Sunday, October 31, 2010

Onward to Granada - The Bhatia/Heinrichs Tour - Day 5

An early morning departure (for Spain), although since this is the last day before the change of hour, it was still dark at 8:15 in the morning. We decided to not stop at Ronda on the way to Granada, so that we could maximize our time with Rosa. The weather, which had been threatening to change for a couple of days, finally broke and we got out of Seville with just a few drops on the windshield. By the time we got to Granada, there was a definite nip in the air, and the threat of a light drizzle had us all grab our umbrellas as we walked out the hotel door with Rosa. Despite the gray clouds and a few drops, our exploration of Granada was a thoroughly enjoyable affair, complete with a stop at a tea house in the Albaycin and a visit to a couple of the old 16th century palaces.

The evening festivities started early, as it is a holiday weekend in Granada, we knew that the tapas bars would fill up quickly, so we made our way downstairs (after a glass of cava which the hotel had sent up to Rita and Ranbir's room) for an 8:00 dinner. The Cremosa de Queso was the hit of the evening, and our waiter's excellent choices for tapas and dessert were, as usual, right on the money.

Tomorrow morning: the group visit to the Alhambra and the afternoon to relax and take in Granada (and maybe a couple of  churros). 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Visiting Cordoba - more than just the Mezquita - The Bhatia/Heinrichs Tour -day 4

Lola, another guide who loves her job and her city. Not sure what to expect, the group were all more than pleasantly surprised at the wonders of Cordoba. The tour began as we walked through the Puerta de Sevilla  and a visit to one of the picturesque Patios of Cordoba, then Lola met us in front of the monstrous outer facade of the Mezquita Cathedral at noon.  Like much of the city itself, the facade hides much of the beauty of the city. From the outside, it looks more like a medieval fortress than the highlight of the 11th century western world, but upon closer inspection the Mezquita, and Cordoba itself, offer much more to the discerning eye. Lola's visit was very well received, her sense of humor and her passion - just like Alvaro yesterday -  made her a special companion on the visit.

After a lunch of a mixture of traditional Cordobese food and fried fish, we returned to Seville. The wind picked up and the rain clouds blew in as we made our way through the Maria Luisa Park. Luckily, the wind was strong enough to blow the rain clouds through without any real rain, and we had the chance to visit the Festival de las Naciones before visiting the grandiose Plaza EspaƱa. A brief discussion about what kind of trees we saw ensued (the London-plane tree, a mix between the Oriental Plane and the American Sycamore), and we wandered back to the hotel. Dinner at the restaurant included our first paella (we ordered two - the Marisco and the Mixta - and a couple of appetizers before heading to bed for an early night. Tomorrow we head firs tthing to Granada, and a private guided tour of the best example of Moorish rule in all of Spain.  

Friday, October 29, 2010

The treasures of Seville - The Bhatia/Heinrichs Tour - day 3

The pleasures of a tour can be magnified or limited many times before you even leave the hotel. An early morning call back to our hotel in Malaga was needed to have them send us some things that had been left behind. With that minor hitch resolved, we all met down in the patio for a light breakfast before Alvaro arrived to take us around his town. One of the things that people comment about frequently is the difference a tour guide can make when he or she is truly enthusiastic, really passionate about the job. And Alvaro is definitely one of them (and remember, its AL-va-ro, not al-BER-o, which is the color of the sand). His guiding us through the mazes (intentional to confuse invaders) and his ability to answer any questions completely and immediately were highly appreciated. When we stopped for a coffe it was to be introduced to a former Torero, and, after a quick coffee and an amusing eldery lady who tried to sell us some lottery tickets we were back into action, visiting the anta Cruz quarter, the Reales Alcazares and finally the Cathedral.

After taking a pass on climbing up the Giralda minaret, the rest of the day was left to relax, take in the Sevilla sun and just generally enjoy the vacation. We met in the evening for a great tapas dinner at Las Teresas and then back to the hotel for a night cap of some of the brandy Ranbir had bought at the winery - accompanied by some sweets from the local convent which the hotel had available for us. An exquisite end to a great day.

Up next: A visit to Cordoba.

