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Spain, the Ideal (for us) Pandemic Trip

I generally plan trips around six months in advance, but after I had to cancel three trips due to Covid, I didn’t want to go through that disappointment again. I couldn’t even bring myself to plan an itinerary. What I did do is target November as the best month for my husband and me to take a trip in 2021. Our default destination was Acadia National Park in Maine, but I was hoping we could make it to Europe.

As October rolled around, I started thinking about where to go. In the back of my mind was a post on the forum from early September about a “Fabulous B&B” in Andalusia. I don’t even know why I opened it because Spain was not – and never has been – on my radar. Casa Olea sounded like the perfect pandemic destination – remote location, beautiful scenery, great hiking, and friendly hosts. I mentioned it to my husband, and he was enthusiastic, even when I told him we’d have to drive. (We had sworn off rental cars in Europe.) So I started researching Spain. It had some big pluses: decent weather in November, easy entry for vaccinated Americans, and improving Covid numbers.

When I told people we were going to Spain, a lot of them said, “You’re brave.” I am not. In fact, I’m generally risk averse. We decided to go for two reasons: 1) We are in our late 60s, I didn’t want to miss another year of travel while we are still healthy and mobile. 2) The only risk I saw (beyond the normal risks of travel) was getting Covid and having to quarantine in Spain. That would have been exceedingly unpleasant, but we are retired and able to afford the time and cost of quarantining. And the risk of that happening seemed low. We had just gotten our boosters, we were going to travel by car, we were going mostly to uncrowded locations, and we would wear masks inside. We judged the risk/return tradeoff to be very favorable.

We decided to stay out of the big cities and forgo the “must-sees.” We generally prefer smaller towns and rural areas anyway. Plus, as I have gotten older, I care less about hitting all the big sites and more about just enjoying each day.

It had been two and a half years since our last international trip, and I was not exactly at the top of my game. Early on, I was nervous and lacking in confidence; little things threw me into a tizzy. But gradually I got my mojo back. It felt wonderful be in Europe again!

Despite my initial nerves, we found Spain to be an easy country for travel. The roads are in excellent condition, and the drivers are extremely courteous. We rarely heard a horn beep. Nearly everyone we met was friendly, laid back, and down to earth. They don’t smile at you when you are passing them, even if you smile at them. But if you ask for assistance, they are all smiles. Many people do not speak English, which was occasionally a challenge. But they try their best to communicate, and we managed fine.

Lodging was inexpensive. Perhaps this was a function of it being November and during a pandemic, or perhaps it was because we skipped the big cities. Our average nightly room/apartment cost was $200, and that included 9 breakfasts and 8 dinners out of 19 nights.

(continued below)

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The food was delicious. I was less enthusiastic about the meal schedule. I’m a morning person and I like to go to bed early, especially when I’m on vacation and have been on the go all day. Eating dinner at 9:00 does not work for me! Some days we had our big meal at lunch (1:00-4:00 in Spain), then had leftovers or a sandwich for dinner in our room. That worked well. But a big meal in the middle of the day did not always fit our schedule. We also had trouble finding good takeout food. We saw very few bakeries that had snacks or sandwiches. Tapas bars didn’t really work for us. We’re not big drinkers, and my husband hates small plates – he likes a plate full of food!

I don’t think the Spanish lifestyle could ever work for me. I like to work through the afternoon, have a nice dinner at 7:30, then relax before an early bedtime. I read that Spanish nightclubs open at midnight and don’t really get going until 3:00 in the morning! My idea of nightlife is a quiet room with good bedding. : )

Two conclusions I drew from this trip:

• Planning a last-minute trip to one country is an excellent strategy for our Covid-infused world. Looking just three weeks ahead gives you a fairly good window into how the virus will be circulating and what regulations will be in place. There is no guarantee, but you have a lot better clarity than you have six months out.

• November is a surprisingly good month to travel to Europe, especially if you’re planning at the last minute. It’s easy to get hotel rooms, it’s not crowded, and prices are lower. Some hours are reduced, but at least where we were, pretty much everything was open. It helps if you prefer cool weather and can tolerate cold like we do. Plus, if you live in Pittsburgh, the weather is pretty dismal in November, so it’s a nice time to get out of town.

