The Magic of Spain

History, Art, and Architecture

December 7 - 19, 2017
Guided by
Rosa Tapia, associate professor of Spanish and Steven Landfried '66, educator, photographer, and conservationist


For registration and pricing information, please click here.


December 7th: Day 1: Depart from USA

Depart from Chicago Airport to Madrid

December 8th: Day 2: Madrid

Arrival at Barajas International Airport (MAD) estimated between 7:50 AM /8:30 AM.

After clearing immigration and customs, you will be greeted by your tour manager and a private coach. Then depart for an overview of the capital of Spain.

A very cosmopolitan city, Madrid combines modern infrastructures and considerable status as an economic, financial, administrative and service center. It features a long-standing cultural and artistic heritage, and a legacy of many centuries of exciting history.

Upon arrival at the NH Nacional Hotel, we will check in early if possible or leave our baggage in a secure area.

The rest of the morning will be as you choose.

In the afternoon, you will meet your fellow tour mates at the hotel. In turn everyone will leave for the first guided tour of Madrid, including the museum district, Parliament, Plaza del Sol, Buen Retiro Park, the Royal Palace and famous avenues along the way.

We will return to the Hotel for a welcome dinner together, drinks included.

December 9th: Day 3: Madrid

After enjoying buffet breakfast, you will be greeted by your bilingual guide at the hotel lobby. Boarding a private motor coach, we will divide into two groups, each of which will experience both a Spanish Civil War tour and a tour of the famous Prado Museum. One group will do the Spanish Civil War tour first and then go to Prado; the other group will go to the Prado first. Dividing into smaller groups will make the experiences more enjoyable for everyone.

The Prado tour will focus on three of Spain's greatest art masters: Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco. Along the way you may also see works by Rubens and Titian. The Prado first opened in 1819 to display the Spanish royal art collection. Currently it holds more than seven thousand pieces of art. The collection also includes a vast collection of important works by Italian, Flemish, French Dutch, German and English artists, as well as sculptures, drawings, paintings and other art objects.

The Spanish Civil War tour will shed light on the roots of the fateful conflict thought by many to be the precursor of World War II.  By visiting some of the key sites in the capital city between 1936 and 1939, you will learn about the siege of Madrid, the city’s heroic resistance by its inhabitants and the International Brigades, and the painful realities of daily life and the incessant bombing. In the process, insights may be gained into underlying tensions that continue to fester to some degree in Spain to this day.

After both tours are completed by each group, an included lunch will be provided at a local restaurant. After lunch, you will have free time to explore this wonderful city and have dinner on your own.

December 10th: Day 4: Madrid - Avila - Segovia - Madrid

After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we will depart on a private motorcoach bound for the beautiful medieval city of Ávila. Sometimes called the Town of Stones and Saints, it claims to have the highest number of Romanesque and Gothic churches per capita in Spain. Here you will have an opportunity to visit the Four Posts, Convent of St. Teresa, Basilica of St. Vincent and the famed 11th century defensive walls.

After this visit we will depart for Segovia. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, the picturesque city has an impressive array of historical treasures.

After passing through the age-old Roman Aqueduct and taking a few photographs, we will have lunch at a local restaurant.  Following the meal, we will take you on a comfortable tour of Segovia to see the large Plaza Mayor (Main Square) and Segovia Cathedral. Next our attentions will turn to exploring the majesty of the famous Segovia Alcázar, the formidable fortress that served as a royal palace for many years.

After that you will have free time for a dinner on your own before our return to the hotel in Madrid.


December 11th: Day 5: Madrid - Toledo - Madrid

After breakfast in Madrid, we will depart for Toledo via motor coach. Known by many as the “Imperial City” and “The City of Three Cultures”, this truly magical town 

is famous for the long-time co-existence of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures in the middle ages. Its historic buildings, quaint cobblestone alleyways, and inviting shops and restaurants combine to create a truly unique ambiance. For many, the visit to the highest part of Toledo to see the Alcázar (the 3rd century Roman fort restored by Spanish kings in the 1540’s) will be a highlight of our time in Toledo.  Others may find the visits below to be equally impressive.

