Earlier this month, my husband and I vacationed in Spain. I had wanted to go for a while now (well, I’ve been wanting to visit a Spanish-speaking country for a while since I felt fairly comfortable using the Spanish I learned in school). I even brushed up on grammar and vocabulary by listening to these wonderful podcasts called “Showtime Spanish.” I would plug away doing cardio at the gym or mundane household chores while listening to the podcasts (which I absolutely loved, and will probably like to continue listening to to keep my Spanish from getting too rusty). We had been looking forward to it for three months, and when we finally got there, we were, well, underwhelmed.
Looking back, we really valued the experience as a way to see a new country. Cultural and historical experiences are a big part of why we travel. I think our expectations were very high because we had visited London not too long ago, and you only ever hear wonderfully romantic and gushing stories about the other charming European cities. We quickly learned that London was of a different caliber. Even though we visited in the wintertime, it still held a beauty and character like nowhere else. Perhaps I should have foreseen that Spain would disappoint just as Paris did. However, Paris was simply a day trip also in the wintertime, so I thought our experience was skewed. Spain in early April has decent weather, but it was not as sunny as we would have hoped for. Although it rained through most of our honeymoon in Thailand, it was still lightyears ahead of Spain in comfort, accommodations, even food! We definitely realized that we prefer Asia to Europe (at least at this point). We have a renewed excitement in exploring other parts of Asia, including multiple regions of India, in the future.
That is the other thing about Spain. We were hoping to enjoy some authentic Spanish cuisine and thought it would all be delicious. The food was for the most part bland and unimpressive. The best paella we’ve ever eaten is in Charlotte, NC at Malabar! Even Valencia did not deliver quality paella, and that is the famous rice dish’s birthplace! I guess this should not have been too shocking, since we have heard that Indian food is better in the UK and the U.S. than in India itself. In reviewing my experiences of traveling in India, I would probably agree (luckily, we eat home cooking practically every single day, three meals a day whenever we visit family there!)
Perhaps the less-than-lovely experience had much to do with Spain’s recent economic crisis (aka “La Crisis”). It seems to slowly be back on the road to recovery, but many effects of the economic crisis were felt during our visit. One glaring example was at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia; the buildings appeared to lack upkeep, with plants overgrown and the metallic exterior of one building rusting over. It is sad that so much time, money, and skill once went into the creation of these buildings. One thing that irked my husband was the graffiti — it was everywhere. Those of you who have visited before the economic crisis were lucky and hopefully had a better time than we did!
All in all, we got to do a lot and see a lot. We road-tripped from Madrid to Barcelona to Valencia. Of these, Barcelona had the most to offer in the way of history and architecture, but Valencia had the most pleasant weather and was much quieter than the other two large cities. The drive from Barcelona to Valencia was truly spectacular, however, with lush green rolling hills, orchards, with mountains on one side and the sparkling blue Mediterranean on the other side. If we ever go back to Spain, we’d like to explore the western side of the country (Seville, Granada, Andalusia). The Muslim influence on architecture in those areas is of deep interest to me. Although I must say Gaudi’s cathedral was unlike anything I’ve ever seen! Despite “La Crisis,” we still have some good memories. Here are our favorite shots from Spain (most of these were taken by my husband with his new birthday gift =))
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OMG, I was underwhelmed by Spain too! I went back in 2006 with family and Dann. The food sucked (I was actually served pig snout at one place…icccch), which I learned can make a *BIG* difference when it comes to your experience in a country. We did enjoy the flamenco performances we attended, but other than that, it pretty much blew. And I was intrigued by the architecture as well, yes, but without good food it’s just a building. (I may put too much emphasis on food, I recognize this!) We met some Italians there who were also traveling, and when we asked how they were enjoying it, they couldn’t find words for it…you could tell they were trying to be nice. I just said “it’s not Italy.” They said “EXACTLY!” You know it’s disappointing when you’re yearning for the better experience that your OWN country can offer, like your NC paella, haha! Lesson learned: next time, (oh hell, every time) go to Italy. Anyway, glad you got some vacay time in and hope you are well. We’re ok…but are dealing with a deep loss on Dann’s side (his mom’s boyfriend passed, very suddenly, last week). Trudging through, but I’m sure there’s a light at the end of the tunnel…just waiting for it. Reading your words helped a lot tonight, so thank you!
I’m glad we weren’t crazy for thinking it was not that great! And man if it was crappy in 2006, it has been a slow recovery! La crisis…
Will email you soon chica.