Friday, August 29, 2014

How to turn your vacation into an unforgettable experience

For many travelers these days, taking a trip is about making memories, discovering cultures and unique experiences. And Spain fits perfectly with that description. Imagine taking a boat ride along the hidden coves of the Costa Brava, or getting an aerial view of Barcelona in a private jet, or taking a hot balloon ride over the volcanic region of La Garrotxa. We will be exploring some of these options over the next few weeks, but don't hesitate to ask, from the traditional bullfights in Madrid and flamenco classes in Andalusia,  Spain offers you the chance to make your vacation unforgettable, and The Spanish Touch is here to help.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Visit to Barcelona should always be a unique experience

 When Bob and Bonnie first contact us for for their time in Barcelona, one of the things that they made it clear that a "cookie cutter" tour was not for them. This, of course, is perfect for us, as we don't do canned tours, and all of our tours are designed around the group's specific requests. As two people who had never been to Barcelona, one of the days had to be a Barcelona overview. There are probably hundreds of companies who provide these services in Barcelona, so in order to make sure our clients are satisfied, The Spanish Touch always tries to make the city visit more of an exploration than a guided tour. We want to explain how and why, but we want to make sure you're questions are getting answered, not answer the questions we think you might have had. And Bob and Bonnie had some questions. As a well-traveled couple who have seen their fair share of old buildings, making Barcelona's history and culture come alive was definitely a priority. The tour of the old city took us through the old streets of Barcelona, around legends and churches and the Temple remains, and, because if you've never seen it you should, Sagrada Familia.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wine and a Forgotten Monastery - A (non)traditional visit to the outskirts of Barcelona

 When Steve and Gail visited Barcelona, The Spanish Touch worked with them from the planning stages. One of the things Gail made clear was that they were not looking for a "standard" tour. Good thing that's not what we do. After going through some of the choices we decided on a unique itinerary which was just what they were looking for. 

We started the day meeting at the hotel as we headed down to the Penedes wine country. There are a lot of great wineries and some really exciting things happenning, so depending on your particular taste and what you want to discover, each winery offers something unique. We started our tour with the local star, cava. Like much of Spain, cava has been somewhat unfairly labelled as a "cheaper version of something better". However, there are cava makers who are out to disprove that myth, and Rimarts is one of them. Marc led us through the handcrafted process that Rimarts still adheres to, including hand riddling and degorging each of the nearly 90,000 bottles that they produce. Follow that up with a sampling of their finest offerings (including the rare Rosae, a smoked pink Cava which is truly unique in its class) and then we were off to the next winery. 

We got there a bit early, and were met by the owner himself, whose English is limited so he offered us a welcome drink as we waited for our guide (his daughter). A walk through the vineyards is always a great way to get a feel for the wines, and Marta was a great guide. And given the sunny day, we decided to move the tasting outside where we could sit in the tree-shaded patio and enjoy the beauty of the environment, as well as taste some delectable wines. 

A stop for lunch at a local restaurant where we were treated to a three-course lunch including a particularly tasty dessert and we were off again. As Gail had asked for something different, we decided to head up to the Monastery of San Cugat. Despite being one of the oldest recorded churches in the region, and despite San Cugat being one of the very first Martyrs  from Barcelona, this is a very overlooked monastery. But that does not make it any less spectacular. The still standing enclosures around the building, the sheer austerity of the building rising up by itself in the middle of a modern town adds to the allure. We explored the monastery and talked about the history of the region before the skies clouded up. We were back in the car and back to the hotel right on time, just catching a bit of the rain on the drive back. 

A great day with some great people, and a memory to take back of a Barcelona that few others have seen. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A guide to summer fiestas and folk traditions on Mallorca (June-August)

We tend to talk a lot about local festivals, but we often concentrate on the mainland and overlook the rest of Spain out in the middle of the Mediterranean. But the islands are every bit as festive as the mainland, and so today I want to give you a run down of the most popular local summer traditions on the island of Mallorca. So without further ado:


Corpus Christi. All the towns and villages celebrate the fiesta of the Eucharist. In Palma, n'Eloi, the largest bell of the Cathedral is rung. A Mass is held and there is a procession in which the Host is accompanied by the lledània, a cross made of wax flowers. The Anguiles dance in Pollença and Sant Joan Pelós also comes out onto the streets.
Fiestas de Sant Pere en Alcudia, Mallorca
Sant Pere Fiesta

13 Sant Antoni de Padua. On the feast day of Sant Antoni de Padua, also known as the fiesta of the Albaricoques (Apricots), the cavallets and the dama dance in Artà. There are two red cavallets and two black ones; the lady's horse is white.

