Kristina’s travels in Spain were filled with culinary delights, here she shares with us the many wonderful Spanish foods she ate and the feelings they invoked.

Many of my fondest memories of Spain concern food. When we arrived in Madrid after 20+ hours of travelling we emerged bleary-eyed from the tunnels of the subway straight onto the incredible Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, the aptly-named ‘Gate of the Sun.’ As we walked towards our hotel, it didn’t take long for us to be distracted by food. Our eyes popped at the sight of the pastries in the window at La Mallorquina Pastelería, a local institution since 1894, and we delighted in our first Spanish sweets.

Jet-lagged, we awoke the next day at 3.30am raring to go and soon discovered that the Spanish are not early risers. It was a long wait for breakfast, but well worth it when we sat down to our first (of many) Churros con chocolate - a kind of long donut which you eat dipped in a lusciously thick cup of hot chocolate.

On slightly healthier days we opted for Pan Con Tomate: thick pieces of crusty bread served with half a tomato that one rubs over the toast, and then drizzles with olive oil. The Spanish eat dinner late, and on our first night in Madrid we discovered that it’s terribly unfashionable to head out to a restaurant before 11pm; but while you’re waiting, you can pop into one of the many little bars populating the city centre and enjoy a free plate of tapas - perhaps a bowl of olives, chips or nuts, or bread with Jamon - with every round of drinks.

One of our favourite tapas was a plate of small green peppers known as Pimientos de Padrón, which are simply fried in hot olive oil until they start to blister and then served with a plenty of coarse salt. Most taste mild and sweet like capsicum, but some are bitter, and occasionally you get one that is hot like chilli, and you won’t know what you’ve got until you’ve bitten down into one.

In Barcelona, a friend recommended we try a place called Les Quinze Nits, where culinary school chefs serve up incredible food at student prices. It doesn’t take reservations so we rocked up early and joined a small queue outside which quickly turned into a line the length of the plaza in which we were standing. If you ever go make sure you order the Catulayan dessert: nougat ice cream with Catalan custard on a bed of hot chocolate fudge. All washed down with a jug of Sangria, of course.

I wasn’t expecting to be so enchanted by the food in Spain but the Spanish love of eating is infectious, from the beloved Jamon to the humble Patatas Bravas. I hope to go back and sample some more Spanish delicacies one day.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user Alpha