Saturday, December 14th 2019.


Viviane Vogels


By Viviane Vogels


BBT Online recently got an intriguing invitation to visit the Catalunya Region of Spain on a trip for ‘trendy women’.  And a ‘different’ study trip it turned out to be!

First stop: Barcelona

A very comfortable flight (Brussels – Barcelona) by Vueling, the regional Catalan airline, landed us at the impressive new terminal of Barcelona Airport (


Barceló Raval Hotel Barceló Raval Hotel
Barceló Raval Hotel Barceló Raval Hotel


After a short transfer we checked in at the Barceló Raval Hotel in the heart of the Raval district. A brand new design hotel – we attended its first anniversary ‘people’ party the next night – with a number of interesting features in the rooms. Rule number one if you are aiming for a more female clientele: do not put too much electronic or other gadgets in the room…we do not all get it, mostly because we are not that interested in them! With a little help from my friends I did find out how to operate the system that opened the –excellent- blackout curtains, I never did find the minibar though, pity as I would have definitely wanted to try out the compact coffeemaker. (


The highlight of the first day in Barcelona mixed in with the mandatory guided tour and interesting hotel visits, was definitely the two hours we were pampered in the beautiful Arabic Baths at Aire de Barcelona (, a new spa concept. Well organized, clean, mysterious and relaxing are some of the words that came to mind when we descended in the vaulted cellars of an old building in the Gothic Centre of Barcelona to be welcomed by the sounds and smells of a bathhouse: eucalyptus, salt, oils…and comforting warmth that enveloped you as a cozy blanket. In between visits to the Jacuzzi, the Turkish bath or the massages visitors lounge and sip delicious tea…a very relaxing experience which all ladies appreciated tremendously, a good idea to insert in a partners program!


Arabic Bath Arabic Bath
Arabic Bath Arabic Bath


After a great breakfast, day 2 started and it was time for some serious work. The theme for this trip being “Travel for Sabine ClappaertTrendy Women”, the Catalan Tourist Board had invited a number of their suppliers as well as Sabine Clappaert from Belgium, a marketer and trend watcher specialized in women (  Her fascinating exposé, ‘Smart Marketing to Women’, on how women react to advertising, how women come to a purchase decision or which impulses will influence women to make their choices will definitely have opened the mind of many present. One of the suppliers present invited us then to attend her walking tour “Women & Barcelona”, focused on the role of women in the history of Barcelona.


Fun & Games

One could summarize the gist of the 3-hour walk through the old quarters of Barcelona with the 2 words: convents & brothels. Like most medieval cities Barcelona had its fair share of them over the centuries and it seemed our – very serious – guide knew them all! At first the ladies on the tour reacted with a mildly raised eyebrow when the first institutions were mentioned, I must admit that this turned to fully fledged mirth – to the great despair of our serious guide- when a convent was pointed out where the nuns lived permanently naked and which was situated next to…a brothel! Let’s face it, we will never look at Barcelona the same way again, that is for sure. Despite our ‘naughty’ reactions, we all did enjoy this fascinating walking tour and we definitely look upon Barcelona with a different eye…and not just because of its many ‘loose’ women!


Casa MilaSagrada Familia


The fact remains that Barcelona is and always will be a city of unlimited possibilities, rich in history but also with the latest avant-garde and design hotels & venues, with a young and dynamic ambiance, great shopping and excellent food! No wonder this city keeps on attracting visitors young & old, not to mention the countless meetings & conventions that have a choice of accommodation to please the most discerning of organizers.


Casa Batllomusico


Next stop: Girona

I have a confession to make…I hate long transfers in coaches. So, I was not looking forward to an hour in the dark to reach Girona. This is where the ladies from Turisme de Catalunya surprised us by offering us a selection of subjects on shoppingCatalunya either on very instructive and definitely not boring short films or simply by narration. This excellent way of passing time was repeated on all transfers and not only gave us a very good idea of what Catalunya is all about, but prepared us flawlessly for the upcoming destinations. Questions were answered in a most professional manner without being boring, details offered without being overwhelming, first time visitors learned a lot, participants who had done it all before, did not feel annoyed because the manner in which the information was given was varied and interesting. Full marks to Ana Escarpenter and Anna Amigo who did an excellent job keeping this slightly unruly group together and interested by coming really prepared, especially the little game at the end and the little souvenir were very much appreciated!

Girona is a lovely little town and on a beautiful sunny Saturday we attacked the old town for…shopping! This was after all a trip for ‘trendy women’ …and they sure have a wide choice of trendy and more classical shops in Girona. All is within walking distance and there are not only plenty of shops and little markets to delight you, the strategically placed cafés make sure that weary feet can be rested and refreshing drinks can be imbibed at regular intervals!


A view of the interior

After a delightful lunch at the Mas Falgueron near Puigventos ( it was wine tasting time! The Castell de Peralada produces some interesting wines and cavas that we tasted with great gusto. A nice touch was the wine that the house had produced for the wedding of King Baudouin of the Belgians to Dona Fabiola of which they still have a number of bottles with special label left! Thank God for the soothing effect of the wine as our transfer to the little village of Viladrau in the dark was a bit hairy.

SalvadorAnyway at Hotel-Restaurant Xalet la Coromina we were in for a treat! Our host Salvador was – literally-larger than life…his hotel/restaurant comes straight out of a fairytale of Hansl & Gretl…his food: divine!
Our host for the evening welcomed us first at the exhibition of paintings honoring the different witches – good & bad! – living in the sources and waterways surrounding the village…scary tales, yet beautifully rendered by a talented local artist who captured the essence of water.  I felt particularly honored as the first painting was about …witch Viviane who enticed innocent young men into her source…I always knew I had it in me …!
What followed was a feast for the real foodie! Did you know that in Catalunya alone there are 7 lady chefs with a Michelin-star each? Our host honored all the ladies by preparing a signature dish of each chef and keeping the dessert – our 8th dish of the evening!! – for his own delicious creation. Spoiled we were, that is for sure and with tales of heavenly creatures and tastes of special food in our heads we retired to our local hotel.

On the final day of this delightful trip we took the leisurely road back to beautiful Barcelona and caught our flight back to rainy Brussels, leaving a splendid sunshine sparkling on the Big Blue behind us…..



Nothing but good memories of a fam trip that was not only well organized and professionally guided by the two Anna’s of Turisme Catalunya Benelux. Imagine my surprise and dismay when hearing that Ana Escarpenter, in my opinion a very professional lady and definitely a credit to her destination, has been let go by her boss….another great professional bites the dust…shame on them!




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