Thursday, October 29, 2009

Valencia Tour- something for everyone!

Another tour in Valencia, another day full of history, good food, and great shopping finds! Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, has a unique feel to it, but then again I feel that way about all of the cities I have visited. The Spanish Touch enjoyed a half-day tour with Barry and Donna Case, a couple who stopped in at this port city while cruising around the Mediterranean. So much to see, so much to share, so little time! So I will share with you just some of the highlights of our tour.

We had a great tour through the city, starting at the Bull Ring and Estación del Norte, the North train station ornately decorated with mosaic tiles. Such a style displays the Modernismo touch that graces various buildings around this city. We walked through the City Hall Plaza, spotted the rather large post office, and headed over to the Central Market. The market is quite the experience for all 5 senses as hundreds of stalls sell fresh fruit, fish and of course, my favorite, artisan chocolate, among other treats! We did not leave empty handed!

After admiring the 15th century silk exchange known as La Lonja, we brushed off our walking shoes once again. What would a Spanish city be without its cathedral? The Valencia cathedral (below, right) showcases Baroque, Romanesque, and Gothic style architecture, along with frescoes, a pair of Goya paintings, and what is claimed to be the Holy Grail. Wherever you come from, it's hard not to admire the craftsmanship that went into this building.

Among other treasures, we also spotted the Serrano Towers. They are hard to miss as they were once the entrance into the old Roman city. Now, they serve as a great look out point and giant piece of architecture!

Of course we stopped to eat some lunch-- paella. Valencia is the birthplace of this rice, saffron and typically seafood and/or chicken dish. As the day moved on, more and more treasures were found both on the street and inside the shops. The handmade ceramics (produced right here in the Valencia region) decorate the walls of the city, but the memory does not have to end with a photograph! Why not give into the urge to bring home a piece of Valencia's ceramic!

On the car ride back to the port, we managed to drive by the famous Opera House along with a view of the City of Arts and Sciences. (below, photo taken at previous time) ¡Qué bonita!

Thanks again to the Case family for such an enjoyable great tour!
- Justine

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

La Castanyada - A Spanish Halloween

As a child, I always loved Halloween. The trick-or-treating, the costumes, the fun games.... So when I first got to Spain I was surprised to find that the customs were not exactly the same. As we approach All Hallow's Eve, in this traditionally Catholic country we find the emphasis not so much on the scary costumes which people used to use to keep evil spirits away from the graveyards, but on a much more practical aspect: How to keep yourself awake and warm while standing guard. The answer throughout Spain came in the form of a simple nut. The Chestnut, to be precise. While most Americans think of Christmas Carols when they hear the word Chestnut, in Spain it brings to mind the Castañada (Castanyada in Catalan). This festival is celebrated from Malaga to Barcelona to the Atlantic Coast of Galicia, and, while the local customs vary, generally concern roasting these tasty treats over an open fire to provide nourishment and warmth through the night. This was traditionally accompanied by the occasional swallow of the year's young wines to keep spirits up. And so, throughout Spain this weekend, people will be celebrating with friends and neighbors this annual tradition, and towns and villages provide bonfires to keep spirits warm and alive as they pass the night away.

Contact The Spanish Touch for more information about these and other festivals, and we will be glad to offer you a customtour designed to introduce to the culture and people of Spain you can't get any other way!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Harvest Festivals

These last few months have been pretty packed in Spain. Starting in late August with the grape harvest and continuing through November, the country has become a hotbed for local festivals and traditional harvest-time activities. Members of The Spanish Touch have been fortunate enough to get to events such as the Alella Harvest Festival and the Catalan Wine and Cava Fair in Barcelona, but the events are everywhere throughout Spain. This weekend we will be visiting the annual CavaTast celebration in San Sadurni, and we will also be taking some clients up to a local mushroom festival where local "boletaires" (wild mushroom collectors) will show us their best offerings and share some of their expertise and experiences. Each region has its own unique way of celebrating this wonderful season, and each celebration is a great way to really get in touch with the local culture and people. If you would like help organizing your visit to Spain to incorporate one or more of these Festivals, please contact The Spanish Touch and we will be glad to help!