Below, I will review each stop on our trip.

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Segovia (2 nights)

When we arrived at the Madrid airport, we picked up our rental car and drove an hour and a half to Segovia. We had trouble finding our way out of the airport (the first time I got flustered), but Google Maps guided us the rest of the way. I had pictured the middle of Spain as flat and arid. Well, no. We found ourselves driving up into the Castile Mountains with dark green pine trees and vivid yellow autumn leaves falling on the snow-covered ground. It was beautiful!

When we arrived at the tiny street our place was on, there were two trucks blocking the entrance. We were diverted up a hill into narrow windy roads, and students were spilling off the sidewalk into the street. We were very much in frazzle mode. We found a church parking lot so we could take a deep breath and figure out what to do. I tried to locate a parking garage with GPS, but the nearest one was a mile and a half away. I tried calling the place we were staying, but there was no answer. After we “discussed” our options, my husband decided to try driving by our place again. Fortunately, one of the trucks had left, leaving just enough room for us to squeak by. We were relieved, but still feeling stressed. I was already nervously anticipating the drive to the remaining hotels.

Our apartment at Casavillena Apartamentos Turisticos was roomy and charming, and we had a wonderful view of the castle high above on a cliff. This soothed our nerves, and we headed out for a walk. Strolling through the picturesque old town, we discovered Segovia is gorgeous! We had lunch at an Italian restaurant and had enough pizza left over for dinner. This was great, because there was no way I was going to make it until 9:00 for dinner!

After my husband took a nap, we went out for another walk and arrived at the Roman aqueduct just as the sun was setting. It was spectacular, and the pink and periwinkle skies added a stunning backdrop. We walked around and examined the aqueduct from every angle. It’s such an amazing feat of engineering. And to think it was created nearly 2000 years ago!

The next day we toured the cathedral and castle. The cathedral was nice; the castle was fantastic. Its intricate Moorish interior was unlike anything I had ever seen. When we came out, it was 2:30. The streets were nearly deserted, and about three-quarters of the stores were closed. I had always assumed siestas were a relic of the past, but they are very much alive in Segovia.

For lunch we had a fixed price meal of roast suckling pig (which is the specialty here) salad, dessert, and wine. The pig was delicious, but I later read that suckling pigs are only 21 days old when they are butchered. I guess should have realized this from the name – what exactly did I think suckling meant? (Answer: I didn’t think.) I vowed not to order another one. That evening it rained, so we stayed in and finished the pizza from the day before. Which enabled me to be in bed by 9:00. : )

Our apartment had wooden shutters that completely darkened the bedroom. I suppose this partly explains why we slept in until 10:00 the next morning. We never ever sleep this late. I guess jet lag and a lack of sleep on the plane were factors too. After a quick breakfast, we took a walk along the river below the castle and enjoyed the pretty fall colors. Segovia is a great place to recover from jet lag!

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Picos de Europa National Park (3 nights)

Our next destination was a 4.5-hour drive north. We stopped at Santillana del Mar, a pretty little medieval town where we could, I hoped, get some takeout and groceries. Nope. No takeout, no grocery stores. I don’t know where Spanish people eat when they travel. We saw no places along the highway to eat. The few rest stops were parking lots with no food and no toilets. Fortunately, we did find a toilet at the tourist office in Santillana. I don’t know where Spanish people go to the bathroom either.

We were starving but otherwise satisfied as we neared our destination for the next three nights – Picos de Europa National Park. We stopped at a grocery store in Cangas de Onis, the western headquarters of the park and the nearest town to where we were staying. We got food for dinner and breakfast, but nothing that looked remotely appetizing. We would be sustained by scenery, not good food, for the next 24 hours. Our apartment at Apartmentos Picabel was beautiful and spacious and had gorgeous views of the mountains.

