Spain had been one of the top in our European bucket list for a while. We are lucky to have some great Spanish friends, and I had always loved their food, rich culture, dancing, art and diverse landscape. But somehow, both times we went, as much as I enjoyed myself immensely, I feel I have yet to experience the ‘real’ Spain and I am looking forward to it being the first destination on our road trip to Bangladesh in a few months time!
The first time we went to Graus, province of Aragon in Spain in 2010. A very special trip, not so much because it was Spain, but the fact that we went as a large family group of 30 people(from USA, India, and UK) to celebrate Ashique’s Grandmother turning 80, one of her daughters turning 60 and another one turning 50!
It was the first time we did something like this along with the extended family from America, and there were lot of first meetings, forging of strong friendships and bonds, and we managed to come out of it, not only not wanting to kill each other, but actually wanting to do it again! The location was lovely, the drive there from Barcelona airport was filled with breathtaking scenery, majestic mountain views, flowing rivers, pretty villages. Our villa Alfonso was absolutely gorgeous(and cheap-£100 per person for 7 days), each house was spacious, with its own distinct style, large pool and tennis court, beautiful gardens, plus had a river running through one side of the villa. We did white water rafting(Shahaar’s first time at the age of 5), wine tasting, fishing, hiking, cycling, water sports, even went running and there were still many other activities to do nearby.
The village itself was very quaint and picturesque, it had a large open square surrounded by restaurants and shops, little alleyways, and cobbled streets. Graus was relatively small, but there were several interesting sights and places to visit around the region, including a lovely Buddhist Monastery that we went to. We had our fair share of delicious Tapas, Sangria, Churros, Chorizo and Pimientos de Padron.
We flew in and out of Barcelona so managed to squeeze in a typical tourists day of visiting Las Rambles and La Sagrada Familia . Well worth it but definitely requires more than a day to experience it fully!
The highlight of this trip to Spain was our own mini family world, the laughter and jokes we shared, the bonding over food, drinks and activities. I didn’t have to speak a word of Spanish, as two of our cousins did and translated everything at the restaurant. And since we were such a large party everywhere we went, there was really little local interaction(or even if there was, it was overshadowed by our own chattering and laughter).
Our second time in Spain was just Ashique and I in 2012. On our 5 year wedding anniversary, he had surprised me by whisking me off to Paris for the weekend(I had not a clue), arranged babysitting for the kids who were very little, and we had a brilliant time! Since then we take turns each year ‘surprising’ each other for a weekend away at a secret European destination. I decided to take him South of Spain, as our good friend Mom has a place there and was kind enough to let us stay there during our visit. I was thinking a nice beach sunny holiday to Costa de sol, sipping drinks, lying on the beach, I had read up on Marbella, I packed our bathing suits, weather was meant to be nice.
Those three days we were there, they had the worst rains, floods, two Britons died(!) the hotels on the beach front couldn’t cope with the excess of water and all the sewerage ran into the sea, which went from turquoise to brown. We still managed to enjoy ‘us time’, lengthy dining pleasures over several glasses on wine, and long leisurely walks with umbrellas. Marbella was very pretty with interesting sculptures, flowers and sightseeing. What was a completely new experience for us was finding little Britain in the south of Spain. We stayed in Calahonda, a large lovely complex, just near the beach, but full of fellow English people! All the bars showed English football and the favourite food was curry. We had to go to the next town for Spanish food and ur one late night out in town ended up with 20 drunken English people er so excited to find a couple from Yorkshire at their local Guinness Bar!
Recently I watched Rick Steins Food odyssey in spain and that is exactly what I visualize our future trip to Spain! It’s still fun recounting our drunken Guinness bar story or reminiscing fondly about our wonderful family trip, but I am on a mission to experience Spain as we have done with other places like Italy or France and really feel the culture, mingle with the locals, and enjoy its beauty. I keep looking at map of Spain and how best to do this journey where we can cover San Sebastian, Seville, Madrid, Barcelona, Andalusia…but I guess time will tell where our journey to Spain will lead us 🙂