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S P A I N

and GIBRALTAR




Codfish, Cabrales and cacao . This is the way to enjoy Galician barnacles: take hold, twist and withdraw the edible portion, not much bigger than your thumbnail. Spaniards consume more seafood than anyone else, barring the Japanese.

Spain also produces more than one hundred varieties of cheese and dozens of varieties of olive oil! Discover these and other taste treats like on a culinary walking tour of Madrid's markets and gourmet food stockists, not to mention the tapas bars where outsiders rarely venture.

Green Spain. Forget the flamenco. What about some stirring reels from a Galician piper? Spain is a land of many parts, the more so since the blessed departure of the dour Franco years. Far from the sun-scorched beaches of the Andalucian coast, beyond the treeless plains of Castile, a different Spain awaits, a land of cloud-fringed crags and lush green meadows. 'Green Spain' extends from the stylish and old-established beach resorts of the Basque coast, notably Hondarribia and San Sebastian, along the foot of the Picos de Europa to the misty meadows of Galicia. The Basque Country, Asturias, Cantabria and Galicia are all self-governing regions in their own right, but some things they hold in common: a zest for life, and in particular a love of eating well.

Paradors, Spain’s paragons of excellence. In 1928 a Spanish nobleman conceived the idea of restoring and refurbishing heritage buildings as luxury accommodation. The 88 Paradores operating today include castles, convents, manor houses and palaces, serving as treasuries of Spanish art and as centres for the conservation and development of regional cuisines.

Ruta de la Plata: follow the old Roman road called the Silver Route, from Asturias on the northern Atlantic coast, to explore the mountain scenery of the Picos de Europa then cross the Castillian plains south towards Andalucia, passing through the historic cities of Leon, Salamanca, Plasencia, Caceres and Merida.

Bravo, Barcelona A treasury of the world's most bizarre art and architecture, the Catalonian capital is the home town of the artists Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, of Antoni Gaudi - creator of the still-unfinished church of Sagrada Familia - and such lesser-known visionaries as Lluís Domènech i Montaner, creator of the phantasmagorical Palau de la Música Catalana. Whilst the Sagrada Familia inches its way towards completion some time in the distant future, the Palau, the concert hall of a Catalan chorale society, is arguably another of the most extraordinary buildings anywhere on the planet.

Toledo, medieval Castilian capital where churches, synagogues and mosques crowd onto a plateau encircled by the city wall and the gorge of the Tagus. Architectural gems from several centuries and styles - Moorish, Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance - stand together. Climb the tower of San Ildefonso to gaze at across a jumble of terracotta roofs to the looming bulk of the Alcazar and the single spire of the Cathedral, in itself a treasury of masterpieces.

Terrain in Spain: a photoessay The mountains of Asturias fall straight into the Atlantic. Behind the fishing towns along the precipitous coast rise the limestone crags of the Picos de Europa. The heir to the Spanish throne is always Prince of Asturias, the region which alone in Spain resisted the medieval Moorish invaders from the south.

Salamanca, a university city as old as Oxford, with street after street packed full of sandstone churches, monasteries, cloisters, faculties - in medieval times, church and campus were one and the same. Salamanca remains very much a college city with a student population of fifty thousand, many of them foreigners. Occasional lectures and seminars are still staged in the 15th century cloistered halls.

Gibraltar: Will it still be there next year? As you cross the border from Spain, that arbitrary line on the ground, something fundamental changes. The Rock looms high above everything, a huge looming lump of limestone, riddled with caves and manmade passages. Huddled around its foot is an enclave of England, complete with pubs, drinkers tucking into a pint of Bass or cheering on the footy, even if they converse in an unfamiliar patois. Change is afoot...

Order any of the above stories by contacting Philip Game

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