Sunday, May 30, 2010

A visit to Cordoba

The other day we went to Cordoba, a beautiful drive through the farmlands of Andalusia until we reached the city of Cordoba itself. We met Lola, our wonderful local guide and were off. The walk to the Mezquita took the Lums through the flowered patios as Lola told them about the flower fair and Cordoba's fair happening now (which explained the unusually high number of people in full flamenco dress). But the Mezquita was the highlight. As Roy put it, "almost too much to absorb". There is so much beauty and history in the oldest regularly used building in Spain (Mass is still held at the Cathedral in the middle of the 8th century mosque) that just to appreciate it completely takes all morning. In fact, almost everybody wants to go back through it as soon as they leave. It's a great way to start your trip's journey into the fascinating history of Spain's Al-Andalus!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Besalu - a not-so-hidden secret

While it may not be the only walled medieval village in Catalonia, Besalu probably holds the title for the most interesting. Just up the road from Barcelona, this fascinating town has been attracting tourist attention for years from Europeans coming down to the Costa Brava. However, to most Americans it remains a secret. Which is a shame on some levels, and a blessing on others. The town, more than 1200 years old, still retains the layout and character it has held since it was a key city in Catalonia's separation from the Franks over 1000 years ago. It boasts several wonderful examples of Romanesque churches, Spain's only surviving Mikvah (a tribute to the very important Jewish community which lived in relative peace until the Spanish Inquisition forced them out) and a spectacular stone bridge.

For more information about Besalu or to include a visit on your next trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch

Thursday, May 20, 2010

El Pimpi - a genuine Malaga wine bar

In the center of Malaga, on its busiest pedestrian street (calle Granada), you will find one of the true gems of Malaga's underrated gastronomic scene: El Pimpi. Large and inviting, inside you can see rows of barrels of different sweet wines from the region. The tables inside and out on the terrace are wonderful for sipping a glass of Malaga's finest and enjoying a plate of tapas. For those looking for the traditional Spanish wine bar, El Pimpi shines brightly. If you go, go early to avoid the crowds as it fills up with locals, especially on the weekend.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monasterio de Piedra - The Stone Monastery of Zaragoza

Dating back to 1194, the Monasterio de Piedra located just outside of the city of Zaragoza, is one of the truly spectacular sites of the region. It brings together history (the founding of the monastery during the reconquest of Spain), culture and a natural setting which is every bit as wonderful and moving as the monument. In a two hour walk around the monastery you will see waterfalls, caves, lakes and woods which offer sanctuary for anyone who loves nature. One of the most interesting facts is that the Stone Monastery is not a public setting. Shut down as a religious center in 1835, it was bought 5 years later by a private investor and is still privately owned, although it can be visited. .

For more information or to include a visit to the Monasterio de Piedra to your next visit to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Girona's flower show

Now through this Sunday, May 16, Girona is hosting the 55th annual "Temps de Flors" show to celebrate the coming of Spring to the ancient Roman city. Already a beautiful city with its walled old city, Cathedral and bridges, the city is bedecked with flowers everywhere from the 11th century Cathedral cloister to the ¨Pont de Pedra" stone bridge over the Onyar River. But for me the highlight is to see the steps leading up to the Cathedral covered.

Take a trip through 2000 years of history with this spring´s floral offerings making it an unforgettable experience! For more information about the festival or for information about a private tour, contact The Spanish Touch

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Museum of Knives - Albacete's steel treasures

When we think of Spain and steel, most people immediately think of the fantastic swords from Toledo, which are deserving of their fame. Nonetheless, slightly off the beaten path we can find a collection of weapons just as interesting in Albacete's Knife Museum, Museu de la Cuchellaria. Knives and Albacete have been linked together since at least the 15th century, and the history of the last 500 years as seen through the intricate and delicate blades and different styles of knives reveals a unique perspective on the history of the city and Spain.

The museum is housed in the spectacular Casa de Hortelano, a modernista-inspired house in front of the Cathedral.

For more information or for a private tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Fish Market stands in Spain

We have talked about Spanish Markets before. But today I want you to focus your attention into the fish stands. Beautiful places. I personally like to go there a lot, because it is the best way to buy fresh fish in Spain and because I like the atmosphere (usually very noisy) and even the smell! I would like to give you some advice on how to buy fish in markets in Spain:

1. Don't go on Monday. Bad idea. The fish or seafood is not fresh! The fish and seafood usually comes to the market on Tuesday.
2. Take a look on every fish stand and observe prices and quality. If you don't know how to distinguish what fish to buy in terms of quality, you just have to watch in which stand there are more people (not foreigners, of course).
3. Stall holders can give you lots of good recipes and ways to cook each fish, so ask them! That is also important for the stallholder to prepare the fish for you to cook it later.
4. And the most important thing: have fun! Buying fish or seafood in a market in Spain is a unique experience! Don't be shy and talk with everyone.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Viehla and the Val D'aran

Tucked into a Northern Corner between Catalunya and Aragon in the Pyrenees lies the Val d'Aran (Valley of Aran). A traditional winter sports retreat, the region is also a joy to visit in the spring and summer, when the flowers and trees are bright and the weather is warmer. As a region with more than 1000 years of history and its own language (Aranese), there is plenty to visit and lots of culture to soak up.

The city of Vielha is the capital of the region, featuring one of the most picturesque Parador hotels in Spain. The region also boasts the highest spa in Europe, the Banys de Tredos. Aside from the breathtaking scenery and the cultural heritage, the local cuisine is not to be missed, with dishes such as La Olla Aranesa and local meats and freshwater fish, as well as desserts and liquors.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Patios de Cordoba - A Flower Festival Spanish Style

Starting May 5 and going through May 16, the city of Cordoba once again welcomes spring with its annual Patios de Cordoba Festival. This is an opportunity for the people of the city to show off their best in one of the most traditional and colorful festivals in Andalusia. The patios, a traditional element of Andalusian houses, become the focal point as locals brighten up every corner with flowers and ceramics. This year it is even possible to spend a night contemplating them as the city has opened up a series of accommodations. This is a unique opportunity for those who love flowers and culture, and the locals are always more than happy to welcome new visitors with traditional Spanish hospitality!

For more information about this festival or a visit to Cordoba, contact The Spanish Touch and we can help arrange your next visit.