From grand palaces to olive groves, Best of Spain & Portugal offers an unforgettable journey through two enchanting countries. So it comes as no surprise that it is Travel Director Bradley’s favorite Insight tour. Here he shares with us his tour highlights and tips.
An expert on all things Iberia, Bradley has worked as a Travel Director for Insight Vacations since 1997. Originally from Sydney, Australia, he travelled to Europe as a young man, where his curiosity and a thirst for travel led him to train as a tour leader. In Barcelona he fell in love and the city became his home. It was then that his love affair with Iberia really began.
LESSER-KNOWN PLACES MAKE THIS TOUR SO MAGICAL
“Whilst the great cities are undeniably amazing, it is the small pockets of Spain and Portugal that deliver the most amazing surprises.” Bradly tells us, when asked why Best of Spain & Portugal is his favorite Insight tour. “As well as Barcelona, Seville and Lisbon, we visit places like Salamanca in Spain and Obidos and Porto in Portugal. And these really showcase what these two beautiful countries have to offer.”
“Because of the Arab influence in Spain, both historically and culturally, there is a massive difference with the rest of Europe,” Bradley explains.
“And that difference is not just in the sights that you see, but also the food and everything else that comes along with it. In both countries you’re able to tell great stories, which greatly enhances the guest experience. We always bring back very happy people!”
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MAKE PAELLA IN VALENCIA
“You can’t come to Spain and not mention paella” Bradley says with a grin. “For locals and tourists alike, it’s just the best.” In Valencia, you will be treated to a cooking demonstration with a professional chef and learn how to make this tasty dish for yourself. Bradley tells us that it takes up to three hours to make a Paella. So the chef has one already cooking in the background, whilst you are taught how to select and prepare the ingredients. This means that a tasty feast is ready and waiting when you finish.
“The delight of the food is that it is very natural, which makes for really tasty dishes and menus,” Bradley explains. “And there is a wide variety, from fish to meats to legumes. It goes a long way to explaining why Spanish people have over the last couple of years been named as some of the healthiest people in the world.”
Read more: Travel Director Angela, on where to eat in Lisbon like a local
MADRID’S PRADO MUSEUM
“I really like Madrid. It has a very vibrant aspect about it.” Bradley says affectionally when talking about Spain’s capital city. Thought to be over 2000 years old, Spain’s largest city, Madrid, is known for its endless sunshine, beautiful streets and delicious food. On the Best of Spain & Portugal tour, Insight guests are treated to a special visit to the Prado Museum. Home to the world’s finest collection of Spanish paintings discover works from Velázquez, Goya, Titian and Rubens. Plus an impressive international collection.
“Many people don’t know a lot about the artists associated with the Prado,” Bradley tells us. “So this visit offers a new, unique adventure, and something you may have not thought of before. And it is made even more special by your wonderful art historian. You can go to any museum, but the real secret is in the people telling the stories.”
“On our tours, things link up with each other,” he continues. “The Prado Museum is a great example of this. In the Goya Collection you’ll see works by El Greco. Then you go to Toledo to see where El Greco lived. Guests are able to link the two together and it creates much stronger memories.”
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DANCE FLAMENCO IN SEVILLE
When asked about Seville Bradley tells us “Seville is a fantastic city. The Great Mosque of Cordoba doesn’t disappoint.” World famous for its culture, monuments, traditions and artistic heritage, this exciting city is also the birthplace of Flamenco.
On the Best of Spain & Portugal Insight tour we invite you to join a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience at the Cristina Heeren Foundation, a flamenco dance school. With a mission to promote the teaching and conservation of flamenco, this is an exclusive chance to feel the passion behind the choreography. Put your rhythm to the test during a dance lesson, learning some simple moves.
“The classes are fantastic.” Bradley enthuses. “At first some are a bit shy, but the teachers make it very simple. Soon everyone is mastering the clapping and basis steps. Guests are the treated to an intimate, personal show in a small theatre. It is a really special experience.”
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THE MEDIEVAL WALLS OF OBIDOS, PORTUGAL
In picture-perfect Obidos you will find the finest example of a Portuguese medieval walled town. Perched up on a hill just outside Lisbon, the town was founded by Celts in 308 A.C., and later conquered by Romans. D. Afonso Henriques, first King of Portugal, claimed the town in 1148.
Here Bradley takes guests on a walking tour, explaining in the history and treating you to insight and stories among the pretty streets. “You can walk the walls in their entirety to do a whole loop of the city,” Bradley explains. “It’s full of whitewashed houses, narrow medieval streets and laneways. And, with the sun reflecting on the multicolored door frames and flower boxes, it is incredibly picturesque.”
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An ancient university town, Salamanca in western Spain is a lesser known, but nonetheless impressive sight. The University of Salamanca is Spain’s oldest university, founded in 1218. The town boasts two impressive cathedrals that stand side by side. The New Cathedral is built in the Gothic style while the Old Cathedral offers visitors the chance to admire a truly magnificent Romanesque monument.
During your guided sightseeing tour with a Local Expert on Best of Spain & Portugal, you will admire the golden stone buildings the city is famous for, including the arcaded Plaza Mayor, the honey-colored cathedral and the 16th century university buildings.
“In Salamanca, we are treated to magnificent sights.” Bradley explains. “Something memorable is ‘The Sky of Salamanca’.” This 15th century mural, located in the patio of the Escuelas Menores university buildings, features the signs of the zodiac, several mythological constellations, winds and stars. “As I’ve said before, it is also the lesser-known places that delight here,” Bradley reminds us.
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Situated on the River Douro, Porto is celebrated internationally as the capital of Port wine. Here guests visit the Vila Nova de Gaia wine stores and walk along corridors of casks. You will get to know your tawnys from your rubies during a tasting.
Bradley takes guests on an exploration of the city, amongst multi-colored houses, churches adorned with glazed tiles and iconic bridges. “Porto has two parts to it, Porto and Vila Nova,” Bradley tells us. “An incredible bridge built in the 1800s spans the river. And along the river you have all these boats bring wine down from the vineyards, it’s a fantastic sight.”
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Magnificent hotels and delicious dining every step of the way, and your Travel Director making your journey personal and stress free. Why not make Best of Spain & Portugal your next dream vacation?