europe, an engine-room of science, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, poetry, architecture and agriculture that outstripped anything comparable within Christendom at the time. German writers of the 10th century described Cordoba as ‘the ornament of the world’, so in awe were they of its sophistication. While London was still a collection of mud huts by the Thames, Moorish cities enjoyed street lighting and sanitation, and their inhabitants enjoyed exotic foods unknown north of the Pyrenees such as artichokes, rice, spinach, oranges and saffron. Moorish poets explored romantic ideas of love that would later be adopted as ‘courtly’ in Medieval Europe. ‘Western rational thought’ was the brainchild of the Cordovan philosopher Averroes. Much of what we consider part of our own cultural identity – anything from superstitions about the number ’13’ to the higher mathematics that helped men land on the Moon – stems from Al-Andalus. This tour encapsulates the majesty, magic and mystery of one of the most fascinating cultures ever to have existed, providing an unsurpassed visual as well as culinary feast.”  JASON WEBSTER

Cordoba mosque, architecture

Highlights

  • Learn from an expert on Moorish Spain as Jason Webster takes you on a narrative journey through history
  • Spend 2 nights in each of these cities: Cordoba, Seville and Granada in 3 and 4 star boutique hotels
  • Delve into the fasinating history of Andalucia´s most important Moorish buildings and structures
  • Delight in the very best of local cuisine in our hand-picked restaurants
  • Enjoy a flamenco show with an introduction from Jason Webster on The Art of Flamenco and the mystery of Duende

About the tour

Your tour at a glance

19th – 25th October 2021 – 6 Nights bed & breakfast, 4 lunches, 4 dinners, Flamenco show, all entrance fees, local guides (where needed), welcome drinks. All visits with Jason Webster + a TOMA & COE Tour Manager

Tuesday 19th October – Independent travel to group hotel and overnight in Cordoba

Wednesday 20th October – Full day´s activities in Cordoba

Thursday 21st October – Travel to Seville

Friday 22nd October – Full day´s visits in Seville

Saturday 23rd October – Travel to Granada

Sunday 24th October – Full day Granada

Monday 25th October – Departure Day – Tour ends after breakfast

 

The Full Itinerary

Day 1  (Welcome coffee & dinner)

We will meet at our group hotel in the afternoon for a welcome coffee and introduction.  You will begin your tour experience with a leisurely stroll across the Roman Bridge to take in the captivating view of the Old City from across the Guadalquivir River.

Tonight, we will enjoy our Welcome Dinner in one of Cordoba´s most emblematic and traditional restaurants.

Day 2 (Breakfast & dinner)

Today you will enjoy an in-depth tour of Cordoba with Jason and accompanied by our local guide. The highlight of your tour will be visiting the Mezquita, the Great Mosque/Cathedral of Cordoba, one of the most unusual and beautiful buildings in the world. You will also see one of the two remaining synagogues in the whole of Andalucia. Delve into the gorgeous gardens of the Alcázar to complete this marvellous walking tour of Cordoba.

This afternoon will be free for you to retrace your steps at your own pace and lose yourselves in this marvellous city. We will give you all sorts of ideas for your freetime. Perhaps, the Fine Art Museum, perhaps an Arabic Hammam and massage or maybe a siesta and time for reflection at your beautiful hotel.

This evening you will re-convene with the group for a dinner of Sephardic Food in the Judería, former Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

Day 3 (Breakfast & lunch)

After breakfast we will board our private motorcoach and travel due south-west until we reach the capital of Andalucia, Sevilla.

Upon our arrival, we will visit Seville Cathedral — its sheer size may take your breath away. It’s not just the lofty height of the Giralda, the city’s most emblematic structure, that’s striking, but the vastness of the entire building, which takes up an entire city block. Started in 1434, the cathedral was intended to be “a church which those who see it finished will think we were mad for attempting.” Today it’s considered the largest church in the world — larger in volume than St. Peter’s in Rome.

The 12th-century bronze doors have inscriptions from the Koran.  Indeed, it was on this site that Christians worshipped in a mosque after they reconquered the city from the Moors (Islamic North African rulers). At its highest point, the central nave rises to almost 140 feet, supported by 12-foot-thick columns.  The centrepiece of this magnificent cathedral is the dazzling retablo (altarpiece) in the Capilla Mayor, an extraordinary work begun in 1482 and completed a century later.  The largest altarpiece in the world at almost 120 feet, it features more than 1,000 wood sculptures painted in gold.  At one corner of the cathedral is the entrance to the Giralda, the former minaret which is a symbol of Seville and a landmark visible from almost anywhere in the city.

