What to buy: Spain


Spain is a bargain shopper’s paradise. With Zara, Bershka, Day a Day, Pull & Bear and Mango (to name just a few) on every corner, you’re bound to find some great clothes, shoes, bags, and accessories. If you make it to Spain during the rebajas in January and July, even better. But, if you want to get something more typical but not the average key chain and torero t-shirt, here are a few of my ideas of what to pick up when in Spain.

1. Alpargatas/Espadrilles – They are everywhere! This year Chanel’s alpargatas are all the rage, but if you haven’t got the dough for those almost every popular brand has a flat or heeled, solid or striped version, for men or women. In Spain, look for a Mom and Pop zapatería or a shop that makes them if you are in Madrid or La Rioja and you can pick up a pair for 15-25 euros. I’m getting some black heels this year, and Diego has a blue pair that he’s been wearing all summer. If you aren’t in Spain, but want the hand-made real deal espadrilles, check out espadrilles.ca and have them shipped straight to your door.

2. Jerez / Sherry – I had the chance to visit the birthplace of the strong, sweet wine in Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia when I first studied in Spain, but even if you can only get to Madrid, you’ll see Tio Pepe smiling down at you from the rooftops in Plaza del Sol. While there are so many good wines to try in Spain, a bottle of Sherry is perfect for a hot summer aperitif or for a special sauce in the kitchen. Tio Pepe and Osborne (those famous bulls planted around the Spanish country side were once advertisements for this brand!) are the most famous brands. A bottle of Tio Pepe Palomino Fino will cost about 10 euros.

3. Olive oil – Spanish olives and olive oil are amazing. A staple in the Spanish diet, when you head south of Madrid the landscape suddenly becomes dotted with endless acres of beautiful olive trees. In Spain you’ll have it with everything, jamón, veggies, or just bread. I’d pick up a 5 liter bottle of Carbonell to savor on my toast every morning for my favorite breakfast tostadas con aceite with salt. If only you could get cafe con leches in a suitcase too…that would be perfection. (In case you haven’t got the hint, order “tostadas con aceite y tomate, un cafe con leche y un zumo de naranja natural” for breakfast at least once next time you’re in Spain. It really is the best breakfast in the world.)

4. Nenuco Baby Cologne – Oh baby cologne, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… soft, fresh, clean, citrus -perfect for hot summer weather. Why don’t we use baby cologne in the US? Every bottle I’ve smelled is always amazing. It’s pretty common in Spain, Latin America and Italy to douse the little ones in some cologne after a bath, I do the same with the Spanish original Nenuco. A huge bottle costs under 3 euros at the supermarket.

5. Abanicos/Spanish Fans – So, this one is a pretty stereotypical souvenir, but I can’t recommend buying one more. Most people visit Spain in the hot summer months, and a little investment will keep you feeling cool and fresh wherever you may be. Perhaps it’s a little old ladyish, but I’m all about breaking stereotypes and during this hot weather more than a few of my friends have been more than delighted to see me pull out a fan to cool everyone off. You can get a cute, brightly painted wood fan in a tourist shop for a few euros, or go all out and spend a bit more at the Corte Inglés or an abanico specialty shop to get a fan fit for a queen. Wherever and whatever you get, get one, you’ll thank me later.

6. Saffron – A key ingredient for a paella, I know you can get it everywhere, but the price of pure saffron is a bargain at a Spanish supermarket. Pick up a pack and try making a paella back home!

7. Avarcas/ Mallorquina Sandals – The typical sandal of Mallorca, you’ll see everyone (kids, women, and men) in Spain wearing these cool comfortable sandals. Simple style and colors, and made of leather, they will cost you about 25 euros or less. Look for them in the same mom and pop shoe stores or get them at espadrilles.ca if you aren’t in Spain. I want a red pair!

What will you be picking up on your next trip to Spain?


6 thoughts on “What to buy: Spain

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