Tag: Spain


What if Westeros was Europe?

If you’re a Game of Thrones (GoT) fan, there’s a good chance you have dedicated a fair amount of time to comparing the fictional continent of Westeros to modern day Europe.

George R.R Martin based Westeros on ancient Europe so it’s tempting to start drawing comparisons around things like Hadrian’s Wall and The Wall, and the English Channel and The Narrow Sea (or is that the Strait of Gibraltar, George?).

We have popped on our thinking capes and researched what we believe each of the Seven Kingdoms (and outlying lands) equate to. Read on and have your mind blown.

1. The North is Scotland

The Northmen in Game of Thrones are most likely based on the Picts, a group who largely banded together to fight off the Romans or, in the case of GoT, the Southerners.

2. North of the Wall is Greenland

While this makes no sense geographically, it makes sense historically. The Vikings arrived in Greenland at the end of the 10th century. They were led by Erik Thorvaldsson, known as Erik the Red because of his red hair.

3. Norway is the Iron Islands

It’s a bit of a giveaway that the Iron Islanders behave very much like vikings: pillaging and destroying villages. They are master seamen and women, and the fact that one of the main captains in the books is a woman is also reflective of Viking society where gender equality was the norm.

4. London is Kings Landing

It’s not too much of a stretch to gather that King’s Landing – home of the Iron Throne – is based on London. Many of the events in the book are inspired by the Rose Wars. The houses mirror Lancaster (Lannister), York (Stark), Plantagenet (Baratheon) and Henry VI was Aerys Targaryen. Of course the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia has been the setting for the capital city of King’s Landing since the beginning of the show.

5. Spain is Dorne

The sunny mediterranean landscape featuring olive groves and palm trees is a hint. Also in the show the nobles of House Martell reside in the Alzacar in Seville which is the oldest palace still in use in Europe.

6. The Riverlands are Germany

Constantly being raided and ransacked, Germany has been bathed in blood for eons, eventually being split between the Prussians and the Bavarians.

7. The Vale is Switzerland

We’re not really sure why. It’s pretty, hilly and chilly?

8. The Reach is France

The Tyrells were a stylish, open-minded bunch. They also came up with a bloodless way to get rid of a certain prince, resulting in less dry-cleaning for everyone. A very French solution to a rather ugly problem.

9. The Stormlands is Wales

The weather is bad and people tend to avoid going there. While we’re not saying that Wales is unpopular, the weather can be a little tricky.

10. England is the Westerlands

Home of the Lannisters, Westerlands is a shrunken down England with a terrifyingly ruthless family at its head. While the modern day Windsors aren’t exactly scary, some of their ancestors loved a good beheading.

If you’d love to visit some of the filming locations featured in Game of Thrones check out Gate 1 Travel’s escorted Europe tours here.


Gaudi & Dali: Spain’s Modern Masters

Among the many pleasures of visiting Spain, art lovers especially revel in the ability to witness a millennium’s worth of the world’s greatest masterpieces. Two masters stand out—famed modernista Antoni Gaudi and surrealist Salvador Dali. The former was an architect and the latter a painter, and their work seems dissimilar at a glance. But Gaudi’s influence on Dali, and the fact that both created work that shattered conventional ideas of what art could be, link them in art history as Spain’s rebellious artists.

Gaudi: The Singular Saint

Gaudi was part of the modernistas, Catalan modernists who believed art played two roles: to defy bourgeois conformity and to create change in society. Gaudi created works that elevated the influence of nature in the man-made, reflected his faith, and resist rules of symmetry and restraint that had previously defined “good taste.”

Born in 1852, he studied architecture but never managed to impress his teachers. He had the last laugh, as he designed the otherworldly Sagrada Familia Cathedral (a work still in progress!), the vividly tiled Parc Guell, countless mansions, and even the ornate signature streetlamps of Barcelona. Seven of his creations are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Unfortunately, his face was not as easily recognized as his buildings. In 1926, after he was struck by a streetcar, he was mistaken for a beggar and couldn’t convince a taxi to take him to the hospital. When a policeman finally removed him from the scene, he was left at the pauper’s ward, and his friends couldn’t find him until the next day. But as a display of solidarity with the poor, he refused to be moved to better conditions.

