(Scroll down for the post-trip writeups)
Almanzora Group of Friends
Are pleased to announce a 5-night 6-day trip
*The Best of Castilla*
Dates tour: 18/06/2023 – 23/06/2023
Price 475 euros members 505 euros non-members
(Based on 36 to 40 Travelers)
Day 1: We pick at the usual points on the Almanzora Valley to head north until our destination for the first two nights: the famous walled city of Avila. There will be comfort stops along the way. After checking in, take a stroll in the historic centre and find a bar for some tapas and wine. Hotel in Avila.
Day 2: Today we make our way west towards Salamanca, one of the prettiest cities in Castilla. It boasts the oldest university and one of the most famous “plazas” in Spain. Our official guide will tell us all about it as well as pointing out areas to enjoy some lunch. In the afternoon, take some time to enjoy the city at your own pace. The Casa Lis Art Deco Museum is strongly recommended. In the afternoon we make our way back to Avila. Hotel in Avila.
Day 3: This morning we check out of our hotel in Avila and make our way to Segovia. The most famous landmark here and in fact one of the “musts” for visitors to Spain is its Roman Aqueduct, visible from far away. Apart from this, our local guide will walk us through the winding streets of Segovia pointing out all the main buildings and sites. After some free time for lunch, we make our way to Toledo, our base for the next 3 nights.
Day 4: Toledo: the city of the 3 faiths. No need for the coach this morning as we will take a walking tour in the historic centre and we can see how the 3 main faiths of the mediaeval times: Christianity, Judaism and Islam lived side by side. Our guide will tell us about it all and will also recommend activities for the afternoon.
Day 5: Aranjuez is a short drive from Toledo and has the spectacular spring and summer palace, together with its lush gardens. We will take a guided tour here before we make our way to Chinchón. This pretty village has a quirky medieval “plaza” and is famous for its garlic and its aniseed liquor. There are many bars and terraces for a nice spot of lunch before we make our way back to Toledo.
Day 6: Today we make our way back home but with an interesting stop on the way: Consuegra. In this traditional “manchego” town we will go up the hill to visit the windmills so typical to the area. We will have some free time for lunch and to buy some local cheese and wine before we make our way back to the Valle del Almanzora.
- Hotel Palacio de Valderrábanos 4* 2 nights on BB in Avila.
- Hotel Carlos V 3* – 3 nights on BB in Toledo.
- Half day official guided tour in Salamanca.
- Half day official guided tour in the historic centre of Segovia.
- Half day official guided tour in Toledo.
- Half day official guided tour of the Royal Palace of Aranjuez and its gardens.
- Entries to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez.
- Guided tour of the windmills and castle at Consuegra.
- English speaking tour manager for the duration.
- All transportation needed as per itinerary.
Based on 36 to 40 people travelling, should we exceed these figures then the price will reduce. Should we get 51 to 55 people travelling the price will reduce to 415 euros for members and 445 euros non-members.
There is unfortunately a single supplement of 175 euros we encourage people to share a twin room wherever possible. We have asked Danny to see if there is any possibility of reducing this large sum for single people.
We have opted for B&B as the hotels wanted a lot more money for half board and then it would be a single choice meal apart from people with special dietary requirements and the hotel would expect the whole party to book, we therefore believe that people would be better of choosing their own arrangements.
Terms and Conditions
Danny explained that again, the hotel’s requirements have changed this year, and want a 70 euro per person initial deposit by the 15th February 2023 and a second payment of a further 70 euros per person by the 15th April 2023. The balance would then be due May 25th, 2023 Members can pay the full deposit in one go by 15th February or split into 2 payments, we leave that to the members.
It was explained that it is difficult to book hotels now and this is supported by CAT services in their January Almeria living magazine.
This is a wonderful chance to visit some of Spain’s historic cities and sites. We hope members will take up this offer. Booking for this trip commences Wednesday 11th January 2023, members have 14 days to book before the trip is offered to non-members.
Travellers are strongly advised to ensure they have adequate travel insurance for the trip.