24 Sant Joan: Fiesta del "Sol quan balla". The summer solstice is celebrated and, the night before, it is traditional to light bonfires (foguerons) near the sea. The fiesta should carry on till sunrise: "el sol quan balla" (when the sun dances). As well as in Palma, Sant Joan (John) is cause for important fiestas in Calvà, Deià, s'Esglaieta, Muro, Felanitx, Son Servera and Sant Joan. Sant Joan Pelós comes out to dance in Felanitx.

Sant Marçal pottery fair
29 Sant Pere. St Pere (Peter) is the patron saint of fishermen. There are celebrations in Alcúdia and Palma. Seagoing processions are organised in nearly all coastal towns.

30 Sant Marçal. Marratxi's main fiestas in are held on June 30th, the feast day of Sant Marçal. There is an excellent market of siurells, a craft fair of ceramics and pottery, art exhibitions, dances and fireworks.


1/2 Nuestra Señora de la Victoria. The fiesta takes place in the Hermitage of la Victoria in Alcúdia. On July 2nd, there is a Mass where an offering of camomile is made. Immediately afterwards, the traditional "corregudes de joies" (Races of Joy) are held.

16 La Virgen del Carmen. This is a day of seagoing processions at which the hymn, Salve Marinera, is sung.

20 Santa Margalida. The town of Santa Margalida celebrates their patron saint's feast day with a week of fiestas. The cavallets take to the streets to dance in Felanitx and concerts and dances are held. Santa Maria del Camí also celebrates their patron saint's feast day.

25 Sant Jaume. July 25th, the feast day of Sant Jaume (James) is an important day in the calendar of fiestas in Mallorca. As well as Alcúdia where Sant Jaume is the patron saint, there are fiestas in Llucmajor, Muro, Sa Pobla, Algaida, Santanyí, Calvià, Binissalem and Portocolom.

26 Procesión del Sant Crist. Every three years, the procession of Santo Cristo is held in Alcúdia to commemorate a miracle in 1507, when, it is said, the figure of Christ in the parish church sweated blood and water, thereby putting an end to a period of drought.

28 La Beata. On this day, the Blessed Catalina Thomàs is honoured in Valldemossa with a great parade which usually starts at 7 pm. Vilafranca de Bonany has fiestas during the last week of July.

30 Sant Abdó i Sant Senén. These are the main fiestas in Inca. Sant Abdó and Sant Senén where two Persian Kings who converted to Christianity and died as martyrs. Two giant figures, n'Abdó and na Maria, parade through the streets. Some of the activities are ball de bot (flok dancing) and bullfights.


2 La Mare de Déu dels Àngels / Moors and Christians. Pollença recalls the battle of the townspeople led by Joan Mas against Dragut, the Corsair. There is no shortage of mesclat, a strong alcoholic drink during the fiesta.

6 Sant Salvador. On August 6th one really should visit Artà for the celebrations of Sant Salvador.

15 Mare de Déu d'Agost o Mare de Déu Morta. The feast day of the Mother of God of August or the Dead Mother of God is celebrated in Caimari, Campos, Esporles. Es Molinar (Palma) and Sineu.

16 Sant Roc. The saint is carried in a parade accompanied by the dancing crossiers in Alaró. In Porreres, the fiestas last eight days.

20 Romeria de Sant Bernat. On August 20th, the procession of the Romeria of Sant Bernat from Plaza Cort in Palma to the Monasterio de Sant Bernat in El Secar de La Real is held.

Festa de les Llanternes, Alcúdia
24 Sant Bartomeu. In Sóller, the fiestas get off to a start ten days early. The Vall de Sóller Literary Prizes are awarded. There are competitions os skill with the slingshot and races. In Alcúdia the Festa de les Llanternes is held (Fiesta of the Lanterns), in which the children of the town parade singing traditional Majorcan songs carrying lanterns made of melons or water melons. In Capdepera, there are concerts, folk dancing and drama in the open-air. There are also fiestas in Consell, ses Salines and Jornets. In Montuïri the cossiers dance outside private houses and bars, in exchange for presents given to them by the townspeople.

