Spain Uncovered

You could say I ended up where I am in life because of absinthe and Picasso.

My first ever trip overseas took me to an ancient port town in faraway Spain. I was in awe of the history, I was a glutton for the delicious food and I couldn’t believe the value I was getting for my meagre funds.

What a way to live the high life!

I remember stroking the bricks of Roman ruins in the Gothic Quarter…lying on Barceloneta beach reading about the anarchist revolutionaries and Spain’s civil war. In my youthful naivety I mistook the fire extinguishers in the Picasso museum as modern art (they were gold-plated).

A friend and I found a grotty old bar in the historic centre and watched as the barman poured our absinthe to the rim of the glass. Back then I didn’t know you had to tell them to stop.

I was hooked. The world was amazing…and Spain was by far the best place to enjoy it. I wanted to travel, to explore and to write about it…

That was a long time ago. Since then I’ve lost a lot of hair, learned to drink in moderation (kind of), and have spent more time in Spain than any other country on International Living’s beat.

I love that country. And in this survey we asked you to tell us what you thought of Spain. This morning, while reading through your answers, I felt a surge of excitement. In fact, I need to thank you. I’ve just booked tickets to return. In September I’ll fly to Malaga, rent a car and hit the road.

You said your favourite place was Barcelona…some mentioned the Pyrenees…Segovia with its Roman aqueduct…and the small towns hidden away in the hills of the Basque Country.

Most of you said that what attracts you most are the country’s architecture, castles, cathedrals and Moorish palaces. Others cited the warm climate, perfect for an Aussie in Europe. “The people are lovely and the language is easy to learn,” one of you wrote.

The relaxed lifestyle came up a lot. And someone else pointed out that while you don’t need to go to Spain for amazing beaches, within just 100 kilometres of Madrid you have medieval Toledo, the university town of Salamanca, Aranjuez and Avila…

Safety was mentioned by some solo travellers. All of them saying how safe they felt in Spain.

Were you surprised to learn that a couple can live well in Spain for $3,300 a month? Over 55% of you said nope…in fact many of you hailed the low cost of living in your responses saying Spain is without question a bargain.

As I get older I sometimes smile at the memories turning up unannounced in my head. Of my many travels I think I enjoy those of Spain most. Perhaps it’s because it enchants me. It’s a land of romance for me still…doe-eyed flamenco dancers, Moorish swordsmen and crazy artists…

Yesterday I thought of Fanlo in the Pyrenees and the hamlet from which lazy wood smoke climbed. Close by there I traipsed through the forests of Ordesa and can still hear the crunch of leaves underfoot…

I can taste the cheese aged in a cave in the Picos de Europa or close my eyes and see the vivid colours of the “Green Coast”; lush hillsides rolling down to turquoise and aquamarine seas.
What a contrast to the stark beauty and somber-stone villages of the Monegros where I saw women washing clothes in the river and donkeys carrying the loads.

The sacred hush in the gloom of Seville’s Cathedral, the joyful tinkle of fountains in the Alhambra…partridges in orange sauce…and of course the wine country…

Anyhow, I’m off to plan my Malaga adventure. Time to make some more memories!

Image: ©iStock.com/Gatsi

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