SUN, SEA AND PERFECT GEOGRAPHY
Spain sits comfortably between Portugal and France and looms across the Mediterranean Ocean at Northern Africa. In the North, the Atlantic Ocean lapse at its shores. Geographically inclined to provide dry, sunny weather, finding your own soul-satisfying corner of earth on the Spanish coastline or the interior Andalusia or Basque Country, can be rewardingly easy. Spain provides something for everyone: mountains for the climbers and explorers, beaches for the sun worshipers, resorts for the family vacationers, ancient walking trails for the pilgrims, big city shopping for the shoppers and culture, so much culture…
CULTURAL EXPLOSION FOR THOSE WHO DARE
Think about everything you’ve heard about Spain: fiesta, siesta, flamenco, football, sangria, tapas, Spanish guitar, beautiful people on beautiful beaches, Gaudi, elaborate churches, Zara and Mango, the Spanish inquisition, Christopher Columbus, secret monasteries, Arabian (Moorish) castles and duende. These things are very much a reality and you can experience it all, sometimes even at once, which can be quite overwhelming for one’s senses. The beautiful architecture in Spain always leaves me wanting more. The most impressive for me is the Alhambra in Granada, the last Moorish palace, then on a total different modern level, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The old town centres with their narrow streets in almost every Spanish city/town can leave one wandering and exploring for hours at a time. Spain has more than 40 UNESCO World Heritage sites! My love of music forces me to seek out musical experiences and finding those hidden gems of raw flamenco performances in say, the back of a local restaurant in Madrid after midnight is priceless! You can also be assured that any cultural experience in Spain is usually accompanied by great company and of course, great food and drink…which leads to my next important point…
OH, THE FOOD AND DRINK!
Will you get free food in Spain? Yes you will and probably a free hangover too if you choose to indulge. It is however, not called free food, but tapas and they arrive with each glass of local red wine, sangria or beer . You will have to be smart about it, though. Tapas are not as free as they used to be a few years ago. You’ll just have to know where to go. Watch the locals and go where they go. The only place I’ve never had free tapas was in Barcelona. Just remember its polite to actually order some food from the restaurant/bar you’re at after a few tapas, or move on to the next (bar hopping for tapas can be quite hazardous and can provide one of the cheapest craziest fun nights out on the town!!). The food markets in Spain are truly some of the best I’ve ever been to! They stock the markets with loads of fresh produce, jamon (dry, cured ham) varieties, fresh seafood, gazillions of olives and pastries so that one can never go wrong! A proper serving of Spanish paella will leave you trying to copy the exact same flavors in your own recipe for months to come and who can resist delicious chocolate and churros? This is just a sneak peek of the simple flavors Spain has to offer.
GET SWALLOWED INTO THE SPANISH WAY OF LIFE
Spain has been hit hard by the economic crisis and you’ll probably stumble upon articles of unemployment and recession in your research. What I have found, however, is that this has not stopped the Spanish people from living life joyously like every new day is something to celebrate. It is a country that has a way to relax even the most anxious and organized travelers to just follow the natural flow of life. Going to the beach, walk around in some of the oldest cities in Europe like you own it, eating freshly prepared simple meals in local institutions, drinking the local produce, marveling in the music of the street artist, have a little nap and get ready for a night of bar/tapas hopping with friends seems all too easy to not get swallowed into. I love how the Spanish people celebrate the simple things in life.
ACCESSIBLE. AFFORDABLE. AND PROBABLY SOME OVERWHELMING FEELING OF HAPPINESS
Spain is part of the European Union and for some nationalities it means you’ll have to get a Schengen visa to get in. I’ve always gotten lengthy visas from Spain so that has never been a problem. Spain has over 40 airports, pretty reliable bus services covering the whole country and entry into Portugal and France and good railway connections cross-country. The budget airlines and speed train prices are pretty competitive so it all depends on what you favor. It’s a good idea to take the time to figure out the RENFE rail website as it will make your life a lot easier (believe me you will give it a try after seeing the lines at Barcelona-Sants station and ending up on the wrong train). Good budget accommodation is not difficult to find with prices lower than the surrounding countries. The Spanish way of life is all about relaxing, enjoying yourself, eating and drinking well and surrounding yourself with friends and family. Visiting any city in Spain will leave you inspired and relaxed. It’s a country that has taught me to enjoy the simple things in life more and take timeout to relax from an exhausting everyday working life.