After an early pick up at 8am in Albox, with a final pick up at 8.30 am outside Hotel Overa we
were on our way, and what a lovely surprise to find Emilio (who was the driver on the Huelva
trip) once again at the wheel. After a coffee stop and lunch stop we headed north, stopping
at El Corcon, one of the many suburbs of Madrid, to pick up our guide Ivan. Ivan explained
that prior to the 1970s El Corcon´s population was in the region of 600 and now stood at
170,000. He also explained that the Porto del Sol, one of the busiest places in Madrid, is the
kilometre 0, it marks the point from which the distances in Madrid are measured and is the
radial centre of the six main motorway systems in the city.
Next stop Avila, our stop for two nights. Located more than 1,130 metres above sea level,
the city is the highest provincial capital in Spain. It has a temperate Mediterranean climate.
Our hotel, the 4* Palacio de Valderrábanos, was an absolute gem. A medieval style hotel set
in a 14 th -century palace, based inside the 12 th century city walls and next to the Cathedral,
which was the first Gothic Cathedral in Spain. Outside the hotel was a plaque entitled
Palace of Valderrábanos with the following words: “Located in Plaza de la Catedral, it is also
known as the house of Gonzalo Dávila (14 th Century). Today it conserves only its façade,
which has interesting figurative decoration, and the main part of the tower which was
transformed in the 19 th Century. The façade bears the coat of arms of Gonzalo Dávila,
Alderman of Jerez de la Frontera, the coat of arms is based on the taking of Gibraltar. The
building has been refurbished and turned into a hotel.”
Another interesting point about Avila: It was the birthplace of St Teresa, a Carmelite nun
and a mystic writer trying to reform the Catholic Church. She spent the last years of her life
establishing and nurturing 16 convents throughout Spain. She was canonised in 1622. Her
feast day is celebrated each year on the 15 th October.
Day Two – Salamanca
As we got off the coach and looked across the road there was a Moorish style house that had a beautiful
long gallery projecting from and spanning across the top of the building. I will end by telling you more
about this building!
We met with our guide and went to The Roman Bridge, which is thought to originate from Celtic times,
but the Romans constructed it with 26 arches and the River Tormes underneath flows to Portugal.
We then entered the city -which was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1998, via Hannibal’s
Gate (which Hannibal passed through)!! The city walls are 5km in length. It is a lovely medieval type city
and you expect people dressed in medieval dress to step from the houses! Even McDonald’s is housed
in a medieval building!
Franco lived here from 1937 to 1939 in the Palace of The Bishop. He also set up an archive and now that
building is The General Archive of The Spanish Civil War.
There is a new and old cathedral with a bell tower straddling the two. The old cathedral was built in the
th century in a Romanesque style and was supposed to be demolished when the new cathedral was
built, but it was decided to keep it when the new one was built in the Gothic, Baroque style in the16
century, The facades and entrances of both are superb. When parts of the cathedral were renovated in
1992 two sculpted pieces were placed in the doorway columns – 1)a spaceman and 2) a monkey eating
an ice cream cornet!
Next up was the university built in 1218 and which is the oldest in the Iberian Peninsula and the 4
in Europe. It’s symbol is Victor – Victory – and hidden in its facade is a skull with a frog atop, which is said
to bring luck to students taking exams and if you spot it you will return!
Another building was The house of Shells with stucco shells placed all over the facade – it is now the
The Plaza Major is very unusual for the plaques that are all around the tiers, which are of deceased
royalty and dignitaries, empty plaques await ownership! Also there are paintings of local people hanging
on the tiers. In early days it was used for bull fighting.
In our last hour of free time we visited The Art Deco Museum which housed lovely sculptures, glass,
china, paintings and not so lovely creepy dolls, but when we went to the cafeteria was amazed that it
was the inside of the glass gallery facade that we had first seen, It was decorated in 1920’s style furniture
and décor. We waved to our people over the road waiting for the bus, but no-one saw us!
Day Three – Segovia
Early breakfast today due to an early start to make our way to Segovia. We arrived early
enough to have a coffee before meeting our local guide, Mariano under the famous
What any amazing piece of Roman architecture the aqueduct is, built 2,000 years ago
without the help of cement. It is made from granite blocks and was still in use until 1973. It
is 17kilometres long and was built to carry water from springs in the mountains to the city. At
its highest it is 28 metres!
