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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Gerry Dawes's Spain: A Taste of Madrid, Toledo, La Mancha & Southern Spain Tour May 8 - May 19, 2019 / Join an Insider's Convivial Rolling Road Show of Spain's Gastronomy, Wine, Culture and People

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Visiting the great cities and towns of Madrid, Segovia, Ávila, Toledo, La Mancha, Córdoba, Sevilla, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz, El Puerto de Santa María, Ronda, Granada & Chinchón

12 Days, 11 Nights
Wednesday, May 8 – Monday, May 19, 2018

Organized and led by Gerry Dawes & Kay Balun

Contact for more information, 
including a full prospectus and tour conditions.

Gerry Dawes, Premio Nacional de Gastronomia 2003(Spanish National Gastronomy Prize)
 Has been crisscrossing Spain since the 1970s.  Drinking Godello at Estado Puro, Madrid.Photo by Harold Heckle, Associated Press, Madrid. 

Kay Balun in Chipiona (Cádiz).  Kay is a graduate of Smith College who has made more than a dozen trips to Spain in the past decade. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes.

  Gerry Dawes and Kay Balun at la Feria de Abril in Sevilla 2015.

José Andrés with a gintonic.  Photo by Gerry Dawes.

"As a young chef arriving in America from Spain in the early 1990s, I came to see Gerry as an ally. At the time, I found myself struggling to explain Spanish cooking because people either had no idea or they had the wrong idea.  It was a battle.  But Gerry's writing meant I was not alone in telling Americans about piquillos and escudella and jamón.  At a time when most food journalists were writing about France and Italy, Gerry went off in his own direction to become the first to really tell the story of Spain."– José Andrés, James Beard Award Winning Star Chef, Jaleo, Zaytinya, Café Átlantico Minibar (Washington, D.C.); Bazaar (Los Angeles).

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"In his nearly thirty years (now fifty) of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections

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Mark Kiffin, The Compound, Santa Fe, NM.

"Trust me everyone, I have traveled with this man.  If Gerry Dawes tells you to eat somewhere it's like Bourdain, believe it!!" - - Mark Kiffin, Chef-owner, The Compound, Santa Fe, New Mexico 

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"I have said this before and I’ll say it again, nobody knows Spain like Gerry Dawes. I sincerely doubt that there is another American, and very few, if any, Spaniards can approach, let alone surpass his knowledge of the people, food, wine and culture of Spain. He has been frequenting the depths, breadths and heights of the country as a second home for nearly fifty years, leaving no stone, and especially no wine, unturned during that time. I have come to know him as a good friend over the ten years or so and have now had the pleasure to travel around Spain with him on a number of occasions . . ." -- John Sconzo, Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life

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Gerry Dawes leading a tapas tour with Tetsuya Wakuda, Rochelle Smith, Lidia (wife of Michelin starred Chef Don Alfonso Iacarrino, Janet Van Aken, Charlie Trotter and Norman Van Aken, Marisquería Rafa in Madrid. 

Gerry Dawes has planned and led tours for such culinary stars as Chefs Thomas Keller, Mark Miller, Mark Kiffin, Ryan McIlwraith, Terrance Brennan, Michael Lomonaco and Michael Chiarello and such personalities as baseball great Keith Hernandez, Michael Whiteman (Joseph Baum Michael Whiteman Restaurant Consultants), Food Writer John Mariani, and Senator James Abourezk.  He has led on shorter excursions and given detailed travel advice to many other well-known chefs and personalities such as NY Restaurateur Drew Nieporent, Tim Zagat, Michael and Ariane Batterberry, Jeffrey Steingarten, Tim Zagat, cookbook author Rozanne Gold, Ruth Reichl, Restaurateur Danny Meyer, Chef Norman Van Aken, Chef Cindy Pawlcyn, authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg, Chefs Christopher Gross, Rick Moonen, James Campbell Caruso, Don Pintabona and many others.  He has also led such groups as Docsconz: Musings on Food & Life Taste of Northern Spain Tour, The Commonwealth Club of California (twice), Mythical 61st Fighter Squadron (twice), Club Managers of America Wine Tour, Altamira Tours and many others.
 Gerry Dawes and baseball great Keith Hernandez at the Alhambra in Granada.
* * * * * 
$4,495* per person double room; $5,195* single room 
(Airfare not included; each traveler makes their own flight arrangements)

With all designated meals, ground transportation, guides and tips.
*Subject to Euro Exchange.  Minimum of 12 Travelers**

Includes all designated meals** with wine*** in restaurants selected by Gerry Dawes, who is an expert on Spanish gastronomony and has many personal chef connections throughout Spain.

