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Posts tagged Spain
By Barbara Kingstone
Valencia, Spain is a small-ish city but with great suprises. None more than my meeting with one of the most talented, imaginative and important jewelry designers in Spain. Vincente Gracia is getting ready to leave for London where he will launch a book about his artistic jewelry designs. He is one of Spain’s true treasures, known as the jeweler of jewelers. Another jewel to add to Valencia.
However, it will be somewhat of a rush, since he was still sitting with a client when I arrived and there are two more waiting to meet with him. But I didn’t mind waiting since it was truly a magnificent old palace. (In Spain’s heyday, palaces sprung up like the condos of today!)
Up the two curved flights of stair with the heavily carved railings, I was invited into one of the waiting rooms like no other I’ve seen. Vitrines, naturally, surrounded the room and were filled with tempting gems which have been made into exquisite objects. But it was his mastery of decor that had such a great edge that made me gasp. A gilded framed antique sofa has been recovered with a most unusually beautifully multi colored, most contemporary mixture of stripes and swirls.
Gracia, was born into jewelry since his father was one and Gracia recalls playing with the gem stones as though they were toys. And it was when he was in his teens that he decided that fire opals and blue turquoise (Le Bleu de Perse) were his favorite stones.
Although there were all the precious and semi precious stones, the turquoise is treated with the greatest honor, clean with not an imperfection but now designed with streaming hanging diamonds and ending with small rubies. There were many items featuring coral which works with all the other stones. Gracia sees all these as “routes of our country”.
It is quite usual to see a gem -stone bird sitting on top a ring or another small animal set within a cluster of magically colored jewel settings and other objects placed in a gaggle of bewitching, colorful gems. Many of his designs include flowers, small animals and who wouldn’t want to have one of his huge cuff bracelets often including the unusual mixture of colors and even rough stones. It’s here that history meets the present day.
With his 14 craftsmen nearby who work as goldsmiths and the enameling is done in Barcelona, while many stones for Gracia are cut in Germany, and pearls come from the Orient, it’s no surprise that many of the gems come from India. All this leaves time for the casually, but perfectly turned out man, to concentrate on designing.
“I love the woman who wears my jewelry and realizes that there’s history and historic facts in each,” says this 60ish suave, gallant man, who doesn’t seem to be hurrying off or too concerned about getting to the airport and his plane to London.
“It’s so Spanish not to hurry but to make time for what seems important ,” he says as he fondles a wonderful heavily gem-encrusted neckpiece.
No only was this late afternoon meeting an experience and not knowing that when I walked into what seemed like a very modest entrance I would soon realize that this is more than just another shop as I started up a regal staircase. If only the walls could talk since this was once an ancient in-city palace. And suddenly I was aware but couldn’t fathom how people looked and lived in the old days of splendor of Spain. And then to meet a most charming man, his helpful son and be besotted with shining, stunning, original, one of a kind brooches, neckpieces, rings, bracelets and all things rare and splendid became my idea of a fine day in Valencia.
By Barbara Kingstone
Even in the unusual downpour that lasted the entire day as umbrellas turned inside out when the wind picked up, one couldn’t resist walking around this monumentally glorious city.
While window shopping from a van on a city tour in Madrid and seeing great designs, even with only a quick glance, I suddenly had a retail therapy attack which had to wait for the next day.
This urge to shop, yes, it was pouring, was Calle Serrano, Spain’s answer to New York’s,5th Ave., and Paris’, Av. Montaigne. Here on Calle Serrano, the epicentre of high fashion, and happily what I was looking for were items designed and made in Spain. Sure this very long street had the well known designer labels, and where the local fashionistas love to shop. But Spanish shop after Spanish shop was filled with them showing their loyalty to the fine designers of this country. And my jaw dropped when I saw many exquisite items.I was stunned to see so many stores, their decor so elegant, along with clothing that had both style, panache and dazzle. If you know your style and what is appropriate, then Calle Serrano is the place to start.
It’s about 10 years ago while traveling in Spain that I discovered that besides some of the greatest art museums, some considered the best ham in the world, wonderful wine, renovated palaces now exquisite hotels, there was also some great shopping. And above all else, their fashion -take was so refreshing, raising designs to a new level for every age and shape and from funky to edgy. But most were so very wearable for the age-appropriate fashionista.
