What to say about Spain? Writing about amazingly wonderful experiences is always more difficult than complaining about bad ones.
Here are some reasons why I love Spain:
1) Barcelona: Being there seemed so effortless. Wonderful experiences around every corner: beaches; delicious food, not just Catalan, but Argentinian empanadas, Venezuelan arepas, and Basque pintxos; medieval streets; incredible architecture; summer music festivals on urban forested mountains with castles (see photo post); and easy access to large open spaces, which is what I happen to be researching for my Scott Traveling Fellowship.
2) Intuitive public transportation: Unlike other countries that shall remain unnamed (ahem, Italy), riding the metro in Barcelona and Madrid, getting to/from the airport, getting between cities, is reliable and easy.
3) Madrid: Madrid seems like the underdog in the Spanish tourism popularity contest, but I really like it, if for no other reason than its abundant open spaces. I was not planning to conduct research in Madrid, but its Casa de Campo is a huge open space immediately adjacent to the historic center. It provides recreational opportunities while also striving to restore historic oak woodlands and provide rare species habitat. Amazing!
4) Regionalism: I did not realize before visiting just how regionally distinct Spain is, even to the point of some Spanish feeling like it should not be one country governed from the center, but four or five separate units.
5) The culture! What an amazing country! I love their food, their music, their dancing, their reputation for siestas and partying all night.