My husband nearly had to sell rosemary like the gypsies do on the streets of Granada, Spain. Or maybe he could have read people´s palms for a few euros to get us out of a pickle of being next to broke.
This happened because we ran out of cash in Granada, Andalusia for a while. To be fair we still had a credit card and pre-bought tickets to the Arab palaces of La Alhambra but it made me reflect on enjoying Spain with little money.
What do I most enjoy about Spain, even when I don´t have much money? Well I am enamoured by the sun and pleasant climate on the southern coasts (being from Scotland it is no surprise I enjoy the weather). I also have a weakness for a different culture and a relaxed lifestyle but why else do I love Spain?
The passion for life is contagious so simply being around the people is an amazing experience. People´s interactions in daily life can be so dramatic that blending into routine is like starring in a theatre production. Their passion and pride run through their history, producing thrilling culture like themusic style of flamenco. I do have some difficulty understanding flamenco since it sounds really painful to me and I can´t work out the words amongst the suffering but that´s the challenge as I wonder about the people involved in this fiery art form.
Music reflects the people well. There is also the upbeat popular Spanish music. Not only pop music, but also “sevillanos” are great for dancing casually on a Friday night as the basic steps are easy to learn. These are regional dances of Andalucía which were originally a form of flamenco although they contain much less anguish than flamenco.
You can also hear frequently Spanish guitar music which can incite all kinds of emotions from nostalgia to romance. On a recent visit I climbed to the white hilltop village of Mijas on the coast of the same name, it added another emotion to the view, to find, just beyond the donkey taxis, a guitarist dressed in black and white, playing romantic songs on his guitar facing a view down over the whitewashed village and green hills to the coastline.
When I was in the Arab quarter, or the Albaicin in Granada, listening to Arab music from the street side shops while looking for a new pair of Moroccan slippers and contemplating bronze, gold and pink cushions, I reflected too on the influence of Arab culture and language on Spain. I wonder sometimes how much of their emotional intensity comes from the Arab culture.
As I walked through the Granada streets, it reminded me of another reason I love to be in Spain. Thehistory is captivating. Once you start digging, there is a mosaic of events and figures which underline historical connections between Spain, Europe, Africa and the Americas. Similar to many European countries, their history is intertwined with migrations of people plus wars over power and religion and one of the alluring pieces of the historical puzzle for me is how Spain lost so much power in the world over time. History has marked Spain´s strong national character and it´s fascinating to consider how.
The food is also a magnet. The ways to prepare seafood are diverse from serving vinegar and garlic with fresh anchovies to Galicia style octopus with paprika and olive oil (and they are delicious!) I love wandering through the fish market stalls of Costa Del Sol especially. There´s a friendly and folkloric vibe about markets in Spain and modern supermarkets don´t compare. In a Valencian market, after tasting the freshly made paella and enquiring about it, I picked up the highest quality paella rice I have ever used (to be fair my father used it as he is the one who makes it)
Another type of food that I became a fan of on my last trip was “crema catalana”. Eating it slowly with a small Spanish coffee is just the trick for a relaxing afternoon on holiday, especially if you are lucky enough to find a place looking over the beach.
I think tapas and markets have helped Spain maintain pride in its cuisine. It´s inspiring to also see their regional pride and how knowledgeable they are on their local origins too. In a Fuengirola market I heard some sellers argue over the factual details of local Roman history in between racks of clothes and shoes. And Catalonia is a classic example of a region that is almost a mini-nation. There is also a variety of languages and political opinions from one region to the next. Outside of the big cities there is a spirit too of supporting local (and national) businesswithout much interest in Anglo-Saxon capitalism.
There is a spice of rebellion in the way the Spanish live too. When rebellion results in breathtaking creative art like the works of Gaudi in Barcelona´s architecture, it makes a city come alive. Barcelona is one of the things I love about Spain too, as an example of reinvention and a mix of progress, art, fashion, architecture and more. I find the city stimulating.
In fact I find the whole Spanish Mediterranean coast renewing.
There is an easygoing charm with much to discover. For me experiences of Spain as a child and as an adult conjure up delightful memories of an irrepressible culture. So even if you don´t have much to spend, Spain is worth a trip with or without the spectacular Alhambra and other grand tourist attractions. You probably won´t need to read palms or sell rosemary on the Andalusian streets if you end up strapped for cash.