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Would we Enjoy Spain?

Hi everyone,

My husband and I always rely on you guys each year we plan a trip. Long story short - my husband's company pays for us to take a 4 week trip to a country(ies) we have never spent more than 48 hours in, in order to "broaden" his horizons. We have been to England, Germany, Italy, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, and Scotland (only 48 hours).

Our favorite city would be London, but our favorite country would probably be Italy. We love history, architecture, cobblestones, walled towns (Rothenburg), medieval remnants, roman ruins, hidden gem restaurants, some hiking (ex. Cinque Terre), military history & museums (loved House of Terror in Budapest & exploring bunkers in Germany and Austria), little bit of local shopping, historical walking tours, beautiful scenery (Sorrento & Hallstatt). We are not "club" or "bar" people. We also aren't wine lovers. We are more likely to get to bed by 10. We also don't like seafood (weird I know). In the evenings we love taking strolls through charming towns. We don't tend to like "modern" architecture and/or art.

With that background, we are now picking a location for a trip next summer (we have to put in a request in advance). We are choosing between Ireland & Spain. (Saving a Croatia trip for the future).

Our question is to those of you who have visited Spain - does it sound like it would be ideal for us? We are a bit concerned that the nightlife/seafood/late hours might not work for us. I do realize that there are other options in terms of food/activities, but if anyone reads this and has a strong feeling either way, we appreciate the advice! I know there is wonderful history in Spain and beauty.

If anyone out there has been to both Spain & Ireland - which do you think sounds best for this upcoming trip? We plan on seeing both in our lifetimes, but we try to take it one dream trip at a time :) p.s. I don't know if it matters, but we are both physically able bodied and in our 30's.

Thanks everyone!!

Posted by
16893 posts

Yes, Spain has plenty of things you like, especially history and traditional architecture.

  • Barcelona was named Barcino by the Romans.

  • Roman aquaduct at Segovia; fabulous Moorish Architcture at Granada, Sevilla, and Cordoba; big cities with large, well-preserved old quarters.

  • Tapas can be about the food, you don't have to drink, and you can make it into a meal at your normal dinner hour. If you don't eat fish, there's lots of pork and potatoes available. Food markets as colorful and crowded as anywhere.

  • Get into Rick's overview of the big city sights, for instance Madrid at; also video links on the same page.

Posted by
6908 posts

First off, Katie, is your husband's company hiring? What a great perk for employees! Does he have to give a report when he gets back, to prove his horizons were broadened?

We visited Western Ireland on a bicycling trip in 2011, picking it instead of Denmark. I love travel and expected to have a good time, but was pleasantly surprized how much we really enjoyed that trip - even though it rained a bit every day. Seafood is big on the menu in counties Galway, Clare, and Kerry. Coming from landlocked Indiana/Colorado, it was a treat to see the ocean & seabirds, and to boat over to visit Inishmore, the big island in the Aran Island group. An Irish breakfast often includes blood pudding, which is not seafood, and pork, lamb, and beef is available (along with great Irish cheese & veggies). Lots of old, really old architecture and great people! You can visit a pub for some traditional Irish music and still be in bed by 10 pm , if you like.

Spain is great, too, and we were there for 2 weeks this past November. We seek out seafood, and visiting northern Spain gave us great, innovative meals and tapas. Non-fish tapas are always available, especially if you are inland like around Madrid. Segovia, a special town, is the world headquarters of cochinillo, roast baby sucking pig. The Spanish do a siesta in the late afternoon so they can stay up late for dinner, but you can find restaurants open at even 5 or 6 in the evening, so it's possible to have dinner on a more American schedule, but you probably won't see a lot of locals with you in the restaurant. We didn't tour the military museum while visiting Toledo, but it's huge from the outside, and understand it's great. While Barcelona is noted for its modern architecture and has Picasso and Miro museums, it has a long history with lots of "old" stuff, too. Madrid has the outstanding Reina Sofia modern art museum, but also has the Thiessen Bornemisa with great art spanning 7 centuries, and the Prado, arguably the finest art museum in the world.

