Featured Destination - Spain
Sizzling Spain. A country famous for its festivals, food and bullfights. Discover the delights that this beautiful country has to offer on your 2010 get away.
Things to do in Spain
Visit the Alhambra in Granada.
This moorish fortified palace built by Muslim kings in the mid 14th century is absolutely incredible. The complex is huge and occupies a large section of the city centre. Exploring this exhibit takes a full day and it is advised in summer that you book tickets in advance.
See Frank Gehry's extraordinary architecture.
Frank Gehry is famous for his architecture throught out the world, whether it is the Guggenhiem Museum in Bilbao, the huge copper fish on Barcelona beach or the new conference and convention centre near Malaga Airport, all of Frank Gehry's futuristic masterpieces are worth seeing.
Skiing in the Sierra Navada Mountains.
Andalucia is blessed to have these mountains so close to legendary tourist spots such as Malaga and Torremolinos. In late spring you can go skiing in the morning and do a spot of sunbathing on the beach in the afternoon. Marvellously bizarre but a whole lot of fun!
Take part in a local village fiesta.
The local fiestas are mostly religious in nature, but that doesn't mean that they aren't a lot of fun. With parties throughout the night and colourful processions they are unique experiences and worth it in themselves.
Experience Gaudi's Barcelona.
Out of all the buildings in Barcelona that Antoni Gaudi designed, Parc Guell is one not to be missed. The large park has numerous buildings and sculptures featuring Gaudi's well known broken tile style, and elegant curves, a truly magical surrounding and great day out for all ages.
One of the most uniquely Spanish things to do is to sit in a bar in the evening and eat tapas while you have a drink. Tapas started out as a slice of ham covering a glass of sherry - perhaps to keep out flies but has now turned into the most gorgeous finger food around and a truly Spanish ritual.
Sit outside in a cafe and watch the world go by!
Enjoy a coffee and simply watch the world passing by. All made better by the weather which is usually fine, this is one intriguing yet relaxing thing to do. Villages, towns and cities all have numerous cafe's where you can sit outside, and
Feel Surreal with Salvador Dali
Salvador Dali has become one of the most loved painters in the world, and mausoleum/museum in the north of Spain is as dreamlike as the visions he created.
Stamp you heals to the Flamenco!
The Flamenco, a must do in Andalucia and the South of Spain. Twenty five years ago the Flamenco seemed to be on the decline, but it has recently enjoyed a huge surge in popularity, for both tourists and locals.
Go mad for Art in Spain.
If you just want to see the best make sure that you visit the Miró Foundation in Barcelona, see the disturbing images of Goya and Picasso's Guernica at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. Picasso is also well represented in Malaga with the new Picasso Foundation.
Valazquez, possibly the greatest ever Spanish artists. Visiting the Prado Gallery in Madrid will open you eyes to whole new kind of art. Perhaps his Best known painting is "The Rokeby Venus" but consider that his famous "Old Woman Cooking Eggs" was painted when he was only 19, and you can be sure of the masterful talent Velazquez had.
See the spectacular views at Ronda.
Through the Andalucian mountains, you finally come to Ronda, a village hovering at the top of a huge cliff, with a breathtaking bridge straddling the gorge between the old and new towns. Ronda also has the oldest Bull ring in Spain, and roman baths. A spectacular little village with true culture.
Be prepared for the amazing sight of the Mezquita (the Grand Mosque of Cordoba). The first section of the Mosque was built in 796 AD and is only around a fifth of the entire complex, the Mosque was finally completed in 1000 AD.
Do the white village trail.
Mijas, with its famous donkeys and mountainside location, whitewashed houses, narrow cobbled streets and lavish Churches. Andalucia's villages are what most people imagine when they are asked think of a Spanish village. This is a very beautiful place to explore.
Best football in Europe.
Real Madrid boast having the Best football team in Europe, and probably in the world. So why not check it out? With the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka, Casillas, Ramos and Raul, has Madrid got an unstoppable force? Barca, Deportivo and Valencia are amongst the teams to try and stop them running away with next years trophies.
Running with the Bulls.
Join in with the celebrations in Pamplona, a show your bound to enjoy at the most famous festival in Spain. A dangerous but thrilling spectacle providing fun for all the family.
