Sepharad Luxury Itinerary we've done for a client

History

the beginning of its history, the Iberian Peninsula has been invaded by a succession of peoples such as the Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, etc. The first Jews are believed to have arrived at the same time as the Romans between the 2nd century B.C and the 2nd century A.C, and gradually began to be assimilated into the society of the time. With the Moorish invasion, the Jewish culture in Spain reached its height of splendor. During this period, Jews, Arabs and Christians alike lived peacefully in principal cities such as Toledo, Segovia, Caceres, Tudela, Cordoba and Girona; many of these cities still preserve their Jewish District, Synagogues, etc. The Sephardic Museum of Toledo is located in a 12th century building and has one of the most important collections of the Jewish culture of Spain.

This “Sepharad” Jewish Heritage tour takes you to see much of Spain, from Madrid, Toledo and Seville to Cordova, Granada, Barcelona and Girona. Travel through the main cities of Spain, and marvel at how modernity has both changed and protected its past. See where Spain's artists studied and what they produced; wander through cathedrals and churches, synagogues and Jewish quarters for a travel experience that will take you from ancient Spain and the Inquisition, from the time when the three major Western religions called this country home, to modern times and the melding of the ages.

Day 1, September 28, Tuesday.  MADRID
Arrival 

Meet with the tour-escort and private car with driver. Transfer to boutique luxury hotel Hospes Madrid.

Today we will visit along the famed Mile of Art in Madrid. The Prado Museum, recently expanded, houses the former royal collections in an early 18th century building. The focus is on the great masters of Spanish art:  El Greco, Velázquez and Goya, and displays the fine taste that the royal family had for Italian -primarily Tiziano and Tintoretto, and Flemish art from El Bosco to Rubens.

We will finish the tour in the Main Square “Plaza Mayor” area.  The Plaza Mayor, one of the main gathering places in Madrid, has an eclectic selection of restaurants, shops and bars under its arcades, and colorful paintings adorn the buildings.  In times past, bullfights, executions and other public events were held here.

Otherwise free time at leisure to explore Madrid, with its beautiful monuments and plazas. Your hotel is located near major sites. Take a stroll in Retiro Park or, if you wish to get revitalized after long flight, take advantage of hotel’s Bodyna Spa.

Overnight  Hotel Hospes Madrid Plaza de la Independencia, 3 28001  Madrid

Day 2, September 29, Wednesday, Madrid

Breakfast at hotel. 

We will get to know the Madrid of the Habsburgs, the city that became the capital in 1561. The Royal Palace, originally an Arab Fortress that later became the Alcazar of Carlos V, reputedly the largest palace in Europe with over 2,000 rooms where you get to see the ceremonial state rooms, including the throne as well as the fascinating Armory museum. 

Continue to visit two royal convents of Madrid: the Encarnación and the Descalzas Monasteries, expressions of the religious sentiment of the Habsburg Counterreformation.

The Descalzas convent was founded in 1559 by Joan of Austria, whose daughter hid away here rather than endure marriage to Felipe II. More aristocratic women soon followed, bringing their dowries with them. These dowries included such treasures as precious metals, paintings, and even religious relics. With all these possessions, the foundation soon became very wealthy. By the mid-20th century, however, the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales was mostly home to very poor women. It still helds its priceless collection of treasures, but the nuns were forbidden to auction anything.  The state eventually intervened and, with a special dispensation from the pope, the convent was opened to the publc as a museum in 1960. In 1985, the European Council rated it "Museum of the Year."

Visit Sorolla Museum, dedicated to Spanish Impressionist painter Joaquin Sorolla. The building, built in the years of 1910 and 1911, has been left as it was when the artist died in 1923, and his paintings are displayed inside. The canvas he was painting just before he died remains in place, with brushes next to the unfinished work.

Overnight  Hospes Madrid in Madrid

Day 3, September 30, Thursday. Madrid - Excursion Toledo.

Breakfast at hotel.

