Wanderlust Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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Just who is Amazing Journeys?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

-by Erin

What is it that makes Amazing Journeys truly amazing?

If you’ve traveled with us before, you already know the answer to this question. But if you’ve never been on a vacation with us, you might just be wondering what is it that makes Amazing Journeys so amazing?

At Amazing Journeys, we believe that traveling is about more than escaping your daily cares – it’s about enhancing your life by viewing it through an always-fresh, often-exotic new lens. Every year is different; each trip is unique. What remains consistent is our unfailing commitment to quality, our unparalleled expertise with the Jewish group travel experience and our genuine passion for discovering new destinations. With over 75 years of combined travel experience, we take the guesswork out of vacation planning, so that all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Click here for introductions to the Amazing Journeys team.

New to AJ and want more information? Click here so we can answer some of your most commonly asked questions.

Throughout the years, we have sent over 10,000 passengers on their dream vacations! These trips have been incredible – but don’t just take our word for it – click here to see what some of our passengers have had to say.

We are always adding new trips to our upcoming line-up so check back to our trips page often so you don’t miss the opportunity to cross another location off your bucket list. We will be posting new trips soon including a cruise to Spain, Italy and France, a National Parks Adventure in the States, a land tour in Ireland, exploring Morocco and a long weekend getaway to Hawaii. Also on the horizon, a brand new division with trips exclusively for those in their 20s and 30s including adventure travel! Tell your friends, your family members and your co-workers that we may just have the perfect trip for them in 2014.

Join in on the fun and get to know our friends on Facebook. We always have something fun to share! Hope to travel with you soon!

Feria

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

In the spring in the city of Seville in southern Spain, a week-long celebration takes place that draws over one million people a year – the event is called “La Feria de Sevilla”. Over the years, Feria has become an internationally known celebration of flamenco, bullfighting and fun. Flamenco is an integral part of the tradition because Seville is considered to be the cultural epicenter of flamenco culture and music. 

During Feria, a temporary “tent city” is born and the make-shift “tents” (or as they are known in Spanish, “casetas”) divide the land into different dance halls and private areas that are filled each evening with dancing and life lasting from 9 in the evening until 6 or 7 in the morning.  Every tent is set up differently with a unique atmosphere and different customs. Visitors roam around the fairgrounds until they find an open tent with a good vibe to have a drink, watch performances and experience the atmosphere.

The women are known to dress in their most spectacular gowns, usually brightly colored flamenco dresses inspired by Gypsy fashion. The most common beverage drunk in during the Seville Fair is Spanish sherry wine, very famous in southern Spain. Often, to battle the heat of April in Seville, the sherry wine is mixed with 7-up or sprite to produce a drink known as “rebujito”.

In addition the the long nights of stomping, clapping and celebrating in the casetas, Feria also offers a wide range of other events during the day. Andalusian horse parades with decorated carriages are daily processions as they make their way through the city and fairground.  The equestrian events are usually accompanied by singing groups who serenade crowds with traditional Sevillian ballads and guitar music. Many of the parade participants are members of Seville’s upper class aristocracy and normally dawn exquisite traditional Andalusian outfits with wide-brimmed “bolero” hats and short-cropped jackets. Of course, not to be missed during Feria are the afternoon bullfights. The bullring in Seville is known as one of the most beautiful in Spain and is commonly known by the locals as “the cathedral”.

Our Amazing Journeys travelers had the opportunity to experience the thrill of Feria. They sipped on sherry, explored the casetas and danced until the wee hours of the morning soaking in every bit of the tradition as possible!

Hola España!

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Memories in motion: Amazing Spain is well underway–from churos con chocolate to Flamenco dancing on the streets, to the festival of Feria and the pagentry of  a bullfight, check out this montage of amazing fun from our group:

Savoring the Charms of Barcelona

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

If you’re in the mood to surrender to a city’s charms, let it be in Barcelona. Life bubbles in its narrow old town alleys, grand boulevards and elegant modern district in Spain’s most vibrant and famous city. While Barcelona has an illustrious past — from Roman colony to 14th-century maritime power — it’s enjoyable to throw out the history books and just drift through the city.

