Monday, June 25th, 2012
One day in Barcelona. There's only one thing to do: see all the Gaudí works we can. We chose to use the hop-on, hop-off bus tour for transportation. It took us to the sights we wanted to visit and gave us an overview of a city we'd never seen. The best tip of the day came from a woman at our hotel: buy tickets to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí's fabulous cathedral online before you go.
Saturday, June 23rd, 2012
It's our last full day in the Rioja region and we made some schedule adjustments to get everything in. Today we toured the Muga Winery in Haro with the Spanish language group, even though our Spanish is fairly limited. Our guide, Carmen, led the 28 of us through their facility explaining everything as she went. Having been on dozens of winery tours in English, we were never completely lost, but there are a few details that we probably missed. Okay, there are things we totally missed and others that we made up from what we thought we heard.
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
Now for a Good News Girlz wine quiz: when you think Spanish wine, what wine comes to mind? Rioja, of course. When you think of Rioja, what bottle comes to mind? Marqués de Riscal's signature bottle with the white label and gold wire netting, natch. We learned today that Marqués de Riscal, one of the oldest Rioja labels, was founded in 1858 and by 1895 was first non-French wine to win the diploma of honor at the Bordeaux Exhibition.
Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Our next stop on this tour-preview trip is the Rioja wine region. Most people think of Rioja when they think of Spanish wine and we're going to check it out. But first we had to visit Bilbao, capital of the Basque region and home to the architectural masterpiece that is the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum building designed by Frank Gehry.
Toro on Hill
Wednesday, June 20th, 2012
High on a hillside on the road from Madrid to Salamanca stands the silhouette of a giant black bull: this is Toro, who seems to be the mascot of Spain. It is Euro Cup 2012 so we may be seeing more nationalistic fervor than usual, but we're seeing a lot of bulls. To stay with the theme, today we visited the Elias Mora winery near Toro, Spain where they make a bold red wine called Toro.
Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
With heavy hearts we packed up and left the Hotel Rector. The beauty of the property is matched by the thoughtfulness of the staff. Last night, when Silvia, who works at the front desk, learned that Karla is a sommelier, she asked her advice on a bottle of wine. We had a great conversation about the hotel and her career and Good News Girlz. There's a warmth to the professionalism that few hotels achieve.
Monday, June 18th, 2012
In her book, One Thousand Places to See Before You Die, Patricia Schultz salutes Plaza Mayor in Salamanca and the Hotel Rector, where we're staying, saying that both should be on your to-do list. Now we've done those things. The sandstone square of Plaza Mayor is exquisite and the Hotel Rector truly does rank with the 1000 most amazing places we've ever stayed.
Sunday, June 17th, 2012
This morning we drove northwest out of Madrid and straight into what looked like West Texas. The sky was big and blue, the grass brown, the land flat, and there was a whole lot of nothing between small towns. Ávila, pronounced ah VEE la, is an hour and a half drive from the city and worth checking out. The old walls have been restored and for 5 Euros you can spend hours wandering around above the city, watching people, looking at the scenery, and listening to the audio tape that comes with your entrance fee.
Monday, January 23rd, 2012
In travel as in life, being flexible makes things easier. This morning we arrived at Renacer Winery for a 10:00 tour and tasting only to be told we hadn't been expected. We had made our reservation with the owner who apparently hadn't communicated to the staff. After some negotiation we decided to return at 4:00 in the afternoon when the owner was there.
olive trees
Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
When two members of our travel group made dinner reservations to go to dinner in Girona, Spain, at El Celler de Can Roca, we knew it was a Michelin 3-Star restaurant.  But, we didn't know that the restaurant critics who matter rank it as #2 in the world. El Bulli, the top restaurant, just closed its doors.  So, theoretically, El Celler is The Big Deal. The day we planned to go to the restaurant, we decided to climb in and out (literally) of buildings in the old city center of Girona and hike along the top of the Roman wall.
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Parc Güell, a Catalan word pronounced "park khwell," is a garde
Monday, November 14th, 2011
The old town of Girona is a popular day trip from Barcelona, about 2 hours by train and slightly less time by car. It stands on the steep hill of the Capuchins to the west of the river, while the more modern section stands on the plains to the east. The city is easy to explore by walking its narrow streets, passageways, and along its ancient Roman wall. The Roman city wall, the 'Passeig Arqueològic' (the archeological walk), begins at the northern edge of the city. Within the wall you can still see the remains of a Roman road, built to connect Rome to Tarragona.
Friday, October 14th, 2011
Paella is a typical Spanish dish traditionally cooked in a "paellera," a round flat pan with two handles, from which it can be served at the table.
Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
Ferran Adria, the Catalan chef, performed cooking experiments which forever changed the El Bulli restaurant's place in cooking history and put this region of Spain in the center of a culinary paradigm shift.
barcelona 1
Monday, September 26th, 2011
After a day and a half in the city of Barcelona, we meet up with our group of twelve from Texas and shuttle to the medieval village of Ullastret, a two-hour drive northeast of Barcelona. While the Catalans are a part of the total Spanish identity, the area seems like a separate country in its culture, language, food and climate. An Ullastret castle (circa 1150) is our base for eight days.
Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
After the 'never ending day that turns into night and back into day' that is normal European air travel, we land at the stunning, contemporary Barcelona airport. Customs, while not particularly friendly, is uneventful. The Catalan dialect is distinctly different from the only Tex-Mex Spanish we possess, so conversation is limited to sign language and disturbing moans that emerge from our mouths.
shoes one
Monday, November 15th, 2010
Recently my husband and I visited Barcelona and environs to celebrate our special anniversary and a friend's birthday. At my age, I don't toss out numbers. I just realized that I have been married longer than the age I admit to. But back to the trip. I was struck by the daring and innovative architecture that loomed over the landscape and the enticing store windows at eye level that were provocative works of art.
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