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Barcelona

Travel

Top 10 Amazing Museums in Barcelona

August 24, 2011
barcelona_meseum_map

Barcelona is full of wonderful museums; here’s an eclectic list of 10 museums celebrating everything from Catalan history to the art of Gaudì that shouldn’t be missed. Click on the map to be taken to an interactive museum location map created with Google technology.

1. National Art Museum of Catalonia

Explore Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance art as well as modern pieces by Gaudí.

2. Picasso Museum

Immerse yourself in the early works, drawings, paintings and personality of this complicated artist.

3. Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art

The modernist Richard Meier building is stuffed with works by contemporary greats like Casamada, Puig and Bonet.

4. Museums at Disseny Hub

Double your pleasure with a pair of museums: The Textile Museum with a stunning display for fashions from the Baroque period to modern day and the Decorative Arts Museum which explores design of everyday and fanciful objects.

5. Sagrada Familia Church Museum

Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí was killed by a taxi before he could complete this Gothic and Modernist Roman Catholic church, but it’s still considered his masterpiece.

6. Ceramics Museum

The collection ranges from the intricacies of early Moorish ceramic coloring techniques to rooms dedicated to Miró and Picasso.

7. Gaudí House-Museum

Fans of the artist Antoni Gaudí will want to see the Torre Rosa where the artist lived and in his then visit his fqnciful Parque Guëll.

8. Barcelona Football Club Museum

There’s tons of Futbolart like trophies and bronze shoes along with some stuff by Dalí and Miró for less-devoted soccer fans.

9. The Egyptian Museum

This archeological museum with more than 1,000 exhibits is dedicated to shedding light on daily life and burial traditions in ancient Egypt.

10. Museum of the Antoni Tàpies Foundation

This influential living artist started as a surrealist, helped establish a movement called Dau-al-Set and then was one of the first to incorporate mixed media objects like marble dust, string and even furniture in his work.

Travel

Travel Savvy in Barcelona: 5 Things to Know

August 24, 2011
parque_guell_barcelona_crowd

Many popular tourist attractions like Parque Guell shown here are very crowded, so it’s smart to be aware of who’s nearby and where your valuables are.

1. Welcome to Catalonia. Geographically, Barcelona is in Spain, but culturally the people there think of themselves as living in Catalonia. It’s a cultural identity shared by people in the Balearic Islands, Valencia as well as parts of France and Sardinia. Catalan is a Romance language, so many of the words are the same or similar in Catalan and Spanish. Hello in Catalan is bon dia instead of buenos dias; good-bye is adeu instead of adios.

2.  Wear comfortable shoes and a shoulder bag. Ladies, this is not the place to be teetering around in platform stilettos with a clutch purse under your arm. Not to alarm anyone, but purses do get snatched here. Nearly every local woman I saw carrying a purse had a shoulder bag with a thick strap that could be worn slung across the body. And parts of Barcelona are very hilly and streets in some older areas are paved in  cobblestones.

3. Research addresses carefully before getting into a taxi. Barcelona is a very dense city and addresses are arranged off central boulevards, some of which run on a diagonal. Be sure to ask which boulevard your destination is near before leaving the hotel.

4. Read reviews thoroughly before booking a hotel; not all three stars are created equal.  I suffered at one three-star with a hip-looking lobby with no air conditioning even though it was quite hot. The staff’s service was very off-hand. Just a half a block away was another more traditional three-star with full amenities and expert service to match.

5. Be aware of your surroundings. Most tourist attractions like the Parque Guell (shown above), Las Ramblas and the Boqueria Market are very crowded. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of taking in an attraction, and thieves know this. Be sure to keep wallets in your front pocket, purses closed and valuables nearby.

Got any more tips on how to make your trip to Barcelona safe and stress-free? Please share them with us.

Travel

Barcelona: Travel with Music & Movies

August 24, 2011

Getting ready for a trip, watching movies set in the place where I’m headed gets me even more excited about the journey. I like this quick video that whizzes by some of the most famous sights in Barcelona. This song by the band Giulia y Los Tellarini may sound familiar: it was featured in the  Woody Allen movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008).

