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

BlackBerry de movistar, allí donde estés está tu oficin@

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

BlackBerry de movistar, allí donde estés está tu oficin@

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.