Day 1 :
Departure from North America
- Flight to Barcelona:
Enjoy full meal service on your scheduled wide-bodied flight to Barcelona.
Day 2 :
- Meet Your Tour Director:
We will be met at the airport by our WorldStrides tour director, board our own private coach, and transfer to our hotel in Barcelona. This fascinating city is second only to Madrid in size and importance.
- Placa de Catalunya:
Our guide will be pleased to take us on some introductory sightseeing, and there is no better way to explore Barcelona than by strolling along Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most colorful street.We begin at the Placa de Catalunya, a large square filled with fountains and flowers, and continue past markets, shops, and cafes until we reach the harbor and the Mirádor de Cólon, a statue of Christopher Columbus stands, gazing out over the Mediterranean.
Day 3 :
Barcelona (Barrio Gotico and Gaudí)
- Gothic Quarter:
Barcelona is an intriguing mixture of the old and the new and today we will explore both of these facets of the city. The center of medieval Barcelona is the Gothic Quarter where we will view the splendid facades of the City Hall, the Episcopal Palace, and the Palau de la Generalitat. We will also visit the massive Gothic Cathedral.
We will visit the Crypt that houses the relics of the city’s patron saint, St. Eulalia, a young girl who was martyred by the Romans in the 4th century.
- La Sagrada Familia:
In the afternoon, we will visit the Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, a testament to its architect Antoni Gaudí’s unique imagination and intense personal faith. He devoted nearly forty years of his life to building the Cathedral. He was so consumed by the project that he refused other commissions and took up residence at the building site. Despite all his efforts, Gaudí died tragically before the completion of the Cathedral, where construction continues today. Gaudí was a remarkable man, not only for his architectural innovation, but his deep piety. He is currently being considered for canonization and is the first architect to ever be honored in such a way.
Day 4 :
Day Trip to Montserrat
Our early morning takes us inland to the famous mountain of Montserrat.
- Monastery and Shrine:
We will visit the Romanesque Monastery and Shrine of the Virgin of Montserrat, which is one of the most popular Marian shrines in Spain. Many pilgrims have made their way to this beloved sanctuary of Our Lady, including St. Ignatius of Loyola, who knelt before the miraculous image and pledged his life to God. Ample time will be provided for private prayer and meditation and a chance to explore the many paths along the mountainside. We return to Barcelona for some free time this evening.
Day 5 :
Barcelona – Internal Flight or AVE Train to Madrid
- Monasterio de la Encarnacion:
Our day begins with our internal flight (or high speed AVE Train) from Barcelona to Madrid, where we will board a new bus. Our tour continues with a visit to the Monasterio de la Encarnacion. Founded in 1616, the Encarnacion is still a functioning convent. The convent museum boasts an impressive collection of superb 17th century religious art. However, the convent is best known for its reliquiario (relics room). This room contains around 1,500 relics (mostly bone fragments or possessions of saints and martyrs) displayed in incredibly ornate reliquaries. One of the fascinating items on display here is a phial containing the dried blood of St. Pantaleon. According to the sisters, the blood is said to liquefy every year on 27 July, the anniversary of the saint’s death. If there is time after lunch, we will visit the Monesterio Corpus Christi on Calle del Codo, where the nuns sell traditional Spanish “dulces,” as they have for centuries.
Then we will make our way to The Prado, one of the world's great museums with a fine collection of Spanish, Italian, and Flemish paintings including works by Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, Raphael, Titian, and Bosch.
Day 6 :
El Escorial an– Segovia
- El Escorial:
Our day will begin with a tour of El Escorial, the massive monastery–palace commissioned by Philip II, and an impressive monument to 16th century Spain.
- Royal Apartments:
We will visit the Royal Apartments, many decorated with fine tapestries, and the austere rooms that once belonged to Philip II. The king, a devout Catholic, had his quarters designed so that he could see the high altar from his bed.
In the Basilica, we will view the spectacular altar that inspired Philip. We will see the Pantheon of the Kings, which contains the mortal remains of all the Spanish monarchs from the time of the emperor Charles V, and the Pantheon of the Infants, where royal children were buried. We continue with a journey to Segovia, a city of delicate spires and graceful towers.
- Walking Tour:
Our walking tour will take us through Spanish history as we view the 2,000-year-old Roman Aqueduct, made with no mortar and still functioning today, and then continue through the winding streets of medieval Segovia to view the Cathedral, the last Gothic building constructed in Spain, resplendent with pinnacles and flying buttresses.
- Convento de Carmalitas Descalzes:
We will then visit the Convento de Carmelitas Descalzes to see the tomb of St. John of the Cross. This remarkable Carmelite reformer and doctor of the Church is perhaps best known for his masterpiece, “The Dark Night of the Soul”.
Day 7 :
Day Trip to Avila
- Convento de Santa Teresa:
Today we follow in the footsteps of Spain’s most influential saint, St. Teresa of Avila. This extraordinary reformer of the Carmelite order is one of only three female doctors of the Church. We will begin with a visit to the convent that is built on the site of St. Teresa’s childhood home, Convento de Santa Teresa.
- Monasterio de la Encarnation:
We will then visit the Monasterio de la Encarnation, where St. Teresa began her life as a religious. There we will see the original grill through which St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross would often converse. We will view the staircase on which St. Teresa had her famous vision of the Christ child. In the convent museum, we will see many precious items that Teresa used in her lifetime, including the famous drawing of Crucifixion given to her by St. John of the Cross as a gift.
- Monasterio de San Jose:
We will then continue on to the first house founded by St. Teresa, the Monasterio de San Jose. There will be ample time through out the day for personal prayer and meditation.
Day 8 :
Day Trip to Toledo
- Walking Tour of Central Toledo:
This morning we travel to historic Toledo, picturesquely situated on a hill above the River Tagus. Our day commences with a walking tour to explore central Toledo, with streets barely wide enough for a man and his donkey. During our walk, we will have the opportunity to visit spectacular shops that produce and sell Damascene gold jewelry, as well as medieval swords.
- Iglesia de Santo Tome:
Our day continues with a brief visit to the Iglesia de Santo Tome, where we will view El Greco’s masterpiece, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.
- Toledo Cathedral:
We conclude our afternoon with a visit to the Toledo Cathedral, the spiritual heart of the Spanish church, and the seat of the Primate of all Spain. We return to Madrid for the evening.
Day 9 :
Departure from Madrid
- Return Flight Home:
Our enjoyable and rewarding tour will come to an end as our WorldStrides tour director accompanies us to the airport for the return flight home.