Exploring the In-Between Spain

Three Trips off the Tourist Track on the Spanish Meseta
  |  Gorp.com
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Spain is known for its diversity of landscape and architecture. But between the roads that lead to all these places is the Meseta—the center of Spain, an area usually overlooked by tourists on their way to more famous sites.

We came here to hike and drive and explore the "in-between" Spain. This vast central plateau surrounding Madrid and encompassing almost half of Spain is known as the Meseta. Laeleya and I were greeted at the Madrid airport by my cousin Ralph, who had "gone south" 13 years ago after living throughout Europe. Ralph wears smiles and wit and carries himself with a sense of passion for life. In this respect, Ralph has become an adopted Madrileqo.

Since nature is invariably tied to culture and people in Spain, we figured we needed an introduction. Ralph explained that if you want to understand Spain, you have to eat tapas. "And if you want tapas in Madrid, there is only one place to go," he said. Soon enough, we were at Bocaito, a small bar packed with chattering Madrileqos. Sherry from Jerez, a plate of salted olives, tuna on bread, chorizo sausages, octopus, fried peppers, monkfish liver, shrimp fried in garlic oil. Tapa—the word for "cover," comes from the practice of placing a lid over a glass of wine or sherry to keep out the flies. Some inventive soul started adding olives or cheese on the lid as a complement to the wine, originating the tradition of tapas as it's known today.

After several sherries and brandies, Ralph was taxiing us across the city. The Museo de Jamrn, Plaza de Colrn, Plaza de Espaqa, Calle Maria de Molina. It didn't much matter anymore—fatigue and jetlag and brandy made it all a blur of city lights and cafes. By now, we were ready to take on the mountains and plains of the meseta.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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