Ireland has lots of people who speak English. Spain does, too, but knowing some Spanish would help. Tough call . . . both Ireland and Scotland make for outstanding visits, but Spain would probably be a more novel experience for you two. It's big, too, and probably has more diverse regions than the whole of Ireland. Hope this helps.

Posted by
270 posts

My husband and I just vacationed for 10 days in Spain staying in Barcelona, Tarragona and the Priorat wine region to visit Scala Dei, a crumbling monastery known for making wine. We loved Tarragona for its Roman Ruins and cathedral plus the food. Surprised that so many more people speak English than during our visit in 2005, people were more open, menus in often more than Catalan and Spanish, and historical signage in even the smallest of town. Dinner was often available at 8, though again, you might be the only ones in the restaurant, and meat/fowl is offered a lot.

Last year we were in Ireland for 10 days, and while we loved it, I think Spain offers so much more as far as diversity within a country, especially since you may be staying a month. I'd check out some RS videos about the various areas of Spain to help plan your trip. Good Luck!

Posted by
25 posts

Thank you for your thoughtful responses - we really appreciate the time and effort you made for us! I'll try to update this when we make our final decision. Our indecisiveness is awful - as right now we are also torn between a domestic trip to Hawaii or New England :)

I'm glad all of you enjoyed your destinations!
p.s. My husband's company is always hiring if you are interested in moving to Madison, WI. :)

Posted by
12154 posts

Spain has amazing history, like Italy, which includes Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Visigoths, as well as the current land that Ferdinand and Isabella forged when they chased out the Moors. There are ruins from every age as well as cave paintings and prehistory tombs in the South. The Prado, in Madrid, is one of the finest art galleries in the world. Madrid also has a temple that was moved there prior to completing the Aswan dam in Egypt.

Unlike Italy, Spain also offers great customer service, clean toilets, cheap and clean lodging, as well as cheap food, wine and beer. They also have upscale choices.

If someone else is paying, go to Spain and stay in Paramores - historical buildings owned by the state and turned into luxury hotels. The good restaurants are really good while some tapas places are expensive and great, others are cheap and not at all great, the treasures are both cheap and great. Lots of olives and game (seafood is always a choice though).

If I could steer you in a direction it would be visiting during April to see Semana Santa celebrations around the country (Zaragosa was our favorite by far) and also plan to visit the April Fair in Seville. Both of those are cultural experiences that are unique to Spain.

Spain also has some of the best beaches. I'd skip Costa del Sol and visit the uncrowded beaches of Costa de la Luz on the Atlantic coast.

Posted by
15477 posts

Italy was my favorite European country, then I visited Spain. The Moorish influence makes Spain unique. There's history - Cadiz is possibly the oldest city in Europe. While it's true that in Spain, the norm is to eat dinner very late in the evening, you can certainly get food earlier.

Take into account that sunrise and sunset are later in Spain than in the rest of Europe. Almost the entire country is west of the prime meridian, so it "should" be on GMT, but it has chosen Central European Time instead and daylight savings time too. So midday in Spain in summer is around 2.00 p.m. You may just find that you want to stay up a bit later, at least until sunset.

Posted by
6908 posts

Hmmmm . . . Madison definitely has its advantages, including bagels from Bagels Forever!

Enjoy HI or New England, too!

Posted by
33 posts

Your husbands company sounds cool in Madison WI. What is the name of it? Do they hire IT staff? Can IT staff work for your company but live in another state? Currently I work for a company that let's ITs IT staff work from home so location does not matter for my company and it would be ideal if your husbands company works the same way.

Posted by
1020 posts

Of course you will. I've never known anyone who didn't like Spain.

Posted by
11294 posts

If you want to follow Brad's suggestion about luxury accomodations, it's Paradores. Paramores would be something quite different [g].

I'll offer a contrary view to those above. I love Italy, but have been to Spain twice and did not care for it. I don't regret going, but it's just not a place I groove with. I particularly had problems with eating; for me, it was the wrong food at the wrong hours. The seafood didn't bother me (and is easy to avoid in any case), but the focus on ham did.

