I had the wonderful opportunity provided by Cosentino and Urban Granite to visit Spain with them and learn all about the process of manufacturing quartz slabs. I am always looking to soak up knowledge on anything to do with building, sustainability and how we can do better. But, more on that in blog posts to follow as there is just too much to cover here. Ultimately, what better way to learn than seeing it first hand, right?
As it would be our first opportunity to explore Spain, we extended the trip on both ends of the group trip to visit Madrid and Barcelona. Child care also happened to align so it was fate that we could go…
My passion for travel is a source of inspiration, rejuvenation and always deepening understanding of the history of the building process around the world to inspire our own projects. Spain has such a rich heritage and every city and town had a different feel and architectural details that were almost too much to take in all at one time. I have always dreamed of retiring to Spain for three months of the year, even though I had never been there, and I am even more determined to make that happen now that I have experienced a little of the culture and lifestyle.
We started the 12 day trip with two and a half days in the capital city of Madrid - staying in the core in a traditional apartment (LOVED) with Airbnb. I was smitten just opening the tall shutters to the Juliet balcony to take in the residential street.
We try to always start each location we visit with a tour to get the lay of the land, and learn some more history. So, as soon as we arrived we dropped our bags and went on a “WithLocals” tour (side note: the tour also forced us to stay away to get into the timezone). The tour was not only a history lesson but a lesson in local wine and beer and the best unknown restaurants to try in the short time we had. We met with five local artisans in their boutique shops to learn about their craft. Started with coffee with a jewelry designer, saw a fan designers studio, met a leather craftsman (and his dog) and fashion designer in her shop which was originally a chocolatier.
The next day we had a guided tour of the Prado Museum (also highly recommended) which gave more insight into the history of Spain during the renaissance period. The intensity of color, details in the facial expressions and scale of the paintings astounded me when you consider the time period. My favorite piece was the Mona Lisa replica, as even though I have seen the original in the Louvre, this piece had a softness to it and she actually looked happy.
We spent the rest of the day taking in the architecture and sights such as the San Jerónimo el Real. Then taking our time wandering back to our apartment for a few drink/tapa stops along the way. Tapas are the best thing ever!! With wine and beer the same cost as water why would you not drink wine? And then you also receive a tapa (snack) of local olives or meat and bread. Such a great way to sample your way through each district! Jet lag took over at that point and it was perfect to dine al fresco and watch the world go by from our apartment window.
The final day we spent at the Palace and palace gardens, took in the Cathedral and then the rest of the day was wandering the neighbourhoods, taking in the major architectural features and finally dinner at Mercado de la Reina as recommended by a friend who lives in Madrid. The Oxtail was amazing!
From Madrid we flew to Almeria a day before we were to meet with Cosentino and Urban as we wanted to see the Alcazaba de Almeria. But unfortunately the airline lost our luggage (and everything shuts down at 5pm there) so we spent the time trying to locate it (not easy when you are working off google translate for all communication!) before our next leg of the journey. Luckily it was located right when we meetup with Urban, just in time to head to a wonderful dinner with the group and meet the other members of the tour.
Side note: I spent some time watching inch thick marble slabs to be installed as a walkway (crazy what???) off the alley outside our hotel. I have a thing for interesting floor (and entryways with about 50 photos of them from Granada alone!) They also used all Cosentino Dekton as the counter, sink, shower pan and wall, bathroom flooring etc so saw first hand in situ.
From Almera we traveled to a small town hosted by Cosentino called Cantoria. That portion of the trip will soon be a blog post on its own as there was so much to take in. Lets just say that I'm overly impressed with their environmental commitment and family run company. In one day we did a tour of one of the family's original marble quarries (amazing!) and then a tour of the production facilities with a final wrap up with the presentation of future environmental endeavours - they really are leading the pack on manufacturing.
We then continued as a group to Granada - my favorite city we visited and I want to explore again and again. We started the first day with a Historical walking tour which was fascinating to learn the how the muslim and catholic influence both show such prominence.
The tour ended at the market looking over the valley and Alhambra and we took the rest of the afternoon making it down the long narrow stone paved streets stopping for Cerveza every few blocks to keep us fuelled. A flamingo show in a gypsy cave topped off the group day - perfect end.
We were once again overwhelmed the next day spending hours touring the Alhambra and its grounds. The details in the tile and carving were unbelievable and I can not imagine the labor and engineering poured into the capital. We then spent more time again wondering, eating, drinking and soaking it all in.
The next morning we flew out early and straight to the Guell park (too many people to stay) then down the hill again for a guided tour of the ever evolving Sagrada Famile - the unprecedented brain child of Antoni Gaudi. While Granada was my favorite city, Sagrada Famile was my favorite building we had the privilege of learning about in person. The outside was interesting and so over the top it is hard to believe it all came from one person's imagination. The inside was majestic yet soothing. Gaudi wanted you to feel like you were standing in a forest with the sunlight filtering through the tree canopy and I totally felt that way. We sat there for over an hour just watching how the sun set through the stained glass windows changed the interior with the light play created.. The concepts he implements to keep the space as open and tall with the columns branching out where astounding. So many details so please see this link for more and make sure if you are in Barcelona you have a guided tour.
The next day we took in a Goudi designed personal home call Casa Batllo (can’t get enough of his work), Lunch in the gothic quarter and beach day to rest our feet. Note: Barcelona really does have it all!
The last day we returned to our favorite part, the Gothic Quarter, and really took time to explore the markets and side streets for the unique architecture. We ended the final day by climbing the Bunkers of Carmel for a picnic overlooking the city to the sea as a final goodbye to a country I have fallen even more in love with.
While I was sad to finish our time in Spain I was VERY happy to get home to my three kids and our life back in Edmonton. So much motivation and inspiration for bringing classic finishes and design to Edmonton and our clients.
Big thank you to the AMR Design Team for making this trip possible and ensuring our clients projects kept running smoothly.
Words to live by:
Try to travel, otherwise you may become racist, and you may end up believing that your skin is the only one to be right, that your language is the most romantic and that you were the first to be the first.
Travel, because if you don't travel then your thoughts won’t be strengthened, won’t get filled with ideas. Your dreams will be born with fragile legs and then you end up believing in tv-shows, and in those who invent enemies that fit perfectly with your nightmares to make you live in terror.
Travel, because travel teaches us to say good morning to everyone regardless of which sun we come from.
Travel, because travel teaches to say goodnight to everyone regardless of the darkness that we carry inside
Travel, because traveling teaches to resist, not to depend, to accept others, not just for who they are but also for what they can never be. To know what we are capable of, to feel part of a family beyond borders, beyond traditions and culture. Traveling teaches us to be beyond.
Travel, otherwise you end up believing that you are made only for a panorama and instead inside you there are wonderful landscapes still to visit.
- Gio Evan