Following the great success of the tour of Extremadura in May, we are inviting you for a tour of the varied landscapes of Castile and Leon. This time, on the recommendation of an Oldie reader, we have teamed up with Insider’s Travel, who specialise in bespoke tours of the Iberian Peninsula. They have devised an itinerary to show us the highlights of the area, including Avila, Salamanca and Segovia. Through their contact, they have arranged some visits to award-winning Iberian ham-producers, cheese-makers and wineries in the Sierra de Francia and Ribera del Duero.
THURSDAY 18 APRIL - ARRIVE AT SAN ILDEFONSO
Depart Gatwick at 10.45am with Iberia Express; arrive at Madrid Adolfo-Suarez Barajas airport and drive over to the small town of San Ildefonso (1½ hours approx), where we check into the Parador hotel. A guided visit of the 18th-century summer palace and its sumptuous Versailles-style gardens. Dinner at the Parador.
FRIDAY 19 APRIL - SEGOVIA
Guided tour of the World Heritage city of Segovia. We walk under the awe-inspiring Roman aqueduct, in use until the 1970s, and through Segovia’s small bustling streets to the 14th-century Alcazar castle, said to have inspired Walt Disney. We take in Romanesque architecture and Sephardic heritage en route. Lunch at Casa Candido, one of Segovia’s most favoured restaurants serving the local speciality of suckling pig. Return to La Granja for free time and a light local dinner.
SATURDAY 20 APRIL - THE WINE REGION OF RIBERA DEL DUERO
Heralded in the wine world for its diurnal range and rocky terrain, Ribera quickly attracted the winemakers of La Rioja once they had realised the benefits of its terroir. We drive along the Golden Mile near Penafiel, which is home to some of the best tempranillo in the country, and stop to visit friend and winemaker Javier Bohórquez for a visit to his winery, Bohórquez. Wine Society members may be familiar with his wines. Lunch at the Molina in Penafiel. A visit to the castle before we head back to La Granja for free time before our local dinner.
SUNDAY 21 APRIL - AVILA
Check out of the hotel and head west to the medieval walled city of Avila. Birthplace to the 16th-century mystic St Teresa and St John of the Cross. Avila boasts the most complete city walls in the world and more Romanesque churches per capita than any other town in Spain. We will have a walk along the city walls, the cathedrals, monasteries and Romanesque churches. After lunch, we continue to Salamanca to stay at the lovely 16th-century Hospes Convento de San Esteban (http://www.hospes.com/) located next door to the Dominican monastery where Columbus developed his pitch to persuade the royal family to send him to the Americas in 1492. Evening stroll and tapas in the stunning 15th-century Plaza Mayor.
MONDAY 22 APRIL - SALAMANCA
Guided tour of the 12th-century Gothic and 18th-century Baroque cathedrals, the University, founded in 1218 by King Alfonso IX, and the Casa de las Conchas. Lunch and a free afternoon before dinner at a local favourite in Salamanca and some more Ribera tasting.
TUESDAY 23 APRIL - GUIJELO AND ITS HAMS
We will visit award-winning ham curers Simón Martín, whose fourth-generation family business dates back to 1907. We learn about the curing process and sample some of Spain’s most prized hams. On to the Sierra de Francia village of Mogarraz to visit Agustín Maillo at his winery, La Zorra. His wines, made from the local Rufete grape, are highly rated by Parker. Lunch with splendid mountain views from their restaurant, Mirasierra, with local meat grilled on the table. Back to Salamanca for a light tapas dinner in the evening.
WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL - ZAMORA
En route to Zamora, we visit artisan cheesemakers and Harrods supplier Vicente Pastor. We meet owner Felix’s sheep and taste his prize-winning Zamorano cheese. Guided tour of Zamora, a strategic town during the Reconquista, which is known mainly for its Romanesque architecture and also for its Byzantine cathedral. Back to Salamanca for a free afternoon. We meet in the hotel’s El Monje restaurant for our farewell dinner.
THURSDAY 25 APRIL - SAN LORENZO DE EL ESCORIAL & DEPARTURE
Check out of the hotel. We drive 2 hours 15 mins to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, final resting place of the Habsburg king Philip II. A guided visit around this foreboding complex: monastery, seminary, basilica, royal library. Lunch in El Escorial before our drive back to Madrid airport to catch the 6.40pm Iberia Express flight which lands at Gatwick at 8pm.
HOW TO BOOK: Call 01225 427311 or please email Katherine at firstname.lastname@example.org. Price per person: £2,995 which includes accommodation, guides, all meals, wine with meals, transport and entrances. You need to book and pay for your own flights. Single supplement: £330. A non-refundable deposit of £500 will be required, with the full balance due on 10th January 2024.