SPAIN

Spain is infectious if not downright contagious, remarkable for her astounding diversity and the distinctiveness of character, temperament and mood to be found in the 17 regional Autonomous Communities each with their unique language, art, traditions, culture and cuisine. Perhaps the notable common thread is an exuberant zest for festivity and feasting in day to day life, tremendous gregariousness amongst her people, a sense of passion about eating, about music, about pleasure…about being alive

In the popular imagination, Spain is bullfights, flamenco dancers and crowded beaches. But Spain has a spectacular and panoramic history that can be traced in its prehistoric cave paintings, Moorish palaces, crumbling castles, Roman ruins, Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals as well as some very distinctive modern architecture. 
This sumptuous 9-day journey discovers how the Spanish are taking the bull by the horns in the international leagues of cuisine, wine and design.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Barcelona, that most seductive and soulful of cities with a Mediterranean vibe
• Bilbao’s stunning Museum ‘el goog’
• the velvety landscapes of La Rioja and Navarra – Spain’s most important wine region
• San Sebastian that boasts more Michelin stars than Paris per capita, and a passion for all things gastronomique

AT A GLANCE

NEW !
LENGTH:
9 Days
ACTIVITY LEVEL:   Moderate
TYPE: AoL Escorted | Small Groups | Guided
This best suits private groups of 6-10 people 
STYLE: culture | arts | architecture | heritage | cuisine | cooking | wine
START/FINISH: Delhi | Delhi or Delhi | Kolkata

INCLUSIONS

All meals and wine, cooking classes, entrance fees, domestic airfare, ground transport

HOTEL STANDARD:

Boutique Relais & Châteaux to exceptionally charming 5* country inns and metro chic design hotels

TRANSPORT:

Luxury mini coach

TRAVEL DATES

Best times for travel are May – mid June and September – October
Small groups requesting Marieke to host them must plan at least 6 months in advance.

PRICING

PRICING

from AUD$11,000 twin | double share

ITINERARY OVERVIEW

  • DAY 1

    Barcelona

    Guests meet in Barcelona and transfer to one of the city’s chicest boutique hotels, tucked beneath the Tibidabo hills above the city. Welcome cocktails followed by a 3* Michelin degustation by chef Jordi Cruz.

  • DAY 2

    Bilbao

    This morning fly to Bilbao and arrive in time for a latish lunch at the Guggenheim Museum Restaurant where Josean Martínez Alija, presides over imaginative and seasonal menus gastronomique.
At twilight – a guided walking tour of the city and casual roving txikiteo dinner- a typical Bilbao tradition of “bar hopping’ with glass of wine in hand, sampling exceptionally delicious pinxtos.

  • DAY 3

    Bilbao | San Sebastian

    This morning visit Frank Gehry’s famed titanium spectacle, affectionately known as ‘el goog’. Later, drive to the tiny village of Axpe in the mountains where between a church, the square and a bocce court stands Esador Etxebarri, now one of the world’s most remarkable restaurants established by the humble but brilliant Victor Arguinzoniz who has taken the world’s oldest form of cooking: fire and wood coals, and totally reinvented the art of grilling.
    This afternoon check into your luxury hotel and explore the many pinxto bars.

  • DAY 4

    San Sebastian

    This morning enjoy a walking tour of San Sebastian with our inimitable local guide, and visit specialty providores, have tastings at the wonderful markets housed in the Old Quarter, stop for a local cider.
    Lunch is at the hip new concept created by Mugaritz star chef, Andoni Luis Adurizis. TOPA Sukaldería celebrates the centuries of history that connect Basques and Latin Americans and the kitchen is headed up by Jessica Lorigo.
    Later an optional cooking class followed by tapas for dinner.

  • DAY 5

    San Sebastian | Getaria

    This morning drive to Getaria to visit the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa that commemorates the life and work of the famous couturier. Also visit a Txacoli winery – the white wine of the basque country.
    This evening is another 3* Michelin extravaganza at Arzak run by the famed father and daughter team.

