The D&O Diary was in Barcelona this last week for business meetings and for an industry event. Though my schedule was full (and though we lost an entire day thanks to flight delays), we still had a chance to enjoy being in beautiful Barcelona. This city features a  unique combination of climate, seaside beauty, and scenic mountains that really can’t be beat anywhere.

 

My primary purpose in traveling to Spain was to participate in an industry event held at the ANV’s Barcelona offices. The event kicked-off with a lunch reception on the sunny terrace outside ANV’s offices, with great views of the city and of the Mediterranean. During the afternoon educational session, I gave a keynote presentation on important global trends in D&O. My presentation was followed by an informal roundtable discussion, during which I learned a great deal about current conditions in D&O markets around Europe. After an evening meal, the next day we enjoyed a sunny sailboat cruise on the Mediterranean. It was great to be a part of this well-organized event, and I think Mauricio Manrique and all of his ANV colleagues for inviting me to be a part of this excellent event.

 

The ANV team and several of the guests, in a picture taken on the terrace after the event.

 

The afternoon lunch reception on ANV’s terrace, with views of the city and of the sea beyond

 

A great boat outing in the Mediterranean as part of the ANV event. Everyone had a great time (although I admit that I was unfortunately a little seasick).

 

In the ANV offices with Mauricio Manrique. Mauricio was a gracious host, and I am grateful to him and to all of his colleagues for inviting me to be a part of their great event.

 

I also had an opportunity to meet with some of the others involved in the Barcelona D&O insurance market. Among other things, I had a chance to meet again with my friends at Tokio Marine HCC, whom I last met with in my prior visit to Barcelona in 2013. I had a chance to enjoy once again the beautiful views of the sea from the Tokio Marine HCC offices. I also led a roundtable discussion of current D&O insurance claims issues. My thanks to Alexander Stampf and all of his colleagues for taking the time to meet with me. It was a very enjoyable morning.

 

The Tokio Marine HCC team in their offices, after our roundtable discussion.

 

This picture really doesn’t do it justice at all, but this is the view from the Tokio Marine HCC offices. They are literally located right on the beach.

 

While I was in town, I also had an informal morning meeting with the Barcelona-based European management liability insurance team from Sompo International (one of several D&O insurance underwriters now transacting D&O insurance business in Barcelona).  We had a great morning meeting to discuss their relatively new Barcelona operation and also the current opportunities and challenges in the European D&O insurance market. My thanks to Alex Alfaro for organizing the meeting and to his colleagues for introducing themselves to me.

 

Meeting with the Sompo International team: Udo Pützer; Mathieu Borneuf; Alex Alfaro; and Thomas Mannsdorfer. Udo recently joined Sompo and is based in Düsseldorf.

 

Despite the flight delays that deprived us of one of our planned days for touring, we did get to see many of Barcelona’s famous attractions. We just barely made it to Barcelona in time to use our pre-purchased timed-entry tickets for La Sagrada Familia, the spectacular cathedral designed by Barcelona’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí. The cathedral is still very much under construction, but great progress is being made toward the structure’s planned 2026 completion date. Both the exterior and the interior are a marvelous combination of color, texture, and form. We were fortunate to visit the cathedral on a bright, sunny day, and the light just poured into the cathedral’s central nave.

 

La Sagrada Familia is a stunning, almost overwhelming visual phenomenon

 

The bright morning light streaming in the Eastern facing windows of La Sagrada Familia

 

The breathtaking central nave of the cathedral. The soaring columns shaped like trees, the light-colored stone, and the bright light streaming  through the stained glass windows create an almost magical atmosphere.

 

We also visited the Park Güell, a beautiful hillside park with spectacular views of the sea. The park features a number of  buildings designed by Gaudí, whose work is so uniquely colorful and creative. In addition to the beautiful and interesting architecture, the park during our visit was full of blooming flowers in a profusion of color that further enhanced the architecture and the views of the sea.

 

The stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea from Park Güell

 

More of Gaudi’s famous design. Amazing, fantastic, crazy.

 

 

 

Gaudi’s famous Dragon, on the Dragon steps in Park Güell.