If time permits before lunch, we will visit the Gothic Cathedral. The Toledo Cathedral is one of the three 13th century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain and is considered to be the height of the Gothic style in Spain. The site on which the Cathedral was built for use was a Visigoth cathedral in the sixth century. Previously it had been a mosque.

As convenient, lunch will occur at a nearby restaurant.

In the afternoon we will visit the Santa María la Blanca Museum Synagogue. Erected in 1180, it is considered to be the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. Now owned and preserved by the Catholic Church, its stylistic and cultural classification is unique because it was constructed by Islamic architects for Jewish use under the Christian Kingdom of Castile. It is considered a symbol of the harmonious coexistence among the three religious communities and cultures that populated the Iberian Peninsula during the middle ages.

El Greco Museum: The museum opened in 1911 and is located in the Jewish Quarter of Toledo. It consists of two buildings, a 16th-century house with a courtyard and an early 20th century building forming the museum, as well as a garden. The famous painting The Burial of the Count of Orgaz will be seen at the nearby church of St. Tomé.

Later in the afternoon we will return to Madrid, where you will go to dinner on your own and have free time to enjoy this famous city at night.

December 12th: Day 6: Madrid - Cordoba - Seville

After enjoying a buffet breakfast at the hotel with an early checkout, you will board your motor coach for your transfer to Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha train station. There you will take the high speed AVE train to Córdoba.

Córdoba is best known as a home to one of Andalucía’s three great monuments: the Mezquita (the other two being Seville's Alcázar and Granada’s Alhambra). The Mezquita is actually a mosque with a cathedral inside, a unique architectural combination that embodies the region's rich cultural and religious history. Córdoba was a great cultural, political, financial and literary center, with the largest library in the world during its hugely prosperous and successful Moorish Caliphate era (766-1031).

Upon arrival in Córdoba, a wonderful guided tour waits for you, including a visit to the Jewish quarter and Mosque/Cathedral. This neighborhood is full of evocative places steeped in history. We will walk past whitewashed facades and down narrow, winding streets to places like Plaza Tiberíades and its monument to philosopher Maimónides (a renowned Jewish thinker, physician, translator and theologian from Córdoba).

The Mosque-Cathedral is the star attraction in the second part of our route. Its unique blend of religious expression through breathtaking Muslim and Christian architecture will serve to emphasize that the two religions have more in common than some may think. This veritable artistic jewel is a faithful reflection of Córdoba’s history and leads us to a clearer understanding of Spain’s past and present.

Other highlights of Córdoba will include the Flower Street . . . a narrow street in the old Moorish section of the city with blue flowerpots reminiscent of the blue walls of Chefchouen, Morocco. The labyrinthine streets were built as a strategic defense mechanism and as a way to keep residents cooler.

From there we continue the tour to visit the Gate of the Bridge and the Roman Bridge. Later we will  move on to the famous Gallery of the Inquisition. This private collection gallery exposes a large sample of torture tools used by both religious and civil courts from the 13th to the 19th century. Many of the trials, interrogations and punishments during that period were conducted for alleged religious infringements by newly converted Christians in Spain and by heretics in the rest of Europe. The exhibit’s mission is to raise awareness about the systematic repression that was inflicted on thousands of people at the time.

After lunch in a nearby restaurant, we will continue our adventure by bus to Seville. 

Dinner and the evening will be on your own.

Hotel Alfonso XIII

December 13th: Day 7: Seville

After buffet breakfast, we will explore the city of Seville, starting with a visit to the Giralda Tower, the bell tower of Seville Cathedral. We will also visit the Royal Alcazár, the royal palace in Seville originally developed by Moorish rulers and renowned as one of the most beautiful buildings in Spain.  A visit to the Jewish quarter will allow you to follow the footprints of this community. Later the tour will take us to the spectacular Plaza de España, Door of Jerez, María Luisa Park, Gold Tower, and Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.

