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(2018 - Fall/Winter Issue)



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 throughChianti wine country with lunch atMachiavelli’s villa. Plenty of good excuses to escape from Canada’s frosty frontiers.



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.


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.


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.


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.

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