Oh what fun! Tapas, Sangria and a food walking tour in Madrid!

Serrano ham tapas for everyone!
Serrano ham tapas for everyone!

I’ve just got back from Spain & Portugal!

Eeeeeexciting!

And even though during that period of time, a most horrific event occurred, I’m not going to dwell on it any longer than to say, don’t be scared to travel abroad, don’t let fear take control. Just live the life you want!

On the cricket field at one of my best friend's wedding on the Isle of Wight. In the UK!
On the cricket field at one of my best friend’s wedding on the Isle of Wight.
In the UK!

A few weeks ago, I told you that I would be going to England and Spain and Portugal. And I did!

I went to my Master of Arts Graduation Ceremony which was awesome and because I needed to work off all the champagne that we drank, I also went on a little hike to the English countryside. In Cheshire!

WHY SPAIN?

 

Espana - Spain.
Espana – Spain.

I know Spain quite well.

Indeed, I went to Spain only last year but it was more of a business trip-ish since it was about the business of professional blogging, improving one’s skills and networking.

For networking purposes most travel bloggers tend to either go to TBEX in Europe, North America or Asia or to the ITB which is on my home turf of Berlin!

There be dragons in Barcelona, Spain.
There be dragons in Barcelona, Spain.

I usually prefer Barcelona but this time I decided to go to Madrid and Seville and take the family with me.

It’s been over thirteen (13) years since I last went to Madrid and after last years’ nightmare experience, it was clearly time to go back again.

In going to destinations, I always like to call upon locals or expat locals, to give the low-down, and show us around.

In Madrid, we had the opportunity to go on a food walking tour and in Seville, we went along with my American blogger friend – KemKem from Next Bite of Life –  and her Italian husband.

A WALKING TOUR? AGAIN!?!

I absolutely love walking! ©Pascale Scerbo Sarro
I absolutely love walking!
©Pascale Scerbo Sarro

I’m a walker.

I absolutely love walking.

Walking around is a brilliant way to see where you are, establish your bearings and get to grips with your surroundings.

I had gone on the internet looking for a tour that would be informative and at the same time local and found SANDEMANs NEW Europe free walking tours. This company runs tours in Tel Aviv, New York, and most European capital cities. In fact, I have taken the Berlin walking tour myself!

Yep! Even though, I live in Berlin, I love taking a walking tour so that I can keep up to date with new buildings and infrastructure.

The truth is, most people have absolutely no idea of their own city. It just makes logical sense!

In economic times, finding a way to cut costs is all the rage, and you know how much I love walking tours especially free tours, but sometimes I go on intriguing tours too, and I’ve even written a few of my own!

Inspiring Street Art in Berlin.
Inspiring Street Art in Berlin.

Here they all are:

Nepal
Nepal

A few weeks ago, I was at the ITB Berlin and because I needed to get to England pretty much the next day, I had to re-arrange all my appointments over 24 hours rather than in five (5) days!

One of those appointments that I managed to snag was that of meeting David O’Kelly – the Chief Executive Officer of SANDEMANs NEW Europe Walking Tours.

David comes from Manchester in England, just like myself, so we were able to have a really good natter about life as an expat in Germany in general and the business of walking tours in particular.

He was super professional and offered me a choice of any walking tour that I desired over a two month period, with absolutely no pressure to write about any of them. I chose walking tours in Madrid and Lisbon.

Thanks so much SANDEMANs NEW Europe Walking Tours!

I decided to go on the New Madrid Tapas Experience.

We had a bit of difficulty getting everything sorted as the special code that I needed to book it, wouldn’t work. Thankfully, David came to the rescue and personally called the Madrid City Manager to book us in, as their guests.

THE SANDEMANs NEW MADRID TAPAS EXPERIENCE!

The SANDEMANs New Madrid Tapas Experience Walking Tour. And drinks!
The SANDEMANs New Madrid Tapas Experience Walking Tour.
And drinks!

