Friday, June 27, 2014

Concert Overview for the JSerra Catholic HS Chamber Singers and Advanced Women's Ensemble

The JSerra Catholic HS Chamber Singers and Advanced Women's Ensemble under the direction of Mr. Brian Dehn are currently traveling Spain and Portugal with Incantato Tours. Today they enjoyed a guided city tour in Spain's capital city, Madrid, and were featured guest choir for Mass at Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Atocha. Tomorrow the singers are going to transfer to Cordoba, where they will spend their next two nights. 

If you are interested in more information and live tour updates, please have a look at our Facebook page

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Incantato Tours wishes Safe Travels!

Dear Members of the 2014 JSerra Catholic HS Spain and Portugal Performance Tour, 

Incantato Tours wishes you safe travels to Europe. Incantato Tour Manager Alicia will be welcoming you on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at the Madrid Airport.

According to the weather forecast below, Spain's capital city welcomes you with lots of sunshine, warm temperatures and highs in the upper 80s and lows in the low 60s.

Enjoy your performance tour!

Your Incantato Tours Team

Friday, May 30, 2014

J Serra Catholic HS Choirs will present a Joint Concert with coro Averroes at Real Círculo de la Amistad de Córdoba, on Sunday, June 29, at 9 pm.

The singers of J Serra Catholic HS Chamber Choir and Advanced Women's Ensemble, under the direction of Maestro Brian Dehn, will offer a highlight concert together with Coro Averroes, at the Main Hall of the Real Círculo de la Amistad de Córdoba. The concert will take place on Sunday, June 29, at 9 pm.

This concert will be a wonderful finale for the Coral Exchange with Coro Averroes, the Cordoba University Choir, under the direction of Maestro Albano García.

The Real Círculo de la Amistad (Royal Friendship Circle) is a magnificent and reknown cultural institution in Córdoba, founded as Artistic and Literary Lyceum. The birth of the Friendship Circle dates back to May 31, 1854 when it was founded by 132 members of the richest society of Cordoba.
Today it has more than 2,500 members and covers an area of 4,210 square meters. Its building hosts a library of about 17,000 volumes and an important painting collections with paintings of Julio Romero de Torres, Carlos Angel Diaz Huertas and José María Rodríguez Losada de los Ríos, among others.

The acquis is the result of the efforts of those bourgeois, mostly of the aristocracy,  and some reduced upper middle class or petty bourgeoisie, who bet on the path of culture. On April 30, 1964, the City of Córdoba granted the Friendship Circle - unanimously - the municipal corporation First Gold Medal of the City. On March 31, 2006, His Majesty King Juan Carlos I, granted to this entity the title of Royal. And nowadays, the Circle has received the award for the year 2012 Cordobeses that annually delivers the city newspaper: Diario Córdoba .

The Real Círculo de la Amistad has registered since its foundation the presence of distinguished visitors of cultural, artistic and political dimensions, as the Kings Alfonso XII (1877) and Alfonso XIII (1921), Prince Umberto, future King of Italy (1871), Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, (1876), the President of the United States, Ulysses Simpson Grant (1878) and Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía, when they were still Princes of Spain (1970). From the field of Science we honored figures as Isaac Peral (1890) or Alexander Fleming, which was presented in 1948 with silver filigree of Cordoba and a Cordoba hat. In the Arts, the visitors records include names like Frank Liszt (1844), by the Artistic and Literary Liceum , and Isaac Albéniz (1873) , who was only eleven when he delighted the whole society of Cordoba playing "La fille du regiment" piece on the piano .

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

J Serra Catholic HS presents "4 of July - Independence Day Special Concert" at Palace Foz, July 4, 7 pm

Incantato proudly presents J Serra Catholic HS Chamber Choir and Advanced Women's Ensemble on July 4, at 7 pm, for all the American community and the Portuguese audiences.
The magnificent Palácio Foz, in Lisbon, is the venue chosen for the Independence Day Special Concert, co-hosted by the US Embassy and Incantato Concert Tours.
This will also be the final concert of the 2014 J Serra Catholic HS Performance Tour to Spain and Portugal, and will take place on July 4th, at 7 pm.

