Friday, July 30, 2010

Operation: The Great Escape

For anyone who might be visiting Spain at the moment, please bear in mind that this weekend represents the largest mobilization of Spanish vacationers all year. That's right, bigger than Christmas, or even Semana Santa or the Feria de Sevilla. August is traditionally the vacation month, and this year the statistics indicate that more Spaniards are planning on "staying home" than have done for the last couple of decades. Of course, with so many options within driving distance, I can hardly blame them. "The grass is always greener" seems to have reached its breaking point, and more and more people are wising up to the enormous potential for vacation ideas without having to leave the peninsula.

So, if you have any plans for Friday evening and most of Saturday (but especially the morning), I recommend that you take into account that the roads will be packed and maybe just take it easy until the initial wave passes. In the meantime, soak up the culture, the sun and the wonders of Spain!

If you would like help planning your next trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch for more information.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Santiago's special Sunday

Last Sunday, July 25, 2010, was the day of Santiago, patron saint of all Spain. For those not familiar with the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage through Spain to visit the magnificent cathedral at Santiago de Compestela is one of the most popular and important pilgrimages in Western Europe. People come from all over the world to walk the route, and to see the remains of the apostle James (Santiago in Spanish).

Every so often, the day becomes even more important. Like this year for example, when the date falls on a Sunday, marking a Jacobean or Jubilee year. The next one will be in 2021, so as you can imagine the scenes in and around the cathedral on Sunday were amazing. People waited in line literally for hours just to get a chance to get inside. And the whole city celebrated, with fireworks the night before and

The celebration will last all year, and the Pope himself will be visiting Santiago in November as a part of a two city tour.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Andalusian Treasures Tour

Below is the itinerary of one of our tours from this year, to give you an idea of how we can customize your tour. Because of our hands-on work with each group, The Spanish Touch's tours are all unique and designed to meet needs and desires.

Day 1  
Arrival in Malaga and transfer to the hotel. After lunch a walking tour around the city, including Picasso’s birth house and the Plaza de la Constitución, followed by a brief overview of the tour activities/question and answer period before welcome dinner. Night in Malaga.

Day 2   
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to Seville. Day tour of Seville, including the Cathedral (and the outstanding Moorish Giralda tower), the Alcazar and the old Tobacco factory, scene of the opera Carmen. Optional Flamenco show. Night in Seville.

Day 3
Breakfast at hotel. Day trip to the city of Cordoba, ancient home of the Caliphs. Visit the Mezquita and see the old Roman bridge. Evening at leisure in Seville. Night in Seville.

Day 4  
Breakfast at hotel. Jerez day trip, including the Andalusian horse Gala and a visit to a Sherry winery. Afternoon transfer to Granada. Night in Granada.

Day 5  
Breakfast at hotel. Day tour of the city center, visiting the Cathedral, the Moorish silk market and the old Jewish quarter. An optional Tapas dinner out for a true taste of Granada’s exquisite restaurant scene. Night in Granada.

Day 6 
Breakfast at hotel. Morning tour of the Alhambra. Afternoon transfer to Malaga. Night in Malaga.  

Day 7 
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to Malaga airport (2 people). Day at leisure in the capital of the Costa del Sol. Optional day tour to Nerja or Ronda.  Night in Malaga.

Day 8  
Transfer to Malaga airport for return flight to the USA.


Tour includes:

  • All accommodation as per itinerary
  • All transportation as per itinerary in an air-conditioned van.
  • 8 meals (7 breakfast, 1 dinner)
  • Guided visits as per itinerary
  • Entrance fees as per itinerary

Monday, July 19, 2010

Temple of Augustus in Tarragona

Buried underneath the 12th century cathedral in the heart of what was the most important Roman city in Iberia, nowadays known as Tarragona lies the Temple to Ceaser Augustus. At the beginning of July excavations began under the Cathedral in search of the actual temple, which, given the importance of Tarragona during Roman times, could be an outstanding architectural and cultural treasure. This new research is possible now thanks to new, high-tech forms of excavations without damaging the cultural treasure above.

To visit Tarragona and see the remains of what was the Roman Empire's greatest Iberian city, contact The Spanish Touch

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Legend of Count Arnau comes to life!

This weekend, in the town of Sant Joan de Abadesses in Catalonia, one of the most popular and oldest legends of Catalunya will be the focal point of the annual XV Cicle de Representacions del Mite del Comte Arnau

The legend of Count Arnau tells of a rich Feudal lord who, among many other nefarious deeds, had an amorous affair with one of the nuns at the local abbey in Sant Joan de Abadesses. Condemned to ride forever on a black fiery steed pursued by demonic hounds, the legend of Comte Arnau has become in many ways like the legends of Washington Irving, albeit based on a historical person (he lived sometime in the early 11th century). Many people throughout the years have claimed to have seen the horse and rider galloping through the hills and valleys during the nights, and have heard the howls of the pursuing dogs. In the center of the Plaza Clavé there is a statue to the romanticized figure of the Count, who during the Catalan renaissance became a folklore hero. 

