Monday, September 23, 2013

Your travel route with Incantato Tours

The Cantare and Vivace Choirs will be traveling throughout northern and eastern Spain during their 2014 performance tour. After arriving in Madrid (A), there is an excursion to Segovia (B) planned before the group continues north to beautiful Burgos (C). The next stop on the journey is then Leon (D) before continuing east and to the town of Olite (E)  in Navarra. Finally the travelers will stop in Montserrat (F) before arrive at their final destination, Barcelona (G). 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Incantato Update: News from Madrid

In the past, Madrid has often been considered the stately, classical cousin to the cooler, hipper Barcelona. However, the ambiance of Spain's capital is changing and it is evolving into a trendy destination in its own right.
One of the main contributors to this transformation has been the emerging and contemporary art exhibitions and there has also been a spike in shopping venues opened with international visitors in mind. 
One of the events to watch is the fourth annual Apertura contemporary art exhibition, presented by the ARTE Madrid Association of Art Galleries. The festival features simultaneous activities at museums and some 50 galleries city-wide.  
There will also be the first ever Summa, a fair hosted by the Matadero Madrid cultural center, that will showcase everything from emerging art and photography to gastronomy. The Matadero center itself is also a happening venue, with year-round events and exhibitions. Located in the previously less touristed Arganzueal district, the center has revitalized that part of the city. 
If shopping is more of interest to you than art, be sure to watch out for the Las Rozas Village. It is a large complex that acts not only as a tourist draw, but is also set to help revive the country's down economy. Close to Gran Via is also TriBail, featuring young designers, appealing shops and one-of-a-kind boutiques. 
An addition to the thriving shopping and art scene, the San Anton Market has also been a valuable addition to what Madrid has to offer. Situated in the popular neighborhood of Chueco, which is a hub of welcoming restaurants, this modern, refurbished market offers visitors typical season Spanish products in a three-story building. The building originally dates back to the 19th century, but it was modernized in 2002 and finally opened in 2011. San Anton is not a market in the traditional sense, but a combination between market, show cooking and restaurant. 
On the first floor, vendors present stands of food from hamburgers to a selection of more than 60 types of bread, vegetables and fruit. On the second floor, there is a tasting area, as well as the opportunity to purchase Spanish and international cuisine to go. A restaurant is located on the third floor where typical products form the market below are cooked. It also features a terrace lounge with a view.

For more news from Travel Weekly, please click here. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

City Facts about Barcelona

  • Barcelona is the capital and the most populous city of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain.
  • The city is twinned with Boston, USA.
  • In 2007 Barcelona's City Council started the Bicing service, a bicycle service understood as a public transport. Once the user has their user card, they can take a bicycle from any of the 100 stations spread around the city, use it, and then leave it at another station.
  • The Port Vell area houses Europe's largest aquarium, containing 8,000 fish and 11 sharks contained in 22 basins filled with 6 million litres of sea water.
  • Barcelona has a long sporting tradition and hosted the successful 1992 Summer Olympics as well as several matches during the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
  • Barcelona has many venues for live music and theatre, including the world-renowned Gran Teatre del Liceu opera theatre, the Teatre Nacional de Cataluna, the Teatre Lliure and the Palau de la Música Catalana concert hall. Barcelona also is home to the Barcelona and Catalonia National Symphonic Orchestra, the largest symphonic orchestra in Catalonia.
  • Snowfalls and night frosts occur almost every year. Snowfalls seldom cause any disruption to traffic. Nonetheless, the city has experienced its share of heavy snowfalls, as for example at Christmas 1962, when a true blizzard affected the city.

