Thursday, December 22, 2011

American tourism up in Barcelona

The global crisis continues to dominate our plans, but the latest statistics from Barcelona Tourism show that Americans are among the most likely to travel to the Ciutat comtal (City of the Counts). American visitors to Barcelona are now the fourth most populous group, behind the neighboring neighboring European countries.  So come along and see what the city has to offer. But there is so much to offer in Barcelona that many visitors only ever scratch the surface!

Contact The Spanish Touch to design your custom private tour of Barcelona and we'll make sure you have an unforgettable time and treat you to a truly authentic Barcelona experience.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hospital of Sant Pau reopens its doors

The Hospital of Sant Pau, the largest Modernista complex in the world, today is reopening the complex. After months of restoration, the central buildings of Domenech i Montaner's stunning architectural design have been unveiled again. The most impressive feature is the newly renovated Clock Tower (Torre del Rellotge), which was designed to be a central feature of the complex. The Hospital complex is a series of beautiful, Modernista buildings which are connected via underground hallways and passages, offering the sensation of being in a quiet village rather than a functioning hospital. Originally built in the beginning of the 15th century, the hospital's makeover was completed in the early part of the twentieth century, and has been under renovation since February of 2011.

For more information or to plan your private guided tour of Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Off Road Adventures in Barcelona

Many people relate Barcelona with it's beaches, which is understandable given its location on the Mediterranean coast. But as we've mentioned before, this city is surrounded on the other side by coastal foothills which provide ample opportunity for anyone looking for a getaway from the city without having to change hotels. Ideas such as hiking in Collserola or horseback riding in Montseny are just a couple of possibilities.

Today I want to give you another choice: take a quad ride through the Montnegre National Park. In addition to the fun of the ride, you will have access to some spectacular mountain trails and at the top, a breathtaking view over the Mediterranean. Given the temperate climate of the region, this is an activity that can be done all year long, so don't let the approaching winter hold you back!

For more information, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Visiting wineries with The Spanish Touch

One of the reasons visiting a winery with The Spanish Touch is such a unique experience is our relationship with the wineries themselves. We bring people to the wineries where they can talk to the winemaker or sommelier, someone directly involved in the process who can answer your questions. Last week Paula and David Klein experienced this service firsthand.

Between sampling new wines and learning about the newest trends in Penedes, we stopped for lunch and asked some interesting questions of the winemakers and discovered the fascinating evolution of the wine world in Catalunya.

For more information or to plan a private wine tour in Barcelona, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Day Making Wine with The Spanish Touch

At The Spanish Touch we are always looking for ways to make your experience more personal, unique and especially more unforgettable. This year's January and February Truffle Tours feature an optional day of learning to blend your own wines at a local winery! We've decided to add this exciting new option this year in addition to the chance to go on the hunt for truffles and enjoy some of the finest in local Spanish culture and cuisine. 

For  more information or for help planning your private Spanish tour, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Truffle Tour - Wine and Truffles in Spain with The Spanish Touch

The Spanish Touch is offering the chance to get your hands dirty, as we head into the hills with a local truffle farmer, and also get the chance to make your own wine at one of the region's wineries! Enjoy this comprehensive tour complete with local guides, folklore and heritage, as well as a chance to reap the benefits of the season with the fruits of the harvest and the fabulous Spanish cuisine.

For more information or to sign up for this unique opportunity, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Barcelona has Restaurant Week, Valencia has Cuina Oberta

For the last week almost 30 top restaurants around Barcelona have been celebrating Barcelona Restaurant Week by offering a selected menu for just 25 euros. This weekend is the last weekend to take advantage of this great offer (at least until next year). But if you aren't in the northeastern area, you can also check out the restaurants in Valencia, which through November 27 features 82 restaurants that are offering set menus for lunch (25 euros) or dinner (30 euros) to tempt the palate. This is another initiative of the Valencian community to draw visitors' attention to the mouthwatering diversity of the region's cooking, which extends well beyond the   measures of Paella. 

But Cuina Oberta, like the gastronomic selection of the region, also extends beyond the borders of the kitchen. This weekend you can take a workshop on cooking, tour local wineries or even head down to the Albufera for a Paella cooking (and eating) class.

If you can't make it this weekend, fear not! As the world opens its eyes to the delights and diversity of Spanish cuisine, these events will become more accessible and more common, meaning more eye-opening and mouthwatering ways to spend your vacation in Spain!

