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RSE Spain

This page is just for you! Think of it as a repository for extra info about several Spanish topics addressed on tour. Try not to read ahead too much though… we’ll be discussing these issues & recommendations in more detail on the bus or over meals. I promise to cover it all!

The best part? All this information will remain available to consult after the trip is over, giving you an opportunity to investigate further & to engage with each other via the comments section at the end. I hope this addition is useful as well as enjoyable. Let’s dive into the next two weeks…


2014 documentary about the effects of excessive tourism on Barcelona. Comes with English subtitles & is a nice opportunity to hear locals speak Catalan as well.


A Guardian newspaper article from June 2017, it describes the first steps taken by Barcelona’s city government to try to control illegal Airbnb rentals.


Above report published on 17 Sep 2019… can’t wait to see this rising above the skyline, even if the projected completion date has now moved past this projected date.


Article from my blog about the history behind the Catalunya independence movement: Cause for separation? Written during the height of the drama in 2013, I updated the post during the following year. Butith the arrest & eventual release of several members of the movement + the flight of Puigdemont & the pandemic, this issue has grown too complex for a single post.


In the same vein of what I wrote above, this article about claims by Catalan separatists was published in 2017 by the largest newspaper in Spain, El País (in English).


Two maps of Spain’s ever-increasing number of wine regions by my favorite illustrator of vino: http://www.winefolly.com


An article from El País in English from 2019. Madrid seems to be following Barcelona’s lead… at least in this one issue!


Article about government cover-ups that I mentioned in Atocha train station + a couple of my own photos of impromptu memorials that sprung up inside the station immediately after the attack.


Map of Madrid as it appeared in 1831… how times have changed!


Podcast about what makes those Stradivarius instruments we saw in the Royal Palace so special… Or are they???


Veggie food tips

Spain doesn’t do US-style salads in restaurants… well, there’s always McDonald’s or VIPS (a chain restaurant in bigger cities)! However we eat tons of veggies, but perhaps not the way you may be accustomed to seeing them prepared. Many of these are available at tapas bars or as a course on a menú del día:

  • Cogollos: baby hearts of Romaine, often served with roasted red peppers & tuna… similar to what we had at our Madrid group dinner.
  • Pimientos de Padrón: skillet-fried mini green peppers. You might get the occasional hot one, but most are not the least bit spicy.
  • Espinaca con garbanzos: Cooked spinach with garbanzos in olive oil, often with a touch of paprika. Delish.
  • Pisto: basically a ratatouille, all vegetables cooked separately then mixed together & served with a fried egg.
  • Berenjena con miel: fried eggplant drizzled with honey. A classic in the south.
  • Gazpacho: a liquid salad, great on warm days. Chilled soup made with tomatoes, green pepper, onion, garlic, vinegar & bread. A thicker variety made with more olive oil & bread is called salmorejo.
  • Parrillada de verduras: only available as a ración, but a large serving of nicely presented grilled vegetables.
  • Espárragos: grilled, green asparagus or when canned, the meaty, white ones.
  • Ensaladilla rusa: potato salad often with peas & carrots, sometimes with gambas (shrimp) or atún (tuna).
  • Setas: oyster mushrooms served grilled.
  • Crema de verdura: creamy vegetable soup, a typical menú del día first course option.
  • Salpicón: raw, chopped onions, green peppers, red peppers often with hearts of palm & some type of seafood like shrimp.

Hope this helps! Eating in Spain is an adventure with almost endless options. Scope out what is offered at the bar or what other people are eating & point to order. Also, ask the staff questions if you see something tasty but don’t know what it’s called!


A few people usually ask what my experience has been like updating guidebooks for Rick Steves since 2004, so here’s a link to my latest assignment from this year. In fact, I have an entire blog category titled “guidebook research” that covers many previous trips with a couple of favorite posts: Italy in 2019 & Portugal in 2014. I had so much fun in spite of the exhaustion!


The rain in Spain most definitely doesn’t fall on the plain. While not the Alps, Spain contains some of the highest mountains in Europe. Our tallest peak —Mulhacén in the Sierra Nevada (3,452 m)— is taller than any mountain in the Italian peninsula.


Antonio Machado poetry

Soledades, Verso XLI          

Me dijo una tarde de la primavera: Si buscas caminos en flor en la tierra, mata tus palabras y oye tu alma vieja.
Que el mismo albo lino que te vista, sea tu traje de duelo, tu traje de fiesta.
Ama tu alegría y ama tu tristeza, si buscas caminos en flor en la tierra.
Respondí a la tarde de la primavera: Tú has dicho el secreto que en mi alma reza: yo odio la alegría por odio a la pena.
Más antes que pise tu florida senda quisiera traerte muerta mi alma vieja.

Solitudes, Verse 41

A spring afternoon said to me: If you search for roads in flower on the earth, kill your words and listen to your old soul.
For the same white linen that you wear, could be your suit for sadness, your suit for good times.
Love your happiness and love your sadness, if you search for roads in flower on the earth.
I answered the spring afternoon: You have spoken the secret that resounds in my soul: I hate happiness because I hate sorrow.
Long before I step on your flowered path I would bring to you dead my old soul.


Here’s a comparison of the real Alcázar with Disney’s version in Snow White… what do you think? Did Segovia serve as inspiration?


