More than a local expert, they live and breathe your destination. Offering a personal, tailored service, combined with a black book of contacts known only to locals, they make our limited-edition journeys exceptional.
Here, Travel Concierge Dom shares his passion for Iberia, what makes Spain and Portugal so unique and tells us how to savor the best of this exceptional region.
Why Iberia has my heart
“My love of travel, and of Iberia, started young when I would travel to Spain on family holidays,” Dom tells us. “As a kid I loved the differences, the foreignness, the desire to explore another culture. And at that age it involved making friends with the local kids, joining in crab fishing on the beach, for example. Despite not understanding the language at the time, I found I had a natural ability to assimilate, and I developed a yearning to know and experience more.
“As I got older, I became addicted to seeing other cultures and comparing them to mine. Iberia was a natural gravitation. It’s sunny, the people are great. I’m really interested in the history and the culture, and I really enjoy sharing this love with others. My love of travel grew, ultimately leading me to become a Luxury Gold Travel Concierge.”
Discover Iberia on: Spain & Portugal in Style
An exquisitely crafted itinerary
“The Spain & Portugal in Style itinerary is so well curated,” says Dom. “You go from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, from Barcelona through Southern Spain and over to Lisbon. ‘You see the capital cities and all the big hitters, and there’s plenty of free time to appreciate what else each location has to offer as well.
“Harnessing the true passion of Iberia, a highlight for guests in Seville is a flamenco dance lesson and performance at the Christina Heeren Foundation. I’ve seen many flamenco shows but this is just another level of excellence. The dancing and the musicians, they are the top of their game, literally the best artists in the world.”
Read more about this exclusive flamenco experience: Discovering the Soul of Spain with Alexandra Hoffer in Seville
Spain and Portugal – alike yet unique
“The history of Spain and Portugal differs to the rest of Europe,” Dom explains. “These distinctive cultural influences, garnered from an eclectic peopling of Iberia, mean that today they have their own way of doing things. Both countries are very European, but at the same time there’s a unique look to their architecture, their food and so forth.
“Spain and Portugal then differ from each other, through influences from their respective explorations and empires. Portuguese also sounds very different to Spanish, and the people are often a bit more reserved, particularly compared to those in southern Spain.
“A key part of my role is to bring the history to life for guests, along with guiding them through the nuances and differences. I love sharing these stories as we travel between locations.
“As you cross the border and travel into Portugal, changes are subtle, such as seeing road signs in a different language. Then once you start to travel onwards through the countryside, the Atlantic influence reveals itself in the flora and fauna.”
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Iberian food culture – a perfect fit for small group travel
“On Spain & Portugal in Style we’ve got some outstanding restaurants, and many ways to enjoy food, from Michelin-starred dining to a cooking class,” Dom tells us. “Food in Iberia is such a big thing; the culture revolves around the cuisine and dining experience.
“I love how Luxury Gold guests really adopt the culinary culture of the places that we’re going to. Just like the Spanish and the Portuguese, we have long lunches and big sociable dinners.”
My foodie highlights – Spanish fine dining and local Portuguese fare
“L’Antic Moli in southern Catalonia is definitely one of my highlights – Michelin-starred dining and a true Spanish cultural experience,” Dom says. “On my last tour we were there for three hours. Course after course of impeccable flavors and textures, and lots of talking; no one wanted to leave!
“In contrast, when we cross over into Portugal, we stop in a very small village called Serpa – the kind of place you wouldn’t know to go to. Here as part of the itinerary, we experienced something very different in a local restaurant: Cante Alentejano polyphonic singing. The restaurant was rustic, with wooden tables and vegetables and meats brought out in big terracotta bowls, all accompanied by this wonderful authentic music. That is also one of my favorites and the contrasts just blow me away.”
My favorite ingredients and dishes
“For me it’s all about the simple ingredients – the fresh Mediterranean salad for example is always a winner. I also recommend the tortilla (Spanish omelet) which I eat daily. In Spain you will find even the basic things are done in such a wonderful way. The Mediterranean diet is also of course very famous for its health benefits.
“My favorite Portuguese dish is a fish one, cod of course, the country’s specialty. There is a dish called ‘Bacalhau com natas’, a delicious combination of shredded cod with cream, sliced potatoes, onion and cheese, all baked in the oven, which is best washed down with vinho verde, green wine. And for dessert, the original, impeccable pastel de nata, custard tart. Yum!”
