Friday, June 15, 2018

Madrid - The Start of My Travels

My first real travel abroad as an adult was in 1990 when I came to Spain at the urging of my lifelong friend, Laurie Clauson, who during high school was an exchange student with a wonderful family from the small northern Spain seaside village, of Luanco, in Asturias Spain. I was 29 years old, had a two year old daughter, and had just gone through a separation and divorce of my first marriage and was searching for my soul and a re-connection of who Mark Candelaria was and is. I found Mark Candelaria’s soul here in Spain.

One of our visits on that trip was to Madrid and so it is especially powerful and reflective to return here some 28 years later and spend time here and look back at my life and all that has happened. From getting my license as an architect in 1992, to remarrying in 1999, to then starting my own firm that same year, the birth of Bella in 2002 and then Sophia in 2005 and then separating from my second wife in 2010 and divorcing again in 2012 but then marrying the true angel of my life, Isabel, in 2013, -  let’s say life has had its ups and downs.

Here I am now in Madrid in 2018 with my wife, Isabel – who also came here her first time when she was 29 – and my two daughters, Bella and Tiffany, on our 16th Candelaria Design Tour and our second Tour in Spain. Funny how the journey of life can take you on a ride. Mine has been tremendous. So as I walk the streets of Madrid on this trip it is not very difficult to pause and think back on all that has happened over the course of the last 28 years – really the second half of my life since that first trip here when I was 29 years old.

Travel will do that to you – especially return trips to places you have not been in years. Now, if I break the 28/29 years into thirds I wonder what the next 29 years will bring. I will be 87 years old…. Isabel will be 76, my daughters will be 59, 45 and 42. Maybe they will wheel me through Madrid and the Mercado de San Miguel for paella and a sidra?

I cannot thank my lifelong friend, Laurie Clauson, for the thirst for travel, cooking and life in general she gave me some 28 years ago. It lives on my friend and now I am sharing that with my girls and friends and all those who have been on my 16 tours. Who knows what life holds – all you can do is try to live each day to its fullest which I always try to do. We have five days in Madrid and we will most definitely make the most of it!

Madrid is a total contrast to our first stop San Sebastián. San Sebastián is a beautiful sea side town with amazing basque cuisine and architecture. Madrid, with its 6.5 million people, is the third largest city in Europe and is a combination of New York and Washington rolled into one but of course with its Spanish culture and flair.

This trip we are staying at the Palace Hotel which is spectacular. Elegant and sophisticated its guests have included the likes of Picasso, Einstein, and Hemingway – not bad company. We arrived at the hotel at about midnight and still had time for a fabulous dinner consisting of short ribs and a perfect Manhattan. So let’s see what adventures await us in Madrid!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Welcome to Spain 2018

Welcome to Spain and our 16th Candelaria Design Tour – our second in Spain. We have a great group with us this year – nearly all repeat travelers with a few newbies which I love.   

We are on a bus from San Sebastián to Bilbao this morning to tour the Frank Gehry Guggenheim Museum and enjoying the lush and green Northern Spain landscape. Farms with vineyards interspersed and just vivid green everywhere you look. Such a nice contrast from the brown we are so used to in Arizona especially this time of year.  

Before I begin this blog I would like to just say a few words about one of my idols and influencers in my life, Anthony Bourdain, who sadly took his life on Friday. Ironically, our group was at our cooking class at the Mimo San Sebastián School of Cooking when we received the shocking news. 

Bourdain’s show, Parts Unknown, was always a joy to watch and the perfect escape when I was busy and could not travel. His show and his brilliant commentary inspired me many years ago to travel and cook and both are two of my favorite passions for sure. His episode featuring San Sebastián, where we are now, inspired me to put this venue on our tour and it will always be the way I start any tour of Spain.  

Although I didn’t always agree with every aspect of Bourdain’s political views, I definitely could connect and embrace his love of humanity and how food, cooking, and a good meal shared by a group of people from different cultures had the unique ability to dissolve both geographic and cultural barriers. I love how food and preparing and sharing a meal does this and how we have made sure this aspect is incorporated into everyone of our tours, not only with our travelers but with the people we meet from around the world on our tours. A good example has been our tour this year where we met a lovely couple from Oslo, Norway while having tapas and they expressed a desire to find a cooking class. I mentioned that we had a reservation a the Mimi Cooking School and that we might have room for two more! They said they would love to join us if it was ok and of course we said let’s do it. What fun it’s was to share the 6 hour cooking class and then lunch with our new friends from Oslo and who knows, I can see a Candelaria Design Tour Sweden in the works! 

