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Alternative title: What to buy as a souvenir in Spain (or what I buy in Spain).

Every region of Spain has the things it’s famous for (flamenco in the south, Valencia for oranges, Santiago de Compostela for the pilgrims, and so on) and sometimes the gifts or souvenirs you want to take home will reflect the region where you’ve been. Yet some things are great buys all over Spain, and it’s a rare trip when I don’t come home with at least three of the following things in my bag:

fullsizerender-88This is some tasty Idiazabal cheese and Txacoli wine which I had in Bilbao.

  • Cheese! Spanish cheeses might not be as famous as their debonair French rivals, but that doesn’t mean they’re not tasty. Tetilla cheese from Galicia, for example, has a very recognisable teardrop shape (or breast shape, that’s what they’re named after). The Basques have Idiazabal, but arguably the most famous member of the Spanish cheese family –the cheese daddy, if you will- is Manchego. Wherever you are in Spain, a trip to the local supermarket should give you plenty of options.
  • Biscuits baked by nuns. Belgian monks brew beer; Spanish nuns bake biscuits. This is the rule of the world. Asturian nuns bake a type called lenguas de monja (nuns’ tongues) which I really like, but the reality is that nuns all over Spain –and there are many- make varied kinds of repostería (pastries or sweets). They make deliciously quirky gifts and certainly my office mates have been all over them in the past.
  • Bonito del norte. This is tuna in olive oil, caught in the seas in the north of Spain. The tuna is better quality than any supermarket variety I’ve had outside of Spain, and has the added advantage in coming in a very attractive red and yellow can which is perfect for storing things in afterwards. I put pebbles in the one I have in my bedroom.
  • Fans. What could be more Spanish than a fan? You can buy them everywhere from the local chino (local discount shop, often run by Chinese families) to fancy specialist shops in Seville which stock gorgeous hand-painted ones with a price tag to match. A good place to buy authentic ones cheaply is at a Sunday “antiques” (flea) market, but any tourist shop, or indeed the airport, will also do.

fullsizerender-89I brought home one of these candles from the shrine in Covadonga.

  • Religious kitsch/Catholic paraphernalia. Maybe it’s just me (probably) but I love Catholic iconography, despite not being an adherent of the faith. Devotional candles, little statues of the Virgin Mary and religious images are the souvenirs I dream of. In Cordoba last Semana Santa I was gifted one of the candles from a float bearing the Virgin Mary and I just about died. Chinos are a good place for kitschy religious items at low prices, as are religious sites.
  • Turrón. This gloriously nutty, honey-infused Christmas concoction is best in its blanda (soft) incarnation, but you can also get chocolate and hard turrones. You can buy it in any supermarket during the Christmas season, but I’ve had reliable information that it’s available in El Corte Inglés year round, and it’s another product that’s often available at the airport.
  • Wine/sherry/local booze. I don’t necessarily recommend putting this in your case – we’ve had two breakages and now have a suitcase that smells of Andalucia. In Cantabria, the drink I like to bring home is orujo, but they don’t sell it in Santander airport so I have to either risk a breakage when we take a big suitcase at Christmas or else go without. Alcohol is much cheaper in general in Spain than in the UK, so it’s usually worth buying a bottle or two of something typical from duty free even if you can find La Gitana in Sainsbury’s.