Spain – Spectacular Gardens and Gaudí Tour

Spain – Spectacular Gardens and Gaudí Tour

March 13 – 22, 2018

When I visited Spain to check out what I would like to include in future tours my first question was ‘why did I wait so long to come here’. I felt so at home, so comfortable. So many people spoke English which made it a lot nicer too. Each city I visited was so unique and had such visual interest and beauty, from the architectural details to the gardens I was in love with it all and could not wait to come home to design a tour that I knew would appeal to those who travel with me on a regular basis and inspire those new to my tours. I am so pleased to present this tour to you, my second, and hope you will join me to discover what makes it so special and to create your own memories.

‘A marvelous tour, beautiful gardens, cities and seaside, I am so grateful for all the travel experiences we have shared’ Mary Jane

‘Fabulous food, days fully packed with glorious sights and gardens, great guides, well located hotels, more than I expected’ Anita

‘As in all my trips with you (13) I enjoyed the whole thing’ Lynda

‘Best guides I’ve ever had, Great care was taken in the selection of places and regional dishes, highly enjoyable and loved the mix of various elements – garden, tiles, architecture’ Joan

‘I recommend your tours to people I meet on other garden tours. I like that you pick the best gardens and accompany all the tours so we know things will be perfect. I also like that you include the best non garden sights too’ Susan

We visit Granada, Cordoba, Sevilla and Barcelona on this small-group tour and take a day trip to Costa Brava to see two very special gardens and spend some time in Tossa de Mar. National Geographic Traveler magazine included the Costa Brava in its list of the world’s twenty best tourist destinations for 2012.

I leave the evenings free so that you may walk around these incredible places to discover and of course seek out the many cafes to grab a bite of dinner or take in a show, whatever your pleasure. You will find cafes on every street corner it seems. Serving tapas to full dinners, the choice is yours and you will find the prices very reasonable. So taste! Experience! And enjoy….and just to tempt you a bit more, they say a picture is worth a thousand words…Well I have hundreds of pictures for you to look at from my last tour…look at what we saw and then come with me to make your own memories just CLICK HERE.

Click on each day to bring up what is included in each days itinerary

Day 1: 13th March 2018 - Independent Arrival Into Granada

Independent arrival into Granada and just before leaving for our Welcome dinner in a local restaurant, we will have a short get together with our AWS Tour leader and myself.

Hotel Alhambra Palace, Granada (Classic Vista Ciudad Rooms)
Welcome Dinner

Day 2: 14th March - Alhambra Palaces and Generalife Gardens

2 Exquisite Carmens and the Gardens of Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta

Full guided tour with private guide in the Alhambra palaces and Generalife gardens. One of the most beautiful gems of architecture is the Alhambra, a series of palaces and gardens started as far back as the 13th Century by the Nasrites. The Alhambra became a Christian court in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabel) conquered the city of Granada. The summer palace is called Generalife. The Generalife is the most charming corner of the Alhambra, thanks to its gardens, ponds and fast-flowing water. In fact, the name of the main courtyard is the Patio de la Acequia – Courtyard of the Water Channel – in reference to the water which coursed through the villa before supplying the Alhambra below. It stands at the foot of Spain’s highest mountain range, the Sierra Nevada, and overlooks the city below and the fertile plain of Granada. The Alhambra (Arabic root meaning ‘red’ or ‘crimson’) and Generalife both became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. The Nasrid Palaces at the Alhambra are where the intricate and beautiful details of the palace seem to come alive. Built in the 10th century, the complex has been home to a succession of sultans, kings and emirs, giving the site a diverse heritage that’s fascinating to discover. This is indeed a journey back…. to another time and place.

Did you know? The word “Generalife” has been translated as “garden of paradise”, “orchard” or “garden of feasts”.

Walking tour with AWS tour leader, visiting two “carmen”-style gardens: [either Carmen de los Cipreses or Carmen Aljibe del Rey, AND Carmen de la Victoria].