For more information or to design your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thanksgiving in Spain

With the Thanksgiving festivities rapidly approaching, I find myself thinking about my youth, about the dinners spread over groaning tables and 20+ people gathered together for a day of friendship and sharing. Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, but that doesn't mean that the Spanish are not open to trying new things. And any holiday which involves food and friends is certain to go down like a great glass of cava.

Every year we host a Thanksgiving Day feast (okay, so it's on Saturday, because everyone here has to work Thursday and Friday), and you would be amazed at the reception it gets. The most fun is the turkey which, as a native of the Americas, is anything but a traditional dish on the old continent. In fact, the word for turkey in Catalan literally translates as "rooster of the Indies".

On behalf of the entire crew at The Spanish Touch, I also want to say how thankful I am to be doing what I do, and that I am able to help people enjoy the best of what Spain has to offer is a wonderful way to celebrate Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ice Skating in Barcelona? 'Tis the season!

This year in the city of Barcelona there is a plan to set up the Mediterranean version of Rockefeller center's ice rink in the center of the Plaza Catalunya. While many of the details are still unconfirmed, it appears as if the skating rink will be set up in the center of the square, which is right at the top of Las Ramblas, and is one of the main plazas in the city. The idea is to offer people the opportunity to step onto the ice from December 2 through January 9, including all the major holidays of the season. As of yet Barcelona city hall has yet to confirm the plan, but if it proceeds it will add another aspect to an already vibrant holiday scene in the capital of Catalunya.

For more information or to plan your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dance of the Giants - Barcelona's medieval culture on the streets

This Saturday evening, starting at 6:30 in front of the Santa Maria del Mar church in the historic Born district of Barcelona, is the 8th annual Dance of the Giants (Ballada del Gegants). The giants, whose history dates back to medieval times, will meet in front of the 14th century church and begin their dance. Then, at 7:15 they will parade through the streets of the Born district, just as they might have done 500 years ago. The parade ends where it begins, with a dance inside the church itself at 8:15. A great way to cap off a Saturday in Barcelona, and then why not go for some tapas in the area, which hosts one of the city's most vibrant tapas scenes!

For more information or for help planning a private trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

The Medieval Fair in Vic - Catalan history comes alive!

During the middle ages, Vic was one of the most important and powerful cities in Catalonia, and the fair, which recreates the city as it was in the 15th century, brings people from all over. The town of Vic itself lends to the authenticity of the show, as it is replete with buildings still standing from those times, including the cathedral, the Episcopal Museum, the walls and the Mercadal.

From December 5 through 8, the 16th annual Mercat Medieval de Vic will allow you to see demonstrations of how craftsmen of the time operated, eat the traditional foods and all the other activities you expect to find at a fair like this, but there are also medieval dance classes and the traditional Catalan Correfocs. It´s a great way to enhance your visit to Spain and your appreciation for the history of the region.

For more information about visiting local fairs or for help arranging your private guided tour to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chestnuts roasting for Castanyada, or Halloween in Barcelona

For visitors to Barcelona at the end of October, one of the first things that stands out is the smell of roasting chestnuts on the street. Walk a block in the old city and you're bound to see one of these stalls, with a large metal bowl being heated by a small fire and filled with the unmistakeable aroma that I had previously associated with blustery winter days in New York.

But the Castanyada is a Halloween tradition in Catalonia. Furthermore, it dates back more than 200 years, although, like it's more commercial counterpart, it finds its roots in the festival of All Saints Day the following day. And like Halloween, the festival is particularly popular among children, who eat these tasty treats (as well as local cookies and sweets called panellets) with gusto. The image of the Castanyada is traditionally a woman (La Castanyera, who collects the chestnuts) wrapped in an old coat sitting in front of  a bowl of roasting chestnuts.  

Popular legend attributes the idea of eating roasted chestnuts to the enormous amount of energy contained within, enough to keep vigilant family and friends awake through the night to keep the evil spirits away from the cemeteries. But whatever the original reason, the tradition has taken hold and now provides locals and visitors alike with an alluring smell as they wander the streets of Barcelona.

For more information or to plan your private guided trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Here comes the rain, bring back the mushrooms!

