Untourists of the week: Joann and Gordon Pitz

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Joann and Gordon Pitz, in front of the National Museum of Art in Barcelona

How is taking an Untour different from other ways of traveling?

For many years we traveled independently of any tour group.  This gave us maximum freedom, and enabled us to develop a sense of how people in other countries live.  But increasingly the fun to trouble ratio grew too low and diminished the rewards for us.  We tried several trips with an organized tour group (Grand Circle), and enjoyed the trips a lot.  Not only did we have someone available to schlep our bags and make sure we had somewhere to stay each night, but the tour guides provided insights into the culture we were visiting that we often missed when traveling independently.  The drawback, of course, was having to go only where the tour group went, and to travel with 35 other people.

Quite simply, Untours offers the best of both options.   The support and expertise are available, together with the freedom to travel independently and experience a different culture from our own.  What more could we ask for?   Untours’ choice of locations and accommodations, and the assistance provided by on-site staff, maximize the benefits to be gained from living in a different county.  More than any other travel company, Untours shares our values.

Tell us a little bit about your most recent Untour.

The most recent was our first.  We spent two weeks in Spain—a week in Barcelona and a week in Priego de Córdoba.  We had visited Andalusia before, but Barcelona was a new experience for us.

We enjoyed splitting the trip into two distinct parts.  Our appreciation for Spain was enhanced by the contrast.  Barcelona turned out to be a surprisingly easy city to explore.  Priego was an ideal setting for an investigation of parts of Andalusia we had not seen.

Highlights of Barcelona included, of course, many of Gaudí’s masterpieces.  We loved La Pedrera and Park Güell (though we were less impressed by the Sagrada Familia).  But beyond that, we enjoyed seeing how his work fit in with other Modernisme architects, Doménech and Puig.  Doménech’s Palau de la Música and Hospital de la Santa Creu ì San Pau were unexpected treats.  But simply walking around the harbor or exploring the old city were endless opportunities for  discovery.

Priego turned out to be a joyful, relaxing place to spend time.  It’s easy to get from Priego to the big cities, Granada, Córdoba, and Sevilla.  But mostly we enjoyed relaxed meals or a jarillo de cána at La Noria, just around the corner from our delightful apartment. (Here’s Joann, pictured left,  with a jarillo at hand)

Our Untour this year will be to France, where we plan to expand on the theme of seeking contrast.  We’ll spend a week in Paris, a week in Provence, and a week in Alsace, and we hope that this Untour will offer the same broad sense of France that we had of Spain.  No doubt we’ll create travelogues for our web site.

 What is your favorite Untours memory?

What we value most and recall most clearly from any trip are those unexpected, unplanned events that give a little insight into the character of the place we are visiting.  We have many such memories of Spain, but one in particular is worth mentioning.

In Priego de Cordoba a unique ceremony takes place every Saturday night at the Iglesia de la Aurora, the Church of the Dawn.  Shortly after midnight, the men of the church carry out a tradition dating back to the 18th century. They gather at the church with musical instruments to welcome the dawn. Together with a dozen or so spectators, we joined the group.  They paraded through the narrow streets of the town, stopping every now and then to greet other churches, or to serenade bars (which were, of course, in full swing late on a Saturday).  At the bars, an “enforcer”, carrying a silver jug, took up a collection (from the sinners?).  We ended up at a beautiful local fountain.  There a member of the church offered us a sip of water taken from the fountain, and we retired back to our apartment.

If you could describe an Untour in just 3 words, what would they be?

Everything we want.

Editor’s Note: For Untour accommodations, Joann and Gordon stayed at the Marina flat in Barcelona and Posada Real in Andalusia.

 

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