Spain. It sits just across the channel (and down a bit) and has influenced many aspects of our culture but how much do we really know about the country that never sleeps? Sure, we know it’s sunny, hot, drenched in history and its people are passionate, but with so many holiday destinations available, it’s time to ask yourself how much you really know about Spain before heading there. Time to debunk some myths and let you in on a few sultry Spanish secrets…
1. The Spanish invented the beret
Hands off, France! The beret is Spanish through and through. Anyone who has visited the north of Spain – especially the Basque Country – will know that the beret features prominently over here. Walk through the streets of San Sebastian and the elder men folk will be wearing them while nibbling on pinxos (northern tapas.)
2. Tapas isn’t a type of food
Time to set the record straight. Everyone goes to Spain for the tapas, right? Well, tapas isn’t an actual type of food but a way of eating it. ‘Tapa’ means lid which echoes back to when the nomadic Moors first crossed Spain and stop at inns along the way. To protect their drinks from the flies, a piece of bread was placed on top of the glass, creating a lid. Gradually this bread evolved into more spectacular dishes but the root remains the same. To ‘go for tapas’ doesn’t involve ordering lots of little dishes but means hopping from one place to another ordering (or being served) a different ‘tapa’ in each bar.
3. Bullfighting is fading out
It’s not advisable to see a bullfight when you’re over in Spain. Madrid is especially famous for its bullfighting with a big arena called Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas located just outside the centre of the city. The bullfighting season in Madrid runs around festival San Isidro where there could be up to six fights a day. While it might be popular in Madrid, bullfighting has been banned in Barcelona and the Catalonians are proud of it. While the bull fight is still a prominent feature of Spain’s self-image, bullfighting is slowly fading as the younger generations take a stand against what is now considered quite a gruesome sport. If you do buy tickets, buy seats that are ‘a la sombra’, the shade.
4. Not all the paella is good
You’re in Spain so naturally you’ll want to eat some of the famous paella! However, restaurants in the centre of the cities will know just that and charge a lot for often below par efforts. If you do have a hankering for the rice dish (it is delicious) go to restaurants that aren’t in the immediate tourist places – even the side streets will have better versions.
5. Spain has the world’s biggest gothic cathedral
Did you know that Seville, located in the south of Spain, hosts Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede, an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s largest gothic cathedral. Built in the fifteenth century, it’s known for two things: its tower was built for Seville’s mosque, and explorer Christopher Columbus is buried here.
6. The Spanish invented Sherry
Sherry was invented in Jerez which is near Cadiz in the south of Spain. Why the drink is now associated with the British older generation is still unknown but there is a strong British presence in the Jerez area which might start to shine some light on this anomaly.
7. All ages enjoy the nightlife
Everyone in Spain likes having a good time and that includes young and old. Partying is in the Spanish blood and the nightlife is well-known – it ca be raucous! A walk around a town or city at night is great. You’ll notice every one of all ages coming out to enjoy the cool air and it makes for a very welcoming atmosphere.
8. Yes the Spanish really do eat dinner at 10pm
Try and eat dinner before and you’ll be hard pressed to find something. Unfortunately, when in Spain you’ll have to change your routines. Sometimes they finish lunch at 5pm.
9. Shout to be heard
PARDON? If you’re going out, in almost any area in Spain, then you really will have to shout to get heard. It’s amazing to experience though. The noise steadily increases the later it gets and the more packed the bars become. The Spanish are incredibly talented at having multiple conversations at once so speak up to be heard!
10. Football is a religion
Real Madrid or Athletico Madrid? Or Barcelona? Whatever team you choose to get behind while in Spain, stick to your guns. Football is massive and everyone between the ages of 5 – 100 years old will have an opinion. You’re talking to the recent World Champions, after all!