September and October is probably my favourite time of year to go away somewhere warm. As a teacher, this is no longer an option (October half term is too much of a tight squeeze) but I have lovely memories of my trip to Barcelona five years ago this month. I'd enjoyed the summer at home, then jetted away from Gatwick to Barcelona, where it was hot but not unbearable, busy but not overwhelming. Basically I wish I was about to go to Spain right now, rather than back to work.
But for those of you that can take time off, doesn't a break to Madrid or Barcelona sound appealing? I had to get down to Gatwick to fly to Barcelona but happily, Monarch are now doing loads more flights from Birmingham to Madrid and Barcelona. I've never been to Madrid and it's very tempting to book an Easter mini break, especially as I can just get on the train to Birmingham International.
To celebrate the new flights, Monarch held a Spanish Fiesta at one of my favourite Spanish restaurants, Amantia.
Situated on Bennett's Hill, Amantia have an extensive tapas and Mediterranean menu, plus plenty of G&Ts to try. They've recently decorated their basement and made it available for corportate events, parties and Flamenco performances. Basically, the perfect place to celebrate Spanish culture.
The room was simply but effectively decorated. It was a boiling hot evening and I was excited because I'd just finished work for the holidays. I definitely had that holiday feeling, especially with a glass of Amantia's lovely sangria in me. When you head to Amantia, I do recommend a glass or three of their sangria.
As we sat, chatted and enjoyed the holiday atmosphere, we were treated to nuts, manchego cheese (my favourite) cured Spanish hams, olives and other tasters.
The sangria was free-flowing and there was lots of tapas to share. Crispy squid was popular- hot and well cooked.
As well as the cheese and meats, my favourite taster of the evening was this plump garlic and chilli prawn.
After stuffing ourselves with tapas, it was time to have a go at making Sangria ourselves. Sangria is traditionally made with red wine and fruit, some kind of sweetener, maybe some brandy. There isn't really one set recipe, it changes from region to region and probably even family to family. Amantia's includes orange juice and vermouth and other bits and pieces but other than that you just give it a stir! Naturally it gets better if you can leave it for a little while.
Here we are, enjoying the warmth and the sangria and goodness knows what had happened to my hair. As I said, I was a tad over excited that day.
The learning wasn't over. A Spanish language teacher was there to share some holiday Spanish with us. I used to go to Spanish evening classes after I finished university (and couldn't come to terms with being out of education) and I was happy with how much I remembered. Estoy de vacaciones- I am on holiday!
We finished the evening with a Flamenco demonstration, with beautiful dancing, singing and guitar. This style of performance is traditionally Andalusian rather than something you would find in Barcelona but I suppose most people associate it with Spain as a whole and I'm sure you can watch it in most Spanish cities.
Our teacher started by getting us to clap and stamp a beat and got us up onto our feet to try out a routine for ourselves.
It was simultaneously more simple and more complex than I expected. Simple because everything stuck to a beat and the moves require you to hold your upper body quite still. Complex because I kept forgetting what to do next. It was great exercise after all that tapas and gave me a great rush of adrenaline.
I felt like an absolute badass while I was dancing but looking at the photos I wasn't quite as sensual and mysterious as I thought I was!
Finally the experts showed us how it's done. The teacher got Marta from Amantia, who is Spanish, to join her at the front for a demonstration.
I loved the music, the dancing and the strength in the moves.
A wonderful evening. Thanks to Talented Talkers and Monarch for a taste of Spain and to Amantia for being excellent hosts.
If you're thinking about a winter break or planning your summer '17 holiday, don't forget to look at Monarch's brilliant range of flights from Birmingham.
Amantia, Bennett's Hill
Photos by me unless stated.
This event was to promote Monarch's new flight schedule and all food and drink was free.