So when Art and Carol tell us about how they start their planning for a European trip with a Rick Steves book, it sort of makes us smile inside, because Art and Carol aren’t traveling on a Rick Steves tour bus. They’re traveling with European Focus Private Tours. That’s because tonight, when we took our guests to an authentic tapas bar near our boutique hotel, a place established in 1932 and serving locals ever since, we didn’t have to stand crammed toe to toe at a bar eating our tapas from toothpicks. We sat comfortably in a dining room full of interesting art, being served by Spanish-speaking waiters who didn’t give a damn if we were Americans. They served us the same way they served their Spanish and Catlunyan, and other guests – on their own terms – and slowly, and with care and with best of all, excellent food and wine, and we didn’t have to eat it with toothpicks. (a la Rick, as described in one of his own many ‘guides’.)
There’s a dividing line between traveling with the masses (Rick Steves) and experiencing Europe through the “Front Door” with European Focus. That line is usually measured in another zero added to the cost of the trip. But after hearing stories from Art and Carol of their previous misadventures on the road, we know and most importantly Art and Carol know, that the extra zero means a whole lot of something (memories) and a whole lot less of something else (stress).
, English: Palace of Catalan Music) is a concert hall in Barcelona. Designed in the Catalan modernista style by the Barcelona’s classic concert hall by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, it was built between 1905 and 1908 for the Orfeó Català, a choral society founded in 1891 that was a leading force in the Catalan cultural movement that came to be known as the Renaixença (Catalan Rebirth) (Benton 1986, 56; Fahr-Becker 2004, 199). It was inaugurated February 9, 1908. The project was financed primarily by the society, but important financial contributions also were made by Barcelona\’s wealthy industrialists and bourgeoisie. The Palau won the architect an award from the Barcelona City Council in 1909, given to the best building built during the previous year. Between 1982 and 1989, the building underwent extensive restoration, remodeling, and extension under the direction of architects Oscar Tusquets and Carles Díaz (Carandell et al. 2006, 138). In 1997, the Palau de la Música Catalana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Hospital de Sant Pau. Today, more than half a million people a year attend musical performances in the Palau that range from symphonic and chamber music to jazz and Cançó (Catalan song).
A movement swept through this city in the period between 1890 and 1920 and it resulted in dozens of incredible structures being erected all throughout this most unique European city. To wander the streets of Barcelona is to be stunned again and again by incredible feats of artistry in brick, mortar, stone and iron. Here are just a few images of what we’ve enjoyed the last couple of days.
OK so we fall victim sometimes (but not often) to the horrible expenses and heart attacks which follow a shopping escapade in Europe. Now we have to send the items we bought back to our shop in Sarasota. In we go to a small post office in a small town outside of Barcelona. After half an hour of filling out forms and answering numerous questions, we’re presented with a bill for 87.20 Euro for our 10 kilogram package. That’s an astounding $123 for a package weighing less than 22 pounds. We’ve packed it well, in fact, we’ve packed it with a method that is surefire to prevent damage. (And a trade secret we won’t just give away) Still, it’s a heart attack to realize that the 25 small items of pottery that we’ve packaged so carefully are going to cost nearly as much to ship as they did to purchase. What’s with the postal services worldwide? What’s with UPS, Fed-Ex and the others? Does this really have to be so difficult? We hand over the notes, monopoly money after all of these years, and hope with all of our two hearts that the contents will reach Sarasota, Florida in the United States unbroken.
Just click on the link above. Jenean is enjoying her Japanese Tapas!
Our first night in Barcelona as we wait for our clients to arrive tomorrow was spent right next door to our hotel, the “Five Rooms” just north of the famous Ramblas district. It was raining. We were tired. Jenean is on a diet. We opted for sushi. Wow, did we ever have sushi. And sushi. And some more sushi. Jim got nervous about midway through the second bottle of wine and asked for a summation of the bill. “It’s 12.98 per person tonight, sir,” was the polite reply. That meant we were able to select all that we wanted from the amazing array of dishes on the conveyor belt to our right for a measly $20 per head plus the cost of the wine. We were delirious with delight, stuffed to the gills with salmon and shrimp and seaweed and all of that other great stuff you can eat without getting fat. We did our best to get fat. We ate and we ate and we ate, and it was so damned easy. Now we have to figure out a way to convince our incoming clients that going to a Japanese sushi bar is an authentic Spanish experience. Well, in a city as cosmopolitan as Barcelona, why not?
Our next trip will start with Art and Carol Casement arriving on June 1st at Barcelona’s airport. We’ll be staying two nights in the heart of Barcelona, which by the way has Europe’s largest contiguous medieval quarter plus fantastic architecture and nightlife. We’ll then travel north to Carcasonne, France (our second visit in as many weeks) before traveling into the Luberon of Provence for a five-night stay before heading down to the coast and explorations of Monaco and other regions around Villefranche sur Mer. Up into the mountains near Grenoble for a two-night stay at our favorite rural chateau and then the trip will end at Geneva’s airport on June 16. Follow along with the adventure starting June 1.
PARIS, PROVENCE & CÔTE D’AZUR Micro Group Tour for June or July (Max 5 adults) This trip starts off with two nights in one of the world’s most enchanting cities, with a guide who knows how to make the most of your time. We then move away f...
PARIS, SOUTHWESTERN FRANCE & BARCELONA Micro Group Tour for 2013 This trip starts off with three nights in one of the world’s most enchanting cities, with a guide who knows how to make the most of your time here. We then move away from the ci...
PARIS, PROVENCE & CÔTE D’AZUR Micro Group Tour for July or August or October, 2013 (Max 5 adults) This trip starts off with two nights in one of the world’s most enchanting cities, with a guide who knows how to make the most of your time here....