Spain is the land of cured meats and coffees, of siesta and sunshine, of warm people and ancient well-worn architecture. Here are a few of the highlights to look forward to (disclaimer: they mostly revolve around food!)
- Café con leche culture
It seems crazy to me now, but before I went to Spain I didn’t drink coffee much. I’ve always been more of a tea person. Well, I soon found out that the Spanish don’t really do tea (the way South Africans do tea), so I quickly had to start drinking the national drink: café con leche. Luckily, it is absolutely delicious, so I really didn’t mind. Café con leche is typically served any time from breakfast throughout the day, in a short glass. It’s a double shot of espresso, topped up with hot milk, and occasionally a little foam. It should be eaten with a pastry of some kind: croissant, sponge cake, what we call pig’s ears, or a delicate baked marvel. What I love about café con leche is not only the coffee (which is superb) but the culture of it: Spanish people sit down and drink coffee, slowly, a few times a day. We could do with more of that.
- Beautiful bocadillos
Oh, the wonders of the jamon and queso bocadillo! A bocadillo is basically half a loaf of a baguette, filled with the most divine cured ham and cheese. Oh, the cheese! Often fresh (i.e. soft and semi-cured), always creamy, this is cheese like you’ve never tasted it before. You can also have chorizo bocadillos (yum!) or really any kind of cured pork – they have a wide range.
- Siesta time
Although it can be frustrating if you’ve timed your day wrong and you arrive somewhere just as the three-hour siesta begins, I love how laidback Spaniards are. They start the day late, take a three-hour break in the afternoon for a lazy lunch and a nap, and all the shops are closed on Sundays – even in big cities! They’ve taken work-life balance to a whole new level, and I admire them for it. As long as I don’t have to do business there…
- Generosity of spirit
Many countries have warm people, but our experience of Spanish people really showed us an amazing generosity of spirit. This could have been because we were pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, it is true. But the response from strangers was really quite wonderful – they welcomed us in, and helped us as much as they could, and didn’t mind us speaking dreadful pigeon Spanish!
- The astounding natural beauty
It’s not just the beauty of Barcelona and the beaches – this is a country rich with natural beauty: mountains, rivers, fields and views that will take your breath away.