Monday, May 21, 2012

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Thanks for visiting International Lodging at BlogSpot. Our company, which specializes in customized travel to Spain and Portugal, will no longer be posting to this site.

All new entries will be posted to our blog  We look forward to welcoming you there!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Next Stop…Sintra, Portugal


Located just 30 minutes from Lisbon, the town of Sintra has long been a favorite destination for monarchs, poets, and visitors looking for a special place to get away. Whether you visit as a day trip from Lisbon, or stay for a few days, you are sure to be captivated by the town that UNESCO designated as a World Heritage Site.  This enchanting town boasts fairytale palaces, incredible vistas, and a castle that was once the summer residence of the monarchs.

The centerpiece of Sintra is the Palácio Nacional de Pena, which was built in 1838. The palace is perched high on a hilltop overlooking the city, and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Other places of interest include Pena Park, the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) that was built between the 8th and 9th centuries, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, and the Quinta de Regaleria (19th C. manor house). For more information on Sintra click here. 

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Checking In…Pousada de Tavira (Portugal)

Located about 30 km. east of Faro, and an equal distance from the Spanish border, the town of Tavira is one of the many charming towns on the Algarve. This gem of a town has been influenced over the centuries by many civilizations, including the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Moors. It is located on the banks of the Ségua and Gilão Rivers, and is sometimes referred to as the town of churches, as it has a total of 21 churches, including the Church of Misericórdia that dates back to 1541.

In the heart of town you will find the Pousada de Tavira. The Pousada was formerly the Convent of St. Augustine, which was founded by King D. Sebastiao in 1569. The renovation restored the beauty of the traditional convent and its interior courtyard that is framed by stone archways.  Modern furnishings and amenities were added, along with an inviting outdoor pool. From this peaceful retreat visitors can easily explore the sites of this charming town, and beach lovers can catch a boat nearby that departs to the sandy beaches on the Island of Tavira. For more information on the Pousada click here.

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Friday, April 13, 2012

On the Menu…Restaurante El Churrasco, Córdoba (Spain)

After strolling through the Judería and admiring the beautiful patios in this medieval Jewish quarter, take a break and enjoy a meal at El Churrasco Restaurante. Established in 1970, the restaurant is housed in traditional Córdoba-style building, complete with a beautiful interior patio.

El Churrasco is well known for its grilled meat dish - the restaurant's namesake - but also turns out a selection of classic Córdoba dishes, including gazpacho blanco de piñones (cold white gazpacho made from pine nuts), berenjenas crujientes con salmorejo Cordobés (crispy fried eggplant with salmorejo - see sidebar for more info), and rabos de añojo (bull's tail stew). Fish lovers will also delight in the variety offered, including tuna, swordfish, cod, and shrimp. For dessert try the pastel Cordobés, a cake made from puff pastry, sweet pumpkin filling and bits of Serrano ham.
  • Calle Romero, 16
  • Phone: (957) 290 819
  • Córdoba, Spain
  • Website: El Churrasco 
 As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Next Stop…Estremoz, Portugal

Located in the Alentejo region about 170 km east of Lisbon is the town of Estremoz. The region is known for its vast rolling hills, cork production, and marble quarries, and Estremoz is the largest of the marble towns that dot this region.
Today the town is known for the charming clay figurines that are still handcrafted locally. You can shop for the figurines and other local earthenware pottery and cheeses at the Saturday market that is held in the Rossio Marquês de Pombal square.  It is one of the largest markets in Portugal. There is also a Rural Museum that displays archaeological finds and a unique collection of painted clay figures from the 17th and 18th Centuries.

The centerpiece of town is the 14th C. castle that was built by King Diniz for his beloved Queen, Saint Isabel. This royal palace has been converted into the Pousada Rainha Santa Isabel, which sits on a hilltop overlooking the town. For more information on the Pousada, click here.

