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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!

Palm Sunday in Barcelona

Palm Sunday in Barcelona

Sunday, April 9, 2017
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer –  why not join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast , in Provence, or Amsterdam?

A cozy corner in Poble Sec, the neighborhood near Montjuic where we’re staying, is the perfect place for our last Barcelona  breakfast – I’m inspired to serve our yogurt and fruit at home in such an elegant goblet!We’ll fly back to France later today, and our final hours are spent in the Barri Gotic, the old quarter. Petritxol is one of my favorite strolling lanes – with several recommended chocolate shops, churrerias, and boutiques – love the over-door decor of this bookshop! And a highlight of the street is the ceramic tile vintage cartoons  – such as this one exclaiming that from dawn to dusk all the people walk by. As we’re walking to the cathedral to see the post-mass dancing of the Sardana, we’re sidetracked by the thump of drums, and find a Palm Sunday procession winding through the narrow streets. We quietly walk alongside the solemn marchers, and catch up to the heavy float being carried through the streets by a hefty group of men. Semana Santa celebrations are so beautiful in Spain – we’re glad that our travel schedule has us here on Palm Sunday!
The Sardana, a traditional Catalan folk dance, takes place every Saturday evening and Sunday morning in front of the cathedral. The band is ready on the steps, and the dancers join hands and begin to circle to the music, the steps as familiar to them as their names.
Barcelona, what a pleasure! We’ll be back in a few weeks, bringing new guests eager to experience your delights!

 

Barcelona Bites

Barcelona Bites

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to summer – join us on the fabulous Amalfi Coast in July?

Waking up to another beautiful day, and on the hunt for breakfast…in the Sunday morning quiet of the Barri Goti (Gothic Quarter). 05101501 barri gotic breakfastOn our first Music and Markets Tour here (2016 dates will be similar), one of our clients and I wanted the same thing I want for breakfast – churros y chocolate – and found an excellent sample on Banys Nous street (which happens to be home to several chocolate shops). I love the old ceramic signs in this quarter – here are those who gathered at the baths on this street long ago.05101501 choc lane banys nous kirk patientMy wonderful patient husband smiles as I peer into café after café, a picture in my mind of the place and the churros (xurros here in Catalonia) I want…and La Granja, here since 1872, cozy and fragrant, fits the bill. We sit in the rear near the Roman Wall incorporated into the shop05101501 la granja since 1872 roman wall

and soon my crispy treats and super thick dark chocolate arrive – oh yes, they’re as good as they look! 05101501 mothers day breakfastWhat a pleasure it is just to stroll, unrushed, no agenda,  through pretty plazas, 05101501 sightsby quirky shops (umbrellas, anyone?), 05101501 umbrellas on ramblas and down the Ramblas to the flower vendors.05101501 usually avoid ramblas but flores worth a lookIt’s still early enough that the usually raucous Ramblas is calm, and we can gaze up at the lovely façades. 05101502 facades no gaudi this timeBoth here and in the Born quarter, where we’re staying, we’ve seen sheets and banners hung from balconies begging for quiet – “Please, we need to sleep!”. 05101502 facades please let us sleepHere’s my street – Santa Anna! 05101502 my streetAnd a little further down, Carrer Comtal, where each shop boasts a cute ceramic sign  – a dress shop,05101502 signs on comtal 1a cheesemonger, 05101502 signs on comtal cheesemongera cobbler,05101502 signs on comtal cobblera clock repairman. 05101502 signs on comtal clock repairCharming, no?
And now back to the beach. 05101502 w on the beachDon’t you just LOVE Barcelona? From the gothic quarter to the artsy Born to the golden sands of the beach in just minutes! And then there are the Gaudi masterpieces a little further into town, the Miro museum on Montjuic hill, several more museums, magnificent concert halls, innumerable fantastic restaurants…Barcelona’s got it all!
We passed lots of beachside restaurants on our walk to the Olympic Port last night, and now we want to stay right here in Barceloneta, so request a table at Cavamar. As we begin to stroll away the waitress asks us to wait right here – and brings a couple of chairs under an awning. We have to stay until our table’s ready or she can’t hold it. No problem, there’s plenty to look at as we relax in the shade!
What do we order? Some more fresh-from-the-sea deliciousness….and first come the utensils,05101503 a first the toolsthen a fabulous platter for two, which keeps us busy for an hour or more. What a treat!05101503 barceloneta feast for two at cavamarWe walk it off, heading down the beach with the crowds, the Gehry sculpture gleaming coppery in the sunlight. 05101503 crowds walking copper shows better in dayThen back through Barceloneta, where the seafood in front of this restaurant could scare off the kids!05101503 scary seafoodIt must be siesta time, the plazas are quiet – here, Sant Felip Neri basks in the sun, 05101504 felipe neri peaceful nowits peaceful mien belying the terror of the Fascist bomb blast in the Spanish Civil War. 05101504 felipe neri remnants of war remain Pockmarked stones bear evidence of its violent past.
History surrounds us in this marvelous city.
Early Monday morning we board the Aerobus, not far from La Monumental bullring,05101505 early walk to aerobus by old bullringrepurposed into a mall since bullfighting has been banned in Catalonia since 2012.
A gorgeous sunrise,05101505 sunrise goodbye to bcn and we fly away east for our Prague Spring Tour!

