Virginia’s team organized a great introduction to the Iberian Peninsula for my wife and I. In three weeks we visited Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada in Spain, then Evora, Lisbon, Sintra, Estoril, Obidos and Porto in Portugal. After Porto, we went to La Rioja wine region, then Barcelona and back to Madrid. There was a lot to see and do, but we never felt rushed. With the exception of Estoril, we were able to stay three nights per hotel to limit hotel hopping. All the guides were knowledgable, helpful, concerned and fun people to be with for several hours. The drivers were also excellent and good company. All transfers and in-county travel (by car, train and plane) went smoothly as planned. We liked all the hotels except one, but thanks to Paloma in Customer Care, we were able to quickly change to another, much better, hotel the same day. Also, thanks to Paloma for the last minute difficulties with some of the restaurant reservations (which apparently were caused by the restaurants).
As I mentioned, all the guides were great and knowledgeable, but two experiences really stood out for us. On the first night our guide provided a tapas experience, hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar to taste the best tapas, wine and vermouth that Madrid has to offer. We were made to feel like locals out on a night. The other experience was seeing Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in the late afternoon. Our guide knew exactly when to take us when the light helped to make the Sagrada Familia truly awe-inspiring.
There were a number of excellent things about the trip. The rooms in the hotels and the location of the hotels were both excellent. This was especially true in Bilbao where we overlooked the Guggenheim staying at Hotel Domine. Several guides were outstanding (in Rioja and Porto).
Unlike the last two trips through Wendy Perrin’s service, our consultant didn’t book anything until we had paid. Had we known, we would have been happy to make a deposit much earlier. Because of this, several of the places we preferred to stay were already fully booked (in Porto where our second choice was only adequate), or room preferences were no longer available (Abadia del la Retuerte). We were also unable to get even relative cost comparisons for hotels, car rentals, or experiences. This again was different from our previous experience.
The planner offered to book rental cars with AVIS which was helpful until there was no car at the Madrid train station despite our confirmed (by AVIS) booking. Fortunately we have Hertz cards and were able to find an appropriate alternate. We needed a large car as four of us had been traveling for a month each and had a lot of luggage. We decided not to take a chance on AVIS in Porto, the next rental car location, and did our own car rental which turned out to be more cost effective. We are now awaiting a refund from the specialist.
Response from Wendy:
There are a couple of important takeaways here for other travelers. First, Spain and Portugal are currently so popular that it’s smart to commit and book months ahead. Otherwise you’ll get shut out of small, in-high-demand hotels such as the Akelarre in San Sebastian and the Infante Sagres in Porto. Second, regarding the non-itemized pricing of Virginia Irurita’s itinerary and arrangements, Virginia explains that “due to confidential rates and agreements with hotels and other suppliers, we are not allowed to give the cost per reservation,” and that Laura was advised of this policy from the start. I too advise travelers about this all the time, as it is standard procedure among many luxury trip-planning specialists. In fact, this is how I advise travelers about such pricing and about how to work with luxury trip designers. Heed point #5 in particular.
Virginia did issue Laura a refund for the cancelled AVIS reservations. “I want to express our apologies for the inconveniences that occurred during the Morses’ trip,” Virginia writes. “Everyone made a huge effort to make sure all went smooth while they were travelling but, unfortunately, we failed to fulfill their expectations and this is of the utmost importance to us.”
Virginia and her associates coordinated every aspect of our trip and created an ideal itinerary based on our preferences. They asked for and were open to suggestions and changes. We were always kept up to date during the entire planning process. We were absolutely thrilled with the experiences they arranged, from the excellent guides as well as access to venues that would not have been possible without their connections. When our arrival was delayed, we contacted the 24-hour number and they rescheduled drivers, luggage assistants and guided tours. Someone contacted us and spoke to us in each city to inquire how we were doing.
Our travel specialist, Virginia was great, as were the people to whom she forwarded our information and plans. Daniel Rubio got us organized with payment and initial plans and took the time to have a detailed phone conversation with me, as well as emails with my husband to answer our questions. Paloma Garcia-Mares was very helpful in arranging and adding another family to our paella dinner lesson. All of our tour guides were fun and informative and helpful with lunch/dinner suggestions. A very thoughtful touch was cava at a beachside restaurant for my birthday. All transports were early and super helpful. Loved the sidecar experience and the bike experience tremendously. We are well informed about art and culture, thanks to our guide Angel. We appreciate your expertise and are very pleased that we used your services for a memorable family vacation in Barcelona.
This is our second time using Virginia and her team. They are the best travel planners we have ever experienced. If you are going to Spain or Portugal, you should use their team!
This trip we went back to Barcelona for 3 days and spent just under a week in San Sebastian. We toured Montserrat with Carles who was AMAZING – highly recommend him for a personalized insider tour! In San Sebastian we had an amazing pintxos tour with Fanny. We had two separate tours and a WOW experience with Gurutze who is AWESOME! It was also our first Wendy Perrin WOW Experience (a spectacular, day trip to Pasajes de San Juan customized to everything we love about travel and Spain) – WOW is all we can say…
Everyone connected with Virginia – every single staff member, every driver, every guide and every hotel they recommended were extremely customer focused, caring, attentive and committed to delivering a world class experience. We will be booking another trip here again soon with Virginia and her wonderful team!
Fortier Family (2 Adults, 2 Children – 10-year-old, 13-year-old)
From our first conversation to prompt email responses to everything running on time and is exactly as planned, Virginia and her team were one of the best travel companies that I have ever worked with. Our guides were some of the best we have had in the world. Every transfer, hike, meal, and tour were exactly as promised. I can’t give a higher rating than what I would give to Virginia and her team.
My husband and I enjoyed a wonderful trip experience in Barcelona, Bilbao, and Costa Brava.
Our guides for our planned activities were incredibly knowledgeable, interesting and enjoyable to be with. They knew how to get us to the most places, picking out highlights, then we would ever have been able to get to on our own. We then had our own time to explore more slowly.
Our planning team did an excellent job of getting in all the sites and experiences I wanted to include without over-programming us. We had 3 different travel specialists all of which were helpful and personable, but I would have preferred working with one person throughout the planning. My husband and I are both looking forward to planning our next Wendy Perrin trip!
