Discovery & theme tour

ON BOTH SIDES OF THE PYRENEES

From Fri 21 Sep 2007 to Fri 12 Oct 2007Pre-and post tour bookings made in Barcelona

From Barcelona to San Sebastian across northern Spain, then back along southern France, all the time close to the Pyrenees. 21 days exploring History, Architecture, Culture and Music. No fewer than 12 World Heritage sites included in the itinerary.

Of interest to :
Anyone keen on getting to know the Pyrenees

Chris Hainsworth

Programme leader : Chris Hainsworth
Formerly Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Music in Waikato University New Zealand, before settling permanently in France, becoming Director of the Conservatoire de Musique in Beziers, and currently Beziers cathedral organist. Chris is a well-known concert artist on organ and harpsichord, and has led several Culture and Music Tours with Cpederf since 2003 with several more in the pipeline!

"Thank you for a wonderful tour" (group card received at the end of the tour on behalf of the 33 participants)

Four days of festival in Barcelona opened the tour, with music and pageantry in the streets, culminating on 24th September : the Festes de la Mercè, a national day in Barcelona, the most important festival of the Catalan calendar, music everywhere and of course the celebrated street processions of giants and other historical personages. A once-in-a-lifetime sight for those visting Barcelona on a 24th September!

Guided visits in Barcelona included the Gothic quarter, the Plaça Reial, Placa del Rei, Santa Maria del Mar, the Picasso Museum, the fabulous Sagrada Familia, the Casa Mila, Juan Miro Foundation, the Guell (Gaudi) Park, the great Musical Instrument Museum (one of the finest in Europe), the Catalan Music Palace (with its famous inverted coupola), the extraordinary Roman town excavated beneath the cathedral and the Grand Liceum Theatre. Highlight for many in the group was the visit to the workshops of the celebrated organ builder, Gerhard Grenzing, who personally accompanied the group round. Specially chosen restaurants in Barcelona offered a range of Catalan gastronomic experiences, culminating in a festive tapas dinner on the last evening.

The actual coach tour started with a day through historic Barbastro and its wine region, up into the Pyrenees and along to Jaca, where the tour joined one of the msot important Compostela routes in Spain, from Jaca to Burgos. Jaca, once the capital of the kingdom of Aragon, boasts the first romanesque cathedral built in Spain.

Then via Berdun, Leyre, Pamplona, Estella, the Puente la Reina, (this 11th century bridge is one of the most historic and celebrated crossing points on the St James' Way to Compostela), Logroño (capital of the most famous wine-growing area in Spain, the Rioja, so of course a wine-tasting!), and into the city of Burgos for three nights.

The World Heritage cathedral of Burgos is one of the great gothic glories of the world, the guided visit taking in also the Royal Convent of Las Huelgas and the Miraflores Carthusian Monastery. On the last day in Burgos, the group were driven out to the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, which, in addition to possessing one of the most beautiful cloisters in Spain, is celebrated throughout the musical world for the Gregorian Chant - which the group was able to enjoy.

The last part of the tour through northern Spain took in first the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, then the Vizcaya Bridge (a World Heritage monument) before settling for two nights in one of the prinicpal towns of the Basque country and certainly one of the most beautiful of all the coastal resorts, San Sebastian.

The French part of the tour started with a trip though lovely countryside at the foot of the Pyrenees through a region intimately associated with the St James' Way -stopping at Navarrenx and Oloron Sainte Marie, and later through historic Saint Bertrand de Comminges, at the foot of which lies one of the most peaceful places on the trip, the romanesque basilica of Valcabrère. All these places are World Heritage sites.

The main towns visited were Pau (2 nights) and Toulouse (3 nights), from this latter city visits were programmed also to Gimont and Auch (famous for its cathedral, its organ, - and for its association with the Three Musketeers!)

Then into the World Heritage medieval city of Carcassone, famous for its gastronomic delights as well as for its architecture, so there was a festive cassoulet lunch! From here an all-day excursion into the spectacular highland Cathar country of the Pyrenees, before settling into Beziers for four nights.

In and around Beziers a very full programme, including a cruise on the Canal du Midi (also World Heritage!), the Oppidum d'Enserune, the Chateau de Raissac, St Guilhem le Désert, the spectacular gorges of the river Hérault, the "circulade" of St Jean de Fos, - and three evenings with dinner and concerts, including the festive Farewell Evening.

Then back to Barcelona (passing via Girona) for Departure.

 

Documents :
ON BOTH SIDES OF THE PYRENEES

Click on pictures to enlarge

The famous organ builder Gerhard Grenzing personally welcomed the group to his Workshops. It was virutally impossible to drag the group away - even the non-organists were enthralled!Demonstrations of modern organ building techniques were given by the Grenzing staff, while the workshops were full of historic marvelsThe architectural beauty of even the smallest details was a major feature of visits to churches, abbeys and cloistersVisits to vineyards and wine-tastings were an inevitable - and highly enjoyable part of the tour!Tour Leader Chris and Tour Manager Annie at the Puente la ReinaSpain boasts many glorious cloisters, none more beautiful than here at Santo Domingo de SilosThings of beauty - a detail of the cloister at SilosSpecially chosen local guides were arranged in all the places visited on the tour - here the group is exploring BurgosThe World Heritage Vizcaya Bridge at Bilbao never fails to intrigue the visitor!There was no more peaceful - and beautiful - place on the tour than the site of the exquisite romanesque basilica of ValcabrèreThe great tympanum of the (World Heritage) cathedral of Oloron Sainte MarieThe beautiful setting in the French Pyrenees region of the cathedral of Saint Bertrand de CommingesThe striking organ loft of Saint Bertrand de Comminges
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