Burgos, a city full of history

Burgos, a city in Castilla-Leon situated in the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela, still preserves important vestiges of its medieval splendour. 
The city, which was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon for five centuries, boasts a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture: the cathedral of Burgos, declared World Heritage. Aside from a visit to the historic quarter, you can take a quite interesting walk along the banks of the Duero and Arlanza rivers. Great places to approach a delicious, varied cuisine.
The city of Burgos, crossed by the Arlanzón River, is a few kilometers away from the prehistoric site of Atapuerca, which was declared World Heritage. A military hamlet in its origins, the city slowly became a powerful commercial city in the Middle Ages. A critical factor in this development was that Burgos was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon between the 10th and 15th centuries, its privileged location on the Pilgrim's Road to Santiago de Compostela and the monopoly it held over the trade of merino wool, also contributed. All that splendour left a profound mark on present-day Burgos. On the foothill of the fortified Castle Hill, which has the best views of the city, the medieval quarter unfolds. Some of the remarkable buildings of this place include the Mudejar Arch of San Esteban and the Gothic church by the same name, which houses the Reredos Museum. Another important temple is the one devoted to San Nicolás, where you can see a magnificent polychromatic alabaster reredos.

Information and pictures courtesy of

Incantato Favorite: Olite, Spain

Situated in the far north of Spain and bordering the Pyrenees Mountains is the region of Navarra. In the center of this green and mountainous region sits the town of Olite. It is a medieval and picturesque town with narrow streets lined by noble stone houses with coats of arms on their facades, many of which were built between the 16th and 18th centuries. As you take a stroll through the old part of town, you could also run into grandiose wooden eaves, medieval galleries and a number of splendid churches.
The town is surrounded by a Roman wall, and Roman remains from the 1st century have been found here, although Olite is thought to have been founded by the Goth King Suintila around 621. In the Middle Ages, Olite was the seat of the Royal Court of the kingdom of Navarra, first held in the year 1276. Due to its royal importance, the most striking and dominating feature of Olite is the Castle-Palace, which occupies one third of the medieval old town. The palace's thick walls were home to monarchs and princes and the Castle-Palace is the best example of civil Gothic architecture in Navarra and one of the most notable in Europe. It was declared a national monument in 1925. 
The complex is actually two palaces built next to each other. The old palace is from the 11th-13th centuries, although now only the walls and towers remain. The new palace dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries and represents a stunning example of French Gothic architecture. Even though it was heavily fortified on the outside, it was beautifully decorated by Mudejar artists on the inside with ceramic tiles and a marquetry ceiling. Today, the castle is a complex of courtyards, passages, large halls, royal chambers, battlements, and torrents. One of the more famous churches in Olite is the Gothic Iglesia de Santa Maria La Real, which dates back to the 13th century. It is situated partly in the palace and is the former royal chapel, and features a richly carved Gothic portal. 

Fun Facts about Madrid with Incantato Tours

Madrid has been officially declared as one of the "greenest" cities in Europe. However, greenery is not its only pride. Some of the unknown facts about this beautiful city are:

1. Madrid's official symbol of the bear on its hind legs eating berries from the madroño tree is a metaphor for Madrid's growth and represents possession and ownership of wood which is necessary for constructing buildings.

2. Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. It is the third-most populous municipality in the European Union after Greater London and Berlin, and its metropolitan area is the third-most populous in the European Union after Paris and London. It is also the highest capital city in Europe

3. Its sister city in the USA is New York City.

4. Madrid is home to the soccer team Real Madrid, that plays in the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Real Madrid is one of the most prestigious soccer clubs in the world, having won a record 9 European Soccer Championships

5. The city bid to host the 1972 Summer Olympics, the 2012 Summer Olympics, and the 2016 Summer Olympics, which were lost to Munich, London, and Rio de Janeiro respectively.

6. Madrid hosts the largest Plaza de Toros (bullring) in Spain, Las Ventas, established in 1929. Las Ventas is considered by many to be the world centre of bullfighting and has a seating capacity of almost 25,000.

7. The Auditorio Nacional de Música is the main venue for classical music concerts in Madrid, is home to the Spanish National Orchestra, the Chamartín Symphony Orchestra and the venue for the symphonic concerts of the Community of Madrid Orchestra and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra.

8. The Royal Botanic Garden or Real Jardin Botanico was an 18th century creation. It was used as a base for the plant species being collected across the globe.

9. Madrid enjoys more cloudless days than almost any other city in Europe.

May we introduce you to Spanish cuisine?

