España, how much I have grown to love you. I’ve been to you only twice, yet I’m constantly thinking about you.
A land riddled with history, beautiful architecture, tremendous landscapes, Fantastic food, world renowned experiences, drop dead gorgeous people, ART, Music, Dance, and a gumption for living life to its fullest, how can one not fully fall madly ,deeply, truly in love with this Amazing Country.
Spain’s current history goes back many centuries, but its true history goes back many millennia of the people of the Iberian Peninsula. It has been conquered and occupied by a many different people, adding to the cultural melting pot of food, language, history, and architecture. Where else can you find fairy tale medieval castles, Roman aqueducts and ruins, Cave painting thousands upon thousands of years old, A roman catholic cathedral still in the works some 100 + years later which will be the largest cathedral in Europe, Flamenco dance and song by the wondering Romano Gypsies, the birth place of tapas,The running of the Bulls, esoteric sights, jagged mountains, beautiful bays, feudal towns, and a history of discovers, conquers, and Roman Catholic Zealots to which without them, what would the world look like today. Yes Spain has it all, and behind all its beautiful facades, and fantastical monuments, lies the heart of the country, their funny, charming, beautiful, and lively people.
Spain,, officially known as the Kingdom of Spain, sits on a larger section of the Iberian Peninsula, along with her sister Portugal, along with several small territories on or near the North African Coast.
Modern humans arrived in Iberia over 35,000 years ago. The Iberian people, along with the Phoenicians and Greeks lived on the peninsula for thousands of years, until the invasion of the Romans around 200 BCE, which gave Spain its name ” Hispania” in roman and present day “España in Castilian . Celts, Basque, and Iberians lived their ways of life until the introduction of a Roman city, township, laws, art, and governance made an impactful permanent stay into the Iberian Peninsula’s culture. Later, Spain would see another invasion and eminent change in society by the Visigoths ( think gothic). The Visigoths ruled Andalusia ( Vandalusia) as well as parts go Castille Leon where their capital of the kingdom was centered in the beautifuly feudal city of Toldeo. During the Middle Ages, it became under Germanic rule, but later, much of it was conquered by the North African Moors..
During the Reconquista ( retake of Spain under catholic rulers) the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castille united through the Marriage of Isabelle of Castille ( Isabel the Catholic) and her husband Ferdinand the II of Aragon to form one centralized Kingdom. They drove out the Moors, reestablished the Catholic religion as the royal religion of the kingdom, set off explorers to conquer under their names, and became a world super power.
Christopher Columbus sailed the 7 seas under the patronage of his benefactor, Queen Isabelle the II. During this, The Golden years of Spain, the Kingdom stretched as far away as what is currently known as Latin America. Thus spreading their cultural and language around the world. During the 16th and 17th Centuries, Spain was top of her game and was the richest country and eventually EMPIRE in the world.
Enough about the illustrious history of Spain, as there is so much for to Spain that just Territorial wars, religion, Kings and queens ( There is still a royal family ) In the next few blog posts, I will share with you my experiences visiting this country .
So enjoy and click away and learn WHY I want to move here and have been doing extensive research, and WHY you need to see this colorful country for yourself. Please see the bottom of this blog for some important information.
Madrid: Madrid: Royal Tapas and Royal Fun
Madrid: A return to my favorite City on Earth
Toledo: Holy Toledo…. A visit to the Fortified Former Capital of Spain
Seville:Seville: Al Andalus and the Flamenco Capital of the World
Cordoba: Cordoba: 3 Days/Nights of Festive Fiesta
San Sebastian: San Sebástian: “Basque”ing in the Glory
Barcelona: Barcelona: A Gaudi Trip into Gothic Catalyuna
Cool Links : How to Buy Renfe Tickets
The quick and Dirty Spanish Survival Drink Guide
How to get Cash:
My advice when getting cash in Spain is to do it through an ATM. You get the absolute best rate of the day and there are thousands of ATM’s throughout the cities. Please do not bring Traveler’s Cheques as no one cashes them anymore. Cash is ok to exchange but you’ll have to find a bank to do so to which you’ll have to bring your passport with you .
