From time to time we invite one of our housesitters to offer a blog about their experience of housesitting and travel. Tiera St Claire has been a housesitter with Housesitmatch for a few years how and always seems to deliver a wonderful blog enriched by her love of the location. In this article there is no doubt of her love for Spain, its culture, food and the beauty of the landscape. As she tells us having travelled widely and been a housesitter in Spain she had developed an attachment for the country. Read on to learn more about why she loves it so…
Travelling and housesitting in Spain
Over many years now I have had a love affair with the country, and all aspects of life in Spain. I have spent extended periods of time as a traveller, tourist, flaneur feeling the soil of the country beneath my feet on extended walks.
I have especially loved housesitting in Spain and choosing locations to housesit all over the country. Mostly I was housesitting in Spain for expats, who prefer a home sitter as an alternative to dog kennels.
Highlights of my trips are that I’ve walked the Camino de Santiago several times. I have enjoyed extended short term housesits and long term housesitting in Spain and simply loved every trip. Here are some of my reasons why.
The Spanish Culture
From the World Class museums (The Prado, Reina Sofia, Guggenheim) to Graffiti on the walls of the tunnels there is much to enjoy.
And wherever I have been housesitting in Spain I have always taken time to visit museums and galleries to enjoy the art that is open to the public.
The world class museums offer free access to the very well known and beloved artists – Picasso, Miró, Velazquez, Goya, Dalí and Sorolla.
Check out the Light in these paintings!
You can also enjoy an enormous range of lesser known artists and photographers in small galleries around each city.
I always look for an art museum in whichever city I am staying around Spain.
If I happen to be in Spain house sitting, meaning as a live in house sitter, I have more time to visit the galleries at my leisure.
If I am touring the galleries are still a priority for me.
I took this photo just outside of Pamplona and saw a painting of the same scene in a gallery in Estella by a fabulous local artist.
I visited where Picasso lived as a young man
From A Coruña in the Northeast where I visited the home where Picasso lived as a boy and saw his palette of paint, to the gorgeous Porcelain museum in Valencia, Spain has a wealth of art.
Each town in Spain has its own identity and from that identity comes a sense of pride and belonging in the people. Each has its own Fiesta for its name saint – a famous one being San Fermín in Pamplona:
The Running of the Bulls.
Every town in Navarra province has its own Ferria where they often have a smaller version of Bull Running where the towns people dress up in the traditional White with Red kerchiefs.
There is a sense of fun, merry making and welcome in these celebrations.
One of the most endearing I had the honour of participating in was a small town in La Rioja of about 40 inhabitants.
The local woman (mostly older) came to the centre of town (a very small square comprised of a fountain) with a large pot of Chocoláte (hot chocolate) and served everyone who came by.
The culture of Spain is often seen on the streets, from the plethora of sidewalk cafes to the common sight of three older men on a bench, watching what goes by and commenting to one another.
Traditionally the women can be seen from the windows and balconies of their homes. From their perches they observe life and the unfolding scenes that surround their homes.
Spanish women also have a long history of walking with arms linked through the lovely parks. One of the most famous being El Retiro in Madrid.
Food in Spain
From the massive pans of Paella that can only be ordered for a group, to the bite size tapas available in every bar, Spain is delicious. This is one of my favourite things to eat when I housesit in Spain. As a housesitter I can ask the homeowners to show me the best place to buy paella. They always know.
Have you tried Tortilla Española? It is a thick omelette made with eggs and potatoes and is one of the most simple and yet exquisite and satisfying foods! And Gazpacho, even in cartons from the supermarket it is fantastic rich and flavourful.
Sandwiches are not what you may be accustomed to…traditionally if you order a Bocadilla de Jamon y Queso (ham and cheese sandwich) it will come with exactly a piece of ham, another of cheese on a baguette.
If you want mayo or lettuce or tomato you must ask for them.
My return visits to Spain track the changes in food culture
Actually I have seen this change over the years as well. The bocadillos in the Akuna Zentro Gallery in Bilbao looked simply scrumptious, always have.
Speaking of Ham, Spain is known for it. They call it Jamon.
You can buy whole smoked ham legs and a contraption to put it on so you can slice off as much as you want. The typical Spanish cheese is Manchego – a taste I haven’t acquired, preferring a sharp English Cheddar myself.
However, I know people who look forward to coming to Spain just for the cheese and the wine that goes with it!
Seafood is plentiful in Galicia, with Pulpo being famously from Melide. This is octopus and I have not been brave enough to try it. Are you?
Local street café dining
And here is a shout out for Cogollos – the Best Lettuce in the world. I amaze even myself by getting so excited by this Lettuce (though I have spoken to others who have this love as well.)
Small and round and crunchy with a lovely flavour. In the UK it is called Baby Gem lettuce, but it is not quite the same.
You can also get a bottle of world class wine very inexpensively.
Some of my favourite comes from La Rioja. In my opinion, Spanish wine is light hearted and easy to love.
Coffee, love it!
Cafe Solo – espresso
Solo Doble – double espresso
Cafe Largo – with a little extra hot water
Americano – with a lot of hot water
Cafe con Leche – comes with steamed milk and the milk is richer and creamier than in other places IMHO
I wrote this poem one morning in Spain.
Gluten free options: 15 years ago it seemed gluten free was not even heard of in Spain.
These option have become common place in the bigger cities and there are whole sections in El Corte Ingles devoted to gluten free and other healthy alternatives.
