"I was in Spain, and the new life beginning. I had a few shillings in my pocket, and no return ticket…"

So writes Laurie Lee in the first chapter of ‘As I Walked out One Midsummer Morning’, the classic travel memoir of how he set out on foot from his Gloucestershire village in 1934, at the age of twenty. He had left behind the breathless girls and the rural childhood he later described so vividly in ‘Cider with Rosie’.

He knew nothing of Spain, but a girl who came from Argentina had taught him to ask for a glass of water in Spanish yet as soon as he landed in the port of Vigo he felt at home. That youthful journey through Spain, surviving by playing his violin was the key to Laurie Lee’s future life as a writer, to his poetry and his eventual fame.

Our journey aboard the MS Serenissima will follow his footsteps in Andalucia, where he spent most of that year of 1935-6, until he found himself caught up in the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Away from the coast, despite the epidemic of tourism in the late 20th century on the Costa del Sol, the heart of all the old Spanish places described by Laurie in such rich detail, remain much as he saw them, peopled by the same characters.

We pick up his trail in Seville. “Ever since childhood,” he writes, “I’d imagined myself walking down a white dusty road through groves of orange trees to a city called Seville.” He found the city “white and gold, the gold-lit river reflecting the Torre de Oro, with flashes of sun striking the Giralda Tower and the spires of the prostrate cathedral.” We will spend time in some of his favourite places, including the historic ports of Cadiz and Algeciras, “that blistering smugglers’ town” where you could then get a glass of wine and a plate of shrimps for two pence. “I was half in love with Algeciras and its miniature villainies, and felt I could have stayed on there indefinitely.” We pass the bay of Trafalgar and windswept Tarifa, making a detour to Gibraltar, which “lay apart like an interloper, as though it had been towed out from Portsmouth and anchored offshore… where Africa and Europe touched fingertips in this merging of day and night.” We will sail by the “salt fish” villages Laurie walked through when they were still small, poor, undeveloped: San Pedro, Estepona, Marbella, Fuengirola. “At that time,” he wrote, “one could have bought the whole coast for a shilling.” We will also explore Granada, which Laurie called “the most beautiful and haunting of all Spanish cities: an African paradise set under the Sierras like a rose preserved in snow” and the Alhambra, and the cathedral where the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, are entombed in marble. Most importantly we visit Almunecar, sixty miles east of Malaga, which was in 1934 a poor fishing village on an outcrop of rock, but where Laurie discovered a pioneering hotel, the Mediterraneo, where he played his violin every evening for the guests (on the site of that hotel there is now a memorial to “el gran escritor, Lorenzo Lee”). In the hills above Almunecar we visit the old castillo, now an artists’ retreat, where Laurie returned many times until he died in 1997. He had spent several months in Almunecar when suddenly the Spanish Civil War encroached on the village, and the English benefactress in whose house he lodged managed to get a British battleship to take them home to safety. But Laurie felt so guilty about leaving behind his friends, he was determined to return and volunteer for the International Brigade. In 1937 he walked back across the Pyrenees and enlisted – the story told in his third volume of memoir, ‘A Moment of War’. The nearest ports to Laurie’s wartime adventures are Valencia (close to the International Brigades assembly point, at Albacete) and Barcelona, Laurie’s youthful forays into Spain entered his soul, and were a passport to literary success. His accounts of his travels have been an inspiration to countless travellers ever since and we believe our passengers will be infected too by visiting the places that invigorated his prose.
Fly by scheduled flight. On arrival embark the MS Serenissima and moor overnight in Seville.
This morning we enjoy a tour of Seville Cathedral, the alcazar and the old quarter. “City of flowers and towers and azulejos, shops packed with pretty emblems…tambourines, castanets, embroidered shawls, flamenco dolls, holy images and glittering chandeliers.” Laurie refers to “the special femininity of Seville, a mixture of gaiety and languor… Seville is set apart like a mistress, pampered and adored... Men turn to Seville as a symbol; it is the psyche of their genius, the coil that regenerates their sharpest pleasures and instincts.” “A city where, more than in any other, one may bite on the air and taste the multitudinous flavours of Spain – acid, sugary, intoxicating, sickening -- but flavours which, in a synthetic world, are real as nowhere else.” The afternoon is free to explore at leisure. Moor overnight.
This morning’s guided tour is to the Casa Pilatos Palace and the Palace of the Condesa de Lebrija. Sail in the afternoon down the Guadalquivir to Cadiz and moor overnight.
Laurie Lee wrote of Cadiz, ”...a city of sharp incandescence’s… lying curved on the bay like a scimitar and sparkling with African light.” This morning there will be a tour of this historic naval port, the old Medieval town encased in defensive walls, surrounded on three sides by the sea. It is now one of the most beautiful of Andalucia’s towns, barely affected by tourism, with elegant tall narrow streets, delightful squares and luxuriant gardens. In the Plaza de Mina is the house where Manuel de Falla lived and paintings by Goya and Zurbaran. Plaza de Mina, where the Museo stands, is a delightful square filled with pines, palms and oleanders. We will see the massive cathedral, Medieval arch leading to the remains of Medieval Cadiz, with early 16th century buildings, and north of the plaza, the markets, surrounded by bars. Alternatively join an optional full day tour to Jerez, the centre of the centuries-old sherry trade and home of the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera. Laurie recommended a visit to a bodegas, the main ones (eg Gonzalez Byass, whose 19th century ironwork is designed by Gustave Eiffel of the eponymous Tower) are all in the town centre. Sail in the late evening for Algeciras. The Atlantic coast between Cadiz and Algeciras has hardly suffered from touristic development and still benefits from long sandy beaches lined with pinewoods.
