The breathtaking ceiling of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

There is definitely something magical and a little bit devious about the Spanish coast. From the vibrant and dream-like architecture of  Gaudi’s Barcelona to the party capital of the world in Ibiza, this part of the world is brimming with life. There is never a dull moment while in Spain and maybe I can only truly speak about Barcelona, but after living there for one short and amazing summer I remember my liver and bank account needing a bit of a break. My friends and I kept on calling it “the good life” because everything we did (besides school) revolved around where we were eating that night, what remarkable piece of the city we’d explore or what insane club we were going to visit. And this was not only because I was a study abroad student but rather taking time to enjoy yourself is a part of the Spanish lifestyle. Three hour siestas are a normal if not mandatory part of life and a typical dinner means spending hours talking with friends and family while finishing off a couple bottles of wine or “litros” of Sangria. But it’s not just about relaxing. When it comes time to celebrate, they party like it’s their job. I still can’t get over how crazy it was in Pamplona for running of the bulls because every single person was thoroughly having a good time (a couple having a little too much fun). This culture is all about taking life by the bull horns, literally and figuratively so get in touch with your inner Spaniard, clear your schedule and be prepared to enjoy yourself because the next couple days are going to be all about having a really good time…

Eat: Tapas are a quintessential part of Spanish cuisine. These small plates are a great way to become Spanish for a night because tapas are meant to be shared with loved ones over a several course meal. It almost forces you to just relax and enjoy the moment.

These Jamoneria are common place in Spanish cities proving how important specially cured hams are in Spain.

The place I recommend is the 9th Door. This Spanish tapas restaurant has a truly authentic menu with a fantastic wine list despite its modern American décor. Sit on the patio if you want a more Spanish experience and start with a couple of Tapas Frias (cold small plates) and a glass of Tempranillo.  Make sure you splurge and order Jamón Ibérico (thinly sliced ham of the gods) because it was only recently made available in the U.S. and it is a huge part of the Spanish diet. Also there are about three other tapas that you must have for a truly Spanish experience and they are patatas bravas, tortillas españolas, and croquetas. After that make sure you try a couple signature dishes from the 9th door. Their Calabacitas, a roasted spaghetti squash dish is an unlikely but fantastic choice as well as their Dátiles, a Serrano ham wrapped date, which was my absolute favorite. Go with lots of friends and try as many plates as you can before a night on the town.

Another great tapas place in Denver is Al Lado. I was given the pleasure to review it before its opening a couple weeks ago and I had a great experience. You can read my thoughts and recommendations here.

Maria Vazquez preforming one of her famous flamenco dances. Photographer: Jason Yee

Do: Just like with the other cultures, living like a Spaniard is definitely more about how you live than what you do.  So if you can, take one of your work days and have a siesta. Give yourself as much time as possible to enjoy a mid-day visit with a friend or family member. Most Spaniards come home for their lunch and eat with their kids who also have siesta off. It’s a great way to rejuvenate yourself for the rest of the day, even if it means staying at the office late that night. One Spaniard told me that the typical day in Barcelona doesn’t end until midnight and children and parents alike stay up late in order to make up for their time off that afternoon. However this type of schedule might not work for everyone, so another activity you can do in Denver is go to a Flamenco show or class.

Originating from the southern part of the country in the region called Andalusia, this genre of music and dance is full of life and excitement. With its sharp beats and quick guitar rhythms combined with a Spanish passion, Flamenco will easily engage and engulf you in a traditional experience.  On Saturday the 17th there will be a performance at Swallow Hill by Gypsy Flamenco Passion. And if you enjoy it enough you can try it out yourself with Maria Vazquez in one of her Flamenco dance workshops. Its definitely a good way to try something new while challenging and enjoying yourself.

a pitcher of the traditional Sangria I made on the left with the Sangria de Cava on the right.

Make: Although Sangria is an international drink of choice by many different cultures, there is one version that is distinctly Spanish. Sangria de Cava is just like most sangrias in the sense that it is a chilled type of wine combined with citrus fruits and other sweet ingredients such as lemonade and brandy, but instead of using a red wine you use cava. For those of you who don’t know what cava is, it is a type of Spanish champagne. My personal favorite is a Brut Codorniu made in the beautiful city of Sitges where you can take an amazing tour of their winery. There are many different types of cava that can be found in most well stocked liquor stores and aren’t too pricey either.  Buy two bottles and enjoy one of my favorite Spanish drinks that I still have yet to find here in the U.S.. My favorite recipes is as follows:

2 Bottles of Cava

2 Lemons cut into wedges

2 Oranges cut into wedges

10 cherries

5 Tbsp sugar

1 Shot brandy

4 Cups sparkling lemon/lime drink of your choice

Combine ingredients in a pitcher, let chill in refrigerator for about two hours.