The neo-classical Palácio Foz, originally called Palácio Castelo Melhor, was designed by the Italian architect Francesco Saviero (or Francisco Xavier) Fabri, and built shortly after the great earthquake in 1755, for the Marquês de Castelo Melhor. 

Mirror Hall for concerts
It was purchased by the Marquês de Foz in 1886 when it received the first of many facelifts.

It is magnificently decorated internally and the ballroom features outstanding paintings by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, (1857-1929), one of the leading painters of his generation and a master of realism in Portugal. 

It now houses 11 different institutional offices, and a very rich Cultural Program at the concert hall Sala dos Espelhos (Mirror Hall). Among the institutions there is an Art and Cinema Museum, a Lisbon’s Tourist Information centre and important cultural gobernment and private entities.

J Serra Catholic HS will be featured choir at Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha, Friday 27 June, 8pm

The J Serra Catholic HS Chamber Singers and Advanced Women's Ensemble will be featured choir on the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha, where they will sing during Holy Mass, on Friday June 27, at 8 pm.

The Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha or Real Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Atocha is visited by all monarchs in Spain. Our Lady of Atocha is the Patron of the Royal House of Spain, Custodian of the Dominicans. Atocha is Madrid’s royal shrine: there is not a Spaniard of public importance for a thousand years who would not kneel to ask her help. Her gowns are made from the bridal gowns of queens

The buildings on the site have a long history. There was a the shrine to Our Lady of Atocha, a Spanish contraction for “Theotokos”, meaning “Mother of God,” or a simplification of “Antiocha” which in the 12th Century under this title was already ancient and beloved.
Our Lady of Atocha chapel was already in Madrid when there was only a field of reeds and a hermitage. The Moor and the Muslim times came – they respected her and left her alone.
When Toledo was sacked in 1170, she remained there, but at some point some sculptures dissappeared.
The original name "Atocha" refers to a lost sculpture of Our Lady, from this former chapel, which was found among some high grasses, (called Tocha) during the time of the Reconquista.

In 1525 Charles V brought her his bride and asked her blessing upon their marriage; Don Juan of Austria, departing for the Battle of Lepanto, knelt at her feet and pledged his sword to her; after his victory he sent in thanksgiving his sword to her along with the captured Moorish banners.
Despite all these trappings of the high and wealthy, she still remains Our Lady of all the people, beloved of kings and farmers, such as St Isidore.
In 1863, the temple was elevated to the rank of Basilica by Pius IX

The old church was in disrepair and rebuilt in the 1890s in a Neo-Byzantine style designed by Fernando Arbós y Tremanti. The church was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and reconstruction completed in 1951.

Travel Tip: What to pack for your Incantato performance tour.

Dear travellers from J Serra Catholic HS Chamber Choir and Advanced Women's Ensemble Performance Tour,

As your departure for your 2014 performance tour comes closer and closer, Incantato Tours provides you with different travel tips to make it easier for you to get ready for your trip.

For most people, packing for a trip is the most difficult part. 
The solution for many is to just pack as much as you
possibly can into your suitcase and backpack, 
but as a colleague explains it: 
"You'll be thanking me later when you don't break your back from having to carry everything on your own. Don't do it!" 
Her advice: "Pack as lightly as you can. The best way to get it all to fit nicely into your suitcase is to fold it nicely and then roll it tightly. It can all fit into your bag like a puzzle."
Keep in mind, however, that many cathedrals have a dress code and will not allow you to walk in if you are wearing tank tops or shorts. A scarf is a good solution to this code. And shorts should always go to your knees (both for Ladies and Gents).
Here are a few things that we think are essential to have to be comfortable with what the weather brings and with the weight of your bag - remember, we allow only one checked bag per person and a small carry-on such as a bag pack or small duffel.

