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Dispatches from the Chairman

2016 Highlights

The University of Liverpool

The John Moore class numbering 57 students and 6 Professors spent the day with our Chairman with lectures and field trips to sites in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. It was agreed to do this in two groups; a morning tour then an afternoon tour. The walk through the West Park to see the original pill-boxes from 1936 was one of the highlights. The students were taking a Humanities Course and the subject was the people of Madrid during the siege from Franco´s forces from October 1836 to the end of the Civil War on 1 April, 1939

The Society´s Wellington campaigns in the North of Spain & France

This was our very adventurous 15 day tour to the Basque Country, Navarra and over into France to first Bayonne and east to Toulouse. There were times when we took time out to visit the great Cathedral of Burgos, wine tasting south of Pamplona and 3 days at San Sebastian. We returned via Zaragoza and an overnight stay there at a hotel facing the Ebro River. A truly wonderful 2 weeks

Yale University

We are often requested to put on special private lectures and field tours so we were very pleased to receive a long email from Yale University asking whether our Chairman would give a power-point talk of Hemingway as war correspondent during his stay in Madrid in 1937, at the height of the battle for Madrid. The plan is to visit some of the places and, after lunch at Botin, to visit the Ventas bull-ring for a informative tour and explanation on the ´Corrida

Adios La Opera

For the last 15 years we have always had our Waterloo Luncheon at the delightful La Opera restaurant just off Plaza Opera. How sad therefore that we received news that it was closing due to ill health of its owner and friend of ours.

Portugal Revisited

Once again we took three private groups over the border and off to visit Peninsular War sites in the northern section at the mighty fortress town of Almeida and the nearby bridge over the Rio Coa where, in the summer of 1810 there was a “Near run thing” with Wellington´s rearguard. Down in the southern section we stayed, as always, at our favourite hotel in Badajoz and had a full day at the walled town of Elvas and enjoyed a fine Portuguese lunch in the main plaza.

 SPRING 2015


hemingwayOur Hemingway´s Madrid Theme Tour has become very popular and has even been filmed, in part, by PBS, DISCOVERY CHANNEL & CNN. We record Don Ernesto´s time here in the Spanish capital from his first visit in the mid 1920s to his time as War Correspondent in 1937-38 during the Civil War and in the 1950s when General Franco allowed him back to follow his love of the ´Corrida´ and to hang out with the bull-fight fraternity.

Life Member Thyglow from Athens, GA, asked if we could put together a tour up to the Guadarrama Mountains where Hemingway based his famous novel on the Spanish Civil War and to visit the sites where his protagonist, Jordan, defended the bridge against the Fascist enemy. In the 1950s with his side-kick A.E. Hochner, Hemingway pointed out the one arch bridge which he used in the novel; this was an ideal first stop for us. We hiked up a goat track that led to a still in-tack cement pill-box used during the bitter struggle back in 1937. We stopped at La Granja also mentioned in the novel and enjoyed local tapas before a stroll through the Royal Gardens. A half hour drive through beautiful mountain scenery to Puerta Los Leones for a panoramic view with Madrid in the distance. Here we enjoy roast lamb and wines from the region. A very fulfilling day indeed!

Details of this singular tour will soon be added to our web-site.


El EscorialWe are now able to offer a day excursion to both famous sites at a much reduced costs now that the local authorities have a bus service running from El Escorial to the Valley of the Fallen, thus saving a hefty taxi fare or private driver/car fee, We take the city bus out to El Escorial and give a private tour of the 16th century monastery where all Hapsburg & Bourbon Royals are buried, before having an early menu of the day lunch at a friend´s restaurant and take the 3pm bus to the Valley of the Fallen. Here we have just under 2hrs to enter the place where Franco was laid to rest in 1975. The Valley of the Fallen now a shrine to all who were killed on both sides during their Civil War.


Goya 2nd MayOn Monday the Second of May, 1808, the people of Madrid rose against the soldiers of Napoleon who were attempting to take the Royal Family out of the capital and into exile in France. This brave uprising marked the start of a 5 year war known as the War of Independence (in English, The Peninsular War). Each year on this date Madrid has its own holiday with military parades and speeches in the Puerta del Sol. This year the Spanish military put on a very impressive evening march with bands playing, Lancers in period uniforms and the Civil Guard standing rigid to attention as the “Top Brass” took the salute as the National Anthem was played outside the Governor General´s HQ in the Calle Mayor. We are not sure how, but our Chairman got us all VIP tickets to watch it from the 19th century house opposite giving us the best view. Video footage of this can be seen on our Society facebook.


