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by Nats Sisma Villaluna

It may be best known for its paella, flamenco, Real Madrid or Fútbol Club Barcelona, but Spain is a whole lot more! There is a myriad of places to visit and things to do in Spain.  So if you are planning to go Spain-ing around, here are some practical ways  to discovery and enjoy España. And in every place, site, spot and activity you might want to explore, BCNMTPOINT offers exciting services that will make your Spanish journey an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.


Spain has four official languages:

Gallego, Euskera, Catalan and Castellano. The latter is the widely spoken language throughout the country. Rumor has it that nobody will speak to you if you speak Castellano in Catalonia or Basque country. Take no heed, it´s just plain rumor.


Most of the Spaniards especially the old people don´t speak English. But don't worry, if you get lost, the young ones will help you out and the waiters can recite the menu del día in English if needed. Times are different now, Spaniards are making an effort to speak the international language.  However, if you want to experience striking a short conversation with a local, brush up on your useful Spanish verbs and work on your conjugation. And don´t forget to lisp!


Indulge! Eat like a king.

You are in Spain! Land of sumptuous Mediterranean delicacies that as mouthwatering as their names sound. Travelling in Spain, you will be greeted by a wide variety of Spanish omelettes and tapas anywhere you go. Don´t be squeamish. Rabbits, snails and baby eels might not be physically and psychologically appetizing, but wait until the first bite. It is going to be the most explosive gastronomical orgasm of your life.  Devour Spanish dishes just as they are and just how they are eaten. Never add unnecessary condiments that will alter the authentic taste of the local dish just to suit what your palate is used to eating back home.  You eat churros with hot and thick chocolate. You let the thin slice of jamon Ibérico melt on your tongue before the final swallow.  And oh, there is always bread on the table, sometimes they come as hard as the sole of a shoe but hey, authenticity, eh.   

Allow your senses to be seduced by the festival of flavors of the Valencian paella, the Galician mariscada, the Catalonian escudella carn d´olla, the Andalusian pescaito frito or the Basque Pintxos.  Don't smirk at the sight of morcilla, the local sweet-spiced blood sausage or the saucy Rabo de Toro or bull´s tail or the soft white pinkish jelly-like Octopus meat, pulpo a la gallega, bathing in a pool of olive oil. Fret not, your heart is safe.  It´s sinful but not deadly. 


Nothing can beat having delightful armies of tapas and a pitcher of sangria right in the heart of  Salamanca´s   Plaza Mayor under the warm rays of the sun on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  That, if you are a tourist.  For the locals, sangria is popular in the summer along with the demure tinto de verano, sangria´s simpler version made of red wine and lemon soda and the smooth kalimotxo or calimocho, red wine mixed with Coca Cola. 


Truth is, Spaniards are more into wine. Speaking of wines, setting your sights only on Italian or French wines will make you miss some of the good stuff.  Spanish wines are equally as rich and textured as their Italian and French cousins. Take the ones from the top Spanish wine producing regions of La Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Just check the Denomination de Origen (DO) or the Appellation Órigine and you are guaranteed to have an unforgettable fermented grape juice experience. Wine tours and cava tours are also popular in La Rioja region and Catalonia. For non-wine drinkers, take a swig of a Galician orujo, Catalan cava or Asturian cider to go with a bowl of olives. For beer lovers, you can have a caña (a small glass) or tubo (long glass) or botella of Estrella Galicia, Mahou Cinco Estrellas, Alhambra Reserva, San Miguel 1516 and Damm Inedit.  Keep sober though. You don't want to see yourself on Youtube dancing, do you? 


The northern part of the country boasts long coastlines kissed by the cold waters of the Atlantic. My first home in Spain was the small quaint city of Santiago de Compostela. Situated in the northwest of Spain, it belongs to the region of Galicia, popular for its Roman and Celtic heritage. Santiago is so small you can finish touring the city in one day. But if you want to savour Galician culture, stay for a couple of days and enjoy a slice of tarta de Santiago while listening to a bagpipe player in front of the magnificent cathedral. A Coruña is another Galician city that deserves a visit.  Bigger than Santiago, you can walk along its beaches and into the rocky coves where the tower of Hercules hovers from the distance. Just don´t get surprised if you happen to take a glimpse of sunbathers behind the rocks in their naked glory.    

Further northeast is the Basque Country, one of the wealthiest regions of Spain with San Sebastian and Bilbao as its two major cities. The former a picturesque coastal city while the latter is   its serious and industrial counterpart.  Join the locals take a dip in La Concha beach before heading to the vibrant street, Calle del 31 for some saporous pintxos. In Bilbao, check out the Guggenheim Museum and the surrounding pintxo bars. From Bilbao, a side trip to the small town of Guernica makes up for the historical side of the visit. Always bring an umbrella because in the north, when it is sunny, it pours.