Our trip to Portugal was a 10 out of 10, and Virginia and her team we extremely accommodating with our multiple exchanges to dial in our perfect itinerary to make it possible. We had the perfect mix of guided time and on our own time. The hotel in Porto, the Pestana Vintage Porto, was perfect! We never would have picked it on our own, the advice for where to stay perfectly met our needs and exceeded our expectations. We were lucky with perfect weather in Porto and in Lisbon and had no issues throughout the trip, all the arrangements were spot on. The best part of the trip was the sidecar tour in Lisbon, and we never would have done that without the suggestion from Virginia and Julia. Our time with our host in Porto, Madalena, was so much fun, topped off with a Port Tonic on the spectacular balcony of the Yeatman in Gaia across the river looking back at Porto. Thank you for connecting us, it was a great trip!
Our planner listened to our requests. We wanted an overview of the cities, but were more interested in meeting people and learning about their lives. In both Porto and Lisbon, they paired us with “hosts,” not guides. In Porto that lead to a long lunch in a local area that was unparalleled. In Lisbon that lead to a sunset drink at a roof top bar only locals know, discussing the political history of Portugal. The private WiFi was such a good idea and the private picnic lunch in the Douro Valley was awesome. Thank you.
Wendy, our trip was fine, but almost everything was very ordinary and below the level of expertise and adventure that we have come to expect from your WOW experts. There were a few exceptions: our market tour and cooking class in San Sebastian, most of our guides (who were personable, intelligent, and interesting to be with), and our fabulous driver in Porto. Otherwise, we were dissatisfied with Made for Spain and Portugal—for the following reasons:
1. We attempted in vain for about two weeks to speak with Virginia, the head of the agency. Ultimately she turned us over to another person at the agency who made most of the plans and then turned us over to yet another agent. Virginia’s employees were nice and accommodating but were hardly forthcoming with their advice.
2. We felt that no one at the agency took any care to make sure that our trip made sense. They merely offered us a block of tours that we might be interested in. They made NO attempt to coordinate one tour with the next. For example, we had two tours in Porto with a guide who first took us on a drive through the major points of the city. The third tour, which was supposed to be a river tour with a local fisherman, turned out to be a repeat of the drive along the waterfront which we had already taken; we thought this tour would be a boat ride that would explore more from the water than from another car, but the boat turned out to be a five-minute public ferry ride across the river. We then had dinner with the guide and driver. Basically, that tour was worthless. We were dismayed at the agency’s total lack of coordination of their cut-and-paste “tours.”
3. There was no attempt to suggest anything other than what we specifically asked for. We did speak with each tour guide, and they tailored what they were doing to what we wanted, but still, none of this was done by the agency.
4. When we asked the agency to arrange for a train from Lisbon to Porto, they suggested a train at a particular time. We asked for an earlier train, and they said fine, failing to tell us that the earlier one was a local train that would take an additional hour and would not get us into Porto much earlier than the express train. In addition, they failed to tell us to get off the train at the station that was five minutes from the Yeatman Hotel, where we were staying. (That station is not only closer by at least a half hour, but it is also quieter and easier to deal with than the main Porto station.) There was just no attempt to follow up on details or to give us advice.
5. We added an extra day onto our stay in Porto so we could visit the town of Aveiro, which we told them we would visit by train, to see the art nouveau museum and the art nouveau buildings. First, they did not bother to tell us that the art nouveau museum is closed on the day we initially were going to go. Second, Aveiro was extremely disappointing in that it was very touristic and the “museum” basically had nothing in it but a video of art nouveau objects and history. Had we been given any indication of that, we would not have included Aveiro in our trip, but there was absolutely NO ADVICE or interest in our trip.
6. The plan for a few days of our trip was to rent a car and drive ourselves. The agency, upon our asking, provided almost nothing as to possible sights to see or any advice about sights along the route.
I would not recommend this agency to anyone looking for a well-coordinated trip with insider suggestions.
I was dismayed to read Ellen’s feedback, but there are valuable lessons that travelers can learn from it:
First, I believe the main reason why Ellen’s trip did not meet her expectations is that she and Virginia never spoke. An in-depth phone conversation between traveler and trip designer, at the start of the trip-planning process, is crucial to the successful design, flow, and execution of a WOW trip. That’s why I require every Trusted Travel Expert (TTE) on The WOW List to sign a pledge promising that he/she will personally speak with each traveler I send to them. And it’s why such a phone consultation is the #1 To-Do item in my advice to travelers when they submit a trip request. Sadly, no conversation happened between Ellen and Virginia, despite Ellen’s attempts to schedule one.
Second, during the past year, Spain and Portugal have become off-the-charts popular, causing huge numbers of tourists, sell-out conditions, much higher prices, and operational challenges that can make it tougher for a travel specialist to deliver a trip of the caliber that frequent WOW List travelers are accustomed to.
Third, traveler feedback I’ve received during the past year leads me to conclude that, increasingly, travelers to Spain who opt to rent a car and drive themselves end up not as happy with their trips as those who use a TTE-arranged driver. A TTE-arranged driver knows tricks and shortcuts, delivers special access, and makes sightseeing on the road more efficient and enjoyable. True, a TTE-arranged driver usually costs more, but over the past year, I’ve noticed that travelers who have used such a driver are far more likely than self-drive travelers to feel they got great value for their money. To be clear, I am not saying that you shouldn’t rent a car. (I rent cars in Europe all the time.) I’m saying that if you want a self-drive trip, either book it on your own or write to Ask Wendy so I can suggest the best Spain trip-planning specialist for that.
Response from Trusted Travel Expert Virginia Irurita:
Thank you very much for taking the time to leave us your feedback.
I am very sorry to see that you were disappointed with your trip as I had two of my top team members working on it. We do indeed always do our best to suggest all activities we think clients would be interested in, but in this case, you had specific ideas and we attempted to follow your lead to best meet your needs.
This being said, it is clear that we did not meet your satisfaction. We appreciate your comment and will certainly learn from it.