Today we visit Toledo, the former capital of Spain, which is the Spanish city that best summarizes the heritage of the three monotheistic religions: from the encounters between the Visigoths and the Jews, to the still existent famed School of Translation.  Toledo was a society of great tolerance that attracted Muslim, Jewish and Christian men of learning and commerce. It was the scholars of Toledo who kept the works of the Greeks and Romans from becoming lost to future generations. Prominent schools of science, mathematics, theology and mysticism developed here, as well as schools of the occult and alchemy.  Although often overshadowed by nearby Madrid, it is Toledo—its narrow, winding streets and steps, stone houses, unpretentious museums—that embodies the soul of Spain's intriguing past.

Just before the expulsion, the city was one of the leading centers of Jewry in Spain. At the end of the 14th century, after the Jews had been expelled, eight of the city’s ten synagogues and its five Talmudic schools were destroyed. The remaining synagogues that survived were converted into churches. One of those synagogues that remained, the Transito Synagogue, was built in 1357 and is full of Moorish carvings and arcades. Two years after the expulsion it became a Catholic Church, and since 1972, a Sephardic Museum with historic Hebrew inscriptions and a beautiful panelled wooden ceiling. Santa Maria La Blanca is the other synagogue that is now empty. Built by Arabs in the 12th century, it looks more like a mosque than a synagogue. 

Return to Madrid

Overnight in Hotel Hospes

Day 4, October 1, Friday.  MADRID - Excursion SEGOVIA & AVILA

Breakfast at hotel.

Travel to Segovia

Jews lived in this medieval town—famous for its Roman aqueduct—for centuries. However, it was also here in Segovia's spectacular hilltop Alcazar (palace-fortress) that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella signed the 1492 order to expel the Jews from Spain.

Segovia with its spectacular Roman Aqueduct is a jewel of Roman engineering, built in the 1st century. As we walk through the Jewish Quarter, we will have the opportunity to behold the Casa de los Picos, the Alhondiga and the Torreon de los Lozoya fortress.  We will visit the Gothic cathedral known as the “Lady of Cathedrals” as well as the defensive Alcazar fortress.

In the afternoon we will visit Avila, birthplace to the famous Spanish mystics Santa Teresa de Jesús and Saint John of the Cross. Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada was born in 1515 in Gotarrendura, in the province of Ávila, Spain. Her paternal grandfather, Juan de Toledo, was a marrano (Jewish forced-convert to Christianity) and was condemned by the Spanish Inquisition for allegedly returning to the Jewish faith. Her father, Alonso Sánchez de Cepeda, bought knighthood and assimilated into Christian society. 

Avila welcomes you with its impressive walls, its cathedral, the San Vincent Basilica, palaces and family estates - the Veladas, Valderrábanos, Núñez Velas and Torreón de los Guzmanes.

Return to Madrid

Overnight in Hotel Hospes

Day 5, October 2, Saturday.  Madrid - Granada

Breakfast at hotel.

Travel to Granada (approximately 4.5 hrs).

On the way your tour escort  might suggest to stop in some picturesque area such as in La Mancha area (for example Madridejos or Consuegra), Valdepenas or Jaen.

Arrival Granada, Check into your hotel Fontecruz.

Free time for dinner.

History of Granada

There are few cities in Spain, or in the world for that matter, that evoke such emotions as Granada. Among the many conquerors of this ancient city were the Romans and Visigoths, but it will be most remembered as the Spanish city ruled longer than any other by the Moors.  In fact, the Moors dominated Granada for 781 years, between 711 and 1492.  By the time it was finally reconquered it had been, by a quarter of a millennium, the sole remaining Muslim kingdom in Spain.

In 711, when the Moors took control of the southern portion of the Iberian Peninsula, Cordoba was established as an independent emirate with Granada as a provincial capital.  Three hundred years later the emirate disintegrated, and the many individual kingdoms which emerged coexisted, but uneasily, through the subsequent two centuries in an atmosphere of turmoil.  By 1237 all other cities in Andalucía had been reconquered, but Granada, still under Moorish control, became the capital of the Nasrid kingdom. And so it remained, for the next 250 years, the final Moorish stronghold, covering 11,500 plus sq miles with a population of 400,000.  This was a period of social and racial harmony, with Muslims, Jews, and Christians living together in an era of splendor.  Nowhere is this legacy more apparent than in the fortress and palaces that combine to form the wondrous Alhambra.  With the often snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada providing a dramatic backdrop this, today, is considered one of the wonders of the world.