The Spanish food tradition has varied ancestry, though most Spanish dishes have rather humble origins and are the result of ingredients put together by farmers or shepherd families - many times using leftovers, or at the very least products from their own farms and orchards.
Mountains run through Spain in several directions, acting as natural barriers to communication and making transportation difficult until the last half of the 20th century. This is one of the reasons why cooking differs so much from region to region. Many times the only common ingredients are olive oil and garlic, the two basic ingredients of Spanish food!
Many dishes are prepared today using the same cooking methods and ingredients as they were two or three hundred years ago. Other dishes sprung up from European and American influences and were adapted to the Spanish taste. One thing is for sure, food in Spain is fresh, abundant and full of taste and the Spanish love their food dearly.

Unquestionably pork is par excellence the most favorite Spanish meat:
the Spanish like to make use of all of the ingredients they can and often include a number of different meats in the same dish.
Of course there are many other meats served in Spanish tables including lamb, beef and chicken. But Spaniards are not exclusively carnivorous, there are many vegetarian stews and other dishes that are enjoyed from North to South, from East to West. Vegetables are grown throughout the country, and the varied climates and terrains in Spain mean that a variety of different vegetables are grown. As a result, the vegetable dishes in Spain tend to also vary from place to place.

But what makes Spanish food so popular? The answer is simple it is the quality and variety of the ingredients used. For instance, it was the Romans that imported rice to Spain, giving way to the creation of the Valencian paellaand many other rice dishes. Since then, these dishes have come to form part of the typical dishes of Spain and are a definite must for any travelers who are planning on visiting Spain and doing a bit of gastronomic tourism.

There is also a great variety of seafood, including fish and crustaceans from the coast areas, which are used in the preparation of many delicious dishes. The fish industry in Spain is extremely important and forms part of the livelihood of many of the population. Furthermore, Spain is a country that is blessed with such a large and varied coastline, including the Bay of Biscay, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This gives rise to a whole manner of different species of fish and seafood being available for Spanish chefs. Therefore the range of Spanish seafood dishes is endless!

When it comes to sweet things, Spain has a very rich dessert tradition. On one hand it was also influenced by the Moors, and on the other many of them are centuries old creations from nun convents. 
If you have a sweet tooth we recommend you to sample some of the many deserts Spain has to offer for a example Churros, Spain’s answer to a donut, a crunchy, deep-fried sweet snack that resembles the horns of the churro sheep. It is mostly served with hot chocolate to dip it in.

¡Buen provecho!

¡Damas y caballeros, bienvenidas y bienvenidos a España!

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a member state of the European Union since 1986 and is located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula.

Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar; to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the northwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco.

With an area of 505,955 km², Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union after France and is amongst the fifty largest countries in the world. Since January 1, 2010, Spain has held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Because of its location, the territory of Spain was subject to many external influences, often simultaneously, since prehistoric times and through the dawn of Spain as a country. Conversely, the country itself has been an important source of influence to other regions, chiefly during the Modern Era, when it became a global empire that has left a legacy of over 400 million Spanish speakers today, making it the world's second most spoken language by native speakers. Spain is a democracy organized in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy.

The Spanish population stands at over 47 million, with an average density of just 93.4 inhabitants per square kilometer.
The life expectancy in Spain is one of the highest in the world (approximately 82,1 years). Life expectancy for Spanish women, at 85 years, is also one of the highest in the European Union. Around 15% of the Spanish population is under 16 years old, while approximately 15% are over 65. Nevertheless, Spain's population is still quite young in comparison to that of other European countries.

Since Spain has still a monarchy the members of the Spanish royal family enjoy the affection and respect of the Spanish people. The royal family is made up of H.M. the King Juan Carlos, H.M. the Queen Sofía, the Prince and Princess of Asturias, Felipe and Letizia, and their daughters, Leonor and Sofía.

Spain, is one of the warmest countries in Europe and has a predominantly warm Mediterranean climate, with dry summers and winters with balanced temperatures. Here you can enjoy more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year. It is no surprise, then, that this is also one of the warmest parts of Europe.
When talking of weather, special mention should be made of the Canary Islands. Their special location, facing the coast of Africa, gives them a benign climate with mild temperatures with only small temperature differences between day and night, whatever the season.