It was very foggy when we woke up, so we didn’t leave until 11:00 when most of the fog was gone. We drove to Covadonga Lakes high up in the mountains to hike. The roads in the park were excellent – narrow, but with enough room for two cars to pass. We hiked around for a few hours, and it was spectacular – rugged peaks, patches of snow, giant rocks, and beautiful lakes. There were a lot of people hiking, and they were all Spanish and 40-50 years younger than we are. We had seen (or I should say heard) almost no Americans since we left the airport, and this was the case for almost the entire trip.

By the time we headed back down the mountains, it was 3:00, prime lunch time. My main criteria for a restaurant at this point was that it have a bathroom. It had been four hours since I last saw a toilet. Fortunately, not only did the restaurant we chose have a bathroom, but the food was fantastic. And plentiful – we came home with enough leftovers (including wine) for dinner.

The next day was foggy and misty, so we didn’t get moving until noon. The weather improved, but it was overcast all day, so we didn’t try to do much. I was so happy to be in Europe, I really didn’t care.

We drove to the tiny village of Covadonga, which has a pretty church perched dramatically at the top of a cliff. Covadonga is a place all school children learn about. The Moors from Africa invaded and occupied most of Spain in the years 711-716. The first battle won by the Christians in their attempt to drive the Moors out was in Covadonga around 722. A statue of the Virgin Mary hidden in a cave was believed to have miraculously aided the victory. Apparently it was a limited purpose miracle, because it took another 750 years to win back control of the entire country. Eventually they built a chapel in the cave along with the church on the cliff to commemorate the victory.

We had lunch at the same place we ate the day before and ordered the same meals, ensuring we’d have delicious leftovers for dinner again. After lunch we went to Cangas de Onis, which looks like a typical outdoor sports supply town, but with an interesting pedestrian stone bridge. It’s called the Roman bridge, although it was built 5-600 years ago, long after the Visigoths trounced the Romans.

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O Cebreiro (1 night)

My husband has long been fascinated by the Camino de Santiago (or Way of St. James), the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, so I thought it would be fun to experience part of the Camino. O Cebreiro, a tiny village in the mountains of Galicia on a scenic stretch of the Camino, seemed like the idea spot. It has nine pallozas, which are traditional round/oval stone dwellings with thatched roofs from pre-Roman times that were still occupied early in the 20th Century.

I reserved a room at Casa Navarro, which has three serviceable rooms above a souvenir shop. It was definitely lacking in luxurious touches, but it seemed to fit the Camino experience I was seeking, and it was only $52. My husband raised his eyebrows when he walked into our very small room, but he eventually conceded it was fine, although he could barely fit in the shower.

We headed west and hiked for a couple of hours on the Camino; the mountains and fall colors were beautiful. Then we stopped in a small bar back in O Cebreiro, one of the few places serving dinner. The bartender only spoke Spanish and seemed to be telling us we could not eat inside. It was way too cold for outside dining, and he must have noticed the look of distress on our faces, because his countenance suddenly brightened. He pointed to a table and brought us silverware and a menu, all the while saying something (who knows what) in Spanish. We ordered Galician meat pies, salad, and cider. I can’t say it was gourmet, but we totally enjoyed the experience. We went back to our room, and since there was nothing to do (or room to do it), we went to bed – at 8:00!

The next morning after eating energy bars, we headed east for another walk on the Camino. The valley was covered in fog and the mountain tops peeked out, making us feel like we were hiking in another world, possibly heaven. We totally enjoyed our walks on the Camino, but they did not inspire us to walk the entire route. We had both read books about the experience, so we knew the Way is not always beautiful. And walking long hours day after day could turn into a bit of a grind.

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Santiago de Compostela (2 nights)

Continuing with the Camino theme, we moved on – by car – to Santiago where we parked in a parking garage that was a 15-minute walk from Catedral Suites, our home in Santiago. We found the walk much easier than navigating narrow streets in a car. We were very happy with our apartment, which had a lovely view of the cathedral.