Loved our visit to Six Senses in Douro Valley and Casa Amarela where the charming owner and his wife of this beautiful port wine vineyard served us a delicious lunch. Barcelona Sagrada Familia not to be missed!! In Lisbon we had a FANTASTIC meal at Momento, make a reservation at this small cozy local place and prepare to have a great meal and wonderful service.
We had been to Spain several times on our own. Virginia and her team recommended new places to visit, and new hotels to try. We particularly enjoyed the tapas tour in San Sebastian. A truly fun and delicious evening!
Outstanding guides for our city walking tours. Guides and transfers all on time. Detailed itinerary very helpful.
A very enjoyable and easy trip.
Virginias team planned an outstanding trip. The team, during the design stage, were, professional, having excellent knowledge of the cities and outstandingly helpful.
The trip execution was flawless! Customer service perfect.
What a fabulous Dali day. My husband and I are big fans of the artist’s work and were anxious to see the Dali house, Cadaques where he vacationed and the Dali Museum. Jordi, our guide and our driver (whose name we can unfortunately not recall) were terrific. Our driver handled hairpin curves with aplomb (there were many) and both were a joy to be with during the day. Jordi was informative without being overbearing and took care of a lot of little details. He found us a wonderful place for lunch and even gave us his mother’s recipe for Paella. Can’t wait to try it!
Virginia was incredible and her team made our trip to Spain unforgettable! From wonderful hotels to amazing local guides, it was a perfect trip. Special recognition to our guides Fernando in Toledo, Regina in Barcelona and Margarida in Seville- your love and excitement for your respective cities was infectious. Thank you thank you!
My daughter was studying abroad in Spain and some of the places we wanted to visit were not on the typical tourist path. Luckily, we started by contacting Wendy who directed us to Virginia Irurita. Virginia happened to be traveling when I needed to plan the trip, but she directed me to Clare Corrigan on her team who was wonderful to work with and able to handle every aspect of our trip. It would have been overwhelming to try to arrange everything in multiple cities all while working full time. Clare booked all the hotel accommodations and arranged for specialized private tours and guides to meet some of our special requests. Also, having the 24/7 assistance made the time there worry free! The team was great about answering questions and when we needed to ship some wine home they were right there directing us to a specialty shop that could assist! Our trip may not have been the typical type of trip that Wendy’s specialists work on, but it worked out great for us.
Virginia and her staff were responsive and kept us apprised of any changes along the way. We thoroughly enjoyed each and every tour we went on (the guides were top notch, prepared and very accommodating) and are looking forward to using their services for future travel experiences in the Iberian Peninsula.
Virginia was spot-on with her first draft of our itinerary after speaking with me just once. She was flexible with planning given that a portion of our trip was already planned, and she was very quick – I contacted her less than 8 weeks before the trip. The portion of the trip that was already planned was not awful, but it was obvious it had not been planned by Virginia! Thanks for your website and list of WOW experts!
Another great trip to Spain with the help of Virginia and her staff. Nancy and I just got back from an 8 day trip to Madrid that they helped us plan. Since we had used Virginia on a previous trip, Virginia was dialed into what we like to do on vacation. The trip planned had the perfect mix of historical and cultural tours.
Our first night we were taken out on a tapas tour with Pablo 1 (you will see shortly why I put a number next to his name). We had some great classic tapas like Iberian ham as well as the Spanish omelet/tortilla. Pablo 1 was very friendly and he gave us some good suggestions on what to do in our free time. A lot of the “historical” tours of Madrid were conducted by Pablo 2. Pablo 2 had a wealth of information to share in a conversational manner. We also visited Toledo which was great. Our guide Fernando knows everything about the area (as Pablo 2 told us, Fernando knows where every stone in Toledo came from). During the above tours, we had the pleasure of having Pablo 3 drive us from location to location. As for some cultural tours, we had the pleasure of being Mencia’s first hosting experience as she took us around Madrid to visit a market and other areas of interest. We also did a cultural tour related to food with Nannie who was fun to be with. One other tour we took was to a flamingo show with Celia. Celia explained the flamenco to us during the show and it helped us understand the emotions of the dancers, singers and guitar players during the performance.
One of my favorite parts of the visit was going to a Champions League soccer match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain. We had great seats in a corporate box where the drinks and food flowed freely throughout the night.
We ended up staying at the Hotel Orfila. The hotel is in a quiet neighborhood but within walking distance of almost everything in Madrid. The staff was very friendly and were always doing things to make you feel welcome.
All in all, we had a wonderful time in Madrid where we experienced a lot. A special thank you to Virginia and her staff for their efforts in putting together a great itinerary and then executing the itinerary perfectly. I am sure that when we return to Spain that we will use Virginia and her staff for the third time.
Excellent Handpicked Guides and Great Arrangement
This is to inform you that we have got back to our country safely after having an amazing time in Barcelona and Madrid.
From the planning stage, Virginia made few phone calls with us to understand more about our travel style. It was a fun arrangement she made, to see as much as we can and yet we still have time for our own time to shop and hang out. We stayed at The One Hotel in Barcelona which has an excellent location. And since we love to party and shopping, and we would stay in Madrid for 6 nights including the New Year’s Eve, we were staying 3 nights at Urso and 3 nights at Villa Magna for the shopping session.
We’d like to thank all of you for your great assistance and made our trip flawless with no hassle at all, and thank you for the thoughtful gift in our room in Barcelona that we received even before we checked in.
The guides were excellent, but the two in Madrid, Christina and Pablo, Barcelona guide Francesco, and the sidecar guide in Barcelona, Tarek, exceeded our expectation. I may say all of our guides were specialized in each session so we got the best information in everywhere and everything.
All transfers were great. Our drivers Xavi in Barcelona and George in Madrid were excellent, helpful and customer oriented, great service.
Hopefully, we will work together again on our next trip to other parts of Spain and/or Portugal.
Virginia and her staff took our needs/suggestions and created a plan that they were willing to “tweak, edit, change and refine.” They helped us take our “dream trip” and make into a realistic, yet aspirational trip that was fairly seamless. Every driver was 15 minutes early. Every tour guide was prompt, extremely knowledgeable, personable, interested in us, willing to share their perspectives and lives, engage in both academic AND humorous conversation and really facilitated our ability to take a thousand years of history, begin to understand the vast historical implications on today’s world, and step into the perspective of real people, living in towns and villages throughout Spain. No small feat. What a marvelous way to travel.
