Spain has been an interesting contrast with the other countries in which we have lived over the past three years. As we prepare to move on, it is natural to reflect on the high points and the low ones. Here are some thoughts about what I most enjoyed and least enjoyed about Spain.
#1 Least Favorite – Dog poop
I find it incredible that dog owners in towns all around Spain do not clean up after their poopy dogs. There are piles of dog crap on almost every sidewalk of every block of every town I have visited. The big cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada, and so on, are well-enough funded to have maintenance employees in the city centers who pick up pet poop along with garbage. Not so in the other areas of the towns. If the people of Spain had any idea how disgusting it is to tourists to have to dodge these piles, and how poorly it reflects on their country, they might do a better job of enforcing dog sanitation regulations. Thank goodness dogs are outlawed on the beaches!
#1 Most Favorite – The people
We have made friends in every country we have visited, and Spain was no exception. It is always the memories of places and events shared with locals and fellow travelers that seem the most vivid. Even if we never see some of these friends again, we will never forget the kindnesses they have shared with us that made our time in Spain memorable.
#2 Least Favorite – The poor
There are poor people in every country, but that is no reason to forget about them. The poor economy hit Spain harder than most industrialized countries, and they have lagged behind the rest of the world in recovering. Personally, I think Spain has the resources it needs to take care of its people. Unfortunately, much of the revenues that flow into the economy seem to get siphoned off through corruption and unethical business practices.
When Spain recently announced Felipe VI as their new king, he proclaimed he would work to achieve greater equality and more opportunities for the unemployed and the needy. I hope he has the influence, the leadership and the integrity to bring about these benefits for his people.
#2 Most Favorite – The Food
I love fresh markets, and Spain is a fantastic place to find countless varieties of fruits, nuts, vegetables, olive oil and prepared foods to meet most people’s tastes. The land is fertile and productive. There is no reason for the people of Spain to ever go hungry. We also learned they make delicious chocolate in Spain!
#3 Least Favorite – Pickpockets
In the resort towns along the coast, there is little concern about personal safety and security. I have never felt unsafe walking alone or with my wife. And even though we were never directly approached in the big cities – Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Cordoba – we were always cautioned to be on the lookout for pickpockets. This was especially true in the bus and train stations whenever we were toting luggage. After having my wallet lifted in Rome, I have become more vigilant about watching out for thieves. They have become quite sophisticated in some instances. For example, I witnessed a well-dressed man in a fine suit carrying a clipboard and hanging around our hotel in Granada while the tour buses were unloading. When he saw that everyone remained standing next to their personal bags and he noticed my wife and I were watching him, he walked away.
#3 Most Favorite – The Weather
Although the Costa Blanca has experienced its worst drought year on record and there have been dozens of brush fires in the surrounding countryside, it has been pleasant living on the coast just a few short blocks from the beach. The evening breezes coming of the Mediterranean Sea are cool and refreshing. In fact, we have seen rain here on the southern coast of Spain just a handful of times during our stay. We have been most fortunate weather-wise when we take into account that Madrid received over a foot accumulation of hail on July 3rd. The traffic on the freeways feeding this city of 3.2 million was brought to a standstill and the precipitation eroded the track of the high speed train from Alicante to Madrid. The Metro subway and the airport were flooded forcing delays and diversion of flights. I am grateful that we live on the Costa Blanca where it was 85°F and sunny.
There is something for everyone in Spain, and I am sure I will think of more things I could have added to this list after we leave. Suffice it to say Spain should be on your list of countries to visit. Should you decide to go, I will be watching for your stories so that I might reminisce about our time in Spain. Buen viaje!
Haha. That’s an interesting list. Mine would look very different!
You should share a few of your own!
Probably hasn’t changed hugely over the years.
I’m with you 100% on the dog issue Mike. The worst place we’ve encountered recently was in Rome. We spent a couple of weeks there and our apartment was in a non-touristy neighborhood, so these were locals, not tourists. And the incredible thing for me was that dog-owners seemed to go out of their way to make their dogs poop on the sidewalk, instead of the street which was 6 inches away. There’s no logic to it, and I will never understand. It may seem petty to dog-owners, but after splatting a few piles, maybe they would understand. ~James
I was told by our British friends that it is just as bad in England. We did not run into the poop problem in Scotland, but apparently Brits are among the worst offenders, and the coast cities of Spain are full of Brits. It may seem surprising to say, but Mexico was significantly cleaner than Spain in the places we saw while we were living there. And we never saw dog poop left behind anywhere in Croatia. – Mike
I spent three weeks in Spain in 1995 and what appealed to me in the “food” category was that it was easy to find all sorts of fresh olives, which I love, at markets and in the grocery stores.