Not having had a real breakfast, we were starving, so we had lunch in the first place we found, a sort of sandwich shop. Later, while my husband napped, I took a walk and picked up more sandwiches for dinner, ensuring once again that I would not have to wait until 9:00 to eat dinner. : )

The next morning, we walked over to the food market, second to the cathedral in popularity with tourists, but numero uno with me. I just love looking at food displays in markets, and this one had a lot to look at. In addition to produce, cheese and other attractive food items, there was a remarkable selection of meat and fish that looked a bit too much like actual animals for my taste. Things like pig’s heads, chicken with the feet still attached, fish that looked like they were just pulled from the ocean, shrimp that were still twitching, and grossest of all – octopuses, which are a specialty in Santiago. Despite my tender sensibilities, I loved the market. It was amazing!

After passing on the pig’s heads and chicken feet, we stopped in a bakery that had wonderful-looking food selections much more to my liking. I chose a cream-filled cannoli that made me swoon, and we bought ham sandwiches for lunch. It was sunny and warm, perfect for al fresco dining.

Our final stop of the day was the cathedral. I’m sorry, but it just did not move me. It is a mess of different styles that did not, to my mind, come together in any kind of coherent fashion. I hated the very gaudy gold baroque altar, but I loved one of the chapels and the carved wooden doors depicting the life of St James.

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Castro de Coana

We left Santiago the next morning and headed to the northern coast of Asturias. We stopped at Castro de Coana, an ancient Celtic hill fort with 80 round stone huts surrounded by pretty rolling hills. The huts originally had clay mortar and thatched roofs, but all that’s left is the slate walls. The only furniture remaining is a few stone benches. The Celts who lived in these huts abandoned the settlement in 200 BC. We were the only people there, which made it fun to wander around imagining what their life was like. Being history buffs, we loved this place!

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El Vallin (Asturias, 2 nights)

Leaving the hill fort, we continued our drive to a B&B called Hotel Rural 3 Cabos in the tiny village of El Vallin. I picked it because it’s only half an hour from Castro de Coana and it sounded perfect. I had to juggle our itinerary around to get a reservation, and I’m so glad I did. 3 Cabos is up in the hills surrounded by picturesque dairy farms, and it has gorgeous views of the Bay of Biscay and surrounding mountains. Our room was lovely and had a stunning view of the water. Tomas, our host, was exceedingly helpful. We opted to have dinner as well as breakfast at 3 Cabos because the food reviews were outstanding, even though it meant waiting until 9:00 to eat. It was a struggle, but so worth it! We had fish one night and beef tenderloin the next and both were exceptional. There was a nice selection of desserts including a cream cheese flan that was the best dessert I have ever eaten. As for breakfast, there was a wide selection of sweet and savory items including – I can barely believe I am writing this – cheesecake!

After a very satisfying breakfast, we drove to Luarca, a small port ten minutes away. We walked along the colorful harbor and beaches where we watched the waves crashing against the black rocks. Then we walked up to the top of the cliff and enjoyed the views from there. The weather was perfect (low 60s and sunny), and it was delightful. Back at 3 Cabos, we took a pleasant hour long walk around the dairy farms, paying our respects to cows, horses, sheep, and dogs.

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Toledo (2 nights)

We needed a place to break up the drive from Asturias to Andalusia, and Toledo fit the bill. It took 6 1/2 hours to get there, which was our longest drive of the trip. Fortunately, we were well fortified after another fantastic breakfast at 3 Cabos.

Initially, I wanted to stay in the old town, but I was concerned about the parking, so I booked a room at Parador de Toledo, which is well outside the old town and has free and easy parking. Paradors are historic buildings converted by the Spanish government into luxury tourist accommodations in an effort to promote tourism. I was hoping to stay in one, and this seemed to be a good choice because all the reviews raved about its view of Toledo. We had a nice large room with a balcony and spectacular view of the old town perched high on a hill.

From the Parador, you can get to the old town by foot, bus, or taxi. We went to the front desk to get the bus schedule and discovered we had nearly an hour wait for the next one, so my husband said, “Let’s just walk.” This involved a two-mile, super hilly walk, which we totally enjoyed. The views were terrific the entire way.

After walking around the old town, we toured the cathedral using the audio guide. The cathedral was amazing! Like Santiago, it’s a jumble of styles, and not all of it is to my taste. (I hate baroque.) But the overall effect is awe-inspiring. The place is just massive, and there is so much to look at.