Lunch in local restaurant.

Back to hotel for some free time and late afternoon we meet to go just down the hill from the hotel for a guided tour with in-house guide in the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta – romance and more – at this quite startling, eclectic and very cool villa and its gardens. Designed by painter Jose Maria Rodriguez-Acosta in the early 20th Century. He traveled the world and loved so many styles… Built in 1914-1930, it is one of the most relevant architectural complexes of that period, a summary of the European style of the twenties and thirties, and declared a National Monument in 1982. Its creator used it as a studio where he developed an important body of work, midway between modernism and symbolism. The steep hill on which the carmen is perched gives rise to its magnificent gardens. They are full of monuments and stand out from the rest of the secluded gardens in Granada.

Once back at the hotel the evening is free.

Overnight: Hotel Alhambra Palace
Pack this evening as we journey to Cordoba tomorrow.

Breakfast and Lunch included, dinner on own

Day 3: 15th March Córdoba

Visits to Cathedral-Mosque, Alcazar De Los Reyes Cristianos & Gardens & Palacio de los Viana Patios.

We enjoy a guided tour with our private guide in the historic quarter of Córdoba visiting the incredible Cathedral-Mosque. Cordoba’s hour of greatest glory was when it became the capital of the Moorish kingdom of El-Andalus, and this was when work began on the Great Mosque, or “Mezquita” in 785, which – after several centuries of additions and enlargements – became one of the largest in all of Islam. When the city was reconquered by the Christians in 1236, the new rulers of the city were so awed by its beauty that they left it standing, building their cathedral in the midst of its rows of arches and columns, and creating the extraordinary church-mosque we see today.

As well as the unique mosque-cathedral, Cordoba’s treasures include the Alcazar, or Royal House, built by the Christians in 1328. The Alcazar served as one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. From 1490 to 1821 the Inquisition operated from here. Today the castle’s gardens are among the most beautiful in Andalucía and we also take time to enjoy the Roman mosaics…they are truly special.

After lunch with a wine tasting, we visit Palacio de los Viana. A floral feast for the eyes is the Palacio de los Viana. Time to wander on our own through the many gardens of Viana. This 17th-century palace is one of Córdoba’s most splendid aristocratic homes. Also known as the Museo de los Patios, it contains 12 interior patios, each one different; the patios and gardens are planted with cypresses, orange trees, myrtles and more. I was so delighted to see this that I bought a book on the patio gardens here…well worth it!

Once back at the hotel the evening is free.

Overnight: Hotel Hacienda Posada de Vallina, Córdoba
Pack this evening as we journey to Sevilla tomorrow.

Breakfast and Lunch included with dinner on your own

Day 4: 16th March - Sevilla

Palacio de Moratalla on way, Palacio de las Dueñas in Sevilla.

On our way to Sevilla, we visit the gardens of Palacio de Moratalla dating back to the Romans. It is currently owned by the Duke of Segovia. I wonder what impressed us more – the majestic 19th century gardens designed by JCN Forestier in the purest style of Versailles and eye popping pink palace nestled in green landscape or a wander behind this all to see acres and acres of orange trees, just hoping to find one on the ground that you can peel and enjoy – which we did!. Palma is the capital of citrus county located on the border between Cordoba and Sevilla. Oranges from this area are considered in the citrus industry as one the best worldwide.

Did you know? A short history lesson on the Seville Orange!

