Americans make a big deal when they hear you are traveling alone: “Oh my god, poor thing, don’t you have any friends? It must be so hard for you.” This usually comes from the same people who rather be struck down with a mysterious illness from God than to go to a movie theater or bar alone. About half of the Europeans I met in hostels were traveling alone, a non-issue that I don’t remember coming up in conversation. For living in a culture that stresses the individual, I’m surprised that Americans want their hand held when wandering from home.

I only need a few things for successful independent travel: $100 a day, the desire to experience new things, uncontrollable sexual rage, and good health. With health gone, the dynamic of the trip changed. “Where am I drinking tonight” changes to “Is this the right dose of medicine.”

It was pointless to go to Ibiza while ill. Instead, I went to Madrid to recover for three days.

Madrid, from the five or six blocks I saw, seemed like a very nice city. It was hard to explore when I had to take a thirty minute break after every ten minutes of walking. In three days I visited a palace, a park, and a botanical garden, which I took a fine nap in. I did not enter a single Madrid club or bar unless you count the bar in my hostel. There is a subtle competition between travelers about how much they’ve seen or done, and I’m not ashamed to say that I did virtually nothing in Madrid.

An important part of recovery is proper nutrition. Any doctor will tell you that soup and juice is fine for a sick body, but I decided to ignore conventional wisdom and treat my body with a daily dose of Doner Kebab, which you may know as Gyro.

There is something very masculine about Doner Kebab; the gigantic, rotating hunk of beef, the oozing meat juice, the crackling sizzle, the muscular forearm of the man doing the slicing, and the sweaty brows of everyone standing near the open-air spit. It all adds to a very satisfying culinary experience.

Every sub shop in the States is stingy with meat. You order steak and cheese but you get dough and lettuce. Not so with Doner. They pile meat on top of meat and then add some more meat. The meat that fell off my daily Doner sandwich could easily feed a non-American teenager for a day. I was content to eat Doner every day, especially after my paella experience in Valencia.

Earlier in the trip I thought I was robbing myself of the Spanish experience by not eating at fancy restaurants. I decided to eat in a place that displayed a metal pan of paella about the size of a monster truck tire. I had chicken paella, wheat bread, and a glass of sauvignon blanc. The meal was very good, but I swear to you it tasted very similar to a $1 box of Rice-A-Roni Chicken Broccoli flavor that I often make at home. It rang in at $35, and I can definitely say to you that the paella experience was not thirty-five times better than my boxed rice. I don’t care how great Spanish cuisine is, but for $35 it better end with at least a lap dance.

I’ve concluded that foreign dining is more risky than unprotected sex. But now I have protection. I will only eat at restaurants that meet these five conditions:

1. There are no patrons speaking English.

2. The wait staff speaks broken English at best. If fluent English is spoken by any waiter, run.

3. There are no English menu translations.

4. A large percentage of the clientele is composed of people who don’t possess maps, digital cameras or fanny packs.

5. The location of the restaurant is at least two blocks away from a popular tourist site or square. If you eat at a caf? next to a huge cathedral, you might as well throw your money away.

There is only one place in Spain that consistently met all criteria. It’s called Doner Kebab.

Spain Table of Contents

Part 1: The Terminal
Part 2: Red Lights
Part 3: Hostel Game
Part 4: Soy Americano
Part 5: La Tomatina
Part 6: Unsustainable Tourism
Part 7: Doner Kebab
Part 8: Lessons
Part 9: The Chart
Part 10: Fin

24 thoughts on “SPAIN: DONER KEBAB (PART 7)

  1. Lonnie Bruner

    “About half of the Europeans I met in hostels were traveling alone…” — yea, and 95% of young Europeans live with their parents until they’re 30, too.

  2. Lonnie Bruner

    Ok, I completely pulled that 95% figure out of my ass, but honestly I’d say the overwhelming majority of Europeans I’ve met, that’s definitely true.