MadridStrollWe have received so many requests for morning tours which includes parts of many of the Theme Tours that we offer, such as Curiosities & Anecdotes, Madrid Underground, the Hapsburgs are Coming! and panoramic views, that we are now giving morning walks with tapas & drinks from 11am to 3pm. This is a perfect way to start your visit to Madrid with history and recommended taverns and restaurants. We also give a short but informative “Class” on Spanish regional wines and even take you to the oldest wine store in the city. Add to all this a stop at a pastry shop that first opened to the public in the Spring of 1830!




civil-6In February 1936 the Fascist forces besieging Madrid from the west attempted to cut the city´s line of communications with Valencia. They launched a major attack to the east along the valley and river of Jarama. The Republic sent troops of the International Brigades, men from all over the world who had come to fight fascism. One of these young, brave men, came from Glasgow, Scotland, only 21 years of age. The fighting was very fierce and there were many casualties on both sides…..he was killed in the valley among the olive-groves.

This year his descendants from Scotland who had emigrated to Canada contacted us about their planned visit to Jarama to pay their respects to his memory. Our Chairman, as usual, arranged a day´s visit to the town of Morata and took them to the olive groves a short distance outside the town and presented them with a flag of the Spanish Republic. After a walk and hearty lunch the Curator of the very impressive Civil War Museum greeted us and asked the family to write in the book of Condolence before they gave him a framed photo of him to hang on the wall dedicated to the International Brigade and of the many who never returned to their homes.

Later we were taken to the monument dedicated to the International Brigades where the descendants laid flowers to the fallen. A very moving and full-filling day all round.


battle-of-waterloo-william-holmes-sullivanOn Sunday, 18th of June, 1815 the most famous battle of the 19th century was fought between Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, some 20 miles south of Brussels. The outcome changed the course of Europe in one bloody day. The French defeat saw Napoleon sent in to exile on the island of Saint Helena and the Bourbon, King Louis XVIII restored as monarch in Paris. This was to prove the Duke´s last battle and he remarked that after a battle lost, the saddest thing is a battle won; he lost many close friends, killed during the day long battle and many of his soldiers under his command were some of the thousands of casualties that day in June.

The Society celebrated the 200th anniversary at La Opera restaurant in Madrid; quite a gathering with the daughter of the Duke of Romana present as was the Countess of Hermosilla and other Life Members of our Society; Doña Cristina was our Guest of Honour; all ladies present received bouquets of flowers and the toast by our Chairman to “The Duke” was with Late Vintage Graham Port!


VisigothsOur new walking tour of old Madrid will make, in all, twelve Theme Tours for people to chose from. It covers the period of the Visigoths, then the Moors of the 11th century. We visit a small museum with a diorama showing how the city was extended over the centuries. In 1561 the capital was moved from Toledo to Madrid, then in November 1700 the last Hapsburg, Charles II, died here and on Monday, Second of May, 1808, the people of Madrid rose against the French troops. We follow the city´s history through the Peninsular War, 1808 – 14 to the 14 April, the 1st Republic after the fall of Queen Isabel II in 1868 and so to 1931, when the II Republic was proclaimed; Franco and his Generals had other ideas however, and the city was under siege with fascist bombs dropping on the unfortunate citizens for over two years. We follow in Hemingway´s footsteps in the 1950s when he was finally allowed to return after being banned for his support of the Republic.

We visit the two oldest pastry shops dating 1830 & 1855 and of course we stop for drinks at some of the city´s most traditional taverns in the old quarter.
This will be offered each morning for 4 hours….and shall be both informative and enjoyable!




OliveGroveChairman was invited down to a Andalusian village, El Burgo, up in the mountains between the coastal city of Malaga and the famous place of Ronda. His good friend Callaum whom he worked with in 2001 on the BBC documentary, IRON DUKE, invited him to stay some days and see how pure olive oil is grown and processed. It was, reported our Chairman, “An amazing eye-opener!” A series of photos of this most singular adventure can be seen on the Society’s Facebook.

Callum runs Frontier Holidays for outdoor events such as hiking, bird-spotting and also leads walks along the Camino to Santiago up in Galicia. You can contact him and learn more about his tours at his website


CiudadRodrigoWithout doubt this Spanish walled city is one of the finest Peninsular War sites remaining in the Iberian Peninsula and a popular place for Washingtonians to visit. Twice in October and again in November we ran tours there to retrace the events on 19 January, 1812 when the British & Portuguese troops successfully stormed both breaches (which are still clearly marked).

We stay at the castle cum Parador, walk the entire walls, have “menu del dia” at a friend´s tavern in the delightful Plaza Mayor. For Wellington aficionados or those who just need a break and enjoy good food and a dab of history then this weekend trip for you!

SEGOVIA AT NIGHTAqueduct_city_wall_Segovia_night

We have now been taking new Members north up the mountains for lunch in the famous city of Segovia. For those visiting for the first time it is quite an experience to view the 2,000 year old aqueduct when it is completely lit up at night. We have added photos to our facebook which were taken in early December so please check them out.


As in previous years, our Chairman invited those who help with the Society, to come over to his home on the 26th of December, his Saint´s Day, Saint Stephen, for a grand buffet lunch and some of Spain´s finer wines. It has been a wonderful year with many walking tours, day excursions and visits to the great art museums in Madrid. We really do look forward to a 2016 and giving tours to people interested in Spain´s history, food and wine.

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