I recently watch a You Tube video, Spain Revealed with James Blick. This man is married to a Spanish woman and has regular videos about customs and culture in Spain. Here are his top 10 things to do in Spain beside tapas, paella and la Segrada Familia. I added my own commentary to his tips.
1. Don’t miss the 8pm paseo – this is the time of day when people go for a walk in the centro, plaza or the beaches to people watch. The evening walk is popular before dinner which normally starts at 10pm. You will often see people sit on a bench and eat sunflower seeds while watching people go by.
2. Go to neighborhoods outside the touristy areas. That is where you will have the true slice of life and cultural experience. Spaniards are very social and will congregate to talk about the latest soccer game, gossip a little or talk politics right in the street. You will see kids play, hear dogs bark and see abuela (grandmother) sweeping the sidewalk. She might also have a few fruits to sell from her tree in the back garden.
3. Go to lesser known parts of Spain. There are literally thousands of towns and villages in all parts of Spain. They are all interesting to discover. My husband Terry and I often say that you can go for a short drive in any direction and discover a new Pueblo you have never seen before. Sit in the plaza and enjoy lunch while taking in the local flavor.
4. Go to an old man’s bar for a menu del dia to sample the real food that workers, typically men, eat. Bars are ubiquitous is Spain and their food is simple, inexpensive and hearty. You will see the locals at the bar chatting with the owner, bar tender or other locals over a caña (small beer) or cafe con lèche (coffee with milk).
5. Take time for sobremesa, after your meal. After coffee and dessert, stay there and order some chupitos (shots). It is the time of day to stay put and enjoy “the moment” for an hour or two!
6. Drink local wines. There are 60 wine regions in Spain. Whatever town or village you visit, ask if they have any local wines (¿tenéis vino de aquí?) It may not be the best wine of your life but there will be a story behind it and a lot of soul in its taste.
7. Eat paella like a local. Paella is traditionally always eaten for lunch, never for dinner. You will often see families and groups of friends enjoying a lovely paella on Sundays, and holidays.
8. See a flamenco show. Flamenco dance and music is the heart and soul of Andalucia. You will not have experienced the culture fully if you don’t get to see a flamenco show. Do some research to pick a good one and enjoy the intensity of the songs and dance.
9. Eat Chocolate con churros. Churros are the thin tube donuts of spanish culture. They are especially good when dipped in hot chocolate. Try them in the late morning for a snack.
10. Talk to a stranger in Spain. They are really open to it and it is done everywhere all the time. One thing I love about Spanish is that they are very unpretentious people and have little formal rules. They love the simple life and are casual about things. No hay problema, is the norm and we love it! Young people are fun and you might find yourself in a group sharing a good laugh!