The land of the musketeer

Explore the country of d’Artagnan, the most famous of the musketeers. Swap the horse for a bicycle and enjoy the ride through the bucolic Gascony in the south of France!

From the sky, it looks like a fan made of valleys from north to south, running from the Massif Central to the Pyrénées. Biking the Gascony region in the south of France is quite a challenge: Keep traveling!

A night out in Barcelona? Know where to go!

In 2016, about 30 million tourists visited Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million inhabitants. The vibrant capital of Catalonya is victim of its own success: the once atmospheric Las Ramblas have turned into a main tourist drag, La Boqueria market into a trap to be avoided, the narrow medieval streets of El Born have been invaded by a crowd armed with selfie sticks and walking on colourful sneakers, skyrocketing prices of hotel rooms and flat rentals have driven locals out of the city, even the paella has turned yellow (with cheap turmeric thrown on a hardly cooked rice replacing the expensive saffron evenly spread on a slowly caramelized rice)! It matters all the more to know where to go to enjoy oneself and encourage sustainable initiatives. The places featured here are all locally owned and share this love for local traditions from the classic vermuteria to the modern one and the trendy speakeasy bar. All in a different district of town. All with a different vibe. All where you can go eyes closed for a great experience!

  • Do as locals do & enjoy vermouth and tapas at a traditional bodega a stone’s throw away from Casa Batllo: Lo Pinyol

Entering the bodega Lo Pinyol feels like stepping back in time. From an olive oil and ham store starting in 1919, the space has evolved into a family-run bodega since 1940. Today, the old barrels decorating the small space in which a mixed crowd of patrons discusses lively are a reminder of this history, and of the specialty of the house.

Vermouth is a reinforced wine aromatized with herbs (Martini & Rossi and Cinzano are the most famous brands). Here, the traditional vermouth is carefully selected, and then prepared with a few drops of Angostura, a quarter of a slice of orange and a green olive. Sit at the small and cute bar or choose for the reading room, and order a few exquisite tapas to go along your drink and you will feel like you have always belonged here!

These traditional bodegas become rare to find, and just a short distance from La Pedrera, La Casa Batlló or La Sagrada Familia, it is the ideal spot in El Eixample to relax at the end of the day and soak into the local atmosphere.

  • Discover the local favorite mixed in modern cocktails in the up & coming Poble Nou neighbourhood: Balius Bar

The once “new village” of Poble Nou was the beating heart of industrial Barcelona during the 19th century industrial revolution. Abandoned factories have become trendy lofts, modern office spaces or hip bars and coffee shops. Balius bar with its antique floor-tiles and fashionably lit wall of bottles fits perfectly in this up and coming neighbourhood: the traditional vermouth is the star of ingenious cocktails best appreciated with the home-made delicious and original food from sustainable sources.

The cocktail list is not limited to its excellent vermouth-based cocktails, but Balius Bar is one of the only places where vermouth is used in mixed drinks. Actually, the Balius Bar bartenders help develop cocktail recipes in collaboration with the world-renowned vermouth producer: within only a few years, Balius Bar made it to the world class embassy group of a selected 50 in Spain. From the Vermouth Sour or Lolita where the fruitiness and freshness dominate the vermouth to the Italian-inspired coffee bean infused Negroni Ristretto, whether discovering this aperitif or being used to it, you will be charmed! The excellent bartenders are excellent guides in exploring this new palette enjoyed by a cosmopolitan crowd who settled in the area and favours quality in a low-key atmosphere.

The impeccable food presentation and originality complement the drink list: revisited patatas bravas from a purple Andean variety sourced in France, tapas of codfish, cured tuna served over an original gazpacho, and delicious desserts.

The cosmopolitan and up and coming vibes of Poble Nou are extended to the food and drinks: everything fits and it simply makes it the perfect spot for drinks, and dinner, and more drinks…

  • Indulge yourself with a signature cocktail in a world’s top 100 bars in El Born: El Paradiso

“Are you sure it’s here? It looks like a pastrami sandwich shop”, I wonder looking at the counter behind which the waiter looks at me with a grin. A few minutes later, he opens the fridge door for us, and behind a velvet curtain, a new world opens up! Classily decorated and dimly lit, a long marble bar is the main feature of this speakeasy club in the heart of the touristic medieval district of El Born. Smiling and smartly dressed barmen welcome us.

The drink menu is of the most interesting and there is a good reason why El Paradiso has just been ranked among world’s top 100 bars after being open for hardly a year and a half. I have a hard time focusing on it though as watching these artists mix their drinks is a real show.

A cloud of vanilla tobacco has just filled the glass pipe in which my Solera Presidente signature cocktail is being prepared. The barman is adding the final touch: a cloud of cotton candy. Literally dragging a sip of this rum-based drink, the dark chocolate in which the mouth piece has been dipped into mixes perfectly with the elegant and refined aromas.

The award-winning Mediterranean Treasure is definitely one. The barman opens the treasure chest from which rosemary and thyme flavours announce the Mediterranean vibes of this delicate vodka-based creamy drink served in a seashell.

