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.