Although the Seville orange smells like a true orange, it does not have many other obvious award winning virtues. It’s rough, thick and bumpy deep orange colored peel clings tightly to its pale orange translucent flesh, making it hard to peel. It is sour, tart, sometimes bitter and laden with seeds. It has two primary attributes: the peel contains fragrant essential oils and its flesh, when ripe is extremely juicy. The most common usage for the Seville orange is for the production of marmalade where it can use its peel and juice to its advantage; any sour and bitter flavors can be developed and enriched into elements of depth. Sour oranges are native to China. Trade routes brought them to Africa and the Mediterranean in the 10th Century. Cultivation of sour orange varieties led to the Seville orange of Seville, Spain in the 12th Century, where it would accrue its name. The Seville orange was the only orange variety in Europe for the next 500 years. It was also one of the first citrus varieties brought to the New World where it was naturalized in the Caribbean, South, Central and North America. When sweet oranges were introduced to America, sour orange trees would begin to shift their role as edible fruit to rootstock. Cross pollination of the sour and sweet orange trees also proved to create bitter fruits in sweet orange varieties which forced farmers to reduce production of sour orange trees.

According to legend, Sevilla was founded by Hercules and its origins are linked with the Tartessian civilization. It was called Hispalis under the Romans and Isbiliya with the Moors. Sevilla lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir and is one of the largest historical centers in Europe, it has the Minaret of La Giralda, the Cathedral (one of the largest in Christendom), and the Alcázar Palace. Part of its treasure also includes Casa de Pilatos.

Then we stop in Carmona for lunch and in Sevilla a visit to the House and Gardens of the Palacio de las Dueñas.

Once back at the hotel the evening is free.

Overnight: Hotel Bécquer, Sevilla

Breakfast and Lunch included with dinner on your own

Day 5: 17th March - Sevilla

I love Sevilla for the amount of things to see…gardens, tilework, amazing and beautiful architecture…the time so far on tour has really been a mixture of all three but Sevilla is such a walkable place to wander and discover. Our private guide today will lead us. The Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes was founded in the 17th century as a retirement home for priests and now houses such a small but amazing collection of works by Diego Velazquez and a beautiful patio area filled with old seats to sit in. Inside ceilings, walls and floors covered in priceless works. After this as we walked – I loved the rattan coverings they used on the windows to shade the sun…such a smart idea and so heavy they do not move in the breeze. We are now in the Jardines del Alcazar, designed in the 16th century. So much tilework here, so many walls covered in hand carved woods. Outside in the gardens, coolness and charm lead you through to the end where huge water features bid you farewell. Ancient trees with such stories to tell, wandering peacocks, purple jacarandas and magenta bougainvillea’s drawing your eyes upward. We continue walking until we reach Vineria San Telmo for another incredible lunch and finish our day with the stunning Plaza de Espana, a centerpiece of the 1929 Ibero-American Expo. Seville’s most impressive and majestic after the cathedral, for its sheer scale and grandeur. All that tilework – from guardrails to finials on the roofs and everything in between – you must see this in person to truly appreciate that each tile piece is unique. The building is a semi circular brick building, Renaissance/neo-Moorish in style, with a huge tower at either end. All along the wall in front of the building are 48 alcoves with benches – one for each province of Spain, each with a relevant tableau and map, all designed on colourful azulejos (painted ceramic tiles). In front of the building, following the curve of its façade, is a 500-metre canal crossed by four bridges. Lots of boats on this lake with people happily paddling as they made their way around. It was simply amazing to stand on one of these bridges and take it all in.

Did you know? The Giralda minaret is a masterpiece of Almohad architecture built in 1184 to 1197. It stands next to the Cathedral with its five naves; the largest Gothic building in Europe (and holds the tomb of Christopher Columbus). Make time to visit if you can as it is worth seeing and yes – do walk all the way up to the top of the minaret for an incredible memory. (I did) to discover that there are no steps, just a wide ramp because when the minaret was built the Imam used to ride a horse up to the top for the call to prayer! (or so the story goes).

Once back at the hotel the evening is free.

Overnight: Hotel Bécquer, Sevilla
Pack this evening as we journey to Barcelona tomorrow.

Breakfast and Lunch included with dinner on your own

Day 6: 18th March - Barcelona by train

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a Mediterranean and cosmopolitan city with Roman remains, medieval quarters and the most beautiful examples of 20th century Modernism and avant-garde. It is no surprise that emblematic constructions by the Catalan architects Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Doménech i Montaner have been declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO.

