Patrick De Gabriele

Travel consultant focused on cultural travel in the Middle East & Mediterranean

Forthcoming Groups

 

Greece

1-17 October 2014

A tour for U3A members and their friends

This 16-day tour will take in all of the famous ancient sites of Greece, of course, but it will also focus on lesser known places, medieval towns, Byzantine ruins, quiet mountain villages, and a delightful Sporadic island.

Our tour starts in Athens where we visit the incomparable Acropolis and its new museum, the ancient Agora (the civic and economic centre of the ancient city), the beautifully preserved Temple of Hephaistos and the treasure house of the National Archaeological Museum. In addition to the ancient city, we spend some time in the lively old quarter of Monastiraki.

After three nights in Athens we head to Ancient Corinth, Acrocorinth (the abandoned city of Byzantines, Franks and Turks) and the magnificent Theatre of Epidaurus, built in the 4th century BC and still used for performances. Our stopping place is the elegant Italianate city of Nafplio.

Near Nafplio we find the archaeological site of Mycenae, thriving around 1500BC, and the atmospheric Byzantine ruins of Mystras, the abandoned capital of medieval Peloponnese.

We then spend two nights in a stone-built guest house in the Arcadian mountain village of Dimitsana, from where we visit the spectacular Lousios Gorge, the traditional villages of Karitaina and Andritsaina, and the remotest of all Greek temples at Bassae.

After the beautiful sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia, the place whose Games in 776BC was the first recorded event in Greek history, we cross the Gulf of Corinth to Central Greece. Our hotel in the charming city of Nafpaktos serves as a base for two places that are often spoken of as highlights of a trip to Greece. The first is Delphi, the most sacred sanctuary in ancient Greece, and certainly the most beautiful. And the second is the Byzantine monastery of Osios Loukas, with its mosaic-covered 11th century church.

We then head north to the lake-side city of Ioannina for three nights. Ioannina was the Ottoman capital of the Epirus region, and the Turkish influence is still visible. We also use it as a base to visit the splendid ancient theatre of Dodoni and lively craft-based mountain town of Metsovo. We have a full-day tour of the region of Zagoria, with some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery. Zagorian villages are still inhabited by the Vlach – shepherds who migrated from further north, and who still retain their language and customs.

Our last major site on the mainland is Meteora, an extraordinary collection of medieval Byzantine monasteries perched on high natural pinnacles (for defence), and still inhabited by Orthodox monks and nuns.

And finally, we cross by ferry (with our guide and coach) to the ‘blue and green’ island of Skopelos for two nights. The island has a gorgeous little port, a pine-clad interior, orchards and olive groves, tiny rural chapels and traditional farmhouses.

The formal tour ends with a night in Athens before our onward journeys – we also have the option of an additional two nights in Athens, when I will be on hand to make suggestions about exploring this fascinating city.

Hotels are a mixture of the modern and the traditional. For instance, in Dimitsana we stay at a stone-built guest house; in Nafplio, a small hotel overlooking the old town and the sea; in Ioannina, a converted mansion in the heart of town; and in Athens, a  modern hotel. The common factors are comfort and a central location. A welcome dinner on our first night in Athens, plus breakfast every day, are included – I’ve left dinner open, because our hotels have been chosen as being near lots of interesting local restaurants.

Staff include myself as tour escort, an English-fluent and highly educated guide, and a professional driver for our dedicated air-conditioned coach.

I have found that often travellers want to extend their time in Greece, or move on to other destinations – this is easily arranged, please let me know what you’d like.

If you would like full details of the itinerary with costs, please phone me on 02 4464 1289 or email pdegabriele@shoal.net.au

Morocco

14-28 March 2015

After our arrival in Casablanca, our 15-day tour  starts in the attractive capital of Rabat, with its old medina overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, an ancient kasbah, the splendid mausoleum of King Hassan II and the medieval Chellah Necropolis.

From Rabat we drive to Meknes, once the imperial capital associated with the great ruler Moulay Ismail, and now a charming and historic old city. Nearby Volubilis, the country’s major Roman site, well repays a visit.

Fes is the oldest Islamic city in Morocco, and is a living treasure house of history and culture (the old city is listed in its entirety by UNESCO). It’s a major centre of art and craft, and it seems to be the Moroccans’ favourite city –  the bustle of the medina is very appealing.

After a long drive south, covering plains, mountains, rivers and traditional villages, we reach Erfoud, our staging post for a visit to the Sahara Desert -we take in the orange sand dunes, a village of musicians descended from African slaves, an abandoned mining village and a large salt lake. The (optional) balloon flight gives us a wonderful perspective on the desert landscapes.

After driving through the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs (the name says it all) and the spectacular beauty of the Todra Gorge, our next stop is the charming and laid-back town of Ouarzazate. Nearby is the UNESCO-listed kasbah of Ait Benhaddou - a beautifully preserved small fortified town, where several movies were shot. Ouarzazate is known as the Hollywood of Morocco, so naturally we tour of one of the movie studios.

Marrakech is always a highlight of any trip to Morocco. The city has an ancient medina, with a huge central square famous throughout the world, palaces and bazaars, museums and quiet medieval alleys, and an elegant New Town. From Marrakech we take a day trip to the Berber villages of the High Atlas Mountains, meeting some of the locals and sharing their food.

Next stop is Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, a quiet and beautiful old town favoured by Moroccans as a summer resort. It started life as a fortified port in the 18th century, prospered as a fishing and boat-building centre, and lately flourished as a charming resort and artistic town, attracting such people as Orson Welles, Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie. Its well preserved medina is still home to most of the inhabitants, and its craft workshops and restaurants are a delight.

Heading up the Atlantic coast, we stay at the fascinating Portuguese-Jewish-Arab port city of El Jadida, a calm place where we enjoy strolling around and admiring the traditional Berber crafts. Our last stop is Casablanca where we spend some time at the magnificent Mosque of Hassan II – modern Moroccan architecture at its finest.

One of the great things about travelling in Morocco is the accommodation in riads, little boutique hotels in old restored mansions – very comfortable, beautiful and staffed by welcoming people. Because these are quite small, our numbers on this tour will be limited to about fifteen.

Included                                                                                                                                                                                        *The services of Patrick De Gabriele as tour manager, a highly qualified English-fluent guide, and a professional driver for our air-conditioned coach throughout the tour

*Excellent accommodation in boutique riads

*Meals of a high standard, with European and Moroccan choices – all breakfasts and dinners, and several lunches

*Entry fees to included sites

*Tips and gratuities

For a detailed itinerary with costs, please email pdegabriele@shoal.net.au or phone 02 4464 1289