Madrid Highlights

Madrid in spring

Twenty-first century Madrid positively surprised us. Before Tony and I met, we visited Madrid independently in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and we both left the city NOT loving it. While Tony got robbed in the Chamartín train station (and had to deal with the aftermath including a screaming match with an embassy official who refused to help a stranded 19-year old), I passed through the same railway station and found the city to look dull and grey through my dusty train window. Coming back 25 years later, however, completely restored our faith in what must be one of Spain’s most livable cities.

During our 3-week stay in Madrid, we saw the city in a very different light. The rough edges seemed to have softened and the city parks and art museums were everything but dull and grey. To give you an idea how to find some color, excitement and fun, and make the most of your time, we have compiled some of our most enjoyable activities in Madrid. Continue…

Luxury Yurt Camping in Lanzarote

As we drive north from Arrecife to the small coastal village of Arrieta, we immediately notice how different Lanzarote looks from the other Canary Islands we have visited. Most obvious is the lack of high-rise buildings and huge tourist complexes. The black scorched land along the coast is dotted with small white-washed villages and traditional windmills. We marvel at the bizarre landscape of terraced cones, squat craters, and soil that shimmers with onyx hues of the volcanic spectrum. It seems like a spectacular location for our glamping experience at Lanzarote Retreats. Continue…

Mallorca Highlights for Adventurers

Palma cathedral, Mallorca

Twenty-five years after my first visit to Mallorca, I returned to the Mediterranean island in October with Tony in tow. Like many visitors, my first experience here was a rushed trip spent on the busy tourist beaches near Palma. It was only later, through a German magazine article, that I learnt just how many adventurous activities I had missed. So this time around, I wanted to do it right. During our two weeks on the island, Tony and I set out together to discover the best of what the largest Balearic island has to offer. Continue…

Ten Ways to Experience Catalonian Cuisine

Catalonian Cuisine

Wild mushroom salads, cured meats and sausages, roasted red peppers in olive oil, wines, cheeses, salted cod, crema Catalana… the cuisine of Catalonia is every bit as rich as the artistic and architectural heritage of the region. In fact, the current “best restaurant in the world” is in Catalonia.  Whether you are indulging in stewed prawns on the coast or pigs feet in the mountains, there’s something for everyone. Don’t know where to begin? No problem. Catalonians are a sophisticated bunch, but they are also exceptionally down-to-earth and ready to share their food with you. The best way to learn is to start eating and asking lots of questions. Here are ten tips to get you going Continue…

Rafting the Noguera Pallaresa

Rafting on Noguera Pallaresa

Although most people probably don’t immediately think of Spain when they contemplate adventure travel holidays, Catalonia offers some serious opportunities for the über-active traveler: sailing trips on the Costa Brava, scuba diving in the Mediterranean, canyoning, skiing and snowboarding in the Pyrenees, climbing and via ferrata routes, long-distance hiking, and… drum roll… white water rafting.

We sampled the rafting potential on an afternoon excursion on the Noguera Pallaresa River in the high Pyrenees and, as you can see in the pictures, it was totally awesome. Organized through Rubber River in Sort, the stretch we did ranged from grades 3 to 4, which means there’s a bit of potential to be thrown from the boat. The run was incredibly fun and there is a very cool surprise Continue…

Re-Learning a Valuable Lesson in the Costa Brava

Llafranc harbor, Costa Brava

I’ll admit that before I came to Catalonia, I had a rather bad impression of the Costa Brava. (We all have our prejudices, right?) Having lived in Germany for many years, I associated the area with mass tourism, package holidays and overdevelopment.

So you can imagine my shock as we sailed the beautiful, rocky coastline between Palamós and Llafranc past isolated coves, golden beaches, cliff-top villas, weatherworn castles, lush forest, and picturesque fishing villages. It was NOT the picture I had in my mind. And the water in those coves was like liquid glass. Pure fantasy.

Descending in Llafranc, I hiked a portion of the perfectly manicured coastal trail that runs the length of Catalonia connecting its coastal towns and villages. It was all just so Continue…

Hooked on the Via Ferrata in Vallcebre, Catalonia

As I mentioned earlier on our Facebook page, I’ve discovered a new sport… and I’m totally hooked (pun intended). While we were in Vallcebre, Catalonia Tourism introduced us to via ferratas on an outing with CercleAventura, a Catalonian adventure sports company.

A via ferrata, also known as a Klettersteig in German, is an established climbing route that follows a secured steel cable as well as carved footholds, iron stepping rungs, ladders and cable bridges. Climbers wear protective helmets and harnesses and secure themselves to the cable using absorbers with carabiners. You don’t have to be an experienced mountain climber to do a via ferrata, and there are often several routes targeting different grades of difficulty.

Oscar, our CercleAventura guide on the outing, was incredibly Continue…

New Options for Experiential Travelers

Photo tour with Joan Figueras

When we are asked about ContemporaryNomad.com, we often refer to it as a blog devoted to “experiential travel.” We travel to experience new things whether that is diving with thresher sharks, eating exotic foods or discovering the world’s art and architecture. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some kind of menu offering up a virtual smorgasbord of new experiences?

So when I was introduced to the Spanish service Trip4Real, I was intrigued. Trip4Real is to experiences what AirBnB is to accommodation. It’s a virtual marketplace where individuals can offer up their own services to travelers visiting Spain. Experiences range from Continue…

La Sagrada Família and the Architecture of Gaudí

Gaudí is to Barcelona what hot fudge is to ice cream sundaes. While by no means the only visionary architect associated with this city, he remains the ultimate symbol of Catalonian genius. His pièce de résistance is the spectacular La Sagrada Família, which upon its completion in 2026, will be the world’s largest and most structurally daring church. There’s nothing like it in the world; it’s totally unique. Just as unique as the architect himself.

But beyond his sacred temple, Gaudí left a trail of architectural treasures sprinkled across Barcelona and further afield in Catalonia. People travel from far and wide to seek out his masterpieces which blend a range of Neo-Gothic, Moorish, Mudéjar, Asian, Egyptian and fellow Modernista influences into a wild mixture Continue…

Never Too Many Cooks in bcnKITCHEN

bcnkitchen-8 The secret to Spanish cooking is good Rais

Ever since Thomas did his cooking class in Cambodia, I’ve been looking for my own similar Food-Venture. Luckily, our stop in Barcelona included a day at bcnKITCHEN, a unique facility which offers everything from cooking classes to show-cooking to corporate bonding sessions.

When I think about it, Catalonia Tourism was probably strategically using our day at bcnKITCHEN as a type of corporate bonding session to allow our group of traveling bloggers to connect while exploring Catalan cuisine. It was a brilliant move, a recipe for success.

And the secret to this recipe, like much of Spanish cuisine, was good rice… I mean Rais Continue…