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Let’s Go for a Walk!

Let’s Go for a Walk!

TOP 8 PICKS: BEST SHOES FOR WALKING ALL DAY IN EUROPE

Anne’s walking flats on Gaudi-designed sidewalk in Barcelona.
We never quite know what a day will bring as we explore Europe with our tours, but one thing’s for sure, there will be LOTS of walking! We’ve clocked over 20,000 steps in a day more than once, and oh, do we miss it! So we’re always looking for great shoes that we can walk in all day. For us, the holy grail of shopping is a pair of shoes that look cool and feel comfortable for a full day of walking. It’s taken many years of experimentation, and our closets are full of wannabes that don’t quite cut it, but we’ve managed to find 8 pairs that we can wear walking all day without pain.
Kirk and Anne at a Slow Travel Tours gathering.
Our daughter, Sunshine Woodyard, is also a travel writer, and we collaborated with her on this story about the 8 Best Shoes for Walking in Europe. Kirk is devoted to his Mephisto shoes for travel, and I also love wearing flats by Me Too, Aerosoles, and Allbirds  – their Treebreezers are pretty, comfortable, and great for walking.
It’s a long walk to Capri’s Arco Naturale – wear good shoes!
We’re still dreaming of travel past and future, and we’d like to share the story of one of our favorite walking destinations: The Eternal City. A couple of years ago, we spent just one day in Rome and managed to squeeze in many of our favorite spots. Perhaps you’ll find inspiration for your next Italian journey! Italy is always captivating, and we are planning our return in the Spring for our Wonders of the Amalfi Coast tour. Perhaps you’d like to join us!
Our Wonders of the Amalfi Coast tour takes us all around the Island of Capri.
If you have a particular travel bucket list item to fulfill, there’s no time like the present to create a grand plan! Our custom private tours can make your dreams come true. If you’ve got an idea for a European destination to explore, and you’d like some personal guidance, we hope you’ll connect with us at info@musicandmarkets.com
Dancing on the Hilltop

Dancing on the Hilltop

May 2018 – Music and Markets Barcelona Tour
Montserrat, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

Yesterday we explored along the sea, today we’re climbing high to Montserrat, home of Santa Maria de Montserrat, the spiritual heart of this region of Catalonia. By metro, train then cog rail we ascend to the bluest sky and clear air, where Benedictine monks, of which there are still 150 today, founded an abbey in the 10th century.  We find that it’s not just any Sunday, but a celebration – the abbey is absolutely PACKED for Mother’s Day.

Standing room only – but well worth it for the pure voices of the world-famous boy’s choir.
And then the party begins – folk ensembles from around the region, in beautiful traditional dress, line up for the dances in the expansive plaza outside the church. We had hoped for something special up here today, but no online search let us know what we could expect – it’s just a delight! 

Accompanied by a Catalan band, with that peculiar oboe-like woodwind, the shawm, the dancers twirl and sway in complicated patterns, their espadrilles softly padding through the steps. What a treat!
We descend in a different way from which we came up – soaring through the air in a little yellow bucket – you can see the next one up on the right. Much faster than the cog railway!
Each day unique, it’s been a wonderful week, polished off with a fine dinner.As usual, we enjoyed this Music and Markets Tour as much as our guests did!

Roman Relics and Magic Fountains

Roman Relics and Magic Fountains

May 2018 – Music and Markets Barcelona Tour
Tarragona & Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

About an hour west of Barcelona is Rome’s first outpost in the area, the city of Tarragona, so we head out from nearby França Station for a trip back in time to this Unesco World Heritage Site.
We approach the city right along the coast, waves nearly lapping at the train tracks, and as we walk up to the center from the station we get a great view of the Roman Ampitheatre.Our preferred approach is along the Roman walls, entering near the archeological park entrance to take a look at the excellent Maquette of Roman Tarraco, which gives a clear impression of what the city looked like centuries ago.
Walking through the city, we appreciate the traces of ancient Rome incorporated right in to daily life – a bit of a wall here, an impressive cathedral up the steps where the ancient temple was. We even eat lunch in the shadow of Rome – in Les Voltes (The Vaults), tucked right under the arches of the Circus in the middle of town.
Pilate, of Biblical notoriety, is said to have been born in Tarraco – his statue stands not far from exposed tiers of the Circus. Another of Tarragona’s claims to fame is their expertise as Castellers, a Catalan tradition – giving them the name  City of Human Towers. Sure hope we can see it in person someday!
A watery musical extravaganza ends our day  back in Barcelona as we join the crowds to take in the Magical Fountains of Montjuic, the lavish flow choreographed to snippets of music.

 

Artistic Genius in Barcelona

Artistic Genius in Barcelona

May 2018 – Music and Markets Barcelona Tour
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

Montjuic rises near the sea, crowned with a fort, several sites for the 1992 Summer Olympics, and parks and museums, the most popular one filled with Joan Miró’s work….which was the impetus for our Barcelona Tour when in 2012 there was a special Miró exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. At the suggestion of the former Director of Music at the gallery, we put together a week full of art and music for a new Music and Markets tour – and liked it so much that we’ve continued to offer it!
Tracing Miró’s work from beginning to end, Fondation Miró is an open, airy, and well-designed space, welcoming individuals and groups of all ages. There have always been young school children there when we’ve visited, and it’s delightful to watch them discover the secrets and lessons within these colorful works with the help of an engaging young docent.
We soar through the air to our next destination, Barceloneta on the beach. After a stroll along the sand, taking in art installations both permanent and transitory, we find our reserved table at Can Majo to enjoy some fabulous seafood – this chef is a genius of taste and presentation too! It’s not far back to the hotel, and we all enjoy the walk after our deliciously filling meal.
More artistry awaits us beside a peaceful cloister in the chapel of Santa Anna in the Barri Gotic at an evening concert –Ksenia Axelroud and Joan Benejam, the Barcelona Duo de Guitarra. Spanish melodies of Albéniz, Granados and Soler fill the intimate space, before a rousing finale from Bizet’s Carmen.
Stopping for tapas at a couple of places on the way back to the hotel, we enjoy a final stroll through the Born, with Santa Maria del Mar’s belltower lighting our way.