Anyway, I got the chills when we heard the news of his loss but at the same time I now feel like I need to carry on his passion, spirit, and soul. I love travel and of course great food. Spain is such an amazing an beautiful land and my ancestors left this country in the 1600’s for the New World so my DNA feels at home here. We are now on Day 5 and today is our last full day in the Basque County. San Sebastián has been fantastic – as always. Beautiful architecture, food, wine and wonderful people. My ravelers are loving it from tapas and pintxos on the street, dinner at the Michelin three star restaurant, Akelare,  cooking the next morning at the Mimo School of Cooking to something as simple as just enjoying a sidra – a fantastic fizzy apple cider with a nice kick – some flavorful cheese and olives on the Plaza de la  Constitucion and just watching life go by!  Mr. Bourdain would be proud of our journey and his spirit and inspiration will always be a part of my soul. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Spain - Here We Come!


 This Tuesday we embark on our 16th Candelaria Design Tour and our 2nd Candelaria Design Tour Spain! Isabel and I are excited to be going on this trip as it was about this time last year, in fact just before our Tour Spain last year, that we found out about her breast cancer diagnosis. Our thought then was, let’s go on the Tour and enjoy ourselves as who knows what lies ahead. And boy was that true – we are so glad we did the tour and now a year later here we are going back to Spain for our second tour this time knowing Isabel is cancer free.

Not only did she get through breast cancer, but just as she was finishing her radiation treatments for that she was diagnosed with brain cancer. On mega radiation zap to the head and we just found out last week that at least for now there is no trace of cancer in her body – AMEN. Thanks to all of your energy, prayers, meals brought to the home, etc., etc. etc. WOW how blessed we are to have such wonderful friends and family such as all of you. Amazing and so powerful.

So you can only imagine how excited we are to be going back to Spain this year and we have an all repeat group of travelers on this Tour so all seasoned veterans and just the best group I could assemble including my two oldest daughters, Tiffany, who is visiting Spain for the first time and will be flying from Denver and meeting us in Miami and Isabella who will be on her second trip to Spain and flying with Isabel and I.  This trip is going to be off the charts!

We start with a 1:30 departure from Phoenix today and we will switch planes in Miami this evening. Then its off to Madrid where we arrive around noon local time tomorrow and then switch planes again and we are off to our first venue, San Sebastián where we arrive around 5pm local time – 8 am Arizona time so nearly 22 hours later….. Small price to pay for where we are going to spend two weeks!

After checking into the hotel we will freshen up and then its off for Tapas – Pintxos as they call them in the Basque language. I cannot wait for that very moment!

We have five days in San Sebastián where we will enjoy a Michelin three star preset dinner and wine pairing at Akelare on Thursday, cooking at the San Sebastián School of Cooking, a day trip to Bilbao and the Frank Gehry Guggenheim Museum, amongst other sites and adventures.

From San Sebastián we will return to Madrid by train where we will spend the next five days with our home being the Grand Palace Hotel in the heart of Madrid. So many amazing sites and places to dine in Madrid and during our five days we will take a quick train trip for a day trip to Toledo, followed by another day trip to Segovia.

Finally, we will finish our last five days in Seville and our home the Hotel Alfonso right in the heart of Seville. We will visit the Alcazar, the amazing cathedral – third largest in the world and of course enjoy paella and flamenco. This will be my first time to Seville and Isabel’s second so she will take over as the tour guide.

So this will be my 6th trip to Spain and my 25th overall trip to Europe – its hard to believe I have been there now that many times yet I am as excited as anyone….maybe because I know how amazing the experience truly is. I’m probably most excited about watching my travelers and their first experience here – that is always the best part of the trip for me!

I am bringing photographer, Julianne Palmer McKay, who will be documenting the trip and provide me with amazing photos for a book I am working on featuring Spain – more details to come on this! This is her first trip abroad so I cannot wait to see what she captures!

So here we go – it’s 10 am and time to head to the airport! Follow our tour here on our blog and on Instagram and Facebook with photos and videos. Maybe we can work in a few Sketch Daily’s too!