Itinerary: A Cava and Castles Experience
Update February 2016:
Spaces are no longer available for the 2016 April 16th-28th Trip.
Everything’s ready for you: menus decided with Chef Maria, tour guide Laura found the perfect route through Barcelona’s Old City neighborhoods, and restaurateur Joan Raventós’ enthusiasm is always high at the prospect of showing off his vineyards, family home and farm, and serving the finest Catalan food and wine to you.
Conrad and I took some new photos and video last month of the 17th Century villa where you’ll stay. I wanted you to see how welcoming this outdoor area is with dining, cooking, (the chefs do the work!), and of course the pool area, all surrounded by the gorgeous hills of Garraf National Park — with a little triangle peek at the Mediterranean.
(See more photos and prices on the Can Marcer de la Penya page):
Here are considerations for A Cava and Castles Experience:
While on this trip, each couple or single will be provided with a cell phone for your use, programmed with phone numbers for everyone in the group so you may reach either of us or your fellow travelers. The phones can be used to make any local calls as well.
This tour is offered in both spring and fall. Contact us to be put on the wait list for future tours. We will contact you as soon as dates are chosen.
Please know that walking is a part of your travel experience. Being able to stand and walk for an hour or more is vital to your enjoyment of this trip. Be prepared to walk on pavement that may be uneven or broken.
Please check your passport’s expiration date. For this trip, it must be valid to later than October 15th, 2016, (six months after starting travel date.)
When you are on your own, you will be provided with custom maps to meet your touring desires. We will advise you about public transportation options, museums, attractions, neighborhoods, shopping, and restaurants.
Participants on A Cava and Castles Experience may be photographed for promotional purposes of A Path Less Traveled. Please advise us at the beginning of the tour if you prefer your image not be used.
DAY 1, April 15 – Travel to arrive in Barcelona Saturday morning, April 16th.
DAY 2 – We meet and transport you from Aeropuerto de Barcelona-El Prat, (BCN), to H10 Urquinoana Plaza, your downtown Barcelona hotel for the next two nights. Settle in for a quick nap, relax in the nearby tree-lined park or explore the surrounding area using the provided maps. Once everyone has arrived, attend the Welcome Meeting in the hotel garden after which we’ll walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
DAY 3 – Breakfast in the hotel. Full day touring Barcelona accompanied by Laura Carrera Castilla. Board your private Dotor Motor Coach, getting out periodically to tour on foot. See Antoni Gaudi’s otherworldly architecture in La Sagrada Familia, la Pedrera, (also known as Casa Milà), the dragon-shaped la Casa Batlló, and Parc Güell. Modernisme architecture is abundant in Barcelona and we see works by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch as well. View masterworks at the Picasso Museum situated in La Ribera neighborhood where the artist lived and wandered for inspiration. Attend a Bach Contata concert at Palau de la Musica Catalana, the 100 year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your dinner tonight is at Piccata, a charming family-owned and run restaurant. David and Samira are your hosts.
DAY 4 – Explore old town Barcelona with Laura, our city guide. Your time is divided between wandering the charming narrow stone walkways through old neighborhoods and sightseeing via our motor coach. You cover history from the Middle Ages, through Spain’s civil war to today. The old neighborhoods are made up of medieval through Gothic period architecture, including “fake” Gothic from the 19th Century. After sightseeing a light tapas lunch will be ready for us at trendy and cool Chardonnay Restaurant before leaving Barcelona for Can Marcer de la Penya, 40 minutes by motor coach. Once there, unpack knowing you are in your home and done with packing and unpacking for the next 10 days! Take time to relax, explore the villa and pool, and delight in the amazing scenery. Jena is our on-staff house helper at the villa, to make sure we have everything we need and to provide a mid-week linen service. Chef Maria prepares a welcome feast at the villa. Sit outdoors under the stars in your new Spanish home.