He died there a few days later, and the outpouring of grief was profound: it was reported that half of Barcelona’s citizenry donned black and took to the streets on the day of his funeral.

Dali: The Surreal View

Salvador Dali was born a half-century after Gaudi, and by the time he was studying art, the influence of the modernistas was waning. Expelled from art school, he threw himself into experimenting with cubism and dadaism, and met kindred spirits in Miro and Picasso. It was in Surrealism, a movement which revived and reframed the values of the modernistas, that he found his visual language.

With the melting clocks of his most famous work, “The Persistence of Memory,” he put surrealism on the global map, joining the pantheon of Spanish masters. He was exhibited in Paris and New York and beyond, and held a special affinity for the US: The artist lived in the states during World War II, worked on a scene for Albert Hitchcock, and even appeared in a US film commercial.

His time away from his native Spain allowed him to escape controversy at home. Dali was a staunch supporter of fascist leader General Francisco Franco, who he said brought “clarity, truth and order” to Spain. Despite the limited success of his paintings in the final decades of his life, he was indeed seen as one of the most important artists of the century.

A few years before he died, Dali was asked to write the foreword to a biography of Gaudi. In doing so, he paid tribute not only to his predecessor but to his own work, and he wasn’t a bit modest in his assessment. He wrote, “Gaudi is a genius; so am I.”

Learn more about these fascinating artists during our new France & Spain: History, Culture & Wine small group trip.

Paella cooking class in Barcelona

The Best Recipe for Spain’s Most Famous Dish

One of the joys of travel is coming home with a greater appreciation of other cultures, their traditions and their food – and where better to throw yourself into the gastronomic delights of a region than in Spain!

Gate 1 Travel’s Discovery small group tour, 14 Day France & Spain: History, Culture & Wine, offers an intoxicating blend of these two delicious countries and in Barcelona you get to enjoy a truly memory foodie exeperience – you get to take part in a step-by-step paella cooking class to prepare a meal in a relaxed and enjoyable environment. Then for lunch, savour your own creation!

This photo by Tom Regner was his Gate 1 group in action and in his words “It was so much fun!”

Paella cooking class in Barcelona

This internationally-renowned Spanish dish could also be considered an equality trail blazer in the kitchen, because traditionally it was prepared by men. The male of the household would often cook up this dish on a Sunday to give his wife a day off from cooking!

If you can’t wait until you get to Spain for an authentic cooking class, then here’s a traditional receipe that you might want to try this weekend and imagine yourself eating it in Barcelona, or Valencia, where it originated.

Paella a la Maestre – from Australia’s favourite adopted Spaniard, Miguel Maestre:
​Serves 3-4

500g marinara mix (mussels, fish, calamari, prawns, scallops)
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
500ml chicken stock
220g Bomba rice (short grain Spanish rice)
50g fresh or frozen peas
1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
½ bunch chives, garnish
Aioli and Sangria, to serve

For the sofrito:
2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
6 piquillo peppers
4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
½ bunch parsley
1 bunch chives
25ml extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch saffron threads
1 tbsp smoked paprika

To make the sofrito, place all the sofrito ingredients in a food processor and process until chunky. If you don’t have a food processor, roughly chop the tomatoes and piquillo peppers and finely chop the garlic, parsley and chives then combine with other sofrito ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Place a 30-centimetre-wide frying pan or paella pan over a high heat. Add the marinara mix with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and cook for one minute. Add sofrito and cook for a further three minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil. Stir in rice and bring to a simmer on medium to low heat for 15 minutes until stock has absorbed.

Add peas and cook for a further two minutes to achieve “soccarrada” (crust on the bottom of the pan).

Season to taste with salt and garnish with chives. Squeeze over lemon juice just before serving. Serve with aioli and sangria, the Spanish way. Ole!


Seville, Spain – A Top City to Visit in 2018

Seville, Spain, was recently named the top city to visit in 2018, so that’s another great reason to add it to your travel list ASAP.