The first I knew about Adolfo Dominguez was when I noticed a window in Salamanca, not a very large city but a captivating one, where I could have easily purchased every piece I saw. But work, as always, is a priority, so with just about l hour of free time, I was still able to do a bit of financial damage. And I never forgot his name. On another trip to Spain, again with little time, I looked for a shop bearing his name and I doubted that there were any in destinations like Avila and Lagrona and of course, I was correct.
However, in the short time I had in Salamanca, I saw, I stopped,I shopped and at that point without any knowledge of this fine designer’s renown. I hadn’t any idea how popular Adolfo Dominguez designs were but I was soon to discover his fame. The 60-ish year old Dominguez has a huge following and now that includes me.
By far, my favorite was and still is, fashion Adolfo Dominguez, which, for me, has turned into a passionate treasure hunt whenever I’m lucky enough to get to one of his boutiques.
It wasn’t until a recent trip to Valencia that I begged for an hour since I had heard he had a niche in a department store next to my hotel. “ Only a hour,” I begged my guide. I really felt as I had struck oil. However, it wasn’t at all as I recalled his truly fetching collection. With a stunned look on my face, it must have seemed obvious to one of the sales staff since she pointed out that this particular space was dedicated to the larger, older woman. The line that I wanted was just around the escalator, she told me. With so little time, I was overwhelmed by their buying choices, so clean, well tailored, finely made items presented in this small area. After a few purchases…a sweater and blouse, the obviously fashion -conscious soul sister staff member, who spoke English and admired A.D. as I did, let me know that the leather goods-shoes and handbags-were on the floor below. Hustling quickly since I did have a meeting to attend, we rushed down and sure enough there were too many choices but I did manage to see a pair of shoes with burnished round toes and wonderful round wood heel that not only were they stunning but worn that evening were also most comfortable after the stiletto heels that always leave my feet numb after an hour. But what was news for me was to learn that at my next stop,
However, this emporium in Madrid was my first entry into what seems to be an A.D. club with a very large membership. every metre dedicated entirely to the latest collection. The building made me think of the wondrous building choices of American designer, Ralph Lauren.
With the assistance of Christian, who immediately seemed to know my taste, the large dressing room was soon filled with dresses, pants, and tops. And for those looking for gowns and very serious evening wear which I wasn’t aware that A.D. designed, there’s a small area with a few racks of these elegant pieces. After some financial ‘damage’ and a heavy paper bag, I felt it part of my job to see what else there was on this famous shopping street.
And it’s hard not to notice that the men are dressed impeccably and since Boggi, Milan, may not be made in Spain, the shop was busy with ‘peacocks’.
With this being the most up market street and probably the longest, shop-filled area, I discovered some truly wonderful designers and Spanish made products. But getting right along with my original theme of ‘made in Spain”, Holly Bracken, next to Adolfo Dominguez, is the antithesis since her designs are trendy, funky and with the young, affluent young woman in mind. Javier Simorra (33 Serrano) is another surprise with lovely items. One of the oldest and renowned perfume shops just up a the street, is Alvarez Gomez where they will still make a perfume to order and have an extensive selection of hair and jewelry accessories. This is a must-go-to..
For anyone, any age, who loves fun tops made with the finest fabrics and seems to be recognizable immediately, that’s Custo. Then, I walked by what I thought was Boss. But since that is German, I gave it a pass until I looked again since the windows didn’t look anything like Boss. So I retraced my steps and indeed, Hoss, had some of the most exciting designs that are amazingly well priced for their exceptional designs.
Of course, there’s the world -wide known, Spanish manufacturer, Zara and further down Serrano, is Zara Home-ware, both are stand alone shops. Take time to investigate the great side streets with many fine items. e.g. Calle Goya, which is just off Calle Serrano. There are several smaller streets in Madrid that entice the locals. One is August Figueroa Street, not too far from Serrano St. where the shoe shops, shop after shop, are in great abundance and the prices often less than half the price… a true shoe-lovers paradise that all the locals know about and where many shop for the less hefty prices footwear.