Your Survival Drink Guide while in Spain: Courtesy of the Huffington Post:
The Quick and Dirty Spanish Survival Drink Guide
The Quick and Dirty Spanish Survival Drink Guide:
How to Order a Drink in Spain
To order, try asking: “I want… a beer” ( “Yo quiero… una caña.”)
To be more Spanish say: “Can you give me… an espresso” (“¿me pone… un café solo?”)
To be kind after your request say: “Please.” (“Por Favor.”)
Coffee & Tea (Café y Té)
To ask for a coffee, you can say “Un café con leche” or tea “Un té.”
1. Café con leche: Coffee with scalded milk in equal portions
2. Caffé Americano: Espresso coffee with hot water, similar to brewed coffee
3. Café Cortado: Espresso with a little milk
4. Café Solo: Espresso
5. Café Bonbon: Espresso with sweetened condensed milk
6. Café Carajillo: Espresso with brandy or whiskey
7. Café Descafeinado de máquina: Decaffeinated coffee from a machine
8. Café Descafeinado de sobre: Decaffeinated coffee from a packet or bag
9. Té: Caffeinated black tea or Green tea (Té Verde)
10. Infusión: Herbal/decaffeinated teas — Mint (poleo menta), Chamomile (manzanilla)
11: Cola Cao: Hot chocolate powder mixed with milk or water
Tip 1: Typically, places have white sugar (azúcar), saccharin (sacarina) or honey (miel).
Tip 2: You can order any of these with ice (“hielo” sounds like “yellow”) to make iced coffees. )“Un cortado con hielo, por favor.”)
You can order a draft beer (una caña) or a bottle (una botella) of beer if you prefer.
1. Caña: about a 7-8-ounce draft beer
2. Jarra (har’-rah): a glass with a handle usually about a pint
3. Tubo: a thin, tall 10-ounce glass
4. Cerveza de Importación: various foreign beers like Bud, Carlsberg, Heineken
5. Clara con Limón: beer with a lemon drink (Fanta Limón or Jarabe de Limón)
6. Mojada: beer with sparkling soda (gaseosa)
7. Negra: Dark Beer
Wine, Cider & Sparkling Wine (Vino, Sidra y Cava)
To order wine, ask for a glass (una copa) or a bottle (una botella). Some recommended wine regions in Spain are: Rioja, Rivera del Duero, and Somontano.
1. Cava: Spanish sparkling wine known as champagne of which almost 95 percent is produced in the region of Cataluña.
2. Sangria: Red wine mixed with chopped fruit or juice, a sweetener, and brandy or cognac. To order, ask for a glass (una jarra de sangria).
3. Sidra: A fermented juice typically made from apples, it contains 4-6 percent alcohol. Asturias is most known for sidra. One popular brands is Fanjul.
4. Tinto de verano: red wine and lemonade (refreshing in summer)
5. Vermut: Known as vermouth, this wine drink is usually taken before lunch and contains a variety of 150 aromatics including spices, seeds, herbs, cloves, flowers, roots, barks, olives. The herbs are absorbed by alcohol and then combined with wine and sugar. Tip: The most popular brands are Cinzano and Martini. Ask for red (rojo/de color) or white (blanco).
6. Vino Blanco: White Wine
7. Vino Rosado: Rosé Wine
8. Vino Tinto: Red Wine
1. Agua con gas: Sparkling mineral water
2. Agua sin gas: Bottled water — cold (fría), el tiempo (room-temperature)
3. Leche: Milk — whole (entera), semi-skimmed (semidesnatada), skimmed (desnatada)
4. Horchata: a sweet milky drink made from tiger nut typically found in Valencia during summer
5. Refrescos: Soft Drinks — Coca Cola, Fanta Naranja (orange), Fanta Limón (lemon), Sprite, Tónica (tonic water)
6. Zumo: Juice: orange (naranja), pineapple (piña), peach (melocotón), apple (manzana)
Shopping in Madrid and Spain? Be sure to request Vat Refund Paper :
When you shop at a store or establishment and spend over $60 Euro you are entitled to ask for Vat Refund. Vat ( Value Added Tax) Refund is a wonderful bonus for shoppers in the European Union. When you shop at the store and spend the minimum , you fill out a form right then and there with the merchant, with proper ID, and in the end you can get back money via cash, check or back on your credit card, once you depart from your final European Destination. Here’s a great link that explains it more in Detail and helped me out a ton : Tax Advantages for Tourists to Spain: VAT Refund
How to buy Renfe Tickets:
Traveling by train is one of the best ways to see Spain. I’ve used it numerous times throughout my two journeys to Spain. I prefer their Preferente ( First/ Business ) class as it comes with fabulous wine, food, and very comfortable seating. The best way to travel by train on RENFE ( the National Train carrier) is to buy a train pass. In my case, the first time I traveled to Spain, I bought a 6 journey pass in first class for a steal… It was so inexpensive and had I not done it my costs would’ve been doubled. And had I decided to try and fly to all these places , Trippled. You should try to buy your tickets at least 60 days ( if available) before your travel date, when they open the portals up to buy your tickets at a very deeply discounted price, and find your seats. Here is a very important link on how to buy your RENFE pass and tickets. How To buy Renfe Tickets
How To get From MAD Airport to City Center via the Metro:
Taking the metro into the city is a breeze. Unless you are traveling with a lot of luggage, then take a taxi.