The abbey, which is still standing, is one of the most important abbeys in all of  Catalunya, both for its age (built in the 9th century) and its heritage (it was built by Catalonia's founding father, Wilfred the Hairy, for his daughter). 

Contact The Spanish Touch for more information or to visit the Abbey and even the Mataplana Castle, legendary home to the Count.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The many faces of Spain

In light of Spain's World Cup triumph, there has been a fair amount of discussion about the different regions and all of Spain uniting under the flag of sports. To me, it was great to see people from all over the country so excited, despite differences in language, culture, history, lifestyle, etc. But it does highlight one of the truly remarkable things about the country: the variety and differences of each area make each region a unique discovery. So when people talk about wanting to visit "Spain", first you should decide which part. Visiting Madrid and the center of Spain is a completely different experience from visiting Andalucia's Moorish heritage or Galicia's rivers and town, Cantabria's rugged coastlines or Catalonia's rich and wonderful heritage.

A visit to "Spain" can be so many things it's no wonder that people always want to come back. Each region offers so much to the visitor, from art museums to monuments to gastronomic treats to spectacular scenery, there is truly much to celebrate (oh, and they won the World cup too)!

Contact The Spanish Touch for more information and a free consultation about the different possibilities for your next vacation in Spain

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Discover Madrid & the Heart of Spain Tour

During the months of September and October, The Spanish Touch is offering a limited-time itinerary. This itinerary can be used as an example or taken as is for anyone who wants to maximize their time in Madrid

Day 1 - Arrival in Madrid: transfer from airport to hotel. Day at leisure in Madrid. Welcome dinner in Madrid. Night in Madrid. (D)

Day 2 - Breakfast at hotel. Morning tour of Madrid city center, including the Royal Palace, Austrias District, Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol. Afternoon at leisure. Night in Madrid. (B)

Day 3:Breakfast at hotel. Morning transfer to Toledo for a private guided tour of the city of Toledo, including the Cathedral, El Greco's house and the Jewish Quarter. Toledo is a great city to wander around in, so after lunch  spend some time wandering the narrow streets before returning to Madrid.  Night in Madrid. (B)

Day 4: Breakfast at hotel. Day trip to visit El Escorial, the mosoleum-monastery built by Phillip II at the height of Spain's golden age. After the visit, go up to Segovia for a tapas lunch and to see the famous Roman Aqueduct.  Night in Madrid. (B)

Day 5: Breakfast at hotel. Morning Museum tour in Madrid, visiting the most important museums in Madrid, including El Prado and the Reina Sofia, where you can see the masterpiece works of artists such as Picasso, Dalí, El Greco, Velazquez, and many more. Also take the opportunity to visit the AtochaTrain Station, with its botanical gardens and stunning architectural design. Night in Madrid. (B)

Day 6 - Breakfast at hotel. Morning at leisure in Madrid. Afternoon trip to Avila, for a visit including the Cathedral, the route of Santa Teresa (16th century) and of course, the famous Walls. Evening farewell dinner at a classic Madrid restaurant. Night in Madrid (B,D)

Day 7 - Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to airport for return flight. (B)

The price includes:

Private guided tours as per itinerary.
A bilingual Spanish Touch tour guide with 24-hour availability. 
Transfers to and from the airport. 
All hotel accommodation in Madrid . 
All transportation as specified in itinerary in a private car. 
8 Meals (6 breakfasts, 2 dinners) 
All entrance fees on itinerary. 

Price: Starting from $2,495 per person.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

World champions!

Congratulations Spain! 1 - 0 win over a very good Netherlands team. First time champions and all of Spain is celebrating tonight.

Spain is preparing

For the first time ever Spain is in the final of the World Cup. And all of Spain is hitting the streets in celebration. If you are fortunate enough to be in Spain today, enjoy the festivities and the match!! Vamos la Roja!!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

End of Summer Barcelona and Costa Brava Tour

Check out the new offer from The Spanish Touch, just in time for one last, end-of-summer getaway to make the summer of 2010 truly unforgettable! 