With a heavy bag filled with purchases from A.D, I decided it was time to head back to my centrally located hotel.
I had to unload my bag, seemingly getting heavier every minute De Los Letras, on via Gran, is a triumph of what a well renovated old building turned ultra modern hotel should look like. The architects have kept the integrity of the building retaining the original with mosaics, tiles and molding while establishing an extremely well modern interior, even keeping the wrought iron (non working elevator) from the days when it was an apartment building. But as coincidences always seem to happen when I travel, the staff member at the desk, seeing the name on the bag, had a big smile as he mentioned that the hotel’s restaurant/bar, opened until a few years ago, had, in fact, been Adolfo Dominguez’s large shop.
Ah, I sighed gratefully that the shop had been relocated to Calle Serrano otherwise, I’m sure I would never had been able to concentrate on the work that brought me to this majestic city, with green spaces, monumental buildings, gracious people, super food and wine, palaces and museums that rate among the best. And it’s a place where the streets are filled with young people, perhaps because the economy is so bad and with no work to hurry off to in the morning, they stayed on the streets,bars and cafes well into the early morning. Everyone seems to be texting and so much smoking among the young who were wearing the most up to the moment ensembles and most surprisingly, openly smooching on benches, in parks, on the street, which is such a departure from the less tactile North Americans. But the true activity is and always, will be soccer. And you know there’s game when there are clusters of people outside a bar, standing in front of a TV store or their own computer, watching and listening to the hoots and hollers of the score. So shopping may be big but, trust me soccer is bigger.
Food is always on the mind of Spaniards.
So where to eat in Madrid…tried and true.
Lunch is usually after 1pm and could go on for 2 hours.
Dinner, don’t go before 8.30PM and expect to still be there at 11.30PM
One of my favorites for lunch is the avant garde decor of Iroco, Calle Velazquez, 18 Tel 34 91 431 7381
2. See San Anton Market below.
3. Estado Puro Palacio de Tepa , Plaza Del Angel. A bar which serves tapas and larger portions of food.
4. Cafe de Oriente, Plaza de Oriente 2 34 91 547 15 64. It may be located in a 17th century vaulted basement but there’s never been a venue where one can taste some of the most creative cuisine and still enjoy the transparent floor which showcases the former wall of Madrid
1.Don’t miss out on San Anton Market, Calle Augusto Figueroa. From the first floor on, the locals love this venue and if it’s a casual stand-up ‘nosh’, hang out on the 1st. But for local, specials head to the top floor where there’s a terrace and tables or enclosed room. La Cocina de San Anton, in the Chueca neighborhood area offers daily set lunches also and do’t miss out on the best bellota (corn fed)ha which was been hand carved.
2.La Capilla de la Bolsa, Calle Bolsa 12, 34 91 521 86 23,is located in the historical centre next to the Plaza Mayor. The re-design of the former Madrid Stock Exchange has not destroyed the integrity of the architecture and the Mediterranean Haute cuisine in this environment, is exceptional
3. Spain is tapas bar as it is for sun, fun and sights. La Camarilla, Calle Cave Baja 11, 34 91 354 02 07, bases the meals on seasonal, local produce. Light and modern, it’s usually filled with chic locals.
By Barbara Kingstone
“The rain in Spain stays mainly in the Plain”?? Well, not the few days I was there, and in Madrid, no matter how I felts about the pelting rain, as the wind whisked the umbrella out of my hand, it didn’t dampen this majestic city. I say this even as I skipped over puddles.
The architecturally wonderful city still has touches of Moorish walls from the 9th century. But even in this dismal economical time for the Spaniards, they seem to continue to renovate, improve their heritage buildings making old palaces into official buildings, and majestic old houses into hotels. As much as they attempt try to sort out the massive traffic jams, even though gas is hugely expensive, it hasn’t kept the cars off the roads or their sense of fearless driving cannot be ignored even by the jaded traveler. Nor has it stopped their passion for food and restaurants always seem to be filled both for lunch and dinner, from modest to the most expensive. Madrid is as dynamic in so many areas with endless activities, it’s a rare treat for history buffs and art lovers.
