This is the Spain where it is easy to play Red Rover on the beach, but hard not to shop. This is the country of siesta, cheap shoes and sangria that flows like a river. You must order your water like this: “aqua sin gaz,” which means still water. But this country is not still. Everything moves, and it moves to the rhythm of a Spanish guitar as you dance the night away meeting Spaniards and Brits who have had too much beer.
Almost anyone could recognize Spain because Spain is that kind of country where all your expectations are fulfilled. Even Barcelona is the city where Olympic dreams come true.
The south of Spain is where I spent most of my time close to the water. I saw places like Costa del Sol, with my souvenir pen for proof. It doesn’t work anymore. I saw Torremolinos and the famous Rock of Gilbrator. I had to resist the urge to climb the rock in newly bought heels.
In the south of Spain, it is also easy to see the tip of Africa, Morocco. A dingy of a boat can take a small group over for a nominal fee. The day I was supposed to see Morocco the water was choppy and the captain of the ship decided that we shouldn’t go, but this did not ruin my traveling experience.
Spain is a place where you can relax and enjoy the ever-present sunshine. It did not rain one day when I was there. Getting up early in the morning to shop and see the castles of old, the whole country shuts in the early afternoon for siesta. Usually, this takes place after the noon meal. Being a tourist, I preferred to do my sleeping on a beach towel on top of the sand, rather than in my 5-star suite.
Shopping is fantastic in Spain. This is the land that created the fashion outlet Zara and the clothes are feminine and form-fitting for the ladies, stylish and sleek for the men. In Barcelona, a good part of the Eixample is where you can find numerous select fashion shops and jewelry stores. On the Passeig de Gracia and in other parts of the Eixample, shopping arcades abound.
More shopping after siesta, then it’s off to the hotel to get ready for the nightlife. Spain has a vibrant life at night and one of the clubs I went to was called the Coliseum and had the colonial-style white columns to match.
You never have to be alone in Spain, not if you don’t want to. There are museums, art centres and monuments, exhibition centres, art galleries and antique shops, cultural activities and events, parks and gardens and plenty of food and drink.
In Madrid, there is a street known as the “Avenue of Art.” Those with an eye for luxury can enjoy the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Centro de Arte Reina Sofia Museums. With these three places of art, you will be exposed to the best in the world.
The Prado Museum has the finest collection of Spanish paintings. There are masterpieces by El Greco, Valazquez and Goya. You may already be one of the select few who has some these magnificent pieces gracing your walls at home or in your office.
What you will not find in The Prado, you will find in The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Unlike the Prado, with its single masterpiece of the period, Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, the Thyssen-Bornemisza showcases Italian Primitives. There are also superb examples of German Renaissance and Dutch 17th century paintings (of which the Prado only has a few). There are also 19th-century American works of art, virtually non-existent anywhere else in Spain. From the first stirrings of modern art, as Impressionism, up through the harsher years of German Expressionism and Russian Constructivism, to experiments with Geometric Abstraction and the tongue-in-cheek irreverence of Pop Art…all are represented in this wide-ranging retrospective that is the Thyssen Collection.
Leaving the other two galleries behind, your last call will bring you to one of the most famous and in its time controversial masterpieces of this century, Picasso’s Guernica, now hanging in the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The permanent collection here is primarily made up of Spanish painting and sculpture: Picasso, Gris, Miro, Dali, Chillida, and Tapies, along with newer contemporaries.
On the “Avenue of Art,” you will be dazzled by all the beauty great minds like yours have had to offer.
After the shopping, the gallery-hopping, the times at the beach and the nightlife, you will need to replenish and refresh the body with Spanish Catalan cuisine.
Food & Drink
Catalan cuisine defies summarizing with a few typical dishes. Dishes with deep-rooted country origins from the humble escudella to the rich and varied seafood cuisine, from grilled fish to excellent suquet de peix can be sampled in Barcelona. There are also many different ways to prepare codfish, an ample repertoire of fowl and game, including rabbit with snails, Catalan-style partridge or boar, and numerous specialties from Ampurdan region, such as duck with pears, chick with shrimp or lobster, etc. Finally, I must not forget dishes using duck and goose as their main ingredient, as well as snails and mushrooms.
Desserts are also varied and are not limited to the most typical ones, such as crema catalana (custard with a caramel topping and mel I matao (cottage cheese and honey).
Catalunya is a land of good wines, particularly the wines from Penedes, Costers del Sergre, Alella and Peralada. Penedes is the region par excellence of the sparkling wine called cava. This all makes for decadent and delightful meals.
There is so much to do that you will find that seven days is not enough and 10 days is just about right. If you would like to fit in Portugal in your trip, which is a short jump away, plan to stay longer.
I left Spain with the feeling that if there was anywhere in the world I would like to live other than where I’m living now, I would choose Spain. You probably will fall in love with it, too.