After a forgettable lunch, we bought ham sandwiches (yet again) and wine for dinner so we could eat in our room – you can guess what’s coming next – before 9:00. When we got back to our room, I enjoyed a glass of wine on the balcony. The view was magical!

The next morning before heading out, we walked back to the old town so we could visit the Army Museum, which was closed the day before (a Monday). The museum was good, but more my husband’s thing than mine.

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Consuegra Windmills

En route to Andalusia, we stopped at Consuegra, which has a big hill topped with a small castle and seven old windmills. The owner of our B&B in Andalusia recommended we stop there since we would be driving right past it. We were glad we did – it’s another piece of Spanish history, and we could almost see Don Quixote jousting with the windmills!

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Zamoranos (Andalusia, 6 nights)

After our romantic encounter with Don Quixote, we faced a three-hour drive to our B&B. The blazing sun was in our eyes the entire way. This was inconvenient for me since I was reviewing and editing photos on my phone. It was hell for my husband who was driving. He said it was the worst drive he ever made, and that was before we made a wrong turn in Zamoranos, a tiny village near our B&B. We wound up in the dead end of a very narrow alley with a truck parked at the end. There was no possibility of turning around, and no realistic possibility of backing out of the narrow, curvy alley, particularly if you happened to be tired and stressed out. There was a middle-aged man standing by the truck and we looked at him with what I am sure were extremely pathetic faces. All I could think was – he won’t speak English and he’ll never have heard of Casa Olea.

Well, he did not speak any English, but he was remarkably proficient at gesturing. I pointed at my phone to indicate GPS had led us astray, and I said, “Casa Olea.” To my surprise – and delight – he responded, “Casa Olea, si, si!” He was the nicest guy ever! He was talking and gesturing enthusiastically, and fortunately, my husband is very good at interpreting gestures. He explained to me, “He is going to move his truck so I can turn around.” He backed his truck into a tiny driveway, then drove past us. That enabled my husband to turn around in the driveway and follow the truck to an intersection. The truck went straight, while our GPS was telling us to turn right. So we stopped and look confused. (We are good at that!) The guy got out of his truck and gestured that we should follow him. We went to the next intersection, and he got out again and gestured that we should turn right and keep going until we arrived at Casa Olea. This man was awesome, and he should go immediately to heaven when he dies, which I hope is not soon.

I am happy to report that Casa Olea, the B&B that inspired our trip, lived up to its billing. It was a beautifully decorated house, and the views were spectacular – olive groves in the foreground and mountains in the background. The hosts, who were British, could not have been more friendly and helpful. Claire was a fantastic cook, and Tim was full of ideas about things to do. They had dozens of laminated sheets with hiking directions, including maps and photos. And perhaps best of all – they served dinner at 8:00!

Over the next three days we did three different hikes, all moderate in length and difficulty, all with fantastic scenery. Our favorite was the hike around Zuheros, a white village set on a hill with a castle. It was spectacular! We ended each day with my husband napping and me reading on the patio until sunset. Watching the sun set over the mountains and olive groves was wonderful. Eating Claire’s dinners was equally enjoyable; she is a talented and creative cook.

On our fourth full day at Casa Olea, it poured – our first completely rainy day of the trip. Honestly, I didn’t care a bit. I had come down with a cold and was not up for another hike. I considered driving to Cordoba, but all I wanted to do was read in bed. My husband made the best of things by taking two naps, which is his idea of heaven. The rain stopped at 5:00 and I was feeling much better, so we took a relaxing walk on the roads surrounding Casa Olea. It may not sound like a great day, but any day that concludes with one of Claire’s dinners is something to be grateful for.

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Zamoranos (Andalusia, 6 nights) continued

On our last day at Casa Olea, we drove to Alhambra, an easy and scenic 90-minute drive. When we arrived in Granada we were surprised to find heavy fog, but as we walked around Alhambra, the fog lifted and the sun came out. What an amazing place! Having never been to the Middle East or northern Africa, I had never seen anything like it. The buildings were stunning, especially the palace interiors with all their intricate detail. The view of Granada’s Moorish old town captivated me almost as much as Alhambra itself. The whole place was just magical. We even saw a double rainbow as it started raining lightly when we walked back to our car. It was a bit of an adjustment being around so many people, but we gradually got used to it.

