Spain – Sun and Joy
One thing the Portuguese can’t understand is how easily we are considered Spanish, because we feel completely different.
Maybe we are wrong. But that difference is what makes the Portuguese appreciate so much their trips to the neighbor country.
Indeed, the tiny area of Portugal makes it easy.
We have two Spains:
1 – The greenish north, with heavy houses in granite (as in northern Portugal), and the beautiful cities of San Sebastian, and Burgos. Closer to us, in the most “portuguese” area of Spain – Galicia – Rias Bajas are the perfect landscape to travel to Santiago de Compostela, with Lugo inviting for a detour.
2 – In the arid south, where the sea is king, the long stripe of warm beaches, headed by Torremolinos and Benidorm, are reinforced by marvels like Cordoba, Granada, Seville, Barcelona and more. Is that all? No! In the middle, widely spread, several “islands” of art and history, connect both “Spains”. Madrid, of course, but also Salamanca, Avila, Segovia, Toledo, Zaragoza, Merida, and…
Thinking in islands… What about Mallorca, Ibiza, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and so on? Well, let me correct! There is one big and beautiful Spain.
Several times crossing Aragon, never decided to stop, except to visit Monasterio de Piedra.
Last year, travelling with more time, I took the family once again to the wonderful park near Nuévalos, and made a quick visit to Zaragoza.
To return with more time.
Cantabrian and Basque country
Despite several trips crossing this area towards Europe, only a couple of times I dedicated some time to see this part of Spain.
San Sebastian is a beautiful city that I visited twice, long ago, and the same happened with Bilbau.
Twice driving along the coast didn’t add much more than a stop to visit the caves of Altamira, in Santander, and the curiosity of a city named Portugalete.
Not much, indeed…
When a foreigner thinks about Spain it’s Andalucia his common reference. Andalucia is the salero of “guapas sevillanas”, the violence of bloody bullfights, the romantic history of Islamic times, and beaches professionally prepared and sold.
Landscape is not at the top, but nature helps here and there to embellish a coast crowded with blond people seeking for sun.
I lost the counting of my trips, with Seville in all of them, as I lost the names of many beaches and villages in the way.
Cordoba, Granada, Málaga, Cadiz, Jerez de la Frontera, Ronda, Écija, Osuna, were recent visits, while Almeria was almost forgotten until a recent visit.
Amidst the many beaches it’s easy to remember those where we passed long holidays, Torremolinos, Marbella, Fuengirola, Benalmadena, Estepona, Puerto S. Maria, but also those visited during those holidays: Aguadulce, Calahonda, Cartaya, Carboneras, El Rompido, Mojacar and more.
Ayamonte and Isla Canela were frequent destination during holidays in Algarve, while some special stops allowed to keep in memory Antequera, Aracena, Chiclana de la Frontera, Estepa, Mijas, Puerto Banus, Sancti Petri or Sierra Nevada.
Paradise of sun seekers, this archipelago is easy and cheap to reach and allows a never boring stay, even if you don’t appreciate the sea. The biggest of the Balearic Islands is Majorca, and it is the main destination. But Ibiza has its charm, with a long gay free reputation, I don’t know if deserved or not. For me Majorca is OK, and enjoyed my two holidays there.
The first impression of Canary Islands was a serious disappointment – we hadn’t read much about the island, and, considering its longitude, we were expecting tropical landscape.
No way, the island are mainly arid, with a few green spots, where tropical agriculture is possible.
We spent a week in Gran Canaria and another in Tenerife, and though both weeks were pleasant, we felt Tenerife more interesting than the main island.
After passing several times in this region in the way to France, I decided to dedicate a couple of days to visit Salamanca and Avila. It was all for a longtime (I know that, in 1971 I stopped in Leon, vanished from my memory).
A partnership with an official organization in La Granja de San Ildefonso, took me several times to the area, allowing a deep visit of Segovia.
It was nice, while it lasted…
Two recent trips took me, for a few days, to tour Castille-Leon, revisiting known lands, and visiting others for the first time.
Zamora enchanted me, but Astorga and Leon are not far behind. Bejar, Coria, Plasencia and Puebla de Sanabria were some of the novelties, while Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca and Simancas repeated.
My first approach to this area was in 1982, when, before travelling to Morocco, I decided to visit Madrid, for the first time, and drive south to Algeciras. Toledo, Aranjuez and Valdepeñas were remembered stops.
