4 Reasons Why I Love Castilla y León (And Why You Should Too)

I am still a member of the Spain auxiliares’ group on Facebook. Why? Good question. I like to take a peek in there every now and then, as the discussion can get entertaining. The latest comment thread I read (it was from November, I think) was highlights and how some poor girl was willing to travel “anywhere” to get them done correctly. I couldn’t really identify, as I’ve never really dyed my hair (that time with a slightly reddish-brown shade doesn’t count; it was barely noticeable), but it was an amusing thread nonetheless.

I joined the 2011–2012 auxiliares’ group back when I was still in Spain. I don’t live there currently, nor do I wish to sound arrogant, but I do know a thing or two about Spain. (Reasons include: study abroad in 2008, internship in 2009, being detained in the airport due to visa issues in 2010, chilling with Mario in Salamanca in 2010 for three months, and a year teaching English in Zamora [from 2010–2011].) Sometimes I felt qualified to answer their questions, so I did. When I was first applying, the group wasn’t that active, and I had approximately a zillionquestions, many of which I just had to find out about on the job.

One thing I notice(d), though, is the lack of love for some regions of Spain. Okay, I get it—you want to live on the beach in Málaga, walk Las Ramblas in Barcelona, eat the best pintxos of your life in País Vasco, live la vida madrileña in Madrid … I do understand.

But why no love for Extremadura? None for Castilla-La Mancha? Or, nearest and dearest to my Spanish-American heart, Castilla y León? I found these questions puzzling—still do. I know, I know: they aren’t glamorous and they aren’t near the airport and you most definitely cannot spend Carnaval on the beach like you can (supposedly) in Cádiz*. But I want you to know that, if you choose one of these regions (or other lesser known ones), there’s no reason you can’t have the best year of your life. Here’s why I love Castilla y León (and why you should too).

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  • The Spanish spoken there is, they say, “pure.” Now, let’s not get into linguistic debates about this because I know all accents have merit and if you can understand a Gaditano, you can understand anyone. But I’ll tell you one thing—these people speak like the people you hear on TV, the news announcers, the academics. I love the accent. (Mario has the best one.) I love the ceceo and leísmo. What’s more, this accent has become the neutral Spanish accent to me, much like the General American Accent is neutral to me in English. I know there’s technically no neutral, but to me, it’s the norm. And I like it.
  • The food. Sure, San Sebastián gets all the good press with good reason. The food there is astonishingly good. Nonetheless, I believe wholeheartedly in the value of a good Castilian meal. I don’t mean what you get in a bar when you’re having a coffee—this is often rather hit or miss. What I mean is the food you get in someone’s home, someone who has taken the time to lovingly prepare a hearty, delicious, and almost always healthy meal. Mario’s mother, my suegra, is a marvelous cook. Her food is, without fail, fresh, delicious, homemade, and (most importantly to any good Spanish woman over fifty) filling. I can’t get through one plate without her asking me if I want more. There usually have to be two denials before she’ll stop asking. She’s introduced me to lentejas, cocido, patatas a la importancia, pescado a la plancha, solomillo adobado, aceitadas, roscón de reyes, pan de queso, menestra, potaje de garbanzos, natillas con un toque de limón, and many more. (Not to mention homemade salchichón, which is my favorite thing. Ever.)

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There’s also meat and potatoes—more my dad’s style

  • The Scenery. There’s much to be said about Barcelona, Madrid, and Galicia (all gorgeous places in their own right), but I’m partial to my adopted home in Spain (no duh, right?). I love Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor, Zamora’s old Roman bridge, Ávila’s Lord of the Rings-style wall, Segovia’s aqueduct. I love the ancient feeling of it all, and this feeling was no strong than whehn I saw the Roman statue of Romulus and Remus in Segovia. Just thinking of the Romans—the Romans!—being there millennia ago gave me goose bumps.

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  • The Heart of Spain. Spain has been stereotyped as the land of bullfights, flamenco dancers, sun, and beaches. When the average person (not Hispanophiles) thinks of Spain, Castilla y León is probably not what comes to their mind. That’s okay because I truly believe what the Lonely Planet says when it states that CyL is “Spain without the stereotypes.” It may not be a place you go expecting to be wowed—and you probably won’t gasp in amazement too often—but it’s a place that will give you a peek into the heart of Spain. This heart of Spain is growing ever older, ever feebler with each passing year, and I fear that much of its everyday magic will soon be lost, forever hidden in the annals of the great libraries. Every year, it seems, there are fewer births—there are few children on the playgrounds, yet the park benches are full of ancianos. They too are a window to the Spain’s soul, a soul found everywhere, but, for me, most vividly in Castilla y León.