Where does one start the sight seeing? The famous rectangular shaped Plaza Mayor seems like a likely point.
Surrounded by 3 storey houses and 237 balconies it has only one 4 story house, Casa de la Panadera, a former bakery which has the only painted, colored fresco facade on the square.
Nearby, is the famed Botin Restaurant of suckling pig fame (Calle Cuchilleros 17) and is the oldest restaurant in the world. Of course, writer Ernest Hemingway ate here. But then there are so many plaques about ‘Papa’ that it is a stretch to even think that he ate his way through this foodie’s city. He must have been one great gourmet or gourmand.
After seeing the centrally located, Plaza Oriente, with outstanding architecture which includes the Royal Theatre, the 18th century Royal Palace and palatial gardens filled with over 40 sculptures, all overseen by a massive bronze statue of King Philip IV. Even in the unusual downpour, it may have been sensible to head back to the wonderfully remodeled, De Los Letras Hotel. But there was much more to thrill the senses in my limited time, so,I resisted that urge.
And just when you think you’ve seen almost all, there’s the outstanding Gothic revival style, Catedral de la Almudena with a fine neo Gothic interior.
The Golden Triangle (aka., Art Walk), is not a short walk. But it is charming and certainly traffic -filled boulevard that is tree-lined street, surrounded by monumental and I add, majestic buildings. Know that a day in this area would only be scratching the surface. Besides, the renowned Prado Museum, (Goya, Velazquez, El Greco masterpieces) there’s also Reina Sofia, with more avant garde canvases and celebrating the 20th anniversary (2012), the famed collection at The Thyssen Bomemisza Museum,(featuring some of the best 18th-20th century artists), a private collection second only to Buckingham Palace’s art collection. It was gifted to Spain by the late Baron and his still feisty, widow, Baroness Thyssen Bomemisza. The Baroness T.B. has her own on-loan, modern art collection next to this building and housed in a most modern edifice built especially for these extraordinary canvases.
There are so many indoor and outdoor markets in Madrid, from food to really fine mid century furniture and also various true flea markets. I wasn’t expecting to find perfectly wonderful new merchandise probably brought in for the day from a nearby store and also wonderful hand crafted jewelry designers who stand behind their stalls talking about their craftsmanship. On Sundays the Plaza de Cascorro, dating back to mediaeval times, is the place to be along with many of the locals. Besides it’s fun to see the mimes and buskers perform. There are over 1000 street sellers. But don’t expect to make it to all of them in one day.
Madrilenos and Madrilenas love street life and no matter where you go, there are always happy looking groups, often eating tapas or other special snacks. My favorite food market is the unusual San Anton (24 Augusto Figueroa Street) with a covered 6,000 square metre building on 3 floors, each with its own designation and where you could either do your marketing or find a place to sit and eat. But it’s the third floor with an excellent restaurant and a terrace,reservations needed. From here you get a great night view of the city scape. Both of these eateries are worth the time and Euros for a fine meal and the fine house wine. It also seems to be the ‘de rigeur’ spot for the young, chic, trendy, fun loving locals who stand about on the lower level eating, flirting, smoking and drinking.
But if there’s any mass appeal, it’s when there’s a soccer game. Every bar, hotel lobby, plaza, any place with a TV screen or computers, is where crowds gathers and the hoots and hollers are loud and clear. Soccer is big and there seems to be a game everyday.
What also seems to be huge is the major garden, the main park is Parque de el Retiro, second only in size to New York’s, Central Park and the big surprise is to find interesting sculptures and promenades or hear a concert or possibly take a row boat. There’s love in this truly exuberant city of Madrid and smooching couples seem to be far from self conscious about their attraction ‘du jour’. Love is like a perfume that permeates the city. It’s in the atmosphere.
LUNCH OR DINNER
Iroco Restaurant Calle Velazquez 18, Tel 34 919431 7381
The avant garde decor is so New York style. The structure is typical of a colonial style with wrought iron and teka wood furnishing. And when actor Tom Cruise was wedded to Nicole Kidman, they filmed in Madrid and ate often at Iroco.