 

A profusion of colorful blooming flowers in Park Güell.

 

La Sagrada Familia viewed from the Park Güell, with the Mediterranean Sea in the background.

 

Of course, we also visited Barcelona’s famous tree-lined walk-way, La Rambla. On our first night in the city we enjoyed a glass of sangria at one of the sidewalk cafés at the northern end of the street. It was a pleasant way to end the day and it is something that everyone – or at least first-time visitors—should do. Just the same, La Rambla is kind of crowded, lined with tourist shops selling cheap souvenirs, and its cafés are priced for tourists. For anyone visiting Barcelona anytime soon, I have an alternative suggestion to La Rambla. One night, purely by chance and while we were on our way to try to do something else, we stumbled upon La Rambla del Poblenou, another tree-lined pedestrianized street lined with sidewalk cafés, but rather than crowds from the cruise ships, it has families out for an evening stroll, young couples, and even a bunch of little kids playing along the way. There were also numerous street musicians. The entire feeling was informal, comfortable, and calm. And if you follow the street all the end, you are rewarded with views of Barcelona’s famous beach.

 

La Rambla del Poblenou

 

This is where you end up if you follow the Rambla del Poblenou all the way to the end.

 

 

 

How great would it be to live in a city that has a beach right by the central business district, so that you could play beach volleyball after work?

 

Our schedule also allowed us the opportunity for a couple of day trips outside of the city. On our first foray, we took a train on the regional train system about an hour outside the city, to Montserrat. Montserrat is the site of a famous monastery that is beautifully situated high on a rugged mountainside. We took a cable car  from the train station to the monastery, and from there, we took a funicular railway even further up the mountain. We then hiked about two and a half hours in the brilliant sunshine along the mountain’s crenellated ridge top to the peak, which afforded spectacular unobstructed views of the surrounding countryside. We then hiked all the way down the mountain back to the monastery before taking the cable car back to the train station. (Because of the slope, it was a lot harder going down the mountain than going up.) It was a really outstanding day, from start to finish.

 

The cable car from the railway station to the monastery at Montserrat

 

Hiking through the woods along the ridgeline on Montserrat

 

A view of the serrated mountain ridge on Montserrat

 

The view from the peak at Montserrat

 

Viewed from above, the famous Montserrat monastery seen on the way back down the mountain

 

The view from the cable car station, at the top, near the monastery

 

On Saturday before heading home, we also had a chance for one final day trip, to Girona, which is about a 40-minute train ride from Barcelona on one the high-speed trains in the national rail system. The old part of Girona is an intact walled medieval city. Parts of the city walls date back to Roman times. It takes about two-hours to walk around the old town along the walls, which afford great views back to the old city and to the mountains beyond – on the spectacularly clear day that we visited, we could even see the snow-covered peaks of the Pyrenees Mountains in the distance. Inside the old town, narrow streets wind through the city’s well-preserved and atmospheric Jewish Quarter, known as El Call. The old city is located on the north side of the Onyar River; a number of bridges cross the river, affording views of the colorful buildings along the riverbank.

 

The Cathedral of St. Mary of Girona, with Girona’s old town in the foreground

 

Another view of the cathedral, and of the mountains beyond

 

The city walls around Girona

 

 

The incredibly well-preserved medieval streets in the Jewish district in Girona

 

The colorful residential buildings along the Onyar River in Girona

 

La Plaça de la Independència in Girona, a great place to stop for a cool beverage before heading back to Barcelona on the train

 

On our final evening in Barcelona, we took one final stroll along La Rambla del Poblenou. It was a warm, pleasant evening. Mom pushed little kids in prams. Old people walked slowly, arm and arm. Young people sped by on skateboards. Two little girls were making soap bubbles. As we watched the passersby promenade along, while the sun slowly settled behind the mountains to the west of the city, we were pretty convinced that Barcelona is a really special place. All I can say is that I hope it is not too long before we can visit again.

 

More Pictures of Barcelona

 

A great time of the year to visit Barcelona

 

Plaça Reial, in Barcelona’s old town

 

Sunset over Barcelona. What a great place, we hated to leave it.