Take a stroll along Las Ramblas.
Tired of dodging cars when trying to cross the street? This busy street in Barcelona is purely for pedestrians, lined with outdoor markets, shops, restaurants and cafes, it's excellent indoor shopping centre and Sea Life centre, Las Ramblas ends with a Pier where u can take in the natural delights.
People watching at El Rastro.
If you are a keen shopper, an avid bargain hunter or just like to sit back and relax then you must visit the largest open air flea market, where locals and tourists alike spend hours shopping, dining or sitting back and people watching.
Test your golfing skills.
Valderrama, this 18-hole championship layout that stretches more than 6,356 meters at par 71 an exquistly designed golf course for true professionals. If Valderrama is a little out of your way, then the Costa del Sol has more than enough courses for everyone. Nicknamed the Costa del Golf, Southern Spain has both the courses and the weather to make any golfer happy, be it a serious game, or jus plain old crazy golf they cater for everyone.
Jerez de la Frontera Horse & Sherry Fair.
2nd May - 9th May 2010
Held in the hot and open streets of Jerez this traditional Spanish event dates back to the reign of Alfonso X the Wise, now a week long this is an event not to be missed that no visitor should be disappointed with.
Starting life as a cattle market Jerez de la Frontera Horse & Sherry Fair has now grown into a full blown fiesta boasting many exciting events from Bullfighting to Flamenco Dancing and Equestrian Ballet to Fair Ground fun.
Many Spaniards turn out for the Horse Fair and take great delight in riding up and down the main street, impeccably dressed in typical Andalusian costume and occasionally stopping off for a coffee or local sherry.
With 1,200,000 light bulbs with different colours lighting up Jerez, firework displays and many more events and sights to enthrall the visitor you can be sure there is something for everyone.
2010 Calendar of Events
1st - Feria de Dos Hermanas (Sevilla)
Fiestas de Mayo, Priego de Córdoba
3rd- Santísima y Vera Cruz, Caravaca de la Cruz (Murcia)
Santa Cruz, Jaca (Huesca)Cruces de Mayo, Ubrique (Cádiz)
5th- Feria de Mayo, Córdoba
La Ascensión, Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña)
11th- La Caballada, Atienza (Guadalajara)
Sant Anastasi, Lleida
12th- Fiestas Patronales, Santo Domingo de la Calzada (La Rioja)
14th- El Rocio, Almonte (Huelva)
15th- Fiestas de San Isidro, Madrid
25th- Corpus Christi
30th- Ferias y Fiestas de Mayo, Cáceres
5th- La Patum, Berga (Barcelona)
O Corpus, Ponteareas (Pontevedra)
10th- Virgen de la Capilla, Jaén
Corpus Christi, Ourense
11th- Fiestas de San Bernabé, Logroño (La Rioja)
24th- Hogueras de San Juan
Fiestas de San Juan, Badajoz
San Juan, Coria (Cáceres)
San Juan, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Fiestas de San Juan y San Pedro, León
Fiestas de San Juan y San Pedro, Segovia
29th- Fiestas de San Pedro y San Pablo, Burgos
Sant Pere, Reus (Tarragona)
Ferias y Fiestas de San Pedro, Zamora
30th- Feria del Vino del Ribeiro, Ribadavia (Ourense)
3rd- Fiesta del Corderu, Lena (Asturias)
7th- San Fermín, Pamplona (Navarra)
10th- Festival de la Sidra, Nava (Asturias)
12th- Santísima Sangre, Denia (Alicante)
15th- Bajada de la Virgen, Santa Cruz de La Palma (Tenerife)
16th- Virgen del Carmen, Barakaldo (Vizcaya)
23rd- Festa del Renaixement, Tortosa (Tarragona)
25th- Feria Taurina de Santiago, Santander (Cantabria)
Fiestas del Apóstol, Santiago de Compostela (A Coruña)Marta y San Jaime, El Desembarco, Villajoyosa
