The first time you visit Spain, it may seem as if you’ve arrived in a century long past. Located in Southwestern Europe, Spain has plenty to offer travelers in search of art, history and excellent food.
You can see the birth-home of Francisco Goya, “The Nude Maja” painter; touch the walls of Belchite, “a ghost town” destroyed during the 1937 Civil War; hear the beautiful tune of a “Jota aragonesa” and enjoy crunchy, marinated “gambas” (Spanish-style garlic shrimp).
Here are a few impressions from my trips to Catalonia and Aragón, two of Spain’s autonomous communities that contrast in language and identity.
A journey in time
Towns in Spain look as if they exist trapped within an art history book, and around any corner a king might appear to show you his medieval castle. (One example, I stayed in the town of Torrecilla de Alcañiz at a doctor’s house built in 1899!).
The structure of Spanish buildings will take your breath away. The combination of Roman and Arab influences are evident in the Gothic, Renaissance, Mudéjar (a design from Muslim and Christian cultures), and Modern styles.
What if you’re an architecture junkie? La Sagrada Familia (The Holy Family Church) and Park Güell (which has the appearance of the gingerbread house in the Hansel and Gretel bedtime story) both built in Barcelona by Antoni Gaudi; La Seo, in Zaragoza and the Mudéjar monuments in Teruel are worth visiting.
Just thinking about the food makes me want to take the first plane back to Spain with eating as my only objective. Though it changes depending on the region, adelicious constant in the cuisine is fresh olive oil.
What dish did I love most in Aragón? Salted stuffed olives from Bajo Aragón. The delicious ham from Teruel, the chubby peaches from Calanda, and the colorful “Frutas de Aragón,” which are regional fruits covered in a thick dark chocolate.
And Catalonia? Without a doubt, “botifarra,” a kind of sausage and one of the most popular dishes of the Catalan cuisine, accompanied by a moist and creamy spinach pie.
If you have time!
Go to Morella, one of Spain’s prettiest villages, hidden in the province of Castellon, where you’ll hear the residents speaking “Catalan.” Enjoy a trip in Valderrobles, a small town surrounded by medieval walls, and visit Alcañiz, Bajo Aragón, home of the “Motorland” a massive motorsport race track.