Why Visit Spain
I can give you a thousand and one reasons to visit Spain but I'm sure you have your own. My husband and I are right now spending the winter in Barcelona after visiting the parts of Spain we have not covered in our previous visits.
The last time we were here in Spain, we visited the Extremadura region and the South including Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Algeciras. This time, we chose Barcelona, Tarragona, Zaragoza, Madrid, and Toledo. What we saw in these places intrigued us so we started digging into Spain's history and the more we knew the country, the more fascinated we were.
So, I will share why I think it is really a must to include Spain in your European trip. The topmost for me is history. However, it is not just history but how history shaped a culture that is interesting and unlike any other in Europe.
The Romans had it right. Of course, long before the Romans, there were Spanish tribes thinly spread over the real estate and individually they kept attacking the Romans and getting flattened.
The Romans saw two things very quickly. Spain could grow the grain and the olives and the grapes that Rome needed to survive. It was an agricultural wonder.
Secondly, when you beat a tribe, it moved elsewhere and left a mass of empty land so the Romans settled in and built beautiful towns, ports and outposts most of which are still standing upright and its ruins attracting tourists.
Almost immediately after the start of Islam, assorted Middle Eastern and North African tribes invaded Spain and, as the Romans had by then really almost disappeared as a power, quickly occupied everything in the South and good parts in the North.
They added to Roman legacy with beautiful buildings, an awareness of architecture and a tolerant culture which seems to be unmatched in the modern world. The Moorish sites are stunning and gives Spain one of the best one, two punches in architectural history.
Spain used to be divided into kingdoms with Castille and Aragon as the largest. With the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, the two kingdoms merged but the people kept to their own culture. Navarre as an example was largely influenced by the French.
Then, came the Reconquista with the Christians throwing out the Moors and the Jews and replacing them with the heavy churches, convents and basilicas which squat on the top of almost every hill.
But all these early influences gave Spain all kinds of cultural traits differentiating one region from another. Such diversity is what made Spain more so interesting to visitors.
So, in Spain, you have a scattering of almost everything. including great weather and amazing beaches. It's all accessible, reasonably affordable and, for those who don't like the beach crowd, as long as you don't go near the east coast of Valencia and the south coast you can avoid the touristic unpleasantness of those who just want to have a fun break from work.
We are spending winter in Barcelona but the sun shines almost everyday that winter seems so far away.
3. Fantastic Food
With food, there are many Michelin starred restaurants in Spain. It is no surprise because close to the beach, the fishing villages are busy bringing to the market some of the fresh fish and seafood you have ever tried. Mixed with rice and spices, you have the famous paella that you must indeed try when you're in Spain.
The ham stands out with names like Iberico, Bellota and Serrano, the chorizo, and Spanish vegetables are genius. Furthermore, Spain has an abundance of "panaderias" and "pastelerias" turning out whatever bread you fancy, cakes and cookies that will delight your sweetest desires.
Spain is a place of culture. Museums are fabulous. The Goya, the Prado and the new Frank Gehry creation in Bilbao are tops in the world.
The architecture is amazing. Just go around Barcelona and you'll find the imagination gone wild of Gaudi and Montaner and words like the Mudejar style which blends the European and Moorish influences.
Of course, there are many Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque architecture to which Spanish architects add their own unique style.
Architecture is not just the attraction. There are the fiestas full of colour and extraordinarily unique expressions that border on bizarre for some people but interesting and memorable.
But beyond the museums and architecture and even the fiestas, Spain having been a major colonial power in the past now displays in its people, in its food and in its fashion so much of the various cultures it has colonized.
Whether you come from Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, you feel very much at home in this European country. Even with in Spain, there are varied cultures such as the Andalusian, the Aragonese, the Catalan, the Basque and the others; all distinctly different.
It was a surprise to see in the picture below this huge banner in front of one of its national buildings.
Spain's geographic diversity also offers magic to travellers: the mountains with snow when we drove from Madrid to Porto, the beaches which you still can enjoy even in November, the rich agricultural land, the orchards and vineyards. Each one of these offers a wonderful vista when you drive to different places in the country.
Unique in its natural simplicity are the small villages in the Pyrenees with their ancient Romanesque churches.
Transport is easy and parking, as long as you're willing to pay, is available close to most of the attractions. We have driven from Barcelona to Zaragoza, Madrid, Toledo, Avila and back and have had no problem with parking.
The country is safe through having the smallest police car that can pop up anywhere featuring the largest and loudest klaxon-siren in the known world. Criminals give up immediately pleading with the police to turn off the noise.
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