Costa del Sol Inland, 9-13 April We brought 5 agents to Malaga and inland Costa del Sol in April, just before Easter. Agents from the Travel Department, Corrib Travel, Sunway, Budget School Groups & Tours and Travelnet visited the highlights of the beautiful city of Malaga (Cathedral, Alcazaba, the Roman Theatre and Picasso buildings) before an hours' drive inland to Ronda. We stayed in the Catalonia Reina Victoria Wellness & Spa hotel and visited the town, home of one of the oldest bullrings in Spain. We visited the Parador in Ronda and then went on to Antequera after a paella lunch outdoors in Joaquin Fernandez' winery. Antequera, like the other cities in the region, has a lot of Arab heritage architecture. This was in contrast to the Nature Park of El Torcal. We had a very elaborate dinner in Arte de Cocina in Antequera on our last night.  Reus and Salou, 6-9 May We joined forces with Falcon to take a group of 18 agents to the Costa Dorada. There was a contingent from Thomson in Northern Ireland as well as agents from Limerick Travel, Killiney Travel, Travelnet, Best4Travel, Club World Travel, Creation Travel, Ace Travel and Blackpool Travel. We landed in Barcelona and drove up to Pineda in Salou and settled in to the Hotel Estival in La Pineda Platja, an all-inclusive hotel popular with Irish families.  We spent a full morning in PortAventura, the theme park next to Salou and had great fun on the leisure rides, including the Shambala, the highest rollercoaster in Europe. We then went to the pretty seaside town of Cambrils and walked along its 3 km long promenade to end up in the Hotel Estival Centurion Playa - a modernised and contemporary style hotel for an excellent buffet dinner. We recommend the coastal walk path in Salou to get up close to the sea, where we stopped for refreshing sangria in one of the bars along the way! We went up to Lumine golf course for a spectacular paella in the club house before the whole group drove around the course in 10 golf buggies. The Salou Town Hall (Natalia Bell) invited us to dinner in the Villa Alexandre and they arranged a waterworks display to come on at 10 pm especially for us. The town of Tarragona, a 15 minutes' drive from La Pineda provided for a very interesting visit with its wealth of Roman ruins and artefacts. We had dinner in the Restaurant Palau del Baro in the centre of Tarragona. Reus is also nearby and the group was delighted with its shops and made a mad dash for it, some even bought a couple of tops and make up in ten minutes flat! We flew out from the convenient airport of Reus the following morning.  Madrid - Gardens and Parks, 11-14 May Madrid is so accessible with Iberia, Aer Lingus and Ryanair offering daily flights from Dublin that there is no excuse to not visit the elegant capital city.  We took agents from the Travel Department, Travel Escapes, Clickandgo.com, Budget School Groups & Tours and Travel Counsellors to Madrid for a few days to see Madrid through its parks, gardens and green spaces. We stayed in the centrally located Hotel Santo Domingo (with its own hanging garden in an atrium) and were able to mainly walk to all our destinations from there. We had a traditional dinner of tapas and roast lamb in the Posada de la Villa, just off the Plaza Mayor which we revisited the next day as part of our tour of the old centre of Madrid. We took in the French style gardens of the Royal Palace and had lunch at the Plaza de Oriente across the road from the Palace. Various gardens are located around the Palace and we finished the afternoon with a cable car ride over the Casa de Campo, the hunting grounds for the Royal Palace. We had dinner in the very fashionable Mercado de la Reina, on the Gran Via. The emblematic Retiro park was where we started the next day before lunch at the Huerta de Tudela in the Huertas area off the Castellana. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum tailored a guided visit of the works of art to our group and the guide focussed on flowers in art. We caught a hop-on hop-off bus for 20 minutes and you can see more about the Madrid Card elsewhere in this newsletter. We also ate in the restaurant Estado Puro in Santa Ana area with Mercedes from the Madrid Tourist Board. The following morning brought us to the Parque del Capricho, a lesser known park to the locals and well worth a visit (it normally closes during the week but we were given a private tour). We had great fun mastering the technique of balancing on Segways during a 2 hour scoot around the Manzanares area, recently made in to a green area (after the M30 motorway was brought underground) and returned on the Segways to our hotel for lunch before leaving Madrid, stopping first on the sun terrace of our hotel for a cocktail with Clara Vivar, the hotel's sales representative.  Costa Blanca Golf, 16-20 May A select few (Limerick Travel and Killester Travel) went to see the golf options in Valencia (which includes Alicante). They stayed in the Las Colinas Golf & Country Club where they played 18 holes of golf before going in to Alicante for lunch at the hotel Husa Alicante Golf. A visit around the city was followed by dinner and overnight in the Barceló Asia Gardens Thai & Spa Hotel in Benidorm. The programme then entailed 9 holes of golf in Oliva Nova Golf followed by another 9 holes in La Galiana Golf and overnight in the Oliva Nova Hotel. The last day was 9 holes golf in Alicante Golf and 9 holes in Font del Llop golf course in Monforte del Cid before a night departure back to Cork and Shannon. Castille & Leon, Culture, wine and gastronomy, 28-31 May This annual trip includes a workshop with supplier companies of the region (north of Madrid, south of Santander and Galicia) and among the 40 plus agents who attended from all over Europe we sent 3 agents from J Barter Travel, Lee Travel and the Travel Department. The group was based in Aranda del Duero where they visited the Torremilanos winery. They also took in the exhibition Edades del Hombre, a showcase of religious art. Dinner was in the Lagar de Isilla winery and the next day took the group to the medieval town of Burgos, on the Camino de Santiago. The group also visited the archaeological site of Atapuerca where the first European settlers lived. The programme included a visit to Bodegas Portia for the last dinner. George Barter found the trip "very stimulating and really worthwhile".  Fam trips in Autumn 2014 We are planning the following for the Autumn and if you have a particular interest please contact us to see if we can accommodate you.  Santiago de Compostela City Break at the end of September. Murcia workshop with suppliers, in Murcia on 23rd of September. La Rioja at the beginning of October. Costa Brava walking holidays in mid-October. The Basque Country by the end of October. Together with Sunway and Aer Lingus to Fuerteventura on 13-16th September.

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