De Madrid al cielo, y en cielo un agujerito para verlo.  From Madrid to the sky, and in the sky, there is a hole to see it.  This famous line refers to the beautification of the city by King Carlos III in the 18th century.  The King was so in love with his creation that he wished that when he died, he could still see from above, through an opening in the sky the villas and the cortes that made Madrid grandiose and august. 

During his reign, he was nicknamed the Better Mayor of Madrid for the various important buildings he constructed. So once in Madrid, never miss the Puerta de Alcalá, the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, the National Art Museum of Queen Sofia and of course, the Prado Museum. Remember, the good King Mayor is watching you through the small hole in the sky. 


Planning to study Spanish in Spain?  Salamanca is the place to be. Known for a clearer form of Spanish, Salamanca has become a popular destination for learners of the Castilian language.  Situated in the northwest of Spain, it is considered to be one of the most important university cities in Spain. You will find plenty of university and religious buildings everywhere. Of all the main squares I have seen in Spain, Salamanca´s Plaza Mayor is by far the most beautiful. And don't ever miss walking up to the river Tormes. 


Now it´s time to find the frog!  Founded in 1134, the University of Salamanca is the oldest university in Spain and currently has 30,000 students. The street in front of the university is always crowded with oglers searching for the elusive amphibian on the façade of the university. Students must spot the frog sitting on the skull in order to be able to graduate as doctors.  This practice has been rubbed off on the the tourists. Scholars said that the skull was a representation of Prince Juan who died in 1497 and the frog represents the doctor who tried to treat him. Once found, it´s time to walk to the Cathedral to look for the astronaut and the ice-cream eating gargoyle.  Failure to find them will turn you into a pistachioed-colored frog with a helmet. 


Semana Santa or Easter week is very huge in this part of the country. Nobody can beat the Andalucians when it comes to celebrating the season of Lent. Pomp, pageantry and passion all rolled into one in proud display during the street processions. In Andalucia, the locals are always in a party mood. Not to mention, the sun is always smiling in this part of the country.  Grab a plate of fried seafoods in a crowded bar in Sevilla. Have a glass of beer accompanied by a plate of free tapas while digesting the grandness of the breathtaking Alhambra.  Enjoy a homemade ice cream while watching gypsy mothers trying to sell their rosemary leaves to unsuspecting tourists in front of the Mesquita in Cordoba. Bathe in the mediterranean waters of Costa del Sol in Malaga or walk along the breakwaters of Cadiz with warm levanter wind blowing against your face. And oh, they are not Klu Klux Klans.  They are the Nazarenos, members of the cofradias in the religious processions.


It is inevitable not to make friends with the locals during your visit, because Spaniards are generally friendly, open and accommodating. For them, making friends is as easy as making a Spanish omelette. You will see them in coffee shops and tavernas discussing politics and football over cups of coffee and copas de cervesas.


Spain passionately celebrates its festivals all year round. Join the locals and experience the fun running with the bulls in Pamplona, or throwing tomatoes in La Tomatina, or wearing crazy costume on Carnival Day.  Watch the burning of paper machés in Las Fallas in Valencia or dance the flamenco in La Feria de Sevilla. Don a chulapo and goyesco getup on San Isidro feast day in Madrid or fight a medieval knight at the Medieval festival in Besalu.  Once done, you´ll tell yourself it´s just a one-off but look who´s coming back the following year!


Situated on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Barcelona is blessed with the high mountains of the Pyrenees and the long coast of Costa Brava. It is also the home of the famous Antonio Gaudi who designed the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Sant Pau Hospital, La Pedrera, among others. From Plaza Catalunya, take the crowded Las Ramblas and join in the hustle and the bustle where the likes of Cleopatra, Che Guevarra, Michael Jackson and even a gay Julius Ceasar meet, donning ostentatious and flamboyant costumes and miming hilarious routines to the amusement of the tourists.


If you are sick of flying, chasing buses and trains or scared of hitchhiking. One way of exploring Spain is to go on foot. The Camino de Santiago or The Way of Saint James might just be one of your most magical experiences ever.   All year round, thousands of pilgrims do the Camino following the routes to the shrine of the apostle St.  James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, believed to be the place where his remains are buried. You can take the famous French route starting from Roncesvalles up to Santiago de Compostela, walking almost 800 kilometres for nearly a month. Passing through big cities like Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos, Leon and Astorga and the small towns and villages in between armed only with a heavy backpack, a walking stick and two blistered feet, traverse the navel of Spain with lots of new-found friends. 


With years of solid experience and thousands of satisfied clients, BCNMTPOINT continues to make good its promise to only give valuable and reliable services to its clients around the world by designing personal travel packages according to their needs.

So make BCNMTPOINT your travel companion exploring the beauty of Spain all year round mess-free, hassle-free and stress-free. There are still hundreds of places to see, thousands of treasures to uncover and  millions  of beautiful memories to make in Spain.  And as what Miguel de Cervantes Saadvedra once said in his book Don Quixote, “Thou hast seen nothing yet.” 


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