- When you exit your terminal, just follow the signs that lead to the Metro.
- When you arrive at the Metro Station, take the escalators down to the Metro
- There are ATM’s everywhere and you can withdraw your cash to buy your metro tickets there, or exchange at an exchange counter in the arrivals hall.
- Purchase a 10 ticket metro pass and add 1 airport supplement when prompted to your ticket ( or in my case I added 2 supplements.) You can share your ticket with anyone in your party. Ie. buy 10 ticket journey and each time you pass through the turnstiles, you can pass the ticket to the next person in your group. It’s really awesome.
- Look up at the monitors which will tell you when and where the next train is departing
- Take Linea 8 ( Line 8) to Nuevo Miniestro and transfer to the appropriate line here. This is a major transfer point, and you will notice a great deal of people doing just that.
- From here you can transfer to the next line appropriate for your location / stop. If not, then just take the metro to Atocha Station, where a plethora of taxi cabs will be waiting outside to whisk you away to your hotel.
Places to check out Night out/ Rooftop Bars in Madrid
For a night of Hollywood glamour, walk in the footsteps of James Bond and enjoy a Martini,
- Madrid’s El Cock Bar: shaken not stirred, at Madrid’s El Cock bar.
- Museo Chicopee: Such an experience could only be followed by cocktails at Museo Chicopee, a favorite of Sinatra’s and according to Hemmingway “the best bar in Spain, certainly”.
- Reina Bruja: For a twenty-first century kick try the LED illuminated Reina Bruja.
- Rooftop terraza del urban:If the weather is kind the rooftop terraza del urban is a great place to chill out on carrera de san jeronimo.
- Splash Oscar: iis another great rooftop terrace thats great to unwind on plaza de vazquez de mella in the chueca district.
- Del Diego:Then youve got a terrific cocktail bar on calle de la reina also in the chueca area if you end up going to Mercado de san anton which are all nearby.
- Plaza de olavide in the chamberi area just off calle fuencarral is a charming plaza with some cool bars tochill out.
- Plaza del dos de mayo and surrounds in the fantastic nightlife zone of malasana is great fun but can be a little noisy with a generally young crowd although you will still find places with mixed ages.
- Delia Bar:Around the la latina district which includes calle cava baja you also have the very charming plaza de la paja where you can try the great mojitos
- plaza de la puerta de moros: you can then enjoy a almost street party at plaza de la puerta de moros which is especially fantastic on Sunday evenings.
FOOD AND DRINK In Madrid:
- Mercado De San Miguel
- Mercardo San Anton
- Calle cava Baja For tapas
- Calle Ponzano
- Try this vermouth tour with food http://partaste.com/restaurants-markets/favorite-best-places-vermouth-madrid/
Museums In Madrid:
- Prado Museum ( Largest and holds the most amount of work by distinguished artists and Spanish Artists)
- Reina Sofia : Modern and impressionist art
- Thyssen: Rotating exhibits
- Caixa Museum: Modern Art and Photography
- Sorolla Museum: Sorolla works of art in his former home
- Cerrabllo Museum: Works of art and as well as full on living quarters of the former resident
- Real Palace Museum: Royal Palace