Barcelona’s Fusion Culture
By Maria Lisella
It is no secret that many visitors to Spain think of Barcelona as distinct from Spain, which does not make it less Spanish but does underscore its fierce independence – and the Catalans like it that way. With its own language and traditions, Barcelona looks out to the sea, earning a reputation for being cosmopolitan and worldly compared to Spain’s landlocked capital of Madrid. Its history of trade and commerce, industry and eccentricities, make Barcelona a first-rate city to visit for a week, all on its own. Its architectural gems alone could keep visitors walking and craning their necks for days on end.
If your clients have not visited Barcelona in a long time, send them there as soon as you can. Even someone who has visited before will see it as if for the first time. The “new” Barcelona’s parameters have spread into the sea. Land has been reclaimed which stretches with sandy beaches that have earned the bright blue EC flag indicating cleanliness and safety. Much of this land was once forgotten when heavy industry left the area.
If the thought of dining alfresco on sublime seafood while looking out over the Atlantic does not appeal to your client, take them back into the Gothic quarter where Barcelona’s heart beats. Street musicians, off-beat entertainment and small specialty shops huddle in the alleyways that beckon you to step inside. The shop windows, displays and wares are organized like small museums. Visitors will find the makings of a cool drink called horchata here, and take the ingredients home to replicate their Spanish experience.
Like so much of what makes Barcelona, a new entertainment attraction on Las Ramblas, called Opera Flamenco, is a fusion of Spanish operetta with flamenco in a single performance. Staged at the Teatre Poliorama, which is located in the heart of Barcelona’s famous Rambla, and at the Palau de la Música (Petit Palau), an art-nouveau building, listed on UNESCO World Heritage sites. Opera Flamenco has been running for four years – it takes the spirit of gypsy dance and melds it with Spanish music and opera, from Bizet’s impassioned Carmen to the spellbinding staccato rhythms of flamenco. Seeing this at the Palau de la Musica would provide an additional treat, as it would to see it in Petit Palau.
Even if clients do not make it to the show, do be sure they visit the theater and have a coffee in its new café and if they have time, to take one of the frequent tours of the theater that is one of the most fantastically imaginative indoor spaces one can visit. With its 3-D decorations jutting out of the walls, it is as if the walls could speak out loud. Call 011  932 853 832; or purchase tickets on line. www.bcnshop.barcelonaturisme.com
The four-star Hotel Fira Palace is a Summit Hotel and Resort in the Preferred Hotel Group. With comfortable and spacious guestrooms, the property is within a 15-minute walk of attractions, such as the architectural masterpiece the Casa Batlló, a major Catalan landmark, and is situated between the famous Plaza de España and Gran Via Avenue. Although well-located, it is on a quiet street in a residential area. It is also close to Montjuic.
Rates on certain dates in early winter are under 100 Euros a night or about $120. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.fira-palace.com
Air Deal in Early Winter
Iberia is offering special round-trip fares from the U.S. to Spanish and other European destinations. For instance, there are flights from Washington, D.C. to 13 cities in Europe, including Paris, Rome, Milan, Frankfurt, Vienna or Lisbon starting at $589. A return flight from Boston to London can cost as little as $499, while the cheapest fare from Chicago to the Spanish capital or Barcelona costs $660. This offer is valid for tickets purchased on www.iberia.com until Jan. 1; travel must conclude by Jan. 31, 2009. For information on Barcelona, visit www.barcelonaturisme.com
For general information, contact the Tourist Office of Spain in New York, 212-265-8822; Miami, 305-358-1992; Chicago, 312-642-1992 or Los Angeles, 323-658-7195; www.spain.info
October 2008 FeatureLower Prices, Greater Value in Off-season Spain
By Robert Levine
Having just returned from Spain, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite the weak dollar (a Euro cost $1.60 when I was there; as of this writing, it’s happily down to $1.45), even the big cities – the hot tourist spots – are not over-the-top expensive. A great cup of coffee is never more than one-and-a-half Euros, as compared with say, three in France, even at a pricey hotel bar; dinner at a fine restaurant with wine can still come in at under $40 per person. A similar meal in other top European cities would now cost about 30% more. Nonetheless, everyone likes a bargain on top of fair prices, and the poor dollar could still use a break.
Come autumn and winter, hotels all over Spain are offering top value – even the most chic places are within budget. And off-season in Spain means less heat and no crowds.