The SANDEMANs New Madrid Tapas Experience walking tour is described as one of the best ways to discover the best tapas places in Madrid with local tapas connoisseurs, and the secrets of Spanish gastronomy!

Our tour started at 19:00 in front of the Tourist Information Office, at the quite popular Plaza Mayor Square.

There were a few other tours taking place at the same time such as the Spanish Inquisition Tour, but the Tapas Experience had the largest crowd of all. We must have been about 50-60 odd people divided into two groups – Spanish-speaking and the largest one – English-speaking. Our guide was Guille and even though the Spanish-speaking guide was Dani, made an effort to involve everyone who was in the group and together made an awesome team!

Most of us were there for one thing, and one thing only – Taaaaaapas!

WHAT ACTUALLY IS TAPAS?

Tapas for Everyone! © Elemaki - José Porras.
Tapas for Everyone!
© Elemaki – José Porras.

Simply put, a tapa or tapas are a wide variety of food served as an appetizer or snack.

The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb “tapar,” meaning “to cover,” and also “on top of” or “a lid” and even to mean “small portion” and there are many stories, depending on which Spanish city you happen to be in lol!

One theory is that the tapas were slices of bread or meat which punters in taverns used to cover their glasses against dirt, dust, and fruit flies, between sips. The meat used to cover drinks was usually ham or chorizo, which were both very salty and activate thirst.

Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners created a variety of snacks to serve with alcohol, thus increasing their alcohol sales.

Portrait of King Alfonso XIII in the uniform of the Hussars.
Portrait of King Alfonso XIII in the uniform of the Hussars.

I like the story which states that King Alfonso XIII stopped by a famous tavern in Cádiz (Andalusian city), where he ordered a cup of wine. The waiter covered the glass with a slice of cured ham before offering it to the king, to protect the wine from the beach sand as Cádiz was a windy place, and he didn’t want to lose his head!

The king, after drinking the wine and eating the tapas, ordered another wine “with the cover,” and to this day, the law and thus tradition, continues!

There are different types of tapas and punters can order a wide range of tapas or combine them, to make a full meal.

Traditionally, the serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation, and it is customary for diners to stand and move about, while talking and eating!

THE FOOD WALKING TOUR

We started our walking tour at the Museo del Jamon.

We had actually dropped by the night before, but my husband – The Music Producer – was slightly over-whelmed by the crowds as it was quite late, and the merriment was in full swing, so it was nice to be in a crowd of our own lol!

A Spanish Tinto de Verano (sangria) and chorizo tapas in a bun at the Museo del Jamon in Madrid.
A Spanish Tinto de Verano (sangria) and chorizo tapas in a bun at the Museo del Jamon in Madrid.

We were offered drinks and a snack in a bun.

Iberico ham iin Spain.
Iberico ham in Spain.

Followed by trays by cold cuts, sausages and a variety of cheese.

As far as tapas goes, there are the free tapas and the paid-for tapas. If you’re drinking ordinarily, the tapas is included and is 100% free. Don’t expect sophisticated luxury though!

What you’ll get in general, are olives, crisps or potato chips, mini buns, sliced sausages, ham or salami or cheese. And not all at the same time!

The more you drink, the more you are given. In fact, we liked the concept so much that we went back again on our own!

You do need to watch yourself and be assertive though, as the Museo del Jamon is teeming with locals and if you stand out as a tourist, the first thing that they plonk down is the menu, and no free goodies!

However. Aha!

Real drinks with real prices. On our own at the Museo del Jamon in Madrid!
Real drinks with real prices.
On our own at the Museo del Jamon in Madrid!

Once I had made it known that we knew what we were doing and that we weren’t “just tourists,” the real deal was given to us.

Spanish chorizo and crisps (potato chips) tapas. On our own at the Museo del Jamon in Madrid!
Spanish chorizo and crisps (potato chips) tapas.
On our own at the Museo del Jamon in Madrid!

Back to the New Madrid Tapas Experience walking tour!

After spending some time at the Museo del Jamon, we then went to a local tapas bar and restaurant called Rosi La Loca Taberna.