On January 2, 1492, after many years of struggle, Ferdinand and Isabella finally defeated the last Muslim king, Boabdil  and entered Granada.  On his retreat towards the sea Boabdil and his entourage paused upon a hill eight miles south of the city.  There, taking his last look at Granada, he began to cry.  His mother chided him with the derisory comment, “Don’t cry like a woman, for something you couldn’t defend as a man”.  To this day the spot is called El Suspiro del Moro, the Sigh of the Moor.  The Muslims were banished to the Las Alpujarras, a remote region between the Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean, and Castilians immigrated in to repopulate the city.  Those Muslims that managed to escape exile were forced to profess their faith in Christianity, but, in spite of their conversion, these Moriscos were still treated badly. Though Isabella  and Ferdinand   had commissioned the construction of San Juan de los Reyes   church in Toledo as their final resting place, they became so enraptured with Granada that the specially constructed Royal Chapel Capilla Real in Granada was granted that honor instead.  Before this could be completed, however, Isabella died in 1504 followed by Ferdinand twelve years later.  Their remains were kept in the San Francisco Convent in the Alhambra (now part of the government-run Parador hotel chain), prior to their ceremonial transfer to the Capilla Real in 1521.  

Upon Ferdinand’s death his grandson, Carlos I, succeeded him to the throne and, three years later, following the  death of his paternal grandfather, Maximiliano I, he was crowned Carlos V, the Holy Roman Emperor.  In 1526 he founded the University of Granada, now the third-largest in Spain, and a year later began building, in the Alhambra complex, a new royal palace, the Casa Real Nueva.  Unfortunately for posterity, in the process of its construction portions of the Moorish palace were destroyed.

Today, visitors to Granada will find a city divided into three distinct parts.  The largest section is situated on relatively flat terrain and, apart from the cathedral, royal chapel, and a handful of other attractions, it is rather modern and nondescript.  In contrast, the other two sectors are set dramatically upon the steep hills that rise on either side of the River Darro.

To the left is Albaicín which, in its time, was home to the fortresses and palaces of the first Moorish kings, and consists today of narrow streets and twisting lanes lined by charming old houses.  Two points are of particular interest here.  First, there is Sacramonte, a curious area where gypsies gitanos make their homes in caves.  Some of these have been transformed into tablaos for flamenco and the performance of the “typical gypsy marriage ceremony” reenacted for the enjoyment of tourists, at a price.

Second, the Mirador de San Nicolas, has world-famous views over the narrow valley to Granada’s other , tree covered, hillside sector, the La Sabica.  There, proudly sits the fabulous Alhambra and, at an even higher elevation and to its left, is the Generalife.  This scene is stunning enough at all times, but most especially when cooperative weather conditions allow the usual haze to dissipate revealing the impressive snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the distance.  At those times, the magnificent work of nature and the majestic legacy of a civilization combine in a dramatic panorama that will remain forever imprinted upon your memory.

Overnight in Hotel 5* Fontecruz in Granada

Day 6, October 3, Sunday. Granada

Breakfast at hotel.

We will visit the Alhambra, an exquisite complex and palace of the last Arab kings to inhabit the peninsula.  There has been a fortress, of some nature, on this site since the 9th century, though the first kings of Granada chose the Albaicín hill, on the opposite side of the narrow valley, as the site for palaces and fortifications.  It was not until the 13th century, however, that work began on the Alhambra.  During the next century a number of palaces were added and the combination of fortress and palaces made it, in effect, a small fortified city. It was in this era, also, that the Nasrid kings constructed, farther up on the hill, the Generalife, a recreational palace surrounded by magnificent formal gardens.  Following the reconquest the Christian court resided here, during which time Carlos V added a palace, at the expense of some of the intricate Moorish structures, that is totally incongruous with its surroundings.  Later, and amazingly, the complex was allowed to fall into decline, sinking so low, in the early 19th century, as to be used as a barracks for Napoleon’s troops during the Wars of Independence.  Full recognition of the merits of this unique site was not given until 1870, when it was designated a National Monument.

