ON A ROLL WITH TRAFAL­GAR

In­dulge in “la dolce vita” on one of Trafal­gar’s hand­crafted in­ter­na­tional trips.

Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle Magazine - - Table Of Contents - BY E. LISA MOSES

While I’m keen to start a closer in­ves­ti­ga­tion into dif­fer­ent parts of Europe, my no­tion of a hol­i­day does not in­clude do­ing much work my­self. That means I’d rather have some­one else plan, drive, or­ga­nize lug­gage and worry about the de­tails. That’s why Trafal­gar’s “Free to Be” ap­proach to pro­vid­ing ef­fort­less and has­sle-free travel on 302 hand­crafted in­ter­na­tional trips is an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Wolf Pau­nic, pres­i­dent of Trafal­gar and Cost­saver Canada, Trafal­gar’s guided va­ca­tions have been grow­ing among Cana­di­ans in the dou­ble dig­its—due largely to the com­pany’s ef­forts to rein­vent them by in­tro­duc­ing in­no­va­tions and fo­cus­ing on uniquely per­sonal, mean­ing­ful events.

“Trav­el­ling with us is a lifestyle choice,” he says. “We make the ex­pe­ri­ences au­then­tic in ev­ery way: real con­nec­tions with lo­cals through our Be My Guest lunches and din­ners; Dive Into Cul­ture fa­cil­i­tated by Lo­cal Specialists; and Stays With Sto­ries, where ac­com­mo­da­tion be­comes an­other dis­tinc­tive oc­ca­sion.”

Trafal­gar’s guided trips also build in free time for ex­plor­ing, shop­ping or just re­lax­ing. At some lo­cales, those want­ing to fill up that free time can book “op­tional ex­pe­ri­ences.” In Mar­rakesh, this could be a horse-and-buggy ride fol­lowed by a tra­di­tional Moroc­can din­ner, and in Tus­cany, a drive through Chi­anti wine coun­try with lunch at Machi­avelli’s villa. Plenty of good ex­cuses to es­cape from Canada’s frosty fron­tiers.

SPAIN, MOROCCO AND POR­TU­GAL Spain

The Spain-based por­tion of this 16-day Trafal­gar jour­ney, framed by his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments, no­table ar­chi­tec­ture and abun­dant UNESCO World Her­itage Sites, teems with tales of con­querors, ro­mance and in­trigue. It also of­fers glimpses into the coun­try’s cul­tural essence—fla­menco danc­ing, art col­lec­tions, hand­i­crafts and Mediter­ranean cui­sine.

In an­cient Toledo, a Lo­cal Spe­cial­ist leads an in-depth ex­plo­ration of the Igle­sia de Santo Tomé, a huge cathe­dral where the 16th-cen­tury mas­ter­piece, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, was painted by lo­cal Re­nais­sance artist El Greco. In Granada’s in­spi­ra­tional Al­ham­bra palace, guests can walk in the foot­steps of greats such as Ge­orge Bernard Shaw, Sal­man Rushdie and Paulo Coelho.

The Madrid city ex­cur­sion un­veils or­nate build­ings on the Gran Vía with belle-époque

façades that house spe­cialty stores where roy­alty shops, fine restau­rants where gour­mands dine and in­ter­na­tional chains where vi­va­cious fash­ion­istas feast on haute cou­ture. And in colour­ful Seville, his­tory buffs will mar­vel at the or­nate tomb of Christo­pher Colum­bus in the Cathe­dral of Saint Mary of the See.

Morocco

My fas­ci­na­tion with Morocco be­gan at Rick’s Café in Casablanca, which fired my imag­i­na­tion even though it was filmed in black-and-white in a Hol­ly­wood stu­dio. I was en­thralled by the set’s ex­otic carved fur­nish­ings, ubiq­ui­tous palm-frond shad­ows and ex­cit­ing street scenes that held prom­ise of spicy aro­mas and vi­brant colours.

This Trafal­gar ad­ven­ture feeds my fas­ci­na­tion in full tech­ni­color and pro­vides a rich ed­u­ca­tion. Ex­cur­sions with Travel Di­rec­tors and Lo­cal Specialists on the Moroc­can guided hol­i­day in­clude the coun­try’s largest cities: Casablanca, Fez, Tang­ier, Mar­rakesh and the cap­i­tal Ra­bat, an im­por­tant im­pe­rial city once dom­i­nated by the leg­endary Barbary pi­rates.

