Bring it on, Barcelona!

Well, what can I say? You twisted my arm. Last week, I posted about our plans to spend our fifth wedding anniversary in Spain this summer. I started off thinking we would visit the Andalucía region in the south, spending time in the cities of Seville in Granada. However, so many of you reached out and said that we couldn’t miss Barcelona! You said how beautiful, romantic, and inspiring it is. You spoke and I listened.

Over the course of the past week, our trip has morphed into several incarnations. We knew we definitely wanted to add Barcelona to our itinerary given your recommendations and the fabulous design scene (Hello Lázaro Rosa Violán!). After much thought and deliberation, it seems the best way to spend our week away will be to focus on Barcelona alone. Flight times in and out of Seville are sketchy and it seemed like too much to take on in one week, especially since Fabian requested minimal travel while we are there.

So, Barcelona it is!! We are both super excited and I can’t wait to share Spain with my husband since he has never been. We will probably take a day trip to Montserrat and perhaps another to Sitges or Girona. I think we’ll decide once we’re there. However, I would love your suggestions for Barcelona since so many of you were so passionate about this city. We have chosen a hotel in the Eixample neighborhood, but would love any ideas you might have for sightseeing, shopping, and dining. ¡Gracias!

Anniversary Adventures in Andalucía

{A Whitewashed Village in Andalucía, Spain}

This July 1st, Fabian and I will be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary and we are planning a trip to Spain to commemorate the occasion. My readers were so helpful in giving us tips for our London trip last year, that I just knew I would have to ask you for advice on Spain this year! Although Fabian has not been to Spain, I spent two weeks there in June of 2008. I spent time in Madrid, Salamanca, Segovia, and Avila. All of those cities are gorgeous and have so much to offer, but this time, we want to head south to Andalucía, the birthplace of everything we think of as Spanish.

{The Gorgeous Alhambra in Granada}

As usual, I am in charge of planning the vacation and though our trips are usually filled to the brim with sightseeing and museum visits, this time we’d like to adopt the “slow travel” style. While we plan to visit the major sights in Granada and Seville like the Alhambra and Alcázar, we mostly want to revel in the beauty of the surroundings, have some tapas, and enjoy the culture and a week away from the usual hustle and bustle of our lives. Fabian’s only request is to keep the plane travel to a minimum once we are in Spain. So, this is where I need your advice. We will have about a week to travel and definitely want to spend time in Granada and Seville, but I am unsure about the order in which to see things.

{Madrid’s Gran Vía}

1. Should we include Madrid in the trip at all? I’ve been there and really enjoyed it. Would it be worthwhile to fly into Madrid and then take a train down to Seville?

{A Charming Street lined with Orange Trees in Seville}

2. Would it be best to split our time evenly between Granada and Seville or should we base ourselves out of one city and do an overnight stay in the other?

{Arcos de la Frontera}

3. Are there any other places in the region of Andalucía that we should not miss?

corral del rey
{Corral del Rey Hotel, Granada}

4. Do you have any specific recommendations for hotels, restaurants, or sites that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

{Seville’s Beautiful Cathedral and Giralda Tower}

5. If we were to visit Madrid, Granada, and Seville, do you think it would be worth it to have to pick up and switch hotels every two or three days? I don’t think I would mind so much, especially if we were able to experience more places, but Fabian would prefer to keep the travel to a minimum once we are in Spain. I think he just wants to relax!

I would appreciate any tips or advice you are willing to share! It is always so nice to hear about other people’s travel experiences. ¡Mil gracias!

We’re off to see the wizard…

Country Club Plaza in Kansas City

Well, not exactly, but we are heading to Kansas City in the morning to visit Fabian’s sister and her husband for the weekend. I know we will miss Tate so much, but he will be in good hands with his grandparents. This month’s feature on Kansas City in Elle Decor couldn’t have come at a better time. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it looks like a great city! I think we are going to a Royals game, having some famous Kansas City barbecue, and visiting the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Union Station, and Country Club Plaza while we are there.

