“Adios, amigos!” you call out gleefully to your friends as you head off to the airport. You’re just a short plane trip away from Spain, where you plan to spend all week taking flamenco lessons and watching bullfights. You’ve packed a sombrero and one of those sarape poncho things — that’s what they wear in Spain, right? You barely speak the language, but you’ve managed to memorize some Spanish pick-up lines so you can flirt with the locals.
Now on a scale of one to 10, how much of that description makes you want to puke? 10? Thought so.
If you’re visiting Spain, you want to blend in with the locals to truly experience the culture. Here are some tips on the places to go and ways to act to do exactly that:
A Bar to Haunt Your Memories
As you explore the city, let your mind wrap around this: you’re breathing the same air as many artistic greats of the past. It’s easy to feel the rowdy spirt of novelist Ernest Hemingway and other writers in their old haunt of Museo Chicote. Just remember to skip the tourist order of Jell-O shots and cheap beer.
Order like a Spaniard by asking for Vermouth in just about any cocktail. In particular, try out the Chicote, a classic gin and vermouth drink with a splash of Grand Marnier orange liqueur. If you’re looking for something that might infuse you with Hemingway’s inspiration, go for the Monkey Gland, which has gin, orange juice, grenadine, and the novelist’s favourite: absinthe.
“Bye” To Cheesy Souvenirs, “Buy” the Real Thing
Put down that “I Heart Madrid” T-shirt and walk away. And don’t even think of going for the magnets shaped like Spain. You don’t want to leave Madrid toting some lame knickknack that anyone could order online. You want a one-of-a-kind memento, something so unique that any time you see it, you’re automatically transported back to where you first bought it.
You’ll find exactly what you’re looking for at Objetos de Arte Toledano. This market sells beautiful, intricate art made in traditional damascene style, producing unique patterns with different types of metals. In Madrid, this is where men buy stunning jewelry for their chicas and mothers buy homemade ceramics for their children’s wedding gifts. Nobody in this town proudly displays their Spanish travel mug, but you can bet that plenty of homes feature these beautiful art pieces. Buying some for yourself lets you transport a little Europe back into your own home.
Sore Lungs Are a Beautiful Thing
Picture screaming fans cheering, stomping their feet, and waving brightly coloured flags. In Canada, you see this most often at a hockey game, but in Madrid, their number one sport is without question futbol.
Join thousands of rabid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to watch a match. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the crowd’s enthusiasm, and before you know it, you’ll be on your feet with everyone else, screaming and desperately hoping your team scores a goal. When the game is over, follow your new friends to a local bar, have some drinks, and stay up all night rehashing Spain’s win or arguing about how they were cheated by the refs.
Maybe the rest of the crowd falls for the tourist traps and colorful brochures pointing to all the brightest attractions, but you’re more unique than that. By the time you leave, you’ll practically be a citizen of Madrid, with plenty of Spanish under your belt — although some of the words you heard screamed during the futbol match probably shouldn’t be used around your Spanish-speaking elderly neighbors. Salud!
Do you have any tourist pet peeves you try to avoid?
Featured Photo Attribution: Flickr/Creative Commons/James Palinsa/Via/https://flic.kr/p/hRLNhT