This overview is is designed to clarify the rather complicated structure of our trip to the southern part of Europe. Specifically we visited the countries of France, Italy, Portugal and Spain and their areas that touch the Mediterranean (or the Atlantic in the case of Portugal). The areas share a common history: settled by Celt tribes followed by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans (Carthaginians through war), Visigoths, Moors (Spain) the Kings of Mallorca (Catalonia), Spain and France. For much of the time the inhabitants had to deal with the scourge of intermittent raids by Barbary Pirates who were looking to enslave their captives. Piracy remained a problem until the 1830's. Before that kingdoms established strings of forts and watch towers with which to warn communities of impending attack.
Days 1 - 8 After flying via Vancouver, Montreal and Barcelona (1.5 days stay), then by train to Toulouse. we complete the trip to Collioure, a French village on the Mediterranean by private bus. We were surprised by the ubiquity of the area's Catalan culture and the many times we saw the Catalan flag. Unlike the Spanish Catalans, the French don't seem to be seeking independence. We were well looked after by Raymond, Dale and Sarah who guided and otherwise facilitated our stay.
Days 8 - 16 Flying from Toulouse to Palermo (Sicily) via Frankfurt we are met by Lorenzo, our tour guide and bussed to the small village of Scopello which is our home base for 4 days. For the second half of our week in Sicily we transferred to the city of Marsala. For this trip Lorenzo was helped by Fabio and Maya.
Days 16 - 21 Flying from Palermo via Rome we arrive in Lisbon in the evening. This part of our trip was the link between the walking tours and the Windstar Cruise around Iberia ending up back in Barcelona. The photo, taken on our Birding tour, shows part of Lisbon and the Vasco de Gama bridge crossing the Tagus river.
Days 21- 29 Picture left - setting up for the on-board BBQ; one of the events on the Star Breeze cruise from Lisbon to Barcelona. When we arrived in Barcelona it was quite rainy so we took bus tours and museum visits to pass the 2 days before we wended our way home: Barcelona to Zurich to Toronto to Vancouver to Prince George. All in one day by hopping time zones on the westward trip.