Over the summer, I had a wonderful time in Spain. Originally, I had the mistakenly thought that Spain was going to be a lot like Italy. I stand corrected. Spain is definitely in a league of its own and whatever shred of similarity I thought it had just because of a similar romantic language, it can’t be grouped in the same category. These are definitely two different places.
One of the things I first noticed upon arriving in Spain is the sense of relief I felt. As a North American traveler, I feel as though I can identify more closely with Spain, for some reason, than many other countries I’ve travelled to like France, Italy, or even Greece. The people are more easygoing than in, say, Italy. Italy for the North American traveler can be an overwhelming experience especially because of the TONS of tourists deposited there each summer and the fact that nobody waits in line. It’s nothing to get frustrated about- that’s just the way they do it there. But when I have to either wait in line for 5 minutes or fight tooth and nail to be recognized in line at the local gelto place even though the person behind the counter clearly saw me first but served the person who cut in waving a euro in her face… I’d rather not have the headache… and I’d rather not have the icecream.
Spain was the total opposite- everything is orderly and even in tourist hotspots like Barcelona and Madrid, I still felt like I had breathing room. There’s more signage, less schemers looking to get their hands in your pockets than in other places, and WAY better prices. Not to say that this runs rampant in other places…
If you’re looking to get away for the first time… or maybe the first time in a longtime, Spain is an amazing place to start. Beautiful landscapes, friendly and helpful people, clean, good for your pocket, great food, and you’re not falling over thousands of other vacationers. An added bonus is that the Renfe train system goes just about everywhere you need to be and has affordable prices, well kept, and comfortable too.
In sum- Spain: great people, great food, room to breathe, lots to see, relatively affordable