  • DAY 6

    Rioja

    Today’s lunch is the Navarran village of Taffala where an exemplary reputation has been carved by its elegant owner Axen whose son Nicolás Jiménez has worked in restaurants such as Zuberoa, (under Chef Martín Berasategui) and Arzak. His wife is a Master of Wine and will match the dishes with an eye for special matches.
    Drive through glorious countryside to your modern luxury hotel in the heart of one of Spain’s premier wine regions.

  • DAY 7

    Rioja

    Today we have a private tasting with oenologist extraordinaire, Benjamin Romeo, who has enjoyed the highest praise from the hardest hitting critic Robert Parker. The purpose built complex stands on the crag of San Pelayo and each part of its design fulfills both an aesthetic and functional function. Distribution of the wine works through gravity all adding to the creation of very natural, limited editions of perfect wines.
    A typical regional lunch will be enjoyed in the village of Laguardia. 
This evening stroll through the old town of Logroño, the town of the region best regarded for its tapas.

  • DAY 8

    Rioja

    Today visit the incomparable Dinastia Vivanco Museum of the Culture of Wine that covers every aspect of wine culture from the vineyard, to the winery, wine accoutrements, archaeology and art.
    Travel on to the small town of Haro to visit one of the most significant innovators, Bodegas Roda. This is very much new-wave Rioja.
    Lunch is at the exciting Gehry-designed Marques de Riscal complex where famed Michelin awarded chef, Juan Bautista Peñas presides over a menu that ranges from exquisite traditional croquetas to nouvelle dishes of great delicacy.

  • DAY 9

    Rioja | Bilbao

    After a leisurely breakfast, guests are returned to Bilabo airport for onward departures.

TESTIMONIALS

Hi Dear Marieke, how often we have thought of you and our wonderful Rajasthan trip! Thank you so much for sharing all your wonderful knowledge of India, shared with such a heartfelt passion that it was impossible not to come away sharing a little of that passion!  That to me is an indication of a very well thought out and loved tour, so thank you for taking us on the journey with you!
How wonderful to meet Durga also, a beautiful character and a great addition to the experience. Thank you again Marieke,

Hi Marieke,
Oh yes, I am definitely back with a bang and trying desperately to keep some sort of ‘Karma’ about me… 
Where to begin….from our magical tented camp in Jodhpur that still sends shivers up my spine….to our picnic in the Aravlli hills with VB and his very elegant mum.
Our wonderful Indian food and desert fires at night. One of my most treasured feelings of India will always be the memory of Durga each morning wearing his beautiful turban and genuine warm smile….. such a lovely, lovely man is our Durga and what a privilege to spend time with him in his homeland.
You really do complement each other beautifully.  It certainly was a special time and only hope it won’t be our last.
Please keep me in the loop for new tours as we would all love to do another group holiday together.
A big hug and kiss from Jono and I xxxxoooo

Dear Marieke ,
Thank you for the email and welcome home !
We really loved the Indian adventure Marieke and Durga style and felt we did experience so much more with the tented camps that were a favourite and all  the superbly chosen hotels  sharing some of the essence of India.. Every detail was thought about and the cuisine delicious. I have now stocked the pantry with The Very Best Basmati and have already attempted to make Indian dishes for the family, although not quite the Thali yet . I did love my yoga class with you on the rooftop at Deogarth and particularly loved the small town and our lovely Kashmiri boys at the turban shop. We loved our proud aristocratic Rajput Durga with a wonderful art of storytelling and a great sense of humour. You will be pleased to know that Brad and I are back to yoga once a week and Yin is our new experience .Brad is glued to Indian Summer and I am loving Nine Lives and am able to understand so much more regarding Hindu Jain and Muslim religion with a lot to learn. Thank you for such a wonderful experience in India and we will be back .We already miss the busy street life and the smiling beautiful faces .
Lots Love Lisa and Brad xxx

