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3 Inimitable Places in Spain to Visit in Your Lifetime

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3 Inimitable Places in Spain to Visit in Your Lifetime

The subject of El Greco and Ernest Hemingway, Spain holds a certain mystique for those who suffer chronic wanderlust. To appreciate what this country has to offer, you have to be willing to take the “road less traveled.” This means foregoing the more obvious points on the map.

If you are a traveler with a refined sense of adventure, the Spanish destinations listed here are places you must see in your lifetime. (For a list of “must-see” world destinations, read this article.)

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1. Seeking Sanctuary in Covadonga, Asturias

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    Photo Credit: Santuario de Covadonga/Jaime González, https://flic.kr/p/fEzogh
    Photo 1: Built into the mountainside, the Holy Cave houses the tomb of King Pelayo and the Virgin of Covadonga. The original chapel, burned down with all of its contents in the 16th century. A year after its destruction, a marble chapel was donated by a local cathedral. Access to the chapel is available by taking stairs up the mountain.

    Located in the Pico de Europa mountains in the northwest of Spain, the sanctuary of Covadonga stands out against the mountains, with its Basilica of Santa Maria la Real de Covadonga being visible before you reach the sanctuary proper. It commemorates the great battle of Covadonga, in which Asturian leader Pelayo won a victory that began the reconquest of Spain from the Moors from North Africa.

    Offering a variety of sights for the eager explorer, Covadonga provides breathtaking landscapes, access to the Pico de Europa mountains and its lakes, an awe-inspiring basilica, and a mythical grotto. What makes this destination truly original is the majestic beauty of the Holy Cave that appears suspended within the mountainside and houses the Virgin of Covadonga as well as Pelayo’s tomb.

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    2. Between a Rock and a Hard Place in Toledo

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      Photo Credit: Toledo, Spain/williamwheatley, https://flic.kr/p/rsnRpx
      Photo 2: Toledo has served as the logistical, cultural, and political center for various rulers and regimes throughout its existence. Two millennia of history and monuments reside within its city walls. Ironically, when the capital moved permanently to Madrid, the ultimate result was the preservation of many of the city’s cultural and architectural elements. Today, the city is a reflection of the artistic excellence that can occur when heterogeneous cultures find ways to coexist.

      Bearing the same name for both its municipality and its province, Toledo is a city with unique history and cultural influences. Known as the “City of Three Cultures,” this World Heritage site was once a branch of the Roman Empire, the capital to the Spanish Visigoths, and later the Moors. It was a place of harmonious coexistence of between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. It was also the main court of Spanish Royalty. The site was besieged by the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. With such a rich tradition built into every inch of this city, it is more like visiting an open-air museum than a destination.

      If you plan to drive in Toledo, be careful. Centuries before the modern invention of automobiles, the labyrinthine streets where not built for cars. The streets are absurdly narrow in many places. You might want to check into some auto insurance quotes before getting behind the wheel, just to be on the safe side.

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      3. Life’s Literally a Beach in Fuertaventura, Las Palmas

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        Photo Credit: Verano en La Playa de Las Canteras Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Agosto de 2013)/El Coleccionista de Instantes Fotografía & Video, https://flic.kr/p/fCdqAg
        Photo 3: Roughly translated to mean “strong winds,” Fuertaventura is the second largest of the Canary Islands. Home to over 150 beaches, either fine, white sands or black volcanic shingle are present on its coastline. Fans of windsurfing and kite surfing flock to this location due to windy locale. Similar to the climate in Florida, this destination enjoys year-round warm temperatures and many hours of sunshine.

        With over 93 miles of some of the most impressive coastline in Europe, you are sure to find the perfect beach to suits your tastes. However, if you preference is for f fine, white sand beaches, and pristine waters, look no further than La Concha and El Cotillo. Having earned World Biosphere Reserve status in 2009, this island’s tradition of high winds and long hours of sunshine are known to attract both kitesurfing and windsurfing enthusiasts. Seasonal summer Trade Winds make Fuerteventura one of the world’s best windsurfing destinations. Annually, the island hosts World Championship events on the south side of the island.