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Savor seafood in Barcelona
“Both Spain and Portugal have some of the most incredible seafood in the world,” says Dom, “and a great place to indulge is Barcelona.
“I used to live in Barcelona, so I know it well, and I recommend guests head out the seaside neighborhood of Barceloneta. This old fishing village is now home to multi-million dollar yachts and some outstanding eateries.
“The 7 Portes restaurant, which is 186 years old, is the ideal place for old school Barcelona food. It is famed for its rice dishes and paellas, tapas and traditional cannelloni.
“One of my favorite seafood restaurants is called Botafumeiro which is also not far from our hotel. The dishes here include warm spider crab pie, a Botafumeiro-style Spiny-lobster and grilled Palamós shrimps.”
For more Barcelona dining recommendations: For Fine Dining in Spain, This City Sets the Gold Standard
Indulge in Gaudi
Of course, Spain & Portugal in Style about more than food. Visiting all the top sights, the tour starts on a cultural high. “Whilst there we visit Gaudi’s iconic Barcelona masterpiece La Sagrada Familia with THE best local specialist,” says Dom. This unique modern temple has been under construction since 1882 and is not actually yet finished.
“All I can hear is guests saying, wow, wow and everyone has really sore necks because you always looking up in wonder! We also visit Park Güell up on the hill where Gaudi’s architecture meets his inspiration – nature.
“There are so many more outstanding buildings from Gaudi in Barcelona. So, with their spare time I often advise guests to visit these – the Casa Mila, the Casa Vicens and many others.
“Continuing on an art theme of recommendations for guests, Picasso grew up in Barcelona and lived very close to the previously mentioned 7 Portes Gates restaurant. The Picasso Museum houses an extensive collection and is well worth a visit.”
Luxury Gold guests can in fact rest their sore necks from admiring Gaudi and all these art works by booking a ‘Bath butler’ at the five-star Ohla Eixample where we stay whilst in Barcelona. Coming back after a long day and finding the perfect bath waiting for you: salts, candles, relaxing herbal tea or a bottle of cava. Just one of the exceptional hotels that are a hallmark of every Luxury Gold journey.
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My hotel highlight – Evora’s Convento do Espinheiro
“Each of the hotels is fabulous, and has their own style, but the one that always amazes me the Convento do Espinheiro in Evora, Portugal,” says Dom. The stunning 15th century building and gardens was once a convent, with rooms featuring antique or 1950s-inspired furnishings.
“The cloisters and the chapel are still there, it’s quite remarkable. We have dinner in the Cellars where they used to make the wine and the olive oil. As well as the exceptional service, the uniqueness of staying in what used to be a convent is really special. You’d never think really to stay in in such a place.
Discover more of our exceptional hotels: 7 Luxury Gold hotels that have hosted royals, celebrities and more
Personalize your day in Madrid
A key feature on all Luxury Gold tours are the opportunities for guests to personalize their day with a choice of two experiences. These offer contrasting ways to explore and experience your destination, each carefully curated with the Luxury Gold guest in mind,
In Madrid guests have the option to visit the Prado Museum with an art historian, or to take a walking tour through Madrid’s Old Town.
“For art lovers, or just those with an interest in Spain and its history this is the one to take,” says Dom. “In European terms Italy and France are famed for their museums but Spain often gets overlooked. The Prado is a world class gallery, and you can learn about the history and story of Spain from these masterpieces. There are the Royal portraits from artists such as Velazquez and Goya. There are also many international artists on display, Titian and Bosch, for example. There’s even a copy of Mona Lisa from DaVinci’s workshop. Not a lot of people know that.”
“Then those who want to be a bit more active and see kind of the backstreets of Old Madrid and some kind of little secret corners there, the way to go would be The Walking tour. This is also the perfect opportunity to get churros, a highlight of any day!”
“In fact, on this day, people can do both experiences in Madrid if they want,” Dom adds. “This is one of the many benefits of our Spain and Portugal itinerary, and of small group journeys – the flexibility to adapt to how our guests may be feeling on any given day.”
You may also be interested to read: Why Spain Sets the Gold Standard for Art Museums