The old town of Segovia and the aqueduct was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in
1985. Segovia was the last City in Spain (maybe even Europe) to build a Gothic style
Cathedral, Alcazar de Segovia. This Cathedral served as one of the templates for the caste
in Walt Disney’s Cinderella.
Segovia has a population of 51,000 inhabitants and is the third smallest City in Spain. In
1599 Segovia lost 15% of its population to The Black Plague.
Mariano, being born in Segovia and spending most of his life there was very knowledgeable
and passionate about his city. He told us that Segovia means a city built between two rivers,
the Eresma and Clamores. In years gone by only the rich lived within the city walls along
with the Jewish as they were the ones who collected the taxes.
The year 1492 is a key year in the history of Spain. Christopher Columbus completed his
journey across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in ‘The New World’. King Ferdinand and
Queen Isabella issued a decree ordering the expulsion of all Jews from their kingdom.
Within months Spanish Jews were forced to renounce their faith or leave Spain.
As we walked around Mariano pointed out ‘graffiti’ on private houses. This graffiti was
nothing like we normally see, it was more like ‘tiles’, imprints on the walls, very pretty, called
‘esgrafiado’. This tradition carries on today. He also pointed out the tiles on the roofs are
upside down to allow the snow to slide off easier in winter.
Built at the highest point in Segovia, 3,000 feet above sea level, commencing in 1525 during
the reign of Carlos V work began on building the ‘The Lady of Cathedrals’ after a fire in the
old Romanesque cathedral in 1520. It took 250 years to complete!
We saw some amazing storks and nest high up in the trees. Apparently, they arrive in Spain
just before Christmas and leave around 2 nd week in July. One year a nest around 2,000kilos
was so heavy a tower collapsed under its weight.
We had some free time to discover all the interesting places our guide had pointed out and a
spot of lunch before returning to the coach for our journey to Toledo where we will spend the
next three nights. Segovia’s signature dish is ‘Suckling pig’ with its juicy meat and crispy
Nowadays, we have all kinds of technologies to help us overcome uneven ground, like lifts,
escalators and vehicles, but this was not always the case. There is a popular legend
surrounding Segovia’s Aqueduct. Many years ago, a brave little girl had to climb a steep
mountain every day with an empty pitcher to get water from a spring at the top.
The girl grew so tired of this arduous journey that she decided to make a pact with the devil.
She asked him to build something that would make her daily chore easier. The devil decided
to build an aqueduct but on one condition: if he completed it before the cock crowed, she
must give him her soul.
Regretting her plea, the girl saw how the devil quickly got to work and frantically started to
pray that he would not finish in time. Just when there was only one stone left to lay, the sun
rose, and the cock crowed.
Defeated by dawn, the devil failed to claim the girl’s soul.
In the hollow where the last stone was never laid, now stands a statue, which is believed to
honour Our Lady of Cabeza, a symbol of protection and salvation.
Day Four – Toledo
On Day 4 of our trip we were greeted by our tour guide for the morning, Fernando, who lives
in Toledo as he married a local lady. He informed us that Toledo (an ancient medieval city)
was declared a world heritage UNESCO site in 1986. The River Tagus protects this city. At
one time Toledo was the Capital of Castilla y La Mancha but in 1560 Philip II made Madrid
the Capital. The population is currently 85,000 and 10,000 of these live within the walls of
The first building he showed us was a casino and there was evidence of bullet holes on the
facade. During the Civil War people took refuge in the basement of this building.
He explained to us that the Alcazar, which was situated very close to our hotel, had been
destroyed 4 times in its history and after the Civil War in 1936 it was rebuilt to how it is today.
It is currently used as an Army/Military Museum.