If you live in Kansas City or have visited recently, I would love to hear any suggestions you might have regarding things to see and restaurants.

The Kansas City Skyline

Union Station

Images via Elle Decor

Jet Set: Babington House

Just the other day, Oliveaux posted a few pictures from the idyllic Babington House in Somerset, England. I was instantly smitten and wanted more! This is the type of place you go to get away from the stresses of everyday life. The estate is located on 18 acres of pristine Somerset parkland and is comprised of a Main House, Coach House, Stable Block, Lodge, and a Walled Garden. You can spend your time playing tennis or cricket, or you can choose to relax at the hotel’s famed Cowshed Spa. The small village of Somerset also has several area attractions including the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Centre, Glastonbury Abbey, Wells Cathedral, and several historic castles and museums.
Just this year, the Babington House was named to Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List for Best Ambience / Design 2009. The centuries-old estate is now home to thirty-two beautifully-appointed rooms, twenty-three of which are located in the Main House and Coach House. There are five rooms in the Stable Block, three in the Lodge, and three rooms adjacent to the Cowshed Spa with views of the walled garden. In addition, the property also features several dining options including The House Kitchen, The House Bar, and The Log Room. The beautiful Orangery is the most beautiful of the dining spaces and is frequently reserved for wedding receptions and other special events. In addition to its restaurants, spa, and outdoor activities, the hotel also features a cinema, library, pool room, and study for further relaxation. Like its sister property, the SoHo House in New York, the Babington House and all of its amenities are available to guests and members of the elite Every House Membership Plan
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Another View of the Stately Main House
The Log Room

The Orangery

The House Kitchen
The House Bar
The Study

Cowshed Spa

A Second Look at the Cowshed Spa
A Lovely Room in the Main House
Main House Attic Bathroom
A Beautiful Room on the First Floor of the Main House
A Sleek Bathroom

A Romantic Bathroom in the Coach House
The Playroom is the premier guest room at the Babington House. It is located on the first floor of the Main House.
The Playroom’s Luxurious Bathroom

I am not sure what would be more difficult; choosing a room or leaving at the end of one’s holiday!

All images via Babington House

Jet Set: ¡Viva Sevilla!

It is no secret that I am dying to go back to Spain. I absolutely fell in love with it this past summer. The next time that I visit, I want to explore the Andalucía region in the south, which just so happens to be home to the gorgeous city of Seville.

The city has a population of about 700,000 and is situated on the plain of the Guadalquivir River. “The long Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula, from 711 A.D. to 1248 A.D., left indelible traces in Seville as in all of Al-Andalus. La Giralda, the tower of an important mosque, is the most well-known of the remaining Islamic monuments. In 1492 Seville played an important role in the discovery and conquest of America. The 17th century was a period of artistic splendour in Seville. Painters such as Velázquez, Murillo and Valdés Leal, and sculptors like Martínez Montañés were born in Seville and left behind important works. The city also assumed an important role in world literature and was the birthplace of the myth of Don Juan.”

It is a beautiful city of narrow, winding cobblestone streets.

The architecture varies from one region of Spain to the next. The Andalucía region is typically home to whitewashed buildings with Spanish tile roofs. Seville is also famous for its abundance of orange groves. It is said that the aroma of oranges fills the city. I’d take that over smog any day!

The Plaza de España is the city’s main square, the place around which life revolved centuries ago. The history of the region is evident in its architecture.

The city’s main park was a gift from Infanta (Princess) María Luisa in the 1800s.

A Statue Stands Watch over the Casa de Pilatos

The Casa de Pilatos is a private Moorish Palace

The Symbol of Seville: La Giralda. La Giralda is now the bell tower of Seville’s Cathedral, which exemplifies Gothic and Baroque styles. However, in keeping with Seville’s past, the tower was once an ancient minaret for the Almohad mosque of Seville. Did you know that the clock tower of the Ferry Building in San Francisco was modeled after La Giralda?