From beginning to end, the trip arrangements were excellent, with the exception of one transfer day that fell on a national holiday. This meant that we were limited in our options for getting from Point A to Point B. However, we were accommodated with an early check-in. The hotels chosen worked very well for us in the cities. Evora was a little problematic without a car and the hotel seemed a little overwhelmed by another large group, but we were only there for two nights. Virginia really does get the best guides and is able to put together some wonderful experiences. I have no hesitation in recommending Virginia and her team. We are already thinking of our next trip!
Northern Spain: Madrid, La Rioja, Bilbao, San Sabastian, Barcelona with side trips to charming fishing villages and small quaint towns.
I enjoyed working with Virginia and her staff. Virginia listened to our likes and dislikes and what we enjoy when we travel. Her staff responded in a timely manner to my questions. Our guides were wonderful. Not only were they extremely knowledgeable, most were very warm often joining us for a meal and partaking in interesting conversation. Those interactions are often the highlight of a trip for us. It gives us an opportunity to interact with a local person, discuss politics, culture and family life. Our evening with Martin in La Rioja was memorable and one I doubt any other tour group would have the opportunity to do. The guides were also great in giving us personal recommendations for restaurants and even calling to make reservations. I did not find it helpful to receive pages and pages of restaurants that I have to look up on the internet. I finally gave up and waited until we arrived in Spain to make those arrangements. Our guide that took us shopping in Madrid was very clever, She brought her brother along to “hang” with our husbands. He was very lovely and saved our guys from a day of torture. He went out of his way to call his friend at a restaurant we were going to in La Rioja to tell him to take good care of us. I’m sure that wasn’t necessary but it was so kind of him to do that for us. Those little extra gestures are what made Virginia’s arrangements extra special.
Virginia and her team were very responsive in planning our trip. We visited Sevilla, San Sebastian, and La Rioja (El Ciego). The transportation and tour guides set up by her team were excellent. We loved the entire trip. If we were to change any part, we would have them start our days a little later particularly in the beginning of the trip. We were not able to fall asleep until the early morning hours due to time change but we had to get up early most days due to our itinerary. We would highly recommend Virginia and would use them again.
We wanted to write and send you one thousand thank you’s for the excellent trip Virginia and her team planned for us to Barcelona.
An itinerary is simply words on paper. What makes a great trip is not the plans on paper, it is the people that make-up each event and stop on the itinerary that bring life, color and vibrancy to those plans. The people that Made for Spain matched us with brought color to our experience, like a Gaudi work of art. We wanted to tell you about our experiences with those people, to convey our appreciation, thanks and recommendation. We list them in the order that we met them and not as a ranking.
Javier was our driver from the airport to our Airbnb apartment. All of the drivers for the Excellence company were prompt and friendly, but Javier stands out because of his outstanding service upon our arrival. He was very welcoming and helpful when we met at the airport, but his excellent service shown clear when we got into Barcelona. We arrived on October 3, just after the referendum on Sunday, the First. Demonstrators were marching through the Eixample and many of the streets were blocked, including Carrer Valencia, where our apartment was located. After several attempts to navigate around the blockages and talk our way past the Guardia, Javier was forced to park several blocks away from our destination. Javier then carried my older mother and father’s two very heavy suitcases though the crowds as we made our way on foot to the apartment. All the way, he was kind and patient with my parents, who move slowly because of their age. A very good man!
Jordi Nuno was our guide for two days, through the old city and the glories of Gaudi. We cannot say enough good things about him. He is extremely knowledgable about the history, art and culture of Barcelona, patient with the pace and needs of my mother and father, and made us feel like we were taking a stroll with a good friend who happened to live with in the city. We usually do not have a guide when we visit new places, content to explore and discover on our own. With Jordi, we learned with this can be a mistake. A guide that takes obvious pleasure in showing people his city brings a second and third dimension and perspective to what are otherwise simply sights. By pointing out the remains of the Roman aqueduct protruding from the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia or comparing Picasso’s interpretation of Las Meninas by showing us Velazquez’s version, Jordi showed us things we never would have appreciated on our own. Before he left us each afternoon, he seemed delighted to find us a table at a favorite place, like Bar del Pal, chatting up to staff to ensure we had an enjoyable lunch. Jordi provided us with an intimate view of his city, one that we will not forget.
Anna and her assistant, Inez, at Canela Fina, led us through the Santa Caterina market and conducted our cooking class. This was a day that we will remember forever. Seeing the market through Anna’s experience was eye opening. Telling us about the vendors with with freshest seafood and those with cheaper but perhaps not as fresh fish, or about the vegetable stands operated by farmers directly out the fields and those that obtained their goods from the central market, and watching her talk to with girl at the charcuterie counter, was fun and interesting. But the best part of the day was Canela Fina. The space occupied by the school was stunningly beautiful – showing us that behind the many roll-up doors of the Old City are spaces of style and class. As we worked together to prepare seven or eight different tapas, Anna and Inez brought a combination of knowledge, technique and enthusiasm that taught us very much and imparted their joy of Catalunya’s cuisine. We came away wondering if a three day cooking and Spanish language immersion course could be arranged with them – such is the grandness of the time we had!
Luba was our host at Can Rafols dels Caus, for wine tasting in the Penedes region. Let me say that we have visited and tasted wine at hundreds of wineries, small and relatively unknown and large and well-regarded. We have never ever had an experience to compare with the afternoon spent at Can Rafols dels Caus. Luba’s passion for this winery was apparent as she toured us about the lovingly restored grounds of the home and winery, with its outstanding views from its hilltop location, and the starkly beautiful underground concrete and bedrock cellar. But the best was the “wine tasting and little snack” Luba made for us in the dining room of the home. Seated around a simple and elegant wooden table, in a room with windows overlooking the surrounding vineyards and olive groves, she brought us four or five snacks – toasted bread upon which to crush the locally grown tomatoes, almonds roasted in the kitchen, salami and sausage and cheese – all to accompany their outstanding wine. This was not simply a wine tasting, it was a vibrant experience that showed the justifiable pride that Luba had for the winery and the region.
