Spain : Unique, Diverse and Delicious
- published on May 15, 2018
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Spain is a unique country and its beauty lies in its diversity.
Each of its regions is a unique spectacle. The Catalonian region offers endless beaches and modernist architecture. The central Castile region is bustling with energy and offers a peek into the culture and passions (Read > Flamenco dance) that defines Spain today. Travel to the southern Mediterranean facing Andalusia to take a walk into the Moorish (Arab-influenced) past of the country and its influence on architecture, traditions, and culture; an influence which I daresay is unique to the entire continent. In spite of this diversity, there is one underlying theme which runs across the country, the love for food and drinks. Its almost a crime to come to Spain and not gorge on Tapas in a crowded bar and spend your evening enjoying aperitifs by a bustling plaza.
We traveled to Barcelona, Madrid and Seville; three centres which proudly represent their own unique culture; our very own Spanish Golden Triangle.
Trains are the most convenient way to do inter-city travel in the country (A Eurail pass gives you easy access to seats and reservations on most trains) while most sites within the respective cities are conveniently walkable; nevertheless, you can easily take a public bus/tram/train ride. As a couple, both of us prefer train travel, the rides are through scenic countrysides and picturesque landscapes. I spend most of time peeping out of the window into the raw, un-staged daily life. Any moment an architectural marvel, an old medieval castle ruin can pop up, leaving you wonderstruck.
Our itinerary and stays in Spain are documented below:
Barcelona: Beyond beaches and tapas
“There are no straight lines in nature” said Gaudí to one of his clients. It only takes one look at La Sagrada Família to realise why he said that. The church which has been touted as “the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages” started construction in 1882 and is scheduled to be finished in 2030. Such is it's magnificence that in spite of the fact that it is still under construction, the church attracts over 3 million visitors per year and is the most visited monument in the whole of Spain. You have to experience it to believe it.
Barceloneta, the city’s waterfront is lined up with restaurants, bars and sculptures and yachts. With the deep blue mediterranean sea by you, the place is perfect to spend all day just sitting at one of the sea-side restaurants or with your own picnic basket on the sandy beach. We spent our day strolling through the waterfront and had lunch at a cute beachside cafe La Carmelina.
If you do not have enough of the beaches in a couple of days in Barcelona, we can understand, because we didn’t as well. Head north of Barcelona, towards Costa Brava, a region dotted with small beach towns and boutique all-inclusive beach resorts. We chose the Tahiti Playa Resort at Santa Susanna, a small beach town one hour north of Barcelona by train. These resorts offer amazing value for a beach-facing room and an enormous food spread for breakfast and dinner. Here is our schedule for the next three days:
Sleep > Eat > Beach > Pool > Sleep
Madrid: Back to action
At a first glance, Madrid is strikingly different to Barcelona; bustling, “medieval” modern and immediately catches your attention. Stay in one its central “Barrios” (near Grand Via, Tribunal or Sol metro stations) making everything easily walkable. The city’s history is basically Spain’s history in a gist. We discovered, it has traces of influences of every empire which has ever ruled Spain; from the Romans to Arabs and to the current ruling Bourbon dynasty. This makes the city so unique that you could spend hours walking around and listening to the stories and anecdotes behind each of the landmarks. In our experience, there is no one better than the experience and engaging tour guides from Sandemans Madrid. Highly recommend to take one of their walking tours.
Have a peek inside the World's Oldest Restaurant, which is not located USA, UK but in Spain- Madrid. It's called Restaurante Botin. A Guiness Books World Record holder, it's a Must visit!
The Tapas of Spain
Tapas, no doubt is delicious but there is a slight hitch; if you want to go to the authentic ones and stay away from the touristy ones (a wise Spanish friend once said “If there are food photographs outside a restaurant, it is not for locals and is a tourist-trap, stay away! ”), English is seldom spoken and it is a further pain if you are vegetarian. Our tapas tour with Sandemans Madrid had us covered in that regard. We went to three authentic Spanish Tapas bars and tried a plethora of Tapas to eat and drink (great options for Megha who had a strict No Meat, No Fish and No Egg policy). The famous Spanish Jambon (Read > Cured ham), gorging on the classic paella and learning the traditional art of drinking from a wineskin, are experiences I will never forget. (I amazed everyone with my dexterity at this art). Learn about the origins of Tapas, which started out as a complimentary nibble with drinks and is now a culinary force to reckon with.
Yummy Churros in Madrid
You must try the Churros dipped in Hot chocolate in this 100+ year old Family Run bakery called Los Artesanos 1902. They are the yummiest churros we have ever had, make it for breakfast here.
The World Famous Espadrilles
You cannot leave Madrid without buying a pair of the uber-cool and summer-friendly Espadrilles (Aspargatas in Spanish) from Casa Hernanz. We came across these super elegant souvenirs by sheer chance. Megha spotted long queues outside a shop; curiously she checked it out. Woah!! Luxury Italian designers have come out with their own versions of these Espadrilles. Shopping in the shop which is family run since 1845 is an experience in itself. Every customer is attended to individually, you can choose from numerous designs displayed outside and these are an absolute bargain at...wait for it! EUR 9.9 / pair
The Mecca of football
And Madrid is not complete without a pilgrimage to the Stadium of Real Madrid (Santiago-Bernabéu). So we did strut to the stadium to absorb the insane energy in this Temple of Football. Unfortunately, there was no live match during the week of our stay, but hey! we found something uber- interesting to do. Instead of lining up for the Stadium tour- which is priced at EUR 30 / person, we chilled with a glass of sparkling wine and an amazing view of the pitch and the stands at Real cafe Bernabeu for just EUR 3 / person.
Do visit the Santiago-Bernabéu (if you are a football fan, please watch a match at the stadium if you can). Even for non-believers (Read > Megha), it is an experience. She was pleasantly surprised by their fort-like grandeur. If you are not keen on a stadium tour, relax at their cafes with amazing views of the pitch and stands.
Take a walk into history in Seville (Check: Journey of a Lifetime #JOAL)
The Real Alcázar with its gardens and palaces takes you back into an enchanting Moorish world. The name “Alcázar” was fascinating enough for us, it just seems so surreal. The most spectacular room in the palace is the Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of Ambassadors). It has a wooden dome depicting the universe with its numerous star patterns. Stand right beneath the dome and look up and keep looking up and continue doing so, until the dome creates magic in front of your eyes.
Attention: All GOT fans, the Kingdom of Dorne was shot in the Alcazar.
We cannot emphasise enough to book your Alcázar tickets online at http://www.alcazarsevilla.org/ , you can easily skip the menacingly long queues to enter the palace.
Do not miss the cathedral in Seville, the largest gothic cathedral in the world built on the remains of a mosque (such is the extent of cultural inter-mixing in Seville). Spend a relaxing evening sipping Moroccan mint tea with a shisha at one of the Moroccan tea rooms in the city (Must visit – Tetería Al Sultan, in front of the old tobacco factory)
For your next Spanish Holiday
For a complete Spanish experience, it is essential to discover the diversity the country offers. The beaches and rebellious architecture of Barcelona, the bustling paranoia of Madrid and the historical extravaganza of Seville deliver a fusion of memories which makes this country so unique.
Do contact us for any further questions on your next Spanish holiday.
We are at the moment en route to Cannes, for the annual film festival. Ohé Cannes!, Yes dreams do come true :)