The NH Hotel chain has been sprouting properties everywhere. Many are offering two-night weekend getaways for 165 Euros or $244 to 185 Euros or $274 in Barcelona, Madrid, Cordoba, Marbella, Santiago de Compostela and a few other cities. The more elegant NH Amistad, also in Cordoba, and in the perfect location for visiting the Mosque, 14th Century Synagogue, Roman Bridge and Arab Wall, is 140 Euros or $207 per night. The hotel’s front desk will arrange for a taxi to take guests ten kilometers out of town (and wait for them) to the fabulous ruins of the Medina Azahara. Built in the 10th century by the powerful Caliph Abd ar-Rahman, it was sacked in 1010 and only rediscovered in 1910. It is only partially excavated and a fascinating visit to medieval times of the Arab dominance. Cost is 40 Euros or $60 for the private car. And in Granada, the perfectly located, elegant NH Victoria is 125 Euros or $185 for a double. Visit www.NH-hoteles.es
Spain’s chain of paradors, now numbering close to 90 and covering the architectural gamut from starkly modern to 16th century monastery to 18th century palace has many fall-winter offers. A special Five-Night Card is available for 514 Euros or $761, which covers a standard double (that’s less than $80.00/night per person); you and your client can choose the route and the paradors. There are some restrictions, but it’s a great deal. Also check into their “Young Persons’ Getaway,” which is offered to people between 20 and 30: A double including breakfast is 56 Euros or $82 a night per person. Clients over 60 years of age are offered a 30% discount from the standard rate, including breakfast. Stay two nights or more in any parador and get 20% off regular rate of room, breakfast and dinner. Call Marketing Ahead, 800-223-1356 or visit www.marketingahead.com; or Petrabax, 800-634-1188; or visit www.petrabax.com
No one will ever accuse the Hospes group of being bargain-basements, but they are offering great packages in Spain that are in the affordable category for your up-market clients in the next few months. Each hotel has a spa and an excellent restaurant; furnishings are modern within an historic building. Clients will be dazzled by the scented hallways and the glass floor in the Cordoba property’s dining room, with ancient Roman ruins beneath it.
“The Splendors of Al-Andalus” series offers complete vacations: One is for three nights in Seville, Cordoba and Granada (extra days can be added) and the other is for seven nights. Clients can combine the collection of hotels in the order of choice (including a minimum stay of two nights in Madrid for the seven-night package) and will be greeted with iced tea or cocktail and scented towel. Breakfast in bed or in their restaurant is included daily as are a full dinner for two one evening and a visit to a Flamenco show another evening. In Seville a presentation of Iberian ham cutting is offered and passes to the major sights in Andalusia (the Real Alcazar in Seville; the Mosque in Cordoba, and the Alahambra in Granada – with a guide) are included. In Madrid, passes to the Prado, the Thyssen and the Reina Sofia are also thrown in. The price? The seven-night stay comes to $267 per night per person; the three night is $199 per night. Call +34 902 254 255; www.hospes.es; or Design Hotels, 800-337-4685; or visit www.DesignHotels.com
Agent Rates & Selling Spain Vacations
Travel agents looking to cross the pond and experience many “firsts” of Barcelona should make a point to stay at Casanova by Rafael Hotels where a special Travel Agent Rate of 80 Euros or about $117 per night is being offered until Dec. 31, 2008. Along with being Barcelona’s first hotel to incorporate solar panels into its design, the hip yet elegant hotel offers a Mexican, Catalan and Mediterranean fusion restaurant; an on-site choreographer, who changes the theme and décor several times a year; and the city’s only indoor and outdoor spa. Casanova is surrounded by playful Gaudi architecture and a buzzing contemporary arts scene. Travel agents must provide appropriate IATA identification upon check-in. Call 866-849-6396; or visit www.casanovaBCNhotel.com
The Travel Institute’s Spain Specialist course is your essential resource for planning a trip-of-a-lifetime on the Iberian Peninsula this fall (or anytime!) Spain comes alive in the fall with local celebrations, festivals, cooler temperatures, and some of the warmest people in all of Europe. Book with specific operators trip to Spain after earning your Spain Specialist designation, and they will reimburse your course fees. Learn more. Members save an additional 10%. Not a member? Join now and start saving! Call 781-237-0280; or visit www.thetravelinstitute.com
Call the Tourist Office of Spain at 800-OK-SPAIN, (NYC) 212-265-8822; or visit www.spain.info
Cover Feature August 2008
Andalusia Reignites with New-Found RelevanceYour client doesn’t have to know the first thing about flamenco before they go to Spain’s southern autonomous region of Andalusia, because the syncopated rhythms of flamenco will mesmerize them. As will the food, in particular olive oil (which might as well be a food group in Spain), the wines (sherry is not an old lady’s drink here) the art, the light, will affect how they taste, hear and feel about this place forever. And that is just for first-timers. Those who visit often speak Spanish, and maybe have even tried to dance or clap to the odd rythyms that rose out of the sound of blacksmiths pounding anvils in the countryside.
Did I mention flamenco? Or the intuitive ways its singers -- the older the better, the more chances that sadness and tragedy adds richness to their duende or soulful cries on stage often about unrequited love? Or the dancers -- old and young -- who can dip, sway and stomp their way into even a non-dancer’s heart. No one’s feet remain still at the tablos and small town rooms where one can see the real thing, so close beads of their sweat hit you and the dust flies.
For years, Andalusia was sold on the strength of three little words: Costa del Sol. It earned a reputation as a seniors’ snowbird destination with cheap long-term stays in towns such as Benalmadena [the 350-room Torrequebrada was among the properties that hosted this segment]. Today, it is as if Andalusia has gotten to know itself better and has had what Oprah calls an “ahaha” moment -- it now sells itself as the soul of Spain often with icons of striking black silhouettes before a backdrop of a hot red sunset.
The art of flamenco is integral in daily life, fairs and festivals throughout Andalusia’s eight provinces: Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga, and Sevilla. A series of tourist routes has been created to showcase Andalusia’s scenery, history, culture (flamenco), art, food and wine experiences. Routes through Flamenco Territories will help clients focus on main sites as well as the fascinating rural towns where distinct styles of architecture, song and dance originated centuries ago and continue to flourish today.
