Trencadís mosaic, Casa Batlló
Barcelona taught me the importance of managing my expectations.
At architecture school, it was both the Holy Grail and the magic word. So you want to build something extraordinary? Look at Barcelona. Struggling to find inspiration? Again, Barcelona. Over those four years it came to represent the ideal – a pinnacle of unspeakable beauty and the best in urban design. Read more
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao
The locals affectionately call it “El Botxo” – The Hole.
Back in 1997 the opening of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum catapulted the little-known Basque metropolis to international fame. But Bilbao had been planning its dramatic makeover for years. Read more
Quite a while ago Bama from What an Amazing World! kindly nominated me to join in on HostelBookers’ 7 super shots. I realise I am super late jumping on the bandwagon, but choosing your best photos is like choosing your favourite children – you’re hesitant because you love them all for different reasons! Read more
Cloister, Convento de San Esteban
In Spanish the expression for “handwritten” is “de mi puño y letra” – of my fist and handwriting. Today I was flipping through my Spanish notebook when I came across a page scribbled with several verses, an early attempt to write a poem on Salamanca. Read more
In my best Euskera, I cautiously approach the bartender. “Aupa! Bi patxaran.” He nods, scooping up two glassfuls of ice and filling them with liquor tinted the bright red of a children’s cough syrup. Night has fallen and we are bar-hopping along a dimly-lit stretch of the old city, beautifully unassuming and devoid of menus in French and English. According to Jordi, my friend and personal guide, this is the most Basque street in town. Read more
For most of my time in Spain I was loathe to attend a bullfight. Especially after hearing the experiences of my friend Christina in Ciudad Rodrigo – where they do bull runs and bullfights for Carnival – I found little to no appeal in what I saw as an unforgiving blood sport.
But my Spanish history and culture teacher was adamant. “Even if you don’t agree with it,” he would tell us, “you should see it once before making a judgment.” At the time we were learning all about tauromaquia, the umbrella term for everything surrounding this deeply controversial spectacle. Read more
It’s easy to eat well in Salamanca. Whether it’s bar-hopping on Calle Van Dyck, the best tapas street in town, or sinking your teeth into the local jamón, this student city is an affordable stopping point on a gastronomic tour of central Spain. The local dishes can be heavy, but don’t let that stop you from buying a slice of chorizo-filled hornazo or digging into a tender chunk of grilled veal.
After nine months as a resident salmantino, I’ve drawn up a quick list of some of my favourite places to eat and drink – gratuitous photos included. Read more
It seemed like the perfect weekend escapade: a small reunion of high school friends, an annual fiesta and a valid excuse to return to beautiful, sunny Córdoba. But when we showed up late that Friday night, eager to kick off Las Cruces de Mayo, it was the sound of heavy rain that greeted us at the train station. Having gone through a bit of a travel hiccup in Madrid, I was almost too tired to feel disappointment. Read more
The two men ahead of me are hesitant. Even after lifting the lid on the cool, delicious concoction, they slowly shake their heads and turn away. I am at a horchata stand in Valencia’s Plaça de l’Ajuntament and the vendor is giving me a stupefied look. “They don’t know what they are missing out on… people think it’s milk, but horchata is so much more than that!” Read more
When you’re in Cadiz with a Greek, two things are guaranteed to happen: one, you will gorge yourself on seafood; and two, the trip will be one big fiesta. It’s Friday night in the old city and we are bar-hopping through its cobbled streets. The mournful strains of a saeta emanate from a converted market hall and the city’s 18 to 20 something-year olds are out in force. Read more