I am a firm believer that you learn a lot when you travel to new places. While I had been to Madrid and Seville before we took our trip, Lajes, Lisbon, and Rota were all new to me. I love it when I experience new and exciting things when I go abroad. So, since I think I’m pretty much done with the story of our most recent “seat of the pants” trip, here’s a list of things I learned in Spain and Portugal.
1. Spaniards are not rude.
The last time I was in the heart of Spain– meaning not Barcelona– I picked up sort of a negative opinion of Spain. I think part of my problem was inexperience. Another part was that I was traveling with my older sister, who didn’t seem to like Spain much. Somehow I came away with the idea that Spaniards are rude. I am happy to report that on the whole, they are very warm and pleasant. They seemed to like Americans, too… or at least, most of them seemed to like Bill and me. I didn’t feel like I needed to tell anyone I was Canadian, for instance.
2. Donuts are a big deal in Portugal!
I had no idea how much the Portuguese like donuts, but I saw them offered everywhere. I didn’t partake of any donuts in Portugal, but I did have a couple in Spain. They put Krispy Kremes to shame!
3. Portuguese restaurants bring out food that appears to be free but isn’t.
Food wasn’t all that expensive in Portugal, but they do make you pay for everything, including butter. If you eat the bread or dig into the octopus salad or crab dip, you have to pay for it. If you leave it untouched, you don’t have to pay.
4. Siesta still goes in Spain, but not Portugal.
I’ve heard that the siesta tradition may be going by the wayside because of business. However, I did notice that shops shut down at 2:00 so people could have lunch. I didn’t see this in Portugal as much and was told by a travel agent that they don’t do siesta there.
5. You have to pay to go into the Seville cathedral.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t see too many churches open in Spain or Portugal like I have in other European countries.
6. Trying to speak the language is a good thing.
My Spanish sucks, though not as much as I thought it did. I charmed more than a couple of people by trying to speak it, even though I probably sounded ridiculous. I have found in other European countries, if you try to speak the language, people will either appreciate it or immediately shift into their far superior English.
7. Tipping is appreciated.
This is especially true among cab drivers and carriage drivers.
8. Don’t take the rosemary.
If you’re in a touristy area and pushy women try to give you anything for “free”, be sure to keep walking. Chances are excellent that they will either try to pick your pocket or will demand payment for what they’re giving you for free.
9. There’s a lot of value in just people watching.
Sure, it’s great to see the sights and shit, but I get a huge kick out of just watching people and listening to snippets of conversations.
10. Street musicians selling CDs are awesome!
Some of my favorite mementos anywhere are CDs I’ve bought from buskers. I highly recommend supporting street artists if you like what they’re doing.
11. Spanish orange juice is amazing!!!
I miss it.
12. Spanish ads are awesome!
I got a huge kick out of the one featuring the naked guy running through the street with his private parts blurred out. I also liked the one for nose spray that apparently is so powerful that you can suck up a couple of pencils into your nostrils after using it.
13. Space A trips are very cool!
Some people are planners, but I love traveling by the seat of my pants. I love planning things on the spur of the moment. I also love flying to and from Europe for less than $50. If you are in the military or retired, I urge you to take advantage of this benefit and see the world.
14. Sometimes you have to trade one travel memory for another…
I’m sorry we lost our wee Scottish umbrella in a bar in Madrid, but I’m not sorry we spent an evening in a seedy local bar, watching the locals mingle and staring at a woman with huge tits.
15. Hit the spa.
I loved our experience at Aire. I loved goading Bill into it, too.
I learned more than this and I’m sure I’ll write more about it later, but right now I have to snuggle Arran, who begged to get into my lap. I missed my dogs like crazy while we were gone.