This once traffic-plagued locale has recently found its artisan roots and become a land of bike paths and trams. The popularity of the hit HBO show, Game of Thrones, also likely had a role in showcasing this city as a land of beauty and ornate architecture. Undeniably, the 400th anniversary of Seville-born painter, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, has let this city come out of its shell through unique art exhibitions and other local activities. Here’s our list of activities that are enjoyed by locals and food that will make you feel like one.

What to see:

Seville, like all historical cities in Europe, includes some sights that you must see while you are there. Among these is the El Alcazar Real, where parts of Game of Thrones‘ Dorne was filmed. This gorgeous palace, complete with colourful gardens, is perfect for a leisurely walk on a warm day. The Plaza de Espana is a building that was built for the World’s Fair and is surrounded by the Parque Maria Luisa, which is perfect for a bike ride or photo-op.

Next, visit La Catedral, which is the third-largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the world, behind St. Paul’s (London) and St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican). The cathedral is a great place to beat the heat and while you’re there be sure to visit the tomb of Christopher Columbus. If you desire a quirky tour, the Past View tour takes you through the history of the city, with iPhone-rigged video glasses. That’s right, this tour projects re-enactment videos and hologram projections to give you an “augmented reality” experience while in the city.

What to eat:

Tapas is a must while in Seville, and to make it authentic, wait until about 9pm to start your food tour, because this is when the locals eat Tapas. Some of the favourite and more famous Tapas restaurants include Los Coloniales, The Room, La Azotea, Dos de Mayo, La Brunhilda and Duo Tapas. Don’t leave Seville without trying Torrijas, or deep fried sugary bread, Carrillada de Cerdo, mouthwatering pork cheek, and espinacas con garbanzos, delicious spinach with chickpeas.

As always, it’s great fun to taste traditional foods and don’t be afraid to try something new! Don’t forget to also try some of the local wines and a great way to do that is at a wine tasting to see what you like. A trip to Seville is not complete without savouring the region’s flavourful and robust wines. Enjoy tastings at Flor de Sal Vinos, Azotea Vinos & Mas and Flores Gourmet, which is actually a shop where you can taste and sip before you buy.


What to do at night:

When in Seville, a Flamenco show or class is something you don’t want to miss! Enjoy the traditional dance of the area and maybe learn a new step or two. Great places for Flamenco include La Casa de Memoria, Tablao Flamenco Los Gallo and Casa de la Guitarra.

If your tapas didn’t fill you up or you’re looking for a great place to hang out at a bar, go to the Alfalfa neighbourhood. There are plenty of good restaurants and bars including Bar Alfalfa, Sal Gorda and La Bodega to name a few!

Take time to visit the Barrio Santa Cruz and explore the former Jewish Quarter of Seville. This place is perfect for a walk due to cobbled streets, white-washed houses and cute shops to browse, there are also plenty of places to eat in this area. Seville has great nightlife and walking around in this city is very safe, choose from pubs, bars, discos or restaurants to make the most of your nights in this exciting city.


Now that you know a little bit more about what beautiful Seville has to offer, it is time to see it in person. Experience a warm and happy culture rich in history and tradition while sampling some of the best food and wine on the planet!

Choose from an array of ways to travel in Spain with Gate 1, such as escorted tours, cruises, independent holidays and flight, hotel & car rental packages. See Seville your way and at a great price with Gate 1 Travel!

Please Note: While the exact locations are not included in our itineraries, we pride ourselves on offering ideas for leisure time; these suggestions do not constitute a recommendation nor an endorsement of any specific service provider and the decision to participate in any such activities should be made independently.


Spain: Splendid Architecture, Sweeping History, Breathtaking Beauty

Spain long held a strategic role as a link between North Africa and Europe. For centuries, anyone who controlled the Iberian peninsula held great commercial and political power; variously throughout history, Moors, Arabs, Christians and countless others knew this and called Spain their own. Still today, Spanish hills and plains embrace richly adorned citadels and Moorish influences can be seen coast to coast.