Among the sparkling cities of Seville, Granada, Jaen, Malaga, Cadiz and Cordoba visitors will naturally crisscross other Routes: Olive oil, Tempranillo wine, Jerez (sherry), Washington Irving, and the Caliphates. Agents should avail themselves of the excellent source materials on these routes available through the tourist offices.
Towns such as Baena, Carmona, Priego de Cordoba and Osuna with its Coto de Las Canteras, a former quarry in the middle of the countryside that has been transformed into a theater with fabulous acoustics lend visitors respites as they ready themselves for the next breathtaking travel icon just around the bend. For the Coto de Las Canteras, E-mail email@example.com; www.elcotolascanteras.com
A visit to the Royal School of Equestrian Art can work into any of these itineraries. Spectators will appreciate the skill of both horses and riders during the Equestrian show; a short trip to the on-site museum will add to their knowledge. The tradition goes back to the 15th century at the Carthusian Monastery of Jerez where monks bred this extraordinary line of horses that still define the Spanish breed. This is an event that easily accommodates groups. Visit www.realescuaela.org
A new road between Malaga and Granada now takes one hour while the scenic route throughout the mountains continues to take five hours, if visitors have time, counsel them to travel by train through this pass for stress-free viewing.
This route is also called the Kings’ way as it hugs the Montes de Malaga, scruffy mountains not high but tufted with hearty, ancient olive trees that continue to produce the olives and oils as Spain is among the world’s largest producers of olive oil claiming to have 300 million olive trees.
Andalusia fed a young Pablo Picasso, Garcia Lorca and inspired multitudes of artists and writers from Washington Irving to Hemingway and Orson Wells, all of whom had a fascination for Spain, some for bullfighting specifically in Ronda, one of the region’s small white towns that dot the craggy peaks of the Sierra Nevada and others for the light, the sounds, the sherries and the snaps of castanets. Lately, the region spawned heartthrob Antonio Banderas.
From the Beauty of Marbella
Fanning from the seaside town of Marbella, with its old town and spectacular properties such as the Ritz Carlton Villa Padierna not far from Porto Banus harbor, are the sleek yachts of newly monied shieks and not-so-discreet celebrities. Attracting some five million visitors a year, the area has seen a spectacular building boom during the last 12 years, but you can still smell fresh fish being fried in olive oil and a Corte Ingles attracts visitors of all budgets. Marbella’s aptly named Plaza de los Naranjos not surprisngly is bordered with orange trees whose blossoms freshen the air.
Málaga was setted by the Arabs in 1485 and of course there remain vestiges of their culture everywhere. At Christmastime, the Christmas crèches, a legacy from Naples, show up side by side to the fir Christmas trees that only arrived in Málaga’s festivities about 40 years ago.
In the historic center stands the five-year old Museo Picasso Málaga, housed in a 16th-century Andalusian-renaissance palace with modernized exhibit interiors. Walk downstairs to the basement and view amazing Phoenician, Roman and Arab ruins discovered here. Visit www.museopicassomalaga.org
Modern American architect Frank Gehry has left his unmistakable trademark of titanium walls that undulate in the sun around Málaga‘s Convention Center. Málaga is aiming for the title of European Culture Capital for 2016.
The Kings’ Way
Cranes spike the air over small towns between Málaga and Granada as the earth’s hues range from browns to reds culminating in a color locals call “bermeja.” On the approach to Granada, visitors will see snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains, the second largest range in Spain behind the Pyrennes up north.
The Alhambra Palace receives some 26,000 visitors a day, a limit set to preserve the site, and to give visitors some elbow room to wander and gaze from room to lavish room layered with poetry, imagination and a serene symmetry all at once.
Allah may be the only victor at the Alhambra but fortunately, the Moors left a gargantuan legacy for modern travelers. At one time more than 100 tunnels linked portions of the Alhambra; today just three remain. Today 60 percent of the ceramic work is original and 30 percent of the stucco, which is heavily carved with poetry. The Lions’ Patio has been restored recently. The whispering room elicits a bit of whimsy with its extraordinary acoustics while pomegranates and persimmons appear like sudden jewels in the garden at wintertime. Granada hosts the International Festival of Music in June and July, a tradition that began in 1950.
The immortal writer, poet and dramatist, Federico García Lorca who was also a painter, pianist and composer, was born in Fuente Vaqueros near the city of Granada. He compiled and preserved a collection of flamenco poems, lyrics and music, still performed today. Visit www.garcia-lorca.org
Before leaving Granada, suggest clients dine at La Taberna Tendido as it is set inside the bullring’s walls. Its high ceilings, blood brick walls echo give you only a faint sense of what the ring would be like during a bullfight spectacle, but it is an unusual setting. Advise carnivorous clients to eat as much jamon as they can, because we cannot bring it home. Call + 958 27 23 02; www.tendido1.com
Pride and Dignity in Small Town Life
The towns of Priego de Cordoba and Baena can be easily visited on the same day. These energetic yet small places occupied more important roles in their respective pasts. And while those roles have faded in modern times, there is a strong sense of pride in both places.
