Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Pinheiro's Tour - Day 2 - Trapsing around Barcelona

The first full day of Scott and Lisa's tour began in Barcelona city center. Having already wandered around some of the old city yesterday, we headed right across town first thing in the morning to visit Sagrada Familia. Early in the morning has it's advantages as a time to visit. First of all, with the sweltering heat wave that has descended upon most of Spain (temperatures in southern Spain got up over 40C or 104F) it was easier to do the explaining of the exterior without feeling like you might melt into the sidewalk. Secondly, most people seemed to have gotten off to a later than usual start, so even on the inside we had a fair bit of room to wander and take some pictures. 

Once we finished with Sagrada Familia we headed back into the old city. Going back in time from Modernisme to Roman civilization is much easier when the city in question is one where history is built on top of itself, layers of civilizations in such a compact area, it really is a treat. Starting at the old Roman walls (of the fully named Colonia Iula Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino, or Barcino for short) we traced the route of the various groups who have passed through the gates of the city. Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Franks, Jews, Christians, and more have all left their mark on the city. 

From the legend of tortures of Saint Eulalia to the horrific bombings of the Italians during the Spanish Civil War to the original location of the Jewish drinking fountain, there is so much to see in Barcelona that to compress it all into one short day is impossible. So we focused on the highlights and pointed out the things that might be of interest during free time. Coming complete circle and ending up once again at the Cathedral we headed back to drop them off for a spot of lunch before hitting the gym and heading off to the Flamenco show, where they were able to catch 1 and a half shows!

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

The Pinheiro's tour - Day 1 - welcome to Barcelona

Lisa and Scott Pinheiro arrived in Barcelona all set for their 9 day adventure around northern Spain. Day 1 was a simple affair. Having met them at the airport, we headed to their hotel, right along the Plaza Catalunya. the rest of the day was theirs to explore the city, catch up on some rest and get ready for the rest of the week. With a couple of suggestions for things to see and where to eat (on a Monday in Spain that can be more complicated, especially for dinner), they spent the day exploring Las Ramblas and La Boqueria, the old city and enjoying some tapas and wine. The rest of the tour awaiting, beginning with a half-day tour of Barcelona on day 2.

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Zaslav's Tour of Barcelona

There are some bonuses to staying at the Hotel Florida at Tibidabo in Barcelona. The most obvious are the spectacular views over the city and the quiet and calm that come from being up on the hill. It can, however, be a bit of a problem if your taxi driver gets lost getting there.  Luckily for us, however, we had no such problems. Meeting the family at 10:00 we headed off down the mountain and into Barcelona to explore the history and legends of the city. Our morning walk took us through the old city, and we learned about the long history of the city, it's important Jewish community in the Middle Ages, and the Catalan culture in general. Our tour took us through the old streets of the old city, stopping in the oldest synagogue in Spain (with foundations back to Roman times), where we learned why so many buildings in the Gothic Quarter have steps going down at the entrance. 

A stop for lunch on an outside terrace refueled us and we were back in the car for the afternoon visits. A change of gears from ancient history brought us to the Moderniste element of Barcelona and it's most important monument: The Sagrada Familia. After we discussed the architectural elements and symbolism of Gaudi's masterpiece, we headed up into the last site of the day, Park Guell. Seeing what Gaudi did with the landscape and how it was all designed to blend into the hill upon which it was constructed is something that is best experienced firsthand. From the mosaic to the pathways to the gardens, everything seems calculated to make sure it's something you never forget. Our day ended where it began, and we headed up the mountain to the hotel to say goodbye. Thanks to the Zaslav family for being such a pleasure to work with!

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

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A weekend in the mountains in Spain

This weekend is San Juan, celebrated throughout Spain as summer's official welcoming party. But this year we opt for something different. No bonfires, no fireworks. Just a quiet rustling creek, distant clanks of the flocks of sheep returning fromn their day's grazing and spectacular views over the Vall de Boi. The clang of the 11th century church and the gentle chatter of the neighbors sitting on their balconies enjoying a refreshing breeze as the sun slowly drifts behind the Pyrenees. Yes, a different feeling. And a very pleasant chance to remember that tucked into the hills of this marvelous country are sites which surpass any ideas you might have had about them. Such beauty, such peace and such a great country.