As we were a large group we were given two long rows of tables so that we could mix and get to know each other. On my left side were a group of people from England in their late 50’s, and in front of me a group of people from Argentina in their late 20’s!

The Argentinians were great, and engaged “The Tall Young Gentleman” in a little bit of Spanish as that is his third (3rd) language at school. He’s bilingual and already fluent in both German and English!

He’s also very interested in Korean, but we’ll see!

We liked this place so much that we went back here again too!

Gin and tonic (G&T) Spanish style! ©Albert Mollon - Getty Images.
Gin and tonic (G&T) Spanish style!
©Albert Mollon – Getty Images.

At the Rosi La Loca Taberna, we were served jars of clear liquid, which we all thought was water.

At first!

But it wasn’t!

It was Gin and Tonic!

And the first time we knew of it was when “The Tall Young Gentleman” took a gulp of “icy water” and instantly spat it out, declaring that the “water” had gone off!!

Classic Homemade Paella at Rosi La Loca Taberna. In Madrid!
Classic Homemade Paella at Rosi La Loca Taberna.
In Madrid!

After that, we had shared paella in iron skillets coupled with patatas bravas and Spanish croquettes.

Spanish Croquettes in Madrid.
Spanish Croquettes in Madrid.

Our last destination was at a tavern luckily, just a few feet from our own hotel! This tavern was called Taberna la Cristiana.

Taberna la Cristiana in Madrid.
Taberna la Cristiana in Madrid.

This time around, our tapas mates were a group of young people from Italy, Romania and Brazil on my left hand side, and the Brits and some Americans on my right hand side.

Possibly!

My memory’s a bit fuzzy here as I didn’t take my note-book!

Slabs of bagette covered in plain Spanish cheese without the dollop of brown Spanish sauce! ©Trujillo Villas España.
Slabs of bagette covered in plain Spanish cheese without the dollop of brown Spanish sauce!
©Trujillo Villas España.

We had another portion of paella with green spicy peppers, bowls of olives (yuk!) and slabs of baguette covered in plain Spanish cheese and a dollop of brown Spanish sauce!

And then came that extra Spanish tradition of pouring cider down from some sort of drinking bag!

Under normal circumstances, traditional Asturian Cider is used but for some reason, we had Spanish red wine!

Cider is extremely popular in Spain where cider-drinking is national pride and taken quite seriously.

At first, none of us knew how to use the “bagpipe.”

Spanish cider poured in a certain way or collected in a glass and drunk straight from the barrel! ©foodswinesfromspain.com
Spanish cider poured in a certain way or collected in a glass and drunk straight from the barrel!
©foodswinesfromspain.com

I didn’t get to taste Spanish cider this time around, but I’m told that it can only be found in certain parts of the country, and poured in a certain way, or collected in a glass, and drunk straight from the barrel!

Really dry sidra is served by a peculiar “throwing” method, where an expert escanciador (waiter) will pour the drink from a great height, splashing it onto the side of the glass to aerate it, giving it a mousse-like texture akin to champagne. These short measures should then be downed quickly.

Basically, it’s like standing on a tall chair and trying to pour cider into the mouth of a person who’s sitting down!

I had to tuck in a napkin as wine had trickled all down my green wind-breaker! In Madrid!
I had to tuck in a napkin as wine had trickled all down my green wind-breaker!
In Madrid!

Let me tell you.

It takes a little skill, as every one of us ended up pouring red wine down our front.

I even had to tuck in a napkin, as wine had trickled all down my green wind-breaker!

Lots of fun!

Here’s the info:

DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND SPANISH?

Nope!

These tour are in English AND Spanish! If English isn’t your native-language not to worry, just keep drinking!

WHAT DO I NEED?

More drinks are always welcome in Madrid!
More drinks are always welcome in Madrid!

A pair of good shoes, a rain-jacket in case it rains, a few Euros for extra drinks, and a huge smile!

HOW MUCH?

This tour cost €16.00 and was well worth the price.

