Every last Wednesday of August, the streets of an eastern Spanish town were awash with red pulp as thousands of people pelted each other with tomatoes
The annual “Toma-TI-na” battle has become a major tourist attraction in Spain
The annual festival that’s held in Bunol (Boo-niol), Valencia (Valenthia), saw as many as 50,000 participants in 2012 – many of whom were from abroad
The World’s Biggest Food Fight was inspired by a vegetable battle between local children in 1945 in the tomato-producing region
During thee hour-long event, participants get to throw over 120 tonnes of tomatoes
and they’ll usually squash the tomatoes first before throwing to avoid injuring other participants
Festivities typically begin with the first event called “palo jabon (har-bong)” similar to the greasy pole with pork on top.
Only when one succeeds in getting the pork does the tomato fight begin
And if you’re thinking of joining in the next Tomatina
Just note that the festival is no longer free.
Since 2013… official ticketing implemented at 10 euros each has been in place to limit the number of participants to about 20,000
Sagrada Familia Church (Barcelona)
Without a doubt, one of Barcelona’s top attractions for tourists and locals alike is admiring the city’s modern architecture, and the works of An-TO-ni Gaudi (Gou-dee) in particular
Just walk around and you’ll come across various examples of Gaudi’s (Gou-dee’s) work throughout the city, both civil and religious buildings
Although he has built various monuments, La Sa-GRA-da Familia is the most famous of Gaudi’s works
The construction of La Sagrada Familia, a Roman-Catholic church, began in 1882 and is still in progress till this very day Thee anticipated completion date is 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death
Although it’s incomplete, it has already been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Paul Goldberger – American architectural critic and Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair magazine even called the Sagrada Familia, “The most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages.”
But interestingly, An-TO-ni Gaudi (Gou-dee) was not the original architect for Sagrada Familia.
It was architect Francisco de Paula del Villar who was first commissioned to design the church
When Villar retired from the project in 1883, Gaudi took it on instead and assumed responsibility for its design, which he changed radically
Restaurant Botin, Madrid
Now where on earth is the world’s oldest restaurant?
According to the Guinness World Records, So-BRI-no de Boteen founded in 1725 in Madrid, Spain is the world’s oldest operating restaurant
Just think… honey-coloured wooden panels on the shop front that connect with the same warm wooden floors that join with neatly tiled corridors and creaking staircases
The real highlight of the restaurant is of course its impeccably roasted meats from its original Castillan-style cast iron wood burning oven – roast suckling pig and lamb, served on a bed of subtly seared potatoes to mop up the juices
Apparently it tastes so good… that it’s mentioned and immortalized in the closing pages of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, “The Sun Also Rises”. Another signature dish not to pass up on is the SOpa de a-ho which is an egg, poached in chicken broth, and laced with sherry and garlic
Best chance to get a table is to book way…way in advance
Just like how it’s a trend to go “cafe-hopping” in Singapore, Spaniards often go bar-hopping for tapas
Tapas can be practically anything from a cocktail of onion and olive skewered on a long toothpick,
to piping hot meat with sauce served in a miniature clay dish – or anything in between
If you think about it, tapas is like an appetizer or snack
Anyway, bar-hopping for tapas is such a big thing in Spain, so much so that the Spanish people invented the verb “tapear”, which means to go and eat tapas
If you’re planning on sticking around in Barcelona after admiring the city’s unique infrastructure, a good place to go for your virgin tapas experience would be Bodegueta Cal Pep
Labelled as “critic’s choice”, the tiny bar offers a range of marine snacks that you just can’t refuse: sea snails, crab, razor clams, goose barnacles and other delicacies such as peperini which are peppers stuffed with anchovies or cheese
Standing at over 400 metres high, Es Vedra (Veh-Drah) – an uninhabited rock island made of limestone is situated 2 kilometres off the west coast of I-BI-za, in the Cala d’Hort area, Spain
Shrouded in myths and legends, it’s said to be the third most magnetic spot on the planet, after the North Pole and the Bermuda Triangle
Among the many myths surrounding Es Vedra, the most popular one is about it being the tip of the sunken lost city of Atlantis
Word is, this very limestone rock holds a maximum concentration of energy, similar to that of the Pyramids, the Stonehenge and Easter Island, so many people have claimed to experience the mysterious force that surrounds the area, making it a favourite spot for meditation and spiritual dwellings
Best time to visit, if you want to soak up the truly magical vibe, is when the sun sets
You’ll feel an air of peace and tranquility surrounding you, as you become lost in your own thoughts with just the distant sound of the waves below and the incredible sun slowly setting in front of you
It’s definitely a place to return to time and time again, not only for the magical sunset, but also for that peaceful stillness that’s so often lost in today’s humdrum.
