Friday, May 27, 2011

Txocos - Basque cooking clubs

In the world of gastronomy, very few regions worldwide can compete with the richness and diversity of the Basque country cooking. And part of that secret, according to some of the top chefs like 3-michelin starred Juan Mari Arzak, is the secretive world of the "Txocos", a traditional club where men (and more recently women) meet to cook and share the spoils of their labors. The word "Txoco" comes from the Basque word for a corner or small space.

It's an interesting phenomenon for several reasons: first of all, until recently it was almost entirely a men's club, but not your typical men's club for playing cards, soccer, smoking cigars, etc, oh no: it is a cooking club. And secondly, the members actually do the cooking. They don't meet to watch someone else cook; they cook. And then they eat. And the result can be seen in the sheer number of restaurants and eating establishments in the area, which numbers more than 15,000!

If you get the chance to visit the Basque country, you probably won't get the chance to sit in on one of these clubs, but you will get the chance to sample the wonderful fruits of the labor of generations of cooks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Digging deeper into Spain´s History

Castles, Churches and Mosques are found throughout Spain. Sitting on top of Roman ruins, perched on mountains majestically surveying the region below, or caught right in the middle of the hustle-and-bustle of daily life in a Spanish city, these monuments have been celebrated, ignored and even forgotten through the ages. However, as Spain digs deeper into itself in an attempt to finally shake free from the "Sun and Beach" image it cultivated in the late 60s and 70s, more and more resources are being allocated to the restoration and recovery of these treasures. The monuments in Spain tell a story of a country that has seen the progress of the Western world over the last 2000 years. Spain's history is littered with stories of these monuments, from the grandest (The Alhambra in Granada) to the local (The 11th-century Romanesque church in Taull). However, in recent years some of the most fascinating have been brought to the forefront. The history of Spain, like any country, is more than a history of the biggest cities - discovering medieval towns like Besalu or Montblanc add to the richness and the experience of this country's incredible cultural heritage. Spain's comparatively recent push to re-discover and present its storied history has already yielded results in many of the cities and towns around the country, and as the work progresses, here's hoping the best is yet to come.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Palau Guell Reopens today in Barcelona

One of Antoni Gaudi's earliest works (he was 34 years old when he designed it), the Palau Guell reopens today to the public at an exhaustive 7 year rehabilitation project.  The building is a true gem of Moderniste architecture and it's location just of Las Ramblas makes it a convenient place for people to visit without having to wander far from the bustling city center. Guided visits will be available starting from May 26.

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gardens of Granada special package

Gardens of Granada is a 3 day experience which will be taking place in July (5th – 7th) and September (6th-8th) in one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain: Granada! This package, put together by Lucy at Go Granada!, offers a unique way to discover the city. Visit 7 very different gardens and discover the curious and delightful stories behind the secret carmens (enclosed gardens), learn about the fascinating history of the Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens, hear interesting fables about life in bygone times and explore the historic center.  Optional extras include a tapas tour, a flamenco show, Arab baths with massage, a walking tour and an accompanied shopping trip.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Off the beaten path in The Val D'Aran

The Val Da'Aran, as we've mentioned before, is one of the most picturesque regions in Spain. Tucked into the valleys at the foot of the Pyrenees, it is an ideal location for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and the crowds along the beaches. It's a perfect place to explore some of Spain most majestic landscapes. Today we are offering a different way of viewing the region: on foot! Traverse the rivers and streams, country hamlets and mountain passes along a 60 mile path that runs through the highlights of the region.

The path can be divided into many segments, allowing for you to decide if you want gentle countrysides or more challenging mountain terrain. We can recommend the routes along the valley of Era Artiga de Lonor the Colomers lake cirque, which runs along a hollowed glacier area along the edge of the Aiguestortes National Park.

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

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Museum Night in Barcelona - Art and Culture for Free!

