Day 1 – Thursday March 29 - Madrid13:45 Arrival to Madrid – Barajas Airport, Terminal 414:00 Transfer by bus from the airport to the hotel (Hotel Convención)15:00 Arrive to the hotel, and straight to the restaurant to have lunch. We will do the check-inafter lunch.17:00 Visit Madrid.On Thursday March 29 in Spain there is a general strike to protest against a new reform of the working law, approvedlast February 19.How will this affect us?Most of business and services will be on a strike, therefore they will be closed.That day we will explore Madrid. If we cannot take the metro we will be able to do the itinerary walking, as we are closeto downtown.These are the sights that we are going to see:- Parque del Buen Retiro: Literally ¨Gardens¨ or ¨Park of the Pleasant Retreat¨, or simply ElRetiro is the largest park of the city. The park belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late19th century, when it became a public park. A magnificent park, filled with beautiful sculpture andmonuments, galleries, a peaceful lake and host to a variety of events, it is one of Madrid´spremier attractions.- Plaza de Cibeles: It is a square with a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures withfountains that has become an iconic symbol for the city of Madrid. The fountain of Cibeles, namedafter Cybele (or Ceres), Roman goddess of fertility, is seen as one of Madrid´s most importantsymbols. The Cibeles fountain depicts the goddess, sitting on a chariot pulled by two lions. Thefountain has been adopted by the football club Real Madrid, whose fans use the area to celebrateits triumphs in competitions such as La Liga, the Champions League or the Copa del Rey. A flagof Real Madrid is usually wrapped around the Cibeles statue.- Puerta de Alcalá: In the middle of the busy Plaza de la Independencia stands one of Madridsbest known landmarks: the Puerta de Alcalá or Alcala Gate.21:00 Dinner at the hotel. Sleep. Day 2 – Friday March 30 – Madrid – Vitoria-Gasteiz08:30 Breakfast at hotel09:15 Check-out. We will meet at the reception of the hotel with our luggage. We will leave ourluggage in a locked room in the hotel.09:30 Visit Madrid. This is the plan:- Metro: From O´Donnell station to Plaza de España station----- Line 6 – 5 stops (from O´Donnell to Nuevos Ministerios)----- Line 10 – 4 stops (from Nuevos Ministerios to Plaza de España)
- Plaza de España: Or ¨Spain Square¨ it is a large square, and popular tourist destination,located in central Madrid. It features a monument to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Spanishnovelist, poet and playwright who wrote ¨El Quijote¨. The tower portion of the monument includesa stone sculpture of Cervantes, which overlooks bronze sculptures of Don Quixote and SanchoPanza. Next to the tower, there are two stone representations of Don Quixote´s ¨true love¨, oneas the simple peasant woman Aldonza Lorenzo, and one as the beautiful, imaginary Dulcinea delToboso.- Templo de Debob: Or Temple of Debob is an ancient Egyptian temple which was rebuilt inMadrid. The temple was built originally 15 km south of Aswan in southern Egypt, and itconstruction began in the early 2nd century BC. In 1960, due to the construction of the GreatDam of Aswan and the consequent threat posed to several monuments and archeological sites,UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy. As a sign of gratitude forthe help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian state donated thetemple of Debod to Spain in 1968. The temple was rebuilt in one of Madrids parks, the Parquedel Oeste near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972. It constitutes one ofthe few works of ancient Egyptian architecture which can be seen outside Egypt and the only oneof its kind in Spain.- Palacio Real: The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Familyin the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. King Juan Carlos and the RoyalFamily do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela onthe outskirts of Madrid. The palace has 135,000 square metres (1,450,000 sq ft) of floorspaceand contains 2800 rooms. It is the largest palace in Europe by floor area. The interior of thepalace is notable for its wealth of art, in regards to the use of all kinds of fine materials in itsconstruction and the decoration of its rooms with artwork of all kinds.- Catedral de la Almudena: When the capital of Spain was transferred from Toledo to Madrid in1561, the seat of the Church in Spain remained in Toledo; so the new capital – unusually for aCatholic country – had no cathedral. Plans were discussed as early as the 16th century to build acathedral in Madrid dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena, but construction did not begin until1879.The cathedral seems to have been built on the site of a medieval mosque that wasdestroyed in 1083 when Alfonso VI reconquered Madrid.- Plaza Mayor: The Plaza Mayor, a grand arcaded square in the center of Madrid is very popularwith tourists and locals alike. The symmetrical rectangular square features a uniform architecture,very similar to the contemporary Place des Vosges in Paris.- The Puerta del Sol (Spanish for "Gate of the Sun") is one of the best known and busiest placesin Madrid. This is the centre (Km 0) of the radial network of Spanish roads. The square alsocontains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the Twelve Grapes and thebeginning of a new year. The New Years celebration has been broadcast live on TV since 31December 1962.14:00 Lunch at restaurant ¨La Taurina¨ (next to Puerta del Sol)15:00 Return to hotelMetro back to our hotel: From Sol station to O´Donnell station----- Line 7 – 6 stops (from Sol to Manuel Becerra)----- Line 6 – 1 stop (from Manuel Becerra to O´Donnell)16:00 Bus trip from Madrid to Vitoria-Gasteiz (350 km – about 4h30´)21:00 Arrive to Vitoria-Gasteiz. Meet host families.