El Paradiso caters to an international public and as the local owners are setting a new trend in Barcelona, curious locals come and check out the mysterious El Paradiso. The secret of its success may very well be the great attention to details, from a very original drink list with unexpected ingredients served each in the perfect container to a polished decor, smart playlist and some of world’s best cocktail bartenders. Everything fits. Even in the hidden bar, hidden into the hidden bar that is behind the fridge door… Will you pierce the mystery and find out?

Marcella & Claire

Travel tips:

  • The places listed above are shown on the interactive map below. Here are the specific addresses:
  • Lo Pinyol: Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla, 7, 08012 Barcelona
  • Balius Bar: Carrer de Pujades, 196, 08005 Barcelona (jazz on Sundays!)
  • El Paradiso: Carrer de Rera Palau, 4, 08003 Barcelona

 

  • Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!

 

An immersion among one of world’s largest fleet, Toulon, French Riviera

Dust rises up along the quays of the military harbour of Toulon in the south of France as carriages filled with food and jars of wine pass by. The artillery is spread out on the ground and among the iron cannon balls dozens of people are inspecting the heavy canons which are piled up and ready to be loaded onto the fleet of King Louis XV. I am visiting the Musée national de la Marine, or the Naval Museum of Toulon where a mural of Joseph Vernet represents a scene of the Toulon harbour in 1755. Keep traveling!

Exploring rural Vang Vieng and its caves, Laos

With its karst formations rising off the rice fields, Vang Vieng is set in a beautiful natural setting and has become the number one outdoor destination of Laos with hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing and caving opportunities.

Keep traveling!

Panama: A visual tour

Here is a compilation of the photos of the day of Panama and some others of our best shots capturing the essence of Panama to inspire you (to receive our photos of the day and articles, follow us!). All of these photos are available in a high definition upon request. For the story behind a specific photo, browse through our articles or photos of the day. Keep travelling/

Conquering Preah Vihear, Cambodia’s pride

“You are going to Preah Vihear?!” All by yourselves? The temple bordering neighbouring Thailand, all the way up in the Dângrêk Mountains?? Wow!… Do you know the road?” With a grin on our faces and small backpacks ready, we nod in reply to the young friendly Cambodian lady who looks slightly concerned on the small parking lot of our hotel in Siem Reap. She takes another look at us and studies the 120cc scooter we have just rented. With a frown she adds: “Whatever you do once you arrive at its foot, do not drive your scooter up there by yourselves; it is way too steep there!! Be safe and enjoy!”
Indeed, exploring Preah Vihear is a true challenge: it is remote, not connected to any form of efficient public transport, it is hardly visited by tourists nor locals. Due to military tensions between the Cambodian and Thai armies in 2008 who both claimed its grounds, people are still cautious as whether or not to roam these splendid temple grounds. Still, Preah Vihear is settled in the most dramatic setting of all temples built by the powerful Khmers, on top of a majestic cliff dominating the plains of Northern Cambodia by more than 500 metres. All the more reasons for us to explore the ancient stairways, courtyards and sanctuaries organised along an 800-metre long axis defining the off the beaten path temple complex. Keep traveling!

Japan: A visual tour

Here is a compilation of the photos of the day of Japan and some others of our best shots capturing the essence of Japan to inspire you (to receive our photos of the day and articles, follow us!). All of these photos are available in a high definition upon request. For the story behind a specific photo, browse through our articles or photos of the day. Keep travelling/

Cambodia’s floating villages

The narrow straight road reminds me of one of the Dutch roads being laid out on a narrow dyke not far from where I was born. It prevents the water from flowing from one field to the next. Just the hordes of cyclists are missing. Around me, the landscape is as flat as the one I grew up in, and a smile appears on my face when I observe a familiar bird, the Common Snipe (gallinago gallinago) wading through the muddy shallows of water parallel to the road, searching for food. This bird used to be printed on the former Dutch notes of 100 Guilders, a wader I haven’t seen in a while. It is not the only one searching for food. Bare chested, tanned fishermen make their way through the murky waters, ready to throw their nets while a kingfisher strikes from the air. The road is rebuilt every year when the water of the massive Tonlé Sap Lake resides several kilometres in the dry season. It ends in a dusty parking lot bordering the stream that is connected to the lake. We are about ten thousand kilometres away from the Netherlands when the captain of a characteristic wooden boat welcomes us on board to explore his floating village, Kampong Phluk, in the heart of Cambodia. Keep traveling

Nicaragua: A visual tour

Here is a compilation of the photos of the day of Nicaragua and some others of our best shots capturing the essence of Nicaragua to inspire you (to receive our photos of the day and articles, follow us!). All of these photos are available in a high definition upon request. For the story behind a specific photo, browse through our articles or photos of the day. Keep traveling/

Uncovering a time capsule at the tenement museum, NYC

While Henry Clay Frick and John Pierpont Morgan were amassing their art collections with the millions they made during the industrial revolution and setting the basis for the USA, a different story was taking place in the low income areas of New York City, like the Lower East Side where newcomers to the USA flocked by hundreds and also shaped the country.

97 Orchard Street, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 1988

Keep traveling!