Monday, December 21, 2009

From Market to Market

Something that stands out when I think of Spain: The markets and ferias, or fairs. These markets can be indoor or open-aired. They might have fresh produce or fresh poultry. Or perhaps they are a display of local artisans' work. Maybe you're looking to pick up a pair of unique earrings for a friend back home, or you want to try some fresh squeezed OJ. Here in Barcelona, let alone Spain in general, I have found quite the array. Sometimes, it's a permanent market, like "La Boquería" on Las Ramblas. Sometimes, I've found myself wandering over by a certain plaza just to take a glimpse at what's on display on those brown tables or what's being sold under the white tents. And some of my favorite times are those surprises of walking down a street to find local vendors selling homemade chocolate, or cheese wedges, or other specialties!

Here are some pictures of markets around this city:
Fruits and veges on display at La Boquería.

Eggs of all kind inside la Mercat Santa Caterina (Saint Catherine's Market)

Christmas decorations at Fira de Santa Llucia (Saint Lucy's Fair), a seasonal fair during the month of December located outside of the main Cathedral

Browsing tee shirts, hats, scarves & more at this market set up right by Plaza Catalunya

Interested in visiting some of these hot spots? Contact The Spanish Touch to set up your next tour.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Proper Tapas Spread

Ask any person to tell you something about Spain and chances are the word "Tapas" will probably come up in conversation. There is much to be said about these small rations of food that people pick at, usually accompanied by a beverage of your choice. They are a great way to try a little bit of everything while enjoying the afternoon/evening with friends. Plus, the menu varies all around Spain. No matter where you are, though, there seems to be something for everyone. And there seems to be the staple tapas, too. Something like "pan con tomato," or bread with tomato is a common one, along with "patatas bravas" or potatoes with a spicy Brava Sauce. However, you might order a small portion of a salad, something seafood (which might include calamari, sardines, etc.), a variety of sausage, mushrooms, and the list goes on! Usually you order a couple different types and end up sharing them with your party. But don't feel like you need to eat everything in one sitting. After tasting at one place, head on out to the next tapas bar for a different selection. Tapas Bars may seem to be a dime a dozen, but of course, there are always certain restaurants that have their specialties. A great one to check out here in Barcelona is Lonja de Tapas. They have 4 different locations right in the city. Mmmm. Is it dinner time yet?

The Spanish Touch offers Tapas Tours for those who everyone: from learning more about this Spanish experience to discovering some of the best places to satisfy your hunger to helping Tapas veterans look for a great new find or a great wine pairing!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Valencia Tour- something for everyone!

Another tour in Valencia, another day full of history, good food, and great shopping finds! Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, has a unique feel to it, but then again I feel that way about all of the cities I have visited. The Spanish Touch enjoyed a half-day tour with Barry and Donna Case, a couple who stopped in at this port city while cruising around the Mediterranean. So much to see, so much to share, so little time! So I will share with you just some of the highlights of our tour.

We had a great tour through the city, starting at the Bull Ring and Estación del Norte, the North train station ornately decorated with mosaic tiles. Such a style displays the Modernismo touch that graces various buildings around this city. We walked through the City Hall Plaza, spotted the rather large post office, and headed over to the Central Market. The market is quite the experience for all 5 senses as hundreds of stalls sell fresh fruit, fish and of course, my favorite, artisan chocolate, among other treats! We did not leave empty handed!

After admiring the 15th century silk exchange known as La Lonja, we brushed off our walking shoes once again. What would a Spanish city be without its cathedral? The Valencia cathedral (below, right) showcases Baroque, Romanesque, and Gothic style architecture, along with frescoes, a pair of Goya paintings, and what is claimed to be the Holy Grail. Wherever you come from, it's hard not to admire the craftsmanship that went into this building.

Among other treasures, we also spotted the Serrano Towers. They are hard to miss as they were once the entrance into the old Roman city. Now, they serve as a great look out point and giant piece of architecture!

Of course we stopped to eat some lunch-- paella. Valencia is the birthplace of this rice, saffron and typically seafood and/or chicken dish. As the day moved on, more and more treasures were found both on the street and inside the shops. The handmade ceramics (produced right here in the Valencia region) decorate the walls of the city, but the memory does not have to end with a photograph! Why not give into the urge to bring home a piece of Valencia's ceramic!