Day 3 – Saturday March 31 – Vitoria-Gasteiz (European Green Capital 2012)Breakfast with families.10:00 Meeting at the Tourist Office (Plaza de España)10:30 Guided visit in English of the Medieval Quarter and Tower of San VicenteMEDIEVAL VITORIAWe will walk the old quarter of Vitoria-Gasteiz, very well preserved. Walking through its streets wewill visit important milestones such as the Renaissance palaces of Villa Suso, Montehermoso andEscoriaza-Esquivel, or the beautiful Gothic church of San Miguel, that hosts the White Virgin,patroness of the city. We will discover the origin of this town, the city wall from the XI century, andwe will hang out in popular places as Plaza de España o Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, the heart ofthe city.TOWER OF SAN VICENTEThe visit to San Vicente reminds visitors of the times when this place was a castle. We will learnabout the defensive system and climb to the bell tower from where we will have the most beautifulview of the city –it is the highest point, but don´t try to compare it with the Jin Mao Tower-. We willaccess the steerage of the church, a prodigious woodwork reminiscent of an inverted boat hull.14:00 Lunch at a gastronomical society called ¨Irrintzi¨. We will be 16 students, two teachers,and 15 of my friends cooking for you guys.17:00 Guided visit in English to the Cathedral of Santa María and the City Wall.CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIACathedral of Santa Maria (Old Cathedral), a 14th century Gothic building with a 17th centurytower was the inspiration for the novel ¨Word Without End¨, the second part of ¨The Pillars of theEarth¨, novel by Ken Follett. Under the portico are three open doorways decorated with statuesand reliefs. In the interior, chapels containing Gothic, Flemish and Italian Renaissance imagesincluding paintings by Rubens and van Dyck. The cathedral is undergoing restoration and hasbeen studied by experts from around the world for its architectural curiosities, including thosedeformations which it has suffered due to previous restorations.19:00 Free time20:00 Meet host families.Meeting point: Monumento a la Batalla de Vitoria (Plaza de la Virgen Blanca) Day 4 – Sunday April 1 – Vitoria- GasteizBreakfast with host families.10:00 Meeting at the Tourist Office (Plaza de España)10:30 Guided visit in English of the Romantic Vitoria
ROMANTIC VITORIAVitoria is one of the greenest cities in the world. Florida Park hosts more than 200 differentspecies of tress, and we will discover ¨the Water Secret Garden¨, as well as the BasqueParliament. Remember, Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital city of the Basque Country. We will visit theNew Cathedral, a superb example of neogothic style, and we will admire beautiful palaces of theearly twentieth century, such as Zulueta or Ajuria Enea, where the president of the BasqueCountry lives. We will finish our visit at Museum of Fine Arts, which houses an extensivecollection from the nineteenth century.14:00 Lunch at a restaurant called ¨Tomo 1¨16:30 Visit of Salburua Park and Ataria, the Salburua Wetlands Interpretation Centre.Salburua is a wetland formed by several lakes along with spaces and a small oak empradizados.It was dried centuries ago to transform the area into farmland. The restoration work that started in1994 has reversed this situation and now Salburua is one of the most valuable inland wetlands ofthe Basque Country and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. The park can be coveredthrough various routes that surround and connect the main sites. It has an interpretation centerand two bird observatories in order for people to gain knowledge about the nature and also tohave fun.Ataria is the Salburua wetlands ambiental interpretation centre. Is a building with emblematiccharacter and perfectly integrated in the North of the Salburua Park. It is one of the mostimportant places of the Vitoria-Gasteiz´s Green Ring.This place is built to encourage theknowledge of the wetlands and show their natural values and the importance of the biodiversityand the natural heritage of the Vitoria-Gasteiz township.20:00 Meet host families in front of ¨El Corte Inglés¨ Day 5 – Monday April 2 – Vitoria-Gasteiz – Elciego – San SebastianBreakfast with host families08:30 Meet with your luggage at the meeting point –we leave Vitoria-Gasteiz-09:00 Bus trip from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Elciego (50 Km. 1h)10:00 Visit the winery ¨Marqués de Riscal¨The area of La Rioja produces some of the best wines in the world. We will visit the winery¨Marques de Riscal¨ where the whole process of making wine will be explained.11:30 End of the visit and bus trip to Irún13:30 – 14:00 Lunch at a restaurant called ¨La Agrícola¨ - Irún15:30 Boat ride from Hondarribia (Spain) to Hendaya (France)17:00 Trip to San Sebastian21:00 Dinner and accommodation at Ulía Hostel (San Sebastián)This is what Lonely Planet says about San Sebastian:
