Discovering the Culture and Cuisine of Spain
Spain is one of the most under-explored, under-recognized countries for Americans. I love it because there is so much amazing architecture, history and culture and it is so much fun and so easy for travelers to eat and drink like a Spaniard. Just find a tapas bar and you can strike up a conversation with locals, and in some places, even catch a Flamenco show.
It’s a country I keep going back to, and I have spent months at a time exploring it.
Among my favorite “discoveries” is Segovia, a little town with an incredible Roman aqueduct, a grand cathedral and a castle to tour. But my favorite reason to visit is a unique dish the city is known for, “cochinillo asado” or suckling pig. The chef, with his traditional chef’s garb, carries the dish out of the kitchen and cuts a slice for each person who ordered it. It seems like a show, although it is simply the traditional manner of serving.
Toledo is a charming town where you walk through an archway into the medieval walled city and the artwork and architecture are awe-inspiring. Seville has a whole different feel, thanks to the Moorish influence. And for full immersion in the Moorish influence and history, I love the Alhambra in Grenada.
For grand museums, a real palace that is still in use and open for tours, and all the excitement of a big European capital, Madrid can’t be beat. Whenever I can, I get there for Easter week, when each church seems to have its procession through the streets. One night, I was awakened at midnight by a marching band that was leading a procession and ran out to take photos!
A great place to end up is Barcelona. Like Madrid, it has great non-stop flights to the U.S., and it’s got a character all its own, thanks in part to the influence of its famed architect, Antoni Gaudi. Not to be missed is his famous and most impressive work, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, but his other works around town are also interesting.
While Spain offers all the luxury and rich history of its European sisters to the north, everything is relatively inexpensive there, from food and drinks to hotels. Best of all, there are so many authentic places and traditions to enjoy and discover. One visit is never enough!
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