Cortiujo Jurado (Haunted House)
While America may be the home of Halloween and horror stories, Spain certainly has its fair share of ghosts and ghouls
Whether it’s mysterious faces appearing on the floor, or an elusive ogre living in the woods, there’s no shortage of spine-chilling Spanish tales to make you want to sleep with the lights on
Many of the spookiest tales originate in Andalucia (Un-dah-lu-thia), including the haunted house of Cortijo Jurado (koR-TEE-Ho Hu-RA-roh), also known as Casa Encantada (kah-sar en-karn-TA-dah), in Campanillas (kahm-pa-NEE-jus)
The now dilapidated house was once a grand mansion built in the 19th century by the Heredia (eh-reh-diah) Family, one of the wealthiest in Andalucia
Rumour has it that the many young girls who went missing from the surrounding area at the time were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the Heredias
Legend has it that there were secret chambers below the house where the girls were kept before their tragic death
Other strange sounds have also been heard by neighbours… coming from the building over the years
Fact or Fiction? You decide!
One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
This becomes very obvious when we visit new places, experience new cultures and meet new people
Especially when you don’t speak the language or know the local customs of the place you’re visiting
For example, did you know that brushing your hand underneath your chin in a forward flicking motion signifies “get lost” in Belgium, France and Tunisia?
And if you’re heading down to Spain for a holiday, just note that the ‘OK’ sign can cause some serious offence in Spain cuz you’re basically calling someone a jerk
Then, the ‘rock on’ sign, a symbol for rockers everywhere, also has another meaning in Spain
When you show it to someone, you’re saying that his wife is sleeping with someone else
So don’t be surprised if he lunges at you
But seriously… instead of offending those you meet during your globe-trotting exploits, a little research beforehand could save you many embarrassing moments!
Madrid Railway Museum (opened in 1984)
Madrid’s Museo del Ferrocarril (moo-say-oh del – roll the tongue more) , or Railway Museum, is housed in an old railway station and yields plenty of surprises
Divided into three sections by main train types: steam, electric, and diesel
You’ll get to see first-hand how rail transport has evolved over the years
While you can follow the lanes for a chronological look at railway heritage
You can also pop into related exhibits along the way
…showcasing railway infrastructures, elaborate model railways and so on
Best part is, you’ll get a chance to travel between Madrid and Aranjuez (Ah-ran-hueth) on an authentic vintage train, the Strawberry Train or Train de la Fresca – only available during the spring and autumn months
So if you are visiting Madrid with your children anytime soon, Museo del Ferrocarril is definitely a fun option… truly a place where history comes alive!
Caves of Drach (pronounced draHH), Balearic Islands
Tourists flock to Mallorca (pronounced Mah-YaR-ke) every year to soak up the Spanish sun on its reknowned beaches
However, along with the white sand and crystal-clear waters, this Bal-e-aric Island is home to a number of cultural treasures, including gothic castles and subterranean lakes
Located on Mallorca’s east coast, the Caves of Drach are without doubt one of the island’s most outstanding tourist attractions, extending nearly 2,400 metres wide and reaching heights of 25 metres above the cave floor
Admire the stalactites which drip overhead and the stalagmites which creep up all around you, and enjoy the wonderland of shape and texture
A walk through the caves ends at the fantastic Lago de Martel, one of the largest underground lakes in the world
A novelty of this trip is a classical music concert by musicians floating across the lake in boats, complete with a backdrop of beautiful lights creating the perfect ambience
Remember to add the Caves of Drach onto your list of must-see travel places and be enthralled by this masterpiece of nature!
Watching movies is… I think the fastest way to get to know a country and it’s culture.
And watching movies in one of Madrid’s oldest cinemas? Spell-binding!
Built in 1922, and only restored in 1989, Cine Dore (pronounced as Ci-neh Do-reh) is possibly one of the new cultural focal points in the city
What used to be a venue… famous for its various social activities in the past, is now a place many frequent for its excellent selection of classic films, including the best of Spanish ones
Interestingly, films are not dubbed and instead played in their original languages – be it English, French, or German
Don’t worry … subtitles are usually shown as well
Ok so picture a beautiful historic movie theater with golden and red facade and lush interiors
The building is equipped with 3 projection rooms – one classic, one a little more modern and a 3rd which is complete with an outdoor facility that offers bar service
After the movie, you could grab a quick bite at the cafeteria and you could also pop by the bookstore where it’s like entering a fascinating world of films
So for just 2.50 euros, you’ll not only get to enjoy a movie, but you’ll also be stepping back in time to the early 19th century Spain.
Hey you know what?
We’re gonna take some time off this week
to armchair travel between Madrid and Aranjuez (pronounced Ah-ran-hueth) on an authentic vintage train,
to visit one of Madrid’s oldest cinemas, maybe have lunch at the world’s oldest restaurant and get to
the third most magnetic spot on the planet just in time to watch the most magical sunset!
All this week, we celebrate Spain’s National Day so join me Lynette Tan from 12 to 1pm on Globetrekker on Expat Radio 96.3XFM – your home away from home