28th- La Vaqueirada, Valdés (Asturias)
30th- La Pandorga, Ciudad Real
1st- Fiestas de Maria Pita, A Coruña
Fiestas do Cristo da Victoria, Vigo (Pontevedra)
3rd- Festa do Viño Alvariño, Cambados (Pontevedra)
Fiestas Colombinas, Huelva
5th- Fiesta de las Nieves, Agaete (Las Palmas)
Santa María de África, Ceuta
Descenso Internacional del Sella, Fiesta de las Piraguas, Parres
Fiestas de la Virgen Blanca, Vitoria Gasteiz (Álava)
6th- La Paloma, Madrid
10th- Virgen de la Asunción, Elche (Alicante)
San Lorenzo, Huesca
Festas da Peregrina, Pontevedra
13th- Día Regional de Cantabria, Cabezón de la Sal
15th- Feria y Fiestas, Ciudad Real
Andra Mari, Semana Grande, San Sebastian - Donostia (Guipuzcoa)
Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz)
Virgen del Sagrario, Toledo
Fiestas de la Virgen Grande, Torrelavega (Cantabria)
18th- Feria de Almería
19th- Feria de Málaga
20th- Semana Grande, Bilbao (Vizcaya)
24th- Sant Bartomeu, Sitges (Barcelona)
25th- San Ginés, Arrecife (Las Palmas)
Feria y Fiestas de San Julián, Cuenca
Festa da Istoria, Ribadavia (Ourense)
26th- Batalla de Flores, Laredo (Cantabria)
27th- La Tomatina, Buñol (Valencia)
28th- Aquelarre, Cervera (Lleida)
Cristo de los Remedios, San Sebastián de los Reyes (Madrid)
31st- Los Encierros de Cuellar, Cuéllar (Segovia)
1st- Fiesta de la Vendimia Montilla-Moriles
Fiesta de la Vendimia, Requena (Valencia)
2nd- Motín de Aranjuez (Madrid)
San Antolín "Gansos", Lekeitio (Vizcaya)
Feria de Melilla
San Antolín, Palencia
4th- Feria de Septiembre, Mérida (Badajoz)
8th- Vírgen de la Antigua, Guadalajara
Nuestra Señora de la Cinta, Huelva
Virgen de Guía, Llanes (Asturias)
Virgen de la Vega, Salamanca
Fiestas Patronales, Segorbe (Castellón)
Virgen de Sales, Sueca (Valencia)
Torneo del Toro de la Vega, Tordesillas
Virgen de San Lorenzo, Valladolid
9th- Cascamorras, Guadix (Granada)
10th- Feria, Albacete
12th- Feria de Murcia
20th- Fiestas de Carthagineses y Romanos, Cartagena (Murcia)
21st- San Mateo, Logroño (La Rioja)
San Mateo, Oviedo (Asturias) 23rd- Santa Tecla, Tarragona
24th- La Mercè, Barcelona
Batalla de Moros e Cristianos, Rairiz de Veiga (Ourense)
25th- Festes de Misericòrdia, Reus (Tarragona)
27th- El Vítor, Mayorga (Valladolid)
Los Mártires, Mieres (Asturias)
29th- Feria de San Miguel, Torremolinos (Málaga)
1st- San Saturio, Soria
4th- San Froilán, Lugo
7th- Nuestra Señora del Rosario, Agüimes (Las Palmas)
12th- Fiestas del Pilar, Fraga (Huesca)
El Pilar, Zaragoza
15th- Santa Teresa, Alba de Tormes (Salamanca)
Fiestas de Santa Teresa, Ávila
18th- Feria de San Lucas, Jaén
28th- Fiesta de la Rosa del Azafrán, Consuegra (Toledo)
29th- Sant Narcís, Girona
1st- Feria de los Santos, Socuéllamos (Ciudad Real)
Traditional Spanish Meals
One of Spain's top qualities is its tasty cuisine due to its fresh ingredients, mild flavoring and the perfect use of herbs and seasonings, Spain's traditional food dishes come in the form of wholehearted family cooking. Recipes are passed down from the elders to the youth of today, with several influences throughout the ages.
Spain's geographical position provides the country with perfect conditions to grow the freshest of everything creating a huge variety to make the greatest combination of tastes into gorgeous traditional dishes. With 88% of Spain's boarders being a coastline, fresh seafood is without a doubt one of the big influences in their traditional food, as are fruits and vegetables from carefully nurtured farmlands, olives and olive oil hailing from groves scattered across hillside and cured meats and cheeses from the highlands.
