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I’m never quite sure whether it’s appropriate to write love letters to a country. But that’s what I’m going to do today with Spain.
Spain, you see, was my ugly duckling turned swan. My fresh-out-of-the-lake Mr Darcy after a mish-mash of pride and prejudice.
My Rudolph to my normal-nosed reindeer…er, wait…well, I think you get the idea.
I’ve written before about how so many people in the UK have the wrong idea about Spain. And I was one of those people.
Sun, sea, er, sangria and skyrise. Barely a mention of culture, cooking and ever so many incredibly cool things to do.
But then I went there. And lived there. And travelled there. And that’s what I continue to do.
Even as recently as last year, Spain surprised me. Galicia with its barnacle claws, Castilla La Mancha with its boardwalks and rich birdlife.
So, when I heard about a project underway to celebrate all the beautiful things there are to do in Spain, I was hooked.
In the “literary quarter” in Madrid, poetry spills across the streets in flattened golden letters. Bodegas serve cerveza, complete with bitter green olives, and nuns still keep their silence behind the red brick walls of nunneries that are centuries old.
Madrid is no run of the mill capital, that’s for sure. But my favourite time comes when the fierce sun disappears from the sky and the city lights blaze bright instead.
The world has many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But few are as beautiful as the Alhambra, set amidst the snowy mountains of the Sierra Nevada yet in the full blaze of the sun. Even the story behind the grandeur is enough to raise an eyebrow or two.
Spain is home to plenty of dishes that have travelled the world. Paella, for example. Gazpacho anyone? But nothing beats an authentic churros y chocolate, made all the better when crunched on a cold spring day.
Away from the cities, cars zip through the rugged Picos de Europa, while hikers stride past in Gore-Tex and bloggers update their Facebook accounts like there’s no tomorrow.
Yet Enrique Remi Fernandes, a 56 year old shepherd, strives to maintain a dying tradition.
Andalucia brims with timeless “Spanish” classics, from flamenco to harvesting olives to bullfights and the former Inquisition in Triana. But the modern can be found, too, as with this rippling futuristic sight in the heart of Europe’s hottest city: Seville.
Tapas may be tasty the length and breadth of the country but it’s in San Sebastian that the concept comes in to its own. Except in the Basque Country, it’s not called tapas: it’s pintxos.
Make the most of of the wild cliffs and great blue skies in Menorca by sipping its signature drink: the surprising story of gin in Menorca.
Back in the time when men wore tights and puffy-ruffled adornments around their neck, the world of literature exploded.
In England, Shakespeare’s plays strutted across the Globe. In Spain, Miguel Cervantes published the world’s first novel.
It’s not every day that a quiet walk through hot narrow streets leaves you tumbling into your own Alice in Wonderland world. But that’s what happens at the annual papier mache festival that is the Festival de Gracia.
Standing beneath the swirls of the Oscar Niemeyer Centre in Avilés, the world seems to fall away. And that’s just the beginning of this intriguing modern complex.
Disclosure – I love Spain well and have visited many times. However, this post was brought to you as a result of the #SpaininMYHeart campaign, created and managed by iAmbassador in partnership with the Spanish Tourist Board. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what is the point?