Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011

As the year comes to a close, it's always nice to look back with a smile at all of those people and places who made the last 12 months so special. And at The Spanish Touch, we pride ourselves on our personal relationships with our clients. So thank you all for the memories, for the new friendships forged and the relationships renewed. From January frosty visits to March snow storms, May flowers, harvest festivals, and autumn colors at spectacular castles, it's been a wonderful year.

And to all those who will be visiting in 2011, we look forward to helping you and making new friends!!
Happy New Year!
Feliç Any Nou!
Feliz Navidad!
Urte Berri On!
Feliz Ano!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Home dels Nassos - Nose Man

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. And in keeping with the motif of traditions, we bring you a tried and cherished tradition in Catalunya: El Home dels Nassos, The Nose Man. According to Catalan legend, the Nose Man has a nose for every day of the year, but he can only be seen on December 31, so we only ever see him with one (exceptionally large) nose. It's considered good luck and you can still see children running down the street if someone nearby claims to have seen him go by.

 In Barcelona of old he would arrive from the sea and could be seen at the Plaza del Palau at exactly 12 noon.  In recent years it's easier to find him, as a capgros (literally "big head") strolls down the streets, accompanied by a drum line parade.

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Smoke-free in Spain

For years, one of the most common complaints I've heard from people is that wherever you go, the smell of cigarettes follow. However, in 4 days all of that will change. Starting on January 2 smoking will be banned in all public bars and restaurants. Spain follows a number of states in the US, and countries like Ireland in Europe in banning smoking in public.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Eve - Spanish Style

I've always found that the holiday season is a wonderful time to discover a country's traditions. In Spain, for example, we have the ever-present 12 grapes of luck (Las 12 uvas). The tradition, dating back over a century (exact year is up for debate, but the dates range from the mid 1880s to 1909), is in many ways the perfect tradition for an agricultural economy like Spain's. In fact, given that it boast the most land dedicated to vineyards in Europe, it's easy to see why grapes were chosen. The popular story tells us that it was due to a particularly exceptional harvest, and to celebrate (and get rid of the excess grapes), the tradition started of eating a grape for each stroke of the clock. 

Since 1962, the Spanish television has shown the Puerta del Sol clock striking 12 and the ensuing celebration tips off the grape eating. A cava toast comes only after you finished the grapes (and you are supposed to finish them before the last bell chimes, a feat made slightly more complicated in that usually the grapes still have the seeds). 

For those people lucky enough to be in Madrid, the Puerta del Sol is the place to be on Friday night!

For more information or to arrange a private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve in Barcelona - Don't Forget the Desserts!

One of my favorite things about Christmas in Barcelona is that every year I get to experiment traditions and customs which are new (to me) and fascinating. And being the kind of person I am, I am always searching for the roots of the traditions. In a country where lunch is the big meal, there are few occasions to really celebrate the evening meal, and Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) is one of the best.

Many people plan this meal like an American plans thanksgiving, starting the preparations days in advance, so as to have everything ready. The dinner can be an intimate immediate family meal or a feast for family and friends.

In particular I've always liked the desserts, which can vary widely from region to region (and from town to town). Some things, however, are the same. If you are around during the Christmas season, you are sure to see an abundance of Turrons and Dulces de Navidad.

And never forget to have the Cava on hand, and have a very Merry Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"El Gordo" - Lo que importa es la Salud

Today is the day that millions around Spain have been waiting for: El Gordo. The national lottery has developed over the years into as much a Christmas tradition as almost anything else, and the pomp and circumstance of the drawing makes watching the numbers an enjoyable experience, even for those who don't win anything. The numbers are drawn, the is a choir of children singing the numbers, even the music is immediately recognizable. This year the average Spanaird spent more than 60 euros on the lottery tickets (at 20 euros a piece).

Given the incredibly high level of participation, and the improbability of winning anything at all, the Spanish have adopted the slogan "What matters is your health", in a typically Mediterranean way of accepting the end results, and remembering to stay focused on what matters.

For more information or for help planning your next private tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday spirit and special events in Barcelona

With the holiday season in full swing, and the temperatures reaching Northeast region-like-levels (it was below freezing this morning when I left the house), it's time to update what's happening in Barcelona. I've already written about the biggest Christmas market in Barcelona - Santa Llucia (in front of the Cathedral). But this weekend there are other markets that are well worth the trip for anyone who's in the region:
The Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Familia.How often do you get the chance to check out all the highlights of a Catalan Christmas fair with such a spectacular backdrop?
The Fira dels Reis (Three Kings Fair) on the Gran Via sells gifts and toys to give to the kids on Three Kings Day
Also check out the Trenet de Nadal (Christmas train) on Carrer Padilla, which goes past the Sagrada Familia and runs hourly through January 5 (Christmas and Boxing Day excluded).