For more information on planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.
BlackBerry de movistar, allí donde estés está tu oficin@

Friday, June 22, 2012

Taking in the details - a tour of Barcelona

The Jaramillos arrived in Barcelona's airport ready to hit the ground moving. We headed into the city accompanied by a typical Barcelona late spring morning. Our morning tour led us through the Gothic quarter, exploring the streets, buildings and squares that make up this singularly spectacular area. Facades, gargoyles, cobblestone streets and the sensation of walking through living history always make this area a special place to explore. Our tour led us through the cathedral of Barcelona, the old Jewish Quarter, through 3 of the 4 old Roman gates to the city and down Las Ramblas to La Boqueria market before we stopped for a quick coffee to get off our feet for a few minutes. After visiting the Plaza de Rei and learning about the differences in architecture from Madrid and Barcelona in the 16th century, we deviated from the original plan so that we could take in some of Gaudi's treasures with the remaining time. The Sagrada Familia, for someone who has never seen it before, is always a very pleasant surprise, and it is difficult to explain the architecture, symbolism and ingenuity of the temple if you have not seen it up close. Our time was drawing to a close and the effects of a long flight and the warming temperatures made it for a relaxing drive to the port for them to catch their cruise ship to continue their adventures. 

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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Small Town Tourism in Spain

Barcelona. Madrid. Sevilla.  Everyone knows the names of the big cities in Spain. They are magical places, filled with sights, sounds and a plethora of options for even the most experienced traveler. But what about some of those off the beaten track, fishermen's village kinds of places, the kind that you used to read about? Thereare still a number of them around, hiding away in the shadows of the big cities, comfortably nestled in the hills or along the beach in areas that not so frequented by tourists. But for the informed visitor, they provide a perfect break from  the sensory barrage of the cities.

Towns like Ametlla de Mar or Montefrio, towns where time seems to go by slower,  the pace is relaxed. It might be that "tourist" sites are not as plentiful in these towns, but therein lies there treasure: he town itself is a site. So this summer step back from the sites and sounds of the city for a day and just relax with the locals by the beach or in the hills.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Northern Spanish Wine Route with The Spanish Touch

For wine lovers, The Spanish Touch is proud to offer wine tours such as as the one outlined below, incorporating the wine regions of Penedès and Priorat (Barcelona), Somontano, Rioja, Bierzo  and Rias Baixas

Traverse northern Spain through its wine country, starting in Barcelona with the Penedes and Priorat regions close by. Head up to the small - but impressive - region of Somontano, and then on to Rioja, the heart of spanish wine culture. From Rioja head up to the upcoming region of Bierzo and finally arrive in Galicia to explore the Rias Baixas.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Magic of Dali and the streets of Girona with the Masters

A day tour to the Dali Theater-Museum and the city of Girona provides people with a great peek at what Catalonia has to offer outside of Barcelona. Meeting in the lobby of the hotel at 9:30, the Masters' and I headed out of the city and up the highway to Figueres. Along the way we discussed the background of the region, Dali and how the landscapes we were passing influenced the boy who was to become the most famous of the surrealist painters. The Dali Museum, however, is much more than just a showcase for his paintings. It is a work of art in itself. Everything in it was designed by Dali and all three of the Masters' were immediately impressed and immersed in the art. While Dali offered no guide for visiting his museum, learning about his life and what was happening does shed light on his works. We spent the morning wandering through and admiring his artwork before stopping for a quick bite at a local cafe.

Following lunch we headed over to Girona for an afternoon stroll through the old city. The cobblestone streets, the bridges, the ancient churches and walls of the two thousand year old city really bring its history to life. The Cathedral, and its  treasury bear witness to the importance and riches that the city has seen throughout its history. As we walked back down the winding streets we came across a mother duck with her ducklings, clearly enjoying an afternoon stroll just like us. In all a lovely end to an enjoyable and educational Spanish experience!

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

Friday, June 01, 2012

What is a "Spanish" Food Tour - A Personal Take

To refer to “Spanish Food” is to refer to a concept that is as varied as it is rich. Spain is made up of a number of very different regions. the sunny shores of the Costa del Sol, starkness of Castilla-la Mancha, the wild inlets of the Costa Brava, the majesty of the Pyrenees and the green pastures of Asturias are all a part of this “Spanish cuisine”. And the food of each region is as different as the landscape. From fresh fish and seafood to wild game to the avant-gaurde cooking of chefs like Ferran Adria, the country is bursting with flavors for every taste. And we dare not forget the famous Iberian Hams! Throughout the year there are local festivals and fairs in celebration of the local produce, be it strawberries or olive oil, sausage or Galician octopus. At the Spanish touch we try to incorporate these local festivals as much as possible to give you a chance to get a true culinary experience,.

But there are some seasonal foods which draw particular attention, and which we do our best to bring out in their fullness. These seasonal tours are specific to regions and times of the year, and include opportunities you will not find elsewhere, be it truffle hunting in the mountains or scouring the valley for mushrooms, walking through the olive groves or getting an up close and personal view of the grape harvest.

At The Spanish Touch we strive to provide the best service and best resources for truly experiencing the delights of Spanish gastronomy, and to offer a singular tour that will open your eyes and your taste buds to the incredible world of Spanish cuisine. 
For more information on a private guided tour in Spain, give us a call at 888-480-0013.