**Gerry and the restaurants where we eat are used to dealing with dietary restrictions, which you need to specify on the Tour Conditions form.

***If you do not drink wine, we offer our condolences, since Gerry
is one of the top experts on Spanish wines in the world. 

(**For fewer people a supplement may be required due to fixed costs.)

One of my favorite bus drivers, Antonio Carrasco from the Madrid-based Esteban Rivas bus company, whose buses I have used on several trips.   At a stop on the way back into Madrid.  Antonio was a great driver who took good care of all of us.

Included meals noted as follows: B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, T=Tapas, D=Dinner
Day 00, Wed, May 8 USA to Madrid Flights to Madrid.

Day 01, Thurs, May 9 Madrid (L, D)

View of la Calle de Alcalá, the longest street in Madrid, from the Palacio de Cibeles restaurant, where tour participants will have drinks on the terrace before dinner. Photo by Gerry Dawes©2013 / Canon 5D Mark III / Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.

Arrive in Madrid, Spain's capital, where we will rendezvous at our hotel near the Prado Museum. We will allow everyone to rest and freshen up, then we will meet at 2 p.m. for lunch in the lobby.

After lunch, there will be free time for siestas, exploring on your own, shopping, etc.

 Cervecería Alemana, once a major bullfight aficionados bar--still frequented by many foreign aficionados.
Famous as an Ernest Hemingway hangout.  Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2011. Contact

In the evening, we will visit a couple of very special places for drinks and tapas, then have dinner at one of the iconic restaurants in Old Madrid.

Cochinillo asado, roast Suckling pig at Casa Botín in Madrid

Day 02, Fri, May 10 Madrid – Segovia – Ávila – Madrid (B, L, D)

2000-year old Roman aqueduct at Segovia.  Photo by Gerry Dawes©2014.

From Madrid, we will drive up into the Guadarrama Mountains to Segovia, the roast suckling pig capital of Spain and home to an amazing 2,000-year old Roman aqueduct that still crosses the city.  

For lunch, we will have exceptional roast suckling pig, so tender they cut it with the edge of a plate, in a restaurant that has been a must visit for celebrities and just plain folks for decades. 

Kay Balun, John Sconzo and L. J. Sconzo with cochinillo asado, roast suckling pig, at Mesón del Candido, Segovia.  Photo by GerryDawes©2014.

After lunch we will drive less than an hour to visit the amazing Medieval walled town of Ávila, then return to Madrid for the evening and have dinner in a restaurant near our hotel.

Day 03, Sat, May 11 Madrid – Toledo - Madrid (B, L, D)

In the morning, we will take a one-hour bus ride to the historic city of Toledo. 

In Toledo, we will visit El Cigarral de Santa María, which has spectacular views over the on vineyards, olive trees and the city of Toledo below.  The owner, whom Gerry calls the Emperor of Toledo is a major chef-restaurateur.  

After the visit, we will take a walking tour of old Toledo and have a creative tapas lunch at Colección Adolfo, the Cigarral owner’s tapas restaurant near the Cathedral and we will visit his restaurant group’s magnificent wine cellar underneath what was a Jewish home in the 9th century. 

Santa María la Blanca synagogue, Toledo.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2008.

We will return to Madrid after lunch and have free time before we gather for dinner at a seafood restaurant, then attend an optional flamenco performance.

Day 04 Sun, May 12 Madrid (B, L)

We will visit the Prado Museum with a professional guide and have lunch at a great classic Madrid restaurant.  

Prado Museum, Madrid.
Photo by Gerry Dawes
There will be an optional walk through wonderful Retiro Park, Madrid’s Central Park.

In the afternoon, there will be the option of attending a bullfight at Madrid’s Las Ventas bullring.

Evening free.

Day 05 Mon, May 13 Madrid – La Mancha – Córdoba
(B, T, D)

In the morning, we will board our bus and travel through La Mancha of Don Quixote fame, stopping at a few places along the way to the great Moorish city of Córdoba.  First, we will stop to see the famous hilltop windmills and castle at Consuegra, then, after a short ride have a refreshment stop at Puerto Lapice, where there is a recreation of Don Quixote guarding his armor in the patio of a well-known restaurant.  

Windmills and castle, on a hill overlooking the town of Consuegra in La Mancha.
Photo by Gerry Dawes.