28 Sant Agustí. In Felanitx cultural and religious acts are held in addition to a famous series of concerts. The "cavallets" of the town come out to dance.

Check January and February Fiestas in Mallorca
Check March, April and May Fiestas in Mallorca
Check September, October, November and December Fiestas in Mallorca

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Top 5 parks in Barcelona

When we think of Barcelona most of us are drawn immediately to its history, architecture and vibrant city life. Restaurants, Gothic buildings, churches, Gaudi, Las Ramblas....there is so much to see and do that sometimes you just need to stop and smell the roses. So today I want to bring the topic around to where you can do just that. The city of Barcelona, when it expanded, was built to incorporate green spaces. Some are easier to find than others, but they are all unique oasis of tranquility and a great place to step out of the hustle and bustle for a day, or even just a few hours. Sit and read, have a picnic with your friends, or just stroll the gardens and enjoy their peace and beauty. I'll leave Park Guell off the list for the time being, as Gaudi´s urban adventure is a different topic all together.

So here, in no particular order, are five of my favorite parks within the city limits of Barcelona.

1) Parc de la Ciutadella - The largest, and most visible, park in the city. Very popular with locals and visitors alike, it stands on the remains of the military prison built by the conquering French upon the fall of Barcelona in 1714. Site of the 1888 Universal Fair, it is famous for hosting several modernista treasures, including Domenech i Montaner's Tres Dragons and the Gaudi fountain. It's also home to the Catalan Government and the Barcelona Zoo. The walkways and fountains are usually filled with joggers, walkers and friends enjoying the Mediterranean climate. For people watching, laying on the grass with a good book or just a quick break on your way to the Arc de Triomf, this park is a classic of the city.

2) Parc de Cervantes - At the end of Avinguda Diagonal we find one of the most overlooked parks in the city. Tucked into a corner between two of the city's main thoroughfares, just at the entrance into the city in the fashionable Pedralbes district, from April to November the park is more of a giant rose garden (over 230 varieties of roses are on display in an area of about 10 acres known as the Pergola. The rest of the park is a combination of lush green areas, plants and trees, perfect for escaping for a stroll, a jog or a picnic and just let yourself go.

3) Parc de Laberint - Barcelona's oldest park, dating back to the end of the 18th century, the Park of the Labyrinth draws its name from the maze of cypress bushes, it encompasses over 100 acres of woodland beauty in the Horta-Guinardo section of the city. The original garden was expanded under the watch of Elias Rogent, one of the most influential architects in the early modernista movement. Recent changes to policy make this one of the few parks that charge a nominal surcharge to enter, but the fee is small and woodland setting make this an ideal romantic getaway for an afternoon or an escape with the kids.

4) Parc de l'Oreneta - Up the hill of Collserola, this is one of the best places to get a different perspective on the city. It is ideal for families, as it has a miniature train that runs a route of just under a half mile, going through three tunnels and guaranteed to provide your kids with an unforgettable experience. But for adults, this park in the Sant Gervasi section of the city built on the remains of the Oreneta Castle is the connection between the city and the foothills that encircle the city. Whether you choose to bring a picnic and spread out under a tree to admire the city from above, or you choose to stop at the restaurant, plan at least a half day to get a new perspective on the city.

5) Parc de la Creuta de Coll -  The last park on the list is also a bit of an odd one. This park, in the heart of the Gracia district, is most notable for it´s giant public swimming lake (open in the summer months) and the works of art that you will find there. Built over a former quarry, one of the highlights is the 50 ton Elogia de l'Aigua by Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida (whose works in San Sebastian are on the cover of guidebooks around the world). It is a small park with picnic benches, walkways and offers visitors a different sort of park to stop by and enjoy.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Eibner group in #Barcelona - from the boat and back, and more to eat than just tapas

The Eibners love travelling, and do a fair amount of it. So when we designed their shore excursion in Barcelona, we wanted to make sure we could maximize their time without compromising The Spanish Touch personal details that we offer. When you are working with a group that includes vegetarians and people whose idea of a good tour is not a 3 hour stroll through the streets of Barcelona, you have to set your targets in a slightly different fashion. So when I met them at the port, first we went over the day's events. 

