This is one of our many Mini Travel Guides, meant to whet your appetite for travel with tasty tidbits of advice from locals who are in the know. This travel guide comes to us from Monica!
Spain is a country of great contrasts. It may seem that it's just beaches, sun, and people dancing flamenco, but there is so much more! The weather, the people, the food and the landscapes are completely different in each area and that’s what makes the country so interesting: no matter what you are looking for, you can find it in Spain. There’s lots and lots of history, nice beaches, great mountains, cold sangria and awesome parties every night.
Spain is known for its great weather and nice beaches. You can lay down in the sun in the Mediterranean, enjoy great landscapes on the Atlantic, or even practice surfing. Spain has 605 Blue Flag beaches - that means we have tons of clean, safe beaches for you!
Granada is my favorite city: it has mountains, sea, lots of history and the best tapas I’ve ever eaten. Located in Andalucía (the south of Spain), Granada is a place to have fun, relax and enjoy all the little pleasures of Spanish life. The Alhambra is probably my favorite building, so don’t miss it. You may want to make reservations though, since only a limited number of visitors are allowed each day.
If you want to take a break from beaches, sun and people, I strongly recommend a trip to the North. The Pirineo, in the border with France, is the perfect spot to enjoy clean air, great landscapes and the peace and quiet that can’t be found in a city. This is my favorite vacation spot; the mountains really charge my batteries. It also shows a different side of Spain and its people. And the hiking here is amazing!
Spain is an open country. People are loud, eat too many tapas and tend to sleep more during the day than the night. It's easy to start the night with every intention of going to bed early and not getting home before 6:00 am! Obviously, it’s not possible to do this every day, but once in a while, enjoy it! That way you’ll have the perfect excuse to take a siesta (nap). You always know when the night starts, but never when will it end!
I think this is one of the things that applies to every country in the world: if you really want to get the feeling of a place, you have to walk it. Unless you are extremely tired, or the weather is crappy, forget those tour busses and just walk the city. Of course it’s important to visit monuments and famous places, but don’t forget to take a little detour every once in a while. You never know if the next bar you enter has the best tortilla ever!
Sangría & Tapas
There is nothing better in the world than a cold sangría in a hot summer day. Let me rephrase that: there is nothing better in the world than a cold sangria with yummy tapas in a hot summer day. My advice when ordering tapas is simple: just ask for what the locals are eating. Oh, and don’t be afraid to try anything: I guess some foods may seem gross (octopus! pig’s ear!) but really, you’d be surprised by how good they are.
I’ve tried “Spanish tortillas” in other countries and I’ve yet to find a good one. Really, it’s nothing fancy: egg, fried potatoes and onion (always ask for the onion one, it’s 10 times better!) but, really, it’s so good. If you can get your hands on a homemade one, you’ll never want anything else in your life (there are a lot of difference from the ones to try in bars and restaurants.)
Churros with Chocolate
This is the most Spanish breakfast I can think of. Churros con chocolate are the best thing to eat when you are coming home after a long night of partying, when you wake up ready to face a full day of walking or in a cold winter afternoon. If you’ve already tried churros, go for the porras. Those are longer and thicker, and taste even better!
Lunch is usually taken between 2 and 4 pm and dinner starts at 9 pm (at the earliest), although some hotels and restaurants open earlier for tourists. When going out, people usually meet for drinks at 11 pm, meaning the night starts much later than in other countries. Language is not usually a problem if you go to touristic spots, but when traveling to lesser known places, be sure you know at least basic sentences - just in case.
Travel on the Cheap
Spain is not an expensive country if you stay away from all the tourist-y places. There are lots of bars and restaurants in the main streets and squares charging sky high prices for normal food; sometimes you just have to walk down the street to find cheaper and better alternatives. The rule of thumb is to check the people: if there aren’t many locals in the restaurant, avoid it.
Any Spanish travel tips to share? Questions for Monica?