Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Hotel Londres y Inglaterra in San Sebastian

The Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra is one of my favorite places to stay in Spain, especially since it is in the ideal location overlooking La Concha Bay!
We always get a room overlooking the bay.  What a way to start the day.
Since were here last, the entire hotel had been beautifully remodeled.  This is the bar that overlooks the bay.  Flor from Austrias was our waitress and she could not have been nicer.
Such a pretty room with comfy beds, pillows and linens.

Morning view of the bay from my room.  As you can see, La Concha bay has a very high tide but the when you walk out into the water, it is a gradual decline in depth.  It truly is a swimmers paradise or even for those who love to jog in the water.
The sun setting on the large building which is the City Hall.  It was once the home of the Gran Casino from the 1st of July of 1897 to 1924 when gambling was prohibited.  It was built during the Belle Epoque which was a period of peace and prosperity.  
Every morning the beach is dragged and ready for the swimmers and sun bathers.  I shot this photo using the panoramic setting on my Iphone. 
It was fun being here during the regatta which takes place the first two Sundays in September.  For over 115 years, people have crowded in all around La Concha to view the regattas.  The origins of the regatta come from the fishing and whaling culture of the Basque.
Looking down on the hotel's outdoor patio which is a great place to relax at the end of the day.
Tourist and locals alike gather to have a drink and visit.
 Such a beautiful setting.
The city comes to life when the sun sets.  This is the view from my balcony.  It's tapa time soon!

Join me for my Jewels of the Northern Spain tour.  Space is limited.
September 11 - 24, 2017.   Contact:
We will be at the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra for four nights.  It's such a lovely place to stay, you will never want to leave.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Join me for my Jewels of Northern Spain Tour in September of 2017

Please join me for my Jewels of Northern Spain tour from September 11th to the 24th of 2017 when we will visit Barcelona, San Sebastian and Bilbao.  Last fall I spent a couple of weeks in these towns and it was my fifth visit to Barcelona in the last ten years.  My "to do" and "dining favorites" lists have been fine-tuned over the years.  All three cities are pedestrian friendly so walking to many of the sites is a great way to see the architecture, museums, shops, galleries, restaurants and get caught up in the Spanish culture.
The first part of the trip will be spent in Barcelona where we will be staying at a 5-star hotel right in the middle of the Eixample district.  
 And nothing is better than a dip in the rooftop pool with its incredible view of the city at the end of the day before heading out for an evening of tapas, wine and cava.
The Eixample is noted for its boutique shops, extraordinary Modernista architecture and excellent restaurants and tapas bars.  Modernista is the 19th century Art Noveau movement that emphasized natural forms, bright colors and curvilinear lines that were carried over into the architecture, design and furniture.
You will see many buildings adorned with "scraffito", a wall decoration of the 18th century which is a technique of scratching thru a top layer of the plaster to reveal a different layer of color below.
One of many of the Modernista foyers that you just can not resist taking a peek at.
The first part of the trip will be spent in Barcelona.  We will visit many of Antonio Gaudi's sites such as the Casa Batlo shown above, where the facade refers to Catalonia's Middle Ages and the scaly roof line represents the Dragon of Evil impaled on St. George's cross.
We will have a guided tour of La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's final project that is still under construction
and spend part of an afternoon up at his Parc Guell, Barcelona's most celebrated park that sprawls across the hillside with views of the city and out to sea.
The tile mosaic benches at the Parc are spectacular.   
One of my all time favorite church's in Spain is the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar.  We will have a special treat when we take a guided tour which takes us to the church's rooftop.  You can not believe the view! Antonio Gaudi was so inspired by the tall columns in the Santa Maria, he modeled his columns after these when he designed La Sagrada Familia.
The stained-glass is so diverse, from traditional scenes, to very abstract.
One morning we will have a private tour of the Monastery of Montserrat located on the magnificent Monsterrat mountain 40km outside of Barcelona.
 Another morning will be spent at the Mueso Nacional d'Art de Catalyna with its diverse collection of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque art.  My particular favorite department is the Catalan Modernisme featuring such artists as Ramon Casas, Joaquim Sunyer, Salvador Dali, Julio Gonzales, just to name a few.
We will have a relaxing lunch in the museum's restaurant while we take in the breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
A visit to the Picasso Museum, where five medieval palaces were converted into a museum, which contains a vast collection of Picasso's paintings, from when he was a young boy to his later years.  A stop at the Fundacio Antonio Tapies, the foundation of Barcelona's most internationally celebrated living artist and the new home for ceramics, textiles, graphic arts and design at the Disseny Museum.
We will explore the Barceloneta area down by the water front where you will find many outdoor sculptures such as the Barcelona Head by Roy Lichtenstein.  This is an area that was revitalized in 1992 in preparation for the summer Olympics.
The next two sites designed by architect Domenech i Montaner are prime examples of Modernism!  We will have a guided tour of the world's most flamboyant concert hall with its rainbow-colored light streaming into the auditorium through the ornate stained-glass skylight. 
Montaner's other magnificent project is the large complex, the Hospital de Sant Pau.  A great civic work, this "garden city" consists of 17 pavillions,
each with its own collection of expressive sculptures, murals and mosaics.
The Spanish cuisine in my opinion is the best in the world, using the freshest ingredients.  One morning we will have breakfast at the famous Bar Pinotxa located in Barcelona's outstanding food court, La Boqueria.  
I have had the Garbanos con Chipirones (chickpeas with baby squid) at quite a few places around Barcelona and Pinotxo's hands down makes the best!   And of course a glass of cava and a cortado (Catalan drink of half espresso and half warm milk) and the yummy pastry up on the left called a chucho.
Tapas at one of my all time favorites places, Paco Meralgo. 
The jamon Ibercio is the best jamon in the whole world, it just melts in your mouth served with pa amb tomaquet (a toasted bread rubbed with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil).
The perfect season for the pan fried Padron Peppers!  
Off to San Sebastian on the first class train. On the way we will have a picnic dinner from items bought at La Boqueria: wine, cheese, Jamon Iberico, fresh figs, Marcona almonds... all the good stuff.  San Sebastian is one of the old time lovely seaside resort towns and a place to kick back and relax after a full week in Barcelona.
Our hotel overlooks one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, La Playa de Concha, where we will be able to enjoy some swim time in its crystal clear waters.
A view from the hotel balcony, we are right in the middle of the historic district with its 16th century buildings, boutiques and countless tapas bars. 
A walk around Monte Urgall brings us to this magnificent iron sculpture, Empty Construction, by Jorge Oteiza.
Gourmet tapas are plentiful in San Sebastian.
Next stop, Bilbao where we will stay in the ultra-modern hotel overlooking the Guggenheim Museum.
A view of the Guggenheim Museum and the Puppy from the hotel's rooftop patio.  
The Puppy created by Jeff Koons, is a huge sculpture of a West Highland terrier topiary covered in bedding plants. 
We will take in a series of eight massive sculptures by Richard Serra.  Interactive sculptures that allows you to walk through and around them.  They dwarf you when standing next to them. On the other floors we will view the special exhibitions on display.  And a visit to the Museo de Bellas Artes with work representing every Spanish school and movement from the 12th century to the 20th century.
Between visits to the museums, we will dine at the ultra-chic restaurant down the street from the hotel, La Porrue.  Phenomenal cuisine!
Breakfast up on the hotel's top floor with gorgeous views of the museum, river and countryside, where we will enjoy one of the most extensive buffets in Europe, before heading to the airport to fly back to Barcelona.  You will have the afternoon free before heading back to the states the next day. 
I have just hit on some of the highlights of my Jewels of Northern Spain tour.  I am limiting the tour to only eight ladies which I already have a few signed on.  It's going to be a trip you will never forget.  An opportunity to  experience one of the world's most captivating areas with exceptional architecture and culture, cutting edge boutiques and shops, delicious cuisine, a comfortable climate and elegant accommodations.