I love the way most Spanish buildings look when they are lit up at night. It is as if they are glowing from within. This is a result of the materials used in the building. The city of Salamanca is gorgeous like this at night, as well.

Seville, and the Andalucía region as a whole are the birthplace of the cultural elements most people think of when picturing Spain. The art of bullfighting (regardless of your beliefs on the matter, it truly is an art. I was able to learn a lot about it while in Spain last summer) originated here. This is the facade of Seville’s bullring.

Several Matadores in their Beautiful Costumes

Another typical cultural element of Spain is the culinary tradition of Tapas, or small plates. They also originated here. Notice the orange tree outside of this Tapas Bar.

April is a very exciting time in Sevilla because it is when the “Feria de Abril” takes place. The Feria is a week long party that welcomes over one million people each year. What began as a cattle trading fair in 1847 has evolved into a celebration of Flamenco dancing and culture, which also originated in this region. The city of Seville is considered to be the center of flamenco music and culture, also known as “Sevillana” as many of the composers and songs originated there. Every year, a new poster is created in order to promote the Feria. There are many gorgeous vintage Feria posters. In fact, the older ones are my favorite.

During the day, the Feria hosts “daily parades of horses and decorated carriages that wind their way through the city and fairground. This equestrian display is accompanied by strolling singers who play traditional Sevillana ballads on their guitars. Many participants in these parades are members of Seville’s aristocracy, and they are exquisitely outfitted in the unique wide-brimmed “bolero” hats and short-cropped jackets that are closely associated with Andalucía.”

At night, everyone relaxes, enjoys some Andalusian Sherry, and dances.

Sevillanas Wearing Typical Flamenco Dresses

The Feria is set up near the Guadalquivir River. Hundreds of private tents, called “casetas” are set up. They are made of brightly striped canvas and are adorned with paper lanterns.

The casetas are hosted by the aristocratic families of Seville, trade unions, or political parties. Each has its own traditions and atmosphere. Some are very exclusive and are “by invitation only”, while others are open to the public and have a more casual, relaxed atmosphere.

The Flamenco costumes are so vibrant!

This year’s Feria kicks off next week! If you are wondering where to stay I have a couple of suggestions. The first, pictured above, is the Hospes Las Casas del Rey de Baeza, a hotel located in an 18th century house in the traditional style of the region.

The hotel is actually an oasis from the noise and excitement of the city and the Feria. It is well known for its privacy and soothing atmosphere.

The traditional Spanish building opens up to two seperate courtyards, around which everything is centered. I love the whitewashed walls and Robin’s Egg Blue trim.

The accomodations are quite modern and luxurious. All of the rooms open up onto the central courtyard. There are oranges here, too!

The hotel features a rooftop pool.

The second option is the Eme Fusion Hotel, a sleek, hip, newer hotel property with an unbeatable location and vibrant atmosphere.

This guestroom overlooks Seville’s famous “La Giralda”.

The guestrooms feature sleek finished, many amenities, and ample space.

The rooftop features a lounge and pool directly across from La Giralda.

The location and view are unbeatable. Does it get any better than this?
A cool shot taken from the bar looking up toward the rooftop terrace.

Incredible!

The lobby at the Eme Fusion Hotel

The Eme is home to several eateries including the Santo Restaurante Mediterráneo, pictured above. I love the rustic tables, chairs, and chandeliers. They add a nice contrast to the fiercely contemporary feel of the rest of the hotel.

The Milagritos Bar de Tapas is another culinary option at the Eme. Remember, tapas originated here!

One Last Look at the Spectacular Eme Fusion Hotel

So tell me… does Seville look like a place you’d like to visit? Does the Feria de Abril look like something you would want to experience? Where would you prefer to stay, at the quaint Hospes Las Casas del Rey de Baeza or the hip Eme Fusion Hotel? If you’ve been to Seville, I would love to hear about your stay there. I hope you have a fabulous weekend, regardless of where you spend it!

Images via Flickr (city and feria images), Tablet Hotels, and Eme Fusion Hotel