At A Glance:
  • Tour Dates:
    June 8—15, 2025
    June 7—14, 2026
    $3,795/Person (DO)
    $4,095/person (SO)

    Meet ~ Depart:
    Madrid, Spain~
    Barcelona, Spain

    Combines with:
    Castles in the Clouds

  • Given its astounding number of representations in popular culture—ranging from children’s cartoons to TV and film adaptations to melodramatic Broadway musicals to grandiose operas and ballets—there is no doubt that Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605 – 1615) has staked its claim to being one of the most influential pieces of literature in the history of the written word. In fact, William Shakespeare himself, just one year after the initial English translation of Don Quixote was published, borrowed a sub-plot from the story to create The History of Cardenio. What is it about the amusing and whimsical tales of “the knight of the woeful countenance” that continues to resonate through the ages with artists and audiences alike? Perhaps the answer to that question, much like the illusory visions of the title character of this classic, is one that remains as elusive as trying to recount one’s nocturnal dreams before they fade away in the brilliance of the morning sunlight.

    “Dreaming” will, in fact, be our central theme as we journey together through the rugged beauty of La Mancha itself to seek out the locations—both the evident and the more enigmatic—that undoubtedly inspired this masterpiece of literature. Our quest will be to uncover something of the mystery and excitement of the fascinating era—known as the Spanish Golden Age—from the land, the rich history, and subtle details in the work itself by exploring the historical background of the author, including the social, religious, and political milieu of the age in which he lived, and the region itself to more fully illuminate a work that sits at the apex of the world literary canon.

    We begin in the very heart of Spain—its vibrant capital city of Madrid. The start of our journey takes place, perhaps fittingly, in the very place where Cervantes’ life journey ended 400 years earlier at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians. Our visit to the tomb of the writer whose work will be the focal point of our sojourn, provides the opportunity for our tour leader, Professor Ilan Stavans, to elucidate why it is that an author who had achieved the pinnacle of literary success and fame opted for a humble burial in the sparseness and quietude of a convent over a more lavish place of repose. After honoring the great writer at his place of rest, we make our way to the nearby town of Alcalá de Henares to explore his birthplace. This charming town, and its rich monumental heritage formed by churches, convents, and university buildings, will evoke images of the Spanish Golden Age as we make our visit to the house and birthplace museum of Spain’s most celebrated author.  Professor Stavans will illuminate some of the most important events that both preceded and were concurrent with this “Siglo de Oro” (Golden Century).

    We also visit the world famous Prado Museum where the special collection of medieval armor will help us to envisage the bold and mannerly knight from bygone days, proudly galloping on his noble steed, seeking to uphold the laws of chivalry. It is this idealized image of knighthood from the age of chivalry that Professor Stavans will expound on in order to enhance our understanding of the significant and long-lasting impact upon the Spanish culture of both this image in its own time and, subsequently, in highly-romanticized versions popularized in literature of the 17th century.

    Leaving Madrid behind, we journey in the very wake of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as we traverse the austere, yet stunning, landscapes of the La Mancha countryside. As we make our way along the dusty roadways and over windswept prairies and plains, Professor Stavans will have ample opportunity to highlight the significance of the male companionship depicted in the novel, and how this oddly mismatched duo helped to launch an “archetype” in popular culture that has influenced innumerable representations in the ages since Cervantes’ work. Furthermore, we will share in the grandiloquent visions of our titular character as we approach a picturesque series of antiquated windmills towering above a sloping hillside, drop by a quaint 17th century “venta” (inn) much like the ones depicted in the novel, and wander the meandering lanes amid country farm houses in the village of El Toboso, the town wherein our noble knight-errant’s epitome of virtuous womanhood, and the inspiration behind all of his bold adventures, apparently resided. Along this part of the tour, Professor Stavans will provide us with further insight into the themes of courtly love, chivalry, and the treatment—both domestically and institutionally—of those deemed to be mentally ill or delusional. All relevant topics that give us a richer, broader perspective from which to penetrate Cervantes’ many-layered tome.

    After our whimsical and edifying days in La Mancha, we set our sights northward as we make our way to the splendid, seaside city of Barcelona. Recollecting a profound scene from the novel, Professor Stavans details the rise and significance of book publishing in the 17th century, particularly regarding the wide-ranging influence in the social, political, and religious spheres of that era. Moreover, he demonstrates how this seminal work of Cervantes, so artfully and eloquently written, forever changed the Spanish language. What better way to conclude our sojourn than to reflect on the universal appeal and manifold influences of this literary marvel while dreamily casting our gaze into the glistening blue waters of the enchanting Mediterranean Sea.

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