Perfect! This was our first experience using Zicasso, and we were extremely well pleased with the concept, and with the company we selected. Our planning for this trip of 17 days in October began in January, when we first selected them among the companies we were referred to, and outlined our plans, desired itinerary, and interests in an extensive telephone conversation with the rep.He and we were in frequent touch by email and phone over the next two months to refine our program. We decided to drop one city from our itinerary; we altered our original flight plans for arriving/departing Spain, added/subtracted some activities; approved places where we might want a guided tour and those where we would not. Throughout, the rep was an effective and capable advisor, offering suggestions (include a visit to Toledo), using his expertise to recommend the best itinerary for the trip based on train/air times and choke points (how to include a stop in Ronda); taking local holidays into account, even quickly preparing an alternate itinerary at one point when it appeared our party would have to be just 2 rather than 4.We signed a contract and paid a deposit in March to finalize our plans. In ensuing months, the company worked to nail down the details: train and air travel within country; pickups/drop-offs at hotels/airports; car service for excursions by road; reservations at hotels we had chosen based on the rep's recommendations; tickets for museums or events, especially those that often need to be obtained in advance. We had chosen from the start to do our own research and selection of restaurants, but the company also offered an extensive list of possibilities in the various places were visiting; and once we made our decisions, the company kindly made all the reservations for us, fitting the exact times in with our schedule of other things. All this was magically and effectively done for us without a lot of effort or time on our part, so by October 1, there was little to worry about except boarding the plane.From the moment we landed at Barcelona, to the date we departed sixteen (actually seventeen) days later, everything went like clockwork. It became clear that the rep and his team were personally committed to ensure that things would proceed without a hitch. By reports from drivers and guides, they often knew before we did that we might be running a little late somewhere, and made small adjustments accordingly. Of course, there were minor snags - in one case, due to a miscommunication between a guide and a driver, we couldn't find our driver, and he couldn't find us; and in the jammed ancient streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, we were surprised to find a vehicle could only get as close as two blocks from the front door of our hotel -- but those were rare exceptions. In addition, we and the rep communicated as needed by phone and text, for example when we decided to cancel a reservation at one restaurant. More important, when our airline cancelled our departure flight with one day's notice, we of course had to work out our alternate flight with the airlines directly, but the company took some pressure off by getting our stay at our hotel extended (and of course adjusting our transport to the airport).Hotels: In the four places where we had set up overnight stays (Barcelona, Granada, Sevilla, and Madrid), for which the company had recommended the hotels, we were very happy with their choices. We had expressed a preference for smaller hotels in a historic building, and the rep's recommendations did not disappoint - everywhere, we found wonderful accommodation with friendly, helpful staff (most also had their own restaurant). After the trip, we tried to agree on a favorite - but all were favorites, albeit with different features.Guides: Last, but most important, was the rep's success in selecting such excellent guides for our city, museum, and food/wine tours. In each case, our guide was a native of the city we were in; in each case, they were not only expert in their fields but had a lot of great, interesting information to impart about local customs and legends, shopping, and institutions. Our guides added immensely to our enjoyment and learning from the trip – they made a world of difference.The "bottom line" is that if/when we plan more travel in Spain, we will definitely work with Zicasso, and hope to have the chance to work again with this company and their rep.
We'd probably try to find the time to study up a little more on art, history, and other background topics. We might try to go a notch higher in grade on hotel rooms, as some were lovely but a bit cramped.On our itinerary, we would add a day in Granada and possibly also try to spend two nights in Córdoba, though obviously that would make the trip longer. We "caught" Ronda because we were passing nearby, but feel it wasn't essential. We might look for more "balance" in our visit to Barcelona, where we focused on Gaudi's eccentric architecture to the exclusion of much else (though we had a truly excellent and informative wine tasting there).Finally, our various eating adventures taught us that Spain’s iconic tapas culture is multifaceted and evolving. There are places that serve them the traditional way (i.e., no tapas if you aren’t standing at the bar), and we found some of those, but we will be less inclined to seek them out, because other places allow you to order the same sorts of items from a list, and most restaurants also offer first courses that can be ordered for sharing – either of which seems a more appealing option to older tourists.
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"Our guides and drivers were all punctual and courteous... The tapas tour in Madrid was absolutely fantastic."
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