Celebrations in Southern Spain — WAIT LISTED

Led by Jim Dunlop, Professor Emeritus of Spanish, and Mac Gimse ’58, Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History
March 14–29, 2016

The calendar of spring 2016 creates an unusual opportunity for the Study Traveler: that of participating in the Fallas (Festival) in Valencia as well as Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Andalusia — within a week of each other. These holidays have elements both religious and profane which exemplify the Spanish penchant for opposite yet compatible attitudes in life. Interpreting “culture” to include the sublime as well as the mundane, we will witness, study and discuss these and other cultural themes as we visit Mallorca, Valencia, Elche, Granada, Cordova, and Seville.

We will first gather on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca where we’ll visit La Seu cathedral, and later travel by train and boat to enjoy the beauty of the magnificent mountains and seascapes. A guided visit to the Joan Miro art museum will cap our stay before we fly to Valencia.

We’ve come to Valencia to take part in the Fallas — which celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph and lasts several days. It has become well-known for its extravagant custom of  parading — and burning — giant, satirical figures made of wood and papier mache. Valencia is also the hometown of Santiago Calatrava Valls, the living Spanish architect who designed the Milwaukee Art Museum with its flapping wings. In Valencia he designed an extensive city of Arts and Sciences.

Our next stop, Elche, exhibits a pristine 4th century stone statue; nearby we can walk through the palm groves after dining on an authentic paella.

Our stay in Granada will include a tour of the magnificent Moorish Alhambra with its magnificent reflecting pools and gorgeous gardens. It is here that Islamic domination ended in 1492 — the same year Columbus set sail.  Soon after, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, built a lavish Renaissance/Mannerist palace in the Alhambra but which was never completed nor occupied. Also on the agenda in Granada are La Cartuja (think Baroque to the extreme) a new mosque, and a leather factory.

We’ll enjoy a lunch stop at an olive oil mill on our way to Cordova where the dualistic theme is blatant: the very center of the Mezquita (Great Mosque) was destroyed in 1523 in order to accommodate a Catholic cathedral.

We’ll complete our two-week study-tour in Seville where we’ll visit the Sephardic Jewish Center, and walk downtown to watch the elaborate religious pasos (floats) process solemnly through the closed streets. We’ll attend Easter services in the enormous cathedral, and, for those who wish to, attend a bullfight the same afternoon.

Along the way, Mac will enlighten us about Spain’s wealth of art and architecture (Did you ever contemplate becoming a flying buttress?); Jim will talk about Spanish cultural history (What was Don Juan’s real problem?). Through onsite visits and our lectures, the intention is to include a varied, representative view of the arts and culture of Spain, both past and present.

Explore Spain
Mallorca (also known as Majorca in English) is the most popular of Spain’s Mediterranean islands, drawing millions of visitors each year. The north is mountainous; the fertile southern flatlands offer a landscape of olive and almond groves, occasionally interrupted by windmills. The golden sands of Majorca are famous, with lovely beaches such as Ca’n Pastilla and El Arenal. 

Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, is a magnificent place, content for Madrid and Barcelona to grab the headlines while it gets on with being a wonderfully liveable city with thriving cultural, eating and nightlife scenes. Never afraid to innovate, Valencia diverted its flood-prone river to the outskirts of town and converted the former riverbed into a wonderful green ribbon of park winding right through the city. On it are the strikingly futuristic buildings of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, designed by local-boy-made-good Santiago Calatrava. Other brilliant contemporary buildings grace the city, which also has a fistful of fabulous Modernista architecture, great museums and a large, characterful old quarter. Valencia, surrounded by the fertile fruit-and-veg farmland La Huerta, is famous as the home of rice dishes like paella but its buzzy dining scene offers plenty more besides.

Moorish Granada rightly conjures up visions of the fairytale Alhambra, the snowcapped Sierra Nevada and passionate gypsy flamenco — but there’s more. Get lost in the winding alleys of the medina-like Albaicín, the old Muslim quarter; nibble free tapas in hole-in-the-wall tascas; and sample some of Spain’s hottest nightlife — no mean feat in a country famous for its fiestas. You too, just like sultans some 800 years ago, will be smitten with this Andalusian city.