    And I’m not talking about a small personal sample here: I worked at an ESL/ESOL school for five years and there were hundreds of young foreigners cycling through every month wanting to learn English.

    I thought the Europeans-living-with-parents thing was just a known fact…

    Not trying to start a fight here, people.

  3. Chris

    in Lonnie’s defense, many young Europeans under 28 have a hard time getting a job that could allow them to afford to live on their own. The job market isn’t geared towards employing the younger generations. Just look at the “greves” or strikes in France a year or so ago. The protections given to workers in many European countries, make it impossible for companies to fire or let go older employees, thus preventing ‘new blood’ from coming in. Damned if you do, damned if…

  4. DC Pimp

    Dude, your posts are good but on this one you come off sounding like a big tool.

    First of all, $100 a day and your staying in hostels and eating gyros every day for dinner? How many tchotkes can one man buy?

    yea, yea, “I don’t eat where the tourists go” – boy that’s cutting-edge, let me tell you…I never would have thought of that. but come on, you couldn’t have found a different place to eat that fit your criteria and that was actually spanish food? Especially if you wanted to “experience new things”? I mean, why didn’t you just go to the local Chinese restaurant every night?

  5. Anonymous

    Missed out on the Prado? Too bad you were so sick, it’s lovely. I also visited a monastery that was not too far from the city, and it was a great trip.

  6. mhm

    There is some pretty good spanish food out there. Btw, spanish food = more than paella.

    Not to piss in your cornflakes or anything but these last few posts of yours are more and more cliched.

    “Generation after generation, when confronted with life?s changes, think they have discovered pearls of wisdom when in fact, the pearl has been out of the oyster and in plain view for civilization?s duration.”

  7. hedonistic

    In my realm the real Greek gyro qualifies as a health food.

    FWIW, not only are good jobs scarce in many parts of Europe, decent housing is expensive. It’s common for a young adult to live at home until he/she marries.

  8. namaste

    “$100 a day, the desire to experience new things, uncontrollable sexual rage, and good health”


    and ps: anything “kebab” is always good.

  9. DCB Post author

    “First of all, $100 a day and your staying in hostels and eating gyros every day for dinner? ”

    Maybe it’s time to get a passport.

    $100 converts to 70 euro. at least 20 for a hostel and another 20 for food and water. That leaves you with 30 euro a day for transportation, entrance fees to sights, going out at night, etc.

  10. Michael

    God I miss traveling. There is an amazing Kebab houst in downtown Manhattan…I think it actually meets your qualifications… interesting.

  11. David Smith

    I wouldn’t doner kebab in Spain (especially not from pakistani’s, it’s Turkish food!)

    You will get food poisoning. The university of valencia done some tests on the meat and it is really bad!!

    Also, on a non-hygiene point. They really lower the tone of the city. They are everywhere. They should be banned like McDonalds, BK, KFC etc…

  12. Anonymous

    My god, the kebabs in spain are the fricken best. Thats all i and pretty much everyone at the hostel ate. If your trying to eat on a budget in spain almost everything else i crap. I swear i would fly back there just for the kebabs. I did nothing in madrid either. Anybody know what the red and white suace they use on the kebabs in spain are? Everywhere i look its either a red OR white sauce. Not sure if its the same as the one they use together in spain.

  13. Dave Allen

    Would eat Doner Kebab in Spain either. It’s a shame the number of the restaurant has ruined what was a great collection of traditional spanish resturants with culture and character.

    Now the Pakistani’s just get a drop of a slab of meat, stick it on a skew and sell it off in bits.
    The meat is left on the skew overnight and reheated and reheated until sold.

    If you know Spain you know what happens to food left out overnight and what it attracks.

    Oh and the person above is correct, it’s Turkish food, it has NOTHING to do with Pakistan. To get proper kebabs you need to go to Turkey or Germany, cheap processed meat chucked in Pitta bread is NOT a kebab.

  14. Forrest Hamilton

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