It has been an unusually dry start to the autumn months here in Spain, and while beachgoers and sunlovers everywhere were enjoying the lasting sun and drinking in the lingering summer feeling, the unseasonable weather has not come without consequences. We are now in full-blown mushroom season, and yet the mushroom fairs and market stalls are strangely less-than-full. The reason? with no rain, the mushrooms haven't been growing right. They've even had reports of struggling to fill the stands this year at local mushroom festivals. But this week started off right. While i am not usually one to smile at the vision of gray clouds unleashing months of pent up rain on my head on a Monday morning, this marks one of the few times that it did. Because with the rain comes the mushrooms, and it's about time! There's still time to enjoy the mushroom season, with it's large variety of species growing wild and ready to be picked. A trip to the mountains is in store in the not too distant future!

For more information on mushroom season in Spain, or to create your personal itinerary for a private tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mercat de Mercats this weekend in Barcelona - up close and personal at the Market!

Anyone looking for a closer look into the wonderful world of Catalan cuisine this weekend has to go no further than the Cathedral in Barcelona. From Friday October 21 at midday through Sunday evening, the second annual "Mercat de Mercats" fair will be held, with dozens of market stalls offering the best of local products and more than 60 different activities, including demonstrations and presentations from top chefs like Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca) Xavier Pellicer (Can Fabes) and Mey Hofmann (Hofmann).

This year the market will also focus on the quality and diversity of the local wines and cavas, with the heading of Celler de Sumillers, offering tastings of wine, olive oils, coffees, cheese, etc. Ferran Centelles, somillier for El Bulli restaurant, will be offering a talk all about the wines of Catalonia!

It promises to be a great way to get to better konw the local products and its convenient location in front of the Cathedral makes it an ideal way to spend a few hours this weekend in Barcelona.

For more information or to plan a private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 1-888-480-0013.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Valencia Paella - an appellation unto itself

In Spain, the Denominacion de Origen (DO) is the seal of quality usually reserved for wines. It refers to specific wines from specific regions, produced in a specific way which guarantees a high quality product. Outside of wines, the DO label is reserved for only the top of certain foods, including cheeses, olives and olive oils, and now, finally, Paella. The Paella Valenciana Tradicional, often considered the most "authentic" of the paellas, has been awarded this prestigious award in deserved recognition of the consistent quality and characteristics of one of Spain's most popular dishes.

The DO label means that any paella that wants to be considered a real Valencia Paella will need to stick to a very controlled set of ingredients and be cooked in a particular way. This guarantee is sure to be a great help to people who are looking for a real paella, and want to avoid the typical tourist trap places that sell frozen paellas to unwary visitors.

The designation coincides with the region's Gastronomic Week at First Class hotels, which hig-hlights the local cuisine as a true Spanish treasure.

For more information or to plan a private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 1-888-480-0013.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Private Spain Day Tours

At The Spanish Touch We offer private Full Day and Half-Day Tours around Spain, for those people who are looking to maximize their time and take a different tour. Join us for a chance to explore the Spanish culture up  close and personal in the following locations:

Barcelona: Montserrat and Barcelona Tour, Tapas Tour, Barcelona city Tour, Penedès Wine and Cava Region Tour, etc.
Girona and Costa Brava: Dali Tour, Costa Brava Tour, Girona city Tour and the Jewish Quarter, Besalú Tour, Wine Tours, etc.
Tarragona: Tarragona city and Priorat Wine Region Tour.

Madrid: Madrid city Tour, El Escorial Tour, Toledo Tour, etc.

Andalusia: Seville Tour, Malaga Tour, Granada and The Alhambra Tour, Cordoba Tour, etc.
Basque Country: Bilbao and the Guggenheim Tour, Vitoria Tour, San Sebastian Tour, etc.
Rioja: Discover one of the best wine regions in Spain.

Just choose your own dates and let us help you plan your private guided tour in Spain!
For more information please visit our website or call us at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Toro region highlights more than just great wine

These days the Toro region is gaining recognition for its red wines, made with that ubiquitous Spanish grape, Tempranillo, here known as Tinta de Toro. And for the wines alone the region, tucked into the Northwest corner of Castilla-Leon, is worth a visit. But there is more to the region than just the vineyards.

The Spanish Touch is offering an insight to this fascinating region, staying at Parador hotels and soaking up the region's history, culture and, naturally, gastronomy. A must is visiting the wineries which are producing the spectacular wines (mostly on the south side of the Duero River). But in the land of castles and kings you are never far away from historical heritage sites like the town of Toro itself and Puebla de Sanabria. Lastly, enjoy the  best of nature by taking a hike through the Valle de Silencio and enjoying a picnic lunch with the best of the region's foods and wines!

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lugo - a study in Galician Contrast

Lugo is characterized by its contrasting scenery. The coast offers beaches and panoramic views to seduce even the most hardened visitor. The mountain zone to the East offers the essence of Galicia’s interior, a nature almost completely untouched brimming with life.