¨It´s said that nothing is impossible. This is wrong. It´s impossible to lay eyes on San Sebastiánand not fall madly in love. This stunning city is everything that grimy Bilbao is not: cool, svelte andflirtatious by night, charming and well mannered by day. Best of all is the summer fun on thebeach. For it´s setting, form and attitude, Playa de la Concha is the equal of any city beach inEurope. Then there´s Playa de Gros, with its surfers and sultry beach goers. As the sun falls onanother sweltering summer´s day, you´ll sit back with a drink and an artistic pintxo and realisethat, yes, you too are in love with sexy San Sebastián.¨ Day 6 – Tuesday April 3 – San Sebastián – Bilbao –Valle de Tobalina08:30 Breakfast at the hostelMorning – We will decide if we stay in San Sebastian or if we visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.¨Ermita de San Juan de Gaztelugatxe¨. ¨It stands on an islet that is connected to the mainland bya bridge. It also has two natural arches on its seaward side. Built by the Knights Templars in the10th century, it has also served as a handy shelter for shipwrecked sailors¨ -Lonely Planet-. On afamiliar note, my sister got married here.14:00 Lunch in Bilbao, at a restaurant called Harrobia.16:30 Guided visit in English to the Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao (1h30´)Instantly hailed as the most important structure of its time, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim MuseumBilbao has celebrated more than a decade of extraordinary success. With over a hundredexhibitions and more than ten million visitors to its credit, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao haschanged the way people think about museums, and it continues to challenge assumptions aboutthe connections between art, architecture, and collecting.18:00 – 19:00 Visit Universidad de Deusto – Castro´s alma materThe University of Deusto was founded 1886. The concerns and cultural interest of the BasqueCountry in having their own university, as well as the interest of the Jesuits in establishing higherstudies in some part of the Spanish State coincided in its conception.19:00 Bus trip from Bilbao to Quintana Martín Galíndez (Tobalina Valley) (1h30´)20:30 Arrival to hostel21:00 Dinner and accommodation in the hostel Día 7 – Miércoles 4 de abril – Valle de Tobalina08:30 Breakfast at the hostel09:30 Bus ride to a nuclear plant (about 15´)10:00 Visit of the nuclear plant (2h30´)Santa María de Garoña Nuclear Power Plant is a nuclear power station at Santa María deGaroña, Burgos, Spain. It consists of one boiling water reactor (BWR) of 466 megawatts (MWe).The plant was opened in 1971 and would have closed on 5 July 2009 had its license not beenrenewed. Nuclenor, the plants operator, had sought a ten-year extension, which was supportedby Spains Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) despite Spains policy
of phasing out nuclear power. On 2 July 2009, the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Tradecompromised, extending the operating license for an additional four years13:00 Visit of the city and the Castle of FríasThe Castle of Los Duques de Frías overlooks the vast valley of Tobalina. It has parted windowsand preserves three mullioned windows with Romanesque capitals dating from the 13th century,representing warriors on horseback and fantastic birds. It consists of a tower of homage and anirregular courtyard, plus a moat and turrets in the corners. After being rebuilt by Alfonso III in the15th century, it was handed to the Fernández de Velasco family.The castle has round turretsseparating the castle from the rest of the wall. The square tower protects one gate, the moat andthe barrier.14:00 Lunch at restaurant ¨Roman Bridge¨ in Frías15:45 Back to hostel16:00 Kayacking (+/- 3h) Bring your towel and swim suit!19:00 Shower and free time21:00 Dinner Day 8 – Thrusday April 5 – Tobalina Valley08:30 Breakfast at hostel09:30 Bus ride to Plagaro, an abandoned town10:30 Trekking from Herran to Lalastra, passing by Ribera (another abandoned town)VALDEREJO