On the car ride back to the port, we managed to drive by the famous Opera House along with a view of the City of Arts and Sciences. (below, photo taken at previous time) ¡Qué bonita!

Thanks again to the Case family for such an enjoyable great tour!
- Justine

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

La Castanyada - A Spanish Halloween

As a child, I always loved Halloween. The trick-or-treating, the costumes, the fun games.... So when I first got to Spain I was surprised to find that the customs were not exactly the same. As we approach All Hallow's Eve, in this traditionally Catholic country we find the emphasis not so much on the scary costumes which people used to use to keep evil spirits away from the graveyards, but on a much more practical aspect: How to keep yourself awake and warm while standing guard. The answer throughout Spain came in the form of a simple nut. The Chestnut, to be precise. While most Americans think of Christmas Carols when they hear the word Chestnut, in Spain it brings to mind the Castañada (Castanyada in Catalan). This festival is celebrated from Malaga to Barcelona to the Atlantic Coast of Galicia, and, while the local customs vary, generally concern roasting these tasty treats over an open fire to provide nourishment and warmth through the night. This was traditionally accompanied by the occasional swallow of the year's young wines to keep spirits up. And so, throughout Spain this weekend, people will be celebrating with friends and neighbors this annual tradition, and towns and villages provide bonfires to keep spirits warm and alive as they pass the night away.

Contact The Spanish Touch for more information about these and other festivals, and we will be glad to offer you a customtour designed to introduce to the culture and people of Spain you can't get any other way!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Harvest Festivals

These last few months have been pretty packed in Spain. Starting in late August with the grape harvest and continuing through November, the country has become a hotbed for local festivals and traditional harvest-time activities. Members of The Spanish Touch have been fortunate enough to get to events such as the Alella Harvest Festival and the Catalan Wine and Cava Fair in Barcelona, but the events are everywhere throughout Spain. This weekend we will be visiting the annual CavaTast celebration in San Sadurni, and we will also be taking some clients up to a local mushroom festival where local "boletaires" (wild mushroom collectors) will show us their best offerings and share some of their expertise and experiences. Each region has its own unique way of celebrating this wonderful season, and each celebration is a great way to really get in touch with the local culture and people. If you would like help organizing your visit to Spain to incorporate one or more of these Festivals, please contact The Spanish Touch and we will be glad to help!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fine Dining with The Spanish Touch - A Dinner to Remember

I recently had the pleasure of taking Lynn and Herb Cantor around Barcelona for a few days, and we included a trip to the three-michelin-star Sant Pau restaurant to kick things off. The first thing that stands out is the restaurant itself, on the outside a relatively unassuming building with a small parking area for the guests. However, upon entering it was clear the restaurant was anything but typical. It balanced gentle colors and a simplicity that somehow perfectly fit the environment, and I found myself relaxing and drinking in the environment before we even got our seats. It promised to be a spectacular affair.

After starting with a welcome broth, we decided on the tasting menu, a 13-course carnival of tastes and contrasts. The highlights were many, and I could not, even now, choose a favorite, because each dish was a delicacy unto itself, so the crawfish with chamomile was a completely different experience from the lloritos, a Mediterranean fish only found in these waters during the summer months, which was completely different from the pork trotters with hot sauce, celery and hazlenuts. Perhaps the course that most stands out in my memory was the cheese course: 5 cheeses matched beautifully with a contrasting flavor, be it the local Garrotxa Bauma cheese matched with rasberry, vegetables and vinagrette, or the Barousse from the Pyrenees matched with nuts or the Cocagne with pear in eau-de-vie, each person at the table had a different preference, though everyone agreed it was sumptious.

The wines of the evening were a nice opening cava made locally for the restaurant, followed by a delightful young white wine (Godello grape) from the small Valdeorras DO. It went perfectly with the appetizers and the creative dishes. The second wine was a priorat, which was also an excellent selection and complimented the meat and cheese dishes without overpowering.

A surprise of the evening was meeting the chef in person, Carme Ruscalleda! All in all, it was a dinner that far surpassed all expectations, and left us discussing its proper place among the best meals of our lives.