“The port of Algeciras had a potency and charm which I’d found nowhere else since then,” wrote Laurie Lee. He loved Algeciras’ scruffy old quarter, its “brawling bars and modest brothels”, its air of modest busyness and the fact that it remained un-showy, un-touristic and unpretentious. He especially loved the seediness of the sea-port. “In Algeciras, which the tourist ignores, you can talk to smugglers loaded with watches. Or go to the small local theatre (hard seats, one shilling) and see some of the best strolling players in Spain.” It seemed to him to be “a town entirely free of malice.” “I remember the fishing -boats at dawn bringing in tunny from the Azores, the markets full of melons and butterflies, the sly yachts running gold to Tangier…” During lunch we will sail to Gibraltar: “It lay on the waters like a glass-blue prawn, or crouched like a dog and threw off aircraft like fleas”. When he first arrived in Gibraltar, 20 minutes across the bay from Algeciras by paddle-wheel ferry, the water leaping with dolphins, Laurie was intending just to drop in for some tea but was detained by customs, being penniless, and obliged to sleep two nights in the police station cell, but allowed out during the day. “After a few days of bacon and eggs, a policeman escorted me back to the frontier” whereupon “Spain enclosed me once more with its anarchic indifference.” This afternoon we will explore this little bit of Britain sandwiched between Spain and Morocco before sailing late this evening.
From Motril we will drive to Granada for a full day tour. Laurie writes of the tremendous view from the highest point in the city of Granada, “over a wide and populous plain, shafted with light, scattered with tiny villages and tiny figures as though in a landscape by Breughel.” The Alhambra was “an oasis in the dry burnt south” with “green trees, banks of ivy, flowers and gushing water.” Inside the cathedral, Laurie writes of gazing upon “the marble tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella - extravaganzas of sugar-icing most cold and rhetorical” – but these tombs are in fact in the Capillo Real nearby, along with the prostrate images of Philip the Handsome and Joanna the Mad (Juana la Loca) and many other treasures. We will moor overnight in Motril and the following morning drive to Almunecar, an ancient Pheoenician fortress and once a small fishing village with its traditional central square and market and now there is a beachside monument to Laurie Lee who spent six months here of his year in Spain 1935-6. “A tumbling little village built on an outcrop of rock in the midst of a pebbly delta, backed by a bandsaw of mountains and fronted by a grey strip of sand which some hoped would be an attraction for tourists.” Laurie played his violin for residents of the first tourist hotel, the Mediterraneo, in 1935-6. Almunecar became a hotbed of unrest and strikes as the Civil war began in July 1936 and Laurie was rescued from here on the 1st August, just after the rebel forces had seized Cadiz, Jerez and Algerciras. Later today we will drive into the hills to the Castillo San Rafael. When Laurie first wrote about Spain in 1955, he disguised Almunecar as “Castillo”. It was not until a 1984 BBC film was made of his travels that the director discovered the exquisite Castillo San Rafael in the still wild hills above Almunecar. Surrounded by acres of olive and almond groves, this former monastery dates from 1050 and has been transformed by its British owner to an artist’s retreat. Laurie loved the beauty and tranquillity of the Castillo with its lemon, mango and pomegranate trees and 100 foot serpentine pool shaded by jacaranda and spent many holidays here for the rest of his life. We will enjoy some sherry and tapas in this wonderful setting before continuing to Palazete de Cazulas for lunch, a gem of 15th century Andalucian architecture. Set amidst stunning scenery the British owners have restored this private house and garden to its former glory. We will sail from Motril later this afternoon.
After a leisurely morning at sea we will explore the great port of Cartagena which dates back to the Phoenicians. See Concepcio Castle and the Roman archaeological site of Molinete.
Our morning tour today will include Valencia’s fine Baroque buildings including the cathedral, Silk Exchange and the old La Carmen quarter. It was in Valencia that Laurie Lee, on his return visit in 1937-8 at the height of the Spanish Civil War, experienced his first air-raid. As he describes it in A Moment of War: “Franco’s airfields in Majorca, armed by Italian and German warplanes, were only a few minutes’ flight from the mainland. Barcelona and Valencia lay as open cities, their defences but a few noisy and ineffectual guns”… ”As the bombers closed in, spreading their steady roar above us, I felt a quick surge of unnatural excitement… New images of outrage which Spain was the first to show us, and which in some idiotic way I was impatient to share… I was surprised by my detachment and lack of fear. I may even have felt some queer satisfaction. It was something I learned about myself that night which I have never quite understood.” “It was a small, brief horror imposed on the sleeping citizens of Valencia, and one so slight and routine, compared with what was happening elsewhere in Spain, as to be scarcely worth recording. Those few minutes’ bombing I’d witnessed were simply an early essay in a new kind of warfare, soon to be known – and accepted – throughout the world.”
Our final port of call is Barcelona where we will enjoy a morning tour of the city and an afternoon at leisure. In later years Barcelona became a favourite Spanish bolt-hole where Laurie and his friend Julian Bream, the great guitarist, would enjoy startling the locals in Los Caracoles restaurant by striking up on Laurie’s fiddle and Julian’s guitar.
Disembark this morning and transfer to the airport for the return scheduled flight.

