This trip reaffirmed for us that Insight Vacations is an excellent tour company by every measure and we will certainly give them first consideration on our next tour, and would not hesitate to recommend them to friends. Among the things we liked were:
1. The itinerary. The tour made a great circle, starting in Madrid, then to Toledo, Salamanca, and west to Porto, Portugal. From there, south to Lisbon with stops at Fatima and Obidos. Two nights in Lisbon, then back into Spain to Seville. After Seville, with an optional excursion to Cordoba, next, a stop at Gibraltar, and to Torremolinos on the Costa del Sol. Then to Granada, to Valencia, and finally to Barcelona. All of the stays, excursions, and dinners were very well planned and gave, we thought, as deep an exposure to Spanish and Portuguese history and culture as can be achieved in two short weeks.
2. The optional excursions and dinners. We did all of Insight’s optional excursions and dinners. They are expensive, but we felt that they were all well worth the money. We would strongly recommend anyone considering an Insight tour to plan on doing as many, or all, of the options possible. Several of the options take you well away from tourist areas to restaurants that you would never find on your own.
3. The tour director. The tour director is extremely important to the enjoyment of a tour. Our director, Dominic Nemers, was a treasure of knowledge about Spanish and Portuguese history and culture, as every tour director should be. But, he also had the gift of being able to connect with the group through humor and through insight (excuse the pun) into how we viewed and were experiencing the country for the first time. Perhaps better than a native Spaniard could have done. You remember the personality of the tour director long after the castles and cathedrals and historical dates are long forgotten. And, as a good tour director, Dominic made all of the coordination look smooth and effortless. There was never a minute spent waiting on hotel rooms or tickets to a site and, when the unexpected popped up, such as the old city of Barcelona being jammed with demonstrations on May Day, he had a back up plan ready to attend a local fiesta that turned out to be more fun than the planned tour.
4. The hotels. Insight does an excellent job selecting hotels that are both first rate and in locations where you can easily walk to shopping and restaurants. It is nice not to have to take a taxi when you go out. Taxies are always available at the hotel, but trying to catch a taxi home from some part of the city adds an element of stress we prefer to avoid.
5. The bus. Insight advertises their buses having extra leg room and it is true, along with the seats being very comfortable. This also limits the number of people on any tour to 40. We had 38 on ours.
6. The other tour members. This was our second Insight tour and, interestingly had the same demographic. This tour was about two-thirds Australian, a father and son from Canada, and six of us from the US. All, especially the Australians, were much wider traveled than we are and were an extremely congenial group. Always fun to go out to dinner with and share experiences. So, thank you for helping make this one of the most memorable experiences ever.