Spain is everything I’ve imagined- earthy, sultry, vibrant, red, heady, young, historic and every single thing opposite of that. It is a country that lived up to my expectations, went beyond them, and showed me sides that broke all preconceived notions that I had.
Firstly, it had me at Ola. No seriously! I had no idea what Ola meant, so I stood there blinking blankly at the waiter as he started with it and then rattled off what the specials for dinner were. Spain is largely not for the Enlish-only speaker. I know 3 Indian languages- but those don’t work there either. The Spaniards speak Spanish. Proudly. Protectively. ONLY. They sometimes make it a bit more challenging by adding Catalonian, Basque and Galecian. But by then, you’ve given up trying to understand and are very aware of sign language!
So tip number 1. Download a translation APP. Or learn Spanish. Whichever you think you can get by with quicker. I cannot begin to tell you how many conversations have happened, monologues rather, where the Spaniard is possibly giving me deep meaningful insights to life and all I’m doing is nodding- the wrong way. I suggest a good internet connection for your phone as well, they tend to speak really fast. You will find this absolutely necessary when you’re trying to order food that you can recognise, before an untoward nod gets you a serving of ears instead of aubergines.
2. Spain is hot in the summer. Make sure you pack light, small clothing. Also, you will immediately blend into the crowd if you follow this simple Spain fashion rule in the summer- hot shorts and tanks for women, short shorts and bare chests for men! Of course, this is totally interchangeable between the sexes!
3. Remember these words “Menu Del Diea“. This is your best friend for your stay in Spain. It translates as the menu of the day and is usually served up at lunch. It is a selection of a drink, a soup/ starter, a main and a dessert or variables of these, for a bargain of the full cost. It’s a great way to make your Euros stretch a little more.
4. Tapas, Pintox… a rose by any other name, they’re just delicious. These are tiny portions of food that you order by the plate, some places they’re expensive. Some places, if you’re really lucky-they’re free with your drink. Oh the joy of free Tapas! They taste even better without a price tag. Still remember the free crunchy mushroom tapas in this in-the-middle-of-nowhere bar in the olive laden hills of Trujillo.
5. White and yellow are your new besties. This is the cardinal rule of self-driving through Spain. The bigger cities like Barcelona, Seville and Madrid have huge parking charges- about 21 Euros per day. That’s a toss up between parking and lunch! I’m pretty sure starvation is not on your itinerary, so look for the yellow and white lines on the public parking spaces. These are free. Blue lines means 21 euros have just left your wallet. No Jamon for you!
6. Book tickets online. Places like Sagrada Famillia have serpentine queues for entrance tickets. What the Spaniards don’t tell you (maybe they did, but it was in Spanish) is that you can book your tickets online and just walk in, slowly and smugly by the waiting less-smart-than-you hoards.