We can go on and on about the wonderful experience Virginia provided to our family – like our two day drive on secondary roads through Catalunya’s mountains to the north, or the outstanding first night dinner Olga arranged for us at Petit Comite. But as we’ve said, it’s the people that she connected us with that made a great trip for us and makes us very grateful. Thank you.
Listened and paid attention to our special needs. All guides and drivers were outstanding.
Virginia Irurita and her staff planned our two-and-a-half week long trip to Spain and Portugal in June of 2017. They made a great itinerary that took us from Lisbon (including Sintra) to Sevilla, Andalusia, Cordoba, and Madrid. The hotels they arranged for us were exactly what we wanted – they asked us for what we wanted and delivered. They set up small tours for us in places we requested that, including some excellent food tours. They made us feel like VIPs by arranging ALL the transportation and having people there to pick us up and shepherd us through places they thought might be confusing or difficult. They also called us a couple of times during the trip to make sure all was going as planned. They really seemed to care we were having a good time!
We arrived home last week after enjoying a month-long trip of a lifetime organized by Virginia and her talented staff. The itinerary was letter perfect. It enabled us to experience Northern Spain in a manner we’ll talk about with family and friends for many years. The guides and drivers were all extraordinary. Everyone worked hard to ensure we were comfortable and had the opportunity to experience all the area had to offer. The selected hotels were marvelous and located in exactly the right locations. Staff were wonderful and the breakfasts outstanding. We very much appreciated the opportunity to attend the Raimon concert in Barcelona and hear the Boy’s Choir at Montserrat. Both were very special.
The use of the Wi-Fi device enabled us to remain in contact with family and friends and worked well. Great bonus.
The only issues that we’d like to highlight related to poor mattresses at the Mas de Torrent (we mentioned this to the GM) and what we perceived to be a subpar dinner at the Hotel Marques de Riscal’s 1860 Tradition Restaurant. Other than that, we can’t imagine a more complete opportunity to experience this region. We toured everything worth seeing within each city as well as the surrounding countryside. Exactly what we have come to expect when using one of your TTEs. Their trips always exceed our expectations.
Continued thanks, Wendy!
Anne-Lise and I are back from a wonderful trip to Northern Spain. We usually make our own arrangements but take advantage of a Travel Expert’s advice and assistance when we expect it will greatly enhance our experience. Virginia Irurita and her staff fulfilled this role perfectly. We gave them a rough itinerary and they recommended a range of lodgings, restaurants, and tours. The trip was tailored to our slightly relaxed pace and gave us time on our own. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and we became immediate friends with all of them. The range of interests they covered for us included art and architecture in Barcelona (Zaida), wine tastings and historic hill towns in Rioja (Marina), Pintxos (tapas) bar-hopping in San Sebastian (Fanny), and a photojournalist’s “street” tour (Juan) and a professor’s Prado insight in Madrid (Pablo). It was no coincidence that a couple of the guides grew up with Virginia, and she shared a bottle of wine and good discussion with us at the end of our trip. Reservations for trains and our rental car, as well as driver transfers throughout the trip went off without a hitch. We would certainly recommend Made for Spain and Portugal to any traveler to the Iberian Peninsula.
The trip was very well planned and everyone was on time—drivers, guides, who
were all very good. Found the hotels in Portugal, except for Vila Joya, to be disappointing — especially
the Yeatman hotel and restaurant in Porto.
Virginia was amazing. She truly delivered on all accounts…from the tapas tour in Madrid (with her hipster and cool nephew) to the transfers and personal attendants at EACH point of embarking or arriving, to the MyFi handheld personal hotspot. Every detail was taken care of, and her response time while we were on our trip was first class. She and her team made our Spain trip a true memory maker. Worth the time to invest while planning your next trip to their beautiful country!
Our family recently returned (March 2017) from a trip to Spain and have to commend Virginia and her team for making it an unforgettable experience. We started with a group of 10 but a few weeks before the trip added 3 more family members. The team at Made for Spain easily accommodated the additions, including one who surprised the family a few days later in Seville. They made all the transportation arrangements and even booked restaurants for our group. They called us several times during the trip to make sure everything was going as planned and to check if we needed assistance. We felt very safe and supported in the country.
We were transported within the cities in up to date and clean vans and minibusses with very professional drivers. We were always offered water bottles onboard during our tours which was very welcome. Virginia had also arranged to have portable wifi devices issued to us for the duration of the trip. These were delivered to the first hotel in Madrid and were picked up after the end of the trip in Barcelona. It was very handy to have these so we could communicate with each other securely and to refer to online maps as we navigated around the cities. They even worked onboard the trains as we traveled to Seville and Barcelona!
We were booked in business class on the high-speed train, which we chose over taking flights between the cities. It was a comfortable way to travel and we were served meals as well. Virginia had an escort meet us at the train stations and even included luggage assistants. For a group consisting of not only adults but young children and grandparents, this service was most convenient. We did not have to worry about getting around the stations and negotiating the many pieces of luggage.
What truly made this trip special was our local tour guides in each city. I had asked Virginia in advance to set us up with guides with humor who would cater to the interests of our multi-generational group, and she delivered. My children were made to feel part of the tour in special ways and that was very important and invaluable. My six year old daughter remembers being a “special helper” in the Royal Palace in Madrid. Our guide in Seville made sure to make little detours in our walking tour to accommodate the stroller for my youngest. She also pointed out locations where I could take the kids to run around and play when we had free time the following day. Our fantastic guide in Barcelona took us to a local restaurant that was close to a small playground and allowed us to let the two young ones enjoy. My eldest son was also fascinated by the Caganer figurine which our guide introduced. Because of this, he now has an enjoyable story from Barcelona he is sharing with his friends and cousins.
The history and culture of Segovia, Cordoba and Montserrat also came alive due to the guides’ experience, knowledge and passion. We were able to enjoy Spain in a very special and highly personalized way and can’t wait to come back and visit. Our family only have good things to say about this trip. We have been to other European cities before as part of larger tour groups and on cruises. We have also traveled independently to other parts of the world. Everyone agreed that this way is the best way to travel. The expertise and personal touch of Virginia as well as Clare and Inmaculada who we worked closely with made all the difference. For anyone planning a trip to Spain and Portugal, the best decision you will make is to contact Virginia. Her team works together to make sure correspondence is responded to promptly. They suggest great itineraries and special events but accommodate changes and revisions that cater to their clients requests and needs. Amazing service.