A sample packing list (just a suggestion!):
  • Rain jacket, maybe with fleece insert
  • Umbrella
  • Gloves, scarf, hat… if you tend to feel chilly!
  • An adapter plug/converter (if you are bringing electronic devices, please check if they are compatible, most new devices are – most……)
  • Camera and batteries or charger with adapter
  • At least two pair of jeans/pants, ladies may want to bring a couple skirts or dresses, too
  • A sweater or two, (or three, if you tend to feel chilly).
  • Plenty of shirts, including a polo or two and at least two dress shirts (Europeans dress much more formal than Americans)
  • Plenty of undergarments and socks for daily changes
  • A watch, make-up and jewelry if applicable (carry on any valuables at all times)
  • Choir music and attire
  • Don't forget shoes, we recommend a maximum of three pairs (tennis shoes, good everyday shoes, dress shoes). Bring nice concert shoes, but make sure that you will be able to walk long distances in them. Europeans do not wear flip flops other than to the pool or at the beach.
  • Put all liquids that are in your carry-on into a zip-lock bag. And remember the 311 rules: TSA | Transportation Security Administration | 3-1-1 on Air Travel
  • All scissors, fingernail clippers, etc. are better packed in your check-in luggage along with liquids over 3 ounces. Bring enough contact lense solution and prescription medication that you may need for the whole duration of the trip.
  • If you forget anything there are plenty of shops where you can by shampoo, toothpaste, etc.

You can also check more info on:
Little things about Spain before packing
Travel tip: Money matters

Please do not hesitate to address us with any questions you might have about this or any other matter. We would love to help you!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

In Columbus' footsteps: Huelva and Palos de la Frontera

Huelva and its environs is a Mecca for those interested in Christopher Columbus, with a number of significant tourist attractions relating to the famous explorer. Cristóbal Colón (as he is known in Spain), is thought by most to have been born in Genoa, Italy around 1451. After years of seeking funding support for an expedition which was to find a sea route to Asia, Columbus finally came to an agreement with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. They would (along with a number of Italian financiers) back his expedition in return for dominion over the any new lands. Columbus would be awarded titles and, of course, a percentage of any fortune that was made. The rest, of course, is world history.

La Rábida, Palos de la Frontera and Moguer are three of the key sites in the Columbus story, which lie along the eastern bank of the Rio Tinto estuary and can be visited in a 40 km return trip from Huelva. 

Palos de la Frontera is most famous for being the place from which Columbus set sail in 1492, eventually reaching America. On August 3, 1492, the Pinta, Niña, and Santa María sailed from Palos. On board were Christopher Columbus and the Pinzón Brothers, who were natives of Palos. The three ships landed in America on October 12, 1492. The Santa María foundered in American waters, but the other two ships returned to Palos on March 15, 1493.

Palos is also the site of the Rábida Monastery where Columbus consulted with the Franciscans about his plans for organizing an expedition of discovery, and it is where Columbus stayed between 1491-92 waiting for financial backing from the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, for his voyage to the New World.

Palos would play a pivotal role in the settlement and Christianization of the New World in succeeding centuries. As La Rábida was a Franciscan monastery, that order would play a dominant role in this Christianization, and some of the first missionaries were natives of Palos, including Juan Izquierdo, Juan de Palos, Juan Cerrado, Pedro Salvador, Alonso Vélez de Guevara, Juan Quintero, Thomás de Narváez, and Francisco Camacho.

For more information you can check these links:

Little things to know about Spain and Portugal before packing

At Incantato Tours, we strive for you to enjoy every single step of your way. Here you have some info on little things you might want to know about Spain and Portugal before getting on the plane. Maybe these tips are able to help you enjoy the trip better!
Spain and Portugal at night by NASA

In Spain there is a saying that :
“one just-in-case is worth more than a hundred if-I-had-known”

- It is customary to always have some kind of picture ID. You can use your passport or your driver's license. It is a good idea to have a photocopy of your passport
 to be kept with the rest of your valuables.

- In order to use a credit card, you will need to activate it and get a pin number before coming. Let your bank know that you will be using it abroad so that the card will not get blocked!

- American Express credit cards are not accepted in many places.

- Any kind of Traveler Checks are not accepted. If they are, it can become very expensive.

- Food and clothing are generally more expensive in Spain than in the USA. Portugal is cheaper than Spain for most things.