As we wandered through the old town there was plenty of evidence of the local sword and
scissor making skills in the various shops along the way. One of the sword making factories
is now a University. There were also plenty of Mazipan (marzipan) shops which Toledo is
also famous for. Toledo also has a rich history of hunting and you can see partridge,
suckling pig and lamb and also venison on the menus. We were shown a local restaurant
called Ludeno and this restaurant is famous for carcamusas, a local stew made from pork
When we walked to the front of the cathedral there was cloth draping along the street,
creating shade, and there was evidence of many flower garlands and arrangements, sadly
they had seen better days, but this was the aftermath of the decorations for Corpus Christi,
which was held between 4 th and 11 th June. Florists from all over Spain had supplied the
flowers for this important festival. We did not enter the Cathedral, this was left to the
individual to do at their own pace later that day.
We then entered the Jewish quarter. Toledo is known as the ‘city of three cultures’ and the
Christians, Muslims and Jews all lived alongside each other. However in March 1492 the
Jews were expelled from Spain. Spain is now making an effort to encourage families that
can prove their ancestors lived in Spain, at that time, to return and they will be granted
residency. It was Jewish travellers that first settled in Toledo in the 5 th Century.
There are many mosques, synagogues and churches scattered around Toledo, some of
which are being used for other activities these days but the whole of Toledo has a rich
history and some amazing architecture.
More recently Toledo was associated with Frederico Martin Bahamontes, (nicknamed the
Eagle of Toledo). He won the Tour de France in 1959 and there is a bronze statue of him in
the centre of the city. When he retired he ran a bicycle and motorbike shop in Toledo. It is
worth reading about this gentleman on Wikipedia.
‘Nando’, as he liked to be called, left us wanting to further explore this interesting city.
Thursday took us to the town of Aranjuez where our guide, Maite, renamed herself as
Isabella 2 for our tour around the stunning Summer Palace. This was used in the past by the
Spanish royalty. "Isabel" told us all about her family and her life there. The rooms were
suitably impressive, with colourful walls and ceiling frescos, but two really stood out… One
decorated in multi-patterned Moroccan style tiles, very similar to those in the Alhambra in
Granada but embellished with a multitude of colours and another completely covered in
Chinese-style animals and flora created in porcelain.
After a short break for beer and tapas, and a stroll around the colourful palace gardens, it
was time to board the coach again, and head to our next stop, Chinchón.
Chinchón is known for its medieval Plaza Mayor, with an unpaved, sandy centre previously
used as a bull ring and prosecution area, surrounded by three-storey buildings with wooden
balconies built during the 15th century. These are now converted into many shops, bars and
restaurants where you can buy its famous garlic, and ‘el Chinchón’ – an anise liqueur ranging
from sweet at 35% to the dry at 74%. A short walk uphill took us to the clock tower, ‘the
tower without a church’, and to ‘the church without a tower’, with good views across the main
square and to the castle ruins. After trying some of the Chinchón liquor we were grateful for
the journey back to the hotel and a nap on the way.
Linda and Olwen
The group departed the hotel promptly at 09.00 on our last day and headed towards the
town of Consuegra to visit the windmills on the hills which were possibly the windmills which
inspired Cervantes to write the Book Don Quixote. Our local guide gave the group some
fascinating information about the town and the hill where a castle and windmills stand and
the local agricultural economy.
In the place where it stands, there was a Celtic settlement, inhabited many years BC. There
are historians, who maintain that it was the Roman Emperor Trajan who built the fortress,
although the first existing documentation places the beginning of its construction during
the Caliphate of Cordoba in the 10th century. In 1962 the castle passed into private hands,
and was given to the town hall. In 1985 a period of rehabilitation began, with the creation of
the Workshop School, whose work continues today.
They are aligned on the Calderico hill. They date from the 10th century, although there are
some that may be older, even from the 16th century. Of the original thirteen, twelve are
preserved. The windmills are used for various things for tourists today, i.e. Tourist
information Office, Gift shop, Leather workshop etc.
Departing this historic site, we travelled into the modern town of Consuegra where we
dropped off our tour guide Ivan at the bus station before heading to a cheese factory in the
town for a tasting. On leaving the cheese factory with much cheese purchased we began the
long journey home. Unfortunately, the coach developed a problem with the air con so about
50 kilometres after Jaen we had to return there to change buses and transfer the luggage,
which delayed our arrival home. However, all in all it was an interesting day after a very
good trip away.