Priego’s Barrio de la Villa is the Arab Quarter follows the original plan – narrow winding streets, small squares, at the edge of town, a steep cliff once used as a defense. Today it is the perfect place for a mirador, a panoramic view of a sea of silvery sage colored olive trees below. Five museums are housed here, but the town’s most important monument is the Fuente del Rey, the King’s Fountain. Once a silk and textile center, Priego’s buildings have low balconies decorated with elaborate wrought iron bars that kept señoritas more than arms’ length from their suitors below. Visit www.turismodepriego.com
Baena dates back to the Romans, but became important during the Moorish period and is now known for its high-quality olive oils, not too shabby a role in the modern traveler’s pursuits of indigenous foods, and slow food aficionados. Exhibitions on how olive oil was produced historically are on display at the Archaeological Museum on Calle Henares. Baena’s Holy Week or Semana Santa celebrations are legendary. Rival teams of hundreds of drummers compete, creating the ear-splitting sound of up to 2,000 drums being struck simultaneously.
Both towns have a number of small bed and breakfast accommodations that range from 50 to 100 euros or about $80 to $160 per day with breakfast. Two options are La Posada Real (www.laposadareal.com) and the Hotel Meson Zahori (www.hotelzahori.es)
For a spectacular treat, agents might book a lunch or breakfast at an oil mill. The Almazara Nuñez de Prado family hailed from Rioja where they grew grapes for wines, but with the historic plagues that ruined the crops a century ago, they looked south for another opportunity: Spain’s liquid gold. Nuñez owns one of the most accessible oil mills that can accommodate groups. Visitors learn about the oil-making process, dine on fresh local delicacies – from olives to almonds – and return home with a new appreciation for Spain’s olives -- ripe, juicy gordales for instance -- as well as a few recipes the family is willing to part with.
Capital of the Caliphate
Less than two hours’ drive the next must-see stop is Córdoba to visit the Great Mosque, the Alcazar and the Jewish Quarter. Although the Alcazar never disappoints, much of its original designs were built over by the Christians.
Set in the valley of the Guadalquivir, the Sierra Morena mountains in the north defined its fate. Córdoba was the thriving capital of the Caliphate of Córdoba that governed almost all of the Iberian peninsula. With up to 500,000 inhabitants in the 10th century, Córdoba was the largest city in Western Europe and, perhaps, in the world. Walk its secluded gardens and the Synagogue. Even the city walls are worth mentioning with their small pockets of space filled with doves cooing at odd hours of the day. Among the latter day celebrities born here is the flamenco artist Joaquín Cortés.
Before even arriving, strains of the Bizet opera, Carmen accompanied by images of the sultry worker in a tobacco factory are the most familiar associations with Seville, but recently, films like Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars 2 have been shot here. Walking the streets of Seville is the best way to visit its squares, cathedrals, the Plaza de Espana, Maria Luisa Park where little rowboats ride in a moat under four bridges representing the four kingdoms of Spain – Navarra, Castilla, Leon and Aragon — the 52 arches represent the provinces. Hiring a horse-drawn carriage is another way to savor Seville.
Seville had the happy chance of having the only Flamenco Museum in the world for a year (another has since opened in Jerez de la Frontera). The museum patio can be converted to a stage – both dance and cooking lessons have taken place here; the basement is where the 18th century building’s atmosphere is at its most authentic, while the first and second floors feature exhibitions that take visitors into the magic world of flamenco. Visit www.museoflamenco.com. For the Flamenco Festival program visit www.andalusiaflamenco.com
Held every two years, in the even year, the XVI Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla 2008, Seville’s 16th biennial takes place Sept. 10-Oct 11 for a month of supreme flamenco with several events daily, ranging from fiesta-style juergas to sophisticated concerts. Prices range from about $10 to $62 and early birds will receive a 5% discount if tickets are purchased by Aug. 22. Book online www.bienal-flamenco.org; www.Teatrolopedevega.org and www.Teatromaestranza.com. For information about the Flamenco Biennial, call 011-34-954-59-28-73; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do read Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra because this indeed is the place he took his inspiration from in 1829. The sleepy Washington Irving Hotel, across from the path that leads into the Palaces and Gardens is considered a first-class property but for its inexpensive rates, according to one traveler-rated website. Visit www.iberia-hotels.com
The Ritz Carlton Villa Padierna Hotel is built in the style of an opulent Italian villa perched above a golf course that circles the property. This is an extraordinary property in that it is surrounded by a golf course and only lately has the view over the courses been compromised by nearby new builds. During high season, its occupancy reaches 90 percent, for a year-round average of 50 percent. This property is well-suited for adults who truly want to detox from the rest of the world; it is not a place to be wired to the moon, but you could be as links are available but the property has but one computer and the Library has internet access. The artwork is extraordinary – reproductions stand before trompe d’oeil lilies and small candles, balanced by serene Buddhas and Shivas with jumbles of broken columns from antiquity nearby; the golf course is opened to the public as is the restaurant. The Spa Thermae has 12 treatment rooms and a fascination with water and aromatherapy, both of which can have tremendous rejuvenating effects on the jet lagged. Owner Ricard Arranz will soon open another property in Carranque a small village about an hour from Marbella. Villa Padierna is set in Marbella, about a 30-minute drive from Malaga. Call +34-952 889 152; www.ritzcarlton.com
In Cordoba, a stay at the city’s first five-star property, the Hotel Palacio del Bailio will sharpen your senses as it combines old Arab patio-style plan with courtyards yet employs hi-tech diversions inside the ancient walls. Call + 34-957 498 993; www.hospes.es
In Seville, among the most comfortable, well –situated properties in town is the Boutique Hotel Casa Romana. What further recommends it is a highly trained and attentive staff; comfortable rooms, and a location that cannot be beat. Call + 34-954 915 170; www.hotelcasaromana.com
Iberia Airlines is the fourth largest carrier in Europe and has reported profits for the past 12 years. Iberia operates six weekly flights from Washington, D.C.; a daily flight from Boston to Madrid; 14 weekly flights out of New York; 12 out of Miami, and a daily flight from Chicago. Passengers are allowed two pieces of luggage in economy class weighing up to about 45 lbs. each at no extra charge.
