Sunday, July 15, 2012

Viva España

I may have physically returned to South Africa, but I left my heart and mind in Spain. Never before have I felt more 'at home' in a country and moreover, a city like Madrid. The Spanish way of life and joie de vivre is intoxicating - with all the sidewalk cafés, old-fashioned buildings with modern-sided façades, tree-lined streets, Chocolaté and Churros, languid 10pm sunsets and dinners that last through the night, impeccably dressed city dwellers and a Zara (literally) on every corner, what's not to love? It's a place that I could never tire of, there is so much to see and experience and Spain's eminent character and intrinsic sense of hospitality made my stay there even more memorable. These are some of the cities and sights I was lucky to visit while there last month.

The Plaza Mayor in Madrid is a popular city square where locals and tourists come to experience the contemporary culture that this engaging city has to offer. I sampled tapas for the very first time at one of the authentic Spanish bistros here. An eclectic array of artists, painters, dancers, buskers and street performers make their living in and around this 16th century 'rectangular' plaza. 

We took a coastal drive down the spectacular Costa del Sol, where the sun kissed beaches and turquoise waters make it the perfect playground for holiday makers. We spent a night in the luxurious resort town of Marbella, which is a favourite suntanning spot of the rich and famous.

The enchanting town of Avila, a sanctuary built inside Romanesque medieval walls, it is known for their very many Renaissance Palaces and churches, as well as an assortment of sweet treats made by the local nuns, with marzipan being at the top of the dessert pile.

One of the most spirited and energetic cities I visited was Salamanca. It's a charming fusion of young student culture, ancient architecture, foreign photo-happy tourists, Castilian heritage, serene landscapes and a leisurely atmosphere. Salamanca also houses the oldest university in Spain, imagine soaking up your education amidst these beautiful historic surroundings.

A view of the La Giralda, a minaret-turned-bell-tower that forms part of the remarkable Cathedral of Seville. This Roman Catholic cathedral happens to be the third largest church in the world, built upon 23 500 square meters of Sevillian soil. It flaunts magnificent Gothic architecture and vivid stained-glass art from the 15th century.

1. We booked a night out at a vintage theatre, where I was entranced by the incredibly talented, rhythmically stamping, castanet-clicking Flamenco dancers.

2. The striking black and red fringed Flamenco costumes on sale on the sidewalks of Seville.

3. A shady courtyard in the centre of Seville.

4. The Cervantes Monument and bronzed statue of Don Quixote in Plaza de España, Madrid.

5. You can't leave Spain until you've had Paella. I am now hooked.

6. The statue of famous matador Curro Romero outside the Plaza de Toros in Seville.

The picturebook town of Toledo, it's narrow winding streets and diverse archaic buildings tells a tale of three different religions and cultures that all resided harmoniously within ancient city walls during the 13th century. The town is connected by the Middle Ages-built Alcantara bridge that crosses over the tranquil river Tagus.

*All photographs by me.


Post a Comment