Tastes of Spain and Portugal
A feast for the senses
Join Saga Sapphire on a leisurely exploration of France, Spain and Portugals Atlantic shores. Youll be able to get more than just a flavour of the places you visit as you explore their gastronomic heritage, from French oysters and Spanish tapas to Portuguese fortified wines. For example, visit a traditional Jerez bodega to enjoy a spirited flamenco performance served up with Andalusian cuisine. Or in Casablanca, be inspired by the colourful spice, fruit and veg stalls in an open-air market before testing your culinary mettle at a Moroccan cookery class. Saga Sapphire will continue south to the sun-blessed Canary Islands where you can discover the dizzy heights of Mount Teide in Tenerife and the volcanic lava landscapes of Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote. Next, encounter a different side to this subtropical archipelago on a visit to lesser-explored island of El Hierro, once thought to be the end of the earth! There will be lots happening on board ship too, such as pop-up tapas and wine bars, plus you can learn how the Iberian Peninsula played a central role in trade for thousands of years during fascinating talks by an expert on the region.
La Pallice (for La Rochelle), France
From La Pallice visit the beautiful, medieval harbour town of La Rochelle. The White City, so called for its limestone facade, bustles with life. Stay here and enjoy soaking up the French atmosphere of the old towns narrow streets or perhaps visit the island of Ile de R, a chic summer retreat for the Parisian elite which is connected to the mainland by a two-mile long road bridge. Alternatively, you may be enticed to join a trip along the Charentaise coast to the little town of Marenne known for its oyster ponds. Enjoy oysters accompanied with bread, butter and a glass of wine before travelling to the fortified old town of Brouage for an insight into rural France.
Impressive views await as you cruise to Bilbao which is set on the estuary of the River Nervin and backed by the rolling green hills of Spains Basque country. Following the opening of the famous Guggenheim Museum in 1997, Bilbao quickly became a must-visit port. The museum brims with 20th-century art, which is as amazing as the modern building it’s housed in. You can also explore the old towns labyrinth of narrow pedestrian streets which surround Plaza Nueva, the historic hub where you can enjoy a drink at one of the bars.
Leixoes (for Oporto), Spain.
Set on the banks of the River Douro, historic Oporto has ancient roots predating the Roman period. Its filled with warehouses and cellars where you can taste the citys most famous export. There are also plenty of patisseries and chocolate shops thanks to explorers who introduced cocoa beans from the New World during the Age of Discovery. Perhaps join a tour of the city to discover its varied architecture keep an eye out for the bridge designed by Gustav Eiffel.
Believed to be the oldest settlement on the Iberian Peninsula, the Andalusian port of Cdiz was founded over 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians. Cadiz is split into two areas, and the spacious avenues and modern buildings of the new district contrast well with the authentic, well preserved landmarks, the flat-roofed Moorish-style houses, and the narrow twisting alleys of the old. Explore here, or discover the historic Andalusian city of Seville or Jerez, the home of sherry, on memorable optional excursions.
The Hassan II Mosque, partially built over the sea and sporting the tallest minaret in the world, will leave a lasting impression when you reach Casablanca, a fabulous melting pot of European, African and Arabian influences. Here modern boulevards lined with high, white buildings contrast with the medina’s colourful market. Perhaps see the seaside Corniche and the Habbous Quarter where you can admire the opulent Royal Palace. Alternatively, enjoy a hands-on experience cooking lunch at a Moroccan culinary school. Youll be welcomed with tasty Moroccan pastries and mint tea, before choosing which dish youd like to perfect.
The coastal capital of Lanzarote is home to the largest fishing fleet in the Canaries as you cruise into the harbour look out for the imposing profile of the 16th-century Castillo de San Gabriel that protected it for centuries. Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, Lanzarote is renowned for its fascinating volcanic terrain. Art lovers will want to learn about the islands most famous artist, Csar Manrique, at his former home, and see his beautifully designed cactus garden in Guatiza.
Santa Cruz, Tenerfie.
The largest of the Canaries is dominated by the lofty heights of Mount Teide, which at 12,197 feet is Spain’s tallest mountain. The landscape ranges from the volcanic scenery of Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to valleys of spiny cacti and leafy banana plantations. Tenerife’s capital Santa Cruz sits just below the eastern tip of the island and is shielded from trade winds by the Anaga hills. This modern, bustling city has its share of colonial architecture and many interesting museums. Historians might want to visit the Military Museum, to see the cannon responsible for Admiral Nelson losing his arm, while plant lovers may like to explore the Botanical Gardens founded by Charles III of Spain in 1788 and the Orchid Gardens of Sitro Litre.
Puerto de la Estaca, El Hierro.
The smallest, most south-westerly and youngest of the Canary Islands, is known as The island of a 1,000 volcanoes as its pockmarked scenery reflects its still developing landscape. Flowery meadows, pretty juniper groves and farmland are encircled by a rugged coastline where sheer rock faces have been sculpted by the long-ago flow of lava. Its geological and biodiversity have seen it declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is the least developed of all the Canary Islands and still relies heavily on traditional industries such as fishing and farming for employment.
Depart 1200 on April 8. Step out on deck to appreciate Lisbons elegant cityscape spanning seven hills as Saga Pearl II makes her approach. Here you can explore a tangle of cobbled streets and admire elegant architecture that dates from the 18th century. Soak up the historic atmosphere of its oldest quarter, the Alfama District, or reflect on Portugal’s Golden Age of Discovery at UNESCO-listed Jeronimos Monastery and Belm Tower. An overnight mooring also gives you the chance to experience the citys vibrant nightlife and dazzling night lights.