Monday, October 31, 2011

Dance of the Giants - Barcelona's medieval culture on the streets

This Saturday evening, starting at 6:30 in front of the Santa Maria del Mar church in the historic Born district of Barcelona, is the 8th annual Dance of the Giants (Ballada del Gegants). The giants, whose history dates back to medieval times, will meet in front of the 14th century church and begin their dance. Then, at 7:15 they will parade through the streets of the Born district, just as they might have done 500 years ago. The parade ends where it begins, with a dance inside the church itself at 8:15. A great way to cap off a Saturday in Barcelona, and then why not go for some tapas in the area, which hosts one of the city's most vibrant tapas scenes!

For more information or for help planning a private trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

The Medieval Fair in Vic - Catalan history comes alive!

During the middle ages, Vic was one of the most important and powerful cities in Catalonia, and the fair, which recreates the city as it was in the 15th century, brings people from all over. The town of Vic itself lends to the authenticity of the show, as it is replete with buildings still standing from those times, including the cathedral, the Episcopal Museum, the walls and the Mercadal.

From December 5 through 8, the 16th annual Mercat Medieval de Vic will allow you to see demonstrations of how craftsmen of the time operated, eat the traditional foods and all the other activities you expect to find at a fair like this, but there are also medieval dance classes and the traditional Catalan Correfocs. It´s a great way to enhance your visit to Spain and your appreciation for the history of the region.

For more information about visiting local fairs or for help arranging your private guided tour to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chestnuts roasting for Castanyada, or Halloween in Barcelona

For visitors to Barcelona at the end of October, one of the first things that stands out is the smell of roasting chestnuts on the street. Walk a block in the old city and you're bound to see one of these stalls, with a large metal bowl being heated by a small fire and filled with the unmistakeable aroma that I had previously associated with blustery winter days in New York.

But the Castanyada is a Halloween tradition in Catalonia. Furthermore, it dates back more than 200 years, although, like it's more commercial counterpart, it finds its roots in the festival of All Saints Day the following day. And like Halloween, the festival is particularly popular among children, who eat these tasty treats (as well as local cookies and sweets called panellets) with gusto. The image of the Castanyada is traditionally a woman (La Castanyera, who collects the chestnuts) wrapped in an old coat sitting in front of  a bowl of roasting chestnuts.  

Popular legend attributes the idea of eating roasted chestnuts to the enormous amount of energy contained within, enough to keep vigilant family and friends awake through the night to keep the evil spirits away from the cemeteries. But whatever the original reason, the tradition has taken hold and now provides locals and visitors alike with an alluring smell as they wander the streets of Barcelona.

For more information or to plan your private guided trip to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Here comes the rain, bring back the mushrooms!

It has been an unusually dry start to the autumn months here in Spain, and while beachgoers and sunlovers everywhere were enjoying the lasting sun and drinking in the lingering summer feeling, the unseasonable weather has not come without consequences. We are now in full-blown mushroom season, and yet the mushroom fairs and market stalls are strangely less-than-full. The reason? with no rain, the mushrooms haven't been growing right. They've even had reports of struggling to fill the stands this year at local mushroom festivals. But this week started off right. While i am not usually one to smile at the vision of gray clouds unleashing months of pent up rain on my head on a Monday morning, this marks one of the few times that it did. Because with the rain comes the mushrooms, and it's about time! There's still time to enjoy the mushroom season, with it's large variety of species growing wild and ready to be picked. A trip to the mountains is in store in the not too distant future!

For more information on mushroom season in Spain, or to create your personal itinerary for a private tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mercat de Mercats this weekend in Barcelona - up close and personal at the Market!

Anyone looking for a closer look into the wonderful world of Catalan cuisine this weekend has to go no further than the Cathedral in Barcelona. From Friday October 21 at midday through Sunday evening, the second annual "Mercat de Mercats" fair will be held, with dozens of market stalls offering the best of local products and more than 60 different activities, including demonstrations and presentations from top chefs like Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca) Xavier Pellicer (Can Fabes) and Mey Hofmann (Hofmann).

This year the market will also focus on the quality and diversity of the local wines and cavas, with the heading of Celler de Sumillers, offering tastings of wine, olive oils, coffees, cheese, etc. Ferran Centelles, somillier for El Bulli restaurant, will be offering a talk all about the wines of Catalonia!

It promises to be a great way to get to better konw the local products and its convenient location in front of the Cathedral makes it an ideal way to spend a few hours this weekend in Barcelona.

For more information or to plan a private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 1-888-480-0013.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Valencia Paella - an appellation unto itself

In Spain, the Denominacion de Origen (DO) is the seal of quality usually reserved for wines. It refers to specific wines from specific regions, produced in a specific way which guarantees a high quality product. Outside of wines, the DO label is reserved for only the top of certain foods, including cheeses, olives and olive oils, and now, finally, Paella. The Paella Valenciana Tradicional, often considered the most "authentic" of the paellas, has been awarded this prestigious award in deserved recognition of the consistent quality and characteristics of one of Spain's most popular dishes.