Where Art and Sherry meet - The Bhatia/Heinrichs day 2

We started the morning with a drive along the south of Andalucia, going from Malaga to the sherry town of Jerez de la Frontera. On the recommendation of our guide, we bypassed the more traditional and more glamorous Sandemans and Tio Pepe Sherry Bodegas for the chance for a unique winery: The Bodegas Tradicion. Aside from the complications in getting there and parking (that's the problem with these old cities, people hundreds of years ago didn't forsee the need for lots of parking spots). But once inside we got a real treat: the winery only makes about 12,000 bottles a year, all of which are classified as V.O.S and/or V.O.R.S. (Very old sherry and/or very old rare sherry). With Sabrina's expert guiding we were treated to a private visit to the winery and even the private art gallery (including works by Valazquez and El Greco!). The tasting was an informative and patient process, unlike some wineries that seem more interested in getting you through the wines as quickly as possible, Sabrina seemed more interested in explaining the wines and getting feedback. Thanks again to the whole Bodega and Sabrina for a great job. 

We then drove down the coast for a bite to eat in the historic center of Cadiz. The clear blue skies, brilliant sea and centuries of history captured it was a wonderful way to just relax and soak in more Spanish culture after the morning wine. We strolled the streets of the old city for a bit and then climbed back into the car to head up to Sevilla, our base for the next few days. 

The evening meal - tapas, of course - was an entirely enjoyable affair, with highlights being the goat cheese and the tuna mojama. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Malaga welcomes The Spanish Touch

 The Bhatia/Heinrichs party arrived in Malaga on Tuesday ready to take on the charms and wonders of Southern Spain. After picking up Ila and Rita, and then turning around to pick up Ranbir (flying down from Barcelona), we all got settled at the hotel and headed out to enjoy an exceptional autumn day in Malaga. For those of who have witnessed the change in Malaga over the last ten years, it's a treat to be able to show people around. It really warms the heart to look at how the old city has transformed, with the wide pedestrian streets, the signs and even the Picasso statue in front of his birth house. Walking from our hotel we saw the town hall, the old gardener's house, the University building and then we arrive at the Alcazaba. (The Customs Palace is currently being restored and the covering on it looks like something out of a Dali painting). Once again, the steps being made to improve the city are really noticeable, perhaps no where as much as the Roman Theater, which has become a great place you can actually visit, rather than an archeological dig over on the side of the road.

Walking down Calle Granada we passed the church where Picasso was baptised, we saw the Plaza Merced, and we stopped along the way for a quick glass of Cava (for some reason they served it at room temperature, which was not really ideal but nonetheless it was enjoyable just to sit on a small street and soak up the culture). We walked the streets and saw the numerous shops and restaurants, the old palaces that have been refurbished and even walked down the oldest street in Malaga. We got to the cathedral as the sun was setting, and decided to head back to the hotel.

Dinner at the Hermanos Gutierrez was a great introduction to the gastronomic side of Spain. The group are all professing-foodies, and we enjoyed the recommendations of our waiter and a fantastic bottle of Cava to go with our fish, pulpo a la gallega and jamon. All of them commented on how beautiful Malaga is, but we have no time on this trip, as Jerez and Cadiz await us in the morning!

Of Convents, Chapels and Churros- The Fruchter's last day in Spain

The last day of our tour. In 10 short days we have really managed to do a lot together. I've seen the Fruchter's become more "Spanish" every day, really embrace the Spanish culture and customs. It has been a truly wonderful trip, and I enjoyed the company as much as I hope they have enjoyed Spain. The morning tour of Granada included a "guinea pig" run through a 15th century convent in the old Moorish quarter, which was interesting  - the patio was very nice, and the bulging ceiling perhaps a bit unnerving but very well kept. We also had the Royal Chapel to ourselves at the start (Rosa had picked up the tickets previously so we skipped the line). Her explanations were great, and she provided lots of details that you just don't get normally. Every time I go I learn something new. Rosa really helps to bring the city of Granada to life, without getting overly bogged down to where you feel like you've reached saturation point.

She left us once again at the Plaza Nueva, and we grabbed a bite to eat at a nice little restaurant right on the Plaza Bib-Rambla. But we didn't order dessert, because we knew that waiting for us in just a couple of hours would be some of the best churros con chocolate in all of Spain. After a couple of hours to explore the old Arab market, we met up again for the churros. They never fail to please, even though when you first see them it can be a bit overwhelming.

