A coach tour through the Iberian steps of Spain and Portugal

Vern Walker sees some of the best of Spain and Portugal on a guided coach tour

We walked and walked, over tens of thousands of cobblestones. And because ancient castles were built long before Otis and Schindler made life easier for us, we climbed, turned and tottered into medieval history.

For most tourists to Spain and Portugal, many preconceptions will be realised: cavernous cathedrals, captivating Moorish tile-work, white-washed villages and plenty of wineries. This is a peninsula that comes alive after the sun goes down. Midday siestas fuel the late evenings. And both countries are great at honouring saints, sinners and soldiers in the form of monuments – bearded giants aloft well-muscled steeds, often waving a sword at the swirling roundabout traffic circling far below them.

We were a diverse group of 46 curious tourists, including a golf fanatic from Florida, an escapee from communist Romania, and a very fit farmer from Northland.

With 2600km ahead of us, our coach departed Madrid for Toledo and Granada, through a dun-coloured landscape, where wheat fields had been shaved down to a “number one” cut. We traversed a vast landscape of grey-green olive groves planted in military fashion and marching forever up and down the rolling countryside.

What to do in Granada

Granada’s Alhambra demands the tourist to pop in and see what it is all about. It has layers upon layers of history, a hilltop of popular real estate scrambled over by thousands of tourists every day. The sprawling fortress encompasses royal palaces, Moorish architecture, water features and gardens built on the remains of a Roman fort dating back to 889AD. The view from its dominant position is a hilly sea of orange terracotta rooftops punctuated by dark green pointy poplars. All this surrounded by a wall 1790m long.

In Seville, I was rather ambivalent about going to an evening flamenco show; all that stomping of feet. However, I was soon enthralled as the castanets were clicked and wrists and fingers twirled. The women with their coal-black hair pulled back into a bun, transmitting their haughty passion to the audience. The arrogant jutting of the jawline, demanding our attention, all to the background of guitar music. And if the ladies were beautiful so were their flamboyant and full multi-layered skirts. Tremulous music, where the performer is definitely the queen.

Later in our journey I was almost as excited as I spotted rugby goal posts in Seville and Madrid – in a country where Cristiano Ronaldo and soccer is definitely the king.

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