Later today we will also enjoy the neighborhoods of Granada visiting the Albaicín and Bib-Rambla districts. The area of narrow lanes tucked between the bottom of Oficios and the Plaza Bib-Rambla, are collectively known as Alcaicería.  Along these, once home to a Moorish market, now reside numerous souvenir shops.  Be advised, though, you’ll almost certainly be pestered by unrelenting gypsy gitano women, either begging or wanting to sell you flowers. 

The Cathedral is considered to be one of the finest Renaissance churches in Spain.  It was begun in 1523, by Enrique Egas, in a Gothic style but he only created the foundations before being replaced by Diego of Ailoam, who persuaded the king to change it to the Renaissance style.  It took until 1704 when it was finally completed, its interior proportions are gargantuan and, unusually for  the Royal Chapel, and the tomb of the Catholic Kings, the monarchs who in their zeal to achieve religious unity, completely ended the coexistence of the three prominent religions on Spanish territory.

Overnight in Hotel 5* Fontecruz in Granada.

Day 7, October 4, Monday.  Granada - Cordoba.

Breakfast at hotel.

Travel to Cordoba. On the way we will stop by Lucena, the self-proclaimed “Sephardic Pearl” where in the 12th century a theocratic Jewish republic was formed along with a very important Talmudic School. The only remnants left today are the alleys in the Jewish quarter, the imposing Moral castle, and the Baroque church of San Mateo.

Overnight in Hotel 5* AC Córdoba Palacio in Córdoba.

Day 8, October 5, Tuesday. Cordoba.

Breakfast at hotel.

Cordoba is the third of the Arab capitals of Al-Andalus, having been the capital city during the zenith of Arab rule. The great mosque is from this period and has been well preserved despite, or perhaps because of, its conversion to a Christian church.  Close by, at Calle Judios, the welcoming Jewish quarter maintains the only synagogue in Andalusia, which was saved in the 19th century when later additions were eliminated. Among other notable Jewish districts, Córdoba stands out for being the home of the Rabbi Maimónides.

This interesting structure, prefaced by a statue to Maimónides, is one of only three ancient synagogues remaining in Spain, with the other two being in Toledo.  Completed around 1315, it is tiny indeed, measuring just 7 meters by 6.5 meters, and features intricate plaster work that is characteristic of Mudejar art. Following the reconquest of Granada in 1492, and the subsequent expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the synagogue was converted for use first as a hospital and then, in 1588, as a chapel and an infants’ school.  In 1885 it was declared a national monument.

Overnight in Hotel 5* AC Córdoba Palacio in Córdoba.

Day 9, October 6, Wednesday, Cordoba - Seville.

Breakfast at hotel.

Travel to Seville (approximately 2 hrs)

Overnight in Hotel 5* Eme Catedral in Seville

Day 10, October 7, Thursday, Seville.

Breakfast at hotel.

Sightseeing in Seville (some sites can be visited on arrival day October 6). The old Jewish quarter of Seville is known today as the Barrio de Santa Cruz. It is located close to the mosque, rebuilt as a Gothic Cathedral, the Giralda bell tower, the Courtyard of the Orange Trees, and the Royal Palaces built in the Mudéjar style.

Cathedral, one of the largest Gothic churches in the world, ranking in size with St. Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s in London. It was constructed between 1402 and 1506 on the site of the mosque. In the elaborate Royal Chapel at the east end is buried Alfonso X “The wise”, one of the Spain’s most brilliant medieval monarchs, who supervised the codification of existing Roman law in the 13th century. When his son Sancho rebelled, Seville remained loyal to Alfonso. Ferdinand III, later Saint Ferdinand, who freed Seville from Moorish domination, is buried in a silver shrine in front of the altar. On one side, in an ornate mausoleum, is one of the tombs of Christopher Columbus (the other is in Santo Domingo on Caribbean – both cities claim to have his real remains.

