Nth Spain Reviews - Tonbridge U3A-Travel

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Nth Spain Reviews

Previous Trips > HOLIDAYS > NORTHERN SPAIN 5-12/6/2019
We have taken the liberty of paraphrasing the email messages and letters that we have received as it seems important that everyone should appreciate the success of this holiday.

A big thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable trip to Cantabria. The hotel, the food, the trips, the guide, the information – all was beautifully organised and carried through. Keith M

What a wonderful holiday, I did enjoy it, really well organised and location perfect. Many thanks for all you hard work and Paul made it. Looking forward to Northern Ireland. Val C

Thank you all for a really lovely holiday - quite special.  All your hard work leading up to the holiday and then all the work to look after us during the holiday is much appreciated.  Irene B

Congratulations for organising and controlling some 44 people on such a good fun holiday.  Thoroughly enjoyed myself and , although tired,  feel rested.  Thanks once again.  Already looking forward to Belfast.  Elaine W

Just to add my grateful thanks alongside everyone else for organising and helping us all out on the trip to Spain last week - not an easy job. I had never explored that part of the world before and found the landscape surprisingly green and beautiful. We were lucky to have Paul as our guide as he was not only knowledgeable but entertaining and I will do my best to try and remember some of his jokes. I thought the hotel was situated in a stunning location and of course we had more food and wine than it was possible to manage - but I did my best Nicky R

Just a line to say how much we enjoyed the U3A holiday in Spain. Countryside delightful, hotel and meals lovely, places to visit most interesting, courier great and your organisation 1st class. Margaret A

I want to thank you and your team for organising such a wonderful holiday yet again. It was obvious that many hours were spent researching everything from the Hotel to the visits and I for one really appreciate all your hard work.  It’s just a shame you can’t have any control over the weather! Pauline L

An excellent holiday. Thank you for all the organisation from the travel team, also please add our appreciation to Tailored Travel, and of course Paul Richardson. Brian and Lynne R

Thank you all so much for organising such a great holiday for us all in Northern Spain. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and thought that itinerary was excellent! Such a pleasure to be in such a friendly and good fun group! John and Rachel S

Thank you very much for organising such a lovely holiday in Spain We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves John & Monica B

I just want to say a huge thank you for arranging such a super trip to that gorgeous corner of Spain. Irene P

Just a brief note to thank you for all your hardwork planning such a superbe holiday in Northern Spain and for being such a good support. We are so fortunate to have such a friendly U3A! Long may it continue. Shirley P

The following is a Travelogue prepared by Lois Mitchell which we thought you would enjoy:-
It was a somewhat bumpy ride when 40 or so intrepid Tonbridge U3A travellers escaped the British weather on the 5th June and flew from Gatwick to Bilbao.  However all was well and it was a pleasure to arrive at the little airport and be greeted by our Tailored Travel guide, Paul Richardson, whom many remembered from the Madrid holiday 4 years ago.  He entertained us all week, from the word go, telling stories (some believable, some not), describing the scenery and educating us with the history of the area as the coach took us from our Hotel Olimpo, Isla Playa, Cantabria – a beautifully positioned hotel with lovely sea views – to visit Cantabrian and Basque sights.  
We soon got into a routine of breakfast at 8.30 and boarding the coach at 9.30 with Rosendo, our expert driver, who took us to visit beaches, caves, palaces, museums, the anchovy factory, mountains and churches.  We would then arrive back at the hotel in time for a rest before dinner at 8pm – however, one evening we went to one of the fabulous, sandy beaches where 4 brave people actually went for a swim and on another we enjoyed a musical evening which included much laughter and dancing.
Our first visit was to Santander where we were joined by Sonia for a guided tour of the Alfonso X111 Palacio de la Magdalena, a pre-1st WW building built out on a peninsular – with views to all points of the compass – used now as a conference and university centre.  The afternoon was taken up with a visit to the pretty village of Comillas and El Capricho, a villa designed by Antoni Gaudi.  Heathen that I am I preferred to look at the bee orchids hiding in a grassy garden!
The weather remained good for our trip to Bilbao which included utilizing the excellent tram service and a cruise past the Guggenheim Museum – and the Louise Bourgeois spider, looming over the river. Our group then split up, some visited the fascinating old town for lunch and others made a trip up the hillside on the funicular, to enjoy the terrific view across the city. Most of us went into the Museum, at least to the gift shop and up the steps to have a close up of the Flower Puppy.
The following morning was spent wandering around the lovely unspoilt cobble street village of Santillana del Mar with 15th C buildings surrounding a lovely plaza and church, and after lunch we progressed to the Replica Cave of Altamira.  This is a cleverly reconstructed version of the original discovered in 1879, now sealed up and not open to the public as so many tourists pouring into the caves created a toxic atmosphere - thus deteriorating the amazing 14,000 year old images carved and painted into the walls.  
The weather had remained quite good, especially compared with that back home, but the day we went into the Picos de Europa it was misty.  However, there were some magnificent views and many braved a journey into the unknown, disappearing into the clouds in the cable car.
As a complete contrast we visited the Mingo Anchovy factory the following day.  Here we breathed in the fishy ‘perfume’ of anchovies preserved in brine for over a year and watched skilled staff stripping of the skin and gutting them by hand, ready for canning.  This visit included a very nice lunch for us all in Santona, when we enjoyed assorted fish patés and dishes washed down with copious bottles of local wine.
It was back to a damper Santander on our penultimate day, which put paid to a boat trip around the bay. We agreed to leave early and re-joined the coach for our afternoon visit to the El Soplao Caves.  Again there were tremendous views as we drove through the mountain passes and on arrival had time to enjoy a pleasant lunch, visit the excellent gift shop and walk around the well laid out area to admire the views and breathe in the fresh mountain air.
At an altitude of approximately 650 metres and dating back to the Mesozoic period the caves were discovered by miners at the beginning of the 20th C.  Access to the caves is through a tunnel which is supported by old curved railway tracks rescued from when the caves were mined.  Old sleepers and iron have been recycled, and the caves are accessed by a rickety train, which has also utilised the ancient rail stock. We were guided along minimally lit pathways, winding through amazing ‘galleries’, where the mixture of limestone and minerals have created different formations and colours including curtains, statues, stalactites, stalagmites and the extraordinary horizontal spikes of helictitas.
We returned to our hotel and enjoyed our special farewell dinner.  The staff had looked after us extremely well over the week and we were happy show our appreciation.  Our coach awaited us in the morning and Rosendo drove us to the interesting seaside village of Castro Urdiales, where we walked along the sea front, visited the old church and enjoyed tapas at one of the many bars.  This was the end of the holiday, as we then transferred to Bilbao Airport, said our goodbyes to Rosendo and Paul and boarded a somewhat crowded plane for our flight back to Gatwick.  
Other than my personal recollections of the week I would like to say how much I enjoyed being with such lovely group of people, who cared for and gently guided those who were not quite so agile, making it a great holiday for everyone.   However, it wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing organisers, Geoff and Margaret, who, at times, were in need of a couple of sheepdogs to round us all up.  Thank you to both of you.  Here’s to the next time. Lois M June 2019
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