The A Mariña area is famous for its sandy beaches, and we can also find ancient dolmens and forts, remains of the Celtic communities, as well as a number of medieval monuments and monuments that tell the story of the region.

In the most mountainous region, O Caurel are perhaps the most complete of the Galician Sierras,  where you will find the "Devesa da Rogueira", possibly the most representative example of the Galician flora, with a number of fantastic hiking and biking trails.

In the city of Lugo itself, do not miss the chance to visit the Roman Walls, which run for 2km and feature 10 doors – 5 old and 5 new – especially the Porta Miñá, which has undergone the least modification since its inception. The Cathedral is also worth a visit. 

For more information or to plan a private guided tour to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hiking tours in Barcelona - Montseny

A spectacular autumn in Barcelona has provided for perfect hiking in nearby Montseny. Just an hour from the bustling downtown are routes for all levels of hikers. From casual, gentle routes for those who want a day to enjoy the breathtaking scenery to challenging climbs for those wishing to measure themselves against the imposing Turo de L'Home, the mountain is a treasure chest waiting to be opened.

For more information or to plan your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

High cuisine in Valencia

From October 17 through the 23rd, the city of Valencia will become a focal point for alta cocina, as 10 5-star hotels from aroudn the region offer their finest dishes for the very reasonable price of just 30 euros a plate (for lunch, the price goes up to 40 euros for dinner). The goal of this Semana Gastronomica de First Class Hotels is to inform people of the wealth and tradition of the Valencian kitchen, sometimes overlooked by Madrid and Catalonia, or else pigeonholed for its Paella and horchata (both or which, naturally, fully deserve any and all praise that they recieve).

This is a great opportunity for people to discover more about the tradition and extensive possibilities of Valencia as a foodie haven.

The participating hotels are:
SH Valencia Palace, SH Villa Gadea, Westin Valencia, Denia Marriot Hotel, Hospes Palau de la Mar, Las Arenas Balneario Resort, Villa Venecia Hotel Boutique, Gran Hotel Villaitana Golf & Business Resort, SHA Wellness Clinic , La Calderona SPA & Sport Hotel

For more information or for help planning a private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Saint George and the dragon

Saint George (San Jordi) is ubiquitous in the Barcelona region. Take a look around the city, the towns and villages and you will see representations everywhere. From the Regional Government building to hidden corners in parks like this one, from classic images to Subirach's statues, Saint George stands guard over the region in constant vigilence.

For more information or to plan you private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.
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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Small town treasures

When you get the chance to wander through small towns in Spain, you usually find hidden treasures, like this moderniste building juxtapositioned with a neoclassical 18th century church.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Pickett's Barcelona Experience - A farewell dinner with Gracia

The final evening before you catch the return flight is always an adventure. And when we picked up the Picketts at 8:00 for our farewell dinner, we wanted to make sure that their last meal in Barcelona was as special as the rest of their trip. So we headed into Gracia to a lovely little restaurant featuring Catalan fusion cuisine. As it is not a place that is frequented by too many tourists, the menu was only available in Spanish and Catalan. But after a week Jackie was able to figure out some of the menu, and Elna helped with the rest. We finally got to raise a toast with cava, and spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening reliving the highlights of the week over a wonderful meal. We enjoyed the meal in traditional style, over 2 and a half hours. It was a pleasure to be able to share a table with them, and I hope that their time in Spain will always be one of happy memories, as we have of them!!

For more information on how to plan your own private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Pickett's Barcelona Experience - The Romance of Girona

As the last full day of the tour approached, it is was easy to look back at the week with the Picketts and say that the time had certainly been well spent! Having seen Barcelona, Tarragona, the Costa Brava and Dali's museum, the last day was reserved for the city that always ranks as one of Spain's premier quality-of-life cities: Girona. Maybe it's the surrounding farmlands, or the proximity of the Pyrenees, or the 4 rivers calming influence, but Girona is one of those cities that just feels like a medieval city. From the moment you cross over the bridge over the Onyar river and into the Lionesses' square, standing at the feet of the Sant Feliu church, with the profile of the Cathedral rising over head, it's like you have stepped back into a simpler, more relaxed and rustic time.

