Spain Inspires

With a flamenco beat just around the corner, wine abundant during late night dinners and laughter being heard in the streets, it’s hard not to feel inspired by Spain. Whether you’re in a small town or busy city, there is a line of rich culture and tradition that winds its way throughout the county. Spain has long been a place of inspiration for artists, writers, musicians and actors alike, both foreign and native, who each share their experience in the way they know

Gwyneth Paltrow

When she was 15-years-old, actress Gwyneth Paltrow stayed a small town near Talavera de la Reina in the region of Castilla La Mancha. She’s been back to Spain every year since.

“They seem to enjoy life a little bit more. They aren’t running around as much as in New York. They enjoy time with the family. They don’t always have their Blackberries on.”

A more recent inspiration for the actress has been Spanish cuisine. Paltrow along with Chef Mario Batali, writer Mark Bittman and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols completed a TV series on Spanish cuisine called “Spain…On The Road Again.” The foursome take off on a road trip throughout the different regions of Spain to experience the country’s culinary traditions and history. Paltrow also helped write “Spain…A Culinary Road Trip,” the companion cookbook to the TV series.

Paltrow’s love for Spain and it’s varied gastronomy wasn’t very well known until “Spain…On The Road Again” was broadcast. (She is also fluent in Spanish!) The show’s mouthwatering foods and beautiful scenes are enough to inspire anyone to try the delicious dishes of both new and traditional Spanish cuisine.

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway once wrote in a letter that Spain was “the last good country left.” The American writer spent manyyears of his life here and the Spanish influence is evident in his novels. Hemingway first traveled to Spain as a young reporter during the Civil War and the experience inspired his famous novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

He also had a passion for bullfighting and wrote two nonfiction books on the topic, “The Dangerous Summer” and “Death in the Afternoon.” The fictional matador in “The Sun Also Rises,” was actually named after a real 18th-century torero from Ronda, Spain named Pedro Romero. But the character on one of Hemingway’s contemporaries, another bullfighter from Ronda known as Niño de Palma.

John Lennon

The Beatles hit, “Strawberry Fields Forever” was inspired by John Lennon’s time in Almería, Spain while he was filming the movie “How I Won The War.” During his stay he lived in a small apartment in the beach city of El Zapillo in Almería where he was photographed sitting on a the bed with a guitar and a cassette recorder writing the song. The first demo recording was actually done in Almería, although it was just one verse at the time.

No matter what your profession, you always leave Spain with more than what you originally came with. And I’m not talking about souvenirs and pictures. An unidentifiable inspiration, like a spark being lit inside you, stays with you for years after.

This was originally posted on Andalucia Inside.

References: Spain…On The Road AgainThe Washington PostPRLOGLet Me Take You Down To Almería


Siesta, A Necessary Luxury

SiestaAhhh, the siesta. That romantic, pastoral image associated with long ago and the ultimate example of a laid back culture. Surely in today’s modern, fast-paced society, full of Blackberry calendars, such a glorious time designated for relaxation couldn’t exist.

Oh wait, it does.

One of my first questions when I came to Spain was, “So, the siesta…is that actually real?” It may have sounded dumb, but for someone who just chugs another cup of coffee mid-day to keep going, I was looking forward to this possible change of pace.

Historically, the siesta was considered a physical necessity and a relaxing way to avoid the hottest part of the day for 2 hours. Today, with a more rapid pace and coffee, the biological need for a short nap in the middle of the day has been turned into a luxury. But as much as we try to fight that afternoon drowsiness, it would be much more effective (and enjoyable) to take a 20-30 minute nap, rather than keep going like the Little Engine That Could.

