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Making The Most Of Your Time In Spain

By: Mariana Souza

Perhaps you hate packed places as much as I do. I have this kind of almost-phobia that causes me to become overly uneasy whenever there are a lot of people in my surroundings. However, since I love traveling and going to new places, I simply don’t allow myself to miss out on any touristy place, even during high-season.

After all, if they are touristy, they probably offer something positive for its visitors. Europe is a hub during holidays. There is so much to explore! The main cities get packed with travellers from all around the world, and it seems like everything goes slowly due to the extra amount of people trying to fit in sightseeing areas.

Surprisingly enough, I’ve never spent one hour in a queue to enter the Colosseum, as it happened to many friends of mine, neither were there a bunch of people in my photos at the Ciudad De Las Artes Y Las Ciencias. If I were to give one big advice, it would be to avoid traveling during high-season. Nevertheless, it is called high-season for a reason. Sometimes, I can’t even follow my own advice.

But now let’s focus on the real matter! Since we are talking about Europe, let’s consider Spain, a country that I dearly love, and is often en route of travellers, especially during summer. Keep on reading for a brief guide around the area. Forget that I’ve mentioned the Colosseum above, Italy did not make the cut for today’s article.

I’ve noticed that many of my acquaintances went to Spain this past summer, and I wonder if they actually enjoyed their time, went to the right places, etc. Having studied there, I did get the opportunity to visit a variety of sites and get an idea of “when I should go where.”

Personally, I have a crush on Spanish plazas. Even though I am usually atypical when choosing my spots around a city, my favourite plazas are everybody’s favourite ones to be honest. I do understand why Plaza de La Reina is adored by Valencians, or why Plaza Mayor is worldwide famous.

Spaniards are downright with their architecture. And it is inevitable, there will always be a lot of movement in the Sagrada Familia and around Gaudí buildings in Barcelona. I’ve learnt that the easiest way to avoid crowds is by leaving your hotel early (aim at 7 am) to be the first one to arrive wherever you want. The exhaustion after holidays feels good, trust me.

My trip to Madrid included early mornings going to empty Plaza Mayor, having a delicious breakfast in a nearby cafe, wearing my Wellies to sabotage the rain, and of course: countless visits to the San Miguel Market.

I’ve realised that Spain is the kind of place where you don’t need public transportation. It seems like they’ve planned their cities for pedestrians.

Valencia, as an example, is picture-perfect, filled with gardens, and the chances of rain are really small. As my mom says, “it is such a delicious city.”

Also, there is the Fallas festival (happens in March)! It is such a remarkably magical experience; there are lights and music everywhere, and it is prettier than Christmas.

And food, of course. When a friend knows I’ve already been to their next destination, the first two things they ask me are: where can I stay and what should I eat. The most typical dish in Spain is the Paella. Just the sound of this word makes me shiver. Gosh, that thing is good!

For me, la paella Valenciana es la millor de tota Espanya (The Valencian paella is the best one in all of Spain). The reason is: there are two kinds of paella, the chicken and vegetables one (most common in Valencia), and the seafood paella.

I do like the seafood one, specially the one I tried in Vigo (northern Spain); but for some reason it didn’t call my attention as much as the chicken one did. For the Valencian paella, I do not recommend one specific restaurant, I recommend the street ones. In the beginning (and still), I thought it was funny how the locals would literally close streets to put tables outside and prepare one big paella pan during weekends. It was like, “okay, I didn’t need to drive through this street to get home anyway.”

The Spanish cuisine has a nice diversity, and it follows a mix of the Mediterranean cuisine with a taste from the period of Muslim presence. Night outings include a visit to a “Bar de Tapas” filled with Fried Calamari, Pescado, and Papas Bravas (fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce and aioli).

If you are a fan of pasta, try the Fideuà. An afternoon chill out can be improved with a cup of Horchata (Thumbs up for lactose and gluten intolerants) served with Fartons (a sweet bread filled with gluten and lactose – not everything is perfect), or hot chocolate with Churros or Buñuelos.

Besides all that, you should also try de Sopa de Mariscos (seafood soup), the Jamón Ibérico (Iberian pork ham), and Bocadillos (the Spanish version of the baguette). Spanish people live their lives on behalf of the bocadillos.

There isn’t much mystery about what to do while in Spain. The country is naturally blessed and each town has its own particular features. If you ever get bored, find your way to a church (there are plenty) and ask to go to the top of its tower.

Go watch the sunset and feel your breath being taken away. Visit the monuments different empires left as a trace in the country. Pay attention to entrance doors and see how huge and carefully designed each of them are. Cycle across the countryside, eat fresh oysters by the sea, explore caves and underground rivers. The beaches are dreamy, the weather, delightful. Enjoy your time!

Without further delay, check the link below for the best places, touristy and non-touristy, around Spain. I’ll keep updating the map with extra information. Now start planning your next trip to the Iberian country!

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