- It is forbidden to smoke in all public places.
- Please bring a photocopy of your prescriptions in case you need medication. This is a just-in-case! The active ingredient is good to know too, as we do not always have the same medicines (though mostly).
Cobblestoned streets 
- Old towns mean cobblestones and hilly streets, pedestrian areas, steps, stairs... Happy feet help to have a happy tour. Please bring flat, comfortable shoes.
- Flip-flops are definitely not comfortable in our old towns, but they might be in the hotels. We do not walk around barefoot! Remember that even in July maybe rainy in Portugal!
Showing your knees/shoulders is forbidden inside churches. We will be entering churches almost daily – concerts, art, history... Please bring appropriate clothing. Knee-long pants/skirts, girls can use a scarf to cover their shoulders. Men are not supposed to use scarves, so please do bring shirts with sleeves (short or long).
- Pocket-knives, scissors and sometimes drinks and food are not allowed inside some monuments and museums.
- Laundry service in hotels is very expensive. Unfortunately there are only a few laundromats in Madrid and Lisbon.
Suitcase: 1 per person, NOT heavier than 50 pounds!!

If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. There are so many little things that we can tell you, and we will be hapy to address your doubts!
Hasta la vista!

Travel Tip: Money matters

Dear travelers,

Money is a delicate subject. The best way to use your money during your upcoming trip is to have adebit card; this allows you to withdraw money from any ATM machine with only being charged a small withdrawal fee. This fee will differ between banks. Be sure to call your bank before yourdeparture to tell them where you are going and for how long so they won't freeze your account. Thedebit cards given by a bank has the compatibility of Visa, MasterCard, however, Visa is the most widely accepted worldwide.

If you bring cash, you can exchange it but you will lose more money as they often charge for their services. Most places in Europe won't accept traveler's checks anymore. Also, be prepared to pay for water and a small fee for restroom use. There are no free refills on soft drinks in Europe which is why mostEuropeans ask for little to no ice in their drinks.
We suggest you have some spending money available and our recommendation is around $20-25/day for the meals not included, snacks, drinks, postcards and some souvenirs. It is notimperative that you have this amount of money. 

There are many ways to lower your expenses such as:
  • Most restaurants have menus outside so you can check their price range. 
  • Venture off the main roads to find a restaurant. These usually have more character, better food, and better prices. 
  • Bring your own water bottle. Most places have safe tap water to fill up with. 
  • Buy food from the "convenient" stores. You don't have to sit down in the restaurant for every meal. 
  • Shop around for souvenirs; many stores have the same things on sale for very different prices.
Remember that your Incantato Tour Manager is with you pretty much 24/7. The guide is there to help you make the right choices.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Frequently asked questions concerning your upcoming tour and our answers

What should everyone carry at all times, their real passport or a photo copy?
Ideally, your passport should be on you at all times. Please be “street-smart” and don’t wave it around for all to see of course. Photocopies of the passport should be packed in your suitcase, available in your e-mail and Incantato should have a copy as well.

Is the tap water safe to drink?
The tap water is safe in many areas, although we would recommend to buy bottled water. 

Do you have recommendations or suggestions on the type of power adapter needed and what voltage?
Electricity in Europe comes out of the wall socket at 220 volts alternating at a 50 cycles per second. In the US, electricity comes out of the wall socket at 110 volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. Not only the voltages and frequencies, but the sockets themselves are different. Adapters and converters may be found at Target, Walmart and radio shack etc.
What is the average meal cost? How much money should you bring?
As long as you are wise about your choices, meals can easily be 15 Euro or less. You don’t have to go to sit down restaurants to get decent food. But when you do want to sit down, you should check the menu outside to see if they have a "menu special" or "tourist menu" - you can get an entrée, dessert and a drink for a set price. 

What is the size limit and number of items for a carry-on?
You may have 1 carry-on bag - it must be able to fit either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. We highly recommend something simple and easier to use such as a backpack. 

What are the airline carry-on container regulations?
No containers holding more that 3ozs of liquid is allowed in the carry-on luggage. They also must be in a plastic zip-lock bag.