We will then continue through the famous mountain pass of Dispeñaperros and arrive in the great historic city of Córdoba in time for a tapas lunch at special place just outside the old quarter. 

At the legendary Taberna Juan Peña in Córdoba, the classic tomato-based salmorejo with Cordoban extra virgen olive oil, topped with hard-cooked egg and small bits of Spanish jamón Ibérico de bellota (from the D.O. Pedroches, Córdoba province), ham from free-range pata negra (black hoof breed) pigs fattened on acorns.  Juan's wife, Mari Carmen, makes theses salmorejos.  It was served with a sherry-like fino from Montilla-Moriles, a D.O. also from Córdoba province.  Berenjenas fritas, olive oil fried eggplant strips are often served with salmorejo as a sauce into which the eggplant strips are dipped.  Like the most exquisite French fries with the most exquisite ketchup you have ever eaten.  

After lunch, we will tour the magnificent Moorish Mezquita, the Mosque-Cathedral, see the Roman bridge and the old Jewish and Moorish quarter.

In the evening, we dine near our hotel on local specialties, including terrific grilled meats, at a superb Cordoban restaurant with lots of ambience.

Day 06 Tues, May 14 Córdoba - Sevilla (B, T, D)
Sevilla and its Moorish minaret tower, which is now the bell tower 
of the Cathedral of Sevilla and is known as La Giralda.
Photo by Gerry Dawes.

In the morning, our bus will take us to Sevilla, the city of Carmen and one of the most beautiful and evocative cities in Europe. 

Patio de las Doncellas (Maidens), El Real Alcázar de Sevilla. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2013 / Canon EOS 6D / Tokina 17-35mm f/4.

We will check into our hotel, then have a guided tour of the Cathedral and the Moorish fortress-palace El Alcázar.   Gerry will lead us on a walk through the stunningly pretty old quarter, the Barrio de Santa Cruz (the old Jewish quarter), where he lived or parts of six years.  

The first home I shared with the late Diana Valenti Dawes (Bower) at Justino de Neve 3, in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter of Sevilla.  We lived here for almost four years.  

". . .Nothing is calculated to interest the stranger as he wanders through Seville, than a view of these courts obtained from street, through the iron-grated door.  Oft I have stopped to observe them, and as often sighed that my fate did not permit me to reside in such an Eden for the remainder of my days . . . " - - George Borrow, The Bible in Spain, 1840.  Photograph copyright by Gerry Dawes.

We will sample tapas in the Barrio in a couple of  places, then sit down in a particularly good tapas restaurant for some gazpacho, grilled shrimp, fried fish (an Andalucian specialty) and other special tapas, including, no doubt, a plate or two of Ibérico ham. 

Sevilla gazpacho after the recipe from my Spanish madre, Maria Franco, from the Pensión Santa Cruz 
(now converted in Hotel Murillo Residencias) in calle Lope de Rueda, Sevilla.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 /

(Click on link to read Cookbook Author Rozanne Gold's on Gerry's Gazpacho.)

The rest of the afternoon will be free for shopping, strolling and relaxing. 

In the evening, we will gather for an optional pre-dinner drink on the terrace of our hotel, which overlooks the Cathedral and La Giralda tower, then go to a nearby restaurant for dinner. 

Optional flamenco performance after dinner.

Flamenco performance in Sevilla.
Photo by Gerry Dawes

Day 07 Wed, May 15 Sevilla - Sanlúcar de Barrameda (B, L)

In the morning, there will be optional strolling and shopping, then by noon, we will travel south to the superb fishing and Sherry town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, where Columbus set sail on his second voyage to America.  We will prevail upon one of Gerry’s friends to open his old sherry bodega and let us taste some of his exceptional manzanilla sherries, then we will have lunch at a beachfront restaurant with more manzanilla, grilled shellfish and some of the best fried fish in the world. 

Hopefully, we will see one of Sanlucar's spectacular sunsets from the legendary Bajo de Guia fisherman's beach with a glass of manzanilla in hand (more on this later).  In the evening, we will have free time to enjoy the Plaza del Cabildo and environs, which has some of the best tapas bars and restaurants in Spain. 

