Did you know Portugal accounts for approximately half of cork produced annually worldwide, and that it takes 9 years for the bark on the oak tree to grow before it can be harvested? I bought a cork purse while visiting Lisbon just to show friends and family one of many items that can be created with this material. Also, there is a bridge in Lisbon that looks identical to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. Come to find out, the same architects that built the Golden Gate bridge also designed and built this bridge in Lisbon. These unique facts, in addition to the culture, cuisine, art, and architecture, were shared with our Friends Club group this April as we traced history throughout Portugal and Spain. We danced, ate, learned, and lived!
Lisbon surprised us all, as I think our highlights were aimed more toward Spain. Our 4-Star hotel was in the heart of this magnificent city that straddles seven hills. We took a tram, which was a main mode of transportation, for a panoramic view of one of the oldest cities in the world and to take in the variety of heritages and styles.
To name a few, we visited the Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery, the city’s most prominent monument and reminder of Portugal’s wealth and power during the Age of Discovery. Next, we took photos of the dramatic Monument of Discoveries, built in honor of Henry the Navigator.
We completed our Portugal journey by visiting a magical villa in Sintra with extravagant landscape gardens, meant as a summer retreat for Portugal monarchs. Before departing for Spain, we spent some time in the village of Fatima, witnessing the importance of Basilica of Our Lady and Chapel of Apparitions to the Catholic world. The detail and beauty that was before us was indescribable. You must see it for yourself.
Small whitewashed villages and a region of olive and cork trees completed our backdrop as we traveled to Seville, Spain, my favorite! An evening cruise on the Guadalquivir River, complete with a Paella cooking demonstration, gave us a touch of Seville’s laidback and pleasurable vibe. Our time here included the Giralda Bell Tower and the Gothic cathedral that took more than a century to complete! We viewed the tomb of Christopher Columbus inside the cathedral and learned his remains were once in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and now here.
After a tour of the Palace of Alcazar, we were surprised with a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city, admiring the Maria Luisa Park and the many beautiful plazas and fountains throughout Seville. Of course our trip wouldn’t be complete without a wine tour, Flamenco lessons, and a visit to one of the oldest bullrings, Plaza de Toros, which is located in Ronda. Another favorite moment for the group was our short time in Granada, where we experienced a 2.5 hour tour of the Alhambra and spectacular lanes of the serene Generalife Gardens. Our 12-day journey ended in Madrid, where we learned about and experienced tapas, went on a sightseeing tour, and visited the world-renowned Prado Museum and magnificent Royal Palace. At one point you can’t help but ask yourself, how did all of these stunning and immensely detailed creations get completed?
The history and beauty we witnessed within these two worlds, Portugal and Spain, was exceptional. I also witnessed a group of Friends Club members connect, enjoy each other’s company, and become inspired, as most of us traveled together for the first time. Explore life to its fullest, as we take care of the details, by joining us on one of our Friends Club trips! Our trips are very inclusive with no hidden fees or hassles. View upcoming trips and detailed brochures at HillsBank.com/FriendsClub. Olé!