We are in the throes of promoting our Amazing Journey to Spain and while the charm is fresh on our plate, please enjoy these tantalizing top treats of Barcelona:

  • Las Ramblas –  A stroll down Barcelona’s main pedestrian drag is a freefall into sensory overload. This grand boulevard takes you through an endless current of people and action.  As you navigate this one-mile strip, you’ll meander past a grand opera house, elegant cafes, outdoor artists, street mimes, and even a bird market.  Be mindful of pickpockets (wear a money belt).
  • Gothic Quarter – East of Las Ramblas is  the Barri Gotic, which centers around the colossal cathedral. The narrow streets that surround the cathedral are a tangled but inviting grab bag of undiscovered Art Nouveau storefronts, neighborhood flea markets, classy antique shops and musicians strumming the folk songs of Catalunya (the independent-minded region of northeast Spain).
  • Joan Miro – Modern artist Joan Miro lived in the Barri Gotic. His designs are found all over the city, from murals to mobiles to the La Caixa bank logo. If you enjoy his child-like style, ride the funicular up to Parc de Montjuic, and peek into the Fundacio Joan Miro, a showcase for his art.
  • Pablo Picasso – The Barri Gotic was also home to a teenage Pablo Picasso. It was in Barcelona, in the 1890s, that Picasso grabbed hold of the artistic vision that rocketed him to Paris and fame. The Picasso Museum, in the La Ribera district, is far and away the best collection of the artist’s work in Spain. Seeing Picasso’s youthful, realistic art, you can better appreciate the genius of his later, more abstract art.
  • Eixample – For a refreshing break from the dense old city, head north to the modern Eixample neighborhood, with its wide sidewalks, graceful shade trees, chic shops and Art Nouveau frills. Barcelona was busting out of its medieval walls by the 1850s, and so a new town — called the Eixample, or Expansion — was laid out in a grid pattern.

    Over time the Eixample became a showcase for wealthy residents and their Catalan architects, who turned the flourishing Art Nouveau style into Modernisme, their own brand of decorative design. Buildings bloom with characteristic colorful, leafy, and flowing shapes in doorways, entrances, facades and ceilings.

  •  Antoni Gaudi – Barcelona’s most famous Modernista artist, Antoni Gaudi created architectural fantasies that are  quirky, curvey and crazy. His works of art are smattered here, there and everywhere around the city, but just like his work, you never know what or where you will see it.  Gaudi fans also enjoy the artist’s magic in the colorful, freewheeling Parc Guell, a 30-acre hilltop garden once intended to be a 60-residence housing project, a kind of gated community.

  • Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s best known and most persistent work is the eternally unfinished Sagrada Familia, with its melting ice cream cone spires and towers. The Nativity Facade, the only part of the church essentially completed in Gaudi’s lifetime, shows the architect’s original vision. Mixing Christian symbolism, images from nature, and the organic flair of Modernisme, it’s an impressive example of his unmistakable style. The church is supposed to be completed in 2026, which marks the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.Your admission helps pay for the ongoing construction.


From art to food to markets, Barcelona specializes in lively — and that’s why it’s such a hit with vacation travelers.   Amazing Journeys’ Jewish singles tour of Spain culminates with three days in Barcelona.  We invite you to learn more about this spring 2012 tour by visiting: http://www.amazingjourneys.net/trip/spain  

Hidden Secrets of the World

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

The so-called “world traveler” that I am, I have been blessed to bear witness on many famous and coveted landmarks around the globe.  According to my map on facebook’s Where I’ve Been application, I have seen about 1/3 of the world. Some world traveler!  But as they say (or at least, what I’m told quite often) its not about quantity, its about quality.

Sure, I’ve seen The Great Wall of China, The Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Statue of David, The Egyptian Pyramids, Big Ben, Alaskan Glaciers, The Colesseum in Rome and even The Blarney Stone….but its the obscure landmarks and uncommon experiences that I have been blessed to view that I feel are true witness to being properly labeled as a world traveler:

The country of Ecuador is an aesthetic smorgasbord of sight and sound.  The mountains of the Andes not only surround this country, they emcompass it.  Imagine the rolling hills of Ireland, blended in with the jagged edges of the endless Alaskan mountain range. Villages sit on sloped mountainsides, grass and farmlands intersect with rock and cliffs….the climate is pure and the people live simple lives compared to America, yet traffic conjests the motorways like any other big city.  The equator, an imaginary symbol of what’s north and what’s south has a profound effect on Ecuador’s tourism, economy and climate.  Tourists flock to park-like settings to view a painted line and learn the effects of the gravitational pull on this side, and then on that side.  The weather, while changeable is relatively constant and comfortable given that this gravitational pull actually deflects aggrivated weather patterns.  The most amazing and well-preserved 400-year old Hacienda Pinsaqui provides historic and meaningful authentic Ecuadorian hospitality.  Of course, Ecuador is also the gateway to The Galapagos Islands.