If you’re feeling particularly energetic, there’s a Majestic Madrid €12.00, a Spanish Inquisition Tour €12.00, a Pub Crawl €12.00 and if you’re really broke, down and out, or simply hung-over, free tours which cost €0.00!

Kids under 13 if accompanied by an adult, are able to join the paid tours and are free of charge. No children under 18 are accepted for any of the pub crawls in any country though!

WHERE & WHEN?

Every day. At 19:00.

The meeting point is in front of the Tourist Information Office at the Plaza Mayor.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes.

The tour takes about 2-3 hours. We were a little tired after a day of travelling but if you’re up for it, you could hang-out with the tour-guide and other members of your tour group, and really make a night of it!

Spanish patatas bravas - baked potato wedges with their skins on and sour cream and spicy sauce.
Spanish patatas bravas – baked potato wedges with their skins on and sour cream and spicy sauce.

MY VERDICT:

Absolutely worth it!

The idea of a food walking tour around a city is enormously appealing, and something that everyone should do. At least once. It also gives you confidence to move around on your own as you now know what to do, where to go, and how to get there.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this walking tour, please contact: SANDEMANs New Madrid Tapas Experience.

For more information about alternative ways of exploring Madrid, please contact: SANDEMANs NEW Madrid Tours.

WHAT IF A WALKING TOUR ISN’T MY CUP OF TEA?

Keep reading my blog. There’s more to come!

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a complimentary ticket, all opinions and the enticing tapas that I willingly quaffed, are my very own!

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

I have so much to share with you so for the rest of April, I will be writing about our adventures in Spain and Portugal.

April is going to be a lovely month.

Watch this space!

Tapas, sangria and a food walking tour in Madrid!
Tapas, sangria and a food walking tour in Madrid!

Have you been on a food walking tour? Have you been to Madrid? Do you like walking?

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions or concerns about travelling anywhere in Europe, send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

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10 reasons to go to Barcelona – And it’s not only for tapas and sangria, but you know, I’ll take it anyway!

The headless man in Barcelona, Spain.
The headless man in Barcelona, Spain.

So last week, I told you how I got abandoned at Barcelona Airport and it was pretty traumatising. Not only did I have to go through a flight delay with Vueling before I got to Spain but I went through a horrendous flight delay with Norwegian, on the way back to Germany too.

You really couldn’t make it up.

The fact is, whenever you go through an unpleasant time, it leaves a slight taste in your mouth and then you have a negative image of that destination.

The fact is, you begin to think it was that place rather than that airline.

Spain - Here we come!
Spain – Here we come!

The fact is, Spain is a great country to go to and Barcelona is just a thrill and I reeeeeally do like Barcelona and don’t want last week’s post to spoil the good time that I DID have in Spain so perhaps, I might go back to Spain again sometime this year.

It deserves a second chance.

One of the best things about going to the TBEX EUROPE conference is that you get the opportunity to be introduced to other organisations and outlets that you might not have thought of. You also get interviewed. I was asked, by the Travel Massive community in Spain, whether it was worth attending TBEX. Here’s the link to what I said!

Catalonia or Catalunya, Spain. Spain - Catalonia
Catalonia or Catalunya, Spain.
Spain – Catalonia

Now, I’ve actually been to Barcelona about four (4) times now, and this was the fifth (5th) time so I knew Barcelona as a fun city, but I didn’t know Barcelona as a cultural city!

As you know, my time was extremely limited in Lloret de Mar and I really only had one day to play with as the TBEX EUROPE bloggers conference took place from 30.04.15 – 02.05.15. Basically, three (3) days and nicely done over a public holiday and the weekend.

My initial plan was to use May 3rd to go to Barcelona, as you can’t be in the region and NOT go to Barcelona. That would be sacrilege!

Moventis, Sarfa.

As a TBEX EUROPE accredited blogger, the city of Lloret de Mar and the region of Costa Brava did their very best to provide either complimentary, or reduced-priced transport.

