Monday, April 12, 2010

¡Viva España!

From world class art and architecture to a vibrant gastronomic scene, there's something for everyone in Spain. Had an absolutely lovely time with my travel companion, my wonderful aunt. We explored the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Granada and Seville. Essentially, we visited three different regions of Spain: Madrid, Cataluña and Andalusia. Hard to say which was my favorite, as each city has its own history, character and culture. For those who have visited Spain, perhaps you'll understand.

One of the things which I enjoyed most was listening to the Spanish accent and the different expressions Spaniards use. I can understand most of what they say, with the exception of certain words. Indeed, the Spanish language is very rich and diverse. The Spanish spoken in Spain and that spoken on the island has its major differences. For starters, we don't use "vosotros" when we want to say "you guys." Instead, we simply use "ustedes." Naturally, out of habit, I only used the latter. Spaniards are also known to say "vale," which basically means "o.k."

Puerto Rico became a Spanish colony soon after Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1493. It was in 1898 when the island was handed over to the U.S as a result of the Spanish-American war. Thus, Spain has had a major cultural influence on Puerto Rico. Some of the island's cities and towns, as well as streets and avenues, were named after those from Spain. Most of the island's historic landmarks, such as El Morro and Fort San Cristóbal in Old San Juan, were also built by the Spaniards. In fact, many Puerto Ricans can trace their family roots back to Spain.

Having been a former great superpower of the world, and a country with a fascinating history, Spain certainly has a very long list of interesting places to visit. Some of the major highlights of our trip to included: the Prado Museum in Madrid, La Pedrera, the Picasso Museum and Park Güell in Barcelona, the Alhambra in Granada, and the Alcázar and Cathedral of Seville. As for travel tips, I would strongly recommend getting tickets to the Alhambra in advance via their Website. Also, I would discourage the purchase of tickets for the English-guided tour in the Alhambra. I was extremely disappointed with it, since half of the tour took place outside of the Alhambra, and we couldn't go back once the tour was over.

As I look through the photos from our adventure in Spain, my mouth begins to water. Yes, the food is absolutely delicious there! We ate a lot of paella (seafood rice), tapas (tiny plates of assorted food), jamón serrano (Spanish-cured ham), bacalao (codfish), croquettes, bread dipped in olive oil, and ice cream! During our visit to Granada, we also visited some Moroccan teahouses (teterías) and had a delicious Moroccan lunch as well. By the way, I'll never get over the fact that beer and wine is usually cheaper than bottled water in Europe. Incredible! Yes, I am absolutely going back to Spain one day. My only wish is for the smoking ban to take full effect in all cafés and restaurant.

(Photos from top to bottom: Gaudi's La Pedrera in Barcelona, Buen Retiro Park in Madrid, the grounds of Alhambra in Granada, and a tapas lunch in Barcelona).

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