The final evening meal was a break from the tapas, although we couldn't resist ordering the Pimientos de Padron one more time. This trip has gone fast, and I am really glad to have been able to share these experiences with the Fruchters. The memories on this trip will last, everything from overly-polished glass door collisions to unexpected parades and a private visit to the monastery in Granada, it was a trip to remember. Thanks so much to Dennis, Holly, Rebecca and Marissa for making my job so easy, and of course a big thank you to the guides and waiters who worked with us to make it all possible!

See you soon as the Bhatia's are coming to visit Andalusia and Madrid!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Granada - The lions are back: The Alhambra - The Fruchters day 9

After a pleasantly relaxing evening of tapas (and a stop at the yogurt shop on the way back) the previous night, we all awoke ready to hit the highlight of Granada: The Alhambra. Our guide met us at the hotel and we took a cab ride up to the greatest remaining monument to 700 years of Moorish reign in Spain. The new models that they've set up outside the newly renovated offices are a ncie touch, giving a better, 3D idea of what we are about to see than the old map (which is still there).

Our original entrance time for the palaces was at 12:30, so it seemed that getting there at 10:20 gave us plenty of time. However, Rosa being the generous person that she is, ended up swapping our tickets with another guide whose group was having difficulties, and we discovered that our entrance time was from 10:30-11:00. No time for dilly-dallying, so we went off immediately, Rosa offering a rushed apology and brief explanations as we walked, with promises of more information on the way back. We made it with time to spare, and what a treat we got: The famous Lions, 12 marble statues which habitually inhabit the Plaza de Leones, are back on display! After being one of the feature attractions for years, the lions underwent a 3 year restoration process. They are still not back at the Plaza, but they are on display. For all those who saw them before, I highly recommend coming back to see them again: the details and colors are remarkable!!!

The rest of the visit was, as always, wonderful. Rosa was very accommodating, and we took lots of pictures. Rosa left us for the day (looking forward to the tour tomorrow!) and we went back to the Plaza Nueva for lunch at the Pilar de Oro, where we enjoyed some wonderful sopa de ajo and I got a pollito - I admit I was expecting a smaller piece of a bigger chicken, rather than the full piece of a very small chicken, but it was delectable all the same. In the evening we hit the tapas bar again, and once again we had a great selection provided by our waiter. We had to do it early though, as Dennis and Holly headed up to see a flamenco show at the Chumbera theater.

Only one more full day to enjoy the sun, history, food and people of Spain. But we are looking forward to visiting the city center, and having some churros.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sevilla to Granada - The Fruchter's Day 8

A crisp, cooler-than-anticipated start to the day saw us enjoying breakfast in the hotel's patio. Our day began with a shopping expedition for a few essentials (batteries and a much more complicated attempt to find some hand sanitizer) before meeting up with Alfonso for our visit to Sevilla's old city. Alfonso's cheerful and informative disposition made it easy to imagine how the city might have been centuries ago. The squares and small churches (sometimes the best way to really experience the beauty is in the details and often-overlooked places that are hiding n plain view), and of course the grand buildings were interspersed with bits about Seville's culture and people, and our 3 hour tour went by quickly.

When the tour ended, we headed over to the Alcazar, the Royal Palace of Seville which is still used by the royal family when they visit Seville. Luckily, they King and Queen weren't around so we got to spend some time exploring the palaces, which are really a way of exploring the history of Seville. From the original Moorish palace to the Admiral's apartments and King Peter's royal palace to the Gothic wing, the palace is a fascinating place to discovery.

A nice tapas lunch and we were off again, heading across Andalucia to our final destination on this trip: Granada, where 2 days of Granada hospitality, food and culture await!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Highlights of Cordoba - the Mezquita, the patios and Maimonides - The Fruchter's Day 7

A morning drive through the red clay landscape of Castilla - La Mancha and through the DespeƱaperros Pass into the province of Andalucia. We saw windmills and the Osborne bulls along the way, and even stopped to take a picture at the scenic overpass. Once through the pass we entered into the endless olive grove landscapes that are so distinctly Andaluz. Arriving in Cordoba just in time for lunch, we made our way through the Puerta de Sevilla into the old city, stopping to take in the Patio club's impressive work (pictured above). After a delightful lunch of Fish, salad and one of my personal favorites - Berenjenas con miel -  we met up with our guide for a visit. Lola was engaging and lively, as always, and the Mezquita is truly a can't-miss monument. Every time I go I am in awe of the architecture, the details and sheer magnitude of the Moorish construction.