The film visited locations near the Barceloneta neighborhood, the Picasso Museum in El Born, Pla de Palau, the Sagrada Familia, Montcada Street, Santa Maria del Mar Church, Las Ramblas which runs through El Barri Gotìc and the old city.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq6qtLjhwKo&w=420&h=345]

Some other excellent movies starring Barcelona include the quirky thriller Perfume: The Story of a Murder (2006); Salvador (2006), the bio of Spanish painter Salvador Puig Antich and Todo Sobre mi Madre (1999), famed Spanish director Pedro Almódovar’s tribute to women.

Sparkling Wine, Travel

Eating Like a Native in Barcelona

August 24, 2011
tapac_24_Barcelona_restaurant

The scene at Tapaç 24, a popular late night restaurant by a chef who worked for Spanish culinary god Ferran Adriá.

As slender and stylish as most of the people in Barcelona are, it might come as a surprise that they spend most of their leisure time eating and drinking.

During a whirlwind trip through Barcelona and the environs around St. Sadurni d’Anoia where the sparkling wine cava is made, I was felt I was in danger of being fed to within an inch of my life.

Breakfasts here are simple, perhaps because they all know lunch will be a multi-course affair with fried seafood, cheese, cured pork and wine. But dinner – which often doesn’t begin until 10 p.m. –  is the main meal here. This is when they unwind with a glass of cava – always cava – before moving into martinis and a parade of dishes that capture the flavor of the region.

Pan tomaquet is the obligatory starter at El Quim and nearly every restaurant in Barcelona.

Pan tomaquet is the Catalan dish that’s on the table at every meal. Crusty bread is lightly toasted, rubbed with ripe tomato and finished with olive oil and a pinch of salt. It’s a meal in itself if you’re starving.

Eating pimientos de padron is like playing a game of culinary Russian Roulette.

Pimientos de padron are these savory and tender green peppers that are served blistered with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and a splash of vinegar. Eating them is  like playing a game of culinary Russian roulette. Some are mild with a pleasantly bittersweet green flavor and some are quite spicy. You won’t know which you’ve gotten until you take a bite.

Spain’s jamon iberico is some of the tastiest cured ham in the world.

The ultimate ham experience in the world is jamon iberico de bellota, a cured ham that comes from black pigs that were raised on hazelnuts and herbs. The nutty flavor comes through in the satiny slices of rosy red ham, making it irresistible for a pork lover.

Cava is the sparkling wine of Catalonia that’s made the same way as champagne using local grapes.

The wine to drink with all of these foods is cava, a sparkling wine that’s made in the same method as champagne using native grapes xarello, maçabeo and parellada. Cava comes in a range of styles from crisp and young with green apple flavors to richer rosés with pinot noir in the mix to long-aged sparkling wines with the depth and intensity of any famous champagne.

Sparkling Wine

Exploring Cava Country in Spain

April 7, 2010
The Consell Regulador del Cava oversees all aspects of production for the region's sparkling wines.

The Consell Regulador del Cava oversees all aspects of production for the region's sparkling wines.

Many people visit Barcelona, the city that’s the capitol of Catalan culture here in Northern Spain, but it seems that relatively few ever make it to the wine country just an hour outside the city. I’ve barely been here for 24 hours in Vilafranca del Penedes and have learned all kinds of things already. Burbujes – which means bubbles – is my favorite new word in Spanish. And the Casa Torner I Guell in central Vilafranca is a very beautiful and modern hotel in the Mercer Group that just needs guests to fill it up.

Vilafranca is a town that’s in the cava region, but it’s actually the center of still wine production as well. The architecture here is a mix of modern and gothic and the town’s streets are lined with interesting little shops and of course wine bars.

Yesterday afternoon, I met with Maria Del Mar Torres who runs the Institut del Cava and Luis Vallespin of the Consell Regulador de Cava. The Institut is a membership organization made up of 70 cava producers while the Consell is a government organization that oversees cava production, registering vineyards, controlling yields, and setting standards for alcohol levels and labeling.

I’ll be meeting winemakers and learning the stories behind a dozen wineries, as well as tasting lots of different styles of cava and Catalan food, so stay tuned.