As we arrived at the same time as two large tour groups, we decided to take an alternate route through the city, so as not to have to fight the crowds the whole time. First up was the 12th-century Romanesque Sant Pere de Galligants church. As we crossed over the dammed Galligants river and back into the original walled section of the city, we saw the passeig, the old defensive walls and from there you can understand why the French once had such a difficult time taking the city.

A short winding walk up the cobbled streets led us to the Arab Baths, a misnomer as the Moors whose construction was copied by the people of Girona in the 12th century had long since been expelled. From there we headed into the church of Sant Feliu, and soaked up the legend and history of the church and it's patron saint. 


A quick stop for coffee and we were back, climbing up to the Cathedral itself, the widest single nave church in Europe boasting some spectacular chapels and the treasury. The path back down through the town started at the top of the walls, with a spectacular panorama and then through the gardens and narrow stone streets where you could find the balconies with hanging plants, a cafe with 3 tables taking up the available space at a conjunction of streets, everything you would imagine of an old European city in its romance and vibrancy. 

For more information or for assistance planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-013.

Romesco Sauce - Traditional Catalan Sauce recipe

Salsa Romesco is a sauce that is traditionally associated with calçots and eaten during the wintertime. That said, this sauce can also be used for vegetables, meats and a wide variety of other plates and dishes.

Nyora Pepper
The key ingredient in the salsa is the nora (nyora in Catalan) pepper, a type of dried red pepper originally from the Valencia area. This pepper is sold dried and is typical in Catalonia and Valencia. It can be found in specialty stores but if you have trouble finding it it can be substituted with a sweet, mild dried red pepper.

This is our recipe for making the Romesco:

Ingredients (4 people):
40 gr of toasted almonds / 40 gr toasted hazelnuts / 1 clove of garlic / 5 ripe tomatoes / 1 onions / 3 nora peppers / 1 slice of baguette / olive oil / vinager / salt

Romesco Sauce
  • Heat the oven and put the onion and garlic colve on a oven-safe plate with a pinch of salt and a shot of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil for 1 hour at 350ºF.
  • Do the same with the tomatoes, but leave them uncovered.
  • Soak the nora peppers for 10 minutes in warm water. Cut them open and scrape our the pulp.
  • Fry the slice of bread with the hazelnuts and almonds.
  • Put the onion, the clove of garlic, the nora pepper pulp, tomatoes, nuts and bread in a blender and mix it all together. 
  • Add olive oil, a little bit at a time, to acheive desired consistency.
  • Add salt and vinager to taste.

Toll free (US): 1-888-480-0013
Spanish office phone: (+34) 616-103-536

Friday, September 30, 2011

CavaTast 2011 - a weekend to discover the wonders of Spain's premier sparkling wine

From October 7 - 9 the town of San Sadurni, the epicentre of cava, will open its doors to wine lovers from around the world for CavaTast 2011. For three days the wineries of the region will host a giant open house throughout the whole town, with courses on tastings, food pairings, live music, cooking classes, and much more. Some examples that we are especially looking forward to seeing are the food pairings with chocolate, the cava process with samples of hwo the wine evolves, and and the cooking demonstration featuring traditional Catalan dishes where cava is one of the principal elements. 

For information or to join us on a private wine and cava tour, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013. Cheers and see you there!

Of Trains, Churches and Parks - The Lamonte Group's Barcelona Day Trip

A full day's visit with the 6 members of the group began with a pickup at the hotel at 8:45. Being in a hotel on Las Ramblas has many advantages, but one disadvantge is that it makes getting out of the city a bit more complicated, especially at rush hour. Nonetheless we braved the traffic and made our way over to Montserrat. When we arrived at the Cremellera the group members were thrilled to discover that we were taking the traditional train line up the mountain, allowing us all the chance to enjoy the scenery and take (lots of) pictures as we climbed up to 900 meters and the monastery. With the end of summer's unsual heat still a worrying factor, we immediately began our trek down (via the funicular train, another bonus for our train lovers!) to the Sagrada Cova, winding our way along the Path of the Rosary and stopping for explanations and photo ops. I have always loved the way the train operators tell you that it's a twenty minute hike, when the reality is much closer to 45 minutes each way. But we made it and back just in time to sneak into the basilica to catch L'escolania boys choir sing the Virolai, the traditional Catalan hymn to the Blessed Virgen of the Mountain.

After a quick lunch at the Monastery cafeteria, we headed back down the mountain on the train and back to Barcelona for an afternoon of Modernisme. First stop along the way: The Sagrada Familia. The question always arises when visitors come: inside or outside? Today the group was split 50/50 on the answer. We finished up at the temple at 5:30 and made our way to our final destination for the day, Park Guell. Gaudi's urban adventure hardly needs explanation, with its sinuous paths and impressive mosaics.

