Magical plus . . .

If you have ever wanted to be "educated, enriched and amused", nothing could have filled the brief better than the Hertford U3A trip to Magical Andalucia in mid-October.  At Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Jerez and Ronda we learnt about medieval Spain, its art, architecture, the Moorish legacy, and its founding as a country  - all through the humour as well as the knowledge of several remarkable specialist guides.  And exercise? We walked miles, all of us. Fun? It was terrific.  Thanks to Wynne Tranter's meticulous planning and Janan, our inspired American lead guide - Spanish history was brought to life in a spectacular five-day experience, warmed by camaraderie and mutual support within our very happy group.  Am I spurred on to find out more about Iberia (and the rested leg of Iberico ham)? No question!

Gilda Deterding

In more detail . . .

Andalucia resplendent  in Autumn sunshine; 35 intrepid travellers about to be educated and amused beyond their wildest dreams amidst the most tranquil and beautiful setting of southern Spain with a superb Tour Manager, Janan, brilliant guides Carlos and Fernandez and of course Jose, bus driver supreme.

On arrival in Granada, the evening found us enjoying wine/tapas in the bar adjacent to the Hotel.

Day 2. Visited the splendid 16th century Cathedral, an architectual mix from Gothic to Renaissance spanning 180 years. A walk through the Souk and a break for chocolate and cuuros.  A coach trip round the town, then the Alhambra Palace dating from 14th century.  It is the world’s greatest Moorish monument, home to the Arabic Sultans, rulers of the province. The gardens of the Generalife adjacent to the Palace, summer residence of the 13th and 14th century Emirs.  The palace and gardens were absolutely stunning and one can only marvel at the skills of the craftsmen.

Day 3. Seville via Cordoba.  We broke for coffee at Nicol’s , an Emporium set in a disused railway station, described as quirky by Janan, and quite rightly so,milling, grinding, pressing equipment alongside outdated railway machinery.  A chance to enhance our industrial knowledge of Spanish life in the 19th/20th century.  Cordoba, the Mezqita, for me the highlight of the tour.  The Mosque Cathredal, Muslim from 8th century until 1146.  The first Catholic consecration followed by the 2nd in 1236 when Ferdinand III conquered Cordoba, since then without missing a day, Holy Mass has been celebrated.  The Mezquita architecture flows from the beginning as a Visigoths Basilica, through Caliphate splendour and eventually Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods.  In 1984 the site gained Unesco status.

Day 4. Museo de Belle Artes.  We met Carlos and Fernandez.  Carlos headed our group expressing immense knowledge and reviewing works with both serious critique combined with humour.  We were introduced to sculptor Torrigiano whose St Jerome is an absolute masterpiece, to works by Elgreco, Alonso Vazuez, Pacheco.  From the baroque we studied Zubaran and Murillo in particular.  The tour culiminated in Carlos being photographed alongside his self portrait (time travel is so special).  Then ensued a coach tour of Seville, visiting Spain Square, a quite surreal pavilion, park and highly decorated patio (promenade built in 1929 for the Ibero-American exhibition and the setting used in many Hollywood movies.  The evening saw us at Flamenco Palais, colourful, dynamic flamenco but not sure about the singing but hey great entertainment.

Day 5.  The real Alcazar, stunning Moorish Palace, residence of Kings for 7 centuries, complete with many interlocking gardens.    It was here Fernandez told us of manufacture of ceramic tiles, stucco, use of resinous woods, water systems etc.  Most educative.  Afternoon spent in Jerez de la Frontera with visit to the Bodega and you’ve guessed it sherry Tio Pepe etc.  We finished the day at a local restaurant  organised by Janan.  Great atmosphere.

Day 6.  Off to Ronda, the famous gorge.  Photography, lunch and shopping on the agenda before heading to Malaga for our return flight.

Thanks to Wynne for such a truly well organised and thoroughly enjoyable and informative tour.

Trevor Williams