Barcelona Bounty

Barcelona Bounty

May 2018 – Music and Markets Barcelona Tour
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

Each day is unique and exciting around Barcelona – from Art Nouveau neighborhoods, gorgeous seaside, ground-breaking art such as Picasso and Miro, to today’s multi-layered Barri Gotic. Passing through bright and sunny Plaça de Sant Jaume, the administrative heart of both the city and the region, we’re enveloped in the warren of ancient streets of old town.
To the right of Sant Jaume is the cathedral, and before the crowds arrive we enjoy the peacefulness of the gothic cloister, with its 13 swans-a-swimming around the fountain. Not far away is a trace of yet-older civilization, a cluster of elegant Roman columns incorporated right into an apartment block! And here are the steps Columbus trod when he brought news of the New World to Queen Isabelle…around the corner from my favorite courtyard – the gorgeous Archives of the Crown of Aragon, built in the 1500s. Of course Music and Markets guests don’t want to miss Barcelona’s premier market, La Boqueria! And neither does anyone else – it’s always jam-packed! And overflowing with Spanish temptations from landand sea. Across the Ramblas, the main pedestrian walkway, narrow lanes are filled with more enticements – fulfill your flamenco dreams here, or purchase a fragrant candle from the oldest shop in Barcelona – Cerería Subirà. One of Barcelona’s don’t-miss venues is the magnificent Art Nouveau Palau de la Música Catalana, under whose glorious stained glass ceiling  we complete the day with some un-Catalan music, an evening of flamenco and opera.
Tastes and sights, smells and sounds, what a day full of Barcelona’s bounty!

Gaudi-licious!

Gaudi-licious!

May 2018 – Music and Markets Barcelona Tour
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne

We’re back in Barcelona, and our tour guests have arrived – let’s begin with a day filled with the unique and playful designs of Gaudi, Catalonia’s Modernista (Art Nouveau) master.
Towering above the adjacent park and apartment buildings, Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882, and we’ve never seen it without cranes higher than the existing towers as work continues on the structure, inside and out. Will it be completed by the hoped-and-planned for date of 2028? We shall see…
It’s often compared to a giant drip-sand castle – yes, I see the resemblance!
The details are overwhelming –  look closely to appreciate the joyful musicians on one side, the peaceful Holy Family or threatening Darth-Vader-like soldiers at the crucifixion on the other.
Inside the organ is playing as we quietly take in the immense space – it feels as if one is in a forest of pale columns, lit with beams of color from the windows. When we were last here the stained glass was being installed – fascinating to watch. Now it’s completed, and bathes the space in jewel tones.Beneath the nave are the studios, with models Gaudi constructed to design his signature parabolic arches. Modern technology, with 3D printers and more, has taken the place of centuries-old methods as work continues.
Fascinating Casa Batllo on Passeig de Gracia is our next stop – a quirky charmer inside and out.
Not a straight line to be seen – Gaudi worshiped the curve, said there are no straight lines in nature, and kept it that way himself.Wouldn’t it be fun to quietly sit in this nook and read? One seat is larger than the other, designed specifically for the owners, whose daughter and her fiancée could sit on the wider seat while the dueña sat across making sure they behaved themselves.
Life goes on in the occupied houses surrounding Casa Battlo – laundry’s hung out to dry on one balcony and the table is set for family lunch on another as we pause on the upper floor terrace off the dining room. Gaudi’s artistry continues all the way to the tip top of the roof – and off in the distance we can see the spires of Sagrada Familia. Even Passeig de Gracia, the main drag in this part of town, is Gaudi designed – right down to the sidewalk beneath our feet as we walk a few blocks to Cinc Sentits (Five Senses) for a memorable lunch. A stone is set in the middle of the table…we haven’t figured out why. But we’re soon distracted with a block of wood, in which are 4 heavy shot glasses. Our waiter describes the contents – maple syrup, a sprinkle of sea salt, a zabaglione-like layer, then cream – and suggests downing it in one swig, which we do – indescribably delicious!
And there’s more to come…from succulent scallops, to luscious chocolate – yes, our senses are delighted! And now we’re ready for more Gaudi…
Trencadis, Modernista mosaic composed of broken ceramics, is a defining characteristic of whimsical Park Guell, a playground of Gaudi’s creations.
Up to the market-hall rooftop we climb, to take in the view of city and sea from the colorful benches snaking around the edge – yes, all curves again!
The interior of those Hansel and Gretel like houses below are worth a peek – a colorful playhouse feel.
We’ve sampled just one of Barcelona’s unique highlights – the Modernista creations of Gaudi.
A harpsichord concert completes the day. The tuner has his work cut out for him during intermission – harpsichords don’t stay in tune like pianos do.
More adventures in store tomorrow – we’re going to the Wild Coast – the Costa Brava!