August 28 - September 4. Barcelona and Costa Brava: Greek, Roman and Catalan history by the Beach

August 28
Arrival at Barcelona Airport. Transfer to Hotel. Evening a brief Q&A session with your Spanish Touch guide before your welcome dinner. (Dinner)
August 29
Breakfast at hotel. A morning tour of Barcelona, including the impressive Sagrada Familia and the Ramblas district. Lunch at the Maremagnum in the Sports Harbor. In the afternoon walk through the Barri Gotic, Gothic District, the best preserved example of the Gothic period of Spain. Visit the Palau de la Musica Catalana, an amazing modernist concert hall. Enjoy the evening at leisure. (Breakfast)
August 30
Breakfast at hotel. A trip down the coast toward the beach town of Sitges for a morning at the beach. Walk along the promenade, do some shopping in one of the many boutiques, or simply take in the sun and culture at one of the beachfront cafés. After lunch, return via the Penedes region, and see why this newly-rediscovered wine region is gaining international fame. Take an optional winery tour (and tasting) or explore the lively historical center of Vilafranca del Penedes. (Breakfast)
August 31
Breakfast at hotel. A morning tour of Montjuic Mountain, at the heart of Barcelona, including visits to the Museum of Modern Art, the Olympic Stadium, and Montjuic Castle. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure, or take the optional Modernista Tour of Barcelona. (Breakfast)
September 1
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer up the Costa Brava, passing through the city of Girona. Take a morning tour of the historical center and explore the ancient streets, walk along the old city wall, and visit the 12th-century Jewish Synagogue, now a museum. After lunch in a traditional Catalan restaurant, continue to the Greco-Roman beach town of Empuries. Founded in the 7th-century BC, Empuries offers a fascinating history of the region, from the Greeks and Iberians through the Romans, Moors and the Catholic Monarchs. Night in Empuries (Breakfast, Lunch)
September 2
Breakfast at hotel. This morning take a trip to Figueres, birthplace of Salvador Dali, and home to his one-of-a-kind Theater-Museum. After lunch, visit the spectacular town of Cadaques, a shining example of the Costa Brava’s charm, and home to Dali from 1930 until his death in 1989. (Breakfast)
September 3
Breakfast at hotel. Return to Barcelona, stopping along the way at the medieval town of Besalú, a town seemingly forgotten by the march of time. Enter through the gates via the old stone bridge and witness the annual Medieval Fair, and take the chance to step back in time as you walk through the old stone streets and buildings. Upon arrival in Barcelona, join us for the farewell dinner and a last look at your time in Spain. (Breakfast, Dinner)
September 4
Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to Barcelona airport. (Breakfast)

Take advantage of our special offer and join us for just $2465 per person!

The price includes:
A bilingual Spanish Touch tour guide with 24-hour availabilty.
Transfers to and from the airport.
All hotel accommodation as specified in the itinerary.
Transportation as specified.
Meals as specified in the itinerary.
Guided tours as specified.
Entrance fees as specified

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Spain's beaches

In the full summer heat many of us are dreaming of beaches.  Spain's more than 5000 miles of coastline more than fulfill the requirements, but what makes it such a wonderful place is the variety of beaches and what you find just on the other side of the sand. From La Concha beach in San Sebastian, just feet from some of Spain's best tapas bars and michelin-starred restaurants, to the quiet hidden coves of the Costa Brava to the eternal sunshine beaches of the Canary Islands, each beach tells a story. Each beach holds a piece of history, and a world of opportunities to discover after you hit the beach.

Contact The Spanish Touch for more information about which beaches offer the best for what you are looking for, and we'll be glad to help make your next beach vacation a truly once-in-a-lifetime-experience.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

San Fermin - The Running of the Bulls

Today at noon local time kicked off Spain's biggest and best-known annual party, the San Fermines Festival in Pamplona, more commonly known as The Running of The Bulls. While the bull running will start tomorrow morning at 7:00 local time, the Chupinazo is the official start of the festivities. The festival's origens go back centuries but it was in the 20th century that Hemingway made it famous with The Sun Also Rises.

The festival attracts a huge amount of foreign visitors every year, so if you want to make plans to visit, it's best to start as much as a year in advance, or risk not finding any accommodation at all. The best places are the balconies along the route of the encierro, and this year The Spanish Touch wishes the best for Karen and Robert who are going to be watching the first running tomorrow morning from the balcony of their apartment.

You can watch the encierros here.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Castle of Loarre - History and cinema

Only 30 minutes from the city of Huesca in Aragon, and less than 2 hours from the heart of Somontano wine country, the Castle of Loarre stands as a monument to the region, the people and the heritage of the region of Aragon. The Castle-Abbey complex is one of the best-preserved Romanesque fortresses in all of Europe, and the best in all of Aragon.

The castle's exact origins are unclear, but at the very least in the early XI century there are references to it. Roman coins and Iberian remains have also been found within the castle grounds. The site is made up of a Romanic monastery and the Pre-Romanic castle itself. The castle's impressive setting and excellent preservation has made it ideal for time pieces, and has been used in films such as Kingdom of Heaven.

For more information on how to include a visit to the Castle of Loarre on your next trip to Spain, please contact The Spanish Touch.