Arrive in Oviedo and settle into our hotel.
Oviedo seems to have enjoyed a very rapid rise to celebrity status. From humble beginnings, it became the capital of the eighth century Kingdom of Asturias. We visit the pre- Romanesque palace of Sta Maria de Naranco, two royal churches: San Miguel de Lillo and San Julian de los Prados, and the Cathedral with its collection of pre-Romanesque treasures. Drive south to the 9th century pre- Romanesque church at Sta Cristina de Lena and continue to León.
León: after AD69 this was the only legionary base in Spain, imaginatively named ‘Legio’. Our morning walk explores the centre of the old city including the Roman Walls, the basilica of San Isidore, the Cathedral and the archaeological museum. Afternoon continue to see the splendid mosaics in the 4th century Roman Villa, La Olmeda, depicting both Odysseus’ attempts to evade serving in the Trojan war, and Roman hunting scenes. These show the owner’s wish to be seen as a cultivated gentleman of leisure, displaying both contemporary and mythological scenes.
Pliny (who was posted here) described Asturica Augusta, Astorga, as a “magnificent city”: apart from the walls, traces of baths, housing and a sewer which still functioned into the 20th century can be seen. We also visit the town museum housed in a great Roman vault, which was later used as a prison. Free time to visit the Cathedral or Camino museum built by Gaudi as the Bishop’s Palace (or sit and relax!). Continue to the Templar castle of Ponferrada, and thence to our next hotel, a Parador at Villafranca.
The Roman gold mining site at Las Médulas where an entire mountain was destroyed by the most ambitious hydro-engineering project in the ancient world. Pliny describes the method in great detail, referring to “ruina montium”, or “mountain destruction” where the workmen “never saw the light of day for many months”. Evening walk around picturesque Villafranca, where wine flowed down the streets during John Moore’s ‘Retreat to Corunna’.
Lugo (Roman Lucus Augusti, the Emperor’s grove) - walk around the 2 km circumference late Roman walls, some of the best preserved in the entire empire, and visit Lugo Cathedral. The early Pagan and Christian shrine of Sta Eulalia de Bovada in the countryside, and on to the extensive Hispano-Roman settlement of Castro do Viladonga. Thus far, we will have followed part of the medieval pilgrims’ route to Santiago through Leon, Astorga, Villafranca and Lugo, and now we continue to its finale.
Santiago de Compostela: Santiago is Spanish for St James, and legend has it that “Compostela” derives from ‘Campus Stellae’ - the field of starry light reported by a hermit which led to the miraculous discovery of St James’s tomb. Guided exploration of the city in the morning and free time to enjoy these famous surroundings in the afternoon.
Scenic drive to Oviedo for flight home.
- Flights - Stansted/Oviedo return. Easyjet are the only direct flights. If you prefer to find your own way, it is possible to book on-line with Iberia via Madrid
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Guide Lecturer - Dr Andrew Fear. Not to be confused with "guest lecturers"! The guide lecturer will be with you from breakfast to supper, and probably even a drink in the bar afterwards. There is the occasional site where they may not be allowed to guide because of local regulations but otherwise the guides are just that. They will have been chosen because of specialist knowledge and their ability to communicate and interest you. After 29 years of making tours worldwide, we are highly appreciative of the attributes of a good guide, and intensely critical of people who do not possess them.
- Tour Manager - Stasa Bailey. We never know how best to call the very special people whom we choose to accompany you on your tour. They are usually employed in this capacity only by us, and have been trained to do things in the Andante way - unobtrusive, friendly and quietly efficient
- Meals - All meals included except lunch Days 3 & 7, dinner Day 4. Drinks (except water) are not included
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites & tips included
- Field Notes
1 night in a city centre hotel in historic Oviedo;
2 nights in delightful hotel in the old centre of León;
2 nights in a Parador in the pretty town of Villafranca;
2 nights in an attractive hotel near the old town (specifically chosen in preference to the obvious Parador, which despite being a most beautiful building, has not received good feedback from former guests.)
|Sun 1st - Sun 8th Sep 2013 with Dr Andrew Fear
||Singles: On request