DAY 5 – Breakfast at our villa. You’re with Joan Raventós today for a captivating peek into the life of this amazing Spaniard. He takes us to his favorite spots in the surrounding area before visiting the family vineyard. Walk with him while he imparts the facts and wisdom of the land and grapes. Then you are his privileged guests inside his 350 year-old family home — La Masia Can Piques — with history galore and the cellar where Joan makes Mistela, a dessert wine. Lunch is at La Posada, a little gem of a place in the tiny town of Sant Pere Molanta. Join the Raventós family and staff, as well as dozens of locals who pack this place every day for the middle-of-the-day meal. Freshen up back at our villa before heading out to the Vinseum in Vilafranca del Penedés where you’ll spend an hour immersing into wine country history. The beautiful Vinseum is nominated for The European Museum of the Year Award for 2015, and sits nestled amongst the gothic buildings of the old city of Vilafranca. After the museum, spend a delightful evening wandering the narrow stone streets of Vilafranca. This commercial wine center of Catalonia sees very few tourists, so you will be rubbing shoulders with well-dressed smart locals who come out every night to socialize, eat, and shop.
DAY 6 – After breakfast the day is yours – hike the trails through the Garraf National Park, relax by the pool or read a good book. Coming this evening is an entire crew to cook and serve up a paella feast. Watch them cook at our outside kitchen and eat at a long table under the darkening sky surrounded by spring Bougainvillea and jasmine. Let the wine and magic flow!
DAY 7 – Breakfast at home. Today is winery day and Codorníu, a world-class cava winery, is our first stop. The 450 year old estate is graced by the main building designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and declared National Historical-Artistic Heritage in 1976. Tour the cellars and have a wine tasting. Next is Art Cava, a quirky business started by two young Spaniards, Èric and Ignasi. Èric will be our guide as we suit up and go through the process of making our own bottle of cava to take home. Afterwards the chef Ramon will cook up a pizza lunch for us at Art Cava. Spend a quiet evening at home getting to know your fellow travelers while enjoying dinner from Chef Maria.
DAY 8 – After an early breakfast you travel to Montserrat, 40 minutes away. The jagged rocks atop this 4055 ft.-high mountain give it its name. Tucked into a corner as if carved from the monolith is a working monastery dating back to 1499. An optional cable car ride to the mountaintop will be available. Meanwhile, the motor coach will proceed to the monastery. A funicular from the monastery area to the summit of Montserrat is also an option. With provided self-guided audio tour materials, enjoy the day walking the compound which includes the Santa Maria de Montserrat basilica, art museum, walking trails, and restaurants. Lunch is on your own. Street vendors sell beautifully-packaged treats and cheeses to take home as souvenirs or eat there! Enjoy a light meal by Maria back at our villa in the evening.
DAY 9 – Breakfast at home. Today is another winery day with two amazing boutique businesses on the itinerary. First up is Jean Leon, an ultra-modern hilltop compound surrounded by vineyards, site of the first planting of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Spain. Ride electric Burricletta bicycles as you tour the grounds. Then inside, view a film to learn the life and times of Jean Leon from Spain to Hollywood where he founded the world-famous La Scala restaurant in the 1950s and befriended movie stars James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. He came back to Spain to grow grapes for the best wine in the world to serve at his luxury restaurant in California. Did you know: Jean Leon served Marilyn Monroe her last dinner?
If that isn’t enough, let your mind be blown at our next winery, Can Rafols dels Caus. There’s high art, sculpture, electronics, innovation, and darn good wine. You tour and taste. Afterward we go to another of the Raventós family restaurants, Les Piques, set in the woods. Prepare to be wined and dined with some of the best food and service in Catalonia. Voted number one in the area on TripAdvisor, my favorite comment states, “If I was asked where I would like to eat the last meal of my life it would be here. I cannot say more or less. Thank you Joan, we had a lovely time. We will be back. This restaurant is run with honest family passion for hospitality, quality and is done with no effort as the owners live this place. The wine was fantastic, the food was superb, the service was exactly how you would like whoever you are. ten out of ten. If you are staying in the area and you do not go you have missed out on the local culture.”
