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Land of the siesta, daily life in Spain moves slowly and runs late. Many travellers can get frustrated by the limited store hours and seemingly laid back pace of life. But it’s this Spanish perspective – move slowly, enjoy yourself, eat well, and relax – which gives the country so much character – and why I keep coming back, over and over again. Spain is a beautiful, interesting, and dynamic country with a lot of regional uniqueness and variety. Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona are hip and energetic cities; Granada has a Moorish touch, the Basque Country up north contrasts itself to southern living.
The Spaniards love visitors, hosting strangers, drinking superior quality local wine, laughing over a good meal, and enjoying life. A fiery, passionate place, this country will stay with you forever and, unlike other Western European countries, will be a lot kinder to your wallet.
Spain is one of Europe’s least costly summer destinations. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, if indeed at all, as the country is statistically Europe’s sunniest. The coastal resorts of the Mediterranean enjoy, on average, more than 300 days of sunshine each year – well into the autumn and winter months. Moraira with its backdrop of mountains is a micro climate and enjoys warmer winters.
Holidays to famous cities, say Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Alicante, Seville and Malaga, offer a wonderful city insight into Spain, being then a one-stop hotel destination.
Combining a villa rental in, say relaxing Moraira, Javea or Calpe on the Costa Blanca, enables you to then include a city trip to either Alicante or Valencia or both, so you then get the best of both worlds and at a more economical cost per day.
Travel Food Tips to Spain
1) The Spanish do eat very late in the evening, so 10pm would be normal for them, and even later. You may find restaurants empty at 8pm, but providing you have researched your chosen restaurant then do not be concerned they are quiet, although other Europeans will be eating around 8pm you should not be alone in the restaurant.
2) Restaurant research websites offer an insight to what is available locally, but it’s helpful to read the reviews and read between the lines of those reviews. You should also read what the Spanish themselves say about the restaurant you could be interested in, then click on nationality and translate it, rather than go by what an English person for example says. One old adage comes to mind here being, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”.
3) Do try ‘pintxos’, which are small tapa type dishes, with your wine or beer. Paella is a must too and are served in different ways with meat or fish, or even the two mixed (mixta in Spanish). Mixed dishes include shellfish, calamari, prawns as well as rabbit, pork and chicken.
4) Many restaurants serve bread with garlic and tomato. Simply rub the garlic on the bread and then squeeze and rub the tomato on top.
5) Beware of pricing on some fresh prawns (gambas in Spanish). One red type is much sought after in the period between October and January and pricing is around 10 times the normal fresh prawn price. Restaurants sell them, so do be very careful and double-check the price, simply because they are more expensive than lobster at around 60-80 Euros per kilo, so 6 prawns can cost you 45 Euros in a restaurant.
6) Whilst the bill (La cuenta in Spanish) includes service charge, although it does not refer to it expressly on bills. However, it is usual to leave a token sum. Usually just a few Euros would be left, up to a maximum of 5%.
7) Always buy your fish from the iced counter in a supermarket or from the fish market itself. Do not buy prepackaged fish, as they tend to have had preservatives put in. Where you see the sign fresco, it means the fish is fresh and not farmed. To have the fish prepared, just say limpia, meaning to clean, and they will prepare it for you. When buying meat on the counter look for Galician beef, as this has the most flavor.
8) A siesta is a pretty big deal in Spain still… and rightly so! Usually, around 1-5pm, many shops will shut their doors for a little afternoon’s rest. But then they reopen and remain so until 8pm, or later.
9) Each region in Spain today produces some exceptional quality wine, so discover wines other than the generally known Rioja from regions like Borja, Valencia, Alicante, Navarre, Ribera del Duero, Somontano, Montsant, Prioriat, Jumilla and Penedes to name just a few.
10) Generally supermarkets in Spain do not sell the better quality wines and you’ll find row upon row of price-point inexpensive low quality wine. If the supermarket has a specialty cave dedicated to wine, like ‘Corte Ingles’ or ‘Pepe La Sal’, then you will find an excellent selection of good wines. Otherwise, go to a specialist wine shop for greater choice and quality.