Remember we passed by the Valley of the Fallen? Newsreel of Franco’s burial in 1975 (look for a young King Juan Carlos) & the removal of Franco’s casket in 2019… some 44 years later.


Excellent, award-winning documentary from 2018 about attempts to deal with Franco’s legacy: El Silencio de Otros. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, his latest feature film —Madres Paralelas— deals with the same topic.


Destruction of the Alcázar during the Spanish Civil War… the last photo shows what Plaza Zocodóver looked like before bombing commenced.


Reading list: I read Chapter 8 on the bus, but if you’d like to read the whole story then here are some recommended versions:

And proof that Quixote still resonates with Spaniards: giants appear in a 2017 PR campaign for Bankia!


And you thought gazpacho was the only way Spaniards found another use for day-old bread! Much of Spanish cooking is waste not-want not using simple, high quality ingredients. In fact, migas(literally “breadcrumbs”) uses only five common kitchen staples to make a classic dish. This particular recipe comes from a family of saffron harvesters in Castilla-La Mancha, so they add a pinch of their local spice. For this traditional shepherd’s dish, saffron wouldn’t normally be on hand but its addition makes this version even more tasty.


Reading list: 2011 exposé on olive oil industry.


Reading list: Tales of the Alhambraby Washington Irving (1832).


Federico García Lorca poetry

Romance sonámbulo

Verde que te quiero verde. Verde viento. Verdes ramas. El barco sobre el mar y el caballo en la montaña.
Con la sombra en la cintura ella sueña en su baranda, verde carne, pelo verde, con ojos de fría plata.
Verde que te quiero verde. Bajo la luna gitana, las cosas la están mirando y ella no puede mirarlas…

Sleepwalking romance

Green, how I want you green. Green wind. Green branches. The ship out on the sea and the horse on the mountain.
With shade around her waist she dreams on her balcony, green flesh, her hair green, with eyes of cold silver.
Green, how I want you green. Under the gypsy moon, all things are watching her and she cannot see them…

Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías

At five in the afternoon.
It was exactly five in the afternoon.
A boy brought the white sheet
at five in the afternoon.
A trail of lime already prepared
at five in the afternoon.
The rest was death, and death alone
at five in the afternoon.

The wind carried away the dust
at five in the afternoon.
And the rust sowed crystal and nickel
at five in the afternoon.
Now the dove and the leopard fight
at five in the afternoon.
And a thigh with a desolate horn
at five in the afternoon.
The bass-string began to sound
at five in the afternoon.
The bells of arsenic and smoke
at five in the afternoon.
Groups of silence in the corners
at five in the afternoon.
And the lonely bull with heart high!
At five in the afternoon.
When the sweat of snow was coming
at five in the afternoon,
when the plaza was covered with iodine
at five in the afternoon.
Death put eggs in the wound
at five in the afternoon.
At five in the afternoon.

…At five o’clock in the afternoon
The bull does not know you, or the fig tree,
or the horses, or the ants in your own house.
The child and the afternoon do not know you
because you have died forever.
…Nobody knows you. No. But I sing of you.
Forever I sing of your style and grace.
Of the great maturity of your understanding.
Of your appetite for death with its taste in your mouth.
The sadness of your brave happiness.

It will be an eon, if ever, before there is born a person from Andalucía so bright, so rich in adventure.I sing of his elegance with words that moan,and I remember a sad breeze among the olive trees.


Reading list: Spain in Our Heartsby Adam Hochschild (2016).


New York Times article about the last surviving member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who passed away in 2016.


Semi-documentary narrated by Ernest Hemingway… the clip starts by saying Reel 1 of 6, but they’re all spliced together here. About 60 min.


Reading list: For Whom the Bell Tollsby Ernest Hemingway (1940).


Ernest Hemingway played an important role in bringing Spain to the forefront of American interests. But was it all hype? This May 2016 Vanity Fair article talks about the inspiration behind The Sun Also Rises.


And to see where it all began: Hemingway’s first published article about bullfighting, in the Toronto Star, 1923.


Recipe for that wonderful dish that Josefi made for us: sopa hervia.


And yet another recipe for that classic chilled soup that’s a thicker version of gazpacho: salmorejo.


Horses really are a way of life in southern Spain & not just something that tourists enjoy. Here are a selection of my photos (along with a brief explanation) from the Exhibición de Enganches in Sevilla in April 2017.


PDF containing all you need to know about the main varieties of sherry. It’s not just your grandmother’s dessert wine!


Your very own private map of the Jerez de la Frontera city center! Our drop off & meeting point is Plaza del Arenal… I’ll orient from there. Jerez is a great spot to use all your tapas ordering knowledge that you’ve acquired since the tour began. There will be enough time to sample several… remember: get your group together, have one bite & one drink, then move on to the next. I’m sure I’ll see you around!


PDF of the airport bus schedule.


I realize that Conce & I talk a lot about Semana Santa, but the festivities involved are such an integral part of our identity that it merits a lengthy discussion. From the misunderstood significance of penitent hats to the idea that in spite of imagery involved, the week transcends religion. This first post gives quite a few tips on how to enjoy Holy Week, while the second post highlights some of my favorite moments.


A LOT goes into making the type of panel we’ve seen in the Alhambra & the Alcázar. Just watch. BTW, the technique is called alicatadoin Spanish.


A blast from the past, but the message remains the same! Stay in touch, & hopefully we’ll meet on the road in the future again!!

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