España: Gaudi, tapas and Alcazars

That’s what Spain is all about apparently. And I don’t think they’re that far off. With the exception of the obsession with bull fighting, I think Spain is pretty damn amazing.

I don’t know a lot about architecture but I can tell you this, Gaudi knew what he was doing. Guell Park was one of the most fun and exciting places I’ve ever been. It was like Disneyland, but much more natural, considerably less commercial and there was only one slightly scary person in a costume. As a writer, my imagination was running wild throughout the short hour we spent exploring the park. I wish I could’ve gone inside the La Sagrada Familia or one of the apartments, I get the feeling it would have been like stepping into another world.

Even sitting around a table in a bar being eating tapas over a shared jug of sangria seemed a little other worldly at times. Although that might have had something to do with the free tequila shots that followed one of our bigger tapas escapades. The food, of course, warrants a mention. Before I actually went to Spain I had never tried paella. I had no idea what I was missing out on. However, I do credit some of my appreciation of paella to the fact I was suffering from rice withdrawal (oh, how Asian of me). I also never realised how much seafood they ate in Spain. It’s a good thing I like it, some people in our tour group were allergic and while they were catered for, it seemed like such a shame that they had to miss out on some truly delicious food. I never thought I would rave about a seafood soup of all things, but here I am.

And the Alcazars! Every city in Italy has a Duomo and every city in Spain has an Alcazar. In Granada they have the Alhambra and it’s beautiful. I didn’t think anything would top it. But then I went to the Alcazar in Seville. Our tour manager said of it; “If the Palace of Versailles and the Alhambra had a baby, this would be it.” And while I’ve never seen the Palace of Versailles, I believe him 100%. To put it in words won’t do it justice and I don’t think everyone will love it as much I did, but I’m going to try anyway. The Alcazar in Seville was east meets west. The building itself was very arabic with mosaics and arches everywhere. Outside the garden was fountains, ponds and hedges, with a maze thrown in for good measure. There was even a peacock and a painter.

Although there are two quirky things that might be worth a mention. Spanish men, like Italian men, need their own special toilet in a hotel room. And the pillows are weirdly shaped, long and narrow. Initially I thought it was just the hostel were I stayed when I first arrived, but I soon realised that pillows the same width as the bed are perfectly normal in Spain. The pillows in Austria, in contrast, are shorter and fatter. Which led me to wonder about all the small things that make a difference. Cigarette and alcohol vending machines, smoking in doors  and the unquestioned presence of dogs on public transport are just a few of the things that Europe has that Australia doesn’t. And you know what? Again, in the words of my tour manager:

“It’s not wrong, it’s just different.”

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