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sites to See…Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba (Spain)

The Mezquita (mosque) was built between the 8th and 10th centuries, at a time when Córdoba was the largest and most prosperous city in Europe. For several centuries it served as a striking symbol of the Moors’ conquest of the peninsula and Córdoba’s importance as the center of Muslim power in Spain.

Besides its massive size, the Mezquita’s most distinctive features are the 856 red- and-white double arches made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite that soar overhead. The arches were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had previously occupied the Mezquita site.

After the Christian Reconquest in 1236, the Mezquita was converted to a church, and successive kings made changes to it, including adding chapels within the mosque, as well as converting the minaret to a baroque bell tower. Today the Mezquita is the Cathedral of Córdoba, officially known as the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. This truly unique example of Spanish Moorish architecture has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is a must see for anyone visiting Córdoba. For more information, click here.

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sites to See...Cathedral of Seville and the Giralda, Seville (Spain)



Built on the site of the Great Mosque, the Cathedral of Seville is the largest Gothic building in the world and the third largest in Europe. No visit to Seville would be complete without touring its great expanse, marveling at the 15th C. stained glass windows, numerous works of art, and the tomb that is reported to contain the remains of Christopher Columbus. Inside the Cathedral you can visit the Sacristy of the Chalices and the Royal Chapel.

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Giralda. This iconic Moorish minaret tower has come to symbolize Seville and is the only part that remains from the Great Mosque. Follow the 35 ascending ramps inside the Giralda (there are no stairs) to the top of the tower, and from there you can enjoy the breathtaking views of this enchanting city.
  • Avenida de la Constitución s/n
  • Phone: (95) 456 31 50
  • Sevilla, Spain
  • Website: Catedral de Sevilla
As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Friday, March 23, 2012

On the Menu…Bodega Santa Cruz, Seville (Spain)

Take a break after touring the impressive Cathedral of Seville and have a bite to eat at the Bodega Santa Cruz, which is very close by. The locals who frequent this lively tapas bar call it Las Columnas (the columns), which refers to the large stone columns you'll find at its entrance.

Once inside, look for the blackboard next to the bar to see the selection of tapas being offered. If you're a meat eater, you have to try the pringá, which is a popular meat sandwich that is typical in rural Andalucía. Other favorites include the berenjenas con miel (eggplant with honey), jamón ibérico (Spanish ham), and of course the local favorite soup, gazpacho (chilled tomato soup). Whether you just have a few tapas, or make an entire meal of it, you will enjoy both the food and the atmosphere at this local institution.

Calle Rodrigo Caro, 2
Sevilla, Spain
Phone: (954) 21 16 94

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Checking in...Hotel Villa Jerez, Jerez (Spain)

The city of Jerez is a traditional Andalusian city that dates back to Moorish times. Much of the charm and aristocratic air of the city can still be seen and felt today in the casco antiguo (old town), the wide streets, and tree-lined squares. Jerez is perhaps best known for the fortified wine (sherry) that takes its name from the city. No stay in Jerez would be complete without visiting one or more of the bodegas (wine cellars) that are open to the public, such as Gonzalez Byass, Pedro Domecq and Sandeman.

The 5-star Hotel Villa Jerez is a boutique hotel housed in an 18th C. mansion that was formerly owned by the Domecq family, and evokes the charm and elegance of Jerez. It is located in the heart of the city, close to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. The mansion-style hotel is set amidst palm trees in an acre of subtropical gardens, which makes you feel like you are staying in a tranquil country estate.

The intimacy and charm of the Hotel Villa Jerez can be felt throughout the property. Its 18 rooms are each uniquely decorated with elegant fabrics and furnishings, and many offer a balcony or terrace. The Junior Suite is very spacious, and has a living room, separate bedroom, bathroom with hydro-massage tub and separate shower, and balcony or terrace. For more information on the hotel click here

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Next Stop…Figueres, Spain

Whether you are looking for a day trip outside of Barcelona, or planning to explore the Catalán region, Figueres is the perfect place to include in your itinerary. Located about an hour and a half north of Barcelona (86 miles), Figueres is easily reached by car via the A-7 highway north towards France. There are also a number of trains from Barcelona that currently make the journey in about 2 hours; this time should be reduced in 2012 when service is added from Barcelona to Figueres on the AVE, which is Spain’s high-speed train.