We also toured the old Jewish quarter and saw the statue to Maimonides, the 12th century philosopher-doctor whose work has been ranked among the most important and best in the Middle Ages. A stop at the synagogue and an explanation of how the different cultures coexisted helped us to really feel the magic of the city. We ended our visit with a quick look at the last remaining Roman bridge, with the impressive statue of St. Rafael on our way out. 

We got to Sevilla and, after parking the car, made our way through the tiny streets of the Santa Cruz district to our hotel, the botique Rey Moro. With Holly feeling a bit under the weather, the dinner reservations at the excellent Santo restaurant were cancelled, but we enjoyed a nice tapas meal before heading back to the hotel. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Toledo's Treasures and dinner for the records - The Fruchters Day 6

Toledo. The name itself conjures image of Spain's glorious past. Of sword-wielding knights fighting the battles of the reconquista. A short AVE trip from Madrid (a half-hour ride from Atocha puts you an enjoyable 20 minute walk from the old city gates) and our adventure continued down the labyrinthine streets surrounded by walls that seem to whisper the legends and stories of bygone days. From the outer walls and the spectacular vistas over the Tajo river to the Alcazar building perched high atop the rest of the city, Bruno led us through the maze of sites that can so easily confuse.  Highlights included the Cathedral, San Juan de los Reyes (where the freed christian prisoners' irons still hang from the walls) and the Synagogues. A city of three cultures which is no doubt unique in the world.

On getting back to Madrid we said goodbye to Bruno and stopped for a few minutes to visit the Atocha station, admiring its iron construction and saying hello to the turtles in the gardens. In the evening we had the opportunity to eat at one of Madrid's most famous restaurants: Botin. Touristy it is, but the Guinness record listed oldest-restaurant-in-the-world still makes a great meal. It's a good reminder that just because something becomes a tourist attraction, it doesn't necessarily become a tourist trap: and I'm glad to report that the roast suckling pig for which they are famous is still a wonderful dish and a great way to say goodbye to our time in the Spanish capital.

NExt up: heading into Andalucia, with a stop in Cordoba on our way to our hotel in Sevilla.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Museums in Madrid and an afternoon of sun in Madrid - The Fruchter's day 5

A morning visit to the airport to drop off Rebecca, and then we returned to the city. Today the museums of Madrid were calling: El Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemiszma. But first, a walk through the Parque de Retiro was in order. Dennis and Holly took full advantage of the gorgeous fall day while waiting for Marissa to join them, and then they went museum-ing. Being more modern art than classical art fans, they found the Thyssen more to their liking, although had plenty of kind words for El Prado as well. The evening was a nice, relaxed and very typical Madrid meal, with some wonderful fish (Dennis said it was the some of the best monkfish he had ever tasted) and the very typically Spanish Pimientos de Padron, although on this occasion we were lucky (or not, depending on your point of view) to not get any really spicy ones.

Up next: Toledo and a visit to the oldest restaurant in the world!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Welcome to Madrid - The Fruchters day 4

A new city, a new feel. One of the first impressions of Madrid when they arrived from Barcelona was a tremendous feeling of "grandeur". Madrid is a capital city. In every sense. This is a place where the broad streets, the imposing buildings, and even the ever-fashionable populace leave a feeling of grandeur, or splendor, or being in the capital. The morning started at the Reina Sofia, where we started right into it, with the 20th century run-up to Picasso's Guernica. The sketches and original paintings in the rooms surrounding the masterpiece go a long way toward explaining the minute details of this outcry against the horrors of war. Some of the other highlights of the museum were the works by Miro, Dali and Man Ray.