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Madrid

It was sad leaving Casa Olea, but I was anxious to get home. Three weeks is about as long as I like to be away from home. I missed my kids and grandkids, and I was looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It was a boring, four-hour drive to Madrid. That was preferable to the heavy traffic we ran into as we neared the airport. Fortunately, the signs for the rental car return were good, and we ditched the car without incident. We took the shuttle to the Hilton airport hotel where we spent our last night. The hotel was surprisingly cool – perhaps the sleekest, most modern hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Our room was entirely black and white, except for one gray stone wall. There were no pictures on the walls, and the sink/counter was made of clear glass. It was all very slick, but very cold. However, it had an interesting and unusual layout that was very functional and roomy.

Nothing I read made me think I would like Madrid, except for the art. But since my husband is not into art, it didn’t make sense to devote any time to the city. However, I thought we might take the train into Madrid for our last evening. That idea went right out the window when we got to our room at 4:00 and it was 45 degrees and pouring rain. We went down to the lounge and got tapas and drinks – our first tapas of the trip – followed by an unremarkable dinner at the restaurant.

The next morning, we caught the airport shuttle at 9:30. We had an appointment for Covid tests at 10:30, and our plane was scheduled to leave at 1:30. When we found the testing site, it was 10:00 and luckily, they took us right in. It was quick, painless, and professional, and we got our results in 12 minutes – NEGATIVO! At least I did. My husband was having issues with his email (giving me one more opportunity to launch into frazzle mode), and it took another 20 minutes to get his negativo result. Checking in at American was insanely slow – it took an hour and a half. Security was quick, but then we had to catch a train to terminal 4S. We got to our gate just a few minutes before boarding started. Our flight arrived in JFK on time, and Global Entry was a two-minute process. We arrived home in Pittsburgh right on schedule feeling very lucky and very happy to have had such a wonderful trip.

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Great report! Thanks for making my rainy afternoon happier with a reading break :-)

I'd like to hear more about the parador - I've looked longingly at them but haven't found the great deal I'd need to be able to stay at one. Also, I would have gladly given you tips on how to find a very good lunch there in Toledo!

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What a fun trip! I'd had the same thoughts about Spain and eating late, lol. I can barely wait until the 7PM restaurant opening time in Paris, lol!!

Thanks so much for your detail. You are right...what a wonderful trip for Covid times. I'm glad you found nice, helpful people as well.

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Thank you, avirosemail. The Parador at Toledo was just over $200 a night, which was the most expensive place we stayed. It seemed a little high for what got, but it does have a million dollar view. I'm not sure if all the rooms have views, but ours did, and it was especially neat at night when we were in the room the most. Ultimately, we thought it was worth it. The breakfast was pretty good, but not great. I don't know about dinner in the restaurant, but the cafe was pretty blah. I would have loved a lunch recommendation. We normally just pick someplace near where we are when we get hungry. Sometimes we get lucky, and sometimes we don't.

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Great trip report Carroll, I am always curious about foreigners thoughts about my country, your report certainly did not disappoint, thank you for being upfront about both the pros and cons about visiting Spain. I totally agree, dinning in Spain is not very user friendly especially for Americans (having lived in the USA myself).

we had our big meal at lunch (1:00-4:00 in Spain), then had leftovers or a sandwich for dinner in our room.

^What you described here is what we usually do in Spain, dinner is really a low key affair, we only go out for dinner occasionally if with friends. Lunch is the main meal of the day.

As you mention, the siesta culture is still alive and well in most of Spain, interestingly I heard from non-Spanish friends that they are also surprised it's still practiced. It may seem like an anachronism compare to the fast-paced lifestyles typical of today's day and age, but I feel it makes us more efficient and less likely to burn out. I try to still practice "La Siesta" even in the US, when I can lol.

I also agree that English is not widely spoke in Spain, to many visitors' surprise, even in the big cities, but perhaps that just makes the trip even more of an adventure!