Araceli de Vera and Family
Virginia and her team really put together a customized trip that met our needs and offered unique suggestions for places to visit, stay, eat, and enjoy Barcelona and nearby towns. We had excellent guides, wonderful hotel suggestions, good day trips, amazing winery visit. And they were really good in helping us put together the Tenerife part of the trip which is something they hadn’t done before. There, too, we had an excellent guide who made a huge difference when there was bad weather and we needed to adjust the schedule at the last minute. Visiting Tenerife was very special, beautiful island, great hiking, and a unique travel experience. We would definitely use Virginia again.
We traveled in December 2016.
I have nothing but wonderful things to say about Virginia and her team. Every step along the way was handled impeccably – from the first phone call to our final itinerary. We were able to customize each day of our trip. Once we arrived in Barcelona, the hotel was perfect and our tour guides were top notch. Everything ran seamlessly and without worry. The follow up from Virginia’s team at the beginning and end of the trip was also appreciated. A much deserved thank you goes to Blanca for helping with last minute reservations. Her timeliness and suggestions were great. We would use Virginia and her team again without any hesitation. This trip was our first time using a WOW specialist and we are already planning our next!
Virginia and team planned a great trip for us in October 2016. We went to Barcelona, San Sebastian and Rioja. We did a day trip to Tarragona and Priorat from Barcelona, a walking tour in San Sebastian, a pinxos tour in San Sebastian and 2 days of wine tours in Rioja. All the guides were fantastic. We would love to return to Spain and explore the south and would definitely use Virginia and her team to plan that trip.
Trip to Spain Oct 3-19 2016. We visited Madrid, Segovia, Bilbao, La Rioja and the Basque Coast, Barcelona, Sevilla, and Cordova. We traveled by train, rental car and internal flights (on Vueling).
Our trip to Spain, which Virginia and her team arranged for us according to our wishes was a marvelous experience that has given us many warm and unforgettable memories. The scenery both natural and man-made – from many centuries to only a few years old – is spectacular. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable about the history, art and culture of Spain, its contributions to European and global civilization from the latter part of the first through the second millennium. Touchy subjects such as Sir Francis Drake (English hero) versus Drake the Pirate (Spanish version), the relationships between Muslims, Christians and Jews over the centuries and the realities of the Inquisition as well as the much more recent and still highly controversial events of the civil war of the 1930’s were handled with grace and tact. The travel arrangements worked smoothly (with the exception of the unexpected charge from AVIS car rental which is not Virginia’s responsibility and which was successfully and promptly resolved -removed- once we queried it). We were able to navigate the few toll roads we took and decipher the rules at parking meters successfully (interesting that where we parked the time between 13:30 and 15:30 hours was free).
The food was excellent, both the various fish dishes and the suckling pig. We were in particular impressed by Arroka Berri. We were very lucky with the weather that only interfered with our plans one evening in Barcelona with a torrential downpour that caused us to cancel our reservation at Petit Comite that would have involved a 20 minute walk or finding an available taxi, an impossible task. But the staff at the Hotel H10Cubik recommended a restaurant, Neyras, which was just a few minutes walk. Neyras proved to be both excellent and a new experience for us, with divine sea bass cooked in salt crust…… Our second deviation from plan was the result of a recommendation of our guide Marianna, in Sevilla who said we must go to Contenedor in preference to Casablanca, a reservation which the hotel cancelled for us after ensuring we could get one at Contenedor. The neighborhood atmosphere and the food in this restaurant, about a 20 minute walk from the Gran Melia Hotel Colon lived up fully to her recommendation. She also advised us where to go on our free day in Sevilla, including a visit to the bullfighting ring. There too we learned a lot, including the history of bullfighting and the status of the current controversy and legal disputes about whether to ban this activity
We note that our transatlantic experience with TAP from Boston to Madrid return via Lisbon, which we booked ourselves, was a good one. Virginia has a great team several of whom were involved in planning and making arrangements during the course of our interactions from initial planning through the trip itself.
Muchisimas gracias for a wonderful trip.
Virginia Irurita made my travel arrangements which was for two couples that traveled to Seville, the Algarve (southern Portugal) and Lisbon in October 2016. All the hotels, excursions, drivers and guides were wonderful! Everyone was very friendly, helpful and spoke excellent English. Guides & drivers were flexible but showed us all the sights & restaurants we probably would not have found on our own. I highly recommend Virginia Irurita.
My husband and I traveled the first 2 weeks of October to Spain. We enjoyed Malaga, Arcos de la Frontera, Seville and Granada. We also enjoyed a day/night in Gibraltar. At each of these locations the guides provided to us were informative, fun and provided extra information as to additional activities we might enjoy while there along with dining recommendations. They listened when we needed to take breaks – as these were 3 – 4 hour walking tours. The drivers provided were also quite attentive and extremely prompt and tidy! Our driver at one point even stopped at a rest stop in order to buy cough drops for my nagging cough, then once at our destination found a pharmacy and helped convey my symptoms to obtain the correct medicine. I would absolutely recommend Virginia and have nothing but positive things to say about this wonderful organization.
Though booking through a travel agent is fairly new for me, I had only one week to spend with my daughter and Virginia’s team thought of everything. From pick up at the airport, to transportation to the Algarve and back, everything went without a hitch. True, you can’t monitor every penny you spend, but every bit of hassle was removed. Our room at the Lapa Palace had been “curated” and was a perfect welcome to Lisbon. They were pleasant and conscientious in their accounting when we made changes.
Our guide. Joau and Samuel, our driver, were extremely personable, knowledgeable, and terrific company! Virginia & her team were thoughtful in every way, and we had a perfect time.
In the Fall of 2014, I contacted Virginia Irurita to discuss planning a very special Birthday trip to Spain with my husband. We had a window of 10 days to travel and we wanted to see three areas of Spain – arriving in Barcelona and staying for a few days, journeying to the Costa Brava for two nights, a flight across the country to stay in Seville for several days and then a drive to Granada to complete the holiday and return to our country.
