Saturday, July 30, 2011

Barcelona through the Back Streets - Exploring the city

There are any number of ways to discover Barcelona. Today we took a less traditional route through the city, discovering some of the city's most interesting out of the way places as we worked our way through 3 different areas of the city.

First up was Gracia, where we took in the plazas and streets that make this area such a unique place, all the while working under a sky that couldn't decide whether or not to rain. We discussed the old town of Gracia, and how the changes over the last hundred years have shaped the town, and how it has resisted the changes. It's great to see people enjoying the old world charms then turning the corner to see a Moderniste masterpiece (especially when one of the people with you is an architect, thanks Batia!).

We followed up with a walk through the winding streets of the Ribera, visiting the old chapels, learning about the curious street names and finally stopping for a delectable tapas lunch (the cheese plate was spectacular). After lunch we continued through the streets of the Born district, exploring history and modern culture living side by side, before finishing with a walk through the old city.

For more information about the Barcelona through the Back Streets, or to plan your own private guided tour through Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Valencia's Planetarium - The city of Arts and Science at night

Continuing a theme on ways to best enjoy your summer evenings throughout Spain, tonight and every Thursday in July and August in Valencia we bring you a new twist on the night skies. At the Hemisferic, which forms a part of Santiago Calatrava's spectacular City of Arts and Sciences, visitors to Spain's third largest city can stargaze whilst learning about the various mythological aspects of the stars according to Spanish tradition. Starting at 9:00 tonight and 10:00pm in August, enjoy a night of stars to add to your Spanish experience!

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

Alquezar - a hidden gem in wine country

By now most people have heard of the Somontano wine region, with wineries such as Enate, Laus and Vinas del Vero spearheading a revolution of wonderful wines. The region is tucked into a corner of Aragon often overlooked, and due to the relative difficulty in getting there the region tends to attract mostly wine aficionados or mountain lovers (it is located less than an hour's drive from the Pyrenees).

However, the region is filled with historical and cultural treasures, and today I would like to focus on the ancient city of Alquezar. The town itself as we see it, picturesque and tucked away in between the hills and on an outcropping in the Rio Vero park, is a flashback. Walk its winding streets, much the same as they were 1000 years ago. Founded by the Arab rulers in the 9th century, Alquezar still maintains some archeological remains from that period. You can still see the castle where history tells us 2 sisters were martyred in 851 AD for refusing to renounce their faith. You can also see the Albarrana Tower (1064) and the church, rebuilt over the original Romanic church in the beginning of the 16th century.

Enjoy a drink in the square overlooking the valley, in a town that reminds us that Somontano has more than just wine!

Contact The Spanish Touch for more information regarding tours to the Somontano wine region and Alquezar.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Enrique Granados - Spain's Composer/pianist

Today we celebrate the birthday of Enrique (Enric) Granados, one of Spain's most influential and famous composers. Born in Lleida on July 27, 1867, Granados gained fame and reputation as a virtuose piano player in Barcelona. His most famous piece is the short opera called the Goyescas, based on the paintings of Francisco de Goya. Granados is considered the best embodiment of Spanish romantic music and his works had a profound impact on another great musician in Barcelona, Pau Casals.

Contact The Spanish Touch for more information regarding how you can experience your own private guided tour in Spain at 888-480-0013.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Walls of Avila...a nighttime visit!

We've spoken recently of ways to keep cool in the hot summer months in Spain. And today we bring you to the center of Spain. The walls of Avila are one of the most endearing and memorable features of Spain. A visit to Avila is never complete without visiting these 1tth-century stone fortifications. And from now until September 30th you can visit them at night, an even more special and romantic visit which takes you away from the heat of the late summer days. Take the visit betwee 10:00-11:30pm and you will get more than just a great picture. Through dramatic reenactments you will get to know the secrets and legends of the city!

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

Monday, July 25, 2011

Casa Batllo - discover Gaudi with moonlight and jazz

The Casa Batll√≥, one of Antoni Gaudi's most famous works along the Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona, is offering a special treat for those looking for a different way to spend your evening. The building is opening its doors for jazz by candle and moonlight  every Wednesday to Sunday on the terrace of the Planta Noble.

Imagine spending your evening  in one of Barcelona's truly legendary buildings and a glass of cava and an aperetif as you soak up the music and the experience!

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pimientos de Padron - a tapas staple

Pimientos de Padron are a bit misleading. When most Americans see the small peppers they immediately think of various types of hot peppers which bear a striking similarity. However, these peppers are not necessarily hot. In fact, part of what makes eating them such an adventure is that you're never sure if you're going to be the one who gets the hot one! Found in almost every tapas bar in Spain, pimientos de padron arrived in Spain in the 16th century via missionaries coming back from the new world. The best and most traditional pimientos are grown in Galicia.