Le Touquet, France is just a couple hours car and ferry ride from London and is a popular beach resort for French and English tourists alike.  Finding an American in Le Touquet (pronounced Leh Tookay), however would be as unlikely as a french fry being, well, made in France.  You’ve probably never heard of the town, but those Europeans who yearn for beach, sun and a resort-like lifestyle make Le Touquet a frequent summer destination or “snowbird” residence,  if not an outright year round home. Few of the locals speak english (the English who visit do speak French) so for me, it was a challenge ordering food in a restaurant or having a chat with anyone other than my traveling companions (two of whom were able to interpret).  The town is all about the beach and the ocean with almost every residence, restaurant, storefront and of course hotel having a view of the ocean if not being right on the water.

Cadaqués, Spain owes its beauty in part to its complex geology. Only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Barcelona, it is very accessible for tourists and locals who want a second home for weekends and summers. Cadaqués official population is less than 3,000 but that number skyrockets during the summer months. This small seaside town’s historic claim to fame belongs to Salvador Dalí who visited often during his childhood, and later kept a home on a bay next to the town.  Other notable artists, including Pablo Picasso also spent time here.   Cadaqués is one of the wildest winter weather spots on the Costa Brava in the winter (Costa Brava means “wild coast”),  as the coasts and cliffs are battered and eroded by the wind whipping  off the mountains.The geological history has been exposed by erosion from wind and sea, and many geologists have mapped the area for this reason.  While visiting Cadaqués I was mezmerized by the authentic Spanish feel of the past; narrow mazelike cobblestone alleys, ancient brick & mortar buildings so close to each other that you would be better off chatting with your neighbor out the window than with a telephone call…and fauna that grew from strange angles on cliffs and beachy alcoves borne from mist and relentless sea action.  Beauty and Spanish authenticity aside, my strongest memory is of visiting Salvador Dalí’s House-Museum.

Barrow, Alaska is a dull, unscenic, underdeveloped and weather-ravaged city. My day in Barrow, however, was one of the most memorable and amazement-filled days of my life. This is a place where the temperature soars above freezing less than 20 days a year; where for 120 days a year the sun rises and falls–somewhere else; where polar bears roam freely during the winter months; where a staple in the diet is whale meat; and where satellelite dishes point horizontally towards the horizon because they need to reach south as much as possible but pointing them anymore downward would have them reflecting off earth rather than space.  Barrow is the northernmost spot in all of the U.S.. and save for remote parts of Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia, it is literally ‘on top of the world’.  In the winter, average temperatures are so far below zero that you have to cover your coffee cup if you go outside because it will freeze instantly in the cup otherwise.  Our guide took us along the coast so that we could see where earth ended and the Arctic Ocean began.  Some touched the bitter cold – your’s truly joined the official and authentic Polar Bear Club with a dive into the freezing abyss. Whaling is an important part of Barrow-ian’s culture and the worship of whales is both ritualistic and essential.  Hunting is regulated and moderated to serve the purpose of feeding the community and providing oils, clothing and other elements of living in these elements.  Each whale is blessed and each whale serves every resident in some way.  Our guide took us to his home to see if his mother was there to give us a sample of their ration.  Fortunately, she was not there–only his sister–but as recompense, we got to meet the neighbor who was busy skinning his caribou for that night’s dinner.   An unusual treat was lunch at the most famous establishment in Barrow. No, it wasn’t McDonalds. It was Pepe’s Mexican fare. Interesting?  Yes  indeed.  A hidden secret?  Just one of many in this strange and wonderful world in which we live.

Which leads me to suggest this: While visiting such icons as the Opera House in Sydney, the Acropolis in Greece, or the Hermitage Museum in Russia are bucket list To-Do’s for most adventure seekers….the effort to take some time to go “beyond the borders”; to see what the masses usually don’t; and to follow the path less taken….is a fulfilling, enriching and specially memorable addition to anyone’s personal travel resume.  The true essence of meaningful travel is to see more than what the guidebooks tell us; to do more than our predessors have done.  To truly see the world beyond those borders, make it a point to go off the beaten path, to expect (no…hope for) the unexpected, and realize that traveling is more about a journey than it is about the destination.