What has the best exchange rate, using a debit card to pull money out or exchanging US currency?
By far the best way is to use your debit card. Most banks only charge around $2 per withdraw and they also take care of the exchange rate for you. You do need a 4 digit pin and also let your bank know that you are travelling abroad. DO NOT BRING TRAVELLERS' CHECKS!

What is the approximate exchange rate right now?
It’s about $1.37 to 1 EUR (March 2014).

What happens if someone gets injured while in tour? Medical care and cost wise? Do they need a medical consent form for treatment?
We strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance. You may find a link to our recommended partner on this blog.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Incantato Concert Tours wishes Happy Easter!

Incantato Concert Tours wishes Happy Easter, or "Frohe Ostern" how we say it in Germany, to JSerra Catholic HS and its family and friends. We hope you will have a wonderful weekend and a good time with your loved ones.

In almost 2 months you will start your Spain and Portugal 2014 Performance Tour under the direction of Mr. Brian Dehn and we certainly hope you are looking forward to it.

Your Incantato Concert Tours Team.
Mara, Sandra & Ted

Your last home away from home: Tiara Park Atlantic in Lisbon, Portugal - July 3 to July 6, 2015

The 5-star hotel Tiara Park Atlantic Lisboa, is located in the heart of Portugal's capital city and an Incantato Concert Tours favorite.

The contemporary luxury hotel is near Lisbon's historic center, the metro, and shopping areas, catering to both business and leisure guests. The Gulbenkian Gardens and Center of Modern Art are also nearby.

The hotel offers free wifi and the rooms are equipped with climate control air conditioning, minibar, ironing board (on request), hypo-allergenic bedding, safe, 23-inch LCD TV, Cable TV channels and room service. The Tiara Park Atlantic Lisboa was elected "Travelers' Choice® 2013 Luxury Winner" on Tripadvisor.
Breakfast is served buffet style and offers fresh fruit, many juices, local products like cheese and hams, cereals and also home-made cakes and cookies.

Your home away from home in Huelva, Spain: AC Hotel on July 2

The AC Hotel Huelva enjoys easy access and good mobility via the A-49 motorway (Seville - Huelva). It is located near the university area of Carmen and the Iberoamerican Stadium, just 10 minutes by car from the magnific Costa de la Luz beaches. It features facilities and amenities such as free WiFi in the hotel, fitness center and its own restaurant where you will enjoy your breakfast.

The hotel has 65 rooms, which are equipped with amenities such as TV with over 20 channels, hair dryer, telephone, safe, and air conditioning. It offers 24-hour room service and as well as laundry services.

Your hotel in Seville, Spain: Tryp Sevilla Macarena on June 30 and July 1

TRYP Sevilla Macarena is a recipient of the Trip Advisor 2012 Certificate of Excellence. The 4-star hotel is located near Seville Cathedral and in front of the famous Macarena's Virgin Temple. 
It offers amenities such as high-speed internet throughout the hotel, swimming pool during summer season and terrace with view over the city and its own hotel restaurant.

There are 296 double rooms, 5 superior double rooms, 31 single rooms and 5 junior suites. All rooms have a fully equipped bathroom, WIFI access in rooms and public areas, room service (Mediterranean menu, Telepizza and Telesushi) and Canal Plus.


Your Incantato Concert Tours Hotel in Cordoba, Spain: Hotel Macia Alfaros June 28 and June 29

The 4-star Hotel Macia Alfaros is located in the historical, commercial and administrative center of the city of Cordoba, next to the Barbican of the Roman wall that delimits the primitive Villa Axerquia, and just ten minutes from the world famous Mosque and Jewish Quarter. 

The hotel's architecture shows many details reminiscent of artistic manifestations of Al-Andalus: interlacing, tiles, columns and arches among other elements recalling the origins in this city, located in the center of Andalusia and not far from cities such as Sevilla, Málaga, Granada and Jaen. 
Its rooms are equipped with air-conditioning and heating, telephone, free internet access via WIFI, flat TV, safe, hairdryer and room service.