"If you visit only one foreign country in your lifetime, make it Spain". Whether or not these words were actually penned by Ernest Hemingway, to whom they are frequently attributed, is largely irrelevant. The fact is that many people would agree with the sentiment, captivated by the country's countless attractions be they cimatic, cultural or culinary.
The very name España derives from Hispania, the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula, which gives a clue as to the rich cultural history of the country. Countless vestiges from that era are still to be found in the form of aqueducts, temples and amphitheatres.
The arrival of the Moors from north Africa in the early 8th century brought about another cultural revolution. In a reign that lasted for almost 800 years, they built exquisite mosques and palaces, their courtyards cooled by fountains and the shade of orange trees. They introduced not only universal education in the arts and sciences but musical instruments such as the lute and guitar. And where, you might ask, would the flamboyant rhythms of flamenco be without the guitar?
Modern day Spain offers the visitor an array of magnificent scenery and fine beaches, as well as world-renowned cuisine. What better way to start the evening than with a selection of tapas in a local bar, followed by a succulent paella oozing shellfish, chicken and chorizo. Something simpler perhaps? Try some freshly grilled sardines helped down by a glass or two of cool, crisp, white Rioja.
And when it comes to travelling around, don't forget that Spain has an excellent high speed rail network in the form of the AVE which has a reputation for comfort and punctuality that is second to none.
Images courtesy of © Instituto de Turismo de España (TURESPAÑA)