We are taking the fast train and while on it expect to see olive and orange groves. Once into Barcelona head to our hotel where we will get settled in and then meet in the lobby to walk to Casa Mila for a self guided visit in one of the principal works of Catalan architect and artist Antoni Gaudi. It was wonderful to be able to see how the residents lived in these apartments, what types of furniture they owned and what the kitchens and bathrooms looked like. Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’, is probably one of the most famous buildings of the Catalan Modernisme or Catalan Art Nouveau period and one of the architect Antoni Gaudí’s most ambitious works. It is a container that is a work of art in itself. Gaudí planned Casa Milà (1906–1912) at the age of fifty-three, when he was at the height of his powers and had found a style of his own independent of any established ones. It turned out to be his last civil work and one of the most innovative in its functional, constructive and ornamental aspects. Indeed, thanks to his artistic and technical ideas, it has always been considered a breakthrough work, outside the concepts of the time, a rara avis in Modernisme itself and, especially, a work that anticipated the architecture of the 20th century.

Once back at hotel the evening is free.

Overnight: Hotel Astoria, Barcelona

Breakfast and Box Lunch included for train and dinner on your own.

Day 7: 19th March - Excursion to Costa Brava

Botanical Gardens at Marimurtra, Tossa de Mar and Santa Clotilde.

Around the year 1920, in this exceptional location on the Costa Brava in the province of Girona, Carlos Faust began creating what is now a stunning botanical garden called Marimurtra with more than 4,000 species, dedicated primarily to Mediterranean and sub-tropical flora. It has wonderful collections of cacti and other beautiful plants from arid regions of southern Africa and Central America, as well as plants endemic to Catalonia. The garden has steep slopes and a large lake, as well a long flight of steps leading to the Linnaeus temple, which offers stunning views out over the coast and sea. Marimurtra, declared an Area of National Interest by the government of Catalonia, was founded almost 100 years ago by German Carl Faust, a patron of biological sciences, with the intention of constructing, in Blanes, an international headquarters for scientific investigation. It currently directs its activity towards the conservation of endemic and endangered species in the Mediterranean environment.

Tossa de Mar for lunch and a stroll in the old town…so pretty. Before becoming a tourist resort, Tossa was a small fishing village, and before this was involved in various other industries such as cork, food preservation, charcoal burning, wine making and olive oil production. At one time, Tossa even had a fleet of boats which traded with other Mediterranean ports and America. Another important part of Tossa’s history was the filming of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman in the 1950s, with Ava Gardner and James Mason in starring roles. At one of the most spectacularly astounding viewpoints of the Vila Vella, there is a magnificent bronze statue of the renowned American actress, Ava Gardner. A tranquil stroll around the old town reveals a multitude of intricately interwoven alley ways, each leading to its own spectacular pine framed view of the bay of Tossa, lapped by the sparkling topaz blue Mediterranean, sunlight drizzling through the branches. The Diana Hotel in Tossa de Mar started out as a private home..and what it must have looked like in 1906…the original owner made his money in cork..and thankfully the new owners kept the uniqueness.

Finally Santa Clotilde…gosh what a wonderful day spent. Oh wow, is the Jardins de Santa Clotilde ever worth visiting…there are some gardens you visit that you just want to wander more, to look forward and backward and up and out, for there is just so much to appreciate…and this was one… This wonderful garden was landscaped in a setting of great beauty on top of a cliff with breath taking views over the sea. It is a fine specimen of the spirit that animated the Noucentista movement in Calalonia – an early 20th-century movement for intellectual and aesthetic renewal that found a distinguished spokesman in the writer Eugeni d’Ors.