At the Royal Alcázar, you will admire architectural gems that once graced the eyes of Al-Andalus’s Moorish rulers, government officials, court servants and the royal guard. This marvelous palace is one of the most outstanding examples of Mudéjar architecture on the Iberian Peninsula, a place where you can experience magnificent art and beautiful gardens with all your senses. Highlights include the sound of the fountains to the fragrance of flowers, to the intricate Mudéjar plaster work and beams in the Patio del León.

Lunch will follow and you will enjoy a free afternoon to keep exploring Seville.

The evening activities will include a nice dinner followed by an authentic flamenco show.

December 14th: Day 8: Seville - Granada - Seville

After buffet breakfast, you will meet your tour guide for our departure to Granada.

Tour of Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens. The name Alhambra comes from an Arabic root which means "red or crimson castle". Perhaps this is due to the hue of the towers and walls that surround the entire hill of La Sabica—which by starlight is silver but by sunlight is transformed into gold. Constructed on a plateau that overlooks the city of Granada, the palace was built chiefly between 1238 and 1358 in the reign of Ibn al-Ahmar.

After lunch, the tour continues into the charming Moorish quarter, the Albaicín, and down to Carrera del Darro. One of the most scenic walks in Granada, it includes a promenade along the Darro river with two brick and stone bridges (Cabrera and Espinosa) leading to the neighborhood of the Churra. Then we continue our tour through the historic center to see the Cathedral of Granada, featuring Flemish artwork and prized Renaissance and Gothic architecture, and the Capilla Real, the city's famous Royal Chapel. Walking around the mausoleum of the tranquil chapel we will discover the tombs of Catholic monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand. A visit to the ancient Moorish market Alcaicería will allow you to stroll along the souvenir stall where you can admire a variety of Arabic craftwork. Examples include fajalauza (traditional painted ceramics), taracea (wooden inlay, in items such as desks, chessboards, or trinket boxes), and typical Granada farolas (stained-glass lamps). A modern take on these lamps can been seen throughout the city center where white versions are used as streetlights or decorative purposes in teterías (tea rooms), shops, and bars. Visits to the Madraza Palace and the Royal Chancery will also be included.

Finally, we will also see the Gran Vía as a model for the modernist changes in urban layout that occurred during the 19th century.

We will then drive back to Seville for dinner and the evening on your own.


December 15th: Day 9: Seville - Train to Barcelona

After breakfast at the hotel and hotel checkout, you will board a bus for the transfer to Seville’s Santa Justa station to reach Barcelona by high speed train (5 and ½ hours). Lunch will be available for purchase on the train.

After our train ride through the Spanish countryside, we will arrive at our hotel around 2:30 p.m. where you will have some time to yourself.

Shortly after 4 p.m. in the afternoon, we will embark on a city tour of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. A cosmopolitan Mediterranean city, Barcelona features Roman structures, medieval quarters and beautiful examples of 20th century avant-garde and Modernist architecture. As you will see, it is no surprise that impressive edifices by the Catalan architects Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Doménech i Montaner (among others) were named by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. Barcelona’s long history, economic dynamism, and active promotion of innovative artistic trends have all combined to make the city one of the most vibrant cultural centers in Europe.

Stops on the tour will include Las Ramblas, Gothic Quarter and Cathedral, Diagonal Avenue and Catalonia Square.

Dinner and overnight stay in Barcelona will follow.

NH Collection Barcelona Constanza

December 16th: Day 10: Barcelona

After breakfast, we embark on a tour of Barcelona’s history during the Spanish Civil War. We will learn about the episodes that inspired George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia; revolutionary politics and anarchism; the role of women, art and the war; the International Brigades; the influence of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin on the Spanish war; Spaniards in the Holocaust; and other factors that served to make the bloody conflict a tragic prelude to the Second World War.