Until the next time, bon profit and thanks again for the food and memories!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wine and Mushrooms Tour - this October

Hey everyone! Just wanted to let you all know about a new tour The Spanish Touch has set up for this year: Of Mushrooms and Wine. The Barcelona-based tour includes some unique opportunities to visit wine and mushroom country as well as see several of the most interesting and fun local fairs surrounding them. This year we will be visiting the Cavatast celebration in the Penedes wine region and a mushroom festival in the heart of Mushroom country. And of course we include visits to Barcelona's most famous and interesting sites, as well as a few gastronomic treasures in the city itself. It promises to be a great time, don't miss this opportunity!

For complete information, visit our website or contact us via email ( or phone (1-888-480-0013).

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tour de France in Spain

This year's Tour de France is underway, and we know the main protagonist in the form of Lance Armstrong. However, it also marks the first time in more than 40 years the Tour has passed through Barcelona, and tomorrow is the big day. Thursday, July 9 marks the date that the riders will wind their way down from the beautiful city of Girona ( to the heart of Barcelona itself, passing the Arc de Triumf, the Statue of Columbus, and finishing at the Olympic Stadium at Montjuic. While the city is preparing for the riders' reception, the people in the streets are divided on the issue. For many, it represents a great opportunity for Barcelona to show its splendors, and for others it is a headache that is interrupting trains, roads and public transportation. But whatever their feelings, the city is all set and ready to receive the biggest cycling event of the year with a full complement of activities at the Poble Espanyol and at the Citadel Park.

Contact The Spanish Touch to help plan your visit to Spain.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jazz and Wine in Barcelona with The Spanish Touch

Next weekend in Vilafranca del Penedes, the capital of the Penedes wine region about 1 hour south of Barcelona, is the ViJazz Wine and Jazz Festival. From July 3 to July 5, The Spanish Touch will be there visiting with the wineries and cava producers of the region, as well as taking in some of the best jazz and swing music of the summer in the midst of the medieval center of Vilafranca. What better way to spend a day or two of your summer vacation in Spain than joining us. Come along with us to taste some of the best wines of the region, and take advantage of the opportunity to get immersed in the culture of wine, the music and the region!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Mediterranean Society in Spain

A slightly belated thank you to the 18 members of the Mediterranean Society who visited Spain with us at the end of last month. During the twelve-day tour they visited Tarragona, Barcelona, and the Costa Brava. It was one of the best group experiences I've had, and would like to thank each and every traveller for the opportunity to share their experiences with us. Highlights included: Tarragona's Roman heritage tour (Thanks Xavi), The Modernista day in Barcelona, Empuries, Cadaques, Besalu, and even a late-late season Calçotada! Look for the pictures soon on our website, and thanks again to the whole group for making our job so much fun!

If you would like to plan your group's Spanish vacation,contact us and we will be glad to work with you each and every step from planning the itinerary to the tour itself. Let us be your friend in Spain!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Facebook group

Hi everyone!

I just want to share some exciting news: We are now a part of the Facebook society! Come join us and share your Spanish experience with everyone. We will also be updating the site with upcoming events in Spain to help you, including local festivals, shows, etc...

And, as always, if you need any additional help, don't hesitate to contact us directly at The Spanish Touch for more information or any other questions or comments.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Truffle hunting with The Spanish Touch

We are still in the grips of one of the coldest, strangest winters Spain has suffered in a long time, but that does not mean that there are not things going on! With the recession affecting Spain as much as the rest of the world, prices have been driven down and barriers opened up to visit places and do things that previously had been extremely difficult to get to. This year, the Spanish Touch is offering a unique opportunity to go look for the culinary "black gold" of Spain, truffles. In the beginning of March we will be taking a small group into the region of Graus, in Aragon, and will be going out with a local farmer to search for truffles. We will also be visiting the truffle fair in Graus, with events like cooking classes and a truffle market.

There are still a few openings available, and if you are interested, please visit our website or contact us at for more information.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Spanish Touch in 2009

Happy New Year to everyone!

As the holiday season winds down (which in Spain happenned yesterday with Three Kings Day) we would like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2009, and let you know of a few interesting developments in The Spanish Touch.

This year promises to be a good year,a year of change and hopefully we can help you celebrate that change. And speaking of celebrations, to celebrate our 5th anniversary we are offering a 10% discount on all our day tours!

We are grateful to everyone who has made our first five years so memorable, and look forward to the new challenges and faces we will see in the future, and as always, we hope to provide each and every one of you with a fantastic Spanish experience soon!

Thanks again and best of luck in 2009!!

The Spanish Touch Team