The Santa Clotilde gardens were designed in the manner of the dainty yet austere gardens of the Italian Renaissance by Nicolau Rubió i Tuduri at the age of twenty-eight, when he was still brimming over with admiration for his master in the art of landscape gardening, JCN Forestier. In these gardens, Rubió ignored Forestier’s teachings with their Spanish-Arabic slant mixed up with images of the French garden, as he had seen when working with Forestier, and instead sought to recover the spirit of the Italian Renaissance as the essence of modernity. A new bourgeoisie was then emerging, looking back nostalgically on the prestige enjoyed by patrons of the arts during the Renaissance. The garden greets us with a blend of features from the Villa Medici, the Villa Borghese and perhaps the Boboli gardens as well – Florence was where one went for inspiration at the time. The spirit of romanticism underlies the garden, expressed in the marble bust glimpsed amid the vines, looking out to sea with its back to us – another delightful parody of that romantic sentiment of union with nature, closer to Leopardi than to his master C.D. Friedrich. These gardens, work on which began before the house, feature a collection of marble statues in the neo-classical style and the mermaids by the sculptress Maria Llimona. All the paths, avenues, squares and steps are set off by clipped hedges that form splendid green architectural shapes.

Once back in Barcelona the evening is free to enjoy.

Overnight: Hotel Astoria, Barcelona

Breakfast and Lunch included with dinner on your own.

Day 8: 20th March - Your Day of Leisure in Barcelona

You can do anything you want this day as it is your own…Discover so much just walking around our hotel area. Fine tune your maps for visits to museums, markets or galleries or just go shopping and find so many cafes to sit and sip at…Barcelona is magical!! We will have ideas for you too…like perhaps the Hospital de la Santa Crue I Sant Pau a UNESCO World Heritage Site and simply wonderful to visit. Montaner was as brilliant an architect as Gaudi was. The two date palms are around 100 years old. I simply love walking the streets of much history in the architecture and although Gaudi’s work is so unique to the world, there are other architects here who left their mark as well. The Block of Discord is a perfect example of what architects created at that time and their contrasts and trends that they wanted to show off with Gaudi’s Casa Batlo among them. Also Parc Guell, or the unique Boqueria Market or…..

Overnight: Hotel Astoria, Barcelona

Breakfast included with lunch and dinner on your own.

Day 9: 21st March - La Sagrada Familia by Gaudi and the Palau de la Música Catalana

You think you have seen some amazing sights so far but we have saved the best for last I think…in terms of architecture these two visits are simply magical and for two different reasons as you will discover. It is the perfect ending to our time together and later on this evening we will join together for the last time to celebrate our time at our Farewell Dinner.

What a fantastic day, it almost seems unreal when you look at the Sagrada Familia, so incredibly different and ‘busy’ on the outside and inside so quiet and peaceful..I think the lighting has a lot to do with the serenity one feels here. The first time I saw it, I did not know what to expect on the inside…I only knew that even with the scaffolding from continual building I was mesmerized by every inch of it on the outside. It was so totally bizarre. The outside is busy, colourful in spots with the tiles yet so very grey, having so much symbolism and inside….well, I loved it for being so different from the outside. As with all of Gaudi’s work, you either like it or not but I don’t think you can make that presumption without seeing it in person. It is so different from our usual thinking and it just plain takes time for it all to sink in. I loved the peace that I felt inside, especially when the sun shone through the most beautiful and unique stained glass windows you will set your eyes on. When this happens you cannot help but look up and feel you are being transported on one of the beams of colour. You can go up into one of the Towers as well and I suggest you do so that you can see the tiles at a closer level. At the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926 less than a quarter of this project was complete. They say it should be complete by 2026, the centenary of his death. Paul Goldberger, an American architectural critic and educator, called it “The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.” The building’s design itself has been polarizing. Assessments by Gaudí’s fellow architects were generally positive; Louis Sullivan greatly admired it, describing Sagrada Família as the “greatest piece of creative architecture in the last twenty-five years. It is spirit symbolized in stone”. George Orwell called it “one of the most hideous buildings in the world” James A. Michener called it “one of the strangest-looking serious buildings in the world” and British historian Gerald Brenan stated about the building “Not even in the European architecture of the period can one discover anything so vulgar or pretentious.” The building’s distinctive silhouette has nevertheless become symbolic of Barcelona itself, drawing an estimated 2.5 million visitors annually.