Iberiabono Spain and Iberiabono Europe are two air passes Iberia sells but hardly anyone knows about. Clients flying economy fares pay up to 60 euros or $95 for up to 450 miles; 80 euros or $126 for from 451 to 950 miles; and 110 euros or about $175 from 951 miles from Madrid or further (www.iberia.com; click on Iberiabono)
Delta Air Lines’ new nonstop flights between New York (JFK) and Malaga started this June 2008. (www.delta.com)
Since Dec. 2007, the AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) bullet train has been sweeping visitors between Madrid and Malaga in just 2.5 hours – down from the previous four-hour trip. Madrid to Seville can be done in 2.25 hours and Madrid to Cordoba in just two hours.
The web-only rates Rail Europe offers on its agent-only site can save clients up to 10% over bookings made over the phone. Call 888-382-7245; http://agent.raileurope.com
For more information, contact the Tourist Office of Spain in New York, 212-265-8822; Miami, 305-358-1992; Chicago, 312-642-1992 or Los Angeles, 323-658-7195; www.spain.info
May 2008 Issue
SPAIN–Malaga’s New Cultural Mantle
By Maria Lisella
You know you’ve reached Malaga when you peer out the plane’s window and see Africa just beyond the Malaga Mountains known locally as despeñaperros, the mountain range that separates the region of Andalusia from central Spain’s plains. At this point you are 10 to 12 miles from Africa, on a very clear day, you can see the Atlas Mountains and sometimes, even Gibraltar.
Set at the southern tip of Spain, Malaga is the gateway to the soul of Spain, the region of Andalusia. For the uninitiated, it is both exciting and maybe a bit surprising to see just how deeply the symbols of Andalusia – flamenco dancers, bullfighters, cured hams, sherry wines – inform quotidian life. Even mannequins in shop windows pose alongside a pile of simple chairs that echo the tablos in which flamenco dancers and singers let rip with their passions and sorrows. In dark corners or backrooms of bars, cafes, the internal lives of ordinary people are on display, petitioning the gods, impressing each other and finally, this form of expression is becoming better and better known throughout the world.
At one time, Malaga, the city, was indeed dark and almost dreary in this sunny corner of Spain. It lacked self-esteem to allow for anthropomorphism. But much of the face and the fate of Malaga has and will continue to change particularly as it prepares to compete for the reign of Cultural Capital of Europe for 2016.
Malaga is firmly situated on the newly developed Rutas de las Flamenco, four- to five-day itineraries that include towns from Cadiz to Seville, tracing the route of some of the great figures of flamenco. One portion of the route links Malaga to Granada, which is about an hour’s drive from the center of town. But don’t shortchange Malaga, it has suffered enough from misperceptions and has emerged as an earthy cultural gem.
Inside town, pedestrian walkways have been created to encourage walking, to keep the city cleaner and brighter, making it more approachable without the smoky exhaust of auto traffic. Lining the walkways are sculptures that liven Calle Marques de Larios leading to the town square and the Old Town itself. From the Plaza de la Constitution you can see the black and white Art School of Malaga, where Picasso’s father taught. Not far away is Picasso’s kindergarten near the Town Hall. Alongside the square is Cafe Central, an old world sepia-toned, high energy place to join the natives for hot cholocate and churros on a wintry night.
Malaga also bred a young Pablo Picasso, whose childhood home can be visited but since it has been refurnished, it gives visitors just a hint of pre-modern Spain and the man we came to know as the most influential artist of the 20th century. Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881. What of course cannot be missed is the Museo Picasso Malaga, which is devoted to his work and influence that opened in 2003. The collection comprises 155 of his works donated by Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, his daughter-in-law and grandson. Their donation is the cornerstone of the Museum but there are rotating exhibits continually, as well as community programs for children and a café with a courtyard.
With a museum guide or just milling around alone amid so much Picasso in one place, he seems to communicate the playfulness and the gravity of so much stimulation throughout his 90-year life, as well as the tumultuous web of his personal life. And finally, to see the bicycle bars and seat used to create a bull’s head, so simple, so significant. Rotating exhibits place Picasso’s influence further in context. Set in the Buenavista Palace, a national monument built between 1516 and 1542, it is a wonderful example of 16th century Andalusian architecture set in the old quarter of the city. The palace was among the very first buildings to be built by a nobleman who bucked King Ferdinand’s decree by mixing and blending Arabic elements in the ceilings with Renaissance Italian marble work.
