When you visit a country the best tips you can get is from either someone who lives there or someone who has visited many times. They know the local watering holes and other places that are often passed over by the tour guides.
I have interviewed two ladies who are going to give insider's information on what to do and see in Spain.
Travel writer Patrica Harris
First up is Patricia Harris from the United States. Patricia fell in love with Spain years ago and has been making frequent visits ever since. She knows Spain so well that she has co-authored travel guidebooks for both Frommers and Thomas Cook with her husband, David Lyon, a has written "100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go." Talk about inside information!
Q: How many times have you visited Spain?
Patricia: More than I can count. I started studying Spanish in junior high school and quickly became fascinated by the country and its culture. My husband, David Lyon, and I are authors of Spain guidebooks for Thomas Cook in the U.K. and Frommer's in the U.S. I am also the author of 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go published by Travelers' Tales. Look for me at HungryTravelers.com and on Instagram as @her.spain and @hungrytravelers. We have traveled the length and breadth of the country numerous times.
Q: Do you have a go-to restaurant in Madrid?
Patricia: I recommend that anyone visiting the Reina Sofia museum stop first at El Brillante, the unpretentious spot that you will pass as you walk toward the entrance. You will almost certainly have to stand at a stainless steel bar, but the calamari bocatas (sandwiches) are the best in the city.
Q: What are a couple of places you would recommend visitors see that aren't on the usual tourist radar?
Patricia: In Madrid, CentroCentro. The Palacio de Cibeles, which used to be the central post office, is a wonderful cultural complex with some good restaurants and bars by Adolfo Muñoz. The Mirador Madrid on the 7th floor offers a marvellous perspective on the city. There's also a reading room with computers and an excellent gift shop that could be one-stop shopping for fairly original souvenirs.
Elsewhere in the country: One of my favorite spots is Alfaro in La Rioja, where the Colegiata de San Miguel is covered in hundreds of stork nests in the spring and summer. It is an amazing vision. I'm also partial to the Pikolino outlet store in the industrial park outside Elche.
Q: Do you have any further comments about visiting Madrid/Spain?
Patricia: By burning the candle at both ends, Spaniards squeeze every last drop of pleasure out of every day. You'll enjoy yourself in Spain if you follow their example. As I wrote in 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go, “I get a second wind for the madrugada, as they call the hours before dawn, and embrace the local passion for life, contempt for sleep, and penchant for the two-hour lunch.” As a result, I like the person I become in Spain. (Here's a short link to the book on Amazon.
Q: What region in Spain do you recommend a fellow foodie head to?
Patricia: You can't go wrong eating anywhere in Spain, especially if you are an adventurous eater. If I had to narrow my choice to one place it would be San Sebastian. The Basques love to eat and put their full support behind ground-breaking chefs such as Juan Mari and Elena Arzak at Restaurante Arzak (three Michelin stars since 1996). The creativity of chefs like the Arzaks made Spain the hottest foodie destination in Europe. And that love of good food has trickled down to the tapas bars where chefs apply the same level of care and excitement to the small bar bites that Spain is known for.
Q: What is your favourite local dish from Spain?
Patricia: That's a tough one, but I would say patatas riojanas. The dish of potatoes, smoked paprika from the red peppers of Extremadura, and the Leonese-style chorizo from Palencios is a favorite with pilgrims following the Camino de Santiago. It's great with a glass of a Garnatxa-based red like Priorat or some of the DO Navarras.
Carmina Prudencio-with the insider's scoop on Barcelona
Next, I talked to Carmina Prudencio who lived in Barcelona for a year. Here is her take on some non-tourist spots to hit in this vibrant city.
Q: What are a couple of places that you would recommend someone to see that are not the usual tourist radar in Barcelona?
Carmina: I recommend going to MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art), not just for the museum but for the culture. The museum has been taken over by local and professional skaters. If you want a local´s vibe, go there. There are people hanging out there at all hours of the day and night.
MACBA is also home to Kino! Kino is a restaurant with an outdoor seating area. During warmer weather, you won’t find an empty seat in the patio! Kino is home to the best patatas bravas and cheap cañas! (Trust me, I’ve hunted for the best bravas in Barcelona). This is the best place to people watch!
Q: What is your go-to restaurant to take visitors?
Carmina:My go-to restaurant that I take visitors to is Sensi Bistro. There are several locations in the Gothic Quarter, but I think the one on Carrer de Regomir is the best! It is tapa style, so the dishes are small. Their Sangria is strong and delicious. I recommend getting the Truffle Ravioli. It is the best! You have to call to make a reservation, but it's fairly easy to get on the list. The staff is friendly and helpful when it comes to suggestions of dishes.
Q: Any other comments or suggestions for visitors to Barcelona?
Carmina: Don't call Barcelona "Barca," that's the fútbol team! If you want to shorten Barcelona, I suggest using "Barna" or "BCN."If you have the chance, go to a Barca game! It's an amazing experience. The energy and atmosphere of Camp Nou is indescribable.
My thanks to both Patricia and Carmina for sharing their insights with travellingaroundspain.com
Do any of you have suggestions of places other visitors must see?