By Wendy Wood-Prince
Palma De Mallorca.
If you like to enjoy each day of your life, eat good food, spend time with friends and family and work to live, not live to work, then Spain is the place to be.
View out the window at the Principal Hotel in Madrid.
The aura of Spain is one of love. To experience Spain is to see first hand love of family, love of friends, love of food and the relishing of each day. The famous Spanish saying Barriga Ilena, corazon contento means “A full belly and a happy heart” and this epitomizes Spain.
The breakfast patio at the Principal Hotel overlooking the city of Madrid.
Food is the catalyst for the enjoyment of the day. After a few hours of work in the morning, Spaniards begin to gather in the many bars which are located throughout every neighborhood in Spain. Spain has the second most number of bars per inhabitant in the world. People meet, maybe watch a football match and socialize. Arguments break out when Real Madrid plays Barcelona and the conversation can get pretty lively. To call bars in Spain bars, is not really fair, they are the center of Spain’s lifeblood. These bars are where Tapas originated, the word Tapa literally means “lid”and it is thought that the original Tapa was just a piece of bread placed over the glass of a drink to keep flies out. Clearly, Tapas have evolved into a sophisticated art form. Plump green olives with spicy chili peppers, fresh shrimp topped with garlic served with juicy lemon wedges, fried potatoes with aioli or a red spicy tomato sauce for dipping, is all enjoyed on a daily basis.
The oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world is in Madrid. Botin Restaurant’s signature dish is suckling pig.
Alongside all of these earthly delights, Spain is chocked full of ancient traditions, historical art and architecture, including the actual 1515 painting by Hieronymous Bosch titled The Garden of Earthly Delights, housed in the Prado museum in Madrid. Spain is home to a whopping 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Too many to list, but a few worth mentioning. The Historic Center of Cordoba is a cornucopia of ancient architecture. The works of Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona including the perpetually under construction Sagrada Familia – due to be finished in 2026, 100 years after the death of Gaudi, who began his work on it in 1882. And when in Seville the truly amazing Cathedral, Alcazar, and Archivod de Indias which are full of gorgeous gardens and structures which are truly amazing to behold.
Cozy cocktails and tapas
Two of Spain’s more well-known traditions are La Tomatina and the Festival of San Fermin. Tomantina, is the annual tomato festival occurring on the last Wednesday in August in Valencia. Festival goers gather for the sole purpose of throwing 150,000 tomatoes at each other, for fun. The rules and tips for Tomantina include;
– Don’t wear flip flops, you can lose them in the tomato fight
– Goggles can be your best friend
– Don’t miss the palo-jambon. A soap covered pole with a Spanish prosciutto on the top. The person who climbs to the top and gets the prosciutto wins the prosciutto!
These and more tips and information about La Tomatina can be found at tomatina.es.
Great atmosphere at every corner of Cotton House in Barcelona.
Finally, another crazy and controversial annual festival is San Fermin. A week long festival held during July in Pamplona. Made famous in the book The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, it’s central activity is the running of the bulls. Over a million people come from the far corners of the earth to participate in this festival. Dangerous for the runners and bulls alike, the festival has been drawing bigger crowds alongside more dramatic protests in recent years.
Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.
Spain is a country that symbolizes good living and simple enjoyment. Free time, siestas, socializing and after meal walks make up the fabric of daily life in Spain. With 60 million visitors a year, Spain has a lot to teach the rest of us about life.
Get the Worldwide connection through Wendy at Lake Forest Travel Bureau’s lakeforesttravel.com.