I’ve been suffering tapas and cava withdrawal since returning from Spain.
You see, you might think you are visiting Spain to sightsee and soak up the Old World culture – and while you might very well do that, you’ll soon find that regular stops at outdoor cafes for tapas (appetizers meant for sharing) and cava (Spain’s yummy sparkling wine) are mandatory.
Our tour group took in all of Spain’s greatest hits – from strolling the magnificent La Rambla down to the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona and looking at cubist art in the Picasso Museum to lounging on Costa Brava beaches and gawking at the treasures at Madrid’s Royal Palace.
But it was the long lunches and dinners that became our addiction. Go to McDonalds if you want a fast meal. Sit down at a Spanish outdoor cafe if you want to linger, soak up the Mediterranean ambiance and people watch.
A glass of cava is the perfect way to kick off both lunch and dinner. Or sip sangria – Spain’s wonderful mixture of red wine and fresh fruit. Resign yourself to the fact that mid-day drinking is inevitable, encouraged, and enjoyable in Spain. Then, prepare yourself for the armada of tapas from small plates of olives and cold meats to bigger plates of salads and Spain’s national dish paella: rice flavoured with saffron and containing any one of the regional specialties from prawns to sausage.
Barcelona’s Plaza Reial, right off the famous La Rambla or Madrid’s Oriental Plaza surrounding the Royal Palace, are rife with outdoor eateries to feed your newfound tapas and cava requirements. When visiting the Costa Brava, dine inside the wall of a medieval city in Tossa de Mar at Castell Vell, which has outdoor tables shaded by a canopy of vines.
Between meals you may also want to do some sightseeing so you come back with some culture as well as an expanding waistline and overworked liver.
For instance, go to the source of those drinks by touring and tasting at the Codorniu cava house and Torres winery, both close Barcelona. The most visited site in Spain is Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, which is architect Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece of funky honeycomb spires and melting icing facade. Spain’s famous flamenco dancing and bullfighting are also on show at nightclubs and stadiums of all sizes throughout the country.
Summer season flights from Canada to Spain have begun:
- Air Transat (www.airtransat.com) has non-stops to Barcelona from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; to Madrid from Toronto and Montreal; and to the chic Costa del Sol beach destination of Malaga from Toronto and Montreal.
- Air Canada (www.aircanada.com) flies Toronto-Madrid and to Barcelona from Toronto and Montreal.
Steve MacNaull is a business reporter for the Kelowna Daily Courier who loves to travel and write about that too. Find out more about Steve at www.bctravelwriters.com/macnaull.