Now for those of you who have been following my blog in the last year (thank you so much!), you know that I attend quite a few parties, festivals, and events and I’m not averse to having a jolly good time LOL! I do however, also like history and culture, so I signed up with a company called Context Travel or #DeepTravel.

Context Travel had tours operating in Barcelona and in order to join the tour, I had to make my own way down …

Barcelona isn’t actually that close to Lloret de Mar and depending on where you are going, can take up to two (2) hours…..Since I wasn’t going to the airport, I decided to make use of local transportation which would comprise of either taking the bus or the train. Would you believe it if I told you that travelling by bus was much faster?

shutterstock-92810047-zob

You know how I love coach-bus travel so by bus it was to be.

On the last official night of TBEX EUROPE there was a closing party at a local club in Lloret de Mar. I was still quite exhausted from sleeping at the airport the previous day so I decided to go back to my hotel a little after midnight! Thankfully, the lovely 4-star – Hotel Gran Garbi in Lloret de Mar was about just seven (7) minutes away from the local coach-bus station so I sprinted towards it and took the 09:30 bus to Barcelona early on Sunday morning!

The fantastic thing about the Lloret de Mar coach-bus station is that not only could you go straight to the airport, but you could also travel to Toss de Mar, Barcelona, Girona and France!

I didn’t have any time for France but I did have the whole day allocated to spending as much time as possible in Barcelona.

Train & Bus tickets in Barcelona, Spain.

In order to get a return ticket, you have to choose and book the time that you wish to return. It’s a long journey so I chose the outward journey of 09:30 and a return time of 19:15. A return ticket would usually cost €10.75 but with a TBEX “pass” it cost just €9.75. Every penny counts.

The bus was quite comfortable, very clean, and pretty much fully booked. I ended up sitting next to an Italian guy who lived in Switzerland and had travelled to Spain to get his suit custom-made! He was pretty worried about getting his suit squashed and spent the whole journey holding it. He was fun to talk to though!

The bus is described as having WiFi but it didn’t work all the time, and on the return journey didn’t work at all!

From the Land of the Dead.
From the Land of the Dead.

I was set to meet Context Travel at 11:00.

Our meeting point was at the Hard Rock Cafe on Plaça Catalunya. When I got to Est Nord – which is the Barcelona Central Coach-Bus Station – I realised that I only had twenty (20) minutes to get to the meeting point, so I took a taxi.

You hear many things about the unscrupulous taxi drvers in Barcelona.

And the cost?

€5.00!

I didn’t get cheated at all and I managed to get to the Hard Rock Cafe with two (2) minutes to spare!

And then I looked around.

No tour guide but very creative students in Barcelona, Spain. Getting "married!"
No tour guide but very creative students in Barcelona, Spain.
Getting “married!”

No tour guide!

No person, man or woman holding-a-context-travel-sign-with-the-name-of-the-tour as instructed.

No umbrella person.

No groups of lost-looking-tourists-also-going-on-the-tour.

Nothing!

Sigh!

He was in the Shopping District in Barcelona, Spain. Gorgeous!
He was in the Shopping District in Barcelona, Spain.
Gorgeous!

I spent fifteen (15) minutes staring into the faces and peering at random strangers, hoping that they were the guide. Or lost tourists.

And then I saw a woman constantly looking at her phone and wearing pedal pushers. Could she be?

Yep! She was a blogger – Luxe Travel Family.

A fellow TBEX EUROPE blogger.

Hurrah! I’m not in Kansas anymore Toto!

And she was standing next to a young lady. She was a blogger too! – Travel Geekery.

And then not more than a few minutes later a woman came huffing and puffing. Another blogger! – Rachel Heller.

Hurrah, for TBEX EUROPE bloggers.

But wait. Where was our guide?

We’re experienced travel bloggers. We have social media at our finger tips. We’ve climbed volcanos, interviewed top artists, and sat on the front row at Fashion Week, surely we know what to do with all that technology at our finger tips?

Yeeeeeah!

So we called up.

Yep! We used the telephone LOL!

