Sunday, September 13 - LISBON, PORTUGAL (Overnight)
Monday, September 14 - LISBON, PORTUGAL
Spread over a string of seven hills north of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River) estuary, Lisbon presents an intriguing variety of faces to those who negotiate its switchback streets. In the oldest neighborhoods, stepped alleys whose street pattern dates back to Moorish times are lined with pastel-color houses decked with laundry; here and there, miradouros (vantage points) afford spectacular river or city views. In the grand 18th-century center, calcada a portuguesa (black-and-white mosaic cobblestone) sidewalks border wide boulevards. Eletricos (trams) clank through the streets, and blue-and-white azulejos (painted and glazed ceramic tiles) adorn churches, restaurants, and fountains. Of course, parts of Lisbon lack charm. Even some downtown areas have lost their classic Portuguese appearance as the city has become more cosmopolitan: shiny office blocks have replaced some 19th- and 20th-century are nouveau buildings.
Tuesday, September 15 - PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL
Portimao is a major fishing port, and significant investment has been poured into transforming it into an attractive cruise port as well. The city itself is spacious and has several good shopping streets-though sadly many of the more traditional retailers have closed in the wake of the global economic crisis. There is also a lovely riverside area that just begs to be strolled (lots of the coastal cruises depart from here). Don't leave without stopping for an alfresco lunch at the Doca da Sardinha ("sardine dock") between the old bridge and the railway bridge. You can sit at one of the many inexpensive establishments, eating charcoal-grilled sardines (a local specialty) accompanied by chewy fresh bread, simple salads, and local wine.
Wednesday, September 16 - SEVILLE, SPAIN (Overnight)
Thursday, September 17 - SEVILLE, SPAIN
Whether you pronounce it Seville or Sevilla, this gorgeous Spanish town is most certainly the stuff of dreams. Over 2,200 years old, Seville has a multi-layered personality; home to Flamenco, high temperatures and three UNESCO-World Heritage Sites, there is a noble ancestry to the southern Spanish town. Not t forgetting that it is the birthplace of painter Diego Velazquez, the resting place of Christopher Columbus, the inspiration for Bizet's Carmen and a location for Game of Thrones filming, Seville is truly more than just a sum of its parts. This city is a full on experience, a beguiling labyrinth of centuries old streets, tiny tapas restaurants serving possibly the best dishes you'll taste south of Madrid and a paradise of Mudejar architecture and tranquil palm trees and fountain-filled gardens.
Friday, September 18 - TANGIER, MOROCCO
Many first-time visitors may find the Tangier port such a rude awakening that they fail to see the beauty of the place. Simply walk quickly past these unsolicited assistants, pretend you know exactly where you're going, and show knno sign that you're bewildered. Once you hit your stride and start going places with confidence, Tangier has a charm that this raucous undercurrent only enhances: crumbling Kasbah walls, intimate corners in the serpentine medina, piles of bougainvillea, French balconies, Spanish cafes, and other remnants of times gone by. Tangier is a melting pot-a place where it's not uncommon to see sophisticated Moroccans sharing sidewalks with rural Rifi Berbers. Travelers from around the world all converge on the African continent's nearest point eager for a look into a cultural potpourri that has taken thousands of years to blend.
Saturday, September 19 - MALAGA (COSTA DEL SOL), SPAIN
Many tourists ignore the capital of the Costa del Sol entirely, heading straight for the beaches west of the city instead, although cruise-ship tourism now brings plenty of visitors to the city. Approaching Malaga from the airport, you'll be greeted by huge 1970s high-rises that march determinedly toward Torremolinos. But don't give up so soon: in its center and eastern suburbs, this city of about 550,000 people is a pleasant port, with ancient streets and lovely villas amid exotic foliage. Blessed with a subtropical climate, it's covered in lush vegetation and averages some 324 days of sunshine a year. Malaga has been spruced up with restored historic buildings and some great shops, bars, and restaurants. A new cruise-ship terminal and the opening of the prestigious Museo Carmen Thyssen in March 2011 have also boosted tourism, although there are still far fewer visitors here than in Seville, Cordoba, and Granada.
Sunday, September 20 - CARTAGENA, SPAIN
Don't be put off by Cartagena's outskirts, which house chemical plants and mining macinery; plunge straight into the Old Town near the port instead. Old Town is steeped in history and bustling with life. The Roman ruins here are among some of the best in the country and Cartagena's tapas are justly famed. Holy Week processions are as moving as those in Seville and Malaga, and music fans will enjoy the Mar de Musicas international music festival in July and the Jazz Festival in November. Flamenco aficiounados shouldn't miss the Festival del Cante de las Minas in August, an annual flamenco contest plus concerts held in La Union, 16 km (10 miles) to the east of the city. (www.fundaciouncantedelasminas.org).
Monday, September 21 - VALENCIA, SPAIN
Valencia is a proud city. During the Civil War, it was the last seat of the Republican Loyalist government (1965-36), holding out against Franco's National forces until the country fell to 40 years of dictatorship. Today it represents the essence of contemporary Sapin-daring design and architecture along with experimental cuisine-but remains deeply conservative and proud of its traditions. Though it faces the Mediterranean, Valencia's history and geography have been defined most significantly by the River Ruria and the fertile floodplain (huerta) that surrounds it. The city has been fiercely contested ever since it was founded by the Greeks. El Cid captured Valencia from the Moors in 1094 and won his strangest victory here in 1099: he died in the battle, but his corpse was strapped into his saddle and so frightened the besieging Moors that it caused their complete defeat.
Tuesday, September 22 - PALMA DE MALLORCA, SPAIN
If you look north of the cathedral (La Su, or the seat of the bishopric, the Mallorcans) on a map of the city of Palma, you can see around the Placa Santa Eulalia a jumble of tiny streets that made up the earliest settlement. Farther out, a ring of wide boulevards traces the fortifications built by the Moors to defend the larger city that emerged by the 12th century. The zigzags mark the bastions that jutted out at regular intervals. By the end of the 19th century, most of the walls had been demolished; the only place where you can still see the massive defenses as at Ses Voltes, along the seafront west of the cathedral. A torrent (streambed) used to run through the middle of the co city, dry for most of the year but often a raging flood in the rainy season. In the 17th century it was diverted to the east, along the most that ran outside the city walls.
Wednesday, September 23 - BARCELONA, SPAIN (Overnight)
Thursday, September 24 - BARCELONA, SPAIN
The infinite variety of street life, the nooks and crannies of the medieval Barri Gotic, the ceramic tile and stained glass of Art Nouveau facades, the art and music, the throb of street life, the food (ah, the food!)-one way or another, Barcelona will find a way to get your full attention. The capital of Catalonia is a banquet for the senses, with its beguiling mix of ancient and modern architecture, temptin cafes and markets, and sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches. A stroll along La Rambla and through waterfront Barceloneta, as well as a tour of Gaudi's majestic Sagrada Familia and his other unique creations, are part of a visit to Spain's second-largest city. Modern art museums and chic shops call for attention, too. Barcelona's vibe stays lively well into the night, when you can linger over regional wine and cuisine at buzzing tapas bars.