First up on our tour was the Sagrada Familia, because, well let's face it, there really is no excuse for not visiting it. On the drive from the port, we discussed Barcelona's history, from Roman times into the 21st century, albeit skimming over it. I wanted them to have enough of a base to get started, and a brief history of the city plus an explanation of the Cerda Plan (the grid layout of the city and the chamfered building corners) Gaudi's masterpiece rises up as in an in-progress 8-spire salute to the genius of one man and the passion of the city he called home for so long. Meeting Dolors at the gate we began our immersion into Barcelona. 

The sheer volume of things to see and learn about at Sagrada Familia makes it both mandatory and impossible to see all in one day. In fact, some of us visit it multiple times a month and still learn something new every time. So two hours after entering the Expiatory Temple, we were headed back across town into the old city. 

Barcelona's maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter are famous for good reason, but that doesn't mean that you have to walk them all to get a good idea of what's going on. And today we were going to keep it short. We had a lunch to eat and Montjuic to visit, and you don't ever want to push so hard that people stop enjoying themselves. We visited the Cathderal (and the 13 live geese in the cloister), the Plaza del Rei and Palau of the Generalitat among some of the other sites in our overview of the city. And while I appreciate the diligence of the Cathedral in monitoring the situation, it seems a bit ridiculous that a professional guide is chided for giving explanations when you compare it to the muted roar of cameras and tourists talking.  

Lunch was up next, and combining a vegetarian option with an emphatic no! to eating tapas, we sat down for a traditional lunch at the Cafe D'en Victor. Lunch was an enjoyable experience, but time stops for no man so off we went again to Montjuic. The group had decided to do the Cable Car that goes up Montjuic to the Castle at the top of the hill, 174 meters above the city below. Given our time restraints we didn't have much time for dilly-dallying, but there was still enough time to get up to the castle and take a look over the Mirador del Alcalde for one last panoramic view of Barcelona before we headed back to the Port. 

All in all a busy but enjoyable day, and customized to the group's requirements without sacrificing our commitment to quality and a personal touch. I hope we have not seen the last of this group, as they were a great bunch and made my job so much nicer. 


Friday, April 25, 2014

Mario and Jan's 30th Anniversary Trip - last day in Barcelona

This morning Mario and Jan took off on their own down to Sitges, just down the coast for some free time and shopping. Upon their return to the train station, we headed out once more to explore some of the parts of Barcelona that often get overlooked. First up we went to the site of old Barcelona amusement park, and the panoramic vantagepoint built in 1968 that is the Mirador del Alcalde (Mayor's Lookout). Our attempts to take  a cable car ride up the mountain were foiled by an unexpected extra day of repairs, but we were not to be let down, and continued our drive along the mountain to the Joan Miro Museum. The choices had come down to the Joan Miro Museum and an exhibition at the Caixaforum, and in the end the Barcelona born artist's museum won out. Walking through the Miro is not something to be done overly quickly, and the sheer volume and impressive works on display make it a must see for modern art lovers. 

Our next stop was the Barceloneta beach. I know what you are thinking, "Barceloneta is not exactly a non-tourist site". Yes, it is a popular beach area, but we were exploring the roots of the town, from the 17th century first houses to what remains of the 19th century factory that brought new life to the area to the scultpures along hte beach paying homage to the neighbourhood's bohemian past. 

At the end of the day we stopped off for one last drink on the rooftop terrace of the Majestic, which is one of the truly wonderful sites for a sunset drink and one last goodbye before they headed off to the islands. 

 For more information on private tours around Barcelona and Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888 480 0013.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mario and Jan's 30th Anniversary Trip - Modernisme - part II - Park Guell

After visiting Sagrada Familia we headed over to Park Guell for an exploration of Gaudi's genius at work in landscaping. Due to the need for upkeep this year, for the first time ever the city has decided to charge for visitors to enter into the park. You can buy your tickets at the gate, but there's a limited number of tickets for each half hour segment, so it's always a better idea to have the tickets ahead of time. However, as it's a new system, sometimes there are bugs that still have to be worked out, as was our case. A short delay as the very kind girl at the front gate clarified the number of tickets we had and we were into Gaudi's fantasy park. From the entrance stairs gaurded by Drac to Gaudi's house itself, with its museum of items from around his various buildings, everything is unique and unmistakeably Guadi. As it was their 3oth anniversary date, we left the afternoon free for them to go shopping and enjoy their big day. 