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We have really enjoyed all of our trips to Spain. Next time give Madrid a chance. It’s a lovely city with beautiful parks. We prefer it to Barcelona.
One time on a business trip to Madrid, we were picked up for dinner by a local at 10:30pm.! That was a little too late but 8 or 9 are fine with us.
One of my favorite places in Spain is Santiago de Compostela. Standing in the plaza watching the pilgrims arrive gave me goosebumps. We stayed in the Parador on the plaza which was originally a hospice build by Isabella and Ferdinand.
Glad you were able to get a European trip in this year. We are still hesitant to travel internationally and miss it terribly.
We want to return to some of our favorite places ,especially Italy, Greece and Japan.

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Great report Carroll. We are hoping to go to Spain in October 2022. We too are not late eaters. That’s why Greece would be a challenge, they sometimes eat at 11 pm. We’re asleep by then, lol. At home here, we eat around 6 pm. Sometimes earlier but never later.

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Loved this trip report, lots of detail.

I recall backpacking in Spain in my 20s, getting food was such a problem. Restaurants were closed 4-8 pm, there weren’t other good options, I lost weight.

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I, too, really enjoyed your trip report. We have been to Andalucia 2 times, but not the north of Spain. I enjoyed google mapping all the places you went and the parks and hiking opportunities looked wonderful!

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Carroll,
what a delightful trip report! I loved all the details you shared, and gave me so many wonderful ideas for an additional future trip to Spain. I am now even more excited for our trip this week! (We head to Girona,Penedes, and Barcelona for two weeks starting Weds).

Thank you so much for this report.

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Thank you for your fantastic report. I’ve also been considering a trip to Spain (Madrid and Andalusia) instead of my previous plans because it seems a safer choice right now.

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Thanks to everyone for the nice feedback!

Pam, This will sound crazy, but we have spent about two weeks in Paris over several trips and have never eaten dinner in a restaurant. We've always enjoyed the crepe stands, markets, and bakeries so much that we've never bothered.

Carlos, I should have mentioned in my report how much I appreciated your posts about the Covid situation in Spain. They were really helpful and made me feel comfortable planning the trip. I can definitely understand the appeal of siestas, and I enjoyed having our main meal at lunch time. Unfortunately, I still got hungry by 7:00. Most days we managed fine, but I could have used some crepe stands and bakeries. ; ) Despite my difficulty adjusting to the meal times, I found Spain's more laid back lifestyle to be refreshing. I agree with you that it does feel more like an adventure when English is not widely spoken. It surprised me how easy it was to read signs. So many of the worlds are similar to English, and if not English, then French which we took in school many years ago. As for understanding people speaking Spanish, forget it! Everyone speaks so fast, I was lost after Hola.

Suki, I hope you are able to cross an ocean again soon. If Barbara is correct, you might be eating dinner in Greece at 11:00! Yikes!

Tom_MN, Between the walking we did and the wait for food, you would think I would have lost weight, but it didn't work out that way for me.

Iken56, I loved the northern part of Spain, and I would dearly love to visit the Basque region some day. I couldn't fit it in this trip.

Amber, I hope you have a wonderful trip! The architecture in Barcelona sounds amazing.

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Most days we managed fine, but I could have used some crepe stands and bakeries. ; )

You won't have that problem in Catalonia, our regional cuisine is more inspired by our French neighbors just to the north rather than Andalucía/Castilla, so you will find many more pâtisseries and bakeries, even in the smaller towns.

My favorite Catalan pastry is called a Xuixo, a custard filled pastry that is deep fried and covered in crystallized sugar, a specialty from the medieval town of Girona!

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This sounds like such a wonderful trip! I visited Andalusia in 2017 and hope to be in Barcelona in March but would love to get to some of the locations you visited in a future trip. I also had no idea I would love Spain so much.

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Okay, I need to go back to Spain and try those pastries, Carlos. Amber is headed to Girona, so hopefully she will find them.

I hope you make it to Barcelona next year, Travel Mom. I hope we all get to take the trips we’ve been dreaming about.