This year we embarked on our third Candelaria Design Tour Spain our 18th Tour over all since our first tour in 2000! This was our largest group ever for Spain, 22 travelers in all. Our itinerary included San Sebastián, Granada and Barcelona – where we started our tour.
I love Barcelona as it is one of my favorites of Europe – at least so far, I still have more to see! I love the robustness of everything about Spain but particularly, Barcelona, from its architecture of course, but also its cuisine and Catalan culture. From Gaudi, to Picasso, to Dali, to Hemingway – there is nothing timid about this culture. You simply either get out of the way of the bull or you get gorged by the bull! Its flamboyant, its captivating and its proud. The people of Barcelona and Catalan are proud of their culture and they have every right to be. Its amazing.
Thursday May 30th
We started our tour this year where we finished our first Spain Tour in 2017, at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona. ihttp://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/spain/barcelona?scid=bb1a189a-fec3-4d19-a255-54ba596febe2. What a luxurious and modern experience starting with a glass of cava – in essence Spanish champagne, and a welcome for my travelers who had been traveling for nearly 22 hours. We checked in mid-day, relaxed and rested a bit, and then went out for what else, paella!
My group was fantastic and consisted of a wide age range from 20 to over 80! Half of my group was younger than thirty and the rest were all near 50 or older. I loved it – what energy was brought by the younger travelers and I’m excited to see the next generation of Candelaria Design Tour travelers emerging.
Friday May 31st
The next day a large part of our group were off to visit the Gaudi houses of Casa Batlló and Casa Mila. https://www.casabatllo.es http://www.lapedrera.comTwo amazing works by Gaudi both along the grand boulevard, the Passeig de Gràcia – one of the most beautiful tree lined boulevards in Barcelona. Both of these works are really more works of art than architecture, although Gaudi manages to masterfully merge both, into a whimsical Art Nouveau creation with Casa Batlló and something from out of this world with Casa Mila – especially if you visit the roofs of both and encounter the chimneys that look like space soldiers from Star Wars. As I have said several times, I am convinced Gaudi was taken to another world, brought back and built what her remembered from his journey.
The rest of us toured the La Rambla, another beautiful boulevard in Barcelona, but a bit overrun with tourists. . Of course I had to make a quick stop to my favorite spot in Barcelona, the La Boqueria. http://www.boqueria.barcelona We made a quick dash through as it was a busy time of the day – but I was able to assure myself that it was there, the world was good, and I could come back later while here and take the time to truly enjoy the magic of this food mecca.
From there we strolled through the old part of Barcelona, the Barrio Gótico de Barcelona where we basically went from shop to shop, through a maze of car free, narrow streets with the sounds of people speaking Catalan and the sounds of dishes clanking from small apartments where people are enjoying a light lunch before their siesta or from little cafes which we ultimately ventured into for our own light lunch and then it was back to our hotel for our own siesta.
Then that evening, we got right into it with our first of what would be three Devour Food Tours, one in each city we would visit on our Tour. https://devourtours.com Devour is an amazing concept by James Blick where they combine what is a guided history tour, as you typically see throughout Europe, with a food and wine tour. It lasts about three hours, you learn some history, see some sights, but you eat and drink along the way all the while experiencing local foods, wines, and traditions with locals in their settings – so away from the typical tourist spots. They are fantastic, a great value and I highly recommend them. They started in Spain, but they are growing to Rome, Paris, and Lisbon – I am sure we will see them springing up throughout Europe and I sure hope so they are a great way to get a nice macro/micro tour when visiting a city and dinner at the same time all while walking and burning those calories!
Our Devour Tour started at the Mercat de Santantoni https://www.mercatdesantantoni.com/
which is another fabulous market worth visiting and considering. We were guided by two lovely ladies who broke us into two smaller groups alternating the restaurants we would visit for quick bites and drinks.