For more information on planning a private guided visit to Barcelona or Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

For anyone who has been to Girona, watch this!

@JustTravelous: Watch this video and you will fall in love with the Catalans #InPyrenees #goosebumps

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Pickett's Barcelona Experience - Dali and the Costa Brava

After a day off to explore the treasures of Barcelona on their own, Jackie and Walt and I once more met at the hotel early in the morning for our longest drive of the week: Figueres and the Costa Brava. For anyone who is interested in art, has ever heard of Salvador Dali, or simply wants to experience an art museum like never before, Dali's self-designed Theater Museum in Figueres is a must. From the raining taxi in the entrance to the beating heart in the jewelry section, the museum never ceases to surprise and amaze those who pass through it. Dali's sketch interpretations of The Divine Comedy and Don Quixote were highlights this time through.

Next we headed off to the coast, and the famously picturesque village of Cadaques. After a spectacular rice lunch we enjoyed the perfect late summer weather and the relative emptiness of the town as we strolled through the streets, up the staired and twisting passages which often hide lovely views of the inlet and/or the whitewashed town itself.  

For more information on planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Pickett's Barcelona Experience - Barcelona's Modernistas

Today's tour with Walt and Jackie took us to, for many, the highlight of any trip to Barcelona: The Sagrada Familia. Barcelona's history is one of continual change and advancement with a great respect for its heritage and roots. And perhaps the highest expression of this is the Modernista movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  And for many the highest expression of the movement is Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece. The Pickett's visit first thing in the morning meant that the Sagrada Familia was easy to navigate, and its sheer size allows for people to get lost in the details, both inside and outside.   With time to enjoy the temple we took in the details of the intricate facades and towers, as well as the columns and windows on the interior of the still unfinished building.

After an enjoyable experience of discovery and fascination we continued back to the old city, to visit La Boqueria and Las Ramblas for a short walk to finish the day. The colors, smells and sounds of the city's most famous street proved a wonderful compliment to the Sagrada Familia. The day finished with leaving the Pickett's at the cable car of Montjuic mountain, and leaving them to enjoy the remainder of the day on the mountain.

For more information on designing your own private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pickett's Barcelona experience - Daring Montserrat

Originally the visit to Montserrat mountain was scheduled for Monday, as Sunday promised to be a packed day as it also marked the day of the annual march from Barcelona to Montserrat, where 3000 hikers arrived at the monastery early in the morning having walked the 60km from Barcelona all during the previous evening and night. However, the weather forecast called for rain on Monday, so we were able to make the change for Montserrat and hope that the overcast conditions would not result in a wet visit. And it did not. In fact, the sun even poked out to provide some of the privileged views that Montserrat mountain offers (even Tibidabo in the distance.)

Given the extremely high level of traffic between the hikers and their families and the usual Sunday traffic, we decided to visit the monastery before heading down to the Sagrada Cova. It proved an excellent decision as we visited the gardens of liberty and learned about the more than 1200 years of history as the cultural and spiritual center of Catalonia. After listening to L'escolania boys choir and stopping for a quick sandwich, it was off on the mile long round trip walk down to the holy cave, passing along the statues representing the mysteries of the Rosary.

After returning to Barcelona we said goodbye at the hotel and until tomorrow for a visit to the Barcelona Moderniste!

For more information about our private guided tours in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

In front of the house where Joan Miro was born in Barcelona

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Pickett's Barcelona Experience - Barcelona City

The Pickett's adventure in Spain arrived an hour after arrival when we met in the lobby of Terminal 1 in Barcelona. Walt and Jackie had a bit of a surprise when their airplane stopped in the middle of the tarmac and unloaded from both ends, which is unfortunate if you happen to be sitting in the middle of the plane. But once on the ground it was time to get started! Our first stop was their hotel in the fashionable new district of the Forum to drop off the luggage. Then back to the city and a half day walking visit to the city.

First stop in our visit was the Cathedral. As it was still early in the day we had the cathedral more open than it would have been later in the day, and they were able to take in the details of the church, from the fascinating woodwork of the choir loft to the Tombs of Ramon Berenguer and his wife to the 15th century Baptismal font. Upon leaving the Cathedral we headed down away from the gathering crowds of tourists that were forming along Carrer del Bisbe and took in the Plaza Sant Felip Neri, the Jewish Call and a walk along the Carrer Ferran. A quick stop for a late breakfast and we were back on the street, exploring the old streets of Europe's best kept Gothic Quarter, discovering what happens when 2000 years of history accumulates in a condensed space. After a couple of hours walking through the streets we called it a day, stopping for a quick tapas before dropping them off at the hotel to relax and get ready for their week of exploring.