Like many people, especially when travelling and housesitting abroad, I love the process of shopping, even if I am not buying. Meandering about looking in shop windows, going in and out of shops to browse.
In many of the Spanish towns and cities the main shopping districts have areas that are pedestrian only and it makes it all the better to enjoy the experience.
Visiting favourite cities and towns
The Capital and the best word I have for it is Elegant. There is a grander to the buildings and the wide streets. Some of the best art museums in the world, check out the Museum of Madrid where I saw a painting a reproduction of which hung in my grandmothers home when I was a child. She said it was our ancestor.
The Catalan Capital. The people are very proud of their heritage and many identify themselves at Catalan rather than Spanish. Here is the home of the Sagrada Familia and other building inspired by Gaudi. The architecture all over the city is remarkable whether you are in the old town or the new town. I have been homesitting in Barcelona and had time to walk around and enjoy the beauty of the building facades from street level. Oh the wonderful life of a house sitter in Spain. Stunning!
Possibly one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you love a sweep of sea coast surrounded by mountains and enclosing a town filled with parks, a Casco Antiguo, shopping and grand hotels. The Queen Maria Cristina chose San Sebastian as her holiday destination. I have even been lucky enough to be a house sitter here!
A rich city, the 3rd largest in Spain, and well worth roaming about. The old town is filled with shops and cafes to enjoy. There is a park which used to be a riverbed which will take you to the City of Arts and Sciences. The Museum of Fine Arts is well worth a visit and the Ceramic Museum is one of my absolute favourites.
Beautiful for its palm trees along the coast and while I haven’t spent enough time there (only an afternoon) I look forward to more exploring.
I am also looking forward to spending time in Murcia and Almería.
The Old Town has small, circular walking streets surrounded by the typical Andalusian white washed buildings and in the centre of it all a Plaza filled with orange blossom trees. Mmmmm! Not only that but you are just a few blocks to the boardwalk where you can walk for 5 km along the Mediterranean Sea.
If you walk far enough you will come to Puerto Banus where the rich and super rich have their yachts and go to party. I have been lucky enough to housesit in Marbella and so could enjoy my time experiencing many aspects of this city. Spain home sitting is a wonderful way to enjoy a local area with time to absorb local customs and culture.
Granada, Sevilla and Cordoba
All these cities have strong Moorish influences and the architecture must be seen to be fully appreciated.
- Granada with the impressive Alhambra and winding streets of the Albacin.
- Sevilla, home of Flamenco, is gorgeous. I don’t recommend going in the height of summer as it can be one of the hottest places in Spain.
- Cordoba is very historic and well worth a visit to see moorish architecture and enjoy the food.
Is in the tip of the Northwest. A seaside port town wish attractions such as Hercules Tower, Science and Technology Museum and the Aquarium.
Bilbao and Vitoria
At the very heart of Basque Country these cities are a personality all their own.
- Bilbao has the world class Guggenheim, whose building is as impressive as its collections. The Azkuna Zentroa is a cultural centre in the centre of Bilbao with modern art and installations. Well worth a visit and a coffee or snack at the cafe. The Museum of Fine Arts will inspire and the Basque Museum inform of the history of the Basque lands.
- Vitoria seemed even more Basque to me than Bilbao, maybe because it is not as well known and has kept its flavour intact. From the train station in the flats to the Cathedral at the high point, Vitoria will offer architecture, the Art-Ium museum and great shopping and cafes.
A city on the North Coast of Spain with a harbour, beach, shopping, old town, so much to enjoy here.
The Camino Santiago
There is nothing like it. This was a Catholic Pilgrimage in the Middle Ages and has become a destination and life changing experience for people of all cultures and backgrounds.
To be an official Pilgrim you must walk or bike (or ride a horse or donkey.) If you do this you can get a Pilgrims Passport that allows you to stay in the Pilgrim Hostels.
There are now tours of people who walk during the day, have their bags transported for them and stay in hotels along the way.
However it is done, the Camino Santiago offers an incredible opportunity to self reflect whilst meeting people from all over the world who are also on a journey of discovery.
Can you tell I love Spain? I will end with a poem, a love poem to this country that I love.
I feel you in my heart
Like a lover
Strong and commanding
Soft and seductive
Mysterious and full of power
I can almost taste you
Sweet and ripe
Like the grapes of La Rioja
In the mid day sun
And oh the scents
That assail my senses
Hot and dry along the meseta
Salt water fresh in Andalucia
Filled with humanity in Barcelona
To see again the architecture of Madrid
The sweep of beach in San Sebastian
The churches of Navarra
The magical forests of Galicia
Old Town Ibiza
Will you call me home again?
To plant my roots in to your gracious earth
To eat tapas and tortilla and gazpacho
To speak with your people
Immerse in your culture
Rest in your breath
By Tiera St Claire
A final note on travelling and housesitting in Spain
If you have always been curious about Spain as a country there is no better way to enjoy it than as a house sitter. House sitting in Spain has afforded me a unique perspective of the culture and landscape and of course the people. I simply love house sitting in Spain. No matter where the opportunity to house and petsit comes up I’ll look into it. In fact, I now have a second sense when I see ads asking for ‘house sitters Spain’! While I am an American by nationality, I adore international housesitting and travel. And with each new trip I am able to enjoy this remarkable country all over again.
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Further reading on housesitting, housesit travel and housesitters
At Housesitmatch.com we like to share useful blogs and practical advice about housesitters, housesitting and pet sitting. We hope you find this small selection of our blogs on house sitters and house sitting in Europe useful.