 

Gothic Sights and 21st Century Tastes

Gothic Sights and 21st Century Tastes

Wednesday, November 23,2011
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Next on the itinerary: New Year‘s Jazz in Italy

Plaça de Sant Jaume, in the center of the Gothic Quarter, is the political center of Barcelona, with the Municipal Hall on one side, and the center of regional government on the other. We meet in the square for a walking tour of the ancient quarter, and begin with the oldest remants, those Roman columns we saw on Sunday.

The current day entrance of the government HQ is on St James Square, but the former entry, guarded by a now- spearless St. George, led into a courtyard on the narrow side street. How about that baby hanging tight onto the flying gargoyle?
One of the most photo- graphed spots in the city is a beautiful more-recent Gothic fake, Barcelona’s own Pont dels Sospirs (Bridge of Sighs), added in the 20th century.

Our storied stroll takes us through many beautiful buildings, with a peek into the Archbishop’s Palace,

a pause in a gracious courtyard of the former Viceroy’s Palace, now the Archives of Aragon-

don’t miss the magnificent coffered ceiling above the staircase. From the middle of the 16th century, this masterpiece even has a galleried balcony. Wonder how you get up there?

Here’s a favorite corner for the locals, with patron Saint Eulalia’s gentle gaze falling on the lane ( Baixada – descent) on which she was rolled down in a nail – pierced barrel, one of the many persecutions she suffered from pagan Romans in 303 AD.

Another lovely courtyard

this one graced with abundant ceramic tiling.

We have to leave the tour a few minutes early, since we have an appointment to visit a hotel we’re considering for Barcelona Discoveries in May. The rooms and lobby did not make the cut, but what a glorious rooftop!

Catalan chefs have been in the forefront of revolutionizing cuisine since the 80’s, and we’re looking forward to lunch with one of the best in the city, Jordi Artal at Cinc Sentits ( 5 Senses). With the ambiance of a chic and sleek club – dark walls, copper screen swirling above us, hushed but enthusiastic service from staff dressed in black with copper ties, we begin our tasting odyssey with a creative take on the usual olives and charcuterie – the olive is stuffed with garlic, the sausage is a crispy pretzel.

Then a wooden box is opened at our table. It holds two shots, which our waiter suggests drinking all at once so as to savor the flavors together. A sabayon of cream and Cava (Catalan “champagne”) sprinkled with sea salt atop a smoky maple syrup – stellar!

Ready for soup? It’s a chestnut cream poured over quail breast, garnished with cubes of sherry gelatin and a coffee crisp.

I’ve chosen foie gras on pasty with glazed leeks, and Kirk scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, ham chips and a sweet onion reduction.

Followed by rockfish with potato confit and arroz sec – “dry rice”, an Ibizan specialty so delicious that I use the wooden spatula to scrape every last toasty grain from the mini paella pan.

Hours later, it’s time for dessert… a lacy tube filled with mascarpone, with coffee crumble, apple cubes and porcini (!!!) ice cream.

But wait, there’s more! A pomegrante gelatin cube in one spoon, a mint and chocolate bon bon (eat it all at once – it’s filled with liqueur, counsels the waiter), and a cuplet of violet flan.
What a delicious and marvelous experience – one we can’t wait to share with our Music and Markets guests in May!

 

 

Day to Night in Barcelona

Day to Night in Barcelona

Sunday, November 19, 2011, Part 2
Barcelona, Spain

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Next on the itinerary: New Year’s Jazz in Italy

We’ll continue the music with a Spanish guitar concert tonight, so explore further in the Barri Gotic to find Santa Maria del Pi church, where the concert will take place. The plaça fronting the church is filled with artisan food stalls – honey, breads, cookies and more.

Across the plaça is a beautifully sgraffito-ed eighteenth century guildhall.

The one area we do remember from our short overnight here about 5 years ago is this charming Barri Gotic, and once again we stop to read a few of the ceramic signs on the narrow lanes – a favorite memory from our previous visit. This one says “From sunrise to sunset, all day the people pass”.

Walking towards the Eixample, we see a Quatre Dauphin fountain, similar to the Aixoise beauty we love. This one has a definite Spanish flair, though, topped with a flirting damsel with a fan.

In fifteen minutes or so we’re back on Bailen street, and there’s our apartment, the one with lots of greenery on the balconies. It’s on the first floor, but up 7 short flights of stairs! Fortunately there’s an elevator, which we used when we brought our luggage, but we usually climb the stairs. There’s the Entresol, then the Principal, and FINALLY the Primero (1st).

The compact studio has everything we need – excellent wifi, a very comfortable bed and sitting area on the other side of a shelf/closet/drawer divider. Raimundo, the owner, met us when we arrived at Lorca, the apartment, and showed us how everything works, and described the neighborhood and how to get to different places we wanted to visit, where the closest metros and train station are, etc.

We recommend this place highly and would be happy to stay here again!

Just around the corner from Santa Maria del Pi is Taller de Tapas, and we enjoy a couple of plates of delicious seafood – razor clams and calamari, and a mound of paper thin artichokes, crisply fried. Accompanied by a flute of cava and some more of that tomato rubbed bread that’s a yummy staple of every meal, it’s a satisfying pre-concert supper.

In a simple side chapel with rough stone walls, we’re seated on the first row of the balcony – a great view, and super acoustics,

the perfect spot to appreciate Manuel Gonzalez’ artistry.The intricate melodies of Albeníz, Mozart, and Asturias are a wonderful intro to our Barcelona week.

Remember how we mentioned the changing façade of Casa Battlo? Here’s the night- time view of the house on Passeig de Gracia that we passed on the way home – a contrast to the daylight vista of this morning.