Humans are bi-phasic (meaning we need two periods of sleep every 24-hours) and research shows that our energy levels drop during the mid-afternoon. It becomes difficult to focus, think clearly and be productive. But with a 20-30 minute nap, your mind and body have been refreshed and the rest of the day is easier and certainly more productive. What do you think I was doing before I sat down to write? Yep, napping. Believe me, it took a while to submit my stubborn, “no-I-need-to-stay-awake” mentality to a nap, but when in Spain… On the days I do take a short nap I’ve noticed a significant difference in my energy levels, my overall mood and productivity. Like olive oil, the siesta experience is something I will incorporate into my routine when I am back home again. images

In Spain, the siesta takes place after lunchtime, in the later afternoon. Even if some Spaniards don’t fall asleep, it is a time for relaxation, family and friends and a general break from work. Shops and offices close for a few hours and restaurants and bars grow to full capacity. If Spaniards eat at home, many of them will doze on the sofa for 20 minutes or so, TV remote control in hand… This healthy disconnect from the more mundane working world is one of the many reasons Spain has such a liveliness and spontaneity. (It also allows for the more late-night tapas culture!) In Spain, sitting down and savoring a lunch with friends or family members, rather than spending it hunched over a computer, tends to be the priority. A café con leche isn’t just used for the caffeine, it’s used to simply put everything else on hold and enjoy a moment to yourself.

Whether you’re at home or traveling in Spain, leave time in the warm afternoons to indulge in this underrated necessity. And some olive oil. And red wine.

References: Siesta Awareness

This post was originally published on Andalucia Inside.

Wine Country and Montilla Moriles

I stared blankly at the shelves of wine directly in front of me. I set down my grocery basket so I could focus more on the towering rows of dark glass bottles. It was hard enough to pick out wine in the United States without knowing “wine lingo” and now I was trying to do it in another country and in another language. After about five minutes of hesitantly taking a bottle of red wine down from the shelf, only to put it back again, I decided to cut my losses and do a little research before I bought my first bottle of Spanish wine.

A Little History

Spanish winemaking is believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago in southwest Andalucia. The Phoenicians planted vines throughout the hills ofwhat is present day Cadíz and Jerez and soon wine became one of the most sought-after trading products in the Mediterranean. Wine continued to flourish under the Roman Empire, where they introduced some of their own techniques that added fruity, floral aromas and flavors. Wine production slowed during the subsequent Arab rule, but after the reconquest of Spain by Catholic kings, winemaking flourished as it played a significant role in religious rituals, became a popular part of the local diet and had the potential for commercial exchange and success.

The winemaking sector faced difficult times when vineyards were hit with the arrival of phylloxera, the Civil War and World War II. In the 1950’s, Spanish winemakers “began a renovation and modernization of the winemaking processes and wineries,” which has now developed into the unique andunforgettable wines produced throughout the country today.

The Montilla Moriles Wine Route

One of the most intriguing wine regions in Andalucia is the up-and-coming Montilla Moriles. Situated in the heart of Andalucia, between the destination points of Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba, Montilla Moriles has a tranquil beauty and charm that rivals that of Napa and Sonoma Valley. And this region offers more than your simple wine tasting experience. The seven towns along the wine route form what is known as “Campaña Sur” and each is more intoxicating than the next. (And I’m not talking about alcoholic content.) It is hard not be entranced by their strong and unforced sense of artistic, architectural, historical and ethnographic heritage as you tour through the Arab Muslim medieval palace of Medina Azahara in Córdoba or find yourself surrounded by the authentic pottery and ceramics of La Rambla.

If there is one thing that makes Montilla Moriles stand out from the rest, it is the non-commercialized and almost untouched feel throughout the region. Wine-makers have small unique wineries where grapes are pressed in lagares, usually located at the center of the vineyard. Traditional white-washed farmhouses, or cortijos, can still be found between the vines and olive trees. This is a place to live and breathe quintessential Andalucia.

Living in Sevilla, I like the thought of buying a local wine and I’m already thinking ahead to a possible weekend get-away. But for now, the only trip I’m taking is to the local store in search of a Oloroso, a “full-bodied wine with a solemn aroma of vine, sun and oak wood.”

This was originally posted on Andalucia Inside.

References: www.espavino.comWines from