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A Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia where we go, places we visit

A Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia - Chef Dominique Rizzo in Barcelona

Experience A Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia in September 2018 starting in Barcelona

Here is an insight into where we go and a bucket-list of the top places we visit in each city, what to look out for on your free days, the best bites we will be trying along the way and tastes not to be missed.  Let’s start with Barcelona as it is our first destination.

Where we go

Barcelona, the capital and largest city of Catalonia, with a population of about 6 million including the city and outer suburban regions sits as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Barcelona was founded as a Roman city, in the Middle Ages where it became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon as an economic and administrative centre of this Crown and the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today not only an important cultural centre but also renowned architecturally with the works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Places we visit

**La Sagrada Familia

Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia - La Sagrada Familia

Photo credit: http://www.sagradafamilia.org/

Like many of Barcelona’s architectural feats, La Sagrada Família was and continues to be, controversial. For years scholars have debated whether engineers strayed too far from architect Antoni Gaudí’s original vision (he died when just a quarter of the project had been realized). And while many citizens deem La Sagrada Família the greatest achievement of Catalan building, others view the structure as a glaring, expensive parody of it. Academic bickering aside, it’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of this place, which, pending completion in 2026 after 150 years of construction, will be the tallest religious building in Europe. Fusing Gothic and Art Nouveau styles in unprecedented ways, the basilica also draws on nature as a central inspiration. The hyperboloids, bright colours, and unconventional animal representations (e.g., chameleons, turtles, pelicans) epitomize Gaudí’s belief that nature and the divine were inextricably linked. Insider tip: Lines here are notoriously long, so it’s advisable to purchase tickets in advance.

**Las Ramblas

Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia - Las Ramblas

Photo credit: By Ralf Roletschek – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44806990

No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a stroll through Las Ramblas, the wide, shady boulevard that runs through the heart of the city from Plaça de Catalunya down to Port Vell. Whether you’re taking in a street performance, ambling beneath the trees, or people-watching from a terrace, there’s never a dull moment here. To get a bird’s-eye view of all the action, finish your Ramblas route at the 18th-story mirador at Columbus Monument for panoramic views of the city and sea. Just be sure to watch your wallet around these parts: this is pickpocket central.

**Cava and Vermouth

Taste of Spain, Unique Catalonia - Cava and Vermouth

Prosecco and other budget sparklers rely on industrial carbonization to make their wines bubble. But Catalan cava, like fine champagne, gets its effervescence and complexity from bottle fermentation. You can taste some of the region’s best bubblies at La Vinya del Senyor, a cozy, understated restaurant with several by-the-glass boutique cavas to choose from. If you’re lucky enough to snag a table on the plaça, you’ll be rewarded with views of Santa María del Mar’s 14th-century façade.

On sunny weekend afternoons, neighborhood bars fill up with locals out to fer el vermut, the Catalan ritual of catching up with friends over a few dainty glasses of this aromatic, garnet-red aperitif, customarily garnished with an orange slice and an olive. Barcelona’s best vermouth bars, like Morro Fi, blend their own vermouths by infusing fortified wine with any range of botanicals, but in a pinch, the bottled stuff is perfectly passable, too (just ask the bartender for a quality Catalan brand such as Vermut Yzaguirre).

**Museu Picasso

Taste of Spain Unique Catalonia - Picasso

Pablo Picasso may have hailed from Málaga in the south of Spain, but he chose Barcelona, the city where he apprenticed as a young artist, as the location for his namesake museum. Housing 4,251 of Picasso’s early works in sculpture, paint, and engraving, it’s a virtually complete representation of his portfolio all the way up to the Blue Period. Picasso’s art isn’t the only draw at Museu Picasso, though; the five adjoining 13th and 14th century residences that comprise the museum are precious in their own right.

**La Boqueria

A Taste of Spain Unique Catalonia - La Boqueria

Photo credit: EuroCheapo

A gastronomic mecca that attracts more than 45,000 visitors a day, La Boqueria may be the most famous food market in the world, and for good reason. Its endless stalls entice shoppers with abundant displays of the region’s finest cheeses, charcuterie, seafood, and produce. Some vendors have adapted over time to tourists’ demands, but for a taste of how things were at La Boqueria way back when, sidle up to the bar at Pinotxo, where quick-witted 75-year-old Joan Bayén (“Juanito” for the locals) has been churning out hearty country fare like cigrons amb botifarra negre (stewed chickpeas with black pudding) and calamarcets amb mongetes (tender baby squid and white beans) for a half a century.

**Barri Gotic

A Taste of Spain Unique Catalonia - Barri Gotic

Photo credit: By Llull – http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=14973110&size=o, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4025194

No place on earth can hold a candle to Barri Gòtic when it comes to concentration and breadth of Gothic architecture. This is the most ancient part of the city, where labyrinthine streets empty into medieval plaças. Yet amid all the antiquity, Barri Gòtic boasts some of the city’s best shopping. Handmade espadrilles, or alpargatas as they’re known in Spain, make cheery, affordable souvenirs; find them at La Manual Alpagatera, worth a visit if only to marvel at the floor-to-ceiling stacks of sandals available in every hue and style. For rarer finds, wake up early on a Sunday morning to explore the Mercat Gòtic, where you can treasure hunt for antiques and, if luck strikes, witness a traditional Catalan dance on the plaça called the “Sardana.”