Not a criticism, but a warning; I never expect English anywhere but English-speaking countries. But Spain is the country where I encountered the least English. It would have been VERY frustrating without survival Spanish (which, fortunately, I have). Other people report finding decent amounts of English, but I sure didn't.

However, I'll now contradict what my post just implied. You will only know how you feel about a place when you go. If you're curious about Spain, go. Just brush up on your Spanish before you go.

Posted by
9363 posts

I have spent a total of about six weeks in Spain in the past two years (my second and third trips there). I can't wait to go back! There is always more to see and do. The north is very different from the south, Barcelona is very different from Madrid. There are great day trips you can take from any major city - Roman ruins, mountains, castles, walled cities, seacoast, islands. There is plenty to eat without seafood (I'm not a seafood eater, either), and anywhere with tourists will have places open to eat at all hours, not just late.

I have also made four trips to Ireland and have never had a bad time there, either. It's a smaller place, though, with perhaps less diversity in scenery and climate. You could still easily fill your time, though. If I had four weeks, I think I would choose Spain over Ireland at this point. But that might be because I have a growing network of friends there. In more rural areas you might need to rely on a little Spanish, though. Not as many English speakers outside of population centers.

Posted by
12154 posts

Yes, silly error - Paradores. Sometimes I can't type and think at the same time so random stuff comes out of my fingers. :-)

Harold is also right about the focus on ham. Some variety of pork products will always be on the menu. We ate at some pretty bad places (also true at some places in Italy, Germany, England, etc.) and others that were great. For me great isn't gourmet - there are lots of those place in Spain - it's authentic, well made food at a surprisingly low price.

I'm not as in love with jamon iberico as the rest of the country is, but it's good. Olives are plentiful, I liked rabo de toro (ox tail), escargot (a smaller snail with almost a beef gravy), and most of the asador (barbequed foods) I tried.

I like trying different things and Spain offered a lot of choices - sometimes it worked out better than others but there wasn't much that was truly horrible. Some chorizos were great while others were pretty bad (chewy). At one place we were given a plate of salty anchovies, as a free tapa with our food order, that wouldn't have been my first choice. Most of the bread with our meals was what I'd call soda bread and not special.

I wrote a trip report here. It's called something like Spain: Cheap lodging and clean toilets. You may enjoy it.

Posted by
1 posts

I'm also interested in this topic because I'm thinking of going to Spain and France with my mom. I've heard Barcelona is beautiful and a great walking city.

Also, Katie, your husband's job does sound so amazing! Wish all companies offered that. Do they allow for the sabbaticals every year? What are the normal vacation days or PTO?

Posted by
339 posts

We spent some time in Spain. We don't stay up late. We don't eat late and still found good places to have dinner earlier than most of the locals. I recall that we ate our main meal for lunch. And we enjoyed Spain a lot. We just went to Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo and Granada and it was a memorable trip in spite of the country wide strike which only last one day......

Posted by
4535 posts

Another vote for Spain, although what I have seen of Ireland is nice. But it will give you a much different experience than most other places you've visited. A bit like Italy in parts, and Barcelona is closer culturally to France. But unique with it's Morrish influence in culture and architecture. And sooooo many layers of history: Roman, Visigoth, Moor, Reconquista, Post-Americas discovery wealth, and even Fascist Franco/Civil War.

Seafood is pretty common along coastal cities but jamon, chorizo, suckling pig, lamb and ox tail are never too far away. One of my favorite restaurants in Madrid is Casa Mingo, wonderful roast chicken and they are open all day (one of the few decent restaurants open for dinner before 8:00). If you can't adjust to the late dinner hour, eat bigger lunch meals (like the Spanish do) and then have tapas around 7:00. Some places will start serving dinner by 7:30, but with few exceptions, good restaurants don't serve dinner (or even open) until 8:00 or 8:30.

If you choose Spain, do come back for more tips. There have been some great ones so far.

PS - English is not as commonly spoken amongst those born during the Franco era. Those born after almost all speak it fine. Most tourist-oriented places will speak English but once you get off the tourist trail or into a regular shop/restaurant, it will help to know some basic Spanish. Mine is awful; I get along just fine.