Along the Barbary Coast, one of Casablanca’s high­lights (built 50 years af­ter the Bog­art movie was re­leased) is the mas­sive 20th-cen­tury Has­san II Mosque over­look­ing the At­lantic Ocean. It is an in­trigu­ing blend of Is­lamic ar­chi­tec­ture, Moroc­can el­e­ments and Moor­ish de­sign. And in most cities, se­cluded medina quar­ters present cul­tural rev­e­la­tions, street en­ter­tain­ment and bar­gain­ing bo­nan­zas for shop­pers.

Por­tu­gal

One of the old­est coun­tries in Europe, Por­tu­gal is known for its ge­og­ra­phy and strate­gic lo­ca­tion. The At­lantic Ocean and the Ta­gus es­tu­ary yield amaz­ing seafood and sun­bathing spots. Farther in­land, the bu­colic pas­tures of the Alen­tejo re­gion are ideal for raising crops and the fa­mous Lusi­tano horses. There, at their 18th-cen­tury Lusi­tano stud farm, Ti­ago and Vera host a Be My Guest lunch for Trafal­gar pas­sen­gers.

Por­tuguese clay is also an ideal in­gre­di­ent for the ubiq­ui­tous Azule­jos ce­ramic tiles, on dis­play for­mally at Lis­bon’s Na­tional Tile Mu­seum.

Lis­bon is home to the Mon­u­ment of the Dis­cov­er­ies, a fan­ci­ful sculp­ture of a ship that pays homage to in­trepid 16th-cen­tury sailors—among them Vasco da Gama and Fer­di­nand Mag­el­lan—de­part­ing on voy­ages of dis­cov­ery to South Amer­ica, Africa, In­dia and the Ori­ent. Dur­ing that time, Belém Tower was erected as part of a de­fence sys­tem to de­ter in­vaders. The nearby Monastery of the Hieronymites pro­vided hous­ing for monks whose mis­sion was to of­fer spir­i­tual guid­ance to nav­i­ga­tors and sailors head­ing out.

Farther north is the world-fa­mous Shrine of Fá­tima, where thou­sands of pil­grims ev­ery year travel to the site of re­li­gious ap­pari­tions and mir­a­cles. The mu­seum on the premises pro­vides in­ter­pre­ta­tions of these events.

BEST OF ITALY

A boot-shaped coun­try just slightly big­ger than Labrador, Italy has be­stowed on the world some of his­tory’s great­est gifts. Among my favourites are wine, cui­sine, opera, art, fash­ion and ar­chi­tec­ture. And, of course, “la dolce vita”—a con­cept that has been part of the English vo­cab­u­lary since the 1960 Fellini film of that name.

This care­fully crafted 13-day jour­ney will de­light guests who are seek­ing cul­tur­ally im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences. Hot spots in­clude Rome’s Vat­i­can Mu­se­ums, where Michelan­gelo cre­ated some of his finest work, and the iconic Colos­seum, whose stun­ning ar­chi­tec­ture de­fines the city. I’m look­ing forward to watch­ing glass­blow­ers on the is­land of Gi­udecca cre­ate splen­did Vene­tian glass master­pieces dur­ing a Trafal­gar Cul­tural In­sight, and in Mi­lan, min­gling with in­ter­na­tional fash­ion mavens.

Out­side the ma­jor cen­tres, we’ll be rolling through volup­tuous Tus­cany and vis­it­ing Monte Cassino, Verona, Pisa and Florence. On breath­tak­ing Lake Mag­giore, the group will join Sig­nor Telli for an ex­clu­sive Be My Guest din­ner at his fam­ily restau­rant on the se­cluded Isola Madre. And for a splash of ex­tra glam­our, we’ll cruise to the Isle of Capri (and I’ll be wear­ing capris) and stop at Lake Como, where Ge­orge and Amal Clooney va­ca­tion in their op­u­lent vil­las. Let the good times roll for an ex­cel­lent fort­night.

TRAFAL­GAR

LEFT: At the mar­ket in Morocco. BE­LOW: Tak­ing in a beau­ti­ful view of Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal. Trafal­gar

ABOVE: En­joy a Be My Guest din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in Italy. Trafal­gar

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