April 27, 2015 - Barcelona
I love breakfast in the hotel. It is a splendid buffet with Iberico ham, lots of different cheeses including manchego, a Bloody Mary station, churros and chocolate as well as regular breakfast fare.
After breakfast the group was off to the Codorniu cava caves. The drive was very pretty - lots of vineyards. Our guide shared information as we were driving. Like, the unemployment rate in Spain is 24% but in Barcelona it is 17%. And if you remember from one of my earlier posts, it's 40% in Cadiz.
We learned about the monarchy and the scandal that made the very popular King Juan Carlos abdicate the crown to his son, Felipe VI. The current king is 47 and married a daughter of a taxi driver who was a TV journalist. Unheard for royalty to marry a commoner, but that's not the scandal. The current king's sister, Cristina and her husband (a retired professional handball player) are embroiled in a tax fraud and money laundering investigation. Cristina lives with their children in Switzerland. The king at the time, Juan Carlos, was distraught and could not be associated with such a scandal and it was felt the monarchy was losing touch so, he abdicated and gave the crown to his son, Felipe. King Felipe can never been seen associating with his sister. The monarchy in Spain are not just figureheads, Juan Carlos was instrumental in returning democracy to Spain after the dictator Fransisco Franco died.
OK, so we arrived in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia at the Codorniu cellars and split in to smaller groups. The buildings are spectacular - designed by modernist architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Under the building is a labyrinth of cava caves - the area where the cava undergoes its second fermentation.
Codorniu is the oldest family business in Spain - 450+ years of growing grapes and making wine. They know what they are doing. They are also great marketers. Check out their manifesto...makes me want to pop a bottle of cava. Or move to Spain.
The tour started with a 3D movie about the history of the vineyards and winery, the grape varietals and the products produced. It was really well done. Then we boarded a little train for a tour of the property. It's really beautiful. The family no longer lives on the property. Anna was the last family member to have the surname Codorniu name so in 1983 the new cava made with Chardonnay grapes was named after her. I personally think the women in the family should have kept their last name when they got married. I guess things were different in the 1600's.
Codorniu rents out the spectacular spaces for events. James thinks Fashion with Compassion 2016 should be here. Not a bad idea...it is our 20th anniversary after all. I'm sure our loyal attendees would love to attend a fashion show in Spain with the cava flowing freely!
Oh, so what is cava you ask...it's not champagne. Champagne only comes from France. But it is sparkling wine made with the same technique - double fermentation in the bottle to produce softer bubbles. We walked downstairs to the caves - fascinating! I believe they said the caves are 20 metres underground and there is 37 km of caves. The little trains toured us around roads underground. The caves go on forever! I was actually expecting to stumble upon Gringotts (Harry Potter reference for non-Potterites). We learned about the entire process of making cava which I won't share. You will have to do the tour next time you are in Spain.
Of course at the end of the tour we tried two types of cava. One with Pinot Noir grapes and one with Chardonnay grapes. Both were very good. We bought a little bottle of Anna cava to have tonight to toast our fabulous vacation.
Back in Barcelona we decided to hunt down Granja La Pallaresa a cafe with chocolate and churros that Ian, the destination specialist on the ship, always talks about. When we were here in 2012 mom, dad James and I walked in circles in the Gothic quarter trying to find it to no avail. This time James punched it in to his phone and we followed the Google directions. As we were walking it didn't seem right but we kept following the directions. After about a 25 minute walk, James announced "we are here". No we are not. I've seen photos and this is not the place. Turns out he punched in the wrong name. Good thing I carry around my handy notebook with the name written down. We punched in the right name and back tracked...all the way back to the Gothic quarter. OK so it took us a long time but we are on the right track and we found it! And it was closed until 4 pm. Augh!!! We'll be back.
We walked around, looked at shops - went through the huge El Cortez, a Spanish department store. It was overwhelming. The Europeans sure have a lot of choice for clothing and shoes.
At 4.00 pm we made the trek back for churros and chocolate. Finally! We indulged in the most delicately crisp churros dipped in thick chocolate. So good! Now I know how to get there and when they close, so next time...
Then guess what? It started to rain - good thing I had my St. Paul de Vence umbrella stowed in my bag. Great purchase!
Dinner was at the waterfront again, this time it was tapas. The sunset was pretty with the Frank Gehry fish glistening. We walked down La Ramblas to the Christopher Columbus statue and had our Anna cava before calling it a night.