Now, two local grocery stores where I live in Florida have olive bars with over a dozen varieties of olives which you can “mix and match” for a single price per pound.
Driving between Sacramento and Redding, we were near Corning when I suddenly became aware of bushes as far as the eye could see on both sides of the Interstate. I kept thinking they looked familiar and then it struck me: these are olive trees, which I had seen while traveling between Sevilla and Madrid.
As we approached Corning, there were billboards proclaiming it the olive capital of the U.S. and there were all sorts of olive stores near the exit selling bottled olives of all kinds. I bought a few bottles of them stuffed with garlic and chipolte & jalapeno peppers and ate them with our picnic lunches as we drove the California coast from Eureka to San Luis Obispo.
I learned a lot about olives during our travels, including how wonderful the oils taste. Thanks for sharing your experience with olives, especially those now being grown in the U.S. While I am sure people in the U.S. have been growing olives for some time, it is nowhere on the scale of what we saw in Croatia, Italy, and especially Spain.
I was surprised to learn that Spain provides some of the Italian canneries with oils because Italy cannot produce as much as they can sell, and it is legal to call their product pure Italian olive oil if it does not contain more than 10% from Spain. That is a credit to the Spanish olive oil industry because Italian olive oil is prized for its quality.
We tasted a LOT of olives in these countries where it is common at restaurants to place a complementary dish of olives on the table as a beverage or pre-meal snack. I even got to pick and help cure olives during our time in Croatia. There is so much to learn about olives that one could write a book about it. – Mike
I enjoyed all of your favorites and wished that the least favorite ones did not exist! I always love your photographs with the people you met, Mike! This helps me to ‘see’ you and Florence, along with the ones who have been there for you, entertaining and sharing your path in Life, even if it is just ‘for a spell.’ I also love Spain, so this post resonated with me! I love the variety of foods available, so much more than you can find at Mexican restaurants, so rare to find a ‘true’ Spanish restaurant, in the U.S.
An offhand comment, but I love dried figs, olives and apricots, too! I feel that some of the things you savor, wine, sweets (chocolate), good meals, nuts and fruits, are all common threads, which mean it won’t be so hard to choose a place to eat and meet, someday in the future.
I am still looking forward to your American arrival, it seems like awhile, only 6 months, though since you were here. Telling us about the wonders of Washington, family and friends. They will be waiting for you, at the airport. I can imagine the tears that flow, as I am one who cries in happiness, at arrivals, sadness at departures. Hugs, Robin
Robin, it sounds like we share lots of ‘likes’ as pertains to Spain. We took for granted much of the availability and variety of foods because they were so plentiful. We were both hit with sticker shock when we made our first visit to the local supermarket upon our return. Ohmigod, 79 cents for one orange? $1.25 for one small avocado? This is going to take some getting used to. Maybe we need to start planning our next trip abroad just to eat affordably again!
On the other hand, it feels comfortable to be back in the U.S. The TV shows are all in English. There are so many channels to choose from when we want to watch something for a hour of relaxation, because Florence’s parents have cable TV, and there are always reruns of Big Bang Theory, which we seem to never get tired of.
You are right about reuniting with family. When my grandson learned we are back in the U.S., his first question was, ‘When are you coming to visit?’ Fortunately, that is only a few weeks away. In the meantime, we still visit on Skype for story time. And now we can do ‘bedtime’ stories. Because of the 9 hour time difference, I used to read to him when he first got up. During school, I had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to read. This is better. 🙂 I have much to be thankful for. – Mike
Having followed your wonderful stay in Spain, it has only made me want to go more… however, the poop issue would definitely be a deterrent! That would make me crazy! I can’t stand it when I find careless people here; I would go nuts seeing it everywhere! It seems so common sense, that it’s really hard to understand how any of these cities/ countries allow this.
Aside from that issue… I have so enjoyed the many places you’ve lived and the experiences you’ve shared. It will be interesting to see what you have to say about the US!
My perspective has certainly changed with regard to life in the U.S. If nothing else I am a bit more humble about the many advantages we take for granted as far as kitchen appliances, affordable electricity, shopping options and the sheer size and diversity of our country. I remember figuring out, for every country we visited, which state was about the same size. Spain, for instance, is about the size of Washington State. And just like in Washington, you can easily drive from one end of the country to the other in daylight.
I think the thing we became most accustomed to was living with quiet. It is noisier in the U.S. generally speaking, but we still find our quiet places. – Mike