When we arrived back at the hotel, Bruno was waiting to take the group around Madrid, introducing them to the city that would be their home for the next few days. And it is a city that needs a local's touch, because there is so much more than just the monuments and museums. In the evening, a traditional dinner at a local restaurant and an early night as Rebecca was returning home first thing the following morning.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gaudi and the Castellers - The Fruchter's day 3

The weather forecast continued to bounce between partly sunny and partly cloudy, with maybe some rain. Or maybe not. Once again we avoided any rain. In fact, the group got more than it bargained for as we made our first stop at the Sagrada Familia. I know I mentioned this just a couple of weeks ago, but once again every time I go there recently the construction seems to have shoved into hyperdrive. The interior is almost ready, they even have the alter up! It's amazing to see the transformation. But the surprise of the morning was when we reached the other side of the church: lining up along the Calle Marina in front of the Nativity Facade were three groups of Castellers, the Catalan human tower troupes. What a treat to see them form towers of people right there! And of course, there was the traditional accompanying music and even some of the Gegants.

Next up we hit the Park Guell (please note, not the Parque Guell, nor even Parc Guell), and the sun really broke through. The multitudes were celebrating a spectacular autumn day. After a quick lunch along the Passeig de Gracia, we got into La Pedrera, the last of the Gaudi sites on the day's itinerary.

We had enough time to take one last stroll to the Plaza del Pi, then we were off to the train station where the AVE awaited to take us to Madrid. Next stop: 3 days in Madrid!

Figueres and Girona - The Fruchter's day 2

A beautiful sky greeted us as we headed up from Barcelona to see the Dali Theater-Museum. What a great musuem! For as many times as I have been there, I always find something new and hope that I understand Dali's creative genius a bit more (this from a guy with artistic difficulties drawing a stick figure). Aside from the Mae West Room pictured above, we spent a lot of time enjoying the palacio del viento and the jewels. We spent the whole morning at the museum (and you always feel like you could have seen more), and then stopped for a quick bite at a tapas bar before heading off to Girona.

A slight incident of me walking headlong into a highly-cleaned glass door aside, we made it out of the restaurant and off to Girona. The weather held out and we enjoyed the last hours of sunlight as we walked through the ancient streets of one of Spain's truly beautiful cities. Three people dared to attempt the daunting front steps (conflicting reports as to whether there are 90 or 91 steps) to the Cathedral, while Holly and I took the longer, but less challenging road up to the side entrance. A visit to the museum treasury to see the 11th century tapestry, and a quick stroll along the old towers followed, and we ended the day with a quick visit to the Jewish Heritage Museum (thank you for letting us slip in last minute!).

A great day with lots of history, culture and some pets del bisbe!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The beginning - Arrival and a visit to Barcelona

The Fruchter's arrived in Barcelona ready for their custom tour of Spain. First stop was the hotel, and since they had managed to get some sleep and so we were ready to go. We took a walk to stretch their legs a bit after the transatlantic flight, and made it all the way down to La Boqueria, where the cornicopia of colors, sights and smells were a perfect greeting to the new arrivals. After an enjoyable lunch, we headed down to the old city, where we saw how 2000 years of history has merged. We ended the day with a visit to the Picasso Museum, which is another unique reminder of the merging of the old new, with Picasso's art housed in palaces which date back to the middle ages.

Next up for Saturday: A visit to Figueres and Girona.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Albuferra - birthplace of Paella

Valencia is popularly considered as the birthplace of Paella. For many, that's a good enough reason to visit. Add in the centuries of history, the beautiful Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciencies, native son Santiago Calatrava's extravagent collection of buildings, and a city center that lives and breathes its cultural heritage, and you've got the recipe for a fantastic visit. But many people get all the way to Valencia and don't actually get to the birthplace of paella: The Albufera Park. This wetlands area has a long and distinguished reputation for fish and rice. In fact, the word Paella comes from the Valencian word for a pan, paella. The idea of seafood paella as the "original" or authentic paella is a misconception: in fact, the dish refers to any number of rice-based dishes. Some of the best in the Albufera are the "Arros a la banda" and the "All i Pebre" dishes.

