Spain Tourist Information
Spain is full of energy, delights and endless coastlines of beach paradise. Below is handy information on how to make the most of your journey around the rich culture of Spain. Eurocamp Independent's guide to Spain Tourist Information includes links to the best campsites in Spain, with details of Spanish tourist attractions and sightseeing suggestions to make the most of your holiday experience.
Eating in and out in Spain
You will not need to take much in the way of food to Spain, though a few basics might be useful. It should be noted that most imported goods are very expensive. Supermarkets (‘supermercado’) are the easiest and cheapest places for food shopping, though small general shops (‘alimentacion’ or ‘comestibles’) are usually quite well stocked. There are few specialised food shops apart from bakers (‘panaderia’); butchers and greengrocers are often hard to find.
For general shopping in larger towns, department stores (e.g. ‘El Corte Inglés’ or ‘Galerias Preciados’) stock a wide variety of goods. Probably the most striking thing about shopping for food in Spain is the exceptional range and quality of seafood, though prices are not necessarily particularly low. In comparison, cuts of meat are limited and quality can vary quite a lot; pork is usually a good buy and lamb is reasonable.
Many supermarkets have a separate counter for cheeses and cold meats. Both imported and native cheeses are available, the most famous of the latter being ‘Manchego’. This is sold at a wide variety of prices and ages and it is perhaps a good idea to ask to taste some before buying. Spaniards are very fond of hams, which you will see hanging up in all the bars and food shops. These are not cheap but they are very good. Most other foodstuffs are very similar to those in Britain. Bread can be heavy though - rolls are often more palatable. The tea sold is reasonably good, but very expensive.
Where to eat? Eating out in Spain is usually cheap. It is possible to eat in a ‘fonda’ or ‘posada’ (inn), a ‘merendero’ (fish restaurant), an ‘hostería’ or a ‘restaurante’. The latter are classified by forks: one fork is the simplest and cheapest, five forks the most expensive.
The majority of restaurants offer set menus as well as ‘à la carte’, and these prices will usually be displayed outside the establishment. One of the menus may be a ‘plato del día’ which varies from day to day. What looks like a menu with a large number of courses can be deceptive in some of the cheaper restaurants: fish, meat and vegetable courses often arrive together on the same plate. This is known as a ‘plato combinado’. A set menu normally includes soup (‘sopa’), one or two main courses, dessert (‘postre’), and bread and wine; coffee is always extra. Service is usually included in restaurant prices, but it is normal to leave a tip of 10% unless the service has been poor. If you ask for water you will be given, and charged for, mineral water unless you specifically request ‘agua de grifo’. However, it is not usually advisable to drink the tap water.
Wine is very cheap in Spain and the Rioja region produces the best red Spanish wines throughout the country.
Spain sightseeing, Culture and interests
Must see locations and information for tourists visiting Spain:
Shopping - Generally shops open from about 9.00/10.00 a.m. until 1.00/1.30.p.m, when they close for the traditional ‘siesta’, and re-open at about 3.00/3.30 p.m. until 7.30/8.00 p.m. Larger stores are open right through the day. Normally, shops are closed on Sundays, but this may vary in holiday areas.
Costa Brava - The Catalan Tradition
You will notice very quickly during any stay in this particular area of Spain, just how intensely aware the Catalan people are of their culture and traditions. Those who speak Castilian Spanish may be a little mystified to listen to locals chatting. Catalan is spoken widely and, although derived from Latin like Spanish and French, it is at times totally unrecognisable. Don’t worry unduly though, they do speak Castilian Spanish too! Art, music and dance are an integral part of the Catalan cultural heritage and there are numerous opportunities to enjoy colourful and lively festivals throughout the summer. Everyone is familiar with the more flamboyant flamenco style of music and dance which is performed throughout Spain, but particular to the Catalans are the ‘Sardana’, accompanied by pipe and drum, which are more graceful and sedate dances in which people of all ages participate. Visitors are always welcome to join in and the readiness to open the circle to strangers is symbolic of the warm and friendly nature of the Catalan people who are always proud to share their customs.
