Start your adventure with an overnight flight to Lisbon. After you arrive in Portugal in the afternoon, you will be picked up by your Stone & Compass guides, check in to your hotel and enjoy a warm welcome. Explore the hilly Alfama neighborhood where Portuguese cuisine and wine is served with a generous helping of music by local Fado artists.
Today we will dive into Lisbon, starting with its cultural heart, Belem. Here you will find the Tower of Belem (pictured), the Maritime Museum, the Monastery of Jeronimo and many other national treasures. For lunch, we will go to the Time Out food market, where you have your choice of the finest cuisine throughout the city. We’ll spend the afternoon exploring the Castle of St. George. Then end the day strolling the many shop and restaurant lined promenades of the center of Old Lisbon.
Prepare for some hiking, for today we are off to the mountainous terrain of Sintra. 40 minutes outside of Lisbon, this area is home to several beautiful and amazing castles, including 2 National Palaces. The National Palace of Sintra reflects the mix of Moorish and Hispanic architecture and art indicative of the region’s tumultuous history. On the peak above, sits the majestic Park and Palace of Pena. Between the two, once again reflecting the mixed history, is the Moorish Castle. Many other beautiful structures and sites abound throughout the area, including some of the most thrilling hiking and rock climbing.
We will travel to Seville in the morning, where we will explore the city that inspired many of our classical composers and authors. We’ll be greeted by the “Tower of Gold” (pictured) as we approach the center of old Seville. Spend the afternoon strolling the Parque de Maria Luisa, where Spain hosted an expo of the Spanish dominion in 1929. A plaza was built for each of the Spanish territories, the largest, of course being the Plaza de Espana where a scene from Star Wars was filmed.
We will begin today at the magnificent Seville Cathedral, a monumental structure completed in the 16th century. Today it maintains its title of the world’s largest Gothic church. Its largest tower, the Giralda Tower (pictured), is a Moorish structure initially built in the 12th century. Around the corner, we will explore the Royal Alcazar of Seville - the ancient and beautiful royal palace initially constructed for Christian monarch, Peter of Castile. After enjoying authentic Spanish tapas, we will travel on to our next destination, Granada.
In the morning, we will enjoy breakfast at our hotel in Granada, then embark on an exploration of Alhambra (pictured), a palace and fortress originally built in AD 889. This site is home to many historically significant events and buildings, not least of which was the Royal Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in the 14th century. Over the years, the palace and its fortress were altered in the Renaissance and Italian styles, but today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its cultural significance to Spain. Lunch will be down the hill near Plaza Nueva where there are many authentic Spanish tapas restaurants and cafes. After lunch, we will tour the Granada Cathedral, then give you the rest of the evening to stroll the many charming shop-lined promenades of the area near the cathedral.
Today we travel to the Spanish capital of Madrid where our first stop will be Plaza Mayor, the city’s main square. We’ll enjoy a late lunch in the nearby San Miguel Market, where many of the best restaurants of Madrid maintain a stall. Enjoy a relaxed evening strolling the pedestrianized streets around Puerta del Sol, kilometer marker zero, the very center of Spain. Rest up, for this concludes the Iberian portion of the trip, tomorrow, we move on to France!
After a hearty breakfast in our hotel among the bustling streets of Madrid, we will travel to France where we will stay along the French Riviera. We’ll spend the afternoon and evening dining along the cafe-lined waterway and strolling about the beautiful open-air streets and squares. Here you will discover why Nice is nicknamed “Nice la Belle” (Nice the beautiful)!
On our first day in Paris, we will explore Le Marais, Notre Dame and the Art District. In Le Marais, you will gain a glimpse into the past, as the buildings lining the cobbled, narrow streets are some of the last pre-revolutionary ones left intact in Paris. We’ll end our stroll across the bridge to Notre Dame (pictured), where we will stop for lunch at one of the numerous cafés. In the late afternoon we will head over to Montmartre, the art district made famous by French artists, poets, and films. A center for nightlife and metropolitan attractions, Montmartre is a bustling district with shopping, cafés, and restaurants.
Live the typical Parisian tourist experience on our second day in this romantic city! First, we will tour the renowned Louvre Museum, viewing European pastels of the Enlightenment, contemporary art from Japan, Egyptian antiquities, and thousands of famous paintings—including the Mona Lisa. From the Louvre we will walk around the corner to Les Halles for a bite to eat and some shopping inside this modern mall built on the site of Paris’s former fresh food market. The Latin Quarter offers a glimpse into the lives of French students, housing many universities and higher education establishments. The atmosphere here is lively, intellectual, and infectious. Here you can stop into shops and cafés, visit parks and gardens like the Medieval Garden of the Cluny Museum or the City Park. And no trip to Paris is complete without a trip to the Eiffel Tower (pictured); we will enjoy a picnic dinner outside the monumental structure and take a tour to the top!
From tomorrow, we return home, deeply changed from having experienced so much culture and history across three countries and six cities!