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Sangria…a Taste of Spain

November 21, 2011 1 comment

Prompt #20: DRINK – my eighth post in bootsnall’s 30 Days of Indie Travel project.

Just as the cuisine of a place reveals clues about its culture and history, so does its signature local drink. What’s the best drink you had on the road, and did the drink have any connection to the place where you drank it or the people you drank with?

Sangria.  There really is no question about it.  Sangria is so tied into the culture of Spain, so representative of this country.  Sangria is delicious, refreshing, light and a mixture of complex flavors, just like Spain.

I found Spain to be a refreshing break from “Old Europe”.  Not as proper as the British, by the book like the Germans nor as traveller adverse as the French.  There was a sense of history, an understanding of those that had come before but at the same time a great enjoyment of life.  It just seemed like the Spanish people were fully aware that they had a great country and were happy to share it with the world.

Spain has long been a meeting place for different cultures.  The Arabian scholars helped preserve many ancient texts here, ensuring that we would have these records of history at a time when many in the Christian church were trying to destroy them.  Over time this past has been combined with the strong Catholic influence, combining to make Spain.  That said, even when traveling to different parts of the country there is a clear differentiation between the regions.  Madrid is different from Basque country which is different from Catalonia.  While there are certainly tensions, they all come together to form Spain.  Sangria has this mix of flavors with sugar and fruit balancing the wine.  It just works.

While traveling through Spain, from Bilbao to Rioja to Madrid and finally to Barcelona, most afternoons were spent having a glass (or pitcher) of Sangria.  Sometimes hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar, just to sample the variations on this delicious drink as we were sampling the various experiences of this great country.

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

When I was planning our trip to Spain, I knew that the two main focal points would be food and architecture. The food was delicious in every city we visited and the architecture was as unique and impressive as I had hoped it would be. Gaudi was a definite highlight as was the Frank Gehry designed Marques de Riscal hotel. These buildings were complemented by numerous other sights throughout Spain including the Royal Palace in Madrid, the apartments lining the San Fermin route in Pamplona, numerous alleys and streets throughout Barcelona and the mix of religious buildings in Toledo.

I checked off the building I was most looking forward to seeing on the first day in Spain, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. This magnificent museum, designed by Frank Gehry opened in 1997. The opening put Bilbao on the map and made it a destination for art and architecture fans across the world. Bilbao’s success has led many cities to try the same approach, hoping that a building designed by a big name architect will help make their city a destination for tourists, helping to bring tourism money to their city. This strategy clearly paid off for Bilbao in our case. The museum was the only reason we visited Bilbao, though the close proximity to Pamplona helped as well.

The morning after we arrived we made the walk down to the river to see the museum. Like the Marques de Riscal hotel, the building features titanium panels that wrap around the building. The curves were designed to look random, making for impressive sweeping curves that line the river. We never did make it inside, instead choosing to take an early bus to Pamplona to start that adventure.

The building alone was worth the visit and lived up to the hype. The sculpture that complemented the architecture made for a great visit and a good start to a trip filled with memorable architecture.

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