Recently, during excavations, the ground beneath the Renaissance and Mudejar architecture of the Palace revealed significant signs of the city’s Phoenician, Roman and Moorish beginnings. Much of a 6th century B.C. Phoenician House is on view. The remains of double walls and vestiges of towers have altered the city’s biography and sense of itself from a secondary site to a city that crisscrossed cultures meshing with Malaga’s own history.
By highlighting its past and its future, Malaga has created several new attractions that enhance its position on both the business map and the leisure, tourist map.
Celebrity architect Frank Gehry’s team has also visited Malaga in the past few years and created a Convention Center of undulating titanium that flashes in the sun. The $10-million Museum of Town History has been completed and in 2005, the city devised a plan to restore its Jewish quarter including the creation of a Sephardic museum and synagogue, the restoration of the Mudejar tower and construction of 10 housing units.
A Wine Museum (www.vinomalaga.com) and the development of the Route of Tempranillo, the restoration of Roman baths and the Necropolis as well as caves of Tempranillo www.rutadeltempranillo.org.
Additionally, over $338 million is being spent on the Pablo Picasso International Airport with a new 224,000 sq meter terminal for 9,000 passengers to be completed this year. An increasingly popular port-of-call, Malaga is expanding its port. The $294 million expansion calls for increasing the size of the commercial port with two new docks for the city.
Malaga is both a city and a province within Andalusia. Its significance has often been overlooked as it was once out of the way, and overshadowed by nearby light and airy spaces such as Marbella, its fabulous villa-like properties, seemingly endless golf courses, yacht marinas and the experiences associated with the Costa del Sol. Today, however, Malaga’s hotel inventory has vastly improved, there is direct air service between the U.S. and Malaga as well as improved rail service. For those who base themselves in Malaga, Grenada is just an hour’s drive from the city, other red-hot Andalusian destinations are not much further.
Malaga is aiming for the title of European Cultural Capital for 2016, and in a very ancient city, there is no time like the present to prepare for the future.
Getting There and Getting Around
This year it will be easier for Americans to get to Malaga. Delta is launching nonstop service from JFK on June 4; since December the AVE, Spain’s high-speed trains, have been making the journey from Madrid to Malaga in only two and a half hours – down from the previous four hours.
Rail Europe offers special web-only fares to agents at http://agent.raileurope.com that could save clients up to 10% over bookings made by phone (888-382-7245).
Call the Tourist Office of Spain in New York at 212-265-8822; Miami: 305-358-1992; Chicago: 312-642-1992 or Los Angeles: 323-658-7188; or visit www.spain.info
Zaragoza’s Moment in the Sun
By Denise Dube
Zaragoza, the capital of Spain's Aragonian region, is equidistant from Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao and Valencia--all well-known and well-traveled sites. Little known and visited even less is Zaragoza, also known as Saragossa. It runs along the Ebro River and is the Cinderella of Spain. This princess has been modestly hiding behind too much humility and hasn't made anyone's "must see" list--not yet, anyway. But it is going to, in a huge way, when the International Water and Sustainable Development Exposition opens here this month.
The Expo Zaragoza runs from June 14 to September 14, 2008, and has been a few years in the making. Award-winning architects have transformed about 145 hectares of Zaragoza into a water park, open green space, playgrounds, bars, restaurants, thermal spas, a police station and the headquarters for officials of the International Water Decade, designated from 2005-2015. About 80 countries and countless businesses are part of this event, one that will draw almost six million visitors and create jobs for about 10,000 people. Innovative buildings—including a high-rise gray facility shaped like a water drop—unusual and environmentally correct bridges, towers and parks will dot the property. The world will watch during those three months as visiting dignitaries focus on water-related issues while in Zaragoza. But those six million will see so much more than the expo. Once they have visited—not just the expo—they will have no choice but to tell others, who will also want to visit. Ready or not, Zaragoza will become one of those “must see” spots.
And, it’s about time. The world seemed to lose touch with this gem steeped in ancient history, keeping it quaint, untouched and, unfortunately, unknown. But, this international expo will finally open the world’s eyes to a city that was and is a major part of Spain’s history, one that included Iberian, Muslim, Roman, Jewish and Christian religious influences. It will introduce curious travelers to thousands of years of culture that influenced Spain and the city that gave birth to various cathedrals, basilicas and museums.
Most people aren’t aware that ancient Roman ruins are scattered throughout the city and that even more are being found at every construction site. Since the Romans arrived in Zaragoza about 14 BC it’s no surprise. There is so much of the past underground the government now oversees any pending development.
A limestone Roman theater was unearthed decades ago. Now called the Caesaraugusta Theater Museum it is open to the public and protects the ruins and the artifacts found there. (The city’s first name was Caesaraugusta, its moniker given by the Romans.)
The Aljaferia Palace, originally Islamic, was declared a National Monument of Historical and Artistic interest in 1931 and is also a UNESCO site. This 9th century turreted and fortified palace, complete with a moat, ancient arches and ornate carving, was transformed by different religious as each century and each religion passed through Zaragoza.
The Cathedral of San Salvador, better known as La Seo, is another treasure. Located in Plaza Pilar, the 12th century building combines various architectural styles that range from Romanesque to neoclassical. A panoramic 360-degree city view is all yours by taking the great dome elevator to the tower. The basilica’s dome was painted by Goya .