As my Ikat parrots fluttered in the breeze today I again felt lucky to have spent time in gorgeous Gujarat.
Thank you for more wonderful memories of India and for making the past two weeks so memorable.
Your thoughtful professionalism is deeply appreciated.
Gandhi is so right. The world has much to learn from India and I’m very grateful to have been fortunate enough to be able to be delighted by the spirit and people of it in your capable hands.  
With my love, Victoria. X

Dear Marieke….. home now where the snake charmer’s rug has found a perfect home. Everything here looks so pale, but it’s lovely to hear rain and eat avocado!
It was a truly remarkable trip, and I cannot say enough how much I admire your attention to detail, logistical prowess, standards, energy and ability to make a group cohere (inspired cocktails!) . You paced it all perfectly, calibrating the experience like a theatre director. I have made a list of eleven people I am going to write to about the trip and about the experience of traveling with you, we’ll see who nibbles and says they want to know more…
I know that many things will stay with me for life about this trip, and have inspired me on so many levels about day to day living.
Namaste! C xx

Hi Marieke, What an amazing trip you and Durga created for us in Gujarat and now we have wonderful memories to ponder on and talk about, and the mystery of India will stay with me for ever. It’s vibrancy and zest for living is something I hope I will be able to show to Brian too before long as its an experience everyone should have once in a lifetime.  We were so lucky to go to such special places that wouldn’t have been possible if it hadn’t been for you and Durga and to go into people’s homes and experience their lifestyles was amazing, and Durga’s knowledge and his pride in showing his country to us, and his respectful friendliness to everyone he meets is a great lesson.  Thank you so much Marieke for making it all so memorable.  
Have fun, Wendy

Pico Iyer said of his visit: “I’ve been to so many literary festivals, from Shanghai to Bogota, and this one is definitely the least dry, the most carnival-like. Where else would you go from Shakespeare to contemporary politics to V.S. Naipaul and then Sufi music—each in such a full-bodied way? The music definitely had a cleansing, clarifying quality after that clash of ideas, like a sorbet in the middle of a rich meal”.

It was a trip like no other. The opportunity to stay close to the local Gujjar people and experience their environment as they have lived for perhaps hundreds of years. Little or no technology with magnificent, pristine, wilderness landscapes makes for that rare connection with a way of life we have long left behind. To me this is what made this trek around Aru in Kashmir so amazing and enlightening. On returning home my memories of the mountains and all I experienced have flooded my dreams. Quiet reflection on the daily life we were privileged to be immersed in has heightened my appreciation of this very special tour. Johnny our guide was so passionate and dedicated to the beauty and cultural heritage of Kashmir, he could not help but leave us with a new found love for his people and his land.

Of course the food was delicious, the company excellent and your co-ordination and support exemplary.

Thank you for it all Marieke – a challenging holiday with meaning, warmth, companionship and immense educational value. It will live on in my memory for all the years to come.

With lots of love,
Jo xx

I am writing quickly to tell you that we had the most amazing trek with Johnny and Gulam.  We absolutely adore them, and all of the guys on the team, it honestly could not have been better.  We walked a different route – which Craig asked for, so that we avoided having to return to Aru and Srinagar – we walked 60kms up over the mountains towards Sonmarg, where we are staying tonight. It was indescribably beautiful, the kids loved it, and so did we.  We were crying at dinner tonight, missing the guys.
I will write later in detail to describe the walk, but we have truly lost our hearts to these Kashmiri mountains and men, they are heaven.
Thanks so much for sending us to them.
Love Sal xxx

Dearest Marieke, 
Now back after another wonderful trip filled with endless colour and beauty, things I love, as simple as smiles on faces so ready to share, a temple glowingly yellow, an elephant engaged in blessing all and sundry, a plate of deliciously fresh organic food, lovingly prepared and served on a banana leaf from the grounds of the hosts plantation. Thank you for making all of this and much much more possible. Not the least of which was cruising the Venice of India in Kerala.  India is at its least exciting, it is full of promise, tolerance, spirituality and offers much that the rest of the world could sit up and take notice of.  I am thankful for the way in which you, with the erudite Durga by your side, present it and let it gently unfold, with a surprise here and there. The memories and photographs are what are now left. Thankfully neither will fade away. What you do is an art and involves detailed planning. I am appreciative of being able to take part in both.
With my love,
V.

