Arriving late afternoon we’ll still have time to visit much of Seville before dinner. We’ll start with a panoramic overview, and then walk through the historical, including Jewish part, of the city.
The imposing Cathedral is one of the largest in the world and the resting place of Spanish Kings and Queens, as well as that of Christopher Columbus, although no one knows if his remains are really there.
Then there is the Alcazar Palace, still used as a residence for the Spanish Royal Family and the grand Plaza Espana, site of the pavilion of the great 1929 exhibition.
Last but not least, we'll visit the Barrio de Santa Cruz - the former Jewish Quarter. Today, it is one of Seville's most charming areas. What we don’t manage today, we’ll complete tomorrow morning!!
o/n Seville (Alfonso XIII) www.hotel-alfonsoxiii-sevilla.com/ 1 night – the gorgeous hotel whose style influences will be obvious after a week in Morocco!!!!
Once the biggest city in all of Europe, Cordoba thrived and expanded with its unique blend of cultures. These are beautifully expressed in the 8th C Mesquita, the most significant Muslim architectural achievement in the Western world. This 8th century structure was a church, then a mosque, and today has a cathedral oddly placed in its center.
We’ll walk up to the Juderia, with its white-washed houses and colorful courtyards. Though not Jewish in its current expression, a few signs hint of the Golden Age of Jewish life. We’ll visit the tiny, gem-like Synagogue, as well as the statue of the RaMBaM, Maimonides, born in the city.
o/n Loja (La Bobadilla) www.barcelo.com/es/hoteles/espana/andalucia/loja-granada/la-bobadilla-a-royal-hideaway-hotel/ 2 nights
Once known as Granada of the Jews, the site of Shmuel HaNagid's Yeshiva is now famous for the incomparably beautiful Moorish Palace of Alhambra, one of the Wonders of the World. In 1492, the decree of expulsion was signed here by Ferdinand and Isabella, ending a Jewish presence of over 1000 years….
o/n Loja (La Bobadilla)
It’s Friday so we’ll make an early departure to Ronda – built atop the famous gorge with the river below. Ronda is famed for its beauty, its stunning position and for its bullfighting ring, said to be the oldest in Spain.
Less well-known is the Jewish history about which we’ll hear from Pepe, Ronda’s #1 legendary guide. After lunch we’ll continue towards Gibraltar and visit the famous Rock before Shabbat. The apes are always an attraction but there’s much more than apes on the Rock of Gibraltar.
o/n Sunborn Gibraltar http://www.sunborngibraltar.com/
Really unique, we’ll spend Shabbat with the Jews of the Rock and be in awe of their strictly observant community and vibrant communal life. Shul? You can choose between 4!!!!
Fly Malaga - Porto - tour Porto (TAP via Lisbon)
A late morning flight means we have to leave early to cross into Spain and drive to Malaga Airport but at least we’ll gain the whole afternoon for a tour of Porto and hear the tragic story of its community in the middle of the last century.
Coimbra - Towards evening we’ll reach our hotel in Coimbra, for our welcome dinner.
Hotel Quinta das Lagrimas
This Relais & Chateaux DLX 4 star hotel is one of Portugal’s finest and is our home for three nights while we visit the region. The hotel has a huge outdoor pool and a spa with indoor pool. You can choose traditional or modern rooms in its two wings!!
Coimbra - Coimbra is one of the most ancient university cities in Europe with a richly decorated baroque library that people travel from far and wide to see.
The walls are covered by two storied shelves, in gilded or painted exotic woods; the painted ceilings blend harmoniously with the rest of the decoration. The library contains about 250,000 volumes: works of medicine, geography, history, humanistic studies, science, civil and canonical law, philosophy and theology.
We’ll visit the Judaria, the ancient Jewish quarter and see the recently discovered mikveh!!
After lunch back at the hotel, you’ll be able to choose whether to visit Conimbriga, just 10 miles away. This was an important Roman city that still preserves many not-to-be-missed mosaics. These valuable treasures are displayed in the museum next to the ruins. Alternatively you may choose to enjoy the hotel’s facilities or to go back to see some more of Coimbra. If you want a massage … so don’t forget to book it before you go out in the morning!!
Following a delicious dinner, prepared by the talented chefs of the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, we will take in an evening of “fado”, a traditional musical genre of voice accompanied by guitar.
Trancoso & Belmonte - Climbing up from Coimbra we reach the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, in many of whose villages Jews were settled. After visiting and being surprised in Trancoso, we will reach the centre of the “lost tribe” of Belmonte.
The history of this community which survived the inquisition and remained in hiding until discovered in the 1920’s is incredible. For only the past 20 years or so, the Jews of Belmonte have been exposed to Judaism as we live it throughout the world and the community in Belmonte, under Rabbinic guidance through Shavei Yisrael, has become the most active community in Portugal.
Tomar is home to Portugal’s oldest synagogue and the Abraham Zacuto Museum, a national monument. The Sinagoga de Tomar was built in the mid-15th century. Its short history as a Jewish place of worship came to an end in 1496, when the community was expelled by the Catholic authorities in 1496.
Here began the story of the rediscovery of the Jews of Portugal.
Samuel Schwartz, a Jewish mining engineer from Poland, having discovered the presence of Jewish life in Portugal, bought the building in 1923. After lovingly restoring it, he donated it to the Portuguese state in 1939. In return, he and his wife received Portuguese citizenship and protection during WW2.
Driving south towards Lisbon we’ll make a couple of stops and reach Lisbon in time for dinner to be followed by an evening tour with our specialist guide – one of the highlights of our entire trip. The history of the Jews in Portugal is less known than that of Spain but no less fascinating.
o/n LISBON Dom Pedro
There will be time for independent exploration of the city, recently voted one of the hot-spots in Europe, for anyone leaving later in the day – so try to book your flights for the afternoon!! The direct flight leaves Lisbon at 5pm and arrives JFK at 8pm!!!
To TLV there are many evening departures …albeit with arrival times at unearthly hours Friday morning….