After a break for lunch and a time for rest and relaxation back at your hotel, we will visit the Alcázar, built by Pedro I (“the Cruel”) in the 14th century. This magnificent mudéjar fortress-palace south of the cathedral is the oldest royal residence in Europe still in use: on visits to Seville, King Felipe and Queen Letizia stay here.  From the intricate carvings of the Dolls’ Court to the exquisite arches, sunken garden and pool of the Maidens’ Court, with the dramatic high point of the gold-domed Ambassadors’ Salon, it is undoubtedly one of Spain’s most beautiful palaces.

alcazar in seville spain

The Alcázar contains the finest examples of 14th-century Moorish architecture outside the Alhambra. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the “Catholic Kings” who lived in the Alcázar at one time and influenced its architectural evolution, welcomed Columbus here on his return from America.

This evening you have freetime to enjoy strolling the streets of Seville, enjoying the formal style of Tapas. If you´d prefer there are many elegant restaurants in Seville for you to indulge in some fine dining.

Day 4 (Breakfast, lunch & dinner)

In the centuries after the discovery of the Americas, Seville became the only port of entry for all the wealth being poured into the Spanish coffers. A hefty tax was placed on all goods (15%), much of which was spent building lavish palaces and incredibly ornate churches, chapels and convents. Seville became known as “The Cradle of the Baroque” and there are few better places in the world to see such magnificent testimony to this ornate artistic style.

This morning is given over to discovering the more secret side of Seville. We will walk its maze of back streets to uncover some real treasures that are hiding behind closed doors. We will visit a private palace, Palacio Lebrija, to see some Roman mosaics saved from the nearby archaeological site of Itálica. After a siesta at the hotel we will reconvene to enjoy an intimate Flamenco Show together followed by a group dinner in a nearby restaurant.

Day 5 (Breakfast & lunch)

After breakfast, we will head westwards towards Granada. En route, we will stop somewhere for a mid morning coffee and a smooth around a Pueblo Blanco or typical White Hilltop village.

Once we have arrived in Granada and checked into our hotel, we will begin our exploration of this wonderful city.

Today we visit the Alhambra.  Nowhere else in Spain can evoke past Islamic glories with such power – a Moor from medieval times would have considered the Alhambra as paradise on earth.  The most complete surviving example of its kind in the world, this remarkable palace is the most-visited monument in Spain and ranks high in all of Europe.

Alhambra in Granada, Andalucia

This truly is one of the most extraordinary collections of buildings and gardens on the Continent.  Although the complex started life in the 11th century, its most spectacular period of architecture came in the 14th century with the construction of the Palacio de los Leones (the private living quarters of the sultan and his family) and the Palacio de Comares (where emissaries and important guests were received).

Many would say that the subsequent additions made by Christian rulers upset the aesthetic unity of the Alhambra, yet the Palacio de Carlos V and the Convento de San Francisco (a fine expression of Italian Renaissance) are beautiful in their own right and add to the broader sense of history.  Just outside the Alhambra walls is the Generalife, a wonderfully lush area of walkways, fountains, and garden patios. The name derives from the Arabic phrase for “garden of the architect”: these were the pleasure gardens of the sultans. The Generalife is a delightful place to rest and contemplate after seeing the rest of the Alhambra, and the gardens offer stunning views over the complex and across to the Albaicín district of the city.

 

Day 6 (Breakfast, lunch & dinner)

This morning enjoy a morning at leisure. You can either relax into a lingering breakfast or even indulge in a little lie-in. Or you could take time for a spot of retail therapy in Granada´s excellent historic shopping quarter.

At midday, we will begin our exploration of downtown Granada, taking time to stroll her markets and enjoy an informal Tapas Tour around some of the most typical neighbourhoods of the city centre. We will enter the sublime Royal Chapel and visit the tombs of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel.

This afternoon we will walk up the hill together, to visit the Arabic Quarter of the Albayzín and enjoy the spectacular views of the Alhambra from the Mirador De San Nicolás. We will enjoy our celebratory farewell dinner in stunning setting, contemplating one of the wonders of the world as we watch the sun set on the Alhambra.

Day 7

Departure from our hotel in Granada.

ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE LOGISTICS

Day 1: Cordoba can be reached by fast train or AVE from Seville, Malaga or Madrid.

Day 7: At the time of publishing this itinerary, Granada airport offers limited flights. There is a rail link connection to Madrid and Malaga for your onward travel arrangements. Or Malaga airport can be reached by private transfer. It is a journey of 1.5 hours.

You are most welcome to join us as a solo traveller or book as part of a group.

Please consult our Terms and Conditions at the foot of the website. All guests are strongly advised to organize travel insurance. Toma & Coe reserves the right to tweak this itinerary to accomodate opening times and entrance availability. We will always endeavour to include every aspect of your tour.

2995 Euros per person in double occupancy (single supplment 650 Euros)

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