Spain In Its Natural Glory
One short but extremely eventful & colourful stop for me in my travel was in Spain. For most of us, Spain Holidays can mean many different things. Beyond the obvious bullfighting, flamenco dancers, paella and crowed beaches – the country I discovered was a varied treasure chest of natural and architectural marvels.
Geographically, in the north you’ll find green, rolling hills with Celtic influences, often liken to the landscapes found throughout the British Isles, while the hot south contrasts with a taste of Moroccan dessert lands and rugged mountain ranges. Throughout Spain you will find a network of solitary white-walled villages and medieval towns. Spain’s tremendous history was also reflected in its prehistoric cave paintings, Moorish palaces, crumbling castles, Roman ruins, Gothic and Renaissance cathedrals as well as some very distinctive modern architecture.
With so much history and culture to delve into, it was hard to decide just where to start!! But arrive with a desire to eat, drink and a zest for life and you’re on your way to understanding how Spain has been living for hundreds of years!
When to go
The ideal time to visit Spain is between May and September, although April and October are both pleasantly hot in the south. Fortunately for me, I was traveling in July & had the best of weather..:)
You can however expect beaches and coastal regions to be packed during the summer when the whole country seems to take an extended siesta from work—it’s normal for the population of inland cities and offices to empty out and head to the coast!
In particular, the southern-most coast of the Iberian Peninsula is to be avoided if you don’t enjoy the crowds—and to be headed to if you do! Here you’ll meet up with thirty million other tourists throughout the months of July and August, so take note to book your stay well in advance.
Low season offers lower prices and perhaps a more pleasant climate to explore the inner regions although most coastal towns will have little going on.
Barcelona with a population of over 4.5 million inhabitants is known as the cultural centre of Spain. With stunning architecture, monuments, historical sites, natural resources, beaches and a lively nightlife, Barcelona is a modern, multicultural, cosmopolitan city. My friend’s in the city took some days off to show me around and inspite of all that help – I think I have enough unseen for another 7 day trip!!
There is no shortage of sights to see or things to do in Barcelona. Perhaps the most famous of them is the giant Sagrada Familia Church designed by Antonio Gaudi – a wonder of the world in making (its work in progress!!). Like many of Gaudi’s works, opinion is usually divided whether it looks good or not and the Sagrada Familia polarizes opinion like few other of the world’s religious monuments. Charges for entry is around 13 euros & a trip to the top is 5euros, but its worth the money.
Again for those who like to debate what’s beautiful or not, the Picasso Museum has a huge selection of his works from his early to final paintings. This popular gallery provides a fascinating insight into the development of Picasso’s thinking over time and shows how he developed the distinctive designs that he is famous for today. And don’t forget to walk down the Ramlas in the evening!
Moving away from the central areas, to the east you’ll find the Baleric Islands the Costa Brava to the north, the monastery at Montserrat to the west, and to the south, the Roman city of Tarragona, and the playground resort of Sitges.
A World Heritage site, Cuenca is one of Spain’s most enchanting cities. Its old centre is packed with medieval buildings although most visitors arrive to see the hanging houses of Cuenca, which perch above the deep gorges that surround the town.
About 30km away from the old town you’ll find Ciudad Encantada, the Enchanted City. Here you’ll find a fascinating set of strangely deformed rocks, each with their own name, such as the Elephant, Human Head or the impressive Tormo Alto, which at over 20 meters high, stands like a huge mushroom on an incredible small stem.
This fiery southern capital is home to the Alcázar, the mesmerizing parades of Semana Santa and revelry of the Feria de Abril.
It’s in Seville where you can expect the most passionate Semana Santa (Holy Week), the most festive and romantic annual feria (fair), the best tapas bars, the best nightlife and the most stylish people in Andalucía. With hundreds of narrow, winding, medieval lanes and romantic, hidden plazas Seville is also home to flamenco and bullfighting.
Local Customs/ Food
Despite having an emotive reputation of being all things related to passion, love and family, Spanish food is in fact very simple in its preparation. With the exception of garlic, ingredients are basic including rice, fish, seafood, bread, and salads served in tapas style dishes.
Lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain involving the most copious amounts of food. Food can often be served in three or more courses for lunch in Spain, often with soup or stew as a starter. People in Spain eat lunch quite late in the day, often from 2pm onwards and the plentiful amount of food that is consumed at lunchtime in Spain means that this is often a two-hour affair followed by a siesta. The food eaten for dinner in Spain is often the same as that served at lunch although probably lighter.
Buena suerte, Saludos!!