Figueres is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, the surrealist artist who was born in 1904. The main attraction in town is the Teatre-Museu Dalí, which incorporates the town’s theater from when Dali was a child, and the Torre Galatea, which is where the artist spent the latter part of his life until his death in 1989. You can visit Dalí’s crypt in the basement of the museum.

Visitors to the museum will see the largest and most diverse collection of Dalí’s works, including paintings, sculptures, 3-dimentsional collages, and furniture, gathered primarily from the artist’s own collection. There is also a gallery that exhibits an impressive and unique collection of jewelry that was designed by Dalí.  For more information on the museum click here

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Checking In...Pousada de Óbidos (Portugal)

Óbidos is an enchanting medieval walled city rich in history, and only a short drive (80 km) north of Lisbon. The charm and beauty of the town was so endearing that the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, presented the town as a gift to his wife, Queen Santa Isabel, in 1148. The white washed houses and stone streets offer visitors an exceptional "back in time" experience. Beyond its natural beauty, the town has a number of museums, and hosts several wonderful events such as Holy Week, the Ancient Music Festival in October, and the International Chocolate Festival in March.

In the fortified town of Óbidos is the 12th C. Castelo de Óbidos, which was the first historic monument to be converted into a Pousada in 1951. On July 7, 2007, it was selected as one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal. The 12th C. castle sits atop the charming town of Óbidos, with its winding, narrow stone streets. Entering through the Porta da Villa gate, guests are transported back to medieval times. Make sure you book your room early, as the hotel only has a total of 9 rooms (try and book the turret rooms). For more information on the Pousada click here

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sites to See…The Alhambra and the Generalife, Granada (Spain)

No visit to Granada would be complete without touring the Alhambra palace that sits atop a hillside overlooking the city.

Built in the 14th C. as the primary residence of the Nasrid Sultans, it is one of the most famous examples of Moorish architecture, and the most popular tourist attraction in all of Spain.

Set aside a few hours to visit the various parts of the palace, including the Alcazaba (military fortress), the Palacios Nazaríes (Nasrid Palaces), and the Generalife Palace and Gardens. The Alcazaba provided defense for the royal family, and is the oldest part of the complex, dating from the 9th C.

You will marvel at the handiwork of the Moorish craftsmen that produced the most exquisitely decorated function rooms, courtyards, fountains and patios found in the Palacios Nazaríes. The smaller Generalife Palace served as the summer retreat from the main palace, and is known for its lush gardens.

Tickets for the Alhambra can be bought at the ticket office, but due to the high demand for tickets and the restricted number of visitors allowed per day, advance ticket purchase is recommended.

For more information on types of tickets available and for online purchase of tickets, visit Turismo de Granada.
Patronato de la Alhambra y el Generalife
As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Checking In...Hotel Meninas, Madrid (Spain)

The Hotel Meninas is a 4-star boutique hotel that is housed in a historic 19th C. building in the heart of the city, just steps from the Opera House, Royal Palace, and Plaza de Oriente, in an area known as Madrid of the Habsburgs. Many of the buildings in this area were built between the 16th and 18th centuries, when the area was the favorite place of nobles and the bourgeoisie, due to the proximity to the Royal Palace.