For more information on planning your own private guided tours in Barcelona and Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day Trips from Madrid

If you've visited our website recently you've seen that we're undergoing some major modifications. We hope to have it completed soon, and in the meantime here you have some ideas for things The Spanish Touch can arrange for you to do around Madrid on your next visit to Spain!

A visit to Segovia to see the Roman Aqueduct
A visit to Toledo, walled city of legends
A visit to El Escorial, monastery and resting place of the kings
A visit to Aranjuez to see the Royal Castle
A visit to Avila to see the walls of Avila
A visit to the House where Cervantes was Born
A visit to the local wineries of the Wines of Madrid

There's a huge list of possibilities for people who have already "done" the city, and if you're looking for a great way to get in touch with Spanish culture, an escape from the city might be exactly what you are looking for!!

For more information of for help planning your next private tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Advanced Notice: Truffle Tour 2012

School´s back in session, summer is winding down and people are alraedy beginning to look towards their next chance to get away. For many, that chance will have to wait until the winter. Luckily, The Spanish Touch has the answer to your wintertime blues - Truffle Tours are coming back! From December 15 through March the truffle season in northern Spain is in full swing, and The Spanish Touch wants to help you be a part of it.

This year we are expanding our offer to make it easier for you to get the chance to participate. Tours into truffle country, truffle hunting with a local farmer, visits to the truffle market and lessons in cooking with truffles are just some of the things we are offering this year. Tours will be run during the season from 3 days (leaving Barcelona on Friday morning and returning Sunday evening) for those who have a limited amount of free time to a full week experience for those people who want the full Spanish truffle experience!

Stay tuned for more information regarding 2012 truffle tours or contact The Spanish Touch directly at 888-480-0013 to plan your private guided visit to Spain.  

Al-Andalus: Luxury Train Experience in Southern Spain

Spain's famous trains are coming back in a big way! We have already spoken about several of them, such as the Tren de la Fresa day trips from Madrid or the super luxury Transcantabrico running along the north coast. Starting in 2012 another legendary train from the past will be returning to provide guests with a privileged vantage point from which to discover one of Spain's most storied regions: Andalusia.

The Al-Andalus Train was built in the late twenties and this "Palace on rails"  has been expertly restored to its most luxurious prime. The train offers a six-day five-night tour of southern Spain for those looking for the best of everything! Routes will begin in May 2012.

For more information about planning a private guided trip in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cadiz - One of Europe's oldest cities

It's not the first name that rolls of the tongue when you think of Spain. It's not even the first when you limit your search to Andalusia. But well before the Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Catholic monarchs entered into the picture, Cadiz was there. It was an important port for the Phoenicians more than 3000 years ago.

Despite being a small city, Cadiz guards a plethora of possibilities for those looking to discover more about Spain, it's history and its people. As one of the prime bases for the New World's shipping routes, the city's heritage is unique. It's sun-drenched streets, plazas and panoramas offer visitors a chance to get in touch with the Spanish culture and roots.

For more information or for help in planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Some photos from the Festa de la Fil.loxera

Last night in Sant Sadurni D'anoia was the big celebration in the week long Town Fair: The Festa de la Fil.loxera, which we mentioned last month here. Below are some pictures of the celebration, which was in full swing. After a lovely dinner of tapas (with homemade gazpacho and the ubiquitous pa amb tomaquet), we were off into the midst of a sea of yellow - the color of choice for the participants and onlookers alike. Our group was smack in the middle of the action, walking down the streets next to the giant bug parade, and front row center in the plaza. Here a few pictures to give you an idea of the celebration, which culminated in the Church Square packed with people and including a band playing traditional music, the drummers and, naturally, the phylloxera themselves! 

For more information or for help planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013. 

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The "Other" side of the Costa del Sol - Axarquia

One of the many advantages of having lived close to Malaga was the chance to visit some of the smaller towns and villages that are off the beaten path. When anyone mentions Costa Del Sol, most people immediately think of the western side, with Marbella, Torremolinos, etc. However, I think of the east, the Axarquia, the region I lived for several years. Towns like Colomar, Frigiliana, Alcuacin and Torrox. It represents the area between the capital city of Malaga and Granada.

