October 26th, 2011
Today I wanted to write down in words (or type them!) some of my favourite things about Spain. I started to think about what attracted me to Spain when I moved here nine years ago and what I have grown to love over the years. The items on my list have changed somewhat, but some ‘magnets’ never change: sun, seafood and Spanish hospitality, to name just three.
OK so I live in Marbella in Andalusia, and it’s said that the sun shines nearly 365 days a year. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but I do love that pretty much every year for the past nine years the sun has shone on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It might be raining for a week beforehand; but come the day, the sun shines true! There is absolutely nothing like waking up to a new year with the sun shining and the opportunity to get outside for a walk on the beach, or in the country, and blow away the cobwebs of the old year and bring in the new with some sunny, fresh, clean air. So Number One Favourite Thing – My life in the sunshine.
Having said that, all along the coastal region of Andalusia, you are never more than a couple of hours away from the stunning, natural countryside of Las Alpujarras and the Sierra Nevada, and yes snow. The diversity of the scenery and landscape, not just in Andalusia, but throughout mainland Spain and the islands is incredible. From sun drenched beaches, to arid deserts, to snowy mountains, or a stunning sierra filled with sunflowers. The pure harmony of its natural landscapes is divine to behold. The best way to enjoy Spain’s wonderful scenery is by train. The fast AVE train (RENFE) is comfortable and offers a smooth ride to many destinations throughout Spain, including: Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Seville, Zaragoza, Malaga and Bilbao. It’s not cheap, but it’s a much greener way of getting around Spain, and it’s a fabulous way to relax and take in the spectacular scenery of the country. So Number Two Favourite Thing – the beautiful scenery of Spain.
I like seafood very much and if, like me, you like seafood, then you will love Spain. The Spanish have a love affair with seafood and it has rubbed off on me. When I crave fresh fish and seafood, I don’t have to travel far to satisfy my craving. Almejas (Clams), Mejillones (Mussels), Calamares (squid), Cigalas (Crayfish) and Boquerones Fritos (Fried Anchovies); depending on where you visit in Spain you will find that there is a speciality seafood or fish dish. Visit Galicia for Mariscos (shellfish). Their seafood stews, or Pulpo Feira (Galician Octopus) are essential dishes in Galician cuisine and mouth wateringly wonderful to savour. Head to El Puerto de Santa Maria just across the bay from the city of Cadiz, for some of the finest fish and seafood in Spain. Search out the Romerijo restaurant, where you can buy the fish you want to eat in their shop and then they will cook it up for you. A stupendous experience! So Number Three Favourite Thing – the seafood scene in Spain.
Ok with the three favourite ‘S’ words out of the way, I will move on to a very large ‘W’ favourite.. ‘Wine’.
Spain has a long history of producing excellent wine, particularly red. In fact over 50% of all the EECs vineyards can be found in Spain.
When most people think about choosing a Spanish wine, they think Rioja. However, there is a lot more to Spanish wine than Rioja. Whatever your tipple you will find a wine to suit your taste. Spain has an excellent selection of White and Rosé wines too, my favourites. The best thing about them is always the price, they don’t cost a bomb, like in the UK. I can buy a palatable wine from the supermarket for 1.79 EUR. Don’t laugh, it’s true! The supermarket chain Mercadona sells an exclusive wine called Comportillo. It comes in Red, White and Pink, and because it is made exclusively for them, they have been able to offer it at this ‘bargain’ price. And it’s not bloody bad for a Friday night wind down.
If I really want to go out on a limb and impress my dinner guests, then I would opt for a good Protus red, a white from the Rias Baixas from Galicia, the delicate and floral taste of the Albariño Pazo San Maura is delicious and not highly alcoholic. For a Rosé I would choose a Tempranillo Rosado, the Condesa de Leganza is a good choice, with its red berry notes of strawberries and raspberries. It’s a perfect accompaniment to a summer’s day.
The best thing about them all, aside from the Protus, they are inexpensive. So my absolute Number Four Favourite Thing – Spanish wine, yum, yum…
One of the things that most amazed me when I first arrived in Spain was how complete strangers passed you in the street and said “Buenos Dias”, or “Hasta Luego”. “Sorry do I know you”, accompanied with a glare, would normally be the answer in my busy rushing around mode in London. But here, it really is quite normal to ‘saludar’ (salut) someone in passing that you have never met before. So Spanish hospitality and friendlessness has to be included in my list about ‘Why I Love’ Spain.
My partner is Spanish and has a big family, most do. Stick your toe over the doorstep of the house of a friend or family member and don’t expect to leave without eating and drinking all they have to offer, even if you have just eaten. During my first visits, I used to fervently plea that I wasn’t hungry and didn’t want anything. But now I just go with the flow. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s rude not to, literally. It’s their way of saying, “hey, you’re part of our family, we welcome you”. Who am I to say no. So my Number Five Favourite Thing – The warm welcome and hospitality of the Spanish.
All things Spanish!
There are so many other reasons as to, ‘Why I love Spain’: the way I can sit in a bar or restaurant on my own and not feel silly, the Moorish/African roots of Andalusia, the fact that I can be in Africa in 45 minutes! The pride and beauty of Catalonia and the pure passion and fire that Spaniards have in their heart for all things Spanish; flamenco music and dance, oh and definitely Pintxos from Pais Vasco (Basque Country). There are just too many great things to list them all here. But I hope if I share some with you, you will also ‘Love Spain’ a little bit more. Why don’t you write and tell me what you most love about Spain?