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.
Saturday, June 16th, 2012
Friday, June 15th, 2012
Our last day in France and the weather is perfect. Prepared to enjoy every minute, we started early with a walk through town and a visit to the Friday morning market. The merchants were helpful and patient with our French.

Nicolas arranged a wine tasting for us at Château de Santenay, castle of Philippe le Hardi or Philip the Bold, son of Jean le Bon or John the Good.

Thursday, June 14th, 2012
The messy weather has not slowed us down, but we had high expectations for today when we saw the brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds. We've taken full advantage of the warm dry day-from enjoying the hot air balloons on our morning walk to dinner on the terrace in the evening.
Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Wednesday is mini-market day in Beaune, and we drove over from Meursault for our cooking class with Marjorie Taylor. We met at the Hess cheese shop to begin our day. Marjorie, a former pastry chef and restaurant entrepreneur, followed her daughter Kendall to France. Kendall, studied French, Art History and viticulture and has lived in France for over 10 years. When Marjorie came over in 2008, they created The Cook's Atelier to share their love of food and wine and all things French.
Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
Romanée-Conti wine sells for as much as 10,000 Euros a bottle, and today we saw the vines that will produce the 2012 vintage. Sadly, Romanée-Conti winery doesn't have a tasting room, but some of their neighbors do. Today, we toured the Côte de Nuits sub-region of the Côte d'Or with Nicholas and learned a lot about Burgundy wines-including the fact that not many of us in the car will ever drink Romanée-Conti!
Monday, June 11th, 2012
Today, we woke to clouds and drizzle.  We weren't concerned because it was a travel day with no outside activities scheduled.  Our first indoor activity was breakfast. Everything was delicious - especially the panne cotta. We would have stayed longer at Les Crayeres, but we had places to go and wines to taste.
Sunday, June 10th, 2012
The forecasts for dreary, rainy weather finally came true. We were up early and settled into our train seats a full ten minutes before departure-an auspicious start to a trip that was to take us from Bordeaux through Paris to Reims. We'd read that the drive from Gare Monparnasse to Paris Gare de l'Est takes about 20 minutes. We had about an hour to make the transfer.
Saturday, June 9th, 2012
Clouds loomed as we headed across the river to the right bank, or east, of the Gironde River to visit the Saint-Emilion region of Bordeaux. We met our tour guide Bruno for a tour of small vineyards and medium-scale production wineries. The terroir in the Saint-Emilion area varies slightly based on the elevation of the property along the plateau - the land higher up the edge and on the plateau has the best limestone and clay soil for growing grapes.
Friday, June 8th, 2012

We started the day on a high note: Château La Mission Haut-Brion. It's located next to sister property, Château Haut-Brion, which was the only wine outside of Médoc to be classified as a First Growth of Bordeaux. Château Haut-Brion has been closed two years for renovations. Château La Mission Haut-Brion sparkles now after renovations of its own.

Thursday, June 7th, 2012
Our first full day in Bordeaux was great. Bruno Delmas, wine expert and tour guide, met us at our house and we drove out to the Médoc wine region on the left bank of the Girond River. After years of an informal ranking, in1855 Napoleon III rated all wines in the region.
Wednesday, June 6th, 2012
Trains, planes, automobiles.....bus, tram, taxi, and feet.  All went well until we reached Bordeaux's St Jean train station. Bad maps, confusion, and general lack of knowledge of Bordeaux kept us walking up and down the streets for some time. Finally we hopped onto one of the city's very fine trams with all of our bags-good thing we're traveling light!
Tuesday, June 5th, 2012
We returned to Havana Monday night. On Tuesday, there was a discussion on US/Cuban Relations led by Dr. Raul Rodriquez, a professor at the University of Havana who has written extensively on US-Cuban relations.

After the discussion, we walked to the Museo de la Revolución.  The idea of putting the Museum of the Revolution in the former presidential palace of the dictator Fulgencio Batista was clearly symbolic.

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