Hi Marieke,
 
Thank you so much.  What I would have loved to say to you before you and Usha jetted off after lunch was this:
 
I know that I have been blessed to be the recipient of your many years of experience in the subcontinent.  It showed in everything we did, from the delicious food and gorgeous hotels, the highly polished itinerary, the hospitality and friendship of everyone we met and of course, the ace up your sleeve in India, Durga.  As I am usually the one organising everything on our trips, it was great not to have to think about anything else except enjoying the sights in front of me and knowing what time the next meal was!  It is truly a holiday when you have no idea what day it is, and you don’t care to know either…
India is certainly a land of contrasts, and you were right in saying that as soon as the initial shock wears off, you are then free to experience the rest of what the country has to offer.  I am glad that we chose the soft landing in the south.  Thank you for converting a non-believer.
With love, Karen Van A Sydney

Hi Marieke,
We are home now and I would like to thank you for organising such a wonderful trip for us.
India is such an amazing place.  I was reading Kipling’s book Kim as we travelled and enjoyed seeing little scenes straight from the book, from the oxen carts, the men in dhotis planting rice, the women herding goats, a girl gathering her buffalo out of the river, chickens scurrying around a thatched hut, the man sewing on a treadle machine and another ironing using a coal iron.
 
The highlights of the trip were the amazing bas reliefs at Mahabalipuram near the shore temple and the huge elephant and Nandi there, staying at Visalam, Mrs Meyappan’s wonderful lunch, an oxen cart tour of the town that Visalam is in, talking to children on a school excursion at Tanjore palace, eating cashews freshly roasted at the road side, and seeing the amazing town and village life along the roads.
We really enjoyed the driver and the car he used was so cool and comfortable.
Thank you for all your help and organization.
 Regards,
 Melissa and Peter

As this is a new Tour, there are no testimonials yet.

Be the first to write a review after you join us on this magic carpet ride.

Dear Marieke these are my most cherished memories of my first trip to Sri Lanka with you as tour designer and guide:

– The three diverse and stimulating climate zones we travelled through: the dry plains of the north, the cool mountains of the centre and the monsoonal south.

– The Buddhist art that echoed Bagan’s Plain of Temples in Myanmar, their powerful geometries given highest expression in the caves at Dambulla and joyful celebration in the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy.

– The contemporary design aesthetic and colour palette found in many of the marvellous boutique hotels you found for us, which seem to reference the amazing ouevre of Sri Lanka’s one and only Geoffrey Bawa.

– The generosity and skill of our driver Indika, who made the journey so comfortable and safe.

– The stand out curry banquet served for dinner at the elegant Amangalla – a most memorable culinary sensation.

I do so hope to visit again. Love Jen Anderson

” Having traveled and lived in India for over 25 years, nothing can beat the magic of the World Spirit Music Festival in Nagaur. It is a truly exhilarating experience  and an unbeatable assault on all the senses. The fort looks stunning and is lit up with thousands of magic lights and flowers, the most gifted musicians in Sufi music come from all over the world, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Africa and of course India. Days are spent lounging around on huge cushions absorbing the beauty of the venue, the music and eating the most delicious food. New friends are made and the last nighterupted in everyone dancing and partying under the stars. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a little piece of heaven and you take the experience of being there and treasure it for weeks afterwards. If there is one thing you should do, if you visit India, is go to this festival.” Emma Chapmana

Dear Marieke,

We leave Udaipur this morning starting the long trek home.
It’s been a wonderful trip and I can’t thank you enough for all your thoughtful suggestions and excellent organising; we’ve felt in good hands all the way.
JLF was one of the most marvellous events I’ve ever attended; the mix of intellectual and cultural stimuli was a heady brew and not something I will ever forget; it’s what memories are made of.
Our reading group was extremely happy and satisfied – and believe me that’s a huge compliment as it’s not all that easy pleasing 8 strong willed women. But I think you knew that already.
I hope we can get together again some time in Sydney or Melbourne.