It was all, for a long time, but when I read several interesting comments about Cuenca as capital of culture, I decided to visit it in the way to the southern coast, also with a stop in Albacete.
The idea of making stopovers in the way to the coast was generally appreciated, and recently I used it to a new visit of Toledo, with occasional stops in Chinchilla, Roda and Torrijos.
To continue, I hope…
A night sleep in Barcelona, in 1977, a quick visit of Monserrate in 1988, in the way to Andorra to buy a camcorder (sad history that I count in Valencia page), and another night in Salou in the way back, it was all for a long time.
More recently I decided that we need to really SEE Barcelona, and planed a two weeks vacation there.
Well, it was a somewhat adventurous vacation, with one of the weeks transferred to Croatia, and the other used to see, Gavà, Malgrat de Mar, Platja de Aro, Rosas, Figueres, which means that Barcelona was once more postponed.
I’m thinking about the fifth attempt…
No, Barcelona kept out of the fifth attempt, that only addes Tarragona, Cambrils and Reus to the list. Let’s plan the sixth!
Europe in Africa
Once a popular destination for the Portuguese (and other) to take advantage of tax free, with the integration in the European Union, Ceuta has lost much of its charm, but it is still interesting the mix of an European people and organization with their neighbors from Morocco.
The historic signs of colonization provide an interesting tour and, if you search for strong sensations, just cross the border to Morocco. If you are as “lucky” as I was, you will have something to remember.
Yes, my last time in Ceuta was a tremendous adventure – crossing the land border to Morocco. It is so funny and strange that I don’t resist and will count it, but in Morocco page.
Comunidad de Madrid
A couple of visits of Madrid, extended to Escorial and Valle de los Caídos, a stop in Aranjuez, and it was all before the recent decision to take the grandsons to Warner park, in San Martin de la Vega, that made us sleep two nights in Ciempozuelos.
It is not one of my favorite areas in Spain, and after seeing the essential of Madrid, I think that the country has much more to justify my next visits.
Comunidad de Valencia
My first visit to this area, in 1977, was driving along the coast, with stops in Alicante, Benidorm and Cullera.
Many years later, a week spent in Altea added several places around – Alfaz de Pi, El Algar, Guadalest, Peñon de Ifach, Denia, Jávea, and Gandia.
Valencia was the port used in the to the Balearic Islands and back, while Sagunto, with its rich history was only seen at distance.
The boys went to Bunol, joining the crazy tomato party. Well, I prefer it in a salad!
Extremadura is so close to us, and so similar, that, for long, I didn’t dedicate much time to it.
Badajoz was the place were the Portuguese went to buy candies, and my first visit to Caceres a perfect disaster.
I enjoyed the quick visit of Valencia de Alcântara, and the often promised visit of Merida was, at last, fulfilled last year, when in the way to the beach, I planned a stopover in town.
A poor area, scattered tourist spots, but deserving much more attention than what I dedicated to it.
Four visits to Galicia, so far!
The first one to see the coast, going up to La Coruña and descending with stops in Santiago de Compostela, La Toja, Sanjenjo, Pontevedra, and Vigo.
The second one, many years later, tooks us inland to see Lugo, returning through Orense, Celanova, and the wonderful area of the dams, some of them shared with Portugal.
The third was expressly to Tui, for a dance competition.
The fourth allowed us to revisit Vigo and Santiago de Compostela, and visit the north coast, with lunch in Ribadeo.
I passed in Murcia region during the night, in my first time in the area, only with time to a general look of Elche and Santa Pola.
Recently, I booked a week in La Manga del Mar Menor, and that was the opportunity to travel around, seeing Murcia and Cartagena. but also Los Alcazares, Lo Pagan, San Pedro del Pinatar and Cabo de Palos at the entrance of La Manga.
It is not a top destination, the landscape is not attractive, but the beach of La Manga is really good, though mainly frequented by locals.
Sea and desert
If I had to summarize Spain in two words they would be “Sea” and “Desert”. It´s great the way the Spanish took advantage of their long coast, and dramatic the arid look of most of the landscape. Of course, towns are different, and we have lively people inviting us, but travelling across Spain is tiring and sometimes boring.
Yes, no need to remind me, I know that I have the privilege to live in Portugal, where distances are short, desert areas very limited (so far!) with landscape changing quite often.