While Spain is practically self-sufficient in terms of its food, the country has been influenced by the Greek and Roman civilizations which once inhabited there, contributing their love of wine and olive oil, as well as their love for spices such as saffron, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg also honey, almond confections, rice and the widespread use of fresh produce. Later, the 15th century discovery of the Americans led to the import of potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, vanilla, chocolate, zucchini, a variety of beans and much more- all of which have become essential in the traditional Spanish kitchen.
On the other hand, in comparison to the food in neighbouring European countries, the food in Spain is quite minimal in the amount of ingredients. The food cooked in Spain uses only a few spices. However, garlic is the exception to this rule as it is found in large quantity in most foods. Despite having simple ingredients and recipes, you will be pleased to know that eating food in Spain is a public and hearty affair with food portions in Spain being known to be rather large.
Pulpo a Feira - Galician Octopus
Though it originated in Galicia or the neighboring region of Leon, pulpo a feira, as it is known in Galician, or pulpo a la gallega, as it is called in Spanish, is now popular throughout Spain. It is usually served on wooden plates with cachelos, potatoes that have been boiled or roasted in embers with their skins on. Frozen octopus works particularly well, since the freezing tenderizes the otherwise quite tough meat, so that is what I suggest you use here. If you prefer to use a fresh octopus, you will need to practice the almost tribal tradition of beating the animal with a rock or meat mallet to rid of its rubbery texture. Another option is to freeze fresh octopus for about two weeks to tenderize it.
The size of the most commonly available octopus is about three pounds; smaller ones, while more tender, are not suited to this preparation, since the tentacles would be too small when cut into rings.
- Serves 6
- Difficulty: intermediate
- 4 quarts water
- 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 1 frozen octopus, about 3 pounds thawed overnight in the refrigerator
- 1 pound new potatoes, boiled with their skins on and kept warm
- 1 cup extra virgin oil
- 2 tablespoons hot paprika
In a large stockpot, combine the water and 5 tablespoons of the salt and bring to a boil. While the water is heating, rinse the octopus under running cold water. Using sharp kitchen scissors, cut out the mouth and the eyes.
With a long fork, pierce the octopus to get a good grip and dip it into the boiling water. Lift out immediately and, when the water returns to a boil, dip it briefly again. Repeat this dipping procedure 3 or 4 times, or until the tentacles have curled. (Dipping the octopus into boiling water helps to tenderize it.) Submerge the octopus in the water and let it boil over medium heat for about 2 hours, or until it is tender when pierced with a knife.
Turn off the heat and let the octopus rest in the hot water for 10 minutes. Lift the octopus from the water and cut it into pieces with the scissors: the tentacles into 1/2-inch-thick rings and the body into small chunks. Divide the octopus pieces evenly among 6 plates.
Cut the potatoes crosswise in 1/2-inch-thick slices and surround the octopus pieces with the potato slices. Drizzle the octopus and potatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with hot paprika and the remaining tablespoon of salt. Serve the dish while the octopus and potatoes are still warm.
Spain has been famous for producing fine wines, predominantly red wines for a long time. Spain has the largest area of land than any country in the world that is dedicated purely to viticulture, much of these vines are Airén, an undistinguished white grape.
Spain's classification system is similar to that of France and Italy, with all classified wine regions regulated under the Denominación de Origen (DO) system. Red wines are often labelled as Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. In Rioja and the Ribera del Duero, Crianza wines are two years old and have spent at least twelve months in cask (elsewhere in Spain the oak ageing may legally be restricted to just six months). Reservas are three years old (spending at least one year in cask) and Gran Reservas five years old (two in cask, three in bottle).
There are many good white wines that can be found in Spain. In Galacia, the north-west region of Spain, Rias Baixas can be very drinkable. These wines are cold-fermented to maintain freshness and are produced from the Albariño grape.
