You have read all 300 pages of your Fodor’s Travel Guide to Spain. You have even read every article National Geographic Travel has ever written on Spanish sojourns. Your bags are packed, passport and ticket within your reach, and your money is strategically hidden. You are ready to go, right? Not so quick. The more you know before your big trip, the more you will see when you get there.
Fodor’s is great when it comes to naming places to eat and bed-bug free hotels, but to get more out of your trip you need to read the best literature on Spain. Authors such as George Orwell and Laurie Lee give you brilliantly documented memoirs on the time they spent in Spain. Others, including Hemingway, Miguel de Cervantes and Irving use words to paint vivid portraits of Spain that you can carry in your mind till you arrive.
So put down those guides and pick up one of the following books for some personal insight into the many faces of Spain.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Everyone has heard of this classic, but not everyone has read it. Even if you are already familiar with Don Quixote and his chivalrous ideals, dust off a copy and reread it. Reading Cervantes’ classic novel with your pending trip to Spain in mind will help you envision grand adventures of your own. For those not familiar with Don Quixote, Cervantes whips up the tale of a blundering Spanish gentleman and his expedition to aid the helpless. The story is set in central Spain, known as La Mancha, where much of the landscape is still the same.
Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway
You can measure the ability of a writer when reader after reader attempts to duplicate the authors experiences, this is the case with Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon. For years travelers have gone to Spain with their battered copy to see what Hemingway saw. If you are planning to attend a bullfight or are undecided, Death in the Afternoon is an unrivaled look into the artistry of the bullfight. Hemingway’s ability to describe every aspect involved, in and out of the ring, is done with real enthusiasm and interest on the subject. You will have a far better understanding of what is happening during the bullfight and certainly more appreciation.
Tales of a Traveler, The Alhambra by Washington Irving
Washington Irving was granted the fortunate opportunity to reside within the majestic Alhambra in 1829, and gives us an insider’s look at all that occurred under those magically carved ceilings. The Alhambra is the only remaining monument to the glory of the Muslim kingdom, and probably the most beautiful buildings in all of Spain. Irving’s, The Alhambra, details the daily lives of those who lived in the palaces and narrated the Moorish legends he heard. If a visit to The Alhambra is in your itinerary Irving’s tales will prepare you for the unbelievable surroundings you will encounter.
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
If you are looking for a different type of memoir of Spain, the politically focused Homage to Catalonia is a good read. George Orwell was a British reporter sent to cover the Spanish Civil War and ultimately joined the fighting himself. Orwell’s brutally honest and candid memoirs shed some light on the complicated politics behind the war. The war torn city of Barcelona is described in vivid detail with all the bluntness of a foreign traveler.
As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
Ever wonder what it would be like to leave home with only a few possessions and your natural talent to get you through the year? In his youth Laurie Lee did exactly that, traveling from Gloucestershire across the whole of Spain. This autobiographical narrative takes you across the plains of Spain with Lee to meet the real people that make up Spain and accept the hospitality extended to him. While introducing us to the beautiful country Lee brings us to the attention of the impending Civil War and all the hardships it imposes on the people. Despite its age, As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning is the best book for an authentic look into the people and places that make up Spain.
These authors provide you with everything you’ll never find in a guidebook, an inspiring sense of Spain’s history, culture, and its people. Use their words to paint your own pictures and create your own adventures across Spain. ¡Buen viaje!