1. Estado Puro Palacio de Tepa on Plaza del Angel serves the best tapas but also larger meals.
2. It would be a shame not to lunch at Cafe de Oriente, Plaza de Oriente 2, Tel,3491 547 15 64. It may be located in a vaulted basement of a former 17th century convent but each area is as elaborate as the creative meals. Order Braised codfish with pepper ragout and “pil-pil” and you won’t be disappointed. And don’t miss the Aljibe room where there’s a transparent floor which showcases the ancient wall of Madrid.
1. La Capilla de la Bolsa with super food and music. Once the Chapel SantaCruz, it then became the Madrid Stock Exchange Happily it has maintained the Baroque vaulted ceilings and original columns so while sitting in the midst of history, eating Mediterranean cuisine is an great experience.
2. Have another craving for tapas?, then head directly to La Camarilla. Calle Cava Baja 11. Tel 34 91 354 0207
3. Perhaps one of Spain’s great innovations is that you can purchase you favorite products and have them cooked up for you for a small supplementary charge.
BREAKFAST AT DE LAS LETRAS HOTEL
If you’re lucky you’ll have the opportunity to stay at De las Letras Hotel on Via Gran. This grand old apartment building has kept its integrity with their lovely mosaics, the original tiles, marquises staircases, original elevators (no longer in use but certainly a conversation piece) ,molding and wood paneling. Each floor has been decorated room with originality, and have a different color scheme and all refined contemporary and edgy art still has a hint of historic factor. And in each room, there are phrases, paragraphs from the two owners’ favorite books. There’s also a fine spa. And the breakfast at their bar/restaurant is something to rise and shine for. Buffet style but with hot choice, presented so artfully that it’s difficult to be the first to break the pattern of the ham, breads, fruits displayed plates.
By Luis Lechuga
You may have asked yourself this question, or been asked by friends or relatives…. Can wine tours be enjoyed with children?
Everyone may have his or her own answer about this question, but in my case 2 things make this question especially important. As a matter of fact, I myself have 2 children, aged 3 and 5, who are adorable… but also noisy (you would not expect otherwise being Spanish children) and who love to run and jump, and play fight.
The second thing which makes my case a bit special is that I organize wine tours… My friends have indeed asked me. “Have you ever visited wineries and done one of the tours you propose with Mateo and Miguel? “ (my sons) Well, eh, the answer is no. Better said, the answer was no… I decided I had to try.
On the one hand I feel it is very important for me to transmit to my children passion about the job I do, and I think this can help them chose in the future a job they will like. In my case, it involves visiting the places I recommend and strolling along endless rows of vines amongst many other fascinating activities. On the other hand, there is also the challenge to make out of a wine tour a trip enjoyable for children. Is that feasible?
Spain is a land very rich in history. This results in a myriad of castles and monuments spread all over the country. I also know many wineries near those castles, and wineries which were literally carved in rock, and which welcome the visitor with tunnels hundreds of meters long in a very intriguing manner. With these 2 ideas in mind my wife and I decided we could get the boys ready for the trip a bit in advance… We will tell them stories of knights and warriors, princesses and kings… and also the story of secret places that stored and kept safe treasures or food (what could be more of a treasure than food in days of famines?…) All these things were to be visited during our next trip, and the bed-time stories revolved around castles and secret places…
We had 4 days and we decided to do both Rioja and Ribera del Duero. From Madrid this is a good option. Ribera is one hour and a half drive North of Madrid. The River Douro was for centuries a natural border and the region is full of castles which protected it. We left Madrid a bit later than peak time to avoid any traffic jams and arrived at Aranda de Duero at 11:00 AM. In Aranda we spent some time walking near the Douro river and visiting the town center, which hosts a beautiful Main Square and 2 amazing churches. The children prefer early lunches (by Spanish standards) so we had planned a short visit to Bodegas Portia (Norman Foster was the architect involved in this project) and had lunch at their restaurant, which turned out very convenient. A drive to Peñafiel (http://www.turismocastillayleon.com/cm/setLocale?pgseed=1343401464939&dvRegLocale=en_UK) followed and during the drive a small siesta for the children. Great! Peñafiel literally means the “Loyal Rock”… and if you are there and stand in front of the mountain and its impressive castle you fully grasp why it is named so. Going up to the castle was a great experience for the children. The city hall has installed a replica of the castle in one of the local parks, and our boys spent a good hour climbing and playing knights and dragons… The views from the castle are simply amazing and you can easily, and so did the children, imagine yourself in ancient times, spotting for any troops in the horizon.
