Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Our last night was spent in Madrid. Lovely hotel, like all of the rest, and excellent location – right in the centre of the city. However we were both too tired to take advantage after such a hectic week.

Holts Battlefield Tours are not a cheap way to visit battlefields, but I must admit that our tour from 21 to 28 October 1991 was definitely very good value for money.

We had visited the cities of Lisbon, Salamanca, Toledo and Madrid. More importantly we had visited the Napoleonic period sites of Elvas, San Christoval, Badajoz, Albuera, Alcantara, Cuidad Rodrigo, Almeida, the bridge on the river Coa, Fuentes de Orono, Salamanca and Talavera.

Not bad for 8 days, which included flying to Lisbon and back from Madrid.

The disadvantage, for me, was the limited amount of time available at each site. I always felt that I would have liked another hour or so at each one. There was also the frustration of always being in a large group, where the desires of the individual must always take second place to the needs of the group. And I have no doubt that most of my fellow travelers would feel that they had sufficient time at most, if not all, locations. After all most of them were regular Holts Tour travelers and this was just another holiday. For Jan and I it was much more than that.

This holiday had given us a taste for visiting the Peninsular Battlefields. We had not done all of them, but we had done a lot. This was one of two coach tours to Portugal and Spain organized by Holts, and Jan and I were anxious to see more. We were not sure whether we wanted to see more with Holts or on our own.

An organized coach tour is an excellent, and very easy, way to visit battlefields. No preparation is required, no maps are needed, it is not even necessary to know anything about the site you are about to visit. Someone is on hand to explain what battle took place at each stop, to point out the sites of particular interest and to answer any questions you may have. It is not necessary to find either the next battlefield, or the next night’s accommodation. It is not necessary to communicate with foreign people who speak a strange language. Everyone speaks English, or there is always someone on hand who can do so if needed. I was well aware that it would be a completely different ball game if we were to do it on our own.

On the other hand there is not the same excitement or satisfaction to be taken to the middle of a field in a luxury coach as there is to find a spot all on your own where an incident took place which you have read about in a history book. Or to have as long as you want to explore a location. To sit and read and to soak up the atmosphere.

From the moment we returned to UK we were quite sure that we would return to the Peninsular battlefields of Portugal and Spain. What was not sure was whether it would be on another Holts coach tour or under our own steam.

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