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    "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful we must carry it with us or we find it not."

    R. W. Emerrson

    « Guinness Stew and Irish Flu | Main | Up in Smoke - Amsterdam, The Netherlands »

    Great Expectations - Spain

    We had great expectations of Spain.  We were familiar with the language, love tapas and seafood, and heard wonderful things about it from many of our friends.  With high hopes, we arrived in Madrid on a one-way flight with no set departure date.

    The city of Madrid has a lot going for it.  A wonderful transportation infrastructure would deliver us anywhere in the city quickly and affordably.  We were impressed with the parks which were numerous, vast, and well kept.  And overall, it seemed pretty safe.  Sadly though, we never quite "clicked" with the locals.

    We wore our most congenial smiles and used our best Spanish language skills.  We also observed the local behavior and tried our best to emulate it.  Unfortunately, nearly every interaction was met with frowns and seemingly unnecessary complexity that made us feel exhausted and a bit unwelcome.

    We hoped things would lighten up in the seaside town of Malaga, anticipating the soft sandy beach and fresh seafood.  The seafood didn't disappoint; it was some of the best we've had in Europe.  The beach was vast and had a lovely and lengthy boardwalk, but wasn't as picturesque as we were led to believe, and while we encountered a few welcoming souls in Malaga, we again ran into several more challenging personalities.

    Most trains out of Malaga head north, so we decided to spend a few more days in Madrid to determine if we were being too quick to judge.  We thoroughly enjoyed a day taking in the expansive collection at the Prado Museum, but when things got difficult once more, we sought out the most familiar and comforting thing we could think American language movie theater.  Here, we received a warm welcome from Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in what could be described as the least mentally taxing movie of all time, 'Dumb and Dumber To'.  We ate popcorn, drank a few beers, and suspended reality for nearly two hours in our cocoon of ignorance...It was divine!

    After day-trips to the beautifully fortified cities of Toledo and Avila, we decided it was time to move on.  Perhaps we had set the bar too high.  Perhaps we shouldn't have held preconceived notions.  But in the end, we can't help feeling just a little let down by our Spanish encounters.

    Reader Comments (2)

    Yes, my dears, this was also our first impression of Spain, sad to say. We found Portugal to have all the same amenities with more friendliness and cultural similarities. I view Spain as the "eternal party nation" full of rebels who just prefer to walk their own way! Their eating times and total ignoral of cultural differences does indeed make it hard to travel there. I think we also expect Spaniards to be more "Mexican" in culture, and they are not. At least, I did!

    We had several spats with the locals, with my old mother-in-law in tow. Amazing! They are very proud and not very tolerant of even the best attempts at their language. This was our experience, especially with the Madrilenos.

    Fortunately, I did find Galicia in the northwest to be different than the southern and central parts of Spain that we visited. Walking the Camino, you truly are received in a different manner. There the Galician people are a mix of Spanish and Portuguese, and have the Celtic vibe, so it truly is very, very different. I enjoyed the Galician culture immensely.

    While I have not experienced the other regions along the Camino, when I read the experience of others, they say the same, about the reception that is much warmer! I indeed, will do another Camino, but I believe we will do the Portuguese Way, from Porto (or LIsboa) to Santiago de Compostela for our next adventure into this area. I will avoid Madrid in the future at all costs!

    Hopefully you are headed to Portugal! It is a lovely place, and it my humble opinion, the icing on the cake!

    December 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterElle Bieling

    Elle - Thanks for the encouragement. We didn't make it to Portugal this time, but can't wait to visit Lisbon which we've heard compared to San Francisco, another of our favorite cities.

    We've enjoyed some great coastal hikes again recently - Each reminded us how tranquil it is to get away from it all. We're pretty sure that we'll find ways to fit a few long-distance hikes into the coming years, and your Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela sounds like an amazing option. We can't wait to hear about this, and your other impending adventures!

    All our best!
    Matt & Jenn

    December 9, 2014 | Registered CommenterDINKS Travel
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