The clicking of castanets, the passionate whirl of the flamenco dancer; raven-haired beauties and dark-eyed Spaniards; rivers of people partying into the wee hours … Spain has a beat all its own.
Even the names of its historic cities have a lyrical ring – Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Girona, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Granada… They all throw up images of a storied past – both romantic and tragic, brimming with a lust for power; of brave kings and queens who have left behind magnificent monuments with indelible memories of power struggles, treachery, betrayal and even undying loyalty.
Want to witness a bullfight, more a pageant than a bloodthirsty ritual? Or perhaps take part in a local fiesta or go tapas hopping, tasting the bite-sized snacks at local bars? Attend a lively over-the-top beach party in Malaga; gawk at the ethereal masterpieces of Gaudi in Barcelona and the Alhambra in Granada, the legacy of a Moorish king; walk along the 800-metre aqueduct in Segovia; explore the zany Dali museum in Figueres and caress the pillars of the Grand Mosque in Cordoba; gaze at the twisted tortured paintings of El Greco in Toledo; dance in Seville or Granada, the home of flamenco or go clubbing in the party capital of Ibiza…
The Spaniard’s love of the good life is infectious and you will find yourself letting your hair down as you explore this multi-faceted country… Noisy, happy, convivial, the Spainish welcome is warm and even a tourist is sucked into the heart of this vibrant country in perpetual celebratory mode! Indeed fiestas in Spain come king-size with fireworks, giants, devils, bonfires, running bulls and sheer mayhem stirred with dollops of fun.
For some tranquillity and peace, away from Spain’s hyperkinetic cities and people, escape to the wild landscape of the Sierra Nevada which has some marvellous hikes and treks. The country’s long coastline offers opportunities to go whale watching, fishing and dolphin-spotting.
Take a break in a remote hillside village, down some paella and local wine with friendly villagers; revel in Spain’s rich cuisine – a seafood paella, chorizo sausage, potato omelette, a tangy gazpacho soup, an intensely flavoured ratatouille or vegetable stew; octopus macerated with paprika and drizzled with olive oil and rock salt … the Spaniards love to eat and meals are leisurely and long drawn out and generally savoured with family and friends.
If you really want to feel the pulse of this amazing country, stay at a paradore – a chain of government-run hotels located in spectacular settings and ancient monuments like castles, monasteries, fortresses and convents. Many are anchored in medieval towns and villages and they also offer fine cuisine and old-world hospitality. A word of caution: some famous paradores like the one in Granada have a year-long waiting list!
At a paradore, you can celebrate a wedding anniversary, birthday or your honeymoon in ancient surrounds and feel the timeless heart beat of this vibrant country.