Speakers Table

Barcelona, Girona, Costa Brava, and the Beauty of Catalonia

October 2, 2012

After a challenging year, my husband and I booked a holiday (with accommodations selected by our personal ‘dean of travel,’ Martin Rapp) that we hoped would offer natural beauty and sunshine, coupled with a sophisticated city.

Room in Hostal de La Gavina (Photo by: Hostel de la Gavina) Room in Hostal de La Gavina

We took off on Iberia Airlines for S'Agaró and arrived at the über luxurious Hostal de la Gavina overlooking two of the most beautiful beaches of the Costa Brava. Since the early 1980s, this Catalan-style hotel has attracted the rich and glamorous, including King Juan Carlos, Elizabeth Taylor and a host of celebrities from northern Europe. Known for “at your service,” the hotel did not disappoint. We were enchanted with our spacious suite with marble and wooden floors, hand-carved ebony and parquetry inlaid furniture, Murano crystal lamps and views of the Mediterranean from our balcony.

As dinner didn’t start until 9:00 pm, we immediately began to relax and realize that life here was all about casual and sensuous. Before leaving for Spain, I had the incredible luck of meeting Nuria Clusella and Mariona Anglès who put together the most amazing itinerary for us, starting with a table at the 3 star Michelin-rated El Celler De Can Roca, currently rated No. 2 on the list of World’s 50 Greatest Restaurants. As you can imagine, without Nuria and Mariona, we would have had to wait six months or more.

View of Costa Brava (Photo by: costabravaphotos.com) View of Costa Brava

The passion for cooking and hospitality shared by the three Roca brothers is palpable, but surprisingly, the food is playful rather than serious – caramelized olives are brought to the table on bonsai trees – and Catalan ingredients are given centre-stage billing on the menu. With clever techniques, simple flavour combinations complement each other; all designed to titillate the palate and evoke a memory rather than confuse the mind. It’s clever stuff – and thankfully, it is also utterly delicious. We left (happy and full) with a signed menu from the world-renowned chef. 

Next on the tour was a private tour of the Jewish History Museum and the National Archives where documents are stored from the 12th century and earlier. The exhibitions focused on the importance of pre-Spanish Inquisition Jewish life in Catalonia, and the intriguing 'news' that Christopher Columbus left for America to escape persecution.

View of Barcelona from Parc de Montjuic (Photo by: Bonni Braverman) View of Barcelona from Parc de Montjuic

If we thought life could not be better, we were wrong. Our next hotel was the luxuriously hip Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona where we started with a swim and facial at the spa. Refreshed, we walked to La Sagrada Famiglia Cathedral and enjoyed tapas at Bankers Bar.

Day two, already feeling like locals, we took the metro to Park Guell and the Gaudi Museum, the weather perfect for walking and sitting outdoors for espresso and (wonderful Spanish manchego cheese and Iberian ham) sandwiches. After a siesta on a rooftop deck with views of the city and a dipping pool to cool off those tired feet, we walked to the old quarter, admired the fountains and sat outside for some more people watching.

At the Mandarin Oriental on our way to dinner (Photo by: Bonni Braverman) At the Mandarin Oriental on our way to dinner

After breakfast, we shopped for espadrilles at La Manual Alpargatera, a wonderful hidden shop open since 1941, and then continued on to Parc de Montjuic, and the Mies van der Rohe Pavello (and had a chance to see the iconic chair in its home town), and Parc Joan Miró with its breathtaking city views.

Moments signed menu (Photo by: Bonni Braverman) Moments signed menu

Dinner was at Moments, where we were indulged with excellent food and service, Tempranillo wine (from the most famous of Spain's grapes), a dessert of ganache, and a gift of (yet, another) wonderful menu with a hand drawing to mark the occasion by chef Raul Balam.

On our last day, we walked to Arc de Triomf, Cathedral by Gaudi and the phallic Torre Agbar. By now, it was officially gelati time and close to 3:00 pm (siesta time) so we hurried to take a peek into Gaston y Daniela, an important design resource that opened in 1876. With its vast archives of divine textiles, I was wishing I had them here in Washington, D.C. for my clients.

On our last evening in Catalonia, we sat by the piano bar, had a light meal and savoured every last delicious moment of our visit to a place filled with friendly faces, and an alegria de vivir.

