The Heartful Traveler’s ‘Colour of Spain’ design tour was an incredible opportunity to explore the vibrancy of Spanish design, gastronomy, architecture and culture.
From the cosmopolitan Barcelona, to the traditional and historic Granada and the glamorous San Sebastian the tour guided us through the traditions and developments in Spanish design and the way in which history and culture have played a role in these twists and turns.
We started our journey in Barcelona, a truly remarkable city that combines beautiful old Gothic-quarters with envelope pushing modernist buildings. The delicate mix combined with the city’s unrelenting energy makes it an intoxicating place and a real treat for the senses.
We stayed at the Hotel Granvia, which served as a palace of the Catalan bourgeoisie before it started its life as a hotel. The restrained and sophisticated classic style takes you back to the glamour of the early 20th century.
Dinner took us to a restaurant that has become a landmark on the back of its architecture and design as well as its food. The Cerveceria Moritz. Famed architect Jean Nouvel presided over the restaurants transformation from 19th century brewery to design shrine and the results are incredible. The retention of original features combined with clever lighting creates an energetic ambience where the space seems to shift and change according to the way the light hits the space.
The next day was a busy one as we went on tours of all the cities sights. The City Tour was a great way to get an introduction to the city and take it’s perfect location and enviable lifestyle.
The Gaudi Tour provided a great grounding on one of the world’s truly great architects. We were given a private tour of the breathtaking La Sagrada Familia, inspired by both a love of God and nature this still-un-finished work contains so many design elements that it would take a lifetime of study to fully understand and appreciate them all.
The tour of Parc Guell demonstrated Gaudi’s versatility and the way he could work with a natural setting and turn a park into an otherworldly emblem of architecture, design and imagination.
Our third day in Barcelona took us to the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona, which is entirely devoted to design. The current exhibition objects for living is devoted to Spanish design. We also visited some of Barcelona’s most famous design showrooms including Tressarro, Azul Tierra and Sancal all places of endless inspiration.
A visit to the bohemian neighborhood of Gracia introduced us the beautifully designed interiors that are the workshops and showroom for the local artisans. Dinner at the famous Can Travi Nou was the perfect way to finish the day. This 17th century farmhouse showcases traditional Catalonian cuisine in a traditional setting.
The following day we made our way to Granada, the last Moorish stronghold of Spain and a bridge between Northern Africa and Spain. We stayed in the old Moorish quarter of Albaycin, a maze of winding alleys and whitewashed houses.
Hotel Casa 1800, or home for the night, is a hotel that has held onto tradition by keeping Spanish design elements such as terracotta and whitewashed stucco. Dinner took us to Sacramento; a traditional gypsy neighborhood where flamenco was born and people have built whitewashed homes in caves.
The morning tour to the Alhambra showed us why this Moorish fort, palace and garden have become a mecca for all students of design. The sprawling buildings, Moorish design elements and water gardens are endlessly stimulating.
We flew to San Sebastian in the afternoon and it doesn’t take long to discover the beauty of this city. Belle Epoque buildings hem the curve of the Bay of Biscay and the Old Town is full of culinary treats and pintxos bars where food is crafted like a piece of art and design is as important as taste.
A visit to the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum removed us from the classic architecture of San Sebastian and into the architecture of the future, where computer-generated curves of steel are used to create a dynamic interplay between the weather and the building itself.
In the morning we took of on a high-speed train to take in the changing light and colours of northeastern Spain. A cooking lesson on Spanish cuisine followed by a dinner at La Pez Vela Chiringuita was the perfect way to wrap up the tour.
Anyone working in design needs to visit Spain and submerse themselves in a place where daring colours and vibrancy haven’t been completely lost in the modern push for restraint and minimalism.