Next up is a morning on their own to visit Sitges and an afternoon exploring some of the lesser-visited sites in Barcelona.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mario and Jan's 30th Anniversary Trip - Modernisme - touring Sagrada Familia with an architect

This morning we began our tour with a slight detour, due to an alteration in the traffic patterns (unscheduled road work) but having left with plenty of time, we still made it to our first sight on time. Today we started with Barcelona's crown jewel: The Sagrada Familia. 

As Mario is an architect I was very interested in hearing his thoughts about the visit, and he confessed that he did manage to stump the guide (albeit with a very technical question which may not have had an answer). But their overall impression was very positive, and so we continued on to our next stop: Park Guell. 

Cordoba Day Tours

Today celebrates the 888th birthday of one of Al-Andalus's greatest philosophers: Averroes. The Cordoba native's influence was felt throughout the entire empire, which at the time was the largest in the western world. And it draws our attention to the city of Cordoba, in the heart of Andalusia. This mid-sized city is a must-see on anyone's top 10 list of Spain because of it's culture, its heritage and its place in the history of Spain. 

The Spanish Touch offers day tours of the city for everyone from first time visitors looking for a good overview with a personal touch to those looking to learn more about the legends and backstories of the region to those looking to delve into the flavors and colors of the city.
Curious visitors come to explore the small winding streets of the Jewish Quarter, to see where Averroes was born, to experience the spectacular Cordoba Patio Festival and of course, to visit the monolithic Mezquita-Cathedral, undoubtedly the city's most recognizable monument. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mario and Jan's 30th Anniversary Trip - Mountains and Bodegas


Having gotten their European legs under them and a good night's sleep, Mario, Jan and I set off bright and early to Montserrat Mountain. The unique rock formations which led to its name have been ascribed to angels with golden saws by Catalan legend, and the entire region is replete with legends and historical allegories. That's easy to understand, given that the history of the monastery is almost as old as Catalonia itself, and the unique link between the two makes a visit so much more interesting than "just visiting an old abbey". 

The Modernista sculptures representing the Mysteries of the Rosary, the legends and stories surrounding both the monastery and famous people who have visited, and the chance to hear (and see) the oldest boys choir in Europe made it an easy choice when deciding where to go. 

The line to visit "La Moreneta" was not too bad, once we got through the first room, and hearing L'Escolania below while you are standing in front of La Moreneta is a moment to treasure. We even had enough time to swing down and get back inside to hear (and sing) the "El Virolai", which is something like a national anthem for the Catalans. 

Afterwards we headed down the mountain into wine country. As it was lunchtime, we headed over to one of my favorite restaurants in the Penedes region, Sumoll. Disregarding the windy conditions, the covered deck was open and proved a veyr comfortable setting for a nice lunch. 

From there we headed up to Rimarts to learn about the Cava tradition. Our guide was Marc, and his explanations made the whole process seem to come alive. A tasting at the end of the tour included several different wines, and then we headed back to Barcelona. Up next is a visit to Sagrada Familia, which for Mario as an architect promises to be fun. 

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Summer 2014 Wine Tour in La Rioja with The Spanish Touch

As promised, The Spanish Touch is proud to present its newest wine and food extravaganza, a week-long festival for your taste buds that will take you into the heart and soul of Spain's most famous wine region. Tours available  From June 29 - July 5 and July 5 - July 12, 2014. Contact The Spanish Touch for more information on this unique opportunity. 
The tour includes:
Bilingual Spanish touch Tour Leader with 24-hour availability
All tastings, entrance fees and guided tours as per itinerary
Meals as per itinerary  
All transportation as per itinerary in a luxury mini bus. 
Accommodation as per itinerary in Luxury Bed and Breakfast or 4/5 star hotels.

June 29) Pick up from Madrid Barajas Airport and transfer to La Rioja.Stop along the way for a quick breakfast at a local restaurant as your tour leader goes over the week’s itinerary with  you.
Stop for lunch in a traditional Spanish Medieval village. After lunch, continue on to La Rioja. Dinner at Luxury Bed and Breakfast followed by a brief overview of the week’s activities.

June 30) After breakfast, morning excursion to Briones, La Rioja, amedieval Village with an lovely city center to visit the Winery of Vino Dinastía Vivanco, one of the traditional Rioja wineries. Lunch in a restaurant housed in a 12th century building which was originally built as a wine celler. After lunch head to the capital city of Logroño for aguided tour of the city center. Enjoy a  typical tapas dinner on Logroño’s most famous tapas street, Calle Laurel de Logroño y San Juan. After dinner return to the Bed and breakfast. 

