Spain – An Overview

Spain was finally conquered  by Emperor Augustus in 19 BCE, 200 years after the Romans first arrived on the Iberian Peninsula. The rhythm of life, where meals are eaten at hours that reflect an ability to enjoy days and nights to the fullest, still includes the daily siesta as a necessity for many. Its people are welcoming and inclusive. Barcelona, known as the country’s “avant garde capital” includes a beach-front, Gaudi’s architecture, Las Ramblas boulevard, the hill top fortress of Montjuic, previously the Jewish quarter, and has a cosmopolitan feel. Close to Barcelona is Figueras, where Salvador Dali was born.

Its Dali Museum hints at the craziness of his genius. Madrid, the nation’s capital, is home to the Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Von Thyssen museums. Bullfighting is still practices in Madrid and in the South. In Andalusia, renowned for its olive groves, laid back style, and “white villages”. Visits to Granada, Sevilla and Cordoba are not complete without a flamenco experience, including dance, song and Spanish guitar.

The tiny city of Jerez produces marvellous sherry and houses the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. Marbella is the capital of the Golden Mile, home to the rich and famous. Ronda is renowned for its dramatic views of the Serrania de Ronda mountains, and its Puente Nuevo bridge which overlooks the 100-metre chasm of El Tajo Gorge.

Spain – From A Jewish Perspective

It is said that the first Jews arrived in Seville in the sixth century BC, and were from David’s family. They spoke Ladino, a Judeo form of Spanish.

The Sephardic Jews suffered persecution from the Visigoths during the sixth century AD, followed by a period of harmony under Moorish rule, In the 13th century they fled the fundamentalist Almohads to the Christian north of Spain, returning after the Reconquest. Sephardim prospered in banking, medicine, law and commerce, with a far higher literacy rate than other Spanish communities. Valued for their commercial expertise, the Jews in Spain worked as tax collectors, which led to popular resentment and hatred. The Jewish quarter in Seville was burned, popular animosity whipped up by fierce anti-Jewish rhetoric from a Catholic cleric; its inhabitants sought shelter with Moors in Granada, or were baptised and forced to convert to Christianity.

In 1481 the Spanish Inquisition started, with its headquarters at the Castillo San Jorge in Seville, targeting Jews among other groups; in 1483 all Jews were expelled from the city; and in 1492 all of Spain was to be free from those of the Jewish faith who had not converted. Half of the country’s 300,000 Jews left, many for Portugal; some stayed in hiding.

Those who stayed behind eventually became integrated into the Christian population; many Spanish surnames ending in -ez, adopted when they converted, indicate Jewish ancestry.

Most tours are bespoke, suiting your taste and budget. Browse example itineraries, and our planned tours for 2016.

Northern Spain & Portugal Tour
The Basque Country Tour
South Spain, Portugal & Morocco

Spanish Cuisine

Andalusia is all about simple pleasures, a glass of wine from Jerez, homemade goat cheese with good pelayo bread with olive oil from the Cordoba region.

It’s all about the freshness the quality and the diversity of the produce. Many of the dishes go back to Moorish times or earlier so many cultures settled in Andalusia, Jews, Romans, Phoenicians, creating an incredible rich gastronomic heritage.

Tapas originated from Andalusia and they remain one of the regions’ most popular foods, you just can’t visit without experiencing these famous mini dishes. Another famous export of Spain is olive oil, in fact it produces more than any other country, much of it high quality.

The Cantabrian sea along with the mountains and valleys of the inland area are the natural larder of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque country, the four regions that make up what is known as green Spain. Its stoves produce delicious dishes based on traditional recipes but also novel, imaginative, avant- garde culinarycreations.

When we speak about the cuisine of the north of Spain we must talk about San Sebastian whic attracts travellers from far and wide. With 15 Michelin stars San Sebastian’s gastronomy sparkles as brightly as the turquoise sea that lies beside it.
Top quality produce from land and sea are the common denominator in a cuisine whose characteristics vary from area to area influenced by it’s history and culture. Come and savour it for yourself!