The name of the region comes from the Arab for "The East", and it represents a much less "touristy" and developed side of Spain, but no less intriguing. From the white village of Frigiliana to the Caves of Nerja and Treasure Caves in Rincon de la Victoria, Phoenicean settlements and Moorish castles dot the landscape filled with olive groves and rolling hills.

For more information about this fascinating region, or to plan a visit on your net trip to Spain, contact us at The Spanish Touch.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy Labor Day from The Spanish Touch

Here at The Spanish Touch we want to take this opportunity to wish you all a safe and happy Labor Day! The traditional end-of-summer holiday brings us closer to autumn, and a whole new set of possibilities for visiting Spain. This year we are offering a number of off-the-beaten path tours that combine the best of the region with local festivals and harvest to offer our guests the best of Spain!

For more information check our website at The Spanish Touch or give us a call at 888-480-0013.

A day at the beach

In the summertime sometimes the best thing is a great day at the beach. Sitting on the edge of the water taking in the sun, playing volleyball or with friends, sitting at the chiringuito enjoying a cold beverage, swimming or taking a boat ride. All along the Mediterranean coast, Spain's got beaches for everyone, from wide sandy stretches to hidden coves. But the best part is that for those people who will be visiting from September to November, more often than not the beach is still a great option for anyone looking to join the Spanish beach rhythm.

For more information or to plan your private tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

New Blog Section: My favorite recipes

I'm not a chef, but I am very pleased to introduce a new section of our blog for you: my favorite recipes! What do you think? Some of the recipes that we'll be sharing are family recipes that have been passed down through generations, others form a part of the food culture of Spain, and specifically the Catalan culture. I hope you get the chance to try some of the recipes at home and be sure to let us know what you think!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

"Festa de la Verema" in Alella, the annual wine festival

The Harvest Festival of Alella (La Festa de la Verema d'Alella) is a wonderful example of how local festivals are tied to a wine tradition that is deeply rooted. Alella is one of the smallest DOs in Spain, but that doesn't mean that the harvest celebration will be any less exciting. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The festival is one of the most anticipated by the people who live in Alella and the surrounding towns.  Even better, because it is so close to Barcelona a lot of pepole will take the thirty minute drive out to enjoy the wine, good food, the fiesta atmosphere and the great weather that can be expected this time of the year.

This is the 37th Harvest Festival and it will take place from September 9-11. Three intense days! And during  the month of November there is the follow up celebration of gastronomy based on the wines of Alella, but more on that later.

Here's a brief summary of some of the activities that you can do during the Harvest Festival:

Friday September 9 :
18:00 - 23:00: Craft fair
19:00: Official opening of the festival
20:00 - 23:00: Gastronomy fair. Tastings of the wines and cavas of the region and local food specialities
23:00: Correfoc with the diables del Vi d'Alella
24:00 till ... : Open ball with orchestra

Saturday September 10:
09:00 - 23:00: Craft fair
09:15: Visit to Parxet winery
09:30: Visit to Joaquim Batlle winery
10:30: Visit to Bouquet d'Alella winery
12:30 - 14:00: Tapas and Wine.
18:00: Presentation of the Wines of Alella
20:00 - 23:00: Gastronomy fair. Tastings of the wines and cavas of the region and local food specialities
23:30 till ... : Open ball with orchestra

Diumenge 11 de setembre:
09:00 - 23:00: Craft fair
09:00: II Harvest Run
09:00: Botifarrada popular
09:00: Walking Tour "Ruta Paisatgística per les vinyes de la Vall de Rials"
09:00: Visit to Altrabanda and Can Roda wineries
09:15: Visit to Alta Alella or Parxet winery
10:00: Visit to Alella Vinícola winery
10:00: Parade of gegants
10:15: Visit to Roura winery
12:00: Cercavila (town parade) of gegants, capgrossos, grallers and timbalers d'Alella
12:30 - 14:00: Tapas and wine.
17:30: Sardanes (traditional dance)
20:00 - 23:00: Gastronomy fair. Tastings of the wines and cavas of the region and local food specialities
22:00 till ... : Havaneres (Traditional fishermen's songs)

If one of the visits to the wineries catches your eye, act quickly as there is limited availability. Contact The Spanish Touch to make a reservation or ask for more information.  If you are not in the area during the festival, The Spanish Touch can arrange visits to the wineries and walking routes throughout the year so that you can see a more intimate side of Spanish wines.