Sevilla is Andalucía’s largest, most self-assured, and most sophisticated city — the hometown of the passionate Carmen and the lusty Don Juan. It may also be the most ornately decorated city in Spain. No country does baroque like the Spanish, and no city does Spanish baroque like Sevilla, where the style represents the hybrid offspring of Moorish decoration and the Catholic insistence on turning every abstract curlicue of Islam into a Christian angel’s wing. Sevilla has been Andalucía’s center of power and influence since Fernando III of Castilla tossed out the Almohad rulers in 1248. But Fernando wisely left Barrio Santa Cruz intact, and the tangled ancient streets of the Judería still make the medieval era palpable. As the first major city in the heart of Andalucía to return to Spanish hands, Sevilla has a markedly Christian countenance. The city is studded with churches and former convents funded by the riches that flowed into the city from its 16th to 18th century trade monopoly with the New World. The North African influence on Sevilla cuisine is obvious in the honey-sweetened pastries and the abundant dates, almonds, saffron, and lemons. Gazpacho was made here with almonds and garlic long before tomatoes arrived from the New World, and breads are still baked in ancient ovens.

Above descriptions adapted from frommers.com and lonelyplanet.com.

Program Leaders
Jim Dunlop has traveled to Spain nearly 20 times. On previous visits he has led St. Olaf students for courses on theater, language and culture — which he taught at the college for 34 years — and has co-led courses on sociology and art (three times with Mac). He has co-led three Study Travel programs for adults.

Mac Gimse has extensive experience leading study groups abroad. Destinations include India, China, Italy, Russia, Cambodia and Thailand. In addition to Global Semester, he and his wife, Jackie, have led Term in Asia, Term in the Middle East and countless January Interim courses for St. Olaf students. Before retiring from teaching at St. Olaf, Mac was involved in the Great Conversation, Paracollege and Fine Arts Interdisciplinary programs. He also taught sculpture, the history of architecture, and the art history of China, Japan, India and Africa.

What to Expect
Europe is best experienced on foot. Be prepared for lots of walking! We will travel by private motor coach from city to city, but within each city we will take public transportation or walk. Comfortable shoes trump the latest fashion! We will provide timing and addresses in the final itinerary so that you may take taxis (at your own expense) if you prefer.

Accommodations will be in centrally-located, three and four star tourist-class hotels with English speaking staff. We have deliberately sought out more European-feeling accommodations, which means that rooms will be smaller than the typical American hotel room.

To fully partake in this Study Travel program, you should be able to walk up to five miles per day over possibly uneven terrain (e.g. cobblestones or aged sidewalks), climb stairs that may not have handrails, keep pace with an active group of travelers, deal with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing a different culture, and be a considerate member of the group (prompt, courteous and flexible). We recommend you bring layers to accommodate fluctuating temperatures, and a small umbrella for likely rain showers.

Average temperatures and rainfall for our destinations in March are:

  • Palma de Mallorca, high 64º F, low 42º F, less than an inch rainfall
  • Valencia, high 64º F, low 43º F, 1.3 inches rainfall
  • Granada, high 58º F, low 42º F, 1.3 inches rainfall
  • Sevilla, high 70º F, low 48º F, 1.6 inches rainfall

You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit cdc.gov or who.int.

Program Fee
The program fee is $5,800 per person. Based on double occupancy, it includes discussions led by Jim Dunlop and Mac Gimse, accommodations, breakfast daily and group meals as listed on the itinerary, admissions for group activities, ground transportation (except for airport transfers), the flight from Mallorca to Valencia, gratuities to group guides, drivers, and meal servers, and limited medical protection while overseas. Add $650 for single occupancy.

Airfare from your home town to Mallorca and from Sevilla back home is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses include: international airfare to/from the U.S. • airport transfers • any passport or visa fees • any recommended immunizations or vaccinations • trip cancellation insurance • beverages, including at group meals • tipping to hotel staff, including housekeeping • laundry • dry cleaning • phone charges • room service or other items of a personal nature • expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities • lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on program itinerary.

Making Your Travel Arrangements
Please plan to depart the U.S. on Monday, March 14, 2016 in order to arrive in Palma de Mallorca on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, preferably by mid-afternoon. Plan to depart from Seville any time on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.

For assistance with flight arrangements, may we recommend Noreen Deiss of Travel Leaders. She can be reached at 651-429-0039 or noreen@tvlleaders.com. We recommend you not purchase non-refundable airfare until we can confirm the program has enough participants to go.