The currency in Spain is the Euro, as in other European Union countries. The Euro is divided into 100 cents.
• There are eight different coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent, and 1 and 2 Euro.
• And seven different bank notes, for the following amounts: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 Euro.

Flag photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Travel Insurance: making sure you protect yourself and your investment

Incantato Tours requires getting travel insurance for your upcoming journey to Europe.
Not only are you covered medically should anything happen when traveling, but with a company of your choice or with our preferred supplier and TravelGuard's policies, you also protect your investment should you have to cancel or interrupt the trip. Last but not least, there is also coverage for delayed and lost luggage, etc.
Click on the logo below for the direct link to purchase travel insurance online, and you can do so with your credit card and also select the option that is best for you..

In the meantime, have a look at the most comprehensive coverage option "The Protect Assist Gold" below.

Protect Assist (Gold) - 
Comprehensive Travel Protection for the World Traveler
  • Trip Cancellation
  • JUST ADDED! - Trip Cancellation due to employment loss or layoff
    if employed with the same employer 1 year or longer
  • Trip Interruption and Travel Delay
  • Emergency Medical and Emergency Medical Transportation
  • Baggage and Travel Document Protection
  • Baggage Delay and Lost Baggage Tracking
  • NEW - Cancel For Any Reason option now available
  • NEW - Cancel For Work Reasons option now available
  • NEW - Children age 17 and under covered at no additional cost
  • IMPROVED -Trip Cancellation limit increased to $100,000 (from $15,000),
  • IMPROVED - Trip Interruption coverage increased to 150% of Trip Cost
  • IMPROVED - Travel Delay required hours reduced to 5 hours (from 12)

ProtectAssist special features:
  • Best coverage for Weather Related Cancellations
  • Pre-existing Condition Exclusion Waiver*
  • Default/Bankruptcy Protection*
  • $50,000 Flight Accident Insurance*
  • 24-Hour "LiveTravel" Travel Agency
  • Emergency Cash Transfers
  • Identity Theft Restoration

* These additional benefits apply If you are purchasing within 15 days of making your initial trip deposit or payment, however, coverage may still be purchased at any time up to 24 hours prior to departure.
Increase your coverage with these valuable additions to your Protect Assist Plan:
Cancel For Any Reason – 50% 
reimbursement of nonrefundable expenses if you cancel your trip for any reason, up to 48 hours prior to your departureOnly available when this plan is purchased within 15 days of initial trip payment.
Cancel For Work Reasons – 
Offers additional work-related reasons for cancellation or interruption. Also includes our exclusive “Business Assistant” services if you have work obligations during your travels. Only available when this plan is purchased within 15 days of initial trip payment.Umbrella Package – Medical Expense limits are doubled and coverage is upgraded to primary. Emergency Medical Transportation limits are doubled and benefits upgraded to take you home or to the hospital of your choice. $25,000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment coverage will be added.

Car Rental Collision Coverage – $35,000 in primary coverage. Covers cost of repairs for covered collision damage to a rental car for which the car rental contract holds you responsible. Subject to $250 deductible.

Optional coverages cannot be purchased separately. Must be purchased with base ProtectAssist plan.
Comprehensive non-insurance travel services* automatically included with plan!
With the ProtectAssist plan, every customer also has access to these valuable travel services when they travel:· Arrangements for last-minute flight changes· Hotel finder and reservations· Rental car reservations· Emergency medical assistance· BagTrak® -- lost baggage tracking· Pre-trip health and safety advisories· Live e-mail and phone messaging to family and friends· Cash transfers· Airport transportation· Golf course reservations· Event ticketing· Floral services· Identity Theft restorationBusiness Assistant* (available when Optional Cancel for Work Reasons coverage is purchased)

*Non-Insurance services are provided by AIG Travel Assist.

Citizenship: All Nationalities
Residency: United States
New York, Oregon, and Washington residence please call to purchase
Some rider options are not available and other restrictions may apply

Destination: Worldwide
Ages: All Ages
Max Trip Length: 365 Days