Did you know? Since he was convinced that nothing of value could be achieved without sacrifice, Gaudi dedicated himself to an austere life of prayer and detachment. On occasion Gaudi had expressed a desire to die in a hospital among the poor people. This came to pass when he was run down by a street car. The police didn’t recognize him and seeing him a poor man, they took him to the Holy Cross Hospital, where he died June 10th, 1926.

The Musica Catalana is just so striking and happy and ornate and theatrical my neck hurt from looking up so much and then we sat and got to listen to a bit of the organ and wow, that was awesome. The Palau de la Música Catalana is one of the most representative monuments of Art Nouveau architecture. An emblematic building of the Catalan Modernism, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. Built between 1905 and 1908 by the great architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner, the Palau de la Música Catalana is an architectural jewel of Barcelona. Our guided tours starts in the Rehearsal Hall of the Orfeó Catala, where the foundation stone of the building was laid in 1905 and where even today, as it has for more than 100 years, the choir of the Orfeó Català rehearses regularly. Sitting in this intimate space, you can find out the reason for its importance with an audiovisual tour. The tour continues along the grand staircase decorated with flowers, Catalan flags and a single rail: built in a clever combination of a range of materials including iron and glass to create a world of detail which never ceases to amaze. Next we’ll visit the Lluís Millet Hall, where you can glimpse the large balcony with columns symbolizing flowers of every kind, in a tribute to nature. Finally we’ll go into the Concert Hall where an explosion of colour, shapes and light will welcome you to this great masterpiece of decorative art which amazes and inspires visitors and artists day after day. You will also go up to the second floor, next to the great skylight, a drop of water and honey, a source of both light and inspiration.

Overnight: Hotel Astoria, Barcelona

Breakfast and Farewell Dinner included with lunch on your own.

Day 10: 22nd March – departure Barcelona

Departure after breakfast for onward travel, own arrangements.


  • 9 Nights Hotels as noted
  • All breakfasts
  • Welcome Dinner & Farewell Dinner
  • 6 Lunches
  • Full Leisure Day in Barcelona
  • Visits to: Generalife Gardens & Alhambra Palaces,  carmen gardens (Carmen de los Cipreses OR Carmen Aljibe del Rey AND Carmen de la Victoria,
  • Carmen Rodriguez-Acosta, Cordoba Alcazar & Mesquita, Palacio Moratalla, Sevilla Alcazar & Gardens, Palacio Dueñas, Hospital Venerables,
  • Plaza Espana,  Palau de la Musica,  Palacio de los Viana,  Casa Mila, and Sagrada Familia.
  • Some will have audio guides.  Some you will visit on your own.  Some will be guided.
  • Full day excursion to the botanical gardens of Marimurtra and Santa Clotilde on the Costa Brava and lovely walking tour in Tossa de Mar by the sea.
  • Local tour director throughout tour
  • AVE Train from Sevilla to Barcelona
  • Private coach travel on tour days
  • Tips for tour guide and drivers
  • Incredible Memories!

Additional hotel nights pre or post and Airport Transfers are available.  Please email Donna to arrange at

All lunches and dinners will include water and 1 lunch will include wines as well, but all other drinks are on your own account.


Tour Dates: March 13th – March 22, 2018

LAND only €3995 Euros p/p sharing or double
SINGLE Supplement €900 Euros (very limited)

PRICES ARE QUOTED IN Euros. If considering the tour please check the exchange rates to determine what the cost is in your currency.

NOTE Minimum number of 8 tour registrants required for this tour to run, so please do not book your air until you have heard from us that the tour is confirmed.

See Highlights Box for all inclusions on this tour and if you have any questions on it, please email

Tour itinerary subject to changes


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