For information on tapas or for help creating your ideal itinerary for a guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tudela - getting off the main road

Sometimes some of the most interesting places are not on the main path. Tudela is a 9th century town that combines some spectacular elements of the Islamic, Jewish and Christian cultures that shaped the cultural and historical heritage of the region. From the 12th century Cathedral to the delightful cuisine of the Ribera region to the Vias Verdes (green trails) along the bank of the Ebro River, step off the main road and into a Spain that is waiting to be discovered!

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Horseback riding close to Barcelona

One way to beat the summer heat in Barcelona is to take a day off and visit one of the national parks in the area like Montseny or Montnegre i el Corredor. And for those looking for a different way of exploring, why not take a  ride through the the tree-lined paths and along the streams and waterfalls, and discover another side of of the Spanish landscape!
For more information or for help planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Antequera by the Light of the Moon - a different idea for Andalusian summer nights

Summer tourism has always been a problem in Andalusia. With temperatures that frequently reach the "very uncomfortable" level just to be outside, walking around the old city tends to be relegated to other months. But what if the visit was done in the refreshing summer night air, under the stars? This summer, Antequera is offering its "Antequera, Luz de Luna" for those who want to get a different perspective on the region.

With guided visits departing nightly via microbus and walking tours through the old city, and even the option of visiting El Torcal National Park by the evening light, it's an ideal way to get around that summer heat and still maximize your time in Spain.

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Great video link of La Pedrera in Barcelona

Turisme a la teva ciutat: La Pedrera from Barcelona Cultura on Vimeo.

La Pedrera, Antoni Gaudi's civic masterpiece on the Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona, is one of the most recognizable buildings in the whole city. Everything about it, from the wavy facade to the wrought-iron balcony railings to the majestic rooftop, shines as a model of what modernisme in Barcelona represents.

For more information or to include a visit to La Pedrera on your private guided visit to Barcelona, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A glass of wine to say goodbye

The final day of Paula and Lawrence's visit found us once more heading out of the city, this time south to the Penedes region for a half-day of wine discovery before heading over to the ship. On the way down we talked about Spanish wine, why it has a reputation for being the cheap little brother of it's bigger neighbor across the Pyrenees, and how that reputation has been a blessing and a curse. Upon arriving at the first winery, we were treated to Marta's wonderful explanation of wine, encompassing everything from the family history to the current state of the wine region and the plight of the region's farmers. Despite the previous night's storms, the land was still dry enough to get out and walk through the vineyards. We learned about the different grapes and even how to recognize them by their leaves (they were still green although the red moscat grapes were starting to turn, and both Paula and Lawrence found them quite tasty).

After enjoying a tasting  of the wines, served with fresh bread

on a sunny patio with Marta, we headed off to see (and taste) some hand-crafted cava. Ernest and Ricard were gracious hosts, and our guests were particularly enthralled with the machines that they (still) use to bottle each and every bottle of their artesanal product. A sampling to show the difference between various cavas and we headed back to get them to their ship. What a way to Spanish way to say goodbye, with wine and a glass of cava!

Thanks to both Paula and Lawrence for making my job easier, and hope their cruise goes as smoothly as their time in Spain!

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dali was there - and so were the crowds

On  Tuesday I once again met Paula and Lawrence at the hotel for a day up the coast. Things started well enough, but once on the highway we saw the sign that an accident had shut down the road an exit before ours. We decided to chance the highway anyway, as the back way looked to be filling up already and the accident looked to be under control. We finally arrived at Figueres to discover that all the traffic was arriving at the same time as we were. There was already a 2-hour line to get into the Dali Theater-Museum. Never fear, for the extremely helpful staff at the Figueres Tourist Office came up with our guided visit tickets just in time for the next group. A two-hour study of Dali followed, and even with the massive crowds of people it is something to behold.

Following a quick coffee we headed over to Girona where, as we walked up to the Cathedral through the cobblestone streets, we discussed the role of the city throughout the ages, and how important the rivers have always been. The Cathedral highlights included the tomb of Ermessenda and Ramon Berenguer II, and of course the treasury collection. As we walked back down through the winding streets of the Jewish Quarter, it was easy to understand why this city constantly ranks as one of Spain's top quality-of-life destinations.

On the drive back we talked about the richness of the volcanic region of La Garrotxa, and how the Masias of Catalunya have played a pivotal role throughout history.

For more information or for help designing your own private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-840-0013.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On the Eiffel bridge in Girona

BlackBerry de movistar, allí donde estés está tu oficin@

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Evolution of a City - Barcelona with Paula and Lawrence

This morning I picked up Paula and Lawrence at the hotel and off we headed to the most famous market in Spain: La boqueria. Getting there first thing in the morning means that you can still savor the smells and sights of the market before it gets crowded around midday. And as today was shaping up to be a hot one, it was nice to be able to wander freely through the stalls, pointing out local produce and hams, spices and commenting on the history and role of markets in Spain.

