Spain

Spain offers up such a diversity of attractions that it is almost impossible to stay indoors. From Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona to Seville’s Giralda to Madrid ’s Plaza de Toros to the beaches of Costa del Sol, the country has almost too many interesting places to visit. In just one city alone, travellers can have their pick of things to enjoy. On a typical late evening, the nicely dressed night owls walk down the cobblestone streets to a bar where a wide variety of delicious appetizers or tapas is served. They enjoy tasting the different varieties of olives, cheeses, cold cuts, seafood and different types of bread accompanied by a fine glass of wine or an ice cold beer. Seasonings featured prominently in tapas include paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, saffron and parsley. The bars usually feature a traditional Flamenco cuadro, with a guitarist, a dancer and a singer at minimum. The music and dance highlight the passion and sorrow of Spain’s minority peoples: the Arabs, Sephardic Jews and Gypsies of Andalusia, the southernmost region of Spain. From deep, profound notes to lively rumbas, locals and foreigners become inspired in a place that seems to have been designed for entertainment as well as the arts. The Spanish producer, screenwriter and director, Pedro Almodovar, attracts international moviegoers thanks to his provocative, emotional films, while uttering Picasso's name conjures up imagery of renown paintings and sculpture and the world-famous Alhambra, a palace and fortress built by the Moors in Grenada centuries ago, remains a draw of world class proportions. Spain isn't just for romantics and artists, though; every traveller in the world can find something pleasing here. ~ Jason Trinidad Pucheu


Heavily Wrapped in Amazing

The Alhambra - Granada, SpainImagine a palace on a hill, surrounded by a fortress of trees that preserves its beauty. Castle-like pillars and towers poke their ridged roof tops through the greenery. A steeple with a cross tops a bell tower, and a long wall of chambers hides a Romanesque coliseum. One’s imagination could go only so far beyond the reddish brick that builds this palace. Mystical and unreal, and - when illuminated by the moon - it offers up an image reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting. This is the Alhambra, one of Europe's most visited attractions, steeped in history and heavily wrapped in amazing. It is an icon that heralds an important part of Spain's great history and serves as the backdrop for the ever-amazing Granada, in the heart of Andalucia and at the foothills of the illustrious Sierra Nevada Mountains, an amazing vacation destination in its own right.

Barcelona: Make it Quick!

Beautiful Barcelona is full of surprisesA while ago, my parents bought me a Christmas trip to Spain, so instead of spending my holidays with them, I embarked on a ten-day trip to the land of flamenco, fantastic food, amazing beaches and Picasso. The last two days of the trip were spent in Barcelona or “Bartha” as it is affectionately known by those who live there. By that point of the journey, I was rather exhausted; our tour director was a bit authoritarian and her obsession with forced seat rotations on the tour bus and threats of having to replace the expensive triple batteries in our ‘whisperers’ - devices that are used to listen to lectures - were getting a little old. I also had enough of her detailed lectures on the production of olive oil; I could have had a PhD in the process by the time we reached Barcelona! But all that frustration melted away as son as we entered the city on our overheated bus; it was amor at first sight. The windy streets, amazing architecture, great food and wonderful atmosphere were enough to energize anyone and everyone on the tour. The best part was that we had a day of freedom to explore the city on our own.

Biting the Bullet: Living abroad in Marbella

A pretty paellaIn the spring of 2010, I decided to bite the bullet and do something I’ve always wanted to do: take six months out of my life to live abroad, sample another culture and way of life, and study Spanish in a language school. I thought what better place to do so than the sizzling hot city of Marbella, a millionaire’s playground on Spain’s stunning Costa del Sol, a place close to my heart having travelled there extensively with my parents as a child.

I arrived to a spacious apartment, which I was to share with three other students in the language school. It was fully furnished and equipped with all the essentials in the kitchen, a large lounge with dining table, television area and two bathrooms with views of the sea and the picturesque mountains that server as Marbella's dramatic backdrop. The first thing I did was fling open the doors to my private balcony terrace, from which I had perfect views overlooking the city below. My location was perfect: two minutes' walk to the beachfront, right in the centre of everything going on and eagerly anticipating where my journey might take me over the next few months. All I had on my mind at this point was paella, picadors and Puerto Banus!

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 Full name: Kingdom of Spain

 Population: 47.04 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Madrid

 Largest city: Madrid

 Area: 505,370 sq.km. (195,124 sq. mi.)

 Major languages: Castilian Spanish,  Catalan, Galician, Basque

 Major religions: Roman Catholic 

 Monetary unit: Euro

 GDP per capita: US $30,600

 Internet domain: .es

 International dialling code: +34

 Source: CIA World Factbook