Just outside the east entrance to the Cathedral is the best known of Seville’s architectural sights, the Giralda. Originally it was mosque’s minaret and was retained when the church was built. Be sure to enter and ascend the ramp up to 70-meter spire (stairs were not used in order to allow horses access). The view of the city is outstanding, especially in the late afternoon. The name Giralda means weathervane and refers to the weathervane on top, which was added in 16th century.

On the North side of the cathedral, there are cafes that are slightly more tranquil than those along Avenida de la Constitucion. To the south, there is the Alcazar – not as impressive as the Alhambra in Granada, but a lovely and refreshingly cool spot to spend a hot afternoon. Most of it restored by King Pedro “The Cruel” (14th C), but he used Moorish architects and thus retained much of it’s authenticity.

Going southeast from Alcazar, you find yourself in the old Jewish Quarter, the Barrio de Santa Cruz. It is a mixture of old, whitewashed houses and shops, with flowers tumbling from wrought-iron windows and balconies. The painter Murillo is buried in the Plaza de Santa Cruz and the house where he died in the nearby Plaza de Alfaro. Southeast of these two plazas, there are lovely Murillo Gardens, where you can see painters.

North from Cathedral, at the North end of Sierpes, left on Calle Alfonso XII, few blocks take you to the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts), housing one of the most important collections in Spain . There are well presented paintings of El Greco, Zurbaran, Velazquez and Murillo. (note - entrance fees are not included in your trip, this is optional activity if you have time)

On Calle San Fernando, bordering the beautiful 5* hotel (considered one of the best hotels in Europe), Hotel Alfonso XIII, is a golden 18th C. Building, once a tobacco factory, where Bizet’s Carmen worked. This is now University of Seville. If possible, go in and stroll it’s hallways through the collection of interior patios).

Behind the University is the entrance to the Parque de Maria Luisa, a nice park. Here you find the Plaza de Espana, a large semi-circle complete with boat rides and tiled niches representing each of the provinces of Spain. This Plaza was constructed in 1929 for the International Expo in Seville, as were several other buildings in the park.

Overnight in Hotel 5* Eme Catedral

Day 10, October 8, Friday. Seville – flight on your own – Barcelona

Breakfast at hotel.

Transfer to airport for your flight to Barcelona (time TBA with driver day before)

Meet with the tourguide and private driver.

With warm, crystal-clear waters lapping its sandy shores and mountains nuzzling up to its northern edge, this glittering jewel in the Mediterranean is blessed with desirable geographical genes. From the buoyant, revamped port area to the atmospheric medieval streets of the Barri Gòtic and the beautiful Modernista buildings of the Eixample, Barcelona has it all. A host of treasure-filled museums, architectural wonders, lively beaches and enchanting squares provide the icing on the cake.

Our visit begins on the grand avenues of the Eixample district with its modernist buildings -notably the homes on the Paseo de Gracia such as Lleó Morera, Amatller, Batlló and Milá- and we will arrive at the Sagrada Familia, masterpiece of architect Gaudí.

Overnight in Hotel 5* Majestic in Barcelona

Day 11, October 9, Saturday, Barcelona

Breakfast at hotel.

Barcelona’s historical district is known for its Gothic neighborhood where we will visit Santa María del Mar, one of the most beautiful examples of the peculiar Catalan Gothic style. Our visit takes us to such exemplary sites as the Cathedral, the Palau de la Generalitat, the Plaza Real and the famous Ramblas, a lively avenue perfect for a stroll.

We will end the visit of the old quarter with Picasso Museum.

Following a stop in another of his better known works, the Güell Park, we will arrive at the top of Montjuich with its magnificent views of the city and the coast. We will visit also the Miró Museum.