Anyway, it transpired that the organisers had messed up. There was a guide who was at the other side of Barcelona who had been waiting for a group of tourists who hadn’t turned up, and we were on the opposite side of the city thinking the same thing….!

Biel - our guide in Barcelona.
Biel – our guide in Barcelona.

In less than twenty minutes, our lovely guide arrived. His name was Biel. He was an absolute top fellow, in his late twenties, and professional. After making sure we were all together and brief introductions, off we went.

I’m an eager beaver, so I booked up for two (2) tours. The first one was called: The Gothic Quarter and the second one was called: Gràcia and the Spirit of Catalan Independence!

The Festival of The Day of the Virgin Mary, in Barcelona, Spain.
The Festival of The Day of the Virgin Mary, in Barcelona, Spain.

For the Gothic Quarter Tour, it was just the four (4) of us so Biel was really flexible and let us concentrate on the things that we were interested in or in anything we saw. And we saw a lot of things not even included in the tour because May 3rd was a public holiday in Barcelona, and the locals were celebrating  the festival of The Day of the Virgin Mary!

Loads of local Spaniards were out and about and I saw lots of families with children putting their blanket on the cool stone stabs and simply having a picnic, right there in the historic quarter of the Roman era! The festival turned into a bit of a musical parade which was in full force, and we even left the tour for about 20 minutes and joined in the parade itself.

Barcelona, Spain.

Now this is being in Barcelona!

It was a great day, extremely sunny and the feeling that I was really in Spain, began to slowly settle in.

Si!

So let’s have some history:

BARCELONA

Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain.
Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona,, although not the capital of Spain, is indeed the capital of Catalunya or Catalonia and with 1.6 million people, is the second largest city, after Madrid, – Spain’s real capital city! It’s an old city founded by the Romans and emerging in importance in the Middle Ages. It’s a city that is over 2,000 years old and is open to the sea and influenced by many cultures.

Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city and a capital of business and commerce as well as a leading tourist destination, with some of the world’s finest architects having left their mark that integrate with the elegance of the Eixample district, and the down-to-earth squares of the Gràcia districts.

Barcelona, Spain.

It’s a fantastic city of both history and culture and it’s no wonder that millions of people flock there.

Catalonia’s fight for Spanish independence was based on political and historical ground, as far back as the 14th century, but was lost in 1714. The region got a resurgence of Catalan nationalism in the 19th century but with the dictatorship of General Franco, all of Spain was in dire straits.

Today however, Barcelona is a mediterranean city  that invites you to stroll on it’s streets filled with life and atmosphere, or to breathe in the rich ancient language of the Catalan people.

 THE GOTHIC QUARTER AND GRACIA AND THE SPIRIT OF CATALAN INDEPENDENCE

There be dragons in Barcelona, Spain.
There be dragons in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona’s Barri Gótic, or the Gothic Quarter is one of the best preserved medieval districts in the world, where you can ramble through the squares and hidden corners and discover the charm of buildings that are hundreds of years old.

We certainly did.

Our guide – Biel – took us through the layers of Barcelona from ancient Roman times, through the Middle Ages and until the 19th century.

The ancient Barcino Temple in Barcelona, Spain.
The ancient Barcino Temple in Barcelona, Spain.

We were shown the remains of a Roman gate, parts of the Roman wall and some Roman architecture. You all know the saying that “All Roads lead to Rome.” Not only that, but did you know that the saying in Barcelona goes – “All Roads lead to Rome and to the Gate of Augustus!”

It’s certainly true as in practically every twist and turn in and in every back alley, you could see a part of Roman history and Roman architecture and ideas that comprised of guilds, sophisticated professional and merchant classes, and a rich religious life for many religions.

FC Barcelona.
FC Barcelona.

Later in the day, I went on my second tour to Gràcia and as I was the only guest, it ended up being a private tour of one.

I also got to know a little bit about Biel as we sat in the Spanish sun and drank a can of non-alcoholic beer!!!!

