Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Top Ten Reasons to Fall in Love with Spain

For some reason, Mickey assumed that Spain and Barcelona were part of the third world until the ’92 Olympic Games. So when we spent last week there he was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the airport, the metro and even the bidets. Of course, it’s no Switzerland (parents allowed their children to pee on the streets), but it was wonderful in its own Mediterranian way. I could describe each day in detail, but I’d rather list the Spanish specialties that make me want to return. This post is dedicated to Dawn who inspired in me a late-night love for top ten lists.

1. La Boqueria – Our guidebook described this outdoor food market as one of the most spectacular in Europe. Incredibly, La Boqueria surpassed our expectations. The endless displays of perfectly stacked fresh fruit and fruit juices were so enticing that we came back the next day for more. A clever merchant gave us a free sample of some highly addictive chocolate covered nuts. Of course, we had to buy half a kilo ‘for our friends,’ but I felt guilty. If we buy chocolates in Spain, are we cheating on our new home, Switzerland, the land of chocolate?

2. People watching – Maybe it’s just the anthropologist in me, but isn’t this the best part of travelling anywhere? One highlight was watching the white pants cult end an afternoon ritual with hugging in the Parc Ciutadella. I also enjoyed the fashions sported by Spanish women. Whereas I feel successful when I’ve put an outfit together with a shirt, pants and shoes, these gals can add a handbag, belt, coat and jewelry with ease.
3. Tapas – We’ve enjoyed the California take on tapas for years, but tasting the original was enlightening. Mickey could live on Spanish olives.
4. Scott’s Hotel – An enormous mobile technology conference made staying in Barcelona too expensive, so we caught a flight to the island of Mallorca and bided our time at Scott’s Hotel. Scott’s is a charming B&B with seventeen unique rooms, a helpful staff, a picturesque courtyard and the best buffet breakfast on the island. The chef will make your eggs any style you like them even if you like them over medium (which he had never heard of before, but I described them and they came out perfect).
5. CavaCava is Spanish champagne. We brought four bottles home. Need I say more?

6. The Caves – The caves at Arta (not to be confused with cava) make you feel like you’re in a Nancy Drew mystery. They’re wet, dark, deep and totally cool if you are a fourth grade boy or anyone else. The guided tour failed to answer any of my questions about the geological formation and history of the cave, but featured a musical light show resembling something I saw during the holiday season at the zoo in Toledo, Ohio.

7. Paella – There is no paella in this picture; it’s another picture of La Boqueria, but it was too cute to leave out. We ate paella twice during our week in Spain at what our guidebook hails as two of the best restaurants for this most famous Spanish seafood dish. Unlike the paella in the states which features shellfish and meat, the paella in Barcelona included only seafood. Perhaps this is the more authentic way, but I think a little chorizo makes everything tastier. Nonetheless, the paella was delicious.

8. Modernisme Art and Architecture – I know next to nothing about art and architecture and even I could tell that Gaudi’s work is one of a kind. The unusual curves on the buildings and extraordinary use of color give Barcelona its distinct character. We bought a small ceramic gecko, a miniature of Gaudi’s gecko with multicolored mosaic tiles in the Parc Guell, to hang on our Christmas tree and remember this trip.

1. 9. Chocolate de la Taza – I’ve heard it called European or Mexican hot chocolate in the states. It tastes like a melted, high-quality chocolate bar mixed with rich creamy goodness and the result is thicker than chocolate fondue. In Spain, it is eaten with churros and a spoon. We ordered chocolate de la taza twice on our trip and were treated to the real thing first and a sorry powdered imitation the second time around.

10. Warning Signs – I don’t know if warning signs can really make one fall in love with a country, but it’s good for a laugh when you’ve been on your feet too long. We found this sign next to a large fountain in the Parc Ciutadella. It was clear that swimming wasn’t permitted, but if you do, will lightning strike your crotch?


Nutmeg said...

Wow Laney, looks amazing! My friend from school is coming over here in May....I've been debating about where to go (other than Greece, we've decided ont at for sure), and I think your entry just sealed the deal. Barcelona it is! I was in Istanbul over the weekend-- my pics are up on my blog, you shoudl check them out and definitely try and make it to Istanbul!

And about kids peeing on the street...the parents of mine let them. But I guess the Swiss-French are pretty much considered barbarians next to Swiss-Germans.

Hope all is well!

Fabiola said...

BARCELONA is my place. I think it is the best city to live in Spain. I lived in Barcelona for 3 wonderful years and I can't never forget that experience. Barcelona is art, music, culture, architecture, mountains, beach, fashion, flowers, sports, old and new, cafes, food, palm trees, catalán. I MISS Barcelona!!! Every time I go to Barcelona i realize how much i miss it! In summer, I love going to the beach late afternoon and lay there forever. Fall is for Laberinto de Horta (Horta Laberinth)plants and flowers in a mystic environment. In winter, a hot tea or coffee in El café de la Opera(in las Ramblas)always crowded. Summer is too hot for me, admire colorful Gaudi buildings like Casa Batlló with the sun happily shining!