Christmas Concerts:
December 20 at L'Auditori Theater: more than 20 different choral groups from around Barcelona will perform.
December 19 at Tibidabo: Concert for Peace with childrens choirs                                     

For more information or for help planning your private guided tour of Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter wine wonderland Tours in Spain - February 2011

Come join The Spanish Touch for an 8-day excursion through the regions of Catalonia and Aragon, and warm up the winter with some great wine, food and a healthy dose of authentic Spanish Culture with our Winter Wine Wonderland Tour. The big news is that we are now offering up a third opportunity to take the tour, from February 19-27, 2011!

Check out our website or send us an email for more information on how you can form a part of this great opportunity for a private guided tour through the history, culture and of course the wines of Spain!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This Sunday in Barcelona - Local art on display in the Born district

For anyone looking for a way to spend Sunday afternoon in Barcelona, come around to the Petit Detall Expo. The expo features some of the best independent artists from the city,  including jewelry, mosaics, fashion accessories and children's clothing. The show runs from 2:00 until 10:00 on Carrer dels Carders, 12 in the heart of the Born district. For those looking for a great way to see a less touristy side of the city, come along and talk with us, we'll be at the Bijuteria i Mosaics stand and would love to see you!

For more information about a private guided tour in Spain, put your tour in the hands of professionals and enjoy a truly authentic Spanish experience with The Spanish Touch.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why we do what we do at The Spanish Touch

I'd like to take a moment to send a heartfelt thank you to Rita and Ranbir, who sent this lovely note after their recent private tour with The Spanish Touch:

"In all of our years of travelling in Europe, this was perhaps the best trip.  Having such an excellent tour director with us at all times made all the difference.  Eric was not only very knowledgeable, genuinely concerned that we enjoy the trip, but he was a lot of fun.  The local guides hired by Eric were also excellent and able to answer all our questions.  Being foodies, it was important to us that Eric's knowledge of local restaurants and cuisine ensured that we had great meals everyday."

Knowing that we are helping people to get the most out of their trips is really what makes this job so special. Thanks to all of you who have traveled with us, and have let us help you discover Spain. Muchas Gracias!!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Preparing the winter fires at The Spanish Touch

As the temperatures continue to drop and the ring of the holidays is omnipresent in Spain, The Spanish Touch is gearing up for the winter season. Always on the lookout for new adventures, and new and exciting ways to bring Spain to you, we are going to spend a lot of time in the upcoming months researching new tours, fine tuning others and doing everything in our power to make sure your private vacation in Spain is everything you thought it could be...and more!

For more information about arranging your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Spanish Christmas Markets

'Tis the season for the Christmas markets of Spain. From the big cities to the small hamlets, the squares around Spain will be filled with the annual Christmas stalls selling everything from trees and wreaths to locally produced foods and turrons and handicrafts.

In the Barcelona area, check out the Fira de Santa Llucia, in front of the Cathedral, which has been celebrated for over 200 years, with stall after stall filled with items to fill your mangers, including the distinctly Catalan caganer. In Madrid's Plaza Mayor, another fair which includes well over 100 years of history can find everything you need for the season, including recipes and seasonal cards.

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

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Route of the Manger - Spanish-style holiday displays

As the holiday season approaches,  Spain's cities and towns come alive with the holiday spirit. As a predominately Catholic country,  manger scenes are typical throughout, and often times towns and cities will have special areas set up for the most elaborate and decorative scenes. Since 2004, the region of Aragon has been offering it's own "Route of the Manger", a great way to visit some of the region's best areas and to see them in full holiday splendor. Visiting towns like Monzon, Fraga, Graus and Barbastro, you will get a glimpse into Spanish culture and heritage while visiting medieval castles, monasteries and rustic towns that still maintain that old-world charm of times forgotten.

For more information or for help planning your next private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Priorat - 1000 years of Spanish wine par excellence

In recent years, the area of Priorat has gained international fame as one of the top wine regions in Spain, going so far as to be just one of two D.O.Q. (denominación de origen de qualidad) in the entire country (Rioja is the other). Lying in the mountain region just west of Tarragona, and about 2 hours from Barcelona, the region boasts a 12th-century Carthusian monastery, Romanesque churches and Modernista wineries.

But the true highlights of the region lie in the gastronomy. By now the wines speak for themselves, regularly rating 90+ points throughout the world wine publications. The difficulties in producing wine in the region result in higher prices, but the love and effort shine through in wines that are bold, robust and impressively complex. But the region also offers its own D.O for olive oil, and the mountain cuisine is a delightful combination of local ingredients

With something for everyone, it's the perfect region for food and wine lovers to explore in car or by foot. For more information or to arrange a private guided visit on your next trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch. 

Friday, December 03, 2010

Welcome to the Winter with The Spanish Touch

This weekend marks the welcoming long weekend to celebrate the Spanish Dia de la Constitucion (Dec 6) and La Immaculada (Dec 8). And with the temperatures dropping throughout the country, and snow in abundance, the winter weather seems to be inviting us again. And while we still have the warm weather fresh in our minds, it's time to plan our next few months.

There are a wide variety of possibilities in Spain, some of which we have mentioned here, but there's so many things to see that it would be impossible to mention them all. From fairs to winter sports to traditional holiday foods to shopping under the lights in the big cities, 'tis the season to visit Spain!

For more information about a private guided in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.