 Sunset in a glass, Manzanilla sherry along the Guadalquivir River at Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Gerry Dawes©2008 /

Day 08 Thurs, May 16 Sanlúcar de Barrameda - El Puerto de Santa Maria - Cádiz – El Puerto de Sta. Maria - Sanlúcar de Barrameda 2 hours bus and ferry, round trip. (B, L, T)

Market breakfast in Sanlúcar market, then to El Puerto de Santa María, where we will catch the ferry to Cádiz in the morning, visit this wonderful sea-surrounded peninsular city and its unique market, have lunch in Cádiz, then back to El Puerto by ferry.  We will return to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a 20-minute ride, then have a free, relaxing afternoon, a casual tapas dinner and a relatively early (for Spain) end to the evening. 

Day 09 Fri, May 17  Sanlúcar de Barrameda – Pueblos Blancos – Ronda (B, L)

We will leave Sanlúcar in the morning and drive east through the spectacular Pueblos Blancos, the white hilltop villages of Cádiz and Málaga provinces, some of which are cheese villages, visit a great mountain cheese producer.  

Pueblos Blancos:  White Village of Olvera in the Mountains near Ronda

Then we will arrive in the spectacular city of Ronda, which is set astride a 300-foot gorge that splits the town in two.  We will check into our hotel overlooking the mountains that surround the town, then stroll down the hill to Ronda to have lunch in an unforgettable restaurant.  

 Kay Balun at the ambience-rich Restaurante Pedro Romero in Ronda.

 Bridge spanning the gorge that divides Ronda.
After lunch, we will take a brief walking tour of Ronda, then have the afternoon free to explore this charming small city, one of the jewels of Andalucía.  The evening will be to relax in this wonderful, romantic place.

Day 10 Sat, May 18 Ronda  –  Granada (B, L, D)

In the morning, we will bus from Ronda to the magical city of Granada, where will be check into our equally magical hotel on the hill overlooking the city and the with views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which may still have snow on them (but no snow in Granada). 

We will have lunch at a charming terrace restaurant overlooking the entrance to the Alhambra.  After lunch, we will visit the superb fortress palaces of the legendary Moorish complex, the Alhambra. 

The Alhambra Palace in Granada

We will return to our hotel to relax before dinner, then gather for optional gin-tonics on the hotel bar balcony overlooking the Campo del Principe and hopefully see a great sunset as we sip our adult libations, then we will go to dinner at a nearby restaurant across from the Alhambra.
 Gerry Dawes and his friend baseball great Keith Hernandez at the Alhambra in Granada.

There will be the option of seeing a Gypsy Zambra Flamenco show in the caves of Sacramonte.

Day 11, Sun, May 19 Granada – La Mancha - Chinchón (B, L, D)

In the morning, we will begin our return north, via another route through La Mancha, stopping at a couple of Don Quixote towns, then have lunch at one of the greatest restaurants in the region, where the Chef-owner, a friend of Gerry’s will introduce us to modernized versions of classic Manchegan recipes.  

After lunch, we will ride another hour or so to the enchanting city of Chinchón, where we will check into a charming hotel just a block from Chinchón's Plaza Mayor, one of Spain's best restored and loveliest plazas, which is like a page out of the 16th Century.  Our group will have the rest of the afternoon free to explore this magical village and shop for unique local items. 

 Alubias con almejas, beans with clams with a glass of Madrid D.O. vino tinto 
at La Balconada La Plaza Mayor of Chinchón.
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact

We will have our farewell dinner at La Balconada overlooking the Plaza Mayor. At this romantic restaurant, Chef Manuela and her husband Isidro, offer superb classic Castillian dishes, including more pig (roasted) of course, but with the option of having roast lamb, wood-grilled steaks, bean dishes, fried potatoes with "broken eggs," artichokes cooked with jamón Ibérico bits, bean dishes and other specialties, accompanied by simple D.O. Madrid (province) Rosado and red wines. We can linger over snifters of the town's famous Anis Chinchón licor (dry or sweet), watch the peregrinations of the people down in the plaza and reminisce about the high points and comedic episodes of our trip around Spain. 
La Plaza Mayor of Chinchón.
Photograph by Gerry Dawes©2010. Contact

Day 11, Mon, May 20 Chinchón – Barajas Airport  (50 kms.) – USA (B)

Our bus will depart early enough in the morning for all our fellow travelers to catch their flights back to the USA.  Any who wish to continue the trip will have the option of continuing on into the center of Madrid on our bus. 

Madrid's ultra-modern Terminal IV. Some transatlantic flights still arrive at Terminal I, 
which is older and less spectacular, but in some ways, an easier and quicker entry point. 
 Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /


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About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes is the Producer and Program Host of Gerry Dawes & Friends, a weekly radio progam on WPWL 103.7 FM Pawling Public Radio in Pawling, New York.

  Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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