But still … you have to wonder if they were all just in it for the gorgeous real estate. After all, Spain boasts a very singular beauty: central plateaus rise to the snow-capped splendour of the Pyrenees in the north and the Sierra Nevadas toward the south. Vineyards and olive groves blanket the famed ‘plains of Spain’. Mediterranean beaches invite long strolls and refreshing dips. One can only envy Don Quixote’s wanderings across such a rhapsodic land.

The masterpieces of those former kingdoms still stand – fortresses, cathedrals and citadels of staggering scale. And today Spain overflows with thrilling culture, colourful history, and a diverse natural beauty that takes your breath away. So we invite you to raise a glass of sangria, cava or rioja … to a spellbinding land lauded by Hemingway and immortalised by Cervantes … a land where a flamenco-fueled fiesta is sure to follow close on the heels of an afternoon siesta.

The Beating Heart of Spain

You might call Madrid “el corazón de España” – the heart of Spain – the central point and capital from which Spanish life and culture flow. Its colossal Royal Palace, on the vast Plaza Oriente, was built on the site of a former Alcazar, or castle, in the mid-1700s by Philip V and Carlos III. Paired with the adjacent Almudena Cathedral, it is a spectacular site. The Plaza de España – with its skyscrapers and towering memorial to Cervantes – is no less impressive. Art lovers flock to El Prado, the huge repository of Spanish art featuring the works of Goya, Velazquez, Picasso, El Greco, and countless others.

History is palpable in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Segovia, north of Madrid. The Romanesque city has gone untouched for six centuries, but its most amazing site predates even that. The remarkably preserved Roman aqueduct stretches 2,700 feet long and – at its highest – 90 feet tall; it is a remarkable feat of ancient engineering, built without a dash of mortar. The city’s Jewish Quarter, or aljama as it was historically known, stands as testament to the city’s diverse past. The enormous Alcazar watches over it all from the city’s edge.

Toledo is considered by lovers of Spanish history and art a national monument, a rich canvas of all the elements that have shaped today’s Spain. Both Moorish and Christian architecture survive here, having had little influence on one another, a rarity in Spain. Steep, cobbled streets offer endless (though strenuous!) strolls. Its St Tome Church evokes the romance of the high-style Gothic era, and the city’s many museums have earned it the moniker, ‘The Museum City’.

Farther west, historic Salamanca rises on the plains like a medieval crown. This breathtaking city is home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, founded in 1134, and was long a major intellectual centre of Europe. Still today, it exudes a lively student vibe and café scene. But the city’s most impressive sight is its massive cathedral that dominates the skyline. You could consider it two cathedrals in one: the Old Cathedral was built in the 12th century and the “New” four centuries later. Together, they are an imposing echo of the power of Christianity in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

To the North, Sample World-Class Art and Wine

The Mediterranean climate of the province of Rioja – on par with southern France and Italy’s Tuscany – creates a prime wine-growing environment. Vineyards and bodegas, or tasting rooms, dot a landscape of rolling valleys and towering mountain ranges. We find it the perfect northern idyll for its wine-tasting opportunities.

Perhaps the north’s most famous city is Bilbao, linked to the Bay of Biscay by the Nervion River. Frank Gehry’s 1997 Guggenheim Museum might have put this city on the international map – a wondrous work of glass, titanium and limestone – but Bilbao’s Old Quarter, or Casco Viejo, is a fantastic preservation of the medieval city’s original seven parallel streets.

Live the Spain of Your Dreams in Andalusia

For many, Andalusia – the sun-kissed southern province on the Mediterranean – is the real Spain: flamenco dancers, matadors, bougainvillea spilling over wrought-iron balconies in white villages, and the Alhambra. The truth is, Andalusia is only a slice of this scintillating country – but a glorious, historic, and festive one.

Perhaps no other city conveys Spain’s diverse past as powerfully as Córdoba, once the most populous city in the world and the intellectual centre of medieval Europe. Its Jewish Quarter and synagogue are marvellously authentic pockets of history that were once strolled by the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides. The marriage of Muslim and Christian is poignant in the massive mosque-cathedral of La Mezquita – also known as the Mosque of the Caliphs. Its forest of 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite is an unforgettable sight. Predating all of this is the still-standing first-century Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir River.