Around The World In 8 (brightly lit) Days

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

As we begin the festive holiday of Hanukkah tonight, we embark on a tradition that’s thousands of years in the making.  As Jews in the 21st century, we have been made aware of the candle lighting customs…the spinning of dreidles…the giving of gifts…and the eating of sufganiyot (jelly donuts).  But that’s here, in America.  What about other parts of the world?  Is our tradition varied at all by culture, geography or even political climate? 

I’ve been to Shabbat Services all around the world; from Australia to Costa Rica…Argentina, Croatia, England and even Russia.  What I’ve noticed is that as people we are all so different…..yet as Jews, we are all so much the same.  I may have (tried to) read the non-Hebrew portions in Spanish, Croatian or Russian, but when it came to the traditional prayers read in Hebrew, it was as familiar to me as my Gates Of Prayer. The Sh’ma, Shalom Aleyhem, Lecha Dodi and others….all just the same as mine back home.  

But I digress. Hanukkah.  One would think that this meaningful, yet rather easily understood holiday would be celebrated just as simply around the world.  You light candles, sing songs, spin dreidles and eat latkes & donuts. How much variation could there be?  Well, see the stories below for a “wow” on just how different Hanukkah can be:

Spanish Jews hold first Hanukkah in five centuries –

The Jewish community of Spain held a public celebration of Hanukkah Dec. 20, 1998, for the first time in more than five centuries.  Members of the small community lit candles at the same location in Girona, Spain, where their ancestors sought protection in 1391 from anti-Semitic violence that was prevalent at the time. Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. “This is an emotional and unforgettable day,” Mayor Joaquim Nadal told the gathering outside the ruins of Gironella Tower.  The candle-lighting ritual on the eighth and last day of Hanukkah drew close to 1,000 people, including many non-Jews. The ceremony was lead by Eliahu Bakshi Doron, Israel’s chief rabbi of Sephardic Jews, who trace their ancestry to Spain.

A Jew in Japan (trying to) celebrate Hanukkah  –   One thing that I do every year at this time is decorate my English school with Hanukkah memorabilia. Near the entryway, I put out a hanukiyah . On the table in the lobby, I laid out a number of dreidels. The walls are decorated with posters of children eating latkes  and sufganiyot  playing with dreidels, and, of course, lighting hanukiyah.

 The yearly display always draws a big response because it is unfamiliar to Japanese people (many American people, too, I imagine). Kids love to play with the dreidels (tops are a popular New Year`s activity in Japan). Young and old admire the candles displayed in the hanukiyah. And, invariably, several people say, “I didn`t know that people in America celebrated Christmas like this!” Oy Vey! One student even looked at a picture of Judas Macabbee and said, “I thought Santa Claus always wore red!”

MEXICO  In Mexico Hanukkah is written “Januca,”. The Jewish Hanukkah customs are very similar to those of Jews elsewhere except that the food may be a little different. Instead of latkes and sufganiot which are common among the Ashkenazic Jews of Russia and Eastern Europe the Sephardic Jews of Mexico tend to favor things like “buñuelos” which are fried fritters drenched in sugar syrup and also balls of corn dough with marmalade inside. Like their Jewish counterparts around the world they play the game of “dreidel” which they call “toma todo” and they call the dreidel top a “pirinola”. To make their holiday really special and authentically Mexican the add a Mexican “piñata” in the shape of the dreidel top to the festivities.

Today, there are about 50,000 Jews living freely in Mexico and openly practicing their ancient religion. I hope they all enjoy their Hanukka festival. Happy Hanukka to everyone!!!

The Light of Hanukkah Menorahs shall Shine all over Russia –  This year, despite the global crisis, the light of Hanukkah candles will shine not only for kids, but, for all Jews across Russia. In the outgoing year, as never before, Jews had the support and understanding of the government. For us, this support is very important, and we are pleased that the Russian government shows its support for all the traditional religious confessions, in particular, for its care for our Jewish community.

Without this support, the full-blooded rebirth of Jewish life in Russia would have been impossible. Firstly, the state returned to us many buildings that were owned by the Jewish community before the Revolution. Today, the government actively cooperates with the Jewish community in tackling social problems. Recently, our community won one of the support grants for non-commercial organisations. With God’s guidance, we will use it to implement our plans in the incoming year. Generally speaking, without the involvement on the part of the state, the Jewish community would have been unable to achieve the successes it has achieved in the sphere of education, enlightenment, and religious life”.

Eight days of Hanukkah celebrations will take place  throughout the entire country. During these days, in Moscow, there will be holiday concerts, fairs, and music and arts festivals, which shall bring together ensembles and performers from many Russian regions, Israel, and Jewish communities around the world.