May 18 is the International Day of the Museum, and the folks in Barcelona are getting a head start on the festivities. On Saturday May 15, 2011, Barcelona is celebrating by opening up many of its best museums to the public free of charge! Museums such as the Picasso, Chocolate, and History of Catalunya Museums, as well as the Joan Miro Foundation, CosmoCaixa, and many more will be open from 7 in the evening till 1:00AM. As if this weren't enough of an excuse, the museums will  be hosting cultural events such as concerts and performances. And finally, there will be art on the street, including The Walking Gallery! It promises to be a great weekend for museum lovers in Barcelona!

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Boqueria Market, Barcelona

Throughout our years of guiding people through the beautiful cities of Spain one of the principle attractions, for both Spanish people and visitors, has been the markets, both open-air and enclosed. Perhaps, unconsciously, behind this seemingly simple concept of buying/selling local products there is something more? An unending number of stories await us at the doors of these places, waiting for you to discover them for yourself.

When a person visits the Boqueria Market for the first time, the overwhelming sensation is almost always the same: fascination. This is, after all, one of the most storied and emblematic markets in all of Spain.

Just like any old market, the Boqueria began as an open air market in the middle of the street. The current version was born along what is now the most-famous street in Barcelona, La Rambla. Around 1830 the traders moved to its current location. The migration was gradual, making it difficult to name the exact year of its inception. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that the market was around a hundred years before La Rambla.

The market’s entrance tells us a lot about the history of the market. Hanging over the entrance is the full name of the market: “St Josep. La Boqueria.” The first part tells us that the current location of the market was, centuries ago, a convent. Specifically the convent of St. Josep. The second part, “La Boqueria” means butcher’s or meat-cutting table.

There are many stories surrounding the market, and the anectdotes and legends have, with the passing of time, become as much a part of the market as the colorful stalls and lively atmosphere.

Discover the Boqueria with The Spanish Touch for a glimpse into this fascinating world.

We can also recommend “The Boqueria Market. The Most Typical Market of Catalonia”, by Isabel Obiols y Pere Ferrer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Water activities along the Barcelona Coast

Barcelona offers so much to do on land that sometimes you can almost forget that it is also one of the best places to visit to take advantage of the Mediterranean waters. Whether you are looking for short rides from the port on the historical Las Golondrinas or a romantic private boat ride up the coast and a sunset dinner looking at the city skyline from the peaceful waters of the sea, a day of scuba diving among the old pirate hideouts at the Medes Islands or just relaxing along one of the hidden coves of the Costa Brava, make sure you get a day or two to frolic and bond with the waters that have always been such a crucial part of Barcelona's history and culture.

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

Fenavin - Spanish Wine Fair - May 10-12, 2011

Spanish wine lovers take note! In the city of Ciudad Real the Fenavin Wine Fair is taking place, highlighting the best in the ever-expanding and constantly improving world of Spanish wines. This year includes the category of Best in Enotourism, which is a nod to the increased importance that has been placed on this growing market. With the AVE train making Ciudad Real so accessible from Madrid, this is a great opportunity for those interested in learning more about Spanish wines!

The Spanish Touch offers private wine tours throughout Spain. For more information contact us at 888-480-0013 or info @ thespanishtouch . com.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Transcantábrico: the Spanish "Orient Express"

Yesterday we introduced you to the Val d'Aran (in the Pyrenees mountains) as an idea for your summer vacation. Today we want to show you the enchants of a route by the luxorious train named as "Transcantábrico". The train is a 2011 innovation and goes along the path between Santiago de Compostela and León, in both directions. It runs from May to December. It is an interesting way to discover during 8 days Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country.

Mapa de la Ruta del Transcantabrico

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Tarraco Viva - The Roman Capital of Hispania comes alive

Starting today, May 5,  and running through May 15th the city of Tarragona, just an hour south of Barcelona, is hosting its annual Tarraco Viva festival. The festival recreates the moments when the city was the  Iberian penninsula's most important, and features live performances, seminars, Roman shops, and Roman era foods. 

2000 years ago, when Barcelona was just a military outpost along the Via Augusta, the city of Tarraco (now Tarragona) was in full splendor. And when you are there don't miss the surviving remnants to the Roman city, including the Amphitheater, Roman Forum, the Tower of Scipio, Arch of Bera and the city's National Archeological Museum

Contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013 for more information about the Tarraco Viva festival or to arrange a private guided tour of Spain. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Val d'Aran, in the heart of the Pyrenees

It is time to think about your summer vacation! In the next few days we want to give you some ideas to enjoy them and, at the same time, to discover some great places in Spain during the hottest months of the year.

