Spain was all about the culture for me. A highlight of the day was sitting in a plaza lined with restaurants eating the menu del dia (menu of the day, usually a 3 course meal) for 10 euros always picking the option with paella and watching the world go by. I copied the locals and kicked back for an afternoon siesta because the streets were deserted from everyone trying to avoid the nearly 40deg heat in Southern Spain. I would emerge again as the sun was setting to wander the streets, watch the older people deep in conversation sitting in parks and cafes and see the local bars go off over the latest football game.
In fact, I loved everything about Spain. It was intoxicating, beautiful and just the right mix of modern and historic. The culture, the food, the architecture, the history and the people; I liked it all. I only got to explore the grand cities of Barcelona and Madrid and the Andalucia region in the south, but I found the culture so easy to embrace and the country one I could spend a lot more time in, more than say France or Germany.
Barcelona is a top city, definitely in my top five so far. There is so much to love about it. Gaudi certainly made it unique with his psychedelic architecture and landscape design adding character to the city. The market on la Rambla was a highlight as we drooled over all the culinary delights and tried not to let our stomachs overrule our heads or our wallets. We spent hours at a flea market and then climbed Montjuc on the funicular for wonderful views of the city. We headed for the beach to try and catch the rays through the clouds and had to tune out to the frequent calls for “mojito, sangria, mojito, sangria….. beach towel…… massage……. henna tattoo……” which became almost like a song.
Madrid may not be as great as Barcelona but it was certainly not as boring as most make it out to be. It still had beautiful architecture, interesting shopping streets and cool plazas to sit back in.
Andalucia was exactly the Spain I had imagined. The bus journeys through the region showed the small farming villages and beautiful mountainous landscape. I spent a week doing the Andalucian triangle of Seville, Córdoba and Granada and I loved the cobble stoned streets and tapas bars aplenty.
Each of them had a standout sight. Seville had its Cathedral which was originally a mosque built in 1248. Córdoba had the Mezquita or great mosque which was founded in 748. And of course Granada had Alhambra, the mighty palace complex which was built from the 11th century onwards. Each place was outstanding and wow-ed me even more than the last. I loved the Islamic influence in a lot of the architecture and design, especially the patterned tiles; if I could decorate my own house in those I would.
I never got sick of eating paella, kicking back with a glass of wine or walking around the plazas. The heat of summer was strong enough to keep me indoors some afternoons but it only made me more attuned to the Spanish clock of heading out for a late dinner. It was nothing short of fantastic and a perfect end to my three months in Europe.
*post adapted from my trip here in August 2015 and from my previous site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com