For more information or to include a private guided visit on your next trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dia de la Hispanidad - October 12

All throughout Spain today there are various celebrations, some very festive (coinciding with the Pilar in Zaragoza) and some very somber, like the remembrance of the fallen soldiers in Madrid. It is a day for the Spanish to remember their glorious and not-so-glorious past, and a day for all who enjoy this great mixing pot of cultures to join in the celebration. Even with the rain throughout the peninsula it is a day for flower offerings and a military parade in Columbus Square in Madrid. The day, chosen to remember Columbus' arrival in the New World, was popularly called Columbus Day until 1957.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Virtual History in Seville

It was only a matter of time, and now the future is here. There is a new way to explore the streets and history of Seville:  it's called Past View, presented by the Alminar Cultural Services group. The animated tour uses virtual glasses to provide a realistic guide (of the chosen era) and show the streets and buildings of Seville as they would have appeared at various points throughout the city's history. The future is now, and there's a great new way to see the past!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Cava and Nature - a great day in Penedes

I was a bit concerned as I looked at the weather forecast: It wasn't supposed to rain until this evening, but with Montserrat mountain you can never be sure. However, today's tour with Sharon, Karen and Nancy went great. First up was a visit to the cava, where Ricard treated us to a great lesson and demonstration in how hand-crafting really does make a difference. After sampling some of the cavas, there were offers of helping out in the winery in exchange for wine. But our tour wasn't finished, so we left Ricard and the cavatast and made our way up to Montserrat.

It turned out to be a little cloudy, but mostly sunny and our walk to the Sacred Cave was an exercise in soaking up the environment, from the beautiful berries to the fresh rosemary growing wild, and of course, the amazing collection of sculptures that make the walk such a treat. A quick bite to eat and we were back into it, visiting the Monestary itself. We wound up the day with an unexpected treat: a visit to La Moreneta herself!

Thanks to all three lovely ladies for a great day.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Sagrada Familia - readying for the Pope

In just under a month from today (November 7), The Sagrada Familia will host its first-ever Mass in the central nave, led by none other than the Pope himself.  And efforts to make sure the building is ready are really stepping up. As I walked through the Sagrada Familia this morning I was struck at once by the sheer size of it. This is really nothing new, I've been visiting Gaudi's masterpiece for most of the last decade on a regular basis, but this time, with all the construction area cleared and the central part blocked off for floor cleaning, for some reason it just resonated more. Of course, I also got to visit with my wife's grandfather, Jordi. We had a wonderful time talking about the changes that we've seen (albeit he's seen a fair few more than I have), and taking in the intricacies of the building. It was just a short visit, but it really served to remind me of how marvelous the temple truly is, and how much it means to the people of Barcelona, and how great it is to share that pleasure with our guests!

For information or for a private guided tour in Barcelona, contact The Spanish Touch.

Monday, October 04, 2010

CavaTast 2010 - Where Cava meets the world

The weekend of October 8-10 the town of Sant Sadurni D'anoia becomes the biggest sparkling wine celebration in Spain with the 2010 CavaTast. The 14th edition of this Fiesta is designed to celebrate Spain's most popular sparkling wine. All weekend the many producers, more than 90% of the Cava produced worldwide is produced in Sant Sadurni,   will open stalls on the streets to allow visitors to get to know the intricacies and subtleties of this often underappreciated wine.

And of course, with the wine comes the food! Stands and stalls offering everything from local cheeses to cured hams to Spanish tortillas are set up, and courses for food and Cava pairings are available. Many of the local restaurants are offering a special cava-related menu featuring the best of the local products in some very creative and delicious recipes!

For more information or to include a private guided visit to Cava country on your next trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Dali Expo in Atlanta

For those who won't be making it to Barcelona in the next couple of months, you can take this opportunity to see some of Salvador Dali's best works at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The exposition, entitled Dali's Late Works runs through January 9, 2011 and features some of the eccentric artist's best works of his last 40 years, including paintings, sculptures and movies on loan from museums around the world, including his theater-museum in Figueres.

To include a private guided tour to the Dali Museum on your next to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Bierzo - a slice of Spain with everything

In the province of Leon, in northwestern Spain, is the region of Bierzo. Of late the region has gained international acclaim for its wines, and with good reason. But a closer look reveals much more than just great wines. Start with the capital city of Ponferrada and its magnificent Templar Castle, the Encina Basilica and, for railroad lover, the Museo del Ferrocarril.  After visiting the city, take a walk through the rolling landscapes to the Valley of Silence and listen to the hills speak of thousands of years of history and feel the peacefulness of nature. Don't forget to visit the Picos de Europa, with several peaks of more than 2000 meters. And last but certainly not least, a visit to the vineyards to sample some of the region's best and see why their reputation as world-class winemakers is blossoming.

For more information or to arrange a private guided tour on your next trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.