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If my grandma can do it, so can you.

You should visit.

41 comments

  1. Love that CyL doesn’t get the hype – it doesn’t get detroyed from tuorism the same way Andalucía does. While I’m much more andaluza than castellana at heart, I will always ALWAYS adore Castilla y León since that’s where I studied.

  2. Love,love Segovia! C y L feels like the “real” Spain to me but I wouldn’t trade Cádiz* for anything…even if you can’t always spendcarnaval on the beach! why the asterisk?

    1. Oh dang it, I was going to add a note … when I was studying abroad in Toledo, some fellow students tried to do it, but I guess they got the weekend wrong (it’s not the same as regular Carnaval?) and had planned to party all night long, but they were out of luck–no Carnaval! So they spent the night on a Cdiz beach in February with nothing to do haha!

  3. I have very fond memories of childhood visits to Segovia and Avila as well as Toledo and it’s a beautiful part of the country. You can spend Carnaval on the beach, by the way…. and if you haven’t yet you must see Cadiz.

  4. I’m gonna say something about my country that nobody can deny: you can have a delicious meal anywhere. We know what good food is, I’m not talking maybe about the best French cooks and Michelin stars, I’m talking about the real food the normal people eat. We have a nice TV program called “Un país para comérselo” starring two famous Spanish actors. I recommend it, as they traveled the country showing the best gatronomy we have. And you will salivate.

    1. That sounds awesome! I really, really hate it when people complain about Spanish food because I know they just haven’t had the right kind yet! I love cooking/traveling shows, so this sounds right up my alley.

  5. Love that you gave this region so well-deserved love! I’ve only briefly stopped through, but would love to explore further. And suegras and their cooking…ñam ñam!

    1. I could get into trouble for saying “best,” so I just said for me, well, I like it the best. However, I’m totally biased, having spent a long time there and Mario speaking that way. His accent is my favorite, like I said.

  6. I’m that “poor girl” and to clarify, I said I didn’t care where I had to go since I travel throughout the entire country anyways. What’s the hurt in fitting in a two hour hair appointment somewhere?

  7. This is a beautiful love letter to Castilla y León, Kayley!

    I never, ever regret studying abroad in León. It took me a bit to warm up to the city (quite literally, it was January, after all!), but now CyL is always a recommendation of mine when friends come to visit.

    Seeing León cathedral lit up against a night sky, I get goosebumps all over again.

  8. Awww, I loved this post. And it brought up a great issue: location/placement. Do you choose an authentic experience or one where you have ease of travel?

    That was my dilemma when I chose between Austria and France for teach abroad. I knew that I could have a wonderfully amazing time in the mountains of Austria, but it was in the middle of nowhere. On the other hand, Nancy was in a great location and close to so many countries. Because travel was my priority, I chose the bigger city. But even still, hardly anyone picked Nancy as a region, either — preferring Paris or Marseille. I’m so glad that Nancy gave me the best of both worlds — being central enough to travel frequently, but small enough to experience the real France (because Paris is its own planet). Anyway, thanks so much for sharing! :)

    1. It’s an interesting question. I think that it depends on what you want out of the experience. Plus, I chose one based on it being close to Mario. :)

  9. Castilla y León is full of history… I love Salamanca, for instance – there are few places in Spain that, I believe, that have such unspoiled and beautiful centers. It immediately transports you to the middle age!

  10. Great post! I am aware I may be a little biased. As you point out, saddly, Castilla y León is very likely to fall into oblivion, since most castellanoleoneses have to emigrate to other regions or, even, to other countries. I know that it may sound bucolic living in a region with very few or not industry at all, but I think it would be better to find a balance between industry and nature, which allows young castellanoleoneses to live here and revitalize this region. For years, CyL has received large amounts of subsidies from the European Union CAP (Common Agricultural Policy), as well, as from the European Regional Development Fund. I think this money could have been invested in a more intelligent way, thinking on the long-term. Another missed chance; just like in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the Crown of Castille (and that of Aragón) exported raw materials (cocoa beans from South America and wool) to Flanders and, then, we would import the products made with those raw materials… at a higher price! Not very intelligent. The entrepeneur view seems to be scarce among castellanoleoneses and I believe that is related to our “Weltanschau”.

    1. I love yours! Your perspectives on linguistics, Portuguese, Brazil, and living with your foreign husband are very interesting to me. I hope you love your new apartment!

  11. Just last night I was plotting travel plans for next school year and I am really looking forward to hitting up (my personal) Big Four Castilla/León cities…Segovia, Salamanca, León, and Burgos. Then this post came up on your Twitter and now I’m excited to see what northern Spain has to offer :)

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