We decided not to visit any other winery that same day, but to take a walk in the streets of Peñafiel instead and relax at our hotel. The following morning we visited Protos. This is a classic if you are in Ribera and a winery of a kind… it is built underneath the mountain and has kilometers of tunnels that contrast with Richard Rogers new winery next to the old one. Impressive.
After this visit we drove straight to Rioja (http://www.lariojaturismo.com) . Motorways in Spain are good and from Peñafiel this is a two-and-a-half hour drive to our selected destination in Labastida (http://tourism.euskadi.net/x65-12375/en/contenidos/d_destinos_turisticos/0000006316_d2_rec_turismo/en_6316/6316-ficha2.html)
We opted for a Casa Rural this time. This type of accommodation in Spain is very convenient if travelling with children. Old, typical houses have been restored with charm and equipped with modern facilities in order to guarantee a pleasant and comfortable stay. We selected a House with a 2 bedroom apartment. The house dates back to the XVIth century and it has a maze-type garden… perfect for the kids to play. Labastida is one of those villages in Rioja where a hill hosts a church. Down the hill narrow cobbled streets make you think of the days these streets were full of horses. Labastida is a great location to visit La Rioja. It is a 15 minute drive from Haro (where many wineries are concentrated around the train Station, from which the trains transported wine to the harbours in the north), 20 minute drive from Laguardia -an amazing walled city- and 45 minutes drive from San Millan (in Santiago / St James way) or Logroño.
We visited 4 wineries altogether the following 2 days, in 2 of them we opted for wineries where nice walks in the vineyards are possible… and also visited the wine Museum of Dinastia Vivanco. We could not obviously stay there all the time the place deserves but the children were fascinated by some of the items exhibited. They also loved the “grape train” in Laguardia… boys do always love trains, a kind of adventure for them!
People are very welcoming in this part of Spain, and you can feel that children are always welcome in restaurants… Here are a few tips though if you are travelling with children in this part of Spain (or maybe in any part of the world!): bring along some drawing material and a couple of toys. We had printed before departure from Madrid some colourings (grapes, oak barrels, castles and knights) to keep them entertained… plus also a mighty surprise: 2 warriors and their horses… a prize for good behavior after Day 1. It is amazing to see what sort of imaginative stories the children come up with… and the toys helped us a bit to be able to combine winery visits. My wife and I both drive. We therefore took turns with the driving, although it didn´t prevent the driver from tasting the wine anyway (remember you can, as professionals do, spit the wine in the recipient provided). However I must admit that there is no way I was going to spit out such delicious wines when it wasn´t my turn to drive!!!
A great family trip! Would I include a Tour to enjoy with children in our offer at www.winetourismspain.com? I still need to think about it…
Oct 8, 2012 to Jan 20, 2013
Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts – Bilbao
The Museum of Fine Arts in Bilbao hosts the largest anthology of this artist’s career, and features some 100 of his paintings.
The exhibition surveys the artistic development of Fernando Botero and highlights his distinctive style, characterised by the exaltation of volume, his life-affirming mischievousness, and his exuberant use of colour. His works tend to revolve around the human condition and have earned this Columbian artist great international acclaim in the fields of both painting and sculpture. More here
Late Raphael is the first major survey exhibition on Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio, 1483-1520) to combine paintings and drawings in order to focus on the last seven years of the life of the artist, who died in Rome on his 37th birthday.
The present exhibition aims to establish a clear definition of the boundaries between works executed by Raphael and those produced with the collaboration of his principal assistants, Giulio Romanoand Gianfrancesco Penni. (Runs June- September 16)
A trip to Spain’s major wine area, La Rioja: The ups and downs in a wine cellar and the enlightening of taste buds.