Spectacular cliffs overhanging crystal clear, azure seas. Sun-drenched, pink sand beaches surrounded by craggy rocks and green vegetation. Picturesque villages amid ancient ruins. Fascinating history and culture emanating from every doorway. Hospitable locals sharing knowledge about their lovely communities. Dazzling white yachts anchored off trendy nightclub hot spots. And best of all — the cuisine. Yes, these are the things we think of when we dream about a trip to the Mediterranean Sea. Whether it’s Spain, France, Italy, Greece or any of the Middle Eastern and North African countries that border the Med, the region’s cuisine is often one of the things we most covet. And fortunately, international cuisine is one of the things we can most easily replicate at home.
During these uncertain, tumultuous times when we’re being asked or required to avoid travel and practice social distancing, many of us have had to shelve our vacation plans. Or financial pressures have suddenly put vacations out of reach. Being unable to take vacations and spend time with friends and loved ones, which are essential for our mental health, can make us feel frustrated, anxious and even depressed.
While no substitute for the real thing, replicating at least some of our travel experiences at home can distract us from the daily onslaught of troubling news — and give us a much-needed emotional lift. If you’re yearning for a Mediterranean adventure, follow our tips on how to travel to the Med without leaving home!
Choose Your Region
If you’ve ever traveled to countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, you’ll know each has its own language, culture and cuisine. You’ve likely watched movies filmed on location in popular countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Greece or Morocco, where you’ll also see some of these differences. However, you’ll notice many similarities too, such as beautiful beaches, rugged terrain, turquoise seas, quaint seaside villages and a warm climate year-round.
Here are some of the most popular Mediterranean countries that work well for creating a staycation. If you’re a Pinterest user, you’ll find endless suggestions to supplement these.
Sensuous flamenco dancers, electrifying bullfighting, ambrosial sangria, lively fiestas followed by peaceful siestas (naps) and out-of-this-world tapas (small plates) are some of the things for which Spain is known. World-class soccer players and famous artists, including two of the world’s most renowned, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, are other Spanish claims to fame.
How to Have a Spain Staycation
Dress: One of the best ways to make a staycation fun is to dress the part! You can rummage around in your closet or your old Halloween costumes to see if you have a ruffled dress, top or skirt. Guys, a black matador hat, black trousers and a colorful, billowy shirt will work. If you can’t find anything to get you into the mood, look for flamenco or matador costumes on sites such as eBay, Amazon or HalloweenCostumes.com. Kids will want to join the fun too, so help them dress up. Give them a set of maracas, and they’ll liven up your “casa” in no time!
Décor: Next, you’ll want to jazz up your fiesta space with some Spanish-themed decorations. Survey your cloth napkins, tablecloths, dishes and any odds and ends that will work. This eHow article provides instructions on how to set a traditional Spanish table. If you don’t have adequate supplies, Amazon or any party supply store such as Oriental Trading Company sells a variety of inexpensive items. Look for paper fans, Spanish flag or decorative banners (don’t stress it if you only come up with Mexican fiesta decorations — they’ll do). You can also go for artistic décor such as a Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali poster.
Food: Now that you’ve decorated your space and yourself, it’s time to talk about the food. Spain’s most famous dish is paella, a savory blend of saffron-flavored rice cooked with seafood, veggies and meat. This recipe for Spanish Paella from Williams Sonoma calls for ingredients that are relatively easy to find in most supermarkets and seafood markets. Tapas are an essential part of Spanish cuisine, so here’s a list of some favorite tapas you can make at home. Make sure you have some classic Spanish red wine sangria — or cava, Spain’s version of sparkling Champagne.
Music, Games & Movies: To set the mood, you’ll want some traditional Spanish music. Just search your music streaming sites for “Spanish flamenco guitar music.” Take it up a notch and look for flamenco dance instructional videos like this one and learn a few steps! If games are more your thing, Spaniards play many card games such as Mus, Tute and Seven-Thirty with a unique deck of cards called a baraja. For a movie set in Spain, check out the 2008 Woody Allen classic, Vicky Christina Barcelona, about two friends vacationing in Spain who fall for the same dubious painter.
(Did you know that Mediterranean cuisine is not only delicious, but that following a traditional Mediterranean Diet can improve your health and extend your life? In fact, the Mediterranean Diet consistently ends up on “best diet” lists when compared to other diet plans.)