NATURAL PARKOverview The Valderejo Natural Park is located in the most western part of Alava. Situated in ahigh and wide valley surrounded by limestone cliffs, it is stunning beautiful. It covers 3,418.5 ha.Man’s presence has virtually untouched this area and so the fauna and flora have benefittedaccordingly.Walking There is a recreational and interpretation centre is located in Lalastra. There are 9 pathswhich cover the park, with lengths of between 3.5 and almost 12 km.Animals/Birds Mammals such as roebuck, wild boar, wild cat and beech marten all inhabit thearea. There is also a large colony of vultures which has become the emblem of the Park and awide variety of a rock and forest birds.Plants Woods constitute more than half of the total vegetation in the Valderejo Natural Park. TheScots pine is the most predominant, followed by the holm oak, beech and some gall oaks.Meadows and crops occupy the floor of the valley, surrounding a number of ancient villages.13:30 Pic-nic lunch
17:00 Guided visit in English to Salinas de Añana + Spa Salino (1h30´ - 2h)The name of Salinas de Añana is inextricably linked to the history of salt. Its saline springs weredocumented as early as the year 822, just before the occupation of this area by the Moors. But itwas in the Middle Ages, after the town of Salinas de Añana was founded in 1140 (which makesthis the oldest town in Alava), when its salt production made Salinas de Añana one of the mostprosperous towns in the North of the Iberian Peninsula. Salt Valley is now the subject of anambitious master plan, which seeks to restore its original landscaping and operation. As a resultof the plan, a guided visit service has been set up.Under UNESCO classifications, Valle Salado constitutes a Continuing Cultural Landscaperesulting from the social, economic and administrative conditions developed by the populationover centuries to adapt to their natural environment. Furthermore, since it is a living landscape, itmust be considered a "continuing landscape" that, even today, plays an active social role incontemporary society, together with the traditional way of life of the area.Currently, it is the only Spanish candidate site to become a WORLD HERITAGE SITE byUNESCO. The decision of UNESCO of including this site or not in their catalogue will be taken in2014. Currently, Spain has 43 sites in this special catalogue. In previous Spanish trips we havevisited some of them:- 2009 Madrid and Andalucía:----- Old town of Segovia and its aqueduct----- Historic Center of Cordoba----- Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín in Granada----- Historic city of Toledo----- Cathedral and Alcázar in Seville- 2010 Barcelona and Valencia:----- Works of Antonio Gaudí in Barcelona- 2011 El Camino de Santiago:----- Old Town of Ávila with its Extramuros Churches----- Santiago de Compostela (Old Town)----- Route of Santiago de Compostela----- Roman Walls of Lugo----- Tower of Hércules in La Coruña18:30 – 19:00 Bus ride to San Martín de Don (the town of Castro)20:30 Arrive hostel21:00 Dinner Day 9 – Friday April 6 – Tobalina Valley – Balmaseda - Madrid08:00 Breakfast and check out09:00 Depart to Balmaseda (1h15´)10:30 Vía Crucis of Balmaseda (1h30´-2h)One of the most deeply entrenched traditions in this first town of Vizcaya is the Vía CrucisViviente (Stations of the Cross), commemorated during Holy Week (Semana Santa). On HolyThursday and Good Friday, more than five hundred people participate in the narration of the
Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, watched intently by a large public who come to the townduring these days to witness the beautiful and rigorous staging that gets better with each year.Perfectly styled scenes and costumes from the era help to make this a magnificent performancein which, among other things, the Last Supper, the Betrayal of Judas, Christ nailed to the crossand finally the death and burial of Jesus are depicted. It is without doubt a living performance ofthe Passion that everyone in the village throws themselves into and one which is appreciated bya large public.12:00 Travel to Lerma (2h20´)Lerma has important monuments dating from the 17th century, as well as one of the biggest¨Plaza Mayor¨ in Spain, with 6.862 square meters.14:30 Pic-nic lunch16:30 Continue trip to Madrid (2h20´)18:30 – 19:00 Arrive to hotel Convención in Madrid21:00 Dinner Day 10 – Saturday April 7 – Madrid – Dubai – Shanghai (+1)09:00 Breakfast at hotel12:30 Bus transfer to airport15:25 Emirates flight to Shanghai.