Seville, home of the flamenco, is arguably one of Spain’s great cities. Its cathedral is the largest Gothic building on earth. Christopher Columbus, one of the country’s heroes, is entombed here. This too was once a mosque; when Spaniards razed it, they couldn’t bring themselves to tear down its lovely minaret. So they topped it with a five-story bell tower that shifts in the breeze and called it La Giralda, roughly translated as “something that turns.” Nearby, the Santa Cruz Quarter – the Jewish Quarter in medieval times – is a labyrinthine network of intimate warrens. A more recent symbol of the city, the Plaza de España, is a graceful, tile-adorned work of perfection, built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition.

Any visitor to Granada will understand why Boabdil, its last Moorish king, wept when he lost his city to Ferdinand and Isabella. Indeed, its magnificent setting and palatial fortress brings a tear to the eye of many a visitor. The palace overlooks today’s modern city, but within its walls kings and caliphs savoured a world of their own: cavernous rooms, ornate courtyards and extensive gardens overlooking snow-capped peaks.

Catch Spain’s Mediterranean Breezes

The resort town of Torremolinos provides a taste of Spanish beach life. Mediterranean sands and the city’s delightful beachside promenade are right across the street from your hotel, and the town’s shops in the upper town invite an afternoon of browsing. It all makes for a relaxed stay, but truth be told, relaxing may be the last thing on your mind when you’re tempted with a day trip Morocco, right across the Strait of Gibraltar. If you opt for our tour including a three-night stay on the Costa del Sol, there’ll be time to embark on a ferry and explore the intoxicating streets of Tangier, touring its colourful medina and perusing the treasures and trinkets of the Grand Bazaar.

Farther east lies the city where the famous Spanish dish of paella was invented by fishermen. Fed by Mediterranean moisture and the waters of the Turia River, Valencia is Spain’s Garden City. Its most historic buildings – aside from its ornate City Hall – huddle around a 14th-century cathedral. But perhaps its most incredibly preserved structure is the Torres Serranos, or City Gates, that have greeted travellers for thousands of years. A decidedly more modern addition is the Arts and Science City, a massive and futuristic complex of entertainment and museums.

Barcelona stands as Spain’s jewel on the Mediterranean – though residents of this Catalonia capital have long advocated for secession. No matter your opinion on the local issue, the city is a vibrant metropolis of long boulevards, hopping cafes, ocean breezes and surreal echoes of its native son Antoni Gaudí. For a true taste of Catalan culture, there’s no place like Las Ramblas, the pedestrian zone lined with cafes, tapas bars and shops. Even more of a draw, is La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s perennially unfinished cathedral. This soaring masterpiece – and the charming structures within his vast Parc Guell – look torn from the pages of a storybook. Outside of town, Montjuic Hill overlooks the city. The hill saw intense competition at the 1992 Summer Olympics in the Olympic Stadium, still in use today.

Take in All of Iberia – Add Portugal!

You’ve long heard of Portugal as the launching pad for the Age of Discoveries. You can discover this beautiful nation rich in tradition for yourself when you choose a Gate 1 itinerary that helps you explore beyond Spain’s borders.

From Portugals’ shores, courageous mariners set sail to claim new lands, map the world, and develop global trade. Much of Lisbon’s wealth was built on these endeavors, as its palaces, monasteries and monuments show. And in the city’s Alfama district, strains of Fado music spill into narrow lanes. Farther north, on the Douro River, the city of Porto has witnessed a long history of wine making – beginning with the ports produced in the nearby Douro River Valley, the world’s first demarcated wine zone.

There are so many reasons to visit Spain with Gate 1 Travel. Rich history, magnificent landscapes, stunning architecture and opulent palaces might top your list. Gate 1 Travel gives you another reason – a value that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Join us!

Follow this link to our exciting Spain Tours. Or call 1300 653 618 to speak to our travel specialists!