It’s a warm, breezy summer evening, and you’re watching the sunset over a glass of wine. Your skirt flutters lightly against your ankles. Laughter and animated conversation buzz around you, in a familiar language you half-understand. A smiling waiter drops by and sets a small dish between the two of you; it looks like chorizo, and it’s been battered in something that smells amazing. You smile across the table at each other as the waiter winks and slips away. Your wine is excellent, and so is his, though you both only pointed at the list at random. Your table overlooks a medieval plaza, and a huge Gothic cathedral is on your right, glowing warmly in the fading light. You take that first bite, and the little appetizer is even tastier than it smells. It’s your first escape as newlyweds, and the chaos of the last few weeks slows to a gentle rhythm as you and your new husband toast to your new adventure.
And here’s something else you can toast to: those ruby red glasses of Rioja? You’ll pay only 4 euro for them. And that little plate of savory deliciousness? That’s free! That’s tapas in the truest sense; a little something provided by the bar to help you enjoy your wine. This is why I love Spain; it’s a country that truly understands that wine and food must be enjoyed in the same way that air must be breathed.
Why honeymoon in Spain?
Do you need a reason beyond delicious and deliriously inexpensive food and wine? Well, okay:
Now is the time. The Spanish economy is struggling, but there is a silver lining for us visitors: everything, including lodging, excursions, train tickets, and of course food, is more reasonably-priced than ever. Looking for a luxurious apartment all to yourselves? Try AirBnB, and even in the Spanish capital, Madrid, you may pay only about 50 euro per night. Another bright side: your tourist euros are helping Spain get back on its feet!
It’s convenient. Spain has a pretty solid regional train system to get you from A to B, and Madrid’s metro is super-clean and goes everywhere (including an easy 6 euro trip to the airport). The bargain airlines Ryanair and Easyjet have frequent flights from Madrid airport to other European countries, and since Spain’s in the Euro Zone, you won’t even have to change currency when you get off the plane. Got into town and don’t know where to start? A friendly agent at your nearest tourist information booth will be happy to talk you through all of the sights (in any language you please) and give you a free map.
Want to brush up on your Spanish? So many of us spent years in school learning it, so why not give it a try? I bet you’ll remember more than you think! And if you don’t, then most people in the main cities and at the main attractions can speak English, too. You won’t find a friendlier bunch of people to practice your Spanish with.
What can we do there?
Eat and drink! Make sure to try jamón ibérico, which is the king of hams, in my humble opinion. It’s thinly-sliced, deep purple-red, and so, so tasty. If you like it as much as I do, why not try a factory tour and tasting? You’ll even learn how to slice your own jamón ibérico.
If you’re going to Madrid, make sure to visit Mercado San Miguel, near Plaza Mayor. It’s an elegant, iron-and-glass indoor/outdoor market originally built in 1916, and every stall is filled with beautiful, mouth-watering treats that you can peruse at your leisure with a glass of wine (no need to leave your glass at the stall where you bought it; wander freely! The glassware is shared among all of the vendors). This one isn’t so cheap, but hey, that’s why you have a wanderable.com registry, right?
See a flamenco show. Sure, it sounds touristy, but trust me, this is so worth it. Flamenco is so intense, I challenge even the dance-averse to watch without their jaw hitting the floor. The rhythm, the music, the pounding shoes, the twirling skirts, and that look in the dancer’s eye… it’s not something you’ll quickly forget. Here’s one to try if you’re looking to pair your show with dinner.
Visit the ‘big three’ museums. Picasso? Sure you’ve heard of him. Want to see some of his stuff? How about Dalí? How about many, many others? El Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-bornemisza are all must-see stops for art lovers.
Not sure if you love art, or just want a refresher course? I would highly recommend reading Rick Steves’ Europe 101 before any trip to Europe. It’s light and entertaining, and you’ll walk away with a big appreciation for European art and its link to history and culture… and that museum trip will mean a lot more to you, too. Plus, if you’re flying in from the US, you’ll have lots of time to kill on the plane. Why not add the book to your registry? You can add the museum entry fees too, while you’re at it.
Slip away for the day. From Madrid, you can easily hop a train to Salamanca, Toledo, and Segovia– all beautiful, and all completely worth seeing.
Get some sunshine! Need a break from all the sightseeing? Take a picnic to Parque del Retiro, a big and beautiful park near the Prado museum. There’s even a lake, in case you fancy a little boat ride. Anywhere you go in Spain, if it’s spring or summer, chances are it will be hot and sunny.
So, are you hungry yet? Go on, make yourself a snack. And after that, feel free to wander back anytime. Want to learn about Bordeaux? How about Costa Rica? Ireland? Stay tuned for more personal guides to my favorite spots around the world..