Ah, who hasn’t heard of the French Riviera, aka Côte d’Azur, France’s gorgeous, glamourous playground for the rich and famous? If you own a mega-yacht, regularly wear haute couture clothing and have a wine cellar stocked with French wines, you don’t need much to replicate a France staycation. For the rest of us, we can imitate a French Riviera experience at home with a few items.
How to Have a France Staycation
Dress: French women and scarves are “like peas and carrots” (to borrow a line from the movie “Forrest Gump”). You can drop a load of cash on an authentic Hermès silk scarf, but any scarf you can wrap around your neck like this set that comes with two French berets will work. Guys can jump in on the action too with a beret in a variety of colors. If you’ll be doing some cooking, another option is a toque, a tall white hat made famous by French chefs starting in the 1800s.
Décor: Anything depicting the Eiffel Tower will work, as well as French flags and banners. Amazon and party supply stores will have some options like this Eiffel Tower 9” x 6” wall hanging that will decorate any room. If you want to go for a more traditional French table look, this blogger shares some tips.
Food: Start your day with some fresh croissants and a café au lait. For lunch, crusty baguettes, tasty imported cheeses, fruit and wine enjoyed outdoors picnic-style is a super simple way to invoke feelings of being in France. If you want a more substantial meal, try making a traditional French dish such as Coq au Vin, Niçoise Salad or Ratatouille. For dessert, pick up or make some macarons.
Music, Games & Movies: Édith Piaf, a French singer-songwriter who gained fame during the late 1930s, is considered one of France’s greatest singers. You can find playlists that feature her on Spotify and other online music streaming services. For a fun French outdoor game somewhat similar to bocce ball, you can play “pétanque.” Another option is a French version of hopscotch called “escargot,” where instead of drawing boxes on the pavement, you draw a spiral snail. For films set in France, you have a plethora of choices, such as the 1951 classic with Gene Kelly, An American in Paris, Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, the romantic Amélie or Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris.
Drop-dead gorgeous scenery, countless contributions to art, architecture, opera, fashion, race cars and decadently delicious cuisine are why we love Italy. Italy is also one of the historically most significant countries in the Western Hemisphere because it’s the birthplace of representative government and the Renaissance, a significant cultural movement from the 14th to the 17th century.
How to Have an Italy Staycation
Dress: You could wrap yourself in a sheet and call it a Roman toga as one way to get into the spirit of Italy! If you want to go with something a little more impressive, search for “Renaissance costumes,” and you’ll find plenty of draping, fitted bodice dresses for women and medieval knight and noblemen costumes for men. For a more practical option, an Italian flag apron will do the trick.
Décor: Just as with Spain and France, you can find party supplies in the colors of the Italian flag. A rustic red and white checkered tablecloth, a taper candle stuck into a basketed Chianti bottle and some fresh flowers create an authentic Italian table.
Food: We could write an entire book about Italian cuisine, but you can’t go wrong with Margherita pizza, almost any type of pasta and a meat dish such as Veal Parmesan or Chicken Saltimbocca. Bon Appetit shares a list of 49 favorite Italian recipes. If you can find some authentic gelato, Italy’s rich, creamy ice cream, you’ll end your meal on a decidedly luscious note.
Music, Games & Movies: Watching or listening to an Italian opera such as Aida, La Traviata, and Madama Butterfly are excellent places to start immersing yourself in Italian culture. If opera isn’t your thing, Spotify and other music streaming apps have traditional Italian folk music playlists. For movies to place your imagination into Italy, check out Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Room with a View, Tea with Mussolini or Under the Tuscan Sun.
Other Iconic Mediterranean Options to Consider
If you’ve always dreamed of a vacation to a Greek island, you can follow suggestions above and just switch your searches to Santorini, Mykonos or Crete. If Israel, Croatia, Turkey, Egypt or Morocco are on your “must visit” lists, ditto. The essential thing to remember is to make your staycation fun and memorable. You don’t have to spend much money either, just make do with what you can find around your home!
If You’re Housebound and Unable to Shop: Home Delivery Saves the Day!
You can order many things online, including groceries, as many supermarket chains now offer shopping and delivery. You simply place your order online and they will shop for you and either deliver it to your home or you can pick it up curbside without having to go inside. Don’t let being housebound stop you from enjoying a Mediterranean staycation!An even easier option is to use a home meal delivery service — check out our list of healthy, delicious Mediterranean meals we can deliver to your door. Choose tasty dishes such as Mediterranean Chicken with Artichoke Sauce, Pom-Fig Pork & Lebanese Rice and Mushroom Bolognese Pappardelle SUPERBowl. All you need to do is reheat them and you’ll have delicious gourmet meals in minutes!