Today we ferried from Spain and made it to Morocco. This is our first time in Africa, and our first time in a predominantly Muslim country. Exciting stuff!
After posting the last list of observations on Spain, many others came to mind. Here are my leftovers, starting with the cuisine:
• Spain takes immense pride in its Jamon iberico (Iberican ham). You find it everywhere, from four star restaurants to vending machines. It's tasty, but it's so rich that I lost my appetite for it after having it a few times. On the other hand, I will never grow tired of their tortillas (omelets with potatoes). Mmmmm.
• It's difficult to eat healthy. The temptation is everywhere, and it's cheap. Carbs galore: cervesas, churros, braves (fried potatoes with a warm mayo/ketchup sauce), croquettes (deep fried breaded meat), and a basket of bread with every meal. We typically home-cook two meals a day, just so I don't have to replace my wardrobe with larger sizes.
• The Spanish are loco for hamburgers. You find them at restaurants everywhere. We ordered one at a tapas place. It was simple, small, and tasty - like White Castle.
• We ate pizza in Barcelona that tasted like pizza you'd find in Italy. We also ate pizza in Granada on par with pizza you'd get from a 7-11. More like greasy cheese bread with chorizo. (That actually sounds pretty good).
• You can't trust online restaurant reviews. The well-reviewed restaurants are typically overpriced, touristy places that play TripAdvisor's game. Our favorite eateries are family owned businesses that rarely have any online presence at all.
• I avoid Starbucks while at home, but I cherish it while abroad. European style coffee doesn't cut it for me. I don't want to sit through an hour of lousy service for three ounces of overpriced espresso that annihilates my taste buds with bitterness. Call me crazy, but I like taking my big, overpriced, watered-down American coffee to go.
• Spaniards speak with loud volume and high passion. I can't tell whether I'm overhearing a raging argument of deep rooted family conflict, or a casual conversation about today's weather.
• People have curves. (See observations on cuisine). They prioritize wardrobe for comfort rather than fashion. I like this. The people of other Western European cities look and dress like supermodels. They make me feel underdressed and out of shape. I'm less self-conscious here.
• The people are friendly, but apart from our AirBNB hosts, we haven't had much luck with starting conversations with locals. We've primarily met fellow travelers. They're more outgoing than locals. (I suppose this is true of most places we've traveled).
• Most travelers are Spaniards traveling from other regions of Spain. We see many French, German, and Dutch tourists as well. Lots of travelers from China, Korea, ad`nd Japan. We met a couple from Thailand. We rarely overhear English, and when we do, it's usually spoken by Brits or Aussies. Very few Americans.
• My Spanish is limited, but I spoke it 80% of the time. Even Spaniards that speak English prefer to speak Spanish. Though I talk like a 5-year-old, I only received compliments and encouragement. They seem to appreciate my effort, rather than cringe at me butchering their mother tongue. If you plan Spanish travel, I suggest firing up Duolingo and brushing up on Espanol.
• The Iberian peninsula has a fascinating history, and my American public school education ignored it. We might have spent a day on the Spanish Inquisition, and mentioned Ferdinand and Isabella in the context of Columbus, but we glossed over the rest.
Look forward to traveling through Morocco for the next couple weeks. I'm sure I'll get around to posting musings on Morocco sometime soon.