Travel Courier
Issue Date: Oct 26, 2017

The Spanish Way

Seeing the sights and sounds of Spain


(Photo above: Sagrada Família, Barcelona)

One thing that stands out about the Spanish way of life is how locals truly take the time to savour food. Dining goes far beyond simply fueling the body – it’s a time for friends and family to gather, unwind, and socialize. Unlike so many dining tables across North America, meals just aren’t rushed – it’s all about enjoyment, the conversation, and the experience.

In between slowing down to indulge in cava (a sparkling wine produced in Spain) and loading up on tapas (stuffed olives, baguettes with Iberian ham, croquettes, and the list goes on), there are a diverse variety of attractions for travellers to discover in Spain. From the imaginative designs of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona to the cultural hot spots around vibrant Madrid or the beautiful beaches of Ibiza, here are just a few ways to experience the destination:

Círculo de Bellas Artes

Go Mad for Madrid
A great way to get a feel for Madrid is to navigate its streets and plazas by foot. The capital city boasts numerous galleries and museums, but one of the most well known is The Prado Museum, a Spanish national art museum.

While there are no shortage of attractions to take in, like The Royal Palace of Madrid and the Temple of Debod, for those looking to take something home with them, why not pick up a pair of espadrilles, which have been worn by Catalonians since at least the 14th century? Located near The Plaza Mayor, one option is Casa Hernanz, which has been handcrafting the shoes since 1845. Here people can create a custom pair, or choose from a large assortment of styles and colours starting from 7 euros. At that price, one would be remiss not to buy two pairs!

For foodies who struggle to decide on what to eat, a tasty stop is the San Miguel Market (Mercado de San Miguel), where visitors can try a variety of eats from over 30 vendors featuring Spanish gastronomy.
TIP: For panoramic views and a great photo opportunity, tell clients to take photos (or enjoy a cocktail) at the Círculo de Bellas Artes. It’s well worth the 4 euro entry fee.

Park Güell

Hey, Barcelona!
It’s impossible to think of Barcelona without visualizing the creative works of architect Antoni Gaudí. Especially for first-time visitors, some of his major projects like Park Güell, Casa Batlló and Sagrada Família top the list of things to do in the city.

With its medieval buildings, another very distinct style of architecture can be found in the Gothic Quarter. Here visitors can navigate through the narrow streets to find shops, bars, restaurants, and buskers before visiting the vendors along La Rambla.

With a coastline stretching 4.5 km, it’s also easy for travellers to hit the beach during their stay. Clients with a little extra time to spare may want to take a day trip to nearby Montserrat, a picturesque mountain range with a Benedictine abbey.

Note: Although Barcelona has made international headlines recently as the base for demonstrations surrounding the independence movement of the Catalonia region, we found ourselves in the heart of a protest, which was very peaceful and resulted in white balloons being released into the air.
TIP: Tell clients to book tickets in advance to ensure entry into popular attractions like Park Güell, Casa Batlló and Sagrada Família.

It’s better in Ibiza
Ibiza has a long-standing reputation as a party destination, but in recent years, the addition of more upscale and family-friendly properties across the island have started to change the perception of this popular holiday escape (although, the nightlife is still thriving).

Dalt Vila, Ibiza

Along with unwinding at the beach or poolside, Ibiza’s tourism offer goes far beyond being an ideal sun getaway. There are four sites recognized by UNESCO, including Ibiza’s fortified old town, Dalt Vila.

Another option is to visit what locals have referred to as Stonehenge, a contemporary monument featuring a semicircle of 13 basalt columns by Australian artist Andrew Rodgers, which boasts a connection to Canada: the project was commissioned by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté.

Clients with more time to spare can also visit some of the other Balearic islands.
TIP: From coastal cliffs to marinas, there are many spots to watch the sunset, but perhaps one of the most scenic is overlooking Es Vedrà, a rocky island of the southwestern seaboard.

GETTING THERE: Air Canada operates year-round service between Toronto and Madrid, and service between Toronto to Barcelona on Air Canada rouge from March to January, and between Montreal and Barcelona from March to October. This year, the airline increased capacity to Spain by changing the aircraft on the YYZ to MAD route to the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and added 60% capacity from YUL to BCN by increasing frequency and season length.


 ME Madrid Reina Victoria

ME Madrid Reina Victoria

ME Madrid Reina Victoria was the first ME-branded lifestyle hotel to open in Europe. This year, to mark its tenth anniversary, the property underwent a complete refurbishment across the Radio ME Madrid rooftop bar, the Ana La Santa restaurant (where guests enjoy breakfast), the lobby and its 192 rooms, 12 of which are suites, as well as a signature two-floor ME Suite. The tower of the hotel was designed to represent a lighthouse.
Stay here if: your clients want a trendy spot to spend the night in the heart of Madrid with easy access to attractions, restaurants and shopping. The four-star hotel has modern rooms, changing art installations in the lobby and an aura team which leaves customized messages for guests on bathroom mirrors. For those travelling with Fido, the hotel is also pet friendly.
Be sure to: tell your clients to have a drink at the Radio ME Madrid rooftop bar, which is also a popular spot among locals. While it gets busy, those staying in the hotel can gain access through an elevator reserved for guests.
Instagrammable moments: around every corner, but you can’t top the rooftop featuring panoramic views of Madrid.
Notable guests: Ricky Martin and Anastasia.

Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques

Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques

Built on what was once a former 19th-century palace and a 13th- century convent, this elegant, yet contemporary, hotel opened in 2016. Keeping the original structure, the residence of the Dukes of Granada de Ega, the 180-room hotel features artwork inspired by renowned Spanish painter Velázquez and is a member of The Leading Hotels of The World.
Stay here if: guests want to stay in a sophisticated stylish five-star hotel within walking distance of the Royal Palace, the Teatro Real and the Almudena Cathedral.
Instagrammable moments: the spectacular rooftop, which features a pool and a whirlpool with a panoramic backdrop of Madrid.
Be sure to: get guests to visit the on site 1,000- square-metre garden, which provides a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city.

Gran Meliá Fénix

While this classic contemporary hotel opened in 2002, it’s been a hotel since 1953, when it was for guests of nobility. Also a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the 193-room property finalized renovations to its Red Level rooms this year. Red level guests receive exclusive services and suites with panoramic views, and have a check-in area separate from other guests, complete with champagne upon arrival.
Stay here if: clients want to stay in the Plaza de Colón or in the Salamanca District, surrounded by the famous streets of Serrano, Velázquez, Goya, and Paseo dela Castellana. It’s also located by the new Madrid Casino and the gastronomic centre, Platea Madrid.
Be sure to: tell your clients to have a dry martini at Dry Martini by Javier de las Muelas, which has served up over 36,964 dry martinis since opening. The bar serves up more than 200 cocktails, 100 of which are just martinis.
Instagrammable moments: the lobby, which features a giant chandelier surrounded by a blue stained-glass dome, one of only four in the entire country.
Notable guests: The Beatles, Cary Grant, Rita Hayworth.


ME Ibiza

ME Ibiza exudes the brand’s lifestyle essence across modern rooms, vibrant eating areas, eye-catching design touches and multiple pools for lounging and relaxation set in a secluded bay with direct yacht access. The hotel is located next to Nikki Beach, a daytime beach club where visitors can enjoy premium champagne, live entertainment, and more.

ME Ibiza

Be sure to: tell your active clients to take part in aerial yoga classes on the rooftop, which boasts 360 degree views of the island’s white-sand beaches, the marina and the blue sea
as far as the eye can see.
Stay here if: your clients are looking for a modern luxury hotel experience on the island known for relaxation and having fun.
Notable guests: Alexandra Ambrosia, a slew of high-profile Spanish and English soccer players.
Instagrammable moments: between the scenic views from the rooftop pool, the main pool, a funky lobby with a bright red throne chair and the beachside views, there are many photo-worthy spots on the property, but this hotel actually features a massive white picture frame with the hashtags: #MEIbiza, #TheMEPeople and #TheMEScene, designed for the very purpose of social media.

Sol Beach House

With bright rooms featuring pops of colour and designer touches by Spanish brand Desigual Living, Sol Beach House is meant to be “your house at the beach.” The property features multiple pools and lounge areas, and is changing from being adults-only to an adults-centric hotel.
Stay here if: your clients are looking for a laid-back ambience with Bohemian elements and lots of character throughout the hotel.
Be sure to: let clients know they can rent stylish blue bikes at the hotel to head out and explore the area.
Instagrammable moments: the lobby, which features a large collection of lights hanging at various intervals from the ceiling.


Meliá Barcelona Sky

Meliá Barcelona Sky

Meliá Hotels International will soon open ME Sitges, a coastal town 35 km southwest of Barcelona, as well as ME Barcelona in 2019. In the meantime, guests can stay at Meliá Barcelona Sky, where Level guests get exclusive services, such as a happy hour with snacks and drinks, check-in separate from other guests in a newly refurbished area with a complimentary candy bar, as well as beverages and alcohol.
Stay here if: clients want to overnight in an iconic skyscraper designed by Dominique Perrault, known for his work on the National Gallery of France, or be within walking distance from the beach (although they can also swim on-site in the outdoor pool, which also has lounge chairs and bali beds), as well as attractions like the Sagrada Familia.
Be sure to: tell clients to enjoy a meal or cocktails from Dos Cielos and restaurant.
Instagrammable moments: while some guest rooms overlook the Sagrada Familia, others face the coastline of Barcelona… but both provide picture-perfect views of the city.