Inside cabin

£ 3795 GBP pp
Inside cabin
The inside cabins are approx 10 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Inside single

£ 3795 GBP pp
Inside single
Inside single cabins range in size from 9.9 to 11.52 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Standard Single

£ 3995 GBP pp
Standard Single
The standard single cabins range in size from 7.1 to 12.7 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Standard Stateroom

£ 4195 GBP pp
Standard Stateroom
The standard staterooms range in size from 10 to 15.5 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Standard Stateroom Plus

£ 4295 GBP pp
Standard Stateroom Plus
The standard staterooms range in size from 10 to 15.5 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Superior Stateroom

£ 4595 GBP pp
Superior Stateroom
The superior staterooms range in size from 11 to 19.6 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Deluxe Stateroom

£ 4895 GBP pp
Deluxe Stateroom
The deluxe staterooms range in size from 15 to 25.4 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Junior Suite

£ 5395 GBP pp
Junior Suite
The junior suites range in size from 20.9 to 21.7 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Owners Suite

£ 5895 GBP pp
Owners Suite
The owner’s suites are 22.7 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Executive Suite

£ 5895 GBP pp
Executive Suite
The executive suites are 25 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Standard Stateroom Sole

£ 5995 GBP pp
Standard Stateroom Sole
The standard staterooms range in size from 10 to 15.5 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Standard Stateroom Plus Sole

£ 6445 GBP pp
Standard Stateroom Plus Sole
The standard staterooms range in size from 10 to 15.5 square metres. All cabins are fully air conditioned with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a selection of toiletries in addition to a hairdryer, robes and slippers. All cabins come equipped with telephone, flat screen television, safety deposit box and other thoughtful appointments. Bottles of still and sparkling water are replenished daily.

Serenissima

Vessel Type: Small Ship

Length: 87 metres

Passenger Capacity: 107

Built / refurbished: 1960 / 2013

Prior to her life as the MS Andrea she spent many years cruising the Norwegian coast as the Harald Jarl. The decision by the Norwegian owners, Hurtigruten to invest in much larger new vessels, presented an opportunity to the American company, Elegant Cruises to purchase the vessel in 2002. After a substantial refit of over $20 million in Sweden she began her new life of worldwide cruising.

Perhaps, one of the best known and loved features of this vessel is its unique style. During the major refit in Sweden the then owners commissioned Swedish interior designers to create a Gustavian style interior. This bright Swedish 18th century influenced, country house style works particularly well on a vessel of this vintage, providing intimacy and classic nautical sensibility often lacking in larger vessels.

Accommodating just under 100 passengers, the 59 cabins are attractively designed for comfort and convenience and are fully air conditioned with a modern shower and toilet, telephone, flat screen televisions and other thoughtful appointments. There are eight different grades of cabin arranged over five decks and with the exception of the five inside cabins, all staterooms feature either windows or portholes.

The free seating Venice Restaurant accommodates all guests in one sitting. In addition there is an outside dining area for when the weather and itinerary permit. A new addition to the vessel is a Lido area on Deck 5 with a bar and Jacuzzi.

Other facilities on board include two lounges, a small library with two computers for internet access, a spacious observation deck, fitness area, massage and an elevator. The vessel is equipped with Zodiac craft allowing us to visit remote places where normal tender arrangements are not possible.

The European captain, officers, expedition staff, and crew offer a first class service and have been selected for their professionalism and caring attitudes. The atmosphere on board is warm and welcoming and dedicated to discovery and relaxation.

Cabin layout for Serenissima
Serenissima

SerenissimaSerenissima

Expedition Expedition

11 Days from
£ 3795 GBP pp

Highlights

• Featured Expert - Valerie Grove. She has been a journalist for 50 years, she has four children and is the author of four biographies of writers, including Dodie Smith, John Mortimer and Laurie Lee. Valerie has been instrumental in planning this fascinating voyage and will share her knowledge of Laurie Lee as we follow in his footsteps from Seville to Barcelona.

• Enjoy a tour of Seville Cathedral, the alcazar and the old quarter.

• Drive to Granada for a full day tour.

• Explore the great port of Cartagena which dates back to the Phoenicians.

or call us on

NZ Freephone
0800 945 3327

AUS Freephone
1800 107 715

to help you make your reservation

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