Written by Bonni Braverman, owner of Bonni Braverman Interiors, LLC, a Georgetown-based design firm

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Was that a Nascar Race or Just a Great Cause?

September 20, 2012

At first glance, with all the color, smiles and energy, Washington Harbour resembled the starting line of the Daytona 500, but upon closer examination it turned out to be even better as over 40 kayaks of various colors lined up around the new fountain at the Georgetown waterfront. The event was the "Team River Runner Biathlon Thank You Luncheon" hosted by Clark Construction at Tony and Joe’s. Over 40 sponsor companies attended the luncheon. 

“This is a great way to use our newly remodeled space, by providing opportunity to America’s service members and veterans,” remarked Tony Cibel, owner of Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place. Operations manager, Greg Casten added, “It’s the perfect opportunity to support our vets and an organization that delivers fun to those who sacrificed so much for us all. Any time you combine a good cause, canoes, the riverfront, great seafood and a sensational view- you’ve got a winner.” Tony and Joe’s dining room has just recently re-opened after the flood of April 2011 wiped out Washington Harbour.        

Today’s event marked the official kick-off promoting the 8th Annual Team River Runner Biathlon that takes place on the Georgetown Waterfront this Sunday, September 23rd.

Registration begins at 7:00 am at the Washington Canoe Club. The race includes one mile of paddling and three miles of running. Complete both legs (kayak and run) as a single racer, or complete one leg as part of a "racing pair.”

Most of the kayakers attending today’s event were active duty servicemembers and veterans severely wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Several of the participating biathletes showed up in wheelchairs, a few fitted with a prosthesis and another using the aid of a canine companion. 

Many local construction companies and members of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Metro Washington came out to support the biathletes. “We envisioned it looking like Nascar, “ Volunteer George Sheldon laughed as he pointed out the sponsor names adorning the colorful kayaks. Clark Construction Company’s COO Hal Roach and Miller and Long’s President Nick Paleologos joined the sponsors and team runners to support the fundraising effort. This year’s goal is to raise $40 thousand.

Team River Runner benefits soldiers, sailors and marines being treated at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Today, TRR operates chapters throughout the country coordinating with clinical staff at DOD and the Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Centers and depends solely on private donations from individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations. 

For more information, visit Team River Runner or contact Janice Ockershausen at 202.342.0002  

Written by Janice Ockershausen, owner of Best Bark Media                           

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Arnold, Easy Like Sunday Morning

September 10, 2012

On my walk to work this past Sunday I saw the Lucky Dog Adoption event in front of The Dog Shop in Georgetown. I currently have two adopted dogs Ella and Rue but decided to cross the street and see what was going on.

While walking through the alley of 47 dogs in need of a home, I saw a Beagle named Arnold. His sweet face stuck out in the crowd and made me walk right over to him. He's not a puppy, he's not the youngest, but he is the sweetest.

Words cannot describe how endearing Arnold is. He has such a presence ... his eyes just look like he's going to start talking, a quality that's always appealed because it often indicates their intelligence. Sadly, my home has no room for a third, but my heart strings started to tear a bit because I knew just how special is Arnold.

(Photo by: luckydoganimalrescue.org)

After leaving the event I decided to do whatever it takes to get Arnold adopted into a loving home for his senior years. A perfect fit for an older individual in need of a companion, or for someone who recently lost a pet or for a full house that has enough room and love,  Arnold is a companion for all!

Why Arnold is such a great dog. He's wonderful around adults, children, and other dogs. He was rescued from a high kill shelter and currently has been in the Lucky Dog Rescue program for almost a year. In dog years that's seven years, way too long for this loving dog to be without a home.

He is a special needs dog with some arthritis but moves freely and pain free with anti-inflammatories. His favorite thing to do is to be in a car and he has a love of squeaky toys. His nickname in the shelter is the "shoplifter" because at adoption events he "steals' toys from the Petco. He's is a character and easy like Sunday morning!

If you have room in your heart and home, please contact Joanne at joannek@luckydoganimalrescue.org and check out Lucky Dog Animal Rescue.

Remember, the best breed of dog is "adopted."

Written by Krista Johnson, owner of Ella-Rue in Georgetown.

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