Lunch at our restaurant will be followed by free time for you to take a break or short siesta.

In the afternoon, you will enjoy an eye-boggling guided tour of La Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), the famous neo-Gothic cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí whose construction began in 1882. The various architectural elements are imbued with diverse hierarchically organized Christian symbolism that lends special significance to each of its 18 towers. In the middle is the tower dedicated to Jesus Christ and around it are four towers representing the Gospels. Final completion of the incredible bascillica is anticipated in 2016, the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s passing.

Following the thought-provoking tour, we will return to the hotel where you can relax before you proceed to find a pleasant place for dinner on your own. Barcelona has some amazing night life of which you may want to avail yourself before the overnight stay in the hotel.

December 17th: Day 11: Barcelona

After breakfast, proceed to meet your guide for a city tour of Montjuic Hill, Port of Barcelona, Barceloneta Beach, Parc Güell, Antoni Gaudí’s La Pedrera and Casa Batlló.

After lunch at the restaurant, you will enjoy a guided tour of the Picasso Museum. See the world’s most important collection of works from Pablo Picasso’s youth and formative years, showcasing the evolution of his style from the more classical towards his invention of Cubism.

In the evening you can enjoy a delicious tapas tour and try a variety of the traditional small plates that accompany evening drinks in Spain.

December 18th: Day 12: Barcelona

After breakfast, transfer from the hotel to take a train from Plaza de España to Monistrol de Montserrat where we will board the famous rack railway for the 1,804 foot climb to the beautiful monastery.

Upon arrival, we will tour the Montserrat Museum, Cathedral and Monastery. This famous pilgrimage spot is home to the 12th century wooden statue of La Moreneta (The Black Virgin), Catalonia's patron saint. Besides its religious and cultural importance, the mountain also boasts unbeatable views from its peaks. For those interested, funiculars cars provide a lift to lookout points where much of Catalonia and some the Pyrenees can be seen on a clear day.

You will have time for lunch on your own at the monastery restaurant and a bit more exploring before we return to Barcelona via the rack railway and a local train.

You will have some free time before our farewell dinner. The evening will be on your own.

December 19th: Day 13: Depart Barcelona for Chicago

Early check-out from the hotel will be provided for the group along with a box breakfast before we depart to the airport for your 8:40  a.m. flight.



A letter from faculty facilitator, Rosa Tapia

Bienvenidos a España.

Welcome to my home country. I would like to invite you to join our Lawrence University/Björklunden Seminar in Spain, a land with a fascinating history, rich culture, beautiful landscapes, and a unique character as a crossroads between Europe, the Americas and Africa. We will get to know some of the most important cities and regions in Spain during a 13-day tour on December 7-19, 2017. Steven Landfried (LU ’66) will also be a facilitator for this trip. Steve will lend his expertise as a photographer, educator, conservationist and seasoned traveler to help you make the most of the tour.

Like many Americans, you may be familiar with some aspects of the history, culture and traditions of my homeland. Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra, Ernest Hemingway’s novels inspired in Spain, the musical and film Man of La Mancha—based on Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and the Oscar-winning films of contemporary maestro Pedro Almódovar are instances of how Spain has charmed the imaginations of many generations of Americans to this day.

Spain is located on the beautiful Iberian Peninsula in southern Europe and it boasts an amazing variety of landscapes, from the majestic Pyrenees mountains near Barcelona to the beautiful vegas and olive groves of the Guadalquivir Valley in the south, as well as some of the best beaches in Europe. Spain is a modern and dynamic country with a friendly, industrious and culture-loving people. Traces of Spain’s millenary cultures include famed prehistoric art, remains of ancient Phoenician and Greek settlements, impressive Roman architecture, stunning medieval fortresses and cathedrals, breathtaking Moorish palaces and mosques, magnificent Renaissance and Baroque edifices, elegant Neoclassical museums containing some of the best art in the world, and layer upon layer of cultural treasures from the ensuing periods to the present day.