If you are interested in joining me, please contact me at your earliest convenience. 


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Happy Thanksgiving from my house to yours!

 Cooking Tip:
Cut a few jalapenos in half and take the seeds out.
Slide them, cut side down, under the skin of the turkey,
in the breast area, before baking.  
The jalapenos add a wonderful
flavor to the turkey.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Celebrating La Dia de Muertos in my Casa

Being an interior designer, decorating for La Dia de Muertos is one of my favorite times of year to be creative.  And of course, the most important part of that is creating an altar for my brother, Carter Mullen.  The niche in my hallway is the perfect place to honor him and his life.
 Surrounded by marigolds, los flores de Cempasuchil.
And those who knew Carter, and there were so many and many that considered him their best friend, you will recognize some of his favorites things.  His extensive Mexican mask collection, his love of the Grand canyon and especially Lake Powell, Suduko, the infamous red pen, basketball, the terrier dog, a shot of good tequila in the skull glass, a Mexican wrestler, the church that resembles the Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende and a bottle of his favorite wine, a Turnbull Cabernet.   And the two candles, one of Saint Michael, the patron saint of San Miguel de Allende, where the Mullen family had a home for over 42 years.
I decorated the bar with Day of the Dead napkins, the Frankenstein bar towel, a black vase from San Bartola de Coyotepec (one of the village that I visit on my Oaxaca tour where they make the most beautiful burnished black pottery) filled with marigolds and of course, a few bottles of tequila.
My kitchen counter, with one of the hand-painted tequila bottles.
More Halloween decor.
Getting ready for a dinner party.  The runner is from Chiapas, the black skulls from San Bartola de Coyotepec, the little pig salt bowls were just recently bought in the gigantic Sunday market in Tlacolula, the beautiful basket filled with Chestnuts from the Thursday market in Zaachila and the clay pumpkins from the Tiangis in San Miguel de Allende.  Traveling in Mexico in October always gets me in shopping trouble for I am always buying something new for Las Dias de Muertos.
September 7th, I posted on my Blog about making Cochinita Pibil.  It turned out SO good, I bought an 8 pound pork shoulder and made the recipe again.  This is just part of the braised pork that I served to make tacos for the dinner party.  I used the remainder of the pork for the filling of tamales that I made the next day.  It's always a good idea to break up the tamale making process by preparing the filling a day or two in advance.

Freshly made corn tortillas in the basket, the pork pibil, salsa Veracruz, pickled red onions, fresh limes and sliced radishes.  The makings for some delicious tacos! 

And Halloween would not be Halloween with out a carved pumpkin.