Traveling through Spain for me is a study in slowing down and relaxing. Maybe that’s why I love the country so much, not only is it beautiful but the pace of life there is just slower. Even as a casual tourist it’s easy to get caught up in the constant supply of wine and meat, and even the odd meal hours. One of my favorite parts of Spanish food and even culture, is the small snack known as pintxos.
Pintxos (or pinchos) are small bites, almost like tapa, found in cafes and bars around Spain. In many parts of Spain, dinner is usually served late, between 9 – 11 PM, so many people crowd neighborhood bars in the early evening to enjoy good company, fine wine and some light bites. Enter the pintxo.
I first found this fun food while in Girona, part of Spain’s Costa Brava. I was out with some friends enjoying yet another warm afternoon when I noticed that the bar top was lined with a variety of foods. Each one was served on a small piece of bread and pierced with a toothpick. That’s actually how pintxos got their name; pincho means spike, and this lanced snack is what also separates it from its culinary cousin, tapas.
I strolled up to the bar, selected a few mystery items and returned to our table. Just relaxing comfortably with friends is probably my favorite thing to do in Spain. Not having a clear agenda, instead just grabbing a glass of wine at the local bar and chatting the afternoon away. Add pinxtos to the mix, and you can even make a meal out of it, at least I can. It’s not a pay as you go system, instead the toothpicks are counted up when you settle the bill and that’s how they calculate how much you’ve consumed.
This is how I choose to think of Spain, the warm memories of sitting at an outdoor cafe, watching people go by, chatting with friends and doing absolutely nothing. While I may not like organized moments of relaxation, surprising ones like hanging out at a cafe in Spain is definitely one of my fondest travel memories.