Rioja is a bit of heaven in the north central of Spain. Visiting the hotels, restaurants and wineries of the Basque country and Rioja was a trip of a lifetime in 2015. Every place was a treasure with lovely people and a wonderfully relaxed way of life. I could see myself living in Spain, very easily.
I've been to Barcelona twice, each time for about 4 days. Not long enough. I continue to promise myself that I will go back and stay for at least a week. It's a beautiful and exciting city, user friendly with much to do. Avoiding tourist season is definitely a must for the big sights like Sagrada Familia.
We stayed at the Majestic Hotel on the Passeig de Gracia - great location and quite lovely hotel. They have a super rooftop bar with wonderful views. I was super happy there. The time I visited before, I stayed at the Hotel Pulitzer which is just down the avenue closer to the Placa Catalunya. Great hotel and much more reasonably priced, but still very high level service and atmosphere. I would probably stay at the Pulitzer again over the Majestic, though both are hard to beat.
Highlights of Barcelona were the Picasso Museum and Montjuic with the Miro Foundation and the lovely fountains.
NICE - COTE D'AZUR
Monaco Grand Prix was the impetus but the highlight was time with friends and amazing food and scenery. Gorgeous setting. We stayed at a VRBO flat, but I spent time in a hotel just ahead of everyone arriving. A fun day was spent in a cooking class with Rosa Jackson of Les Petits Farcis. Truly fun thing to do - and yummy.
I love clear shapes and clean lines. I tend to make patterns created by others; although, I will bust out an original here and there. The beauty of quiltmaking is that no matter what pattern one choose, the product is originally that maker's due to the myriad choices of color, fabric, white space, and quilting that must be made.
FOOD OF COTE D'AZUR
The restaurants were amazing: Alain Ducasse at Hotel de Paris, Monaco and the Chevre d'Or in Eze. Other treats were neighborhood restaurants and various cafes in outlying villages of St. Paul de Vence and Biot.
FOOD IN SPAIN
The Basque country around San Sebastian and Rioja have more Michelin stars, apparently,, than anywhere else aside from Paris. We found this to be completely credible. Amazing food. Our restaurant hit list included: ABac and Mocaroo in Barcelona; Mugaritz, San Sebastian; Neura in Bilbao just to name a few. There were so many more. One of our faves was a Pinxto bar in San Sebastian called Bar Zeruko. Lots and lots of El Bulli trained chefs. The food was amazingly good and beautiful to look at.
A definite treat for car design lovers and people who love the central coast. Gorgeous setting, fun people watching and impressive cars. The Gooding auction was a fun thing to do where $1M is what you need to play in that pond. As a guest of Rolex, we were treated to great seats for watching the races at Laguna Seca and also hanging out in the lounges with bottomless glasses of champagne.
THE MAN. ER. DOG. best friend. crazy boy. monkey. silly goose. hater of mailmen, christmas hats and cats. That's Ferg.
WINERIES OF SPAIN
Baigorri (Basque architect Inaki Aspiazu) Torres (did not visit but crazy looking) Ysios (Calatrava)
Roda (tasting room - winery was closed, next time!) Tondonia (Zaha Hadid very small tasting room - ok. nice, but not remarkable like Ysios or Baigorri. The actual winery is very fun - dark and old and lovely scenery along the river when you reach the back.) Cune (nice wines and nicely modern tasting room) Marques de Riscal (the Gehry hotel is the star. The winery is quite nice, traditional, very old and nice to climb through the old casks and cellars.)