Spain is a country of indulgence, romance, passion, and legendary architecture. We saw it’s many faces through the eyes of a much recommended Trafalgar Tour, so many of the notable restaurants and experiences we shared were tied to it. However, we do have a few tips we’d love to share about cuisines, drinks and certain places we stumbled upon on our own, that would be worth seeking out if you find yourself in this beautiful country.
- Piononos. These are small but decedent pies. Also known as pope cakes.
- Figs filled with brandy, covered in chocolate
- Churros & chocolate
- Jamon: Cured ham
- Pallela: Rice with seafood. Also try the version with chicken
- Sea bass cut from sea salt
- Fried eggplant drizzled in honey
- Steamed spinach with chick peas
- Goat cheese from Sevilla, drizzled with local honey
- Pincho/Pintxo Tapas: Individual bite sized tapas, held together by a skewer a bit larger than a toothpick
- Sangria or “summer wine”. True Spanish sangria is the leftover wine with whatever the family has around the house (I.e. Leftover liquor and juice, etc.). “Summer wine” which is a common favorite as well, is simply red wine with orange Fanta/soda.
Flamenco dancing accompanied by the music from the Spanish guitar.
Must know – Interesting facts
- Spain’s wildly popular jamon (thinly sliced cured pork), is the result of pigs beginning with a diet of hummus early in life. They then move on to incorporate acorns into their diet, at which point the pigs double in size. They are then taken away, and once the meat is butchered, the legs are taken and covered in high quality sea salt. Once the salt is removed, the legs are hung in open air warehouses, which is when the curing process begins. It can take up to 30 months in which “sweating” causes the marbling process, where the salt pushes the fat out of the ham. Jabugo and Salamanca are the two ham capitals in Spain.
- Iberico Jamon de Bellota is the best type of jamon in the world. Iberico jamon not from the Bellota region, may not be acorn fed, and therefore, not the best.
- Jamon Serrano is the less expensive ham that doesn’t cure as long.
- The most expensive, and best jamon, is the meat from the hind legs.
- Pig cheeks are a delicacy as well as the rear of the pig. The other parts of the pig are used for sausages, chorizo, salami etc.
About Olive oil
- Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world.
- Extra virgin olive oil is olive oil that is perfect. E.V.O.O = extra virgin olive oil.
- All olives start out green, and turn black (there isn’t a variety that starts out black).
- The prime season to pick olives is September – October, when the olives are still green and will produce the highest quality olive oil.
- Black olives, turning black by November, produce more olive oil per pound, but do not produce the high quality olive oil.
- After you pick the olives, it’s optimal to get the olives pressed within 3 hours of picking to get the highest quality olive oil.
- There is no such thing as “extra extra” virgin olive oil.
- Olives are actually a spicy fruit, so if you have a truly extra virgin olive oil, you’ll get a spicy punch in the back of your throat after you eat it.
Must Experience – City Specific (city specific)
- There were two architecture booms in Seville; the first in 1929 and the second in 1992. The boom in 1929 was the result of the world fair, and a number of pavilions were constructed, as microcosms to the countries they represented. The other boom coincided with the 1992 Olympic Games held in Barcelona. More about both booms can be found here.
- Lose yourself in a walking tour of Seville, as you soak in the beautiful city and learn more about the architecture and history of Seville.
You’ll also find the setting for Game of Thrones’ Dorne, in Seville.
- Visit an olive grove. Do an olive oil tasting or splurge for a dinner on the grounds. It’s a beautiful experience.
- Take a stroll down Blai Street for the best pinchos/pintxos in town. You won’t be disappointed with any place you choose, but Blai 9 was quite possibly our favorite.
Do a free walking tour through Free Walking Tours Barcelona. The Guadi and Gothic tours are extremely captivating, informative, and educational.
- Soak in everything Anthony Gaudi as you roam about the city.
- Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Church. Do the audio tour – it’s worth it. Both the exterior facade and interior design communicate a series of stories from the bible, and themes derived from nature, that you would likely miss otherwise.
- Gaudi’s Park Guell. Optionally, you can purchase tickets in advance to enter the various sites along the way, but the park is free to enjoy at your leisure. Many of Gaudi’s exteriors can be easily seen as you wind through the park.
Interesting Gaudi facts
- At the time, in order to graduate from the school of architecture, all professors needed to pass the student. One of Gaudi’s professors failed him, but voted to let him graduate anyway- with the failing professor claiming he would either be a genius or madman. Throughout his life, he was considered both at different times, but remains one of the greatest architects of all time.
- Gaudi died by getting hit by a trolly. He looked like a homeless man when he was hit so was therefore brought to the poor hospital. After two days, people began to realize who he was, but by that point, he wouldn’t leave the poor hospital. He died saying that he now realized how the poor of his city were treated, and was one of them.
- Gaudi used nature in his designs
- Gaudi also tried to communicate religion in its purest form to the people through his architecture, as the church at the time was corrupted by the rich.
Interesting Barcelona Facts
- Barcelona was once the kingdom of Catalonia. It was entirely enclosed by stone walls, but eventually expanded to give the people more space to live (up until the period of the extension, the average life expectancy for the poor was 23 years old; for the rich, 32). The new city layout was the result of the winner from a contest held for architects to enter their own blueprints. The winning layout had wide main streets that are said to have enabled the army of Madrid to come and take the city over if need be.
- Within the Gothic Quarter, you’ll find what’s known as “chocolate lane”, where you’ll find everything from sipping chocolate to dipping chocolate. The church at the end of this lane had to ban patrons from eating chocolate while at mass, as many were bringing it in with them, and it became too much of a distraction.
- History of the flag. The conquerers of Catalonia originally didn’t have a flag which, at the time, was a problem. To solve this, the head of the army swiped his hand in blood shed during battle, and wiped it on a gold shield to create the gold and red stripes that you see represented in Barcelona’s flag today.
- The new flag for Catalonian independence has the same blue triangle + star as seen in the flag of Cuba. Cuba is the last colony Spain lost.
Catalan churches were built wider so more people could be closer to the front.