        Final Note on Road Trips in Spain

        If you plan to travel by car in Spain for large stretches of time, save yourself some Euros by using the autovias (labeled on road signs with a capital “A”) that are free, as opposed to the autopistas (labeled on road signs with the capitals “AP”), which are toll roads. Remember to take time to enjoy the scenery and surrounding towns. Because the roads are very old, they wind through mountains and in between shade and light at certain times of day. Make sure to wear protective eyewear to avoid solar glare on these beautiful and sometimes treacherous roads.

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        Featured photo credit: Toledo, Spain/williamwheatley via flic.kr

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        Paisley Hansen

        Freelance Writer

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        Last Updated on January 27, 2022

        5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

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        5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

        Food plays an integral role in our lives and rightfully so: the food we eat is intricately intertwined with our culture. You can learn a lot about a particular culture by exploring their food. In fact, it may be difficult to fully define a culture without a nod to their cuisine.

        “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1825).

        Don’t believe me? Here’s why food is the best way to understand a culture:

        Food is a universal necessity.

        It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from – you have to eat. And your societal culture most likely evolved from that very need, the need to eat. Once they ventured beyond hunting and gathering, many early civilizations organized themselves in ways that facilitated food distribution and production. That also meant that the animals, land and resources you were near dictated not only what you’d consume, but how you’d prepare and cook it. The establishment of the spice trade and the merchant silk road are two example of the great lengths many took to obtain desirable ingredients.

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        Food preservation techniques are unique to climates and lifestyle.

        Ever wonder why the process to preserve meat is so different around the world? It has to do with local resources, needs, and climates. In Morocco, Khlea is a dish composed of dried beef preserved in spices and then packed in animal fat. When preserved correctly, it’s still good for two years when stored at room temperature. That makes a lot of sense in Morocco, where the country historically has had a strong nomadic population, desert landscape, and extremely warm, dry temperatures.

        Staples of a local cuisines illustrate historical eating patterns.

        Some societies have cuisines that are entirely based on meat, and others are almost entirely plant-based. Some have seasonal variety and their cuisines change accordingly during different parts of the year. India’s cuisine is extremely varied from region to region, with meat and wheat heavy dishes in the far north, to spectacular fish delicacies in the east, to rice-based vegetarian diets in the south, and many more variations in between.

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        The western part of India is home to a group of strict vegetarians: they not only avoid flesh and eggs, but even certain strong aromatics like garlic, or root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Dishes like Papri Chat, featuring vegetable based chutneys mixed with yoghurt, herbs and spices are popular.

        Components of popular dishes can reveal cultural secrets.

        This is probably the most intriguing part of studying a specific cuisine. Certain regions of the world have certain ingredients easily available to them. Most people know that common foods such as corn, tomatoes, chili peppers, and chocolate are native to the Americas, or “New World”. Many of today’s chefs consider themselves to be extremely modern when fusing cuisines, but cultural lines blended long ago when it comes to purity of ingredients.

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        Black pepper originated in Asia but became, and still remains, a critical part of European cuisine. The Belgians are some of the finest chocolatiers, despite it not being native to the old world. And perhaps one of the most interesting result from the blending of two cuisines is Chicken Tikka Masala; it resembles an Indian Mughali dish, but was actually invented by the British!

        Food tourism – it’s a whole new way to travel.

        Some people have taken the intergation of food and culture to a new level. No trip they take is complete with out a well-researched meal plan, that dictates not only the time of year for their visit, but also how they will experience a new culture.

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        So, a food tourist won’t just focus on having a pint at Oktoberfest, but will be interested in learning the German beer making process, and possibly how they can make their own fresh brew. Food tourists visit many of the popular mainstays for traditional tourism, like New York City, San Francisco, London, or Paris, but many locations that they frequent, such as Armenia or Laos, may be off the beaten path for most travelers. And since their interest in food is more than meal deep, they have the chance to learn local preparation techniques that can shed insight into a whole other aspect of a particular region’s culture.

        Featured photo credit: Young Shih via unsplash.com

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