Virginia was exceptionally helpful in coordinating all of the details of this journey – we stayed in four luxury hotel properties and had a car and driver as we travelled from Barcelona to the Costa Brava and back to the airport for our flight to Seville. In Seville we were met by another driver who took us to our hotel and then arrived several days later to drive us to Granada. Arrangements were always punctual and the drivers were informative and provided local tourist information.
We chose to take a personal guided tour for part of each day in the cities of our destinations and Virginia arranged friendly and personable guides who took us into markets, cathedrals, local restaurants and coffee shops – areas that only the locals know and would not be in a tourist guide. We felt that we were visiting Spain in a very personal and private tour and we loved every minute of our holiday. The coordination of all of these pieces flowed smoothly with Virginia’s guidance and she created an itinerary that included every aspect of what we had requested – plus more!!
We would not hesitate to seek her guidance again on any future travel into Spain – there is still so much to see of the country, as she reminded us:)
We loved the attention to detail, the knowledge and enthusiasm of the guides and the 24/7 access to assistance, should we have needed it. There was no stress on our part. We showed up and off we went.
Virginia Irurita and her team were a pleasure to deal with and were critical to making our time in Spain such a great success. This is the 6th time we’ve worked with a firm from Wendy’s Wow List and once again we weren’t disappointed. Accommodations, transportation, restaurant selections and guides were all top notch. Thanks so much Virginia, Clare & team for making our time as a family so special!
My husband and I recently returned from celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary on a week-long getaway to Madrid and Ribera del Duero in Spain planned through Virginia Irurita. We had a relaxing, unique, trip with lots of little VIP touches that we could never have planned on our own. She initiated our trip planning with a phone call to ascertain what was important for us and scheduled accordingly. We never would have discovered the Ribera del Duero region or its gems like the breathtaking monastery we stayed in or the scrumptious roast lamb meal we had with our guide. The guides we had through Virginia and her team were top-notch, knowledgeable and fun to explore with and learn from. My husband secretly worked with the Made for Spain crew and picked up an anniversary gift for me that they had waiting in our first hotel when we arrived. Our only negative experience was during the planning stage when there was some miscommunication around dining reservations. However, once we highlighted the issue, the Virginia’s team jumped into gear and was able to book what we needed at highly-demanded restaurants. Overall, we had an amazing trip without the nitty-gritty detail planning but with unique experiences only Virginia and her team could provide.
Virginia Irurita and her team helped me plan a trip to Spain for my daughter and I in May 2016. They were more than excellent….they are truly a “WOW” company! Their communications and suggestions during the planning process were excellent, timely and professional and tailored to our interests and wishes, beginning with a long distance phone call to us from Spain to get initial discussions going! The materials they sent us prior to the trip included many unexpected and helpful details, including maps of the major places we were visiting & information to leave home with our family. They suggested several local experiences with local people that were outside of the main tourist venues and tourist attractions, or anything you would find in a guidebook, and were so special and intimate and privately arranged just for us. They clearly went out of the way to suggest great hotels and get us the best rooms. We were treated like VIPs everywhere we went. They took the stress and worry out of wondering how we would get from place to place by providing wonderful drivers who were knowledgeable and friendly and helpful and unfailingly polite and kind. They set us up with 5-6 local guides during the course of the trip and all of them, without exception, were top-notch people and we enjoyed them all so much. I would recommend Virginia to everyone contemplating a trip to Spain.
Nancy and I loved our trip to Barcelona. Virginia Irurita and her staff, Alexandra and Olga, did a great job planning and executing our trip. It should be noted that Virginia was very customer friendly as she took time on one of her Saturday’s to start the process. Once we were in Spain, everything went smoothly. We enjoyed both the sightseeing and cultural aspects of our trip. It made our time in Barcelona special.
We stayed at the Hotel Majestic. The location and the room were great. The staff were very friendly and made you feel like family.
We enjoyed the sightseeing that we did with Sonia, one of our tour guides. Sonia was full of energy and made our time together both fun and informative. Sonia was a great match for us.
We also loved our cultural time with Veronica. The tapas evening was a lot of fun. It was great being with a local as we could see how the process worked. It also allowed us to talk with her about Barcelona and Spain. The one thing that impressed us the most was on the shopping day, we went to an exclusive rare book store in one of Gaudi’s first homes. We do not know how she figured out that my wife, Nancy, loves books from our one meeting, but she nailed it and Nancy was thrilled with the experience.
We also enjoyed the wine tasting evening with Ferran. He provided the perfect mixture of his expertise on Spanish wines with a level of friendliness that made you feel comfortable talking with him during the time we spent together. He put together a wonderful evening and the primary place he took us to treated us to some great food and wine. One of the highlights was the place allowed us to share a glass of a 1929 wine with some cheese. It was a rare treat.
As for the cooking with Chef Pilar Latorre, it was a very special way to end our trip. Pilar and her husband were gracious hosts who made you feel welcome. We cooked some great food and will use some of the recipes when we entertain in the States.
We would like to thank Virginia for a great trip and would highly recommend her and her team to anyone wanting to plan a special trip to Spain. As noted above, they get great tour guides. In addition, the tours are not always the typical sightseeing tours. They also offer great cultural experiences so that you can meet local people and get to know how life is like in Spain. We will use Virginia and her team again when we return to Spain.
Virginia and the entire staff did a fantastic job helping us plan a most wonderful and memorable first ever trip to Spain! Hotel and restaurant recommendations were excellent, as was all the advice on how to make the most of two weeks in Spain, according to our particular interests. In addition they helped us with inter-country flights, trains, and car rental and Blanca, on their 24 hour contact number. They answered the phone immediately, day or night, the few times an issue came up that we needed help with. We used a half-day private guide, once in each location, and they were all terrific. It is a fascinating country and there is so much to see and do that we look forward to returning to explore additional areas, with Virginia and her team’s top notch assistance. Not only very knowledgeable, they are warm, caring, friendly people – AND VERY PROMPT GETTING BACK TO YOU – a pleasure to work with.