The DO label means that any paella that wants to be considered a real Valencia Paella will need to stick to a very controlled set of ingredients and be cooked in a particular way. This guarantee is sure to be a great help to people who are looking for a real paella, and want to avoid the typical tourist trap places that sell frozen paellas to unwary visitors.

The designation coincides with the region's Gastronomic Week at First Class hotels, which hig-hlights the local cuisine as a true Spanish treasure.

For more information or to plan a private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 1-888-480-0013.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Private Spain Day Tours

At The Spanish Touch We offer private Full Day and Half-Day Tours around Spain, for those people who are looking to maximize their time and take a different tour. Join us for a chance to explore the Spanish culture up  close and personal in the following locations:

Barcelona: Montserrat and Barcelona Tour, Tapas Tour, Barcelona city Tour, Penedès Wine and Cava Region Tour, etc.
Girona and Costa Brava: Dali Tour, Costa Brava Tour, Girona city Tour and the Jewish Quarter, Besalú Tour, Wine Tours, etc.
Tarragona: Tarragona city and Priorat Wine Region Tour.

Madrid: Madrid city Tour, El Escorial Tour, Toledo Tour, etc.

Andalusia: Seville Tour, Malaga Tour, Granada and The Alhambra Tour, Cordoba Tour, etc.
Basque Country: Bilbao and the Guggenheim Tour, Vitoria Tour, San Sebastian Tour, etc.
Rioja: Discover one of the best wine regions in Spain.

Just choose your own dates and let us help you plan your private guided tour in Spain!
For more information please visit our website or call us at 888-480-0013.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Toro region highlights more than just great wine

These days the Toro region is gaining recognition for its red wines, made with that ubiquitous Spanish grape, Tempranillo, here known as Tinta de Toro. And for the wines alone the region, tucked into the Northwest corner of Castilla-Leon, is worth a visit. But there is more to the region than just the vineyards.

The Spanish Touch is offering an insight to this fascinating region, staying at Parador hotels and soaking up the region's history, culture and, naturally, gastronomy. A must is visiting the wineries which are producing the spectacular wines (mostly on the south side of the Duero River). But in the land of castles and kings you are never far away from historical heritage sites like the town of Toro itself and Puebla de Sanabria. Lastly, enjoy the  best of nature by taking a hike through the Valle de Silencio and enjoying a picnic lunch with the best of the region's foods and wines!

For more information or for help planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lugo - a study in Galician Contrast

Lugo is characterized by its contrasting scenery. The coast offers beaches and panoramic views to seduce even the most hardened visitor. The mountain zone to the East offers the essence of Galicia’s interior, a nature almost completely untouched brimming with life.

The A Mariña area is famous for its sandy beaches, and we can also find ancient dolmens and forts, remains of the Celtic communities, as well as a number of medieval monuments and monuments that tell the story of the region.

In the most mountainous region, O Caurel are perhaps the most complete of the Galician Sierras,  where you will find the "Devesa da Rogueira", possibly the most representative example of the Galician flora, with a number of fantastic hiking and biking trails.

In the city of Lugo itself, do not miss the chance to visit the Roman Walls, which run for 2km and feature 10 doors – 5 old and 5 new – especially the Porta Miñá, which has undergone the least modification since its inception. The Cathedral is also worth a visit. 

For more information or to plan a private guided tour to Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-0013

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hiking tours in Barcelona - Montseny

A spectacular autumn in Barcelona has provided for perfect hiking in nearby Montseny. Just an hour from the bustling downtown are routes for all levels of hikers. From casual, gentle routes for those who want a day to enjoy the breathtaking scenery to challenging climbs for those wishing to measure themselves against the imposing Turo de L'Home, the mountain is a treasure chest waiting to be opened.

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

High cuisine in Valencia

From October 17 through the 23rd, the city of Valencia will become a focal point for alta cocina, as 10 5-star hotels from aroudn the region offer their finest dishes for the very reasonable price of just 30 euros a plate (for lunch, the price goes up to 40 euros for dinner). The goal of this Semana Gastronomica de First Class Hotels is to inform people of the wealth and tradition of the Valencian kitchen, sometimes overlooked by Madrid and Catalonia, or else pigeonholed for its Paella and horchata (both or which, naturally, fully deserve any and all praise that they recieve).

This is a great opportunity for people to discover more about the tradition and extensive possibilities of Valencia as a foodie haven.

