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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
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!

A Day for the Senses – Gaudi and More

A Day for the Senses – Gaudi and More

Spring in Spain – – Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour in Provence or our featured (and expanded!) 2012 Amsterdam/Belgium tour!


There is so much we appreciate about welcoming Hotel 10 Montcada – not least of all the fabulous buffet breakfast that starts our day!

Oh and have we mentioned the fabulous rooftop terrace? Complete with jacuzzi?! No time to linger there this morning, though. We’re ready for a Gaudi- filled day!

First stop, his unfinished symphony, a work still in progress 86 years after his death, the Sagrada Familia.

A masterpiece outside,

and in – a stunning forest of graceful white columns,

we feel privileged to  see the work continuing before our eyes, as jewel-toned stained glass is fitted into place above us.

From this majestic house of worship, the symbol of Barcelona, we move on to a more intimate example of Gaudi genius, the extraordinary Casa Batlló.

What inspired this scaly, colorful, rippling delight? Was it the sea? the confetti of Venice’s Carnival -see those mask-like balconies? the dragon conquered by St. Jordi (George), the patron saint of Barcelona?

What fun to see Gaudi’s designs for living – such as this cozy nook, complete with a private fireplace

and an up-close view of  the dragon-spine crowning it all  – we’d have rooftop parties if we lived here 😉

After this feast for the eyes, it’s time to move on to our other senses, at the aptly named Cinc Sentits (Five Senses), where Stephen meets us for lunch. This Miró inspired tour was his idea, with the arrival of the Joan Miró exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, which we’re all looking forward to enjoying for ourselves when we return to the DC area. Stephen had to play at a Sunday evening concert at the Gallery, so was unable to depart until Monday and we’re glad he didn’t have to miss what we know will be a fabulous lunch!

Our tasting menu began with a spectacular layered concoction that included sabayon, warm maple syrup and flaked salt in a shot glass – we were advised to drink it all at once, and you could just see everyone’s eyes widen as we did – indescribably delicious! And the tastes kept coming… risotto with cod and a crispy wafer

foie gras with a sweetly crunchy crust

sorbets and fruit, followed by divinely decadent morsels of the finest chocolate… don’t miss this experience when in Barcelona!

Senses delighted, some of us retire to the hotel before tonight’s concert, and the rest of us continue our Gaudi Day, stopping at one of his first commissions (which must have been designed before he decreed that straight lines are of man, curved lines of God), Casa Vicens, a moorish pastiche that’s a private home.

Playful Park Guell is our last stop,

and surprisingly it seems a little less crowded than it was when we visited in November… perhaps everyone’s enjoying the beach on this warm day!

In the evening we gather in the lobby for a pre-concert chat with Stephen, whose insights into “The Grace of Schubert” make this first concert of our tour, the Barcelona Symphony, even more of a pleasure.

Gaudi and Goodbye

Gaudi and Goodbye

Saturday, November 25, 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

Our last day in Barcelona, and we’ll fill it with Modernista sights of Gaudi et al. On our way to view a lesser-known early Gaudi commission, we’re once again drawn in by a market, along with the entire neighborhood, it seems. There’s a holiday charity event going on, as locals bring in donations for those in need, and a youth jazz band entertains the shoppers.
Displays of fresh vegetables decked with strings of dried peppers and intriguing shellfish – such as percebes, a type of barnacle that’s harvested by brave rock scramblers as the surf crashes around them, and those razor clams we enjoyed a few nights ago.

We metro to the Gracia district and ascend to streetlevel, where we’re greeted with an impressive Modernista building with artful dragonfly grilles on the sinuous windows.

Gaudi’s Moorish- influenced wonder, a private home, is very different from his later works – more straight lines here, a surprise from the man who declared that God makes curved lines, straight lines are man’s idea.

It’s fascinating to note how every detail is an essential part of the whole – from the bougainvillea – laden balconies to the fence design to the tilework.

Fanciful Park Guell is a few minutes walk uphill, with its Hansel and Gretel inspired houses at the entrance

and the fabulous terrace lined with curving benches strewn with intricate designs of broken tiles (a Gaudi technique – trencadis – he instructed his workers to pick up every stray piece of broken ceramic they could find wherever they walked).

We laugh to see a Coca-Cola vending machine in trencadis– creative and pinpointed marketing for sure!

Next stop, Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia. One day we’ll see it without construction cranes, but for now work continues, as it has for over a century. The goal of completion is the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death, 2026.

Time to pack for our early flight home tomorrow, and then one more seaside dinner and a stroll along the beach, where the W gleams across the surf… Hasta la vista, Barcelona!

Tapas and Modernistas in Barcelona

Tapas and Modernistas in Barcelona

Tuesday, November 22, 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

Kirk takes me on a mini- Modernista walk on our way to dinner, past yet another impressive example of the genre just a block away from our flat: a confection of brick and sgraffito inspired by the Alhambra in Granada.

The Moorish keyhole shapes and decorative ceramic show up in unexpected places, such as atop the windows of the pharmacy on the ground floor.

We’re tempted once again by a market, and just have to peruse the colorful stalls… artfully stacked fruits,

the requisite jamón ibérico

and sausages of all shapes and sizes.

There are several Modernista pharmacies throughout the Eixample district, and this one boasts fanciful glass panels – shopping with a monkey???

A lace-y more traditional Art Nouveau doorway graces this façade

Then we see an inimitable Gaudi doorway – HIS unique take on Art Nouveau

on the craggy, cliff- like La Pedrera on Passeig de Gracia.

Even the pavers on the sidewalk of Gracia are Gaudi designed.

Our eyes are sated… now to give some attention to our stomachs!
We’re going on a Tapas Crawl in the hip Born district, and our first stop is Euskal Etxea, its counters laden with tasty Basque bites,

each one a work of art, and each one only 1.80€!

Next stop, Xampanyet, another Basque spot, and quite a contrast to sleek Euskal Etxea.
They’re advertising fresh beer from the barrel,

and we can hardly get in the door!

The jolly guys behind the counter urge us to try one tapa after another and after a few raucous minutes, filling our mouths with tasty morsels, we seek out a quieter spot to finish our evening.

Bar del Pla quietly satisfies us with roast suckling pig, fried artichokes, and the ever-present pa amb tomaquet (bread rubbed with tomatoes).

Buenas noches, Barcelona…

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.