Today I want to introduce you to the "Val d'Aran", a beautiful region of the Catalan Pyrenees. One of the best regions to discover during June, July and August is the north of Spain because the weather is still warm during the daytime and cooler during the nighttime. It is a perfect place to ski during winter and to hike during the rest of the year. You can find well indicated routes all throughout the region that you can hike, drive, bike or ride a horse while enjoying the medieval heritage of churches and towns as Salardú. If you are more adventurous, you can also practice canyoning, canoeing, archery ... And after all that exercise, you'll need to recharge your batteries, so don't forget to try the most traditional dish of Val d'Aran known as the "olha aranesa" (Aranese soup).

Other less known attractions are:
  • the Victoria Mine (the most important zinc and lead mine of the valley) has been recently restored and now you can visit it,
  • the Tarrau cheese factory where you can learn how the Aranese cheese is made, sample and buy it,
  • the luxorious experience of the caviar factory of Les.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Northern Spain Parador Route - July Date added

Northern Spain Parador Route - Explore the beauty the Pyrenees and some of Spain's most spectacular cities, July 16 - 23, 2011*
July 16: Arrival in Barcelona. Afternoon walking tour of old city (Ramblas, Plaza del Rei, et al) Night in Barcelona
July 17: Breakfast at hotel. Morning visit to Montserrat (monastery and cave + l’escolania). Continue to Parador of Cardona (approximately 1.5 hours total driving time). Night in Cardona
July 18: Breakfast at hotel. Drive from Cardona to Barbastro (approx 2½ hours). Winery tour in Somantano and lunch. Continue to Parador of Bielsa in Monte Perdido National Park (approx 1½ hours). Night in Bielsa
July 19: Breakfast at hotel. Monte Perdido excursion (with a local guide for a nature walk and picnic lunch in park). Night in Bielsa.
July 20: Breakfast at hotel. Morning visit to Ainsa, a walled Medieval city. (approx. 35 minutes) Continue to Parador of Olite. (Approx 3¼ hours). Night in Olite.
July 21: Breakfast at hotel. Morning visit to Pamplona. (approx. 30 minutes) Continue to Parador of Hondarribia (San Sebastian) (approx. 1½ hours). Evening Tapas meal in San Sebastian. Night in Hondarribia.
July 22: Breakfast at hotel. Morning at leisure in San Sebastian. Afternoon visit to Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Evening Farewell dinner. Night in Hondarribia.
July 23: Transfer to Bilbao Airport for return flight to Barcelona.
Price: $4,018.00 per person.
An optional 10-day tour is also available, with one extra day in both Barcelona and Bilbao. 
We can also include all dinners in the itinerary.
This tour includes:
Your personal, billingual Spanish Touch guide with 24 hour availability
All accommodation as per itinerary
All transportation as per itinerary
Guided visits as per itinerary
All winery visits and tastings
Meals as per itinerary

Monday, May 02, 2011

Take to the water with the fishermen of the Rias Baixas, Galicia

In recent years there has been a calling to get new forms of tourism. One that has arisen in the Rias Baixas region of Galicia is called the pesquero-marinero, and it is one of the most innovative and interesting options that we offer at The Spanish Touch for those people who are visiting this region of Spain, love nature and the sea and are looking for that truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

We offer a route through different rivers (A Pobra do Caramiñal, O Grove, Pontevedra, Marin, Cangas do Morrazo and Cies Artesanal) where you will discover:

The history and impact (both yesterday and today) of the seafaring and fishing culture in the region;
The spectacular panoramic views of one of the most beautiful regions of Spain;
The life of a modern-day fisherman;
And, of course, an in-depth look at the rich culture and wonderful gastronomy of the region.

Contact The Spanish Touch for more information or for help designing your private guided tour of Spain, call us at 888-480-0013 or send us an email at info @ thespanishtouch . com.