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#Shutterbug Travel Sanket Kunde • August 21, 2015
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I have travelled to a lot of places to shoot over the last nine years, but never been able to explore them due to hectic work schedules. My wife Saawni, on the other hand, has always believed in living like a local even while she travelled for work and made special efforts to make time to explore.

Her infectious passion for travel has actually changed my perspective as a traveller. We like to make travel happen by squeezing destinations into the long weekends or just taking off whenever the pocket permits.
After Turkey, Spain was our second international destination. This time around we were much more confident when planning the travel as the first trip was great. We always plan and book our trips ourselves, using the many helpful websites and travel forums that exist. Saawni is a reviewer on tripadvisor and active on forums from where she takes guidance in making the itineraries.

So, why Spain? Practically every person we shared our plan with was concerned about why we had chosen Spain and particularly why only Spain for the entire 15 days. We had deliberately decided to deep dive into a country, its people and culture, rather than trying to race through multiple cities and countries. With an itinerary spread over 15 day we covered the Catalonia, Andalusia and Basque country regions of Spain. Just as we boast of our myriad cultures in India, Spain’s regions are vastly different to one another.

We started our travel from Malaga, in the south, making a couple of day trips to Granada and Cordoba from there. We then moved to Sevilla and Madrid from where we visited Toledo. The next leg of the journey was the beautiful San Sebastian and Bilbao in the Basque region. The trip ended up in Barcelona.

My absolute favourite places of all were Sevilla and San Sebastian thanks to their distinct character. Sevilla’s narrow cobblestone lanes house the richest of Spanish history, including the Reales Alcazar. Walking around the lanes in the Barrio Santa Cruz (Old Quarter) surprised us at every turn as we kept discovering something new. We did a walking tour with Feel the City and gathered immense amounts of information from guides who providing tourists with fascinating, unknown snippets about the city.

The food was outstanding, and further increased our love for the city. We ate great food at almost every restaurant including amazing paella (rice cooked with seafood) – the national dish of Spain.

We attended a flamenco performance while at Sevilla at the Museo del Baile Flamenco. Highly recommended. The artists poured their heart and soul into the performance creating an ethereal atmosphere.

San Sebastian on the other hand is a quaint little town up north, sharing borders with France and coastline with the Atlantic Ocean. The culture of the Basque region is completely unique and very different to anywhere else in Spain. They speak Euskera, a language that has a mix of folk languages from land as far as the South Americas. The food in the basque region too is different, and the area has the largest number of Michelin star restaurants in Spain. Every corner has pintxos (cold toppings on French bread) bars one can indulge in. If you love the sea, this place is for you.

In fact, everywhere we went in Spain was stunning. We saw Moorish art adorning the palaces, Gaudi and Dali leading the art scene and of course the wonderful convenience of European standard of living.

Here are a few highlights from each city.

Malaga is the city where Pablo Picasso was born and gained glory in the world of art with his cubism.

Granada is a stunning city, the home to the Alhambra and lends its name to the pomegranate fruit (the national fruit).

Cordoba has the prettiest white washed homes alongside Cathedral Mezquita.

Madrid is a city laden with art, is a modern day city for those who love to shop and party. Madrid offers the best churros and chocolate across the country and has the most beautiful bullring.

Toledo is the manufacturer of the world best swords sits atop a hillock. The Jewish quarter here is a great walk.

Bilbao gives you a feel of the United Kingdom.

Barcelona is a mecca for partygoers, home to Gaudi architecture and modern day Spain, will remind you of Mumbai. Gaudi Barri Gothic is definitely a highlight of this city.

These cities are united by their love for football, tapas and sangria. People are incredibly passionate about the game, and every city has its own club and followers. As for tapas and sangria, no meal is complete without these. Every restaurant has at least fifty types of tapas options, ranging from meats to salad to chicken and seafood.

Writing this had made me nostalgic – my mind is wandering through the lanes of Spain. These are just a few of our experiences, for if I had to write about them all, I’d publish a book. My tip for a really fun travel experience – stay in apartments, hostels and homestays, travel in trams, metros and buses, learn the city maps by heart, eat local food and of course learn a bit of Spanish. The true joy of travelling is in living like a local.

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