Do not miss the Museo de Zaragoza, which houses a good amount of Goya’s work. His frescoes are all over the walls. The 18th century artist was considered a founder of modern art. His family came from Zaragoza and the city claims him as its own. (The Goya family lived in Zaragoza, but his father took a temporary job in Fuendetodos where Goya was born there. Yes, they moved back.)
The Basilica of Our Lady of the Pilar, a pilgrimage site for Catholics, houses the pink marble pillar. Legend says that Mary brought the pillar to Zaragoza 30 years after her son died. A church was built there a year after her visit and many more were built over it. Over the centuries some tried to take pieces of the marble, so it was covered and protected. One small oval opening allows visitors to touch the stone. Centuries of rubbing have created a concave dip in the rose-scented marble icon.
The oldest stone bridge, or the Puente de Piedra, still spans the Ebro River and is used today. This gothic bridge was garnished in recent years with four bronze lions, done by the sculptor, Francisco Rallo.
There are far too many sites, spots and historic monuments to list. But, once there, people will find it all. And then others will come and find that and more. Zaragoza officials know this and they are getting the city ready. Buildings are being transformed into hotels. New railways and bus lines will make it easy to get to Zaragoza and, once there, to see its spectacular sites. Zaragoza is as vital as Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao or Valencia. The expo won’t just deal with issues of water—it will reintroduce the world to an international treasure. Yes, it’s about time.
For information, contact the Tourist Office of Spain: New York (212-265-8822); Miami (305-358-1992); Chicago (312-642-1992) or Los Angeles (323-658-7188); www.spain.info
January 2008 Issue
Spain Makes Beautiful Music and Modern History in 2008
This month Spain’s annual tourism trade fair, the Feria Internacional de Turismo, or FITUR will take place January 30 to February 3, 2008 at the Madrid Fairgrounds. As FITUR celebrates its 28th annual expo, officials are expecting a huge turnout at the world’s second most important trade expo in the tourism industry.
Last year’s show attracted 170 country participants and 13,000 companies exhibiting. Nearly 250,000 attendees, including travel industry professionals and members of the public, learned about the latest developments in the country’s 17 autonomous regions.
At presstime, Spain’s officials were expecting
60 million visitors based on the first ten months of the year, when the country reported 52.7 million arrivals. American arrivals are up to 978,567, representing a 21.6 percent increase.
To ensure further growth, tourism officials in Spain have announced the development of Plan del Turismo Horizonte 2020, Tourism Plan Horizon 2020, a strategy to improve the quality of the country’s tourism product by the year 2020 by developing business models that are environmentally, socially and culturally sustainable.
Zaragoza Hosts World Expo in 2008
This forward-looking city in the Spanish region of Aragon will host the 2008 World Expo under the theme: “Water and Sustainable Development.” From June 14 through September 14, 2008, Spain’s fifth largest city is expected to draw six million visitors, create 9,500 jobs and bring in over $1.2 billion in tourism revenues. The Expo will be structured around three themed pavilions (the Bridge Pavilion, Water Tower and River Aquarium), six themed squares (Thirst; Water and the City; Extreme Water; Oikos: Water and Energy; Shared Water, and Aquatic Inspirations) and eight large eco-geographical areas comprising the 65 participating countries. More are expected to sign up along with private companies and non-government organizations. Cirque du Soleil™ is lending its creative talents for “Archipelago of the Desert,” the daily parade through the Expo’s grounds.
Founded by the Romans at the confluence of three main rivers: the Ebro, Gállego and Huerva, Zaragoza looks down over a fertile flood plain marked by the course of the Ebro, Spain’s longest river. The region of Aragon has consistently struggled against desertification and the capital is home to the first integral body of river management in the world, the Ebro
With an eye to attracting visitors long after the world’s fair ends, officials have plans to beautify Zaragoza by adding gardens, pools and waterfalls, increasing green spaces and creating leisure and sports areas on the river banks. Designed to evoke a drop of water, the exhibition’s most emblematic feature will be the 196-foot transparent Water Tower by Enrique de Teresa Trilla. A 296-acre Metropolitan Water Park will include Los Sotos National Park along the Ebro, a wetlands area and a Botanical Garden.
In keeping with the Expo’s theme of sustainability, city officials intend to increase green spaces by 20 percent, expand renewable energy resources and create a larger network of bicycle lanes. The Zaragoza City Hall is planning several major infrastructure projects including the Third Millennium Bridge which will connect both banks of the Ebro, a suburban rail network and light railway. The Aragon Government will participate in infrastructure projects, such as the Goya Venue, metropolitan and urban transport and the construction of a Conference Centre. Plans are underway to reclaim the banks of rivers, adding gardens, landscaping and beach areas. Leisure and sports facilities will include a white water channel, rowing lanes, a spa, an “open-air museum” with 25 works and art installations spread along nine miles of the Ebro, and the Rivers Aquarium – the largest in the world – taking visitors on a trip down some of the planet’s great rivers: the Ebro, Nile, St. Lawrence, Amazon and Mekong. In fact, 80 percent of the Expo’s structures will remain after September 2008.