Lagar de Cervera
To the east of Galacia and just a little south, is Rueda. This company was once
famous on the flor-influenced sherry-like wines it produced, but it is now the
home of some very appetizing Spanish white, this time made from the Verdejo
Marqués de Riscal
Further across is the Ribera del Duero, is a region of vineyards that homes grapes used for port that are located around the Duero river, which, as it flows west through Portugal, becomes the Douro. Despite Rioja's high reputation, Spain's most expensive wines are in fact from the Ribera del Duero, produced by Vega Sicilia. There are some superb fine wines to be had in this region that are based on an assortment of international, Cabernet Sauvignon and indigenous, Tempranillo grapes.
Then there is Rioja, one of the main wine producers of Spain. Rioja is situated a little further east and back to the north. Rioja can still be superb and has been the height of fine red Spanish wine for generations. Styles vary, from easy drinking Crianzas and some Reservas, to the Reservas and Gran Reservas of the top estates which may cellar and improve for decades. Rioja is divided up into three regions, Rioja Alta being one of the most important. Slightly to the east are Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja, slightly smaller and producing somewhat lower quality wines.
Only one region dominates central Spain. La Mancha relies on Airén for its whites, and Tempranillo and Garnacha Tinta (Grenache), among others, for its reds. It’s a million acre DO that looks set to be the next big success story, following its recent class wines.
Other good wines from Central Spain are those of Valdepeñas, Almansa, Valencia, Alicante, Jumilla, Yecla and Utiel-Requena. Though they are not as famous or as large they have produced a few wines to be proud of.
Southern Spain - Sherry
In the north, Spain's finest table wines can be found, Central Spain has little to offer, and in the south there are none. This may be due to geographical circumstances but the south of Spain is not totally devoid of viticulture. Southern Spain is notoriously known as the home of Sherry, produced from a small region around the town of Jerez. Palomino and Pedro Ximénez grapes are predominantly used to make Sherry. The grapes are harvested and fermented, but the wines are then left in contact with air for a prolonged period of time because of this some will simply oxidise, whereas others will develop a coating of flor, a thick layer of yeast, on the surface. This yeast imparts a distinctive flavour.
The wines are then stored in a solera system. A solera system is a tier of barrels containing wine of various ages, the oldest wine at the bottom and the youngest at the top. The wine in the lowest barrel is drained and bottled making each barrel be slowly topped up with wine from the one above maintaining a steady stream of wine of similar taste year after year. This is the reason as to why sherry is almost never vintage dated.
Sherries come in a number of styles. These are divided into dry, medium or sweet.
Fino is the most commonly seen dry Sherry, it is a flor wine intended for drinking young. Manzanilla is a light style of Fino from Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Amontillado is a wine left in cask until the flor has died and sunk to the bottom, the wine then darkens and takes on a more nutty taste. Oloroso is a wine which did not grow the flor yeast, the opposite of Fino, and it may be used as the base for medium or sweet Sherry. It may also be sold dry, Oloroso Seco.
The most popular medium sherry is a sweetened Amontillado, but they may also be made from Oloroso wines.
At their best sweet sherry's are made from Oloroso wines, sweetened with Pedro Ximénez grapes. In modern times they are just as likely to be poor Finos sweetened up with some Moscatel. Sweet Sherries made from just Pedro Ximénez can be amazing. At the sweet end of the spectrum we also have the cream and brown Sherries though these are not so common or popular.
Vintages are not thought very highly of but the north of Spain has to offer some significance. Recent good vintages for Rioja include 1996, 1995, 1994, 1991, 1989, 1987 and 1985.
A few quirky facts
The tooth fairy is not recognized in Spain. Instead, they have a tooth mouse named Ratoncito Perez!
Hot Chocolate in Spain is served very thick and very chocolaty – almost like warm pudding! It is traditionally served with churros which are long thin donuts.
Wheres wally can be found on google street maps in Spain, UK, France & Italy.
Spain literally means 'the land of rabbits'.
Each regional country of Spain – Pais Vasco, Cataluña, Galicia – has its own language, hymn and flag.
In Spain children leave their shoes under the Christmas tree the night of January 5th and presents from the Three Kings appear the next morning. Santa Claus is called Papa Noel and some children receive presents both days on December 24th (from Papa Noel) and on January 6th (from the Three Kings).
The name Madrid comes from the Arabic "magerit" which means 'place of many streams'.