Warmest Regards,
Sophie Sydney 2017

The breathtaking beauty of the spectacular Ahhichatragarh Fort, Nagaur provided a perfect setting for the World Sacred Music Festival in February 2018.  The desert location with warm days and clear star filled skies at night was enchanting; so too, the call to prayer we heard at dawn and dusk each day.
The various concerts featured extraordinarily talented musicians and singers from all over the world – music expressing both sacred & ancient traditions.  We were entertained, charmed, seduced and enchanted by these performances.  A truly blissful experience.
The daily program of sublime concerts was interspersed with superb meals celebrating the gastronomic heritage of Indian cuisine, served in a grand out door pavilion.
Accommodation in the fabulous Royal Tents was such a unique and wonderful experience with wonderful service including ‘bed tea’ in the mornings.

Thankyou Marieke for your timely invitation to join you at Nagaur. This festival was indeed remarkable and the experience of a lifetime.

Christine & Marilyn Shady

Dear Marieke,

We leave Udaipur this morning starting the long trek home.
It’s been a wonderful trip and I can’t thank you enough for all your thoughtful suggestions and excellent organising; we’ve felt in good hands all the way.
JLF was one of the most marvellous events I’ve ever attended; the mix of intellectual and cultural stimuli was a heady brew and not something I will ever forget; it’s what memories are made of.
Our reading group was extremely happy and satisfied – and believe me that’s a huge compliment as it’s not all that easy pleasing 8 strong willed women. But I think you knew that already.
I hope we can get together again some time in Sydney or Melbourne.

Warmest Regards,
Sophie Sydney 2017

In Sri Lanka, Marieke does so much more than seek out the most exquisite accomodation and sites. She maneoeuvres her travellers to front row seats to witness age old temple rituals, finds the stalls in the market with the ripest mangoes and brings them back to your hotel for sunset cocktails. If she could, she would spot you the leopard on safari. Nothing is too much trouble. Her knowledge is deep, broad and always up to the minute. Her quest for the best is relentless. She has a sixth sense for when her guests want more and when they need less. She shares their enthusiasm for watching a herd of elephants grazing almost within reach, or their pleasure relaxing by an exclusive pool or watching them inhale the aroma of freshly rolled cinnamon bark on an island or visiting a private garden lush with memories of past revelries. She can find you the perfect gemstone and the place to set it, the length of hand dyed cloth you have to have, the recipe for the eggpant dish you had at dinner, the best place to see a kingfisher at dawn or a peacock in the rice paddies. Once you have travelled with Marieke, there is no going back. Without her, a country is a paler version of itself.
Cxx

Caroline Baum | Author • Journalist • Curator • Moderator

YOUR GUIDES

Marieke Brugman’s Academic (Fine Arts) beginnings segued into the culinary world where she is a highly regarded chef, educator, consultant, public speaker and occasional writer. She has been both a pioneer for paddock to plate cooking, and an ambassador for creating a distinctive Australian identity in the evolution of our gastronomic culture.
Marieke co-established and operated Howqua Dale Gourmet Retreat - an exceptional hospitality destination experience in north-east Vitoria, and over 30 years, cemented its outstanding reputation for superb cuisine and innovative cooking schools.
Marieke considers Spain one of the greatest of foodie heavens. The produce dazzles. The chefs are delightfully inventive yet deliver the dining experience without pretension. Spain simply lightens the heart and gives so much joy.

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“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in its frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” –Freya Stark

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. James A Michener

People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. Joseph Campbell

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. ~Helen Keller

As you journey through life, choose your destinations well, but do not hurry there. Avoid the shortcuts… wander the back roads… enjoy the scenery. And remember that the true worth of your travels lies not in the destination but in who you come to be along the way. Anon.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page. Saint Augustine