The country has a riveting and complex history that encompasses high points of social harmony—Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully in cities like Toledo, Córdoba and Seville during the middle ages—and times when the Spanish crown and the Catholic Church became synonymous with territorial expansion and religious persecution. The 20th century witnessed one of the most recent instances of tension between “las dos Españas,” the two Spains. A brief period of modernization and democratization in the early 1930’s was truncated by a violent civil war and the prolonged fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Echoes of the war and Franco’s regime still reverberate in today’s political discourse, collective memory and cultural production, even four decades after a peaceful democratic transition. You will learn  a great deal about these interesting historical episodes and their present significance during special tours in Madrid and Barcelona. You will also hear about recent political developments and social debates in a country that has struggled and worked hard to recover from the devastating financial crisis in 2008. You will be able to compare the American and Spanish political systems and chat about how their respective societies are dealing with new political forces and global events.

Our trip will start in Chicago, from where we will fly to Madrid, Spain’s capital. We will spend two full days in Madrid exploring its wonderful sites—including the famous Prado museum, learning about the city’s past and present, eating delicious Spanish food, and enjoying this exciting and lively European capital. On days four and five we will take day excursions to the three most famous and beautiful cities in central Castile: Ávila, Segovia and Toledo. Be prepared to be transported to ancient and feudal times during our visit of Segovia’s Roman aqueduct and medieval castle, Ávila’s imposing city walls, Toledo’s cathedral and fortress, and many other enchanting sites that witnessed crucial historical episodes during the middle ages. During these visits we will continue to enjoy wonderful art and tasty local food.

On day six we will embark on a magical journey to the southern region of Andalucía, stopping in Córdoba to admire its unique Mosque-Cathedral, Jewish quarter and other sites before arriving in Seville for the night. Seville will continue to dazzle your senses by taking you back to the splendor of Moorish times, as you stroll through breathtakingly beautiful palaces and gardens. A scrumptious Andalusian dinner will be accompanied by live flamenco music and dance. From Seville we will take a day trip to another jewel of the Spanish south, Granada, the last stronghold of Muslim Al-Andalus before falling in 1492 to the Catholic monarchs, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, whose remains rest in a chapel adjacent to the city’s cathedral. Granada’s Alhambra castle-palace and Generalife gardens are the glorious finale in our circuit of Spanish Moorish architecture. They are also the starting place for a romantic tour of several other captivating locations in Granada before we return to Seville for the night.

On day 9 we will take the high speed train to the fascinating city of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. There you will feel as if you had traveled to a different country, since the region has its own language, traditions and foods, as well as a rich history and cultural heritage that many Catalonians consider a reason to seek political and territorial independence from Spain. You will go on a delicious tapas tour and, if you wish, enjoy the night life like a true Barcelonan. Visits to Antoni Gaudí’s Temple of the Holy Family, Parc Güell and other neo Gothic gems of this architectural genius will be accompanied by tours of many other attractive sites, including an excursion to the Monastery of Montserrat in the nearby mountains.

Before we go, we will send you additional information about the sites, tours and other activities we will do, as well as interesting facts about Spain’s history, cultures and languages. I will also send you a list of recommended readings and films, in case you want to know more about Spanish culture before the trip. The tour will not require any special outdoor equipment, but you should plan on bringing comfortable shoes for walking on cobblestone streets, old stairs and some rustic paths. The weather should be cool in December and temperatures will vary from region to region, so I recommend bringing layers and a light coat for the evenings, particularly in Madrid.

I cannot wait to take you on this wonderful adventure in my home country. Steve and I hope you can join us.

Bienvenidos a España, mi casa.
Rosa Tapia

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