They were well prepared and flexible when changes needed to be made. We loved every moment. The kids had the time of their lives and learned so much.
We had a wonderful trip to Barcelona, Spain. I really appreciate Wendy getting involved to help move along the planning process. During the planning process we had quite a hard time with the person assigned to us. He did not have the knowledge to answer our questions or make suggestions based on our likes/dislikes. It seemed like he had a list of tours to choose from but if what you wanted was not exactly on the list he was baffled. His demeanor was kind and earnest but the planning experience was stressful and not as fun as it has been with other Wow List planners. Some confusion did continue when we were in Spain — our drivers and guide were sometimes confused as well about timing but handled it with grace and ease.
Once we were underway our trip was fabulous! Our hotel rooms were great, especially the Parador Aiguablava. Although the hotel itself was a little aged, our suite on the rooftop had just been renovated. It was dreamy — large hot tub, double shower (plus additional indoor and outdoor ones). Relaxing living room and views to die for. Home run on that one! We were nervous about a “Marriott” in Barcelona but Virginia told us not to fear and she was correct. The art deco style of the hotel was spectacular, especially the staircase and the bar/breakfast room. Our room was minimalist and had the most amazing, comfortable bed which was perfect for the afternoon siestas. The staff was young and incredibly kind.
The real stars of the week were our fantastic drivers and guides. Beyond being wonderfully informative about the area, architecture and history, they were able to adjust on the fly, meet all requests and make wonderful suggestions to enhance our trip. One highlight was a bike trip cut short due to excessive heat — our guide ended up taking us to a fabulous inn where he knew the owners. We had a swim in a beautifully set swimming pool on a farm/vineyard and then our best paella meal out on an exquisite patio. These guides work mostly for Made for Spain and it’s encouraging to hear that they enjoy working with Virginia’s team.
So, the planning part was rough. I would suggest that others make sure they are comfortable right away with who they are working with and speak up to Virginia or Wendy if there is an issue. Virginia was the consummate professional and turned the experience around completely.
My family of five just returned from a trip to Barcelona and we could not be happier with Virginia and her Made for Spain team. Our itinerary was interesting and fun for all of us, including my 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old twin boys. The kids especially loved Camp Nou Stadium, the Dali Museum, and making hot chocolate, as well as the bike tour of the city. All the guides were knowledgeable and friendly, and knew the perfect places to get ice cream or snacks when the kids got tired. Could I have planned the trip myself? Perhaps. But it would have been quite stressful knowing where to go, how to get there, etc. My first time in Europe was awesome and my kids are asking when we are going back. Virginia even called during the trip to make sure things were going OK. Thanks, Made for Spain!
My wife and I, along with another couple, have just returned from a 12-day tour of Spain arranged by Virginia Irurita and her team at Made for Spain. The itinerary included Madrid, El Escorial, Seville, Granada, San Sebastián, Bilbao and La Rioja. We especially enjoyed the time we spent with the guides Virginia hand-picked in each city.
It was the trip of a lifetime and we are eternally grateful to Virginia and her team for showing us all that Spain has to offer.
My husband and I plus another couple just returned from our trip using Made for Spain. This was our second trip with them and we highly recommend Virginia and her team. Before you even leave home, they arrange a beautiful itinerary of what interests you. In addition to the usual “touristy” sites, they arranged special outings for us, e.g., meeting a marquesa, visiting a bull farm, touring the Basque Culinary Center, touring boutique specialty shops in Madrid and a Pintxos tour in San Sebastien. The third time is a charm. They are top-notch and we hope to use them again for visit #3.
We have traveled for over 20 years and the best decision we ever made was using Made for Spain. Virginia and her staff not only set up a wonderful itinerary but ensured that we did not have to do anything but show up at hotels, meet our private tour guides and just eat the wonderful meals in Spain and Portugal (Sept 1–Sept 15, 2014). Also, having her staff available 24 hours a day for questions or to make any changes was truly a nice touch.
My husband and I recently returned from our first trip to Spain (Madrid, San Sebastian, Mallorca and Barcelona), planned in conjunction with Virginia Irurita and Made for Spain. The planning and the trip could not have been more enjoyable. At first contact, Virginia wanted to know about us and what we look for when we travel. She and her staff were extremely easy to work with and welcomed our input. The tour guides were knowledgeable, the drivers were prompt and professional, and all hotel and restaurant reservations were perfect—not one glitch. An added bonus: There is someone at Made for Spain to speak to 24/7 if necessary when traveling. We highly recommend Virginia and her company for travel in Spain.
Our family of four (all adults) just returned from a trip to Barcelona arranged by Virginia Irurita of Made for Spain Travel and would highly recommend her services. Everything was seamless. The drivers were excellent, our tour guide, Carles, was extremely well informed and engaging, and we felt at all points during our stay in Barcelona that we were in very capable hands. Virginia even arranged for our itinerary and a welcome gift to be left in our hotel room on arrival. We had a wonderful time and will definitely use Made for Spain on any future trips to Spain.
We used Made for Spain for travel to Barcelona and San Sebastián in late May.
Positives: The guides and drivers they used in all cities were excellent, and I would recommend booking through them by virtue of that alone. They assembled an itinerary that made sense for the days spent and where we were flying into and out of; and they even suggested activities which we had not thought of but ended up really enjoying.
Negatives: At times I felt things at the planning stage were a bit disorganized. There was a restaurant reservation request that was forgotten, our reservation at a hotel was under an incorrect name, amongst other things.
That said, the pluses outweighed the minuses and I would recommend using them to anyone who is considering visiting, though I would suggest being diligent about follow-ups while going through the planning process.
My husband and I recently returned from our first trip to Spain (Madrid, San Sebastian, Mallorca and Barcelona), planned in conjunction with Virginia Irurita and Made for Spain. The planning and the trip could not have been more enjoyable. At first contact, Virginia wanted to know about us and what we look for when we travel. She and her staff were extremely easy to work with and welcomed our input. The tour guides were knowlegeable, the drivers were prompt and professional and all hotel and restaurant reservations were perfect – not one clich. An added bonus is there is someone at Made for Spain to speak to 24/7 if necessary when traveling. We highly recommend Virginia and her company for travel in Spain