The participating hotels are:
SH Valencia Palace, SH Villa Gadea, Westin Valencia, Denia Marriot Hotel, Hospes Palau de la Mar, Las Arenas Balneario Resort, Villa Venecia Hotel Boutique, Gran Hotel Villaitana Golf & Business Resort, SHA Wellness Clinic , La Calderona SPA & Sport Hotel

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

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Saint George and the dragon

Saint George (San Jordi) is ubiquitous in the Barcelona region. Take a look around the city, the towns and villages and you will see representations everywhere. From the Regional Government building to hidden corners in parks like this one, from classic images to Subirach's statues, Saint George stands guard over the region in constant vigilence.

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Small town treasures

When you get the chance to wander through small towns in Spain, you usually find hidden treasures, like this moderniste building juxtapositioned with a neoclassical 18th century church.
BlackBerry de movistar, allí donde estés está tu oficin@

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Pickett's Barcelona Experience - A farewell dinner with Gracia

The final evening before you catch the return flight is always an adventure. And when we picked up the Picketts at 8:00 for our farewell dinner, we wanted to make sure that their last meal in Barcelona was as special as the rest of their trip. So we headed into Gracia to a lovely little restaurant featuring Catalan fusion cuisine. As it is not a place that is frequented by too many tourists, the menu was only available in Spanish and Catalan. But after a week Jackie was able to figure out some of the menu, and Elna helped with the rest. We finally got to raise a toast with cava, and spent a thoroughly enjoyable evening reliving the highlights of the week over a wonderful meal. We enjoyed the meal in traditional style, over 2 and a half hours. It was a pleasure to be able to share a table with them, and I hope that their time in Spain will always be one of happy memories, as we have of them!!

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

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Pickett's Barcelona Experience - The Romance of Girona

As the last full day of the tour approached, it is was easy to look back at the week with the Picketts and say that the time had certainly been well spent! Having seen Barcelona, Tarragona, the Costa Brava and Dali's museum, the last day was reserved for the city that always ranks as one of Spain's premier quality-of-life cities: Girona. Maybe it's the surrounding farmlands, or the proximity of the Pyrenees, or the 4 rivers calming influence, but Girona is one of those cities that just feels like a medieval city. From the moment you cross over the bridge over the Onyar river and into the Lionesses' square, standing at the feet of the Sant Feliu church, with the profile of the Cathedral rising over head, it's like you have stepped back into a simpler, more relaxed and rustic time.

As we arrived at the same time as two large tour groups, we decided to take an alternate route through the city, so as not to have to fight the crowds the whole time. First up was the 12th-century Romanesque Sant Pere de Galligants church. As we crossed over the dammed Galligants river and back into the original walled section of the city, we saw the passeig, the old defensive walls and from there you can understand why the French once had such a difficult time taking the city.

A short winding walk up the cobbled streets led us to the Arab Baths, a misnomer as the Moors whose construction was copied by the people of Girona in the 12th century had long since been expelled. From there we headed into the church of Sant Feliu, and soaked up the legend and history of the church and it's patron saint. 


A quick stop for coffee and we were back, climbing up to the Cathedral itself, the widest single nave church in Europe boasting some spectacular chapels and the treasury. The path back down through the town started at the top of the walls, with a spectacular panorama and then through the gardens and narrow stone streets where you could find the balconies with hanging plants, a cafe with 3 tables taking up the available space at a conjunction of streets, everything you would imagine of an old European city in its romance and vibrancy. 

For more information or for assistance planning your private guided tour in Spain, contact The Spanish Touch at 888-480-013.

Romesco Sauce - Traditional Catalan Sauce recipe

Salsa Romesco is a sauce that is traditionally associated with calçots and eaten during the wintertime. That said, this sauce can also be used for vegetables, meats and a wide variety of other plates and dishes.

Nyora Pepper
The key ingredient in the salsa is the nora (nyora in Catalan) pepper, a type of dried red pepper originally from the Valencia area. This pepper is sold dried and is typical in Catalonia and Valencia. It can be found in specialty stores but if you have trouble finding it it can be substituted with a sweet, mild dried red pepper.

This is our recipe for making the Romesco:

Ingredients (4 people):
40 gr of toasted almonds / 40 gr toasted hazelnuts / 1 clove of garlic / 5 ripe tomatoes / 1 onions / 3 nora peppers / 1 slice of baguette / olive oil / vinager / salt

Romesco Sauce
  • Heat the oven and put the onion and garlic colve on a oven-safe plate with a pinch of salt and a shot of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil for 1 hour at 350ºF.
  • Do the same with the tomatoes, but leave them uncovered.
  • Soak the nora peppers for 10 minutes in warm water. Cut them open and scrape our the pulp.
  • Fry the slice of bread with the hazelnuts and almonds.
  • Put the onion, the clove of garlic, the nora pepper pulp, tomatoes, nuts and bread in a blender and mix it all together. 
  • Add olive oil, a little bit at a time, to acheive desired consistency.
  • Add salt and vinager to taste.

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