Biel – the tour guide – was actually a young academic and an Art Historian who had not only been working with Context for three (3) years, but was also teaching at the local university AND was also involved in a local street festival, that took place once a year. The celebration was called the Festivity of Gràcia or the Fest de Gràcia and was a community effort.

Barcelona, Spain.

I had a look at his workshop which had signs asking for the locals to send in their recyclable products that he and his team needed, and they did. In fact, the project was so successful that last year, they won first prize for creativity.

Gràcia is very different from Barcelona Central and quite working class. There were hardly any tourists around and lots and lots of locals sitting in the sun, drinking, playing or just chatting.

I saw many churches, places of worship. And flags. I also got a peek into the history of the rise for independence by the Catalan people and even though Biel said nothing to suggest his feelings, I could feel the passion in his voice.

The Catalan people are proud. Proud of their language, proud of their culture, and proud of their soul.

Iberico ham.
Iberico ham.

If you’re thinking of going to a warm European city where the sun always shines, Barcelona is a good bet.

Here are ten (10) reasons why:

  1. Barcelona is easy to reach by plane, train, and by ship.
  2. If you like “living” history, there are so many open-air museums, squares and streets that you can stroll through. Take your time, close your eyes and imagine that you’re right back in time. At every turn and nook and cranny, you can bump into medieval bridges, romanesque chapels and gothic arches.
  3. The most brilliant works of Catalan Art Nouveau such as the marvellous beauty – La Sagrada Família –  are to be found all over the city through it’s most talented son – Gaudi.
  4. The Catalan people have a patron saint called Sant Jordi who happens to be the exact same patron saint of England – Saint George. I couldn’t believe it. I was enthralled and delighted.
  5. Look for dragons which are hidden. You can find them everywhere. If you look! Take a closer look at the architecture, in the stones and on the windows. They’re all over the place!
  6. The traditions of Catalonia are so rich that it is packed with carnivals, festivals, dances, bonfires, streets and squares filled with “Giants” and human towers that are such an exquisite sight, that the castellers have been declared a World Intangible Heritage! It was such a shame that I missed seeing them personally on my first day, due to my flight delay…
  7. Catalonia isn’t just Barcelona but consists of a diversity of land and regions ranging from the rugged Pyrenees, charming villages and towns, and farmed fields of the plain, not to talk of the beautiful sea, and has 16 natural parks and nature reserves, and a collection of sea scapes and mountains that are as wide in size, as the country of Belgium!
  8. Check out Barcelona’s most modern stadium and visit FC Barcelona filled with such beauties and talents, as Neymar and Lionel Messi!
  9. Visit Barcelona’s open-air or Historic Trail Markets and stuff yourself with the abundance of extremely tasty natural produce and gastronomy, based on seasonal produce such as paella, tapas, seafood, fideuà (a type of noodle casserole), black rice, home-made desserts and Cervesa.
  10. Discover and hang out in Barcelona’s underground scene that includes wild jam sessions, techno dancefloors, film screenings and flamenco!
A special Catalan dish at Carmelitas Tapas in Barcelona, Spain.
A special Catalan dish at Carmelitas Tapas in Barcelona, Spain.

I only had roughly eight (8) hours to spend in Barcelona in which I went on two (2) walking tours, had a local lunch at a Spanish bistro that served traditional tapas and typical Catalan dishes, with the bloggers. The bistro was called Carmelitas Tapas. After that I had some ice-cream, and still managed to take a couple of selfies at the Arc de Triomf, and in plenty of time to take the coach-bus back to Lloret de Mar!

if you’re interested in history and art then Context Travel or #DeepTravel might be a good fit for you.

I loved my day out and found Barcelona utterly charming!

Barcelona, Spain.

Here are the details:

WHAT IS CONTEXT TRAVEL?

Context Travel also known as #DeepTravel, is a network of scholars and specialists who specialise in archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, and the classics, and who design and lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups of people who are intellectually curious.