Blanes has kept the character of a fishing town with a maze of narrow back streets. The wild beauty of the cliffs has attracted a large number of nature lovers, one of whom planted a garden, the ‘Marimurtra botanical Gardens’, overlooking the sea, where there are more than 4,000 different species of trees, shrubs and flowers.
Playa d’Aro An elegant holiday resort with a large beach of fine sands that attracts many sea and sun lovers. The town is lively both by day and by night and is excellent for shopping and entertainment.
Gerona Once known as the ‘city of a thousand sieges’ because of its important strategic position. The ramparts now merely mark the old city limits to the north and west and Gerona enjoys a more peaceful existence. The old town perched on the hillside overlooks the modern commercial city which is divided in two by the river. The maze of alleyways and steep cobbled streets in old Gerona, typified by the Carrer de la Forsa, is a treasure trove of art galleries, antique dealers, printers and book stalls. The Arab baths (closed on Monday), dating from the 12th century, and the cathedral are also of great interest. For those hunting for bargains, Gerona offers excellent shopping facilities at very reasonable prices, as well as a superb weekly market.
Pals The picturesque village of Pals, floodlit at night, has changed little since its beginnings in the 10th century. Visitors must walk into the heart of the village, leaving their cars at the old church. Perched at the top of a hill, the long walled precincts, the bell tower and attractive stone houses give the village a special charm. About 6 km away is Playa de Pals, a small but lively resort with its own golf course and a long stretch of sandy beach.
L’Escala The beautiful beaches with gentle and shallow waters, the typical harbour full of life and the wonderful facilities make the historic fishing village of L’Escala an interesting place to visit.
Santander The capital of the Province of Cantabria, Santander, sits on the shore of a wide and beautiful bay. A modern city, full of variety, largely rebuilt after being struck by a tornado in 1941, Santander has been called the intellectual and cultural summer capital of Spain. Each August, it provides the setting for the international festival of drama, music and dancing. The central artery of Santander is the Avenida de Alfonso XIII, a little way west of which, on the edge of the old town, is the Gothic Cathedral. The Avenida de Calvo Sotelo, rebuilt after the disaster of 1941, is now the town’s main shopping centre. Here you will find shops, cafés, and a considerable amount of bustle. This leads to Calle Rubio and the Fine Arts Museum (closed on Sundays and Public Holidays), which contains, among much else, a portrait of Ferdinand VII by Goya and a rich collection of works by Italian, Flemish and Spanish artists of the 17th and 18th centuries. On the eastern side of the Avenida de Alfonso XIII are the beautiful gardens flanking the Paseo de Pereda which extends to the Puerto Chico (small harbour). At its eastern end is the Marine Biological station with an interesting museum and aquarium. North of the small harbour is the Prehistory and Archaeological Museum, one of the most important in its field in Europe. Santander has an exceptional variety of beaches. Two kilometres from the centre of town are the beaches of El Camello, La Concha, La Primera and La Segunda.
Laredo The capital of the so called ‘Spanish Emerald Coast’ and one of the oldest summer resort areas being very popular with holiday makers from the neighbouring Basque area. Beautiful Salvé beach is one of the longest and most frequented in Cantabria. The ‘Puebla Vieja’, or old quarter of the town, with its steep narrow paved streets leading to the parish church and old stone houses is a big attraction. It has a fishing harbour well protected by the surrounding hills.
Noja Has a vast beach in a bay with lots of small reefs visible at low tide. Another beach, Nueva Berrua, lies past the headland to the east and to the west the beautiful Ris beach, distinguished by its off-shore rock islets.
Tips for travelling around Spain
You will need an international driving licence if your current one does not conform with EC format (pink-coloured licence). This can be obtained from the AA or RAC, for a small charge, upon presentation of your British driving licence and a passport-size photograph. You need not be a member. Please note that third party car insurance does not extend automatically to Spain. It is, therefore, highly recommended that you take out Green Card insurance. Seat belts must be worn except in built up areas. Children under 10 years are not advised to use front seats.
Spain is reputedly the second most mountainous country in Europe so, although main roads are generally of a reasonable standard, they may be winding and driving is slow.
How to Get There
You can sail direct to Spain from Portsmouth or Plymouth- sailings take between 18 - 25 hours. Or take a short crossing to Calais then drive dwon through France, with one or two overnight stops en route.
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