**Castle of Muntjuic and El Mirador del Alcalde

A Taste of Spain Unique Catalonia - Castle of Muntjuic and El Mirador del Alcalde

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Mirador de l’Alcalde is a belvedere overlooking the sea and the city which boasts spectacular 180º panoramic views. Dotted here and there, the tallest, best-known landmarks rise up among the densely built-up city, while the sea, the harbour and beaches can be viewed with admiration and respect. The Mirador was designed by Joan Josep Tharrats, and opened in 1969 it comprises of a series of terraces set out on different levels which feature a series of attractive gardens and ornamental fountains. A curious mosaic made from shards of recycled glass demarcates the different levels of the belvedere. At the top, there is a cooling fountain designed by Carles Buigas. There are also two noteworthy sculptures: L’Homenatge a Barcelona (Tribute to Barcelona) by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs, and the popular Sardana, by Josep Cañas.

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Top 10 reasons to book a Dominique Rizzo Food Tour

There are so many travel tours on offer every year and it can be tough choosing the right tour for you. Dominique Rizzo’s Personally Escorted Tours are a great way to travel and here are the Top 10 reasons to book a Dominique Rizzo Food Tour:

  1. A tour gives you an extra sense of security – strength in numbers, plus the expertise of a guide to help you through. Some people just aren’t interested in all of the finer details in planning a trip, and they don’t want to deal with changing them while they’re travelling. It’s all about relaxing, right? So if you want all the details taken care of for you – the hotel bookings, the transfers, the restaurant choices, the sights to see and things to do once you arrive – then an escorted tour is a perfect option.
  2. If you’re really worried about the language barrier, however, particularly in places that don’t see too many tourists, it can be nice to have a guide who’s both a source of information and a translator. You will find you will gain a deeper knowledge of the area and it’s a great way of learning some of the language.
  3. Since all the members of the group are experiencing the same sites, conversation and friendship are inevitable between members. New friends and relationships are easy to gain through escorted tours.
  4. A tour guide is also provided for escorted travel groups- Tour guides can be a great benefit for members of a group because they can get more questions answered and can obtain in-depth history about certain sites, unlike those who may be viewing these sites alone. A tour guide can also be very valuable in cities that use a foreign language you’re not familiar with. The tour guide can help you with shopping and ordering food to make sure there is no communication breakdown between languages.catania-markets
  5. Planning of transportation, navigation, food and entertainment has already been taken care of. Your only job is to wake up in the morning and your day is laid out for you. The package price that is given for an escorted tour is also generally the full amount you will pay for your trip, not including any souvenirs or extras you pick up along the way. Most of the time, meals, site admissions, transportation and lodging are included in the price. We survey our past clients to get feedback on the tours which helps us to create new itineraries that include sites that have received good reviews and exclude sites that past travellers were not impressed with.island-food-platter
  6. After running many tours Dominique understands the needs and requirements of travellers and is personally available to assist travellers in any way.
  7. Dominique has personally designed the tours to include down time, understanding that we all need a holiday from the holiday sounds crazy but travelling can sometimes be exhausting and we all have different lifestyles and different reasons for taking time away.
  8. Dominique has personally visited many of the attractions and worked closely with the guides to bring you a unique tour that is tailored to her tour requirements with a focus on exceptional food, showcasing all types of cuisine styles and not eating the same thing through out the tour.

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    Wineries

  9. Dominique’s tours also include a focus on art, history, wine, experience and enjoyment. These tours are not a cookie cutter tour where you are only taken to places with hundreds of other people. Also she understands that a tour is not about seeing every church and museum in every town and with diversity of activities and having the days flowing perfectly into each other allows for a relaxed tour full of surprises.
  10. Dominique’s innate hospitality and service means she is there to meet you on arrival and say good bye when you leave and we all know there is nothing better than a friendly, familiar face to greet you when you arrive in a foreign country and wish you well on your way home.

A Taste of Spain- Unique Catalonia a Personally escorted Tour with Dominique. Dates have just been release for 2018 click here to find out more.

Chef Dominique Rizzo’s Top Summer Travel Tips

When I am hosting my Pure Food and Wine tours I need to arrive at my destination refreshed and ready to greet my very important guests with warmth and enthusiasm. Whether it is for a short 2 hour flight to Norfolk Island or the days travel to Europe, there are a few basic rules that I always follow when packing for my trip.

My Essentials Pack for Summer Time Tours

Leaving OrtygiaPacking is a nightmare when you are the host of a tour. Naturally the aim is to have a fresh stylish look each day and at the same time keep it practical for energetic days filled with cooking demonstrations, visits to farms and orchards, long lunches and late dinners. Natural fibers, like fresh linens that evoke that fashionable Italian look are my favorites for hot days and some gorgeous little black dresses and strappy sandals and Missoni necklace for evening wear. I like to think that the way I dress complements my love of pure food, Italian food and the culture of sharing food.

