We did a 15 day tour of Spain:Madrid- The H...
Spain | May 14 - Jun 1, 2022

C
Catherine H.
Canada | Jun 28, 2022

We did a 15 day tour of Spain:
Madrid- The Hotel Regina was well located, had a pleasant room, and great staff. They were very friendly and helpful to new tourists.
May 16: Arantxa -tour of Prada and Madrid- Prada was rushed- it needs a tour by itself. The stroll and food part of the tour was very good, especially the stop for Vermouth and Tapas. Arantxa is very personable and down to earth. She was willing to answer any questions and was excited to see us when we ran into her a few days later.
May 17: Beatrice- guided walking tour of Madrid- was very good, the pace was good and she was flexible to our needs and wants. She explained lots and answered questions well.
The evening of Flamenco was not as good as we hoped for; while enjoyable to some degree, it felt like an amateur production.
May 18: we had a free day to explore on our own and we enjoyed the break and some down time. It's a good idea to work some down time into the tour.
May 19: David, who drove us from Madrid to Segovia and then Salamanca, then to Burgos the next day, was very good, he showed us some good sights along the way and was very personable and answered questions well.
Elena in Segovia was also good and very thorough, she didn't hurry us and again answered questions well. The restaurant Meson de Candido was very good, and the view of the aqueduct was spectacular.
The NH Palacio de Castellanos was very good with good rooms, great location, and a nice restaurant on the patio.
May 20: Carmen's tour of Salamanca was mixed- parts of it were very good, such as the glimpses into the university grounds and cloisters, but she seemed distracted and spent a lot of time checking her phone.
The NH Palacio de Burgos was outstanding, with a large room, beautiful eating area next to an old cloister, comfortable lobby, and a great location.
May 21: Johan the young driver to Atapeurca was very sweet even with limited English. He did a great job.
Atapuerca was a highlight- it was fascinating and the archeologist who gave us the tour was really interesting.
The tour of Burgos with Rosalia was also fascinating- she showed us many highlight of the city's interesting history and was very engaging, asking us question and checking our knowledge.
May 22: The transfer to Bilbao was quiet and good.
The Hotel Sercotel Coliseo was good, with a good location and nice rooms.
Tour of Bilbao and Guggenheim with Ana was also good- she explained the museum well and her walking tour of the old city was interesting but not very comprehensive. It did feel rushed at the end. She did suggest a very good restaurant, though, which we really enjoyed. It was unfortunate that the tour was later in the day and we didn't get a chance to go back to Guggenheim on our own. It would have warranted a whole day just for that.
May 23: Diego won all our hearts- he was down to earth; he didn't know all the historical details, but he knew the local area and great places to take us. He took his time with us, let us explore at our own pace, and showed us all kinds of local spots. He joined us at meals and got to know us and let us get to know him and his perspectives on the local culture and history. His input was very valuable.
Patxi the sheep farmer (and his sheep dogs) were a highlight for us.
May 24: Diego took us to San Sebastian through the coastal route which was again spectacular.
The Hotel Zenit San Sebastian had great staff and a good restaurant, but was in a bad location for tourists on foot (especially an older lady) - it was a half hour brisk walk to the old town where our tours started, and also where the sights and good eating places are.
May 25: The e-bike tour was fun with a great guide, Pelayo. It's a great way to see different aspects of a good sized city.
The evening food tour with Imano was good, but felt abbreviated- we stopped for 4 Pintxos which were very good, but it felt like Imano was in a hurry and he didn't give a lot of detail about the history of the area and the food.
May 26: This was another good day with Diego exploring the local area- Pasai Donibane was a highlight, even in the rain. Diego picked out a good lunch of Pintxos for us in Hondarribia. We then went to the winery Hiruzta, which had lovely Txakolli wine.
May 27: The train from San Sebastian to Barcelona was lovely- the train was comfortable, had good coffee and tea, and the scenery was gorgeous. The transfer to the hotel was prompt and courteous.
The Hotel Ciutat de Barcelona was not good- it felt more like a North American college dorm room than a nice hotel- the rooms were small, there was no kettle, cups, or fridge, the safe was difficult to use and on the floor so hard to get to, the bathroom was outdated with a very slippery shower. The bed was uncomfortable and the mattress felt like it was covered in rubber. There were only sheets and no blankets on the bed. While we expect some street noise, the building itself was noisy and it felt like there was a youth party going on. Any one of these things would have been tolerable, but the accumulation of them was too much. In addition, there was no restaurant and the provided breakfast was not good- with little selection in food. By then we had decided to move and were glad we did.
The Hotel Icon BCN (Petit Palace) was very nice- the room was small but pleasant, with the expected amenities such as a kettle, tea, coffee, and cups. The staff (including Alicia the manager) were very pleasant and the lobby and restaurant were excellent with good food and drinks. The breakfast was very good with lots of variety and eggs cooked to order.
May 28: The Barcelona city tour with Gemma was interesting with some good insights into history of the area and we got see parts of the city we would never have found ourselves. However, it did feel rushed, especially around the churches downtown and when we got to La Sagrada Familia.
May 29: La Costa Brava was gorgeous where Shilo took us along a path on the shore which was lovely. He adapted his plans to accommodate Aunt Mary's abilities. The tour of Girona was also very enjoyable and Shilo shared some good insights with us.
May 30: Guy took us to Montserrat which was spectacular. He was both informative and very nicely easy-going, allowing us to tour the church on our own while he took Mary up the funicular. (My fear of heights prevented me from going). Then we went to Felix winery, which was another highlight for us. Christina, the owner (with Felix of course) was delightful, and explained the wine making process in wonderful detail. Their wine is very good! Guy also took us to one of their vineyards with its gorgeous old grape vines. We would highly recommend this winery for future tours.
This was really the end of our tour, although we stayed in Barcelona for three more days, which was a pleasant end to the holiday. One improvement i would suggest is a day with no tours in the middle of the trip, just to provide some rest. We were tired from learning so much by that time!
Thank you, Karin, it was a great trip.

Local specialist: Karin Eckhard
Karin
Karin Eckhard
Local specialist in O Barco de Valdeorras | Jun 28, 2022

Dear Catherine and Mary-Jo, thank you very much for taking the time to make such a detailed review. I enjoyed reading it. I am pleased to hear that you had a great trip and was such a pleasure to work with you ladies. Just one little comment, some of the activities might have seemed rushed because you had a lot of activities packed into your itinerary so, in order for it to go smoothly, the guides had to be quite strict with times. :-). Again, thank you so much for this amazing review. Karin