When asked what place I’d like to revisit, Spain is one of the first locals to come to mind. A comfortable ease exists as the underlying day-to-day life force. The people are welcoming in a reserved, classy way, but are passionate about living life to the fullest. Nothing is done half heartedly.
When walking through the streets of Madrid, a clean inviting city, the people take pride in the way they dress, from the young professional to the elderly couple out for a stroll through one of the many tree-lined streets teaming with unique boutique stores showcasing some of the worlds best clothes, shoes and bags. A very historical culture with a modern flare.
The historical architecture and landmarks and the tradition of strong royal bloodlines that still have a pseudo reign today, make Madrid a must stop on any European itinerary. In 1877 a semi-circular colored stone slab was installed in the center of Madrid, denoting this as the very center of Spain. All distances to other cities are measured from this point. The Madrid Royal Palace has a lot of onlookers hoping for a view of the royal family and King Juan Carlos, but they live in a Palace on the outskirts of Madrid, and the city Palace is only used for ceremonial purposes.
To experience the full onslaught of what Spain has to offer, I suggest a trip to Seville. And if you can, time your visit during their largest annual festival, the April Fair. Be prepared to eat, drink and learn the flamenco, but pace yourself because this party goes on for a week. It is staged on fairgrounds that cover a 12 square block radius and houses over 1,000 canvas tents, that are all corporate run or privately owned. So if you don’t know someone who owns one of the tents, you are probably out of luck. We were lucky enough to have a “connection” and we arrived at the festival in ornately decorated horse-drawn carriages. We were quickly enthralled by the locals, of all ages, dressed up in traditional festival outfits. It is quite the colorful affair.
Being I wasn’t a seasoned veteran of the fair, one day was enough for me, but being the late night owl I am, I did quickly take to the Spanish style of living. Waking at will and easing into the day. Take a nice leisurely walk through some of the historical district of Seville and visit some of very ornate architectural structures. Most of the city takes a three-hour siesta break in the late afternoon, and that’s when I became obsessed to three Spanish traditions. Our group would congregate in the hotel bar – where we were served the biggest, most naturally flavorful and perfectly ripe green Spanish olives; a side plate of thinly sliced, dry, lightly salty serrano ham; and washed down with my new favorite liqueur – Patxaran, a sloe flavored digestif.
After a short rest in our rooms it was off to dinner no earlier than 9:00 pm, and often not until 10:00 or even 11:00 pm. And these were no leisurely dinners. The Rioja wines flowed freely, which became another favorite, as they are usually sulfate free and I never woke up with a headache after drinking these wines. Each meal was a gastro experience of the best kind – fresh fish, tender beef cuts, red sauced pastas and more of those great olives and serrano ham.
And of course, one cannot come to Spain and not somehow be introduced to their countries long-standing tradition of bull fighting. My husband actually took in a bullfight, that he described as being something amazing to see once, but not something he needs to see again. Apparently, the blood and gore is overwhelming, but the strategy of the bullfighters was impressive to watch. I was content to get my picture taken the with prized bullfighters that just so happened to be staying in our hotel.
Check out the Global Gallery for a few more pictures showcasing Madrid and Seville, Spain.