Last year I posted a review of Experience Italy, a Lonely Planet guide that explored the country and its culture in depth. Now the second book in the series – Experience Spain – has been published. Again, this is much more than a conventional guidebook; it is a feast for the senses and an endless source of inspiration.
Unique Spanish Experiences
This isn’t the Spain of the popular beach resorts, but the real Spain, a country of long, slow lunches, siestas and late nights. Where mañana is not just a word, but a way of life, a determination to live in the present. Passions are reflected in food, or art, or flamenco. Roman and Islamic cultures collide, and tradition is strong, but that doesn’t stop Spain from being forward-looking. Many of the entries in this book are right up-to-date, like Game of Thrones Locations, or the blooming of Bilbao as an art city.
There is so much that is uniquely Spanish. We have the unmistakeable art of Antoni Gaudí and the quirky genius of Salvador Dalí. There are the things you would expect – flamenco, and bull-fighting (the arguments for and against). But there are a few surprises. Did you know that there is an annual baby-jumping festival in the village of Castrillo de Murcia? Or that Catalonia is known for its “human castles”, in which people climb onto one another’s shoulders to create a structure of six or more levels? (Actually, I have seen this one myself, so I can vouch for it…)
Food and wine feature prominently (there are even some recipes) – as the introduction says, there is “no finer introduction to the Spanish soul than through its food”. So we have tapas and paella, and churros con cioccolata. And the book digs deeper into tradition with A Catalan Food Trail or Sipping Sherry in Jerez.
Experience Spain: A Source of Inspiration
Experience Spain is organised in sections, with introductory essays like Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage or A Day in Spain. Then there are shorter articles loosely categorised by subjects such as “Tradition and Passion”. The cities of Madrid and Barcelona get whole sections to themselves.
This is not a book to be read sequentially, but to be dipped into. Each entry has links to other pages, so that you find yourself being taken on a journey through everything that Spain has to offer. My attention was drawn to an article on the Paradors (state-run hotels in monateries and other historic buildings). From here I hopped to the page on Grenada’s Literary Legacy, and then on to Spain’s Moorish history. And so on…
There is something here for everyone, whether your interest is food, art, hiking, or any other aspect of Spain and Spanish life. It is a book to remind you of past Spanish travels, or to inform your future trips. And, if you’ve never visited Spain, then it might just inspire you to book that flight!
You can buy Experience Spain from the Lonely Planet online shop.