Jewish Barcelona

The centerpiece of Barcelona’s Medieval Jewish history can be found in what is now the famous, and popular, Gothic Quarter with about a three-square block known as The Call, Association of the Medieval Jewish Quarter, Marlet, 5, tel. (0034) 93 317 0790, www.calldebarcelona.org . An Information Office open Mon-Fri 10.30 am to 2.30pm and 4pm to 7pm, sat & Sun 10.30am to 3pm.  Undoubtedly, the highlight of a visit here is the Synagogue Mayor which, dating from the Medieval Era, is the oldest in Barcelona, and re-opened in 2002 after a beautiful renovation.  More Jewish connections nearby can be found in the fascinating City History Museum of Barcelona (entrance fees are extra, not included in the package), some of which is subterranean, and is located in the dramatic Place del Rei. 

Montjuic, the Mountain of the Jews, is most probably most famous for the Barcelona Olympic Games of 1992 and a variety of museums, but it is also home of the very old Jewish cemetery with some stones dating as far back as the 11th century.  These days, you will also find a Holocaust Museum here (optional visit, not included. You might leave it for your last free day for personal discovery of Barcelona).

Overnight in Hotel 5* Majestic in Barcelona

Day 12, October 10, Sunday. BARCELONA / Excursion GIRONA & FIGUERES

Breakfast at hotel.

Travel to Girona & Figueres.

Today we will concentrate on the most famous son of Figueres, the great, controversial surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. The Theater-Museum was created and designed by the artist to accommodate a large part of his works, and to serve as his burial site. A stroll through the small city will take us to some of Figuere’s modernist works such as the Casa Cusí y Salleras or the former slaughterhouse which today serves as a cultural center.

Girona, a charming example of Spain's quaint early-Medieval ambience, and a reminder of the time when Jewish traditions bloomed. Girona was once a link between the first Kabbalists of Provence and the poets and writers of Cordoba and Toledo, also major Kabbalah Centers. Jewish settlers came to Girona at the end of the 9th century, growing and prospering until the Spanish Inquisition forced them into exile in 1492 - a span of 500 years. Stroll through the "Call" (Jewish Quarter), which still evokes this precious Jewish culture, an important part of the Golden Age of Spain.  Calle Força is the heart of this district, with synagogue and Jewish museum. The Plaça del Oli and the Plaça del Vi maintain all their flavor and there you will find some of the greatest jewels of medieval palace architecture, like the Fontana d’Or. The Call is currently one of the best preserved Jewish quarters in Spain.

The origins of Girona trace back to the Roman age with it's the wonderful Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral and famous tapestry of the Creation.

Return to Barcelona.

Overnight in Hotel 5* Majestic in Barcelona

Day 13, October 11, Monday. BARCELONA

Breakfast at hotel.

Free day - on your own

-- No tour escort and private car services --

Overnight in Hotel 5* Majestic in Barcelona

Day 14, October 12, Tuesday.  BARCELONA / Departure

Breakfast or take out breakfast bag 

Transfer with assistance to the Barcelona Airport

Your private tour includes:

  • Accommodations in 5* hotels, double room, tax and breakfast included, nonsmoking 
  • Tour leader/guide during your trip (except free day in Barcelona) per itinerary 
  • All transfers with private car and driver 
  • Entrances fee to the following sites (other monuments will be visited outside) Madrid: Prado, Plaza Mayor, Royal Palace, Monasterio Reales, Sorolla Museum Toledo: Jewish Quarter, Sinagogue Tránsito, Sinagogue Santa Maria la Blanca Segovia and Avila: Cathedral, Alcazar, Aqueduct Granada: Alhambra Palace, Generalife Gardens and Royal Chapel Cordoba:  Sinagogue, Alcázar, Mezquita, Jewish Quarter Seville: Alcázar, Cathedral Barcelona Gaudi, Sagrada Familia, Picasso & Miró Museums, Gothic Quarter Dali Museum Girona Jewish quarter 
  • 24 hr assistance in Spain

Extra:

  • ·        airfare
  • ·        meals (except breakfasts at hotels)
  • ·        Other sightseeing as specified optional per itinerary or not included in itinerary
  • ·        Gratuities