Although paella is usually a nice yellow color, thanks to Spain’s wonderful saffron, there’s black paella as well. In the Catalan language, we call it “arros negre”, that is, black rice. It’s a delicious kind! The black color comes from the ink of the squid. We sometimes mix in some “allioli” (garlic mayonnaise) once it’s been served in our plate. My recommendation is that you give paella a try during your stay in Barcelona, since it’s one of our favorite dishes. if it’s sunny out, head to the waterfront and enjoy it under the sun, together with a good local white wine or cava.

The name “paella” is the name of the cooking pan itself, and probably has its roots in the Latin word “patella”, which means pan. Other less likely -but more romantic- theories suggest that the word “paella” comes from the Spanish “para ella”, which means “for her”, and it was first prepared by a man for his fiancée.

There are certain restaurants which specialize in paella, and where you can enjoy it every day of the week, but there’s also a local tradition of eating paella on Thursdays. This day, many restaurants which don’t usually serve paella incorporate this dish in their menus.

There are a few theories as to why this is so. Apparently, the most likely one suggests that Thursday was traditionally the day off for most maids. The day before they would leave everything ready for the next day’s meal, so that the owner of the house just had to add the rice and have the meal ready to eat in 20 minutes.

Barcelona is definitely a place where you can indulge over a great meal. We know that, and that’s how we offer a few tours that combine gastronomy with art and history. In the city, check our Art and Tapas Gaudi and Art and Tapas Picasso private tours. Or venture outside the city with our Montserrat and wine country, or our our Penedes wine country and Traditional Catalan lunch.

Anyone who takes a tour of Barcelona or simply walks around the streets of any Catalan town will see this yellow flag with four red stripes hanging from the balconies or flying on top of the official buildings. What does this flag represent?
On my tours sometimes people ask me whether this is the Spanish flag. Is it? No, it isn’t, although the Spanish flag is also red and yellow. Other people may think it’s the soccer team flag…Neither. That one is blue and red.
This flag is the Catalan flag, locally called “Senyera”. You may also see it with the star, like in the picture, and then it’s called “Estelada.” The Estelada is the independentist Catalan Flag, since many people in Barcelona’s region favor the region’s separation from Spain. As a curiosity, the star is inspired in the Cuban flag. The Estelada was created in 1908. Now you now what this flag is!

Those of you looking to explore Modernisme in detail, beyond the usual Gaudi buildings, will enjoy visiting the recently renovated Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, at the edge of the Eixample district, and only a few blocks away from the Sagrada Familia (Gaudi’s church.) You can visit the Administration pavilion, the gardens, a couple of the pavilions which were once dedicated to healing the sick, and even some of the tunnels which once connected the different parts of the hospital, underground. The architect was Domenech i Montaner, the same one who designed the Palau de la Musica Catalana or the Casa Lleó i Morera, to name just his best known works. If you like glass, ceramics, or in general admire the beauty of Modernista architecture, this will be a nice addition to your exploration of thriving early 20th century Barcelona. To open up your appetite, check some of the pictures I took during my last visit.

 

 

 

 

 

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I loved visiting the interior of the Casa Lleo i Morera’s main floor, which was recently opened to the general public. I was the only gentleman in a group of lovely ladies admiring the fine sculptures, mosaic floors, and stained-glass windows of one of the three buildings of the so called “Block of Discord.” It was a very enjoyable visit, and one that put my little apartment to shame :-) In the early 20th century, Ms. Morera commissioned architect Domenech i Montaner the refurbishment of her residence on fashionable Passeig de Gracia. Unfortunately, she died before the works were completed, so she never got to live in the amazing spaces Domenech i Montaner created for her. Her son, Dr. Lleo i Morera finished it, and gave the building his name. The 400 square meter apartment is definitely worIMG_2681 IMG_2678 IMG_2680 IMG_2665 IMG_2651th a visit. I hope you enjoy the pictures I took!

It’s a beautiful day today in Barcelona! And the city is warming up for Easter. The other day I told you about the “Mones”, the chocolate figures that are so typical of Easter. Today the topic is the “Palmes”, or palm leaves which are used on Palm Sunday. If you stroll down Rambla de Catalunya these days you’ll be able to find them on display, for sale. They are gorgeous!

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If you had just one hour in Barcelona that’d have to be spent at the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s church. If you came back for another hour the following year, I may have to give you the same recommendation. Why? Because the Sagrada Familia is a work in progress and it never shows the same face, since 1882 when it was first started. The other day a new window was put in place and couldn’t help but taking a picture to share that moment with you.

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When touring Barcelona one often looks up to see the gorgeous buildings the city is dotted with. But looking down can be rewarding too, since the ground tiles of many Barcelona streets, and especially those in the Eixample district, are very pretty. They come in different shapes. The ones on Passeig de Gracia are hexagonal and were designed by Gaudi for the interior of the Casa Batllo, and later applied to his Casa Mila “La Pedrera”. Most of the other ones are square and come in different patterns. Typically the pattern is the same on the same street, or at least on the same block, but as I was walking down Diputació street earlier today I ran into a puzzle of different ones within just a few feet from each other, which is unusual. I took a few pictures and thought it’d be nice to talk you into looking down for once. In Barcelona, there’s beauty on the ground too!

Since I imagine I am not the only one who loves chocolate, this post is dedicated to those of you who share this passion with me (and there are quite a few of us out there!) These days, just before Easter arrives, Barcelona’s best bakeries display in their windows a festival of figures made of chocolate. They are named “monas”, which literally translates as “female monkeys”, and according to our tradition, children get one from their godfather. It’s an expensive duty, since they can be very ellaborate. So if you happen to be in Barcelona these days you’ll see them around, and may not resist the temptation. Just look at the price tag first before proceeding to the cash register, since they can easily cost 100 Euros or even more. By the way, the word “mona” doesn’t actually relate to the primates. Apparently, it comes from the arab “munna”, which meant “mouth gift”. And what a delicious gift for your mouth these are!IMG_2576

Are you a little lost after reviewing the many Barcelona private tours you can possibly take? They all seem interesting, don’t they? But after all, you only have a few days  in Barcelona and there’s only so much you can do. Don’t worry. The goal of this post is to help you choose the tour or tours that are right for you out of the many choices I present on my website.

The first important decision is whether you should take a walking tour or one with a driver and a guide. In choosing this, you may consider:

  • Amount of walking you are comfortably with. If you enjoy walking, but don’t want or can’t walk or stand for a long time, choose the tour with driver and guide.
  • Whether you have children with you. In this case, having the vehicle so that the children can have some down time while we move from place to place truly helps make the touring experience smoother for the children and for the parents.
  • Number of people in your party. The bigger your party is, the more difficult it becomes to move from district to district to explore the different attractions in an efficient manner. If there are two or three of you (plus the guide), we can easily jump into a taxi to get to those places which are further out, but as the number of participants increase that becomes more difficult.
  • Budget: a walking tour is logically more affordable than one with driver and guide.

The tours outside the city are always with driver and guide.

Once you have decided the kind of tour you’d like to take, then the following question is how many tours to take. In order to help you with that, I have a couple of suggested 2 and 3- day itineraries on my website that can help you.

For most people, one or two half day city tours is enough. If you decide to take just one, it can be an overview of the main highlights. If you take two city tours, we can see things with more detail, and include more inside visits. It all depends on the depth you are looking for.

I also recommend that you take one tour outside the city. The region is so gorgeous! Montserrat is a great choice for a half day tour but you can review the other options to find the one that really suits your specific interests.