July 1) After breakfast, transfer to San Sebastián.  Drop off your luggage at the hotel before taking a walking tour of one of Spain's most beautiful towns.Lunch in the Michelin-starred restaurant of Juan Mari Arzak , KarlosArguiñano or Martin Berasategui, followed by an informal meet and chat with the chefIn the evening, take a gourmet Wine and Tapas Tasting tour where you will discover some of the secrets of the region’s cuisine and get hands-on experience as you create your own tapas plates. Night in San Sebastian Hotel.

July 2) 9 Breakfast at hotel. Morning trip to BilbaoShopping excursión at the Municipal Market for tonight's dinner cooking course. Visit to theGuggenheim Museum followed by lunch at Etxanobe  headed by Michelin starred chef  Fernando Canales, receipient of the distinguished Premio Euskadi de Gastronomía. After lunch enjoy a meet and greet with the chef. On the way back to the bed and breakfast , stop at a local farmet's market to pick up the freshest ingredients that we will use to reproduce the flavors, colors, textures, etc. of the traditional foods we have discovered at the various restaurants thus far. Night in La Rioja. 

July 3) Morning visit to Bodegas Muga "tradition and vanguard". Winery and vineyards visit followed by lunch at the winery restaurant and a chance to meet and talk to chef Rafa Arroyta, one of the most promising Young chefs of the Rioja.  In the afternoon take a visit to an olive oil factory,Almazara de aceite Valle del Iregua, Albelda for a tasting and dinner. Night in La Rioja.

July 4) Morning at leisure in Torrecilla. Around noon head up to the town ofEzcaray (45 minutos), a charming village in theOja Valley famous for its cuisine. Lunch at El Portal de Echaurren, owned by the Paniego Family, owners of the first Michelin star in La Rioja.  Creative local cuisine. After lunch, a meet and greet with chef Francis Paniego. Night in La Rioja. 

July 5)After breakfast, transfer to Madrid for your last day in Spain. After arriving in Madrid and checking in at your centrally located hotel, take aMadrid city center tour around the Madrid de los Austrias, including the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol.  Evening at leisure to explore or just have a refreshing "cafe con leche" in the Plaza Mayor before our Farewell dinner. Night in Madrid. 

July 6) Breakfast at hotel. Transfer to Madrid Barajas airport for return flight to the USA.

Price upon request

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Flavors of La Rioja and the Basque Country - Summer 2014 tour

Rioja. The name alone conjures an image of red wine to wine aficionado around the world. Basque country brings to mind Michelin-starred restaurants and the world's best tapas. In summer 2014 The Spanish Touch is offering the chance to add a few touches to your mental picture of both these regions. From June 28 - July 12 join us for a chance to taste some of the best wine and food of the region, as well as the chance to meet some of the top chefs in Spain. 

The tour is designed as an 8-day, 7-night tour which allows us to explore the best of both regions, and our personal service provides a flexibility within the tour to make sure your experience is everything you hope it will be. The details of the itinerary will be available soon on our website.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mario and Jan's 30th Anniversary Trip - Welcome to Barcelona

On Sunday morning Mario and Jan arrived in Barcelona ready to spend a couple of weeks in Spain enjoying the culture, the weather, the party and the food. Meeting them at the airport we headed off to their hotel before taking a walk through the city. Given the flight and lack of sleep, we kept to a shorter visit on the first day, but still managed to get in a fair amount. We began the walk in front of the Cathedral, where, as every Sunday, we witnessed the Sardana dance. Then off through the old city, through the maze of streets that make up Europe's most complete Gothic Quarter. Passing through the old Jewish Quarter, we stopped for a visit at the oldest Synagogue in Barcelona (and one of the oldest in Europe), dating back more than 1000 years. From there we headed over to the main square (with a quick stop at the Perfume shop). There was an added bonus in today's visit: Once a month the City Hall opens its doors to visitors, displaying the Gothic interior behind the 19th century Facade. The highlight is the "Salo del Cent", where the original Catalan Feudal courts were held. The craftsmanship of the woodwork, stone cutters, sculptors and artists on display is awe-inspiring, and it's easy to see why Barcelona was such a guild-dominated city. 