While there is no end to travel tips, this is my absolute “cannot do without” list.

Luggage Essentials

Top of the list is taking care of my skin with a light, enriching moisturizer, a facial spritz to cool me down and to set my make-up and then a sunscreen for every-day use whether with or without make-up;

Styling and nourishing my hair is the next priority both on the flight and while on tour and what works best and easiest for me are my favorite Biosthetique shampoo, conditioner and mask. Swimming, walking and cooking can really take its toll on the condition of my hair, but I can keep it looking shiny and healthy with these products.

Summer essentials are a natural fine straw sun hat, at lease two pairs of sunglasses, a filmy scarf to match my aqua sandals and some gorgeous long, but lightweight earrings. My go to boutique for all of these beautiful accessories is Ideology.

Some would say that this is the top priority – that is my Ipad and phone for keeping in touch and sharing our tour experiences of a lifetime on Instagram and Facebook

Pack my hand luggage to cover any disappointments if my luggage does not arrive at the same time that I do that means a complete change of clothes, travel packs (<100 ml) of moisturizer, deodorant, perfume and make-up, sandals, sunglasses and good book. Then add in your phone and Ipad chargers and you are packed.

Flight Tips

During the flight it is tempting to chill out with a Singapore Sling on take-off and then relax with a glass of wine or two with dinner, but my mantra in flight is hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Water is the best, drink lots it of then splash out with a Virgin Bloody Mary with your meal.

Keep the food light but filling, skipping past the sugary desserts, breads, pastas and noodles and always going more for the vegetable dishes, salads and soups.

Keep your hand sanitizer close by and use it before eating anything and before re-applying your moisturize for happy, healthy travelling.

When the lights are turned down, slip on your sleeping eye mask over your lavender eye pillow and the next thing you know the flight attendant will be gently waking you up for breakfast.

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The Big Story – Sicily

The Courier Mail’s the Big Escape story:
One of the best articles about Sicily… Book now into the The Shalai Tour to receive $1000 off per couple on my 15-day all inclusive tour! Limited places left. If you have any reservations about joining my Sicilian Tour in June this year – then this article will settle your nerves and entice you and for those joining me… well, how exciting – we’ll be exploring this beautiful country in three months time!

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Healthy Travelling Tips

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This season it doesn’t matter if you are going abroad or just cruising around our beautiful country, there is no excuse to let your health slide. Here are some useful travelling tips to stay in top condition and return home feeling revived and full of vitality.

1) Be well prepared so you can go with the flow.
If you are flying, always drink lots of water, take a small atomiser filled with water to refresh your face during flights. Snack on nuts, almonds, seeds and some small amounts of dried fruits. Eating fresh fruit will fill you up and have you less likely reaching for the chips, breads and salty snacks on the plane tray.
If you are travelling in a car or van cut up fresh fruit and drizzle with lemon juice to ensure no browning occurs. Take some whole meal crackers, cut up carrots, celery and or cucumber and a container of hummus or dip. Baked corn chips and healthier snacks like boiled eggs, snow peas or even your own frozen yoghurt will all stay fresh and chilled stored in an esky. Make yourself a container of fantastic salad, bring along shredded roast chicken or make some wraps. If you start strong – then the temptation to snack at the road side service stations is eliminated and you will save money meaning more to spend at your vacation destinations.

2) Don’t be a Spoil Sport….being healthy is not about missing out!
Make sure you take along some of those exciting treats that you love to eat at Christmas to have along the way. Try my gorgeous Chocolate Balls that have no sugar in them – they don’t need refrigeration and with their delicious chocolaty flavour you won’t believe they are good for you.

3) Make sure you have a healthy breakfast or brunch that will sustain you for hours.
If you are travelling by plane, after a meal get up and walk around to help with digestion and get the blood flowing. Remember we generally only eat 4-6 small meals a day so don’t fall into the trap of eating every time the trolly comes around. Ask for fruit and extra bottles of water, and if you feel like a drink, have one but follow it with water. My favourite plane drink is a Virgin Mary – spicy tomato juice, pepper, lots of ice and lemon, I have this when I think I may be hungry as it makes for a reasonably healthy in between snack.

If you are doing an adventure for the day, grab a tub of yogurt, a healthy muesli bar or a pre-made healthy muffin to get you going until lunch, we all know that the fresh sea air makes us hungry.

4) Be restaurant and menu savvy.
If you have to eat out, don’t dive straight into the fast food trap. Try to always choose a healthier option – burgers are fine as long as they are loaded with salad, and ask for what you want, say no butter, whole meal bread for a sandwich, grilled fish, dressing on the side – you’ll feel better for it and your body will thank you too. Did you know that you can eat up to 18 x fresh oysters or grilled prawns instead of just 3 x fried calarmari – and you won’t be denying yourself and again feeling proud of yourself for making the better choices.