A visit to the world of modernisme followed, with the obligatory visit to the Sagrada Familia (lines of more than an hour outside, luckily we had our tickets already!). As an engineer, Lawrence was particularly interested in Gaudi's use of geometry and figures in his building techniques. It was nice to be able to see the front doors with te Pare Nostre imprinted on it. The progression of the building can be slow sometimes, but sometimes it feels like it's making leaps and bounds!

A quick stop for lunch along the majestic Passeig de Gracia and we were once more into modernisme, this time taking in La Pedrera and the Block of Discord. It is always interesting to see what people take from these architectural gems, and both Paula and Lawrence were more than willing to explain what they liked more and less about the various  buildings. As the day winded down, we talked about the evolution of Barcelona from a Roman town up through the 21st century. A visit to Montjuic with a view of the city from the Mayor's Lookout brought an end to a lively, entertaining and informative day. Tomorrow Figueres and Girona await!

For more information or to help

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Another reason to love tapas

Going out for tapas. Just saying it gets the taste buds excited. In the 21st century tapas have become ubiquitous, and even so you always have to be open for surprises. Tonight I took Paula and Lawrence out for tapas in the city. It was their first "tapas dinner" and we kept it to a reasonable number. 3 restaurants, three unique styles, 3 dining experiences all in one dinner. Even as someone who lives in Spain, I delight in finding new and interesting foods to sample. For example tonight we were treated to Botifarra de sepia (cuttlefish sausage) and calamar a la romana (battered squid) in its own ink. Other highlights included the breadfried eggplant and the delicious cheese dishes. Oh, and dessert was stellar as well. But the opportunities to sample new foods is part of what makes going out for tapas such a great and memorable experience.

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

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Montserrat and a visit to the shops in Barcelona

There are times when a vacation can have it's none-too-pleasant moments. Losing luggage is one of those moments. And if that luggage contains all your cocktail and evening wear for a forthcoming cruise, it can make the situation a bit more tense. But luckily Barcelona is readily available and equipped to deal with almost every emergency.

A morning visit to Montserrat was just the stress-reliever the doctor ordered, as a beautiful, pleasantly hot morning in the cultural nerve center of Catalonia was a morning full of spectacular vistas, intriguing history and just enough exercise to make even lost luggage seem manageable.

In the afternoon we visited several stores to make sure that everyone was prepared for the cruise leaving the following morning. While not the ideal, relaxing afternoon that was originally planned, it is a relief to know that even cocktail dresses and evening wear is easy enough to find in the big city, and that even lost luggage cannot  spoil you vacation plans. The shops of Barcelona rose magnificently to the occasion, providing shoes, dresses and assorted other necessities to make sure that the vacation would not be ruined because of an airline malfunction.

Friday, July 08, 2011

On a busy day finding some peace at Montserrat

BlackBerry de movistar, allí donde estés está tu oficin@

An afternoon stroll through the Gothic Quarter

It was a sunny day, but not overbearingly hot as the Bezners walked through the streets of Barcelona yesterday. After a long flight and having finally checked in at the hotel, we started by grabbing a bite to eat. The tapas were exactly what was needed to get everyone ready. The gambas and pulpo were of particularly good note, but I take nothing away from the the tortilla de patatas, cheese or even the ever faithful pa amb tomàquet.

Feeling refreshed and ready to roll, we began our tour through the winding streets of Barcelona. In a city where everything has been built over and on top of things, it can be almost overwhelming sometimes to even know where to start. Do you look up at the stunning gargoyles? Or at the craftsmenship of the doorframes and balconies? Or do you take note of the scratches that are the accumulation of centuries of horse-driven carriages that brought life to the city?

The day ended with a visit to the cathedral (after purchasing scarves for the girls to cover bare shoulders), and  the cloister's geese gave us a noisy but cheerful farewell. Next up: Montserrat and Sagrada Familia!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Fourth of July from The Spanish Touch

From all of us at the Spanish Touch, have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

LuxGreco - Toledo at its most spectacular this July

This week begins the annual Luxgreco Festival, an audiovisual festival that will take place on july 8, 9, 16 and 17, recreating the journeys and life of Toledo's most famous adopted son, El Greco. At monuments like the Puerta de Bisagra, The San Juan de los Reyes Church and the Plaza de Zocodover, witness Toledo relive it's glory in a display of lights and music.

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

Friday, July 01, 2011

Annual Legends Festival this weekend in Penedes

History, legends and oral traditions are as much a part of Spain's culture and heritage as the lands and monuments that are found throughout it. This year, for the first time, the town of Sant Marti de Tous, in the Penedes wine region just south of Barcelona, is hosting a Legends Festival (Tous es Llegendes), where the visitor is welcome to meander the town discovering the secret nooks and crannies and the incredible stories that are everywhere. The festival is more than just about the town, as the legends incorporate the whole of Catalonia, from the witch of Girona to The White Lady of Andorra. From July 1-3 will see the town come alive with the generations of history and tradition opened up to the public for the first time.

For more information about this or other festivals, or to plan your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013 and we will be glad to help.