Their vision is to bring together local scholars and specialists, with visitors who are curious, so that they can learn and allow them access to places and cultures that might otherwise remain out of sight. Their biggest goal is to take visitors off the tourist track and into the real life of the people, history, and culture.

My type of people then!

WHAT IS THE GOTHIC QUARTER TOUR ABOUT?

Barcelona, Spain.

The Gothic Quarter Tour goes through the heart of the town, learning about the evolution of Barcelona, going through the neighbourhood, walking through Barcelona’s main market, into La Ramblas and taking a look at how modern development has changed the city in the 18th and 19th centuries. You get to learn about the rich religious life and Barcelona’s history through the remains of the ancient city, the medieval splendor, the modern technology and the cosmopolitan urban mix.

WHAT IS THE GRACIA AND THE SPIRIT OF CATALAN INDEPENDENCE TOUR ABOUT?

St. George AND the red cross on the streets of Barcelona, Spain.
St. George AND the red cross on the streets of Barcelona, Spain.

The Gràcia Tour is about the loss of independence in the region of Catalan and the neighbourhood of Gràcia. The walk introduces us to the intricacies of Catalan history and culture, the difference between the Catalan and the Spanish and why they continue to fight for independence. The tour also shows the wealth of the area during the Industrial Revolution and at the same time, the village-like feel of the tiny squares, the places of worship, the narrow streets and the romantic architecture.

Phew!

DO I NEED TO UNDERSTAND SPANISH?

Nope!

These tour are in English. If English isn’t your native-language not to worry, as the company can arrange customised tours.

Some Spanish biscuit and cake!
Some Spanish biscuit and cake!

WHAT DO I NEED?

A pair of good shoes, a pair of sunglasses, suncream, a hat, a huge bottle of water, a few Euros for a snack, and a huge smile!

ANYTHING ELSE?

Yes. The tours are extremely small and have no more than six (6) people at a time. It’s a little pricey at $91.00 or €80.00 but if you want professional art historians who really know their stuff, then it’s worth the price.

The tour is three hours long so don’t make an important appointment immediately after. You might want to hang-out with the tour-guide and other members of your tour group, over a beer or two.

MY VERDICT:

Barcelona, Spain.

I’m aspiring to be an art history and culture buff, so it was just perfect. If you’re not that well inclined, then they do customise tours for individual groups. As my last tour was just me, my tour guide did just that. We focused on the things that were of interest to me and skipped the ones that weren’t!

Everyone should do a walking tour every now and then, if only to make sure that you know exactly what you’re talking about or can follow up with someone who does LOL!

I really enjoyed the tours but I don’t recommend them for children or young teenagers. Highly recommended for a more intimate, hands-on experience.

Many Thanks to TBEX, TBEX EUROPE, the Catalunya Experience, Costa Brava, Lloret de Mar, Context Travel and all the wonderful bloggers that I met, for the good times and for their warm hospitality.

See you in Stockholm, 2016.

This article is not sponsored, and even though I was a guest of Context, all opinions and the Iberico ham and lovely red wine that I consumed, are my very own!

I have so much to share with you.

Stay tuned!

Paletilla Iberica at Carmelitas Tapas in Barcelona, Spain.
Paletilla Iberica at Carmelitas Tapas in Barcelona, Spain.

Next week, I’ll be back about the secrets of Estonia and what we did in Tallinn with the help of the Tallinn Card, what the view was like on the ferry crossing from Estonia to Finland with TALLINK SLJA LINE and what we thought about Helsinki in Finland!

The Berlin Music Video Awards will be taking place from May 27.05.15 – 30.05.15. It’s going to be great.

The Berlin Fashion Film Festival will be taking place on 05.06.15.

I’ll be there. Will you?

As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & FB!

If you’re not in Berlin right now, then you’re losing the experience of Berlin – the place to be!

May is going to be exciting.

Watch this space!

About to leap outside the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, Spain!
About to leap outside the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona, Spain!

 

Have you ever been to Barcelona? Are you a fan of Gaudia or a fan of sangria?

See you in Berlin.

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