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‘Basque’ in Spanish sunshine

What started out as a church choir trip 13 years ago has become an amazing opportunity to see Europe for several Detroit Lakes area residents.

And this year, the “world travelers of the lakes area” are looking for two more travelers to join them.

There are 25 individuals heading to northern Spain in September, and two seats are still available. The deadline to register is June 30.

“Some of the travelers have made all nine previous excursions. Most are from the Detroit Lakes area,” organizer Gene Gaffney said.

The group first traveled abroad in 1990 as the First Lutheran Church Choir, under the direction of Marlys Douglas. They attended the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany, and the choir performed at several local churches and cathedrals during the trip.

Several trips later, Gaffney took over as director.

“We were unable to field a balanced group of voices and decided to concentrate on the touring-sight-seeing aspect of our trips,” he said. “We just ran out of sopranos.”

So the local world travelers are planning their 10th European trip, and this time they will tour the Basque Region of Northern Spain.

Gaffney describes the trip as “unusual” and filled with array of sites to see. He describes the trip as including Bordeaux, France, then on to San Sebastian, Spain, on the sea to the world-famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, to sleepy Santillana, to see the Altimira Caves and the Peaks of Europe, to Pamplona where the bulls run each July, to the Rioja wine country, and finally on to Barcelona, home of renowned architectural works of Gaudi, the Picasso museum and endless sight-seeing opportunities in this Catalonian capital.

“When we arrive in Bordeaux, we will be met by a guide who will remain with us the entire trip,” Gaffney said. “Local guides will also be used on several occasions.”

Walking will be kept to a minimum since the average age of the travelers is 60s to 70s.

“We also inform our guides that we are not on a foot race,” Gaffney said.

He said the beauty of the trip is that it is all pre-planned so no one has to worry about where to stay or what to visit. Many of the meals are pre-planned as well.

But, that’s not to say that every minute is planned either. There will be some opportunities for travelers to explore the sights and restaurants on their own, too.

Itinerary for Spain

The grand tour of Spain’s Basque Country includes flying out of Fargo on Sept. 9 to Bordeaux, France.

Some of the cities that will be seen along the way include San Sebastian, Santillana, Bilbao, Castille (the land of castles), Pamplona and Barcelona. Some of the many sites along the way will include Peaks of Europe, Gothic Cathedral of St. Marie, Plaza del Castillo, Plaza de Pilar, Gugenheim Museum, Olympic venues, Paseo de Gracia, Palace of Music, Picasso Museum and much more.

The return flight to Fargo is Sept. 19.

If anyone is interested in receiving a complete itinerary and pricing information, call Gene Gaffney at 218-850-9488 or e-mail him at

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.