I’ve just spent a week and a half in Spain, which began with a brief visit to Seville and ending with nearly a full week in Madrid. I’ve been to Spain a few times before, but not for this long…which now seems far too short.
I’m already plotting my next trip back. Here are some of the things I’m going to miss the most:
1. Jerte Valley cherries. I ate them nearly every morning for breakfast while on the Al Andalus train through Extremadura, where they’re grown. They are some of the sweetest, most perfect cherries I’ve ever tasted, outside of the French ones.
2. Olive oil on my toast for breakfast. This seemed weird at first. Olive oil in the morning? But after a week or so in Spain, it seemed like a good idea to give it a try. The Spanish oil is so fruity, it’s perfect, really.
3. Sweet wine vinegar. How have I not known about this before? I ordered a spinach salad at Le Coco, a new restaurant in Madrid’s Chueca district, and was given this vinegar and a bottle of fruity Spanish olive oil (not just for breakfast, it turns out) to dress my own salad. This seemed odd, but I poured a bit of both on, then some more. This is a very subtle, mild vinegar and it would be perfect with anything involving fruit. I went back to the restaurant the next day and they sold me two bottles.
4. Pulpo, pulpo, pulpo! I love octopus. Grilled, in a salad, or any other way you’d like to serve it. It’s all over Madrid. I’ve eaten it, Gallega-style (with olive oil and pimenton) for tapas (see photo below) and in a fresh salad, called salpicon de pulpo, like I first tasted in Marbella a couple of years ago. I might be able to eat it for breakfast as long as there’s olive oil on toast, too.
5. Eating small. I love how at most places you can order a full portion, a half (tapa), and in some cases, one-third. It’s much more fun to try lots of different things and share. It’s not “I’ll order this one and you order that one, and we’ll share,” like people do in the U.S., and then, no one does (you know who you are). People really share here.
6. The no-rules approach to mealtime — here, you can eat when you want, and as much or as little as you want. Except for 4 to 8 p.m., when most places are closed, it’s pretty much always tapas time in Spain.
7. Industrial-inspired design. Oversize lighting stripped from old factories hang in chic restaurants all over the city, and the Madrid airport itself is a monument to modern industrial design. It works well here, especially among the centuries-old architecture.
8. Women in dresses and skirts (I bought two). It’s true, this is a macho country and the differences between us are clear. As much as I’m a blue jeans girl, I’m also happy in a dress or in a skirt. With boots, of course.
9. Wifi on the city buses in Madrid. How cool is that?
10. The infectious, overall laid-back vibe. After a week and a half in Spain, I unknowingly caught it, and found myself no longer rushing to finish my lunch. At 4 p.m.