We stopped for a quick bite at an out-of-the-way plaza where we reviewed what we had seen, munched on some delicious "pa amb tomaquet" and olives and recharged for a few minutes. Then we were off again, winding our way through the streets and the people to finish the visit with to Las Ramblas, which even though it was a Sunday, was fairly busy as always. The day ended early with plenty of time to catch up on a siesta before dinner.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wine Tours in Barcelona

Spain's growing reputation as a quality wine producer has been well documented over the past few years. At The Spanish Touch we take a different approach to our winery visits from the standard "sit on the tourist train and listen to the audio guide": our wine and cava visits are based on the idea that small groups afford the opportunity to really get to know the winery. As we use primarily low-production, high-expression wineries, visits are conducted by someone who is very familiar with the product - in many cases our guide through the winery is the winemaker him or herself. This personal attention allows for a greater appreciation and understanding of the wines themselves.

The proximity of Barcelona to so many interesting wine regions, including Penedes, Priorat, Alella, Montsant, Emporda, and more affords repeat visitors to the Ciutat Comtal the chance to choose new experiences.

Day tours are available from simple half-day trips to full-day visits with 4x4 vineyard excursions and multi-day adventures to different regions.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Barcelona Private Shore Excursions and Tours

Barcelona is one of those magical places that seems to draw people into its very essence. The kind of place where people come time and again and never fail to discover something new. At The Spanish Touch we offer private day trips and shore excursions for everyone from first-time visitors to those who have "been there, done that" seasoned travelers looking for a new experience. 

We work with you from the beginning to create a custom tour fit to your demands. All of our guides are bilingual experts whose main priority is you. The small group format offer the advantage of getting into more intimate locales and giving you the chance to meet the people and see the sites that make Barcelona such a special place.

For your next visit to Barcelona, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013 for a free estimate on your private tour or shore excursion

Hidden Andalusia – discover the heart of a culture

For many travelers, the idea of returning to a country they've already visited holds little appeal. However, at The Spanish Touch we offer tours for the returning visitors as well as for first-timers. The following itinerary was designed with the idea of someone who is looking for the opportunity to go beyond the "typical tourist" route and get into the heart of this amazing country. All our itineraries are designed for maximum comfort and flexibility to fit our guests' needs and particular requests, so don't hesitate to ask us!

Day 1: Arrive in Malaga. Transfer to hotel. Welcome dinner and brief overview of the tour. D

Day 2: Drive up the old Road to Granada, stopping along the way in the classic Andalusian village of Montefrio. After a walk around the town, enjoy a traditional lunch before heading off to Granada. We arrive in Granada in the early evening, with plenty of time to enjoy the evening, including a Tapas dinner in the city center. B, D

Day 3: A morning private tour of the impressive Alhambra, the crown jewel of the Moorish Empire which dominated Andalusia for 700 years. In the afternoon, you are free to explore the ancient city of Granada, or take an optional afternoon excursion to the Alpujarra region, home of the world-famous Serrano Ham. In the evening, if you want an additional taste of pure Andalusia, join us for a Flamenco show in the city in the caves of Sacramonte. B

Day 4: Head across to Antequerra, an outstanding example of the untouched Spain.  We take you on a tour around the city, where you can enjoy the examples of quintessential Andalusian architecture and historical richness that distinguish this town.  Enjoy lunch in one of the best local restaurants with a spectacular panoramic view over the area before heading to the Parador hotel for the evening. B,L

Day 5: This morning we drive out to El Torcal, site of the oldest known burial rocks in Europe. After a walk through the natural park, we continue the scenic drive to Ronda, eating lunch on route in one of the numerous traditional local restaurants.  Upon arrival in Ronda, we stretch our legs with an afternoon tour of this magnificent city, divided into two parts by the Tajo Gorge. The evening meal in the hotel offers an inspiring view of the gorge and the landscape of the city. B,D

Day 6: Today we take you out to majestic Grazalema Natural Park and Zahara de la Sierra, which is one of the most dramatically-situated villages in the region.  Enjoy lunch in the town, and a stroll through the streets of this tucked away village before heading back to Ronda in the evening. B

 Day 7: This morning we take a scenic trip down to the coast and back up through the country to the quaint village of Monda, where after exploring the beauty of this town we are treated with a fantastic local lunch. We return to Malaga in the evening for farewell dinner and one last night to reflect on the journey. B,L,D

Day 8: Departure. Transfer to Airport. B

This tour is available all year

For more information on this or any private guided tour in Spain, call us at 888-480-0013 or send us email at and we will be glad to help you make your trip to Spain unforgettable!