The hotel building, along with the others on this charming cobblestone block, have been restored to showcase the classic style of the buildings and their wrought-iron balconies. The interior of the hotel and its 37 rooms have been fully restored to include modern amenities. The hotel offers Individual and Standard rooms, as well as Junior Suites. The Junior Suites have a separate living room area and can accommodate up to 3 people. Located on the top floor of the hotel, the Special Junior Suites are perfect for families, as they can accommodate up to 4 people. For more information click here

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cataluña’s Priorat Wine Region (Spain): Region revitalization and quality recognition (Part 2)

The revitalization of wine production in the Priorat region began in 1979 when René Barbier, whose family hailed from Avignon in France, and Alvaro Palacios, whose family hailed from Spain’s famed Rioja wine region, began buying land and planting new vineyards in the region, which were called clos. Others soon followed, and from 1989-1991 the first 3 vintages were produced by a group of five wineries that pooled their grapes at a shared winery in Gratallops. The wines were sold under five labels: Cos Mogador (Barbier), Clos Dofi – which was later renamed Finca Dofi (Palacios), Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet, and Clos de l’Obac. From 1992 onwards the winemakers began producing their wines separately, and focused their attention on producing high-quality wines, with good results.

In 2000 the Catalan government raised the region’s designation to Qualified Designation of Origen - DOQ (in Catalán) or DOCa (in Spanish) - which is an elevated status that recognizes the high quality and uniqueness of the wines being produced in the region. The Rioja wine region is the only other region of Spain that is recognized with DOQ/DOCa status.

Today, wines sold under the labels of the pioneers who revitalized Priorat and put this small wine producing region on the world map are winning high scores and praise from critics and consumers alike, and are also commanding high prices. Alvaro Palacios’ L’Ermita 2002 sells for $250 and receives scores of 93, while Celler Mas Doix and Clos Erasmus have also garnered high scores and much acclaim.

Our next post in the series will talk about what makes the Priorat wines so unique, and what types of wines are produced.

As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.

Friday, February 24, 2012

On the Menu…Tapas 24, Barcelona (Spain)

Foodies looking for a dining experience in Barcelona that won’t break the bank should make a beeline to Tapas 24, where the atmosphere is casual and the menu offers everyday favorites that have been raised to new heights. Tapas 24 is one of chef Carles Abellan’s three restaurants in Barcelona, which include Comerç 24 (with 1 Michelin star) and Bravo24 in the W Hotel. Chef Abellan worked for many years alongside chef Ferran Adrià at his world-renowned restaurant El Bulli on the Costa Brava, before opening his own restaurants in Barcelona.

The first thing you need to know about Tapas 24 is that it does not take reservations, and it is a very small restaurant with limited seating. Most diners sit at a counter facing the bar and kitchen where you can watch your food being prepared. There are additional tables indoors (high-top tables with stools), as well as a handful of tables located outdoors on the sidewalk terrace. The next thing you need to know is that this is a very popular place, with both locals and tourists, so if you want to eat here you’ll have to arrive early (by Barcelona standards) between 7:00 - 8:00pm. Once 8:30pm rolls around the locals will start streaming in and there will be a long wait for your chance to sample the delicious tapas on the menu.

While you’re deciding which tapas to try, start out with the Pan con Tomate (bread with tomato, olive oil and salt), an absolute staple in any Barcelona restaurant. Another must-try is the Bikini Comerç 24, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich that has been elevated to a whole new level. The ham in question is actually the fine cured Spanish Jamón Ibérico, the cheese is a mild white cheese, and the special ingredient that takes the Bikini out of the realm of a normal sandwich is the shaved black truffle that they add to it. Don’t be surprised if you order seconds on this one, you won’t be alone. Even if you don’t normally order fried eggs for dinner, you really should try the Huevos Estrellados (literally “smashed eggs”), which is a delicious combination of fried eggs, french fries, and a selection of meats that you get to choose from. This is an egg dish that is delicious at any time of the day. The tapas menu also includes traditional dishes, such as Patatas Bravas, Croquettes, Lentils with Chorizo, and Tripe, which makes it hard to select from so many great choices.
Be sure to leave room for dessert so you can try the Xocolata Amb Pa Oli i Sal, which is a chocolate mousse, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, and topped with toasted bread. While you may not normally add olive oil and salt to your chocolate, you may start doing so after tasting how well they all come together at Tapas 24.
  • Carrer de la Diputació, 269
  • Phone: (93) 488-0977
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Website: Tapas 24
As usual, thanks for reading. Please visit International Lodging Corporation at our home page.