Our first stop was the La Bodega d’en Rafel https://labodegadenrafael.dudaone.com/
This was a fun stop with wonderful tapas and we were introduced to Vermut which is a very popular drink in Catalan and is basically what we call Vermouth – an herb infused wine poured over ice with a twist of lemon or orange. https://talesofthecocktail.com/culture/doing-vermouth-catalan-style Then the second introduction was the drinking wine from a Porrón which is a traditional glass wine pitcher originating right here in Catalan. Let’s just say my group of travelers really took a liking to the Porrón!
Our next stop was the Cellar Florida for more tapas and some delicious cava and wine. We made our final stop where we met up with the entire group at the Els Sortidors del Parlament. Another wonderful spot filled with locals – not a single tourist, except us of course – and the perfect place to gather the group around a large table and enjoy more amazing wine and tastes of Catalan.
We finished our evening walking a few blocks to the Font Magica de Montjuïc – or the Magic Fountains! It was a beautiful evening and the perfect night to take this in. Plenty of tourists here but we managed to have some fun, do some jumps and enjoy the light and water show along with the spectacular views.
Both of these works are off the charts and the Sagrada Familia in my opinion is one of the most amazing creations and architectural feats ever designed and constructed. As I said in our video, it is like looking into a kaleidoscope and then being able to walk into it. It is truly an awe-inspiring experience. Parc Güell is a lovely place to finish your Gaudi experience. It is like being a kid and exploring a fairytale. You find yourself looking for the Mad Hatter or Alice in Wonderland…or maybe Alice Cooper….its out there!
While one group was soaking in more Gaudi a few others slept in, relaxed by the beach, or went exploring and shopping. Isabel and I went exploring and shopping! We had morning breakfast at the La Boqueria at the famous Pinotxo Bar. Pinotxo is most likely La Boqueria's, and even Barcelona's, best tapas bar. The famous and charismatic owner, Juanito, greeted Isabel and I and personally served us Spanish Tortilla, and café leche, along with a few other breakfast treats. From there we did some shopping along the Passeig de Gràcia and back in the Barrio Gótico when I started getting some Instagram messages from a childhood friend I had not seen in probably 30 years. He had been following my posts and realized I was in Barcelona where he was visiting and we made arrangements to meet at the La Boqueria for lunch! This time we would go to one of my favorites, Bar Boqueria http://barboqueria.comfor their spectacular grilled seafood platter.
What fun to meet, reconnect and share some stories from years gone by. His family and my family have been friends since our great grandfathers back in Durango, Colorado so that goes back a few years! Well we couldn’t stop at the seafood platter so we went for a closer – the filet with topped with foie gras. Off the charts. A cold beer to go along and what a fantastic memory and experience.
Isabel and I then went back to the hotel for a siesta as tonight we were going to dine in high style at the contemporary Catalan restaurant – Windsor Cuina Catalana. This came at the recommendation of our concierge at the Hotel Arts and it did not disappoint. It is always nice to experience both ends of the spectrum in food and atmosphere.
Sunday June 2nd
Our final day in Barcelona and it did not disappoint. Given it was a Sunday we needed to go to church and so we made a trek to the mountains northwest of Barcelona and the monastery of Montserrat http://www.abadiamontserrat.net/(S(1b0knnbyzw2nubo2pwog3a1x))/Defaultangles.aspx Such a beautiful setting and experience – if you could subtract all of the tourists…. I would recommend going on a cold rainy day so you could have it all to yourself. Nonetheless, I loved experiencing this mountainside Monastery, and the fantastic architecture. We were lucky enough to be there just as Sunday Mass was underway which I enjoyed very much. I took some time to meditate and pray and mentally cancel out all the people that were there to just take pictures and move on to the next venue on their tour.
From here we traveled down the mountains to the valley floor below and to the winery Oller Del Mas. https://ollerdelmas.com/en/Sitting in a fertile plain with the Mont Serrat range in the distance, we enjoyed a tour of the winery and a light lunch in a beautiful private space with spectacular views and what do you know a porrón with which to enjoy our wine!
We finished our lunch and emptied our porrón and made our way back to Barcelona to relax and then up to the rooftop of our hotel for a farewell cocktail party to bring our Barcelona leg of the trip to a close!