Zaragoza still has vestiges of the Roman, Moorish, Jewish and Christian communities that once lived here. The city’s Roman past can be seen in the Caesaraugusta Theatre Museum, the city walls, the Forum and the Public Baths. Aljafería Palace is said to be the most important 11th century civil construction in the Islamic West with stunning patios and an impressive Throne Room. Along the Ebro River are three of the city’s emblematic buildings including the grandiose Nuestra Señora del Pilar basilica, a Baroque gem completed in 1711. With its 11 brightly-colored tiled cupolas it stands out among the other impressive historic buildings off the Plaza del Pilar. La Lonja Palace is the region’s most important example of 16th century civil architecture. Visitors will find medieval art mixing with Renaissance and Baroque styles at San Salvador Cathedral (“La Seo”), Aragon’s most significant monument. The exterior of the Parroquieta Chapel, on one side of the Cathedral, represents the pinnacle of Zaragoza’s Mudéjar architecture. The Museum of Zaragoza’s collection ranges from archaeological finds from prehistory and fine art through the Moorish period. Fans of Francisco de Goya – who served his apprenticeship here – can head to either the 16th century Renaissance Palace de los Pardos that now houses the Museo Ibercaja Camón Aznar, the Patio de la Infanta Museo or the basilica, to see some of his works. Visit www.expo zaragoza2008.es/
For further information, call the Tourist Office of Spain at 212-265-8822 in New York; 305-358-1992 in Miami; 312-642-1992 in Chicago; 323-658-7195 in Los Angeles or visit www.spain.info
New Access to Spain’s North and South
This year, American Airlines will launch service from New York to Barcelona, Spain. Beginning April 24, 2008, American will inaugurate nonstop daily flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York and Barcelona International Airport (BCN). American Airlines also offers service to Madrid from Boston, Miami and Chicago. Call 800-433-7300; Visit www.aa.com
Delta Air Lines will inaugurate nonstop service to Málaga in the Andalusian region of southern Spain. Starting June 4, Delta will offer three flights a week on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York to the Pablo Picasso International Airport in Málaga (AGP.) Return flights from Málaga to JFK will depart on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Delta will increase service to five flights a week on July 8. Visit www.delta.com
Classics in the Canaries
Got clients looking for Brahms with some balmy weather? Look toward Spain’s Canaries this winter. Sonatas and symphonies will fill the air of eight of the Canary Islands from January 10 through March 1, 2008 when the 24th Annual Music Festival of the Canaries – one of Europe’s only classical music festivals in the winter – kicks off January 10.
The first concert will take place at the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium in Las Palmas de Gran Canarias with a program of Beethoven’s Concert No. 3 for piano and orchestra, directed by Pedro Halffter and performed by the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra with the Children’s Choir of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria (OFGC). The festival will end on March 1 with the final concert in Santa Cruz de Tenerife featuring the Orchestra of Cadaqués with Sir Neville Marriner conducting Mozart’s Concerto No. 23 and his Symphony No. 38.
During the eight-week festival, there will be 65 performances – 21 each in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Santa Cruz de Tenerife – and 22 performances on the smaller islands of Lanzarote, La Palma, Fuerteventura, La Gomera and El Hierro. Even the tiny volcanic island of La Graciosa will host a concert, a performance of Beethoven’s Quartets on January 12.
Italian mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli, a four-time Grammy winner, will perform on January 31 and February 2, and the world-renowned Italian conductor Riccardo Muti will direct the London Philarmonia Orchestra in four performances, February 25-28. Led by Sir Neville Marriner, the Orchestra of Cadaqués will perform on February 27 and 29 with the Women’s Choir of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria along with the well-known Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta. Top orchestras from several European countries –Hungary, Finland, the Netherlands --will perform.
About the Canaries
Year round sunny weather with average temperatures in the 70’s has been drawing visitors to the Canary Islands since the 1960s. Lying just 62 miles off the African coast in the Atlantic, these volcanic islands offer beautiful beaches, and a variety of striking landscapes.
The chain’s largest, Tenerife is crowned by the majestic dormant volcano of Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak at 12,195 feet. Santa Cruz boasts many historic buildings including a church dating from 1500, archaeological and fine arts museums and the bustling food market/bazaar Mercado de Nuesta Señora de África. In Puerto de la Cruz there is a wine museum, the Orotava Botanical Garden and Loro Parque, a subtropical garden with over 1,000 parrots and the world’s largest penguin zoo.
Gran Canaria has one of the archipelago’s most beautiful stretches of beach – some five miles long. Tourists flock to the port of Las Palmas for the duty-free shopping and the atmospheric Barrio Vegueta, while hikers head for the rural interior with its steep highland reaching almost 6,500 feet. Least populated of the islands, Fuerteventura has endless strands of white sand, towering dunes and clear blue waters perfect for windsurfing. The futuristic landscape of Lanzarote with its hardened lava and dark dunes suggests a scene from a science fiction movie. The entire island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve and conservation and controlled development make it an attractive vacation choice. Called the “Green Island,” La Palma attracts visitors with its lush foliage, black sand beaches and the huge crater national park in its interior. The capital, Santa Cruz is a preserved Spanish colonial city with 16th century buildings. La Gomera‘s rugged mountains – its forest was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site – attract hikers who want to get away from it all. The smallest and least visited, El Hierro also draws travelers of a solitary bent with deserted black sand beaches and a quiet pine forest. Streets and roads of unpaved sand mark La Graciosa – a tiny volcanic island about a mile north of Lanzarote.
Visit www.festivaldecanarias.com. To book tickets, which range from about $18 to $140, visit www.generaltickets.com/cajacanarias/index.cfm