The Arts and Culture of Spain

Along the Way to Santiago de Compostela

Sept. 1/2–16, 2013

For centuries, Christian pilgrims have walked across northern Spain to reach Santiago de Compostela and its Romanesque cathedral believed by the faithful to enshrine the tomb of Saint James the Apostle. We will travel much the same route —mostly by motor coach — stopping for study-visits at the wealth of artistic and cultural attractions along the way.

We will gather in Barcelona — not because it's on the traditional Saint James' Way — but because it's in northern Spain and has wondrous arts to enlighten us while we shake off any jet-lag from overseas travel. After a couple of days to admire Gaudi's extravagant, iconic cathedral, attend a concert in the modernista Palau de Musica, and sample paella, we'll fly to Bilbao. The fanciful Guggenheim museum there merits our serious attention; then it is on to San Sebastian by motor coach where we'll walk by the sea and concentrate on the culinary arts. We'll shop in markets for food to be prepared in a cooking class at a Gastronomic Society, then sit down to enjoy it. After a cider-house lunch the next day and a viewing of the sculpture of Basque artist Eduardo Chillida, we'll cross the wine country of La Rioja to see firsthand their September grape harvest.

Then on to Burgos, Leon and Oviedo with their stunning cathedrals, pre-romanesque monuments and whimsical street statuary — one of Woody Allen! After such high culture a stay in a picturesque rural hotel is in order. We may even experience an evening meal with a Queimada — a Galician ritual with flaming liquor and the recitation of an incantation to frighten off evil spirits and to welcome benevolent ones.

Along our journey Mac will enlighten us on subjects like minimalism, flying buttresses, and Salvador Dali. Jim will talk about cultural history and the like: minifundia; the Spanish' fondness for dualisms; and Basque separatism. Annette Johnson, a St. Olaf alum who lives and works in Spain as a professional guide, will accompany us and introduce us to experiences rarely seen by visitors to Spain.

Reaching our nominal destination, Santiago de Compostela, will be marked by a thorough visit to the magnificent cathedral, the tomb of Saint James, and attendance at a Pilgrim's Mass. As part of this ceremony we will witness eight men swing the mammoth botafumeiro (incense burner) through the transept. Later we will celebrate reaching our goal with a fitting banquet and concluding program.

Program Leader

Jim Dunlop has traveled to Spain nearly 20 times. On previous visits he has led St. Olaf students for courses on theater, language and culture — which he taught at the college for 34 years — and has co-led courses on sociology and art (three times with Mac). He has co-led two Study Travel programs for adults.

Mac Gimse has extensive experience leading study groups abroad. Destinations include India, China, Italy, Russia, Cambodia and Thailand. In addition to Global Semester, he and his wife, Jackie, have led Term in Asia, Term in the Middle East and countless January Interim courses for St. Olaf students. Before retiring from teaching at St. Olaf, Mac was involved in the Great Conversation, Paracollege and Fine Arts Interdisciplinary programs. He also taught sculpture, the history of architecture, and the art history of China, Japan, India and Africa.

What to Expect

European cities are best experienced on foot. Be prepared for lots of walking! We will transfer between cities by private motor coach or airplane, but within cities we will walk on guided tours and frequently to and from group meals.

To fully partake in this Study Travel program, you should be capable of walking up to five miles per day over possibly uneven terrain (e.g. cobblestones), climbing stairs that may not have handrails, keeping pace with an active group of travelers, dealing with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing a different culture, and being a considerate member of a group (prompt, courteous and flexible).

Most days, we will depart the hotel between 8 and 9 a.m.; we will coordinate our departure time in order to maximize our time at that day's sites. We will stop for lunch at some point in the early afternoon (usually between 1 and 3 p.m., on the Spanish schedule). Often we will resume our program after lunch, visiting another site or museum. Some days may have several hours of free time; others will have very little or none at all. We try to return to the hotel in time to relax and freshen up for dinner. Hotels will be tourist class (typically three or four star) with private baths, air conditioning and English-speaking staff.

Average September temperatures will range from highs in the 70s Fahrenheit to lows in the upper 50s. Rain falls on an average of 8 to 11 days in September, so a collapsible umbrella might come in handy.

You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit or

Program Fee

The program fee is $4,850 per person through May 1, 2013. Based on double occupancy, it includes seminars by Jim Dunlop and Mac Gimse, assistance by a national guide, all accommodations, breakfast daily and several other group meals, admissions for group activities, ground transportation except airport transfers, and gratuities to guides and drivers. For single occupancy, add $900. After May 1, 2013, the program fee is $4,950 per person.

Airfare is not included in the program fee. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: airfare, transfers between the airport and hotel on arrival and departure, any passport and visa fees, any recommended immunizations or vaccinations, accident / baggage / trip cancellation insurance, beverages, laundry, dry cleaning, phone charges, room service or mini bar charges, expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities, and lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on program itinerary.

Please plan to depart the U.S. on Sunday, September, 1 in order to arrive in Barcelona on Monday, Sept. 2.

Plan to depart Santiago de Compostela on Monday, Sept. 16.

For assistance with flight arrangements, may we recommend Noreen Deiss of Travel Leaders / Suntime Travel. She can be reached at 651-429-0039 or We recommend you not purchase non-refundable airfare until we can confirm the program has enough participants to go.


Payment schedule

Forms for registered travelers:

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