DAY 10 – Have a relaxing breakfast. Enjoy the scenery. Afterwards, travel in your private motor coach to three castles. First is the Castle at Castellet. This fairy-tale hilltop stone monolith goes back 2,500 years to Iberian times. Overlooking Embassament de Foix, (Foix Lake), the setting is a photographer’s dream. Learn the history story of early Spain. Lunch is at the third Raventós restaurant, this time hosted by Jordi with the Golden Nose! Wine is king and the meal epic. Next, go back in time to the Bronze Age at the Castle at Olerdola. The castle site at Olerdola reveals evidence of human habitation since approximately 4000BCE. Tour the museum and grounds which hold ancient stone graves and a sweet six-pew chapel. View the entire Penedés valley from our vantage point. On to Sant Marti Castle deep in vineyard country atop a rocky cliff. All three castles created a line of defense and shelter for villagers during times of conquering armies. They tell the story of victories and defeats interspersed with quieter times. Two of the castles served as defensive outposts against Moorish invasions, then later figured in the War of Spanish Succession. Enjoy a light dinner prepared by Maria back home at our villa.
DAY 11 – After breakfast enjoy the pool or a short hike on the nearby trails in the Garraf National Park. Late afternoon we head to Vilafranca to experience the end of siesta. You’ll see the city come to life as it does each day. Shopkeepers unlock their doors again and locals come out, the merry-go-round turns and the chestnut vendor starts the fire. Provided with maps, you wander the old city on your own, enjoying architecture, shopping, people-watching and dinner. We meet up later at Cal Figarot, a neo-Gothic building and home to the Castellers of Vilafranca. Catalonia is the only place on Earth where this unique sport in performed. Multi-generations of families – as many as 500 at a time – form human towers of up to 10 “layers” high, with the largest folks at the base and the littlest children climbing to the top. There are several regional groups that perform all over Spain. This 500 year-old sport had a hiatus during Franco’s reign – as he forbad the activity – but was enthusiastically recommenced after the dictator’s death in 1975. Our tour has been invited to watch one of their practices at their Cal Figarot headquarters.
DAY 12 – Breakfast at home. Today is an options day. Choice #1: Travel by local train to Barcelona, (you pay for tickets.) The train is used by locals so you experience workers, families, and students going about their daily lives. This is a nice glimpse of Spanish life. Equipped with custom maps, spend the day on your own in Barcelona. Your motor coach picks you up early evening at a preplanned spot in Barcelona and brings you back to the villa. Choice #2: Have a leisurely day at the villa with a trip by van to Vilafranca to enjoy the architecture, locals, and shopping.
DAY 13 – Today it’s Sitges. Board your motor coach to spend time in this Mediterranean beauty. Vacationers from all over Europe come here to enjoy the sun, sand, sea, food and culture. Modern and hip, steeped in history, you can walk the seaside boardwalk, wander the flower-strewn winding streets of the old city, enjoy top-notch food and drink as you hear the waves lapping. Warm weather? Bring your bathing suit! Lunch is on your own, but don’t overdo it because we’ll enjoy a farewell feast at our villa for our last evening there. Food, wine, and fellowship flows freely in our dreamy setting amongst the trees and hills of Can Marcer de la Penya.
DAY 14, April 28 – After a final breakfast, the motor coach will take you to BCN and to your flights home.
This stunning video is from Vilafranca’s Tourism Board and depicts many of the sights and sounds we experience on this tour. Please note that there are some activities seen on this video not included in A Cava and Castles Experience. Refer to the full itinerary above for all activities.
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Can Marcer de la Penya – 17th Century Villa — Check to see what rooms are still available.
Josie Schneider and Conrad Knutsen
966 W. Summerfield Glen Circle
Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48103