|SPAIN - WALKING - FOOD|
Spanish food and eating hours
a common destination for the package holiday trade, but there is much
to this country than sitting on a beach. Move away from the holiday
down the coasts and in minutes you are in a different land, unaffected
by the dubious benefits of the mass tourism that came to Spain in the
During the long years of Franco's reign
Spain fell behind the rest of Europe's post war development, (which
it cheaper to visit than some european countries) but once Franco died
and democracy arrived, Spain started to party, and they have never
For the walker this country offers high mountains in all parts of the
In high summer the temperature is likely to be hot (at least in
so it may be best to avoid the hottest months.
Click on the titles or on the map to look at some possible walking holiday destinations.
Spain is a high plateau or tableland (the meseta) with ranges of mountains (Cordillera Cantabrica and Pyrenees) across the north dividing it from France and in the south, the spanish mainland's highest mountains, the Sierra Nevada. Much of the interior is above 900 metres above sea level and many mountain ranges rise above 1800 metres.The capital, Madrid is in the centre of the peninsula. There is a strong regionalist culture, especially in Catalonia (capital Barcelona) and the Basque country in the north.
The population tends to be crowded together in towns with large areas of countryside almost devoid of houses. This situation developed in the days when banditry in the countryside was commonplace but seems to have become part of the spanish character.
Climate is rather variable being influenced by both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, the interior has hot dry summers and is generally sunny at all times but the cold winters often bring snow to higher ground. .
The south and east coasts and Balearic Islands have the Mediterranean climate beloved of the summer holidaymaker. The northern coasts are wetter and more humid than the south.
mountainous north ("green Spain") is a lot wetter than elsewhere,
the Basque country.
A partial history
First a colony of Carthage, "Hispania" became part of the Roman empire as Tarraconensis, Lusitania and Baetica. In the 4th and 5th centuries the barbarian attacks on the Roman empire commenced and Vandals swept down through Iberia and into north Africa. Toledo became the capital of Visigoth Iberia.
The next invasion came not from the north but the south. The muslims, in 711. After advancing as far as Poitier in France they were gradually pushed back by christian forces and by 950 muslim rule holds sway only in the southern half of the peninsula under the control of the caliphate of Cordoba (in what the moors now called "Al Andalus" from the vandals "Vandalucia") although christian and jew are tolerated under their rule. The moors irrigated the land and cleared forests for charcoal and crops and sheep and goats were introduced to the cleared land.
The front-line christian kingdoms of the north are now Castile, Aragon and Portugal (many town names in Spain were suffixed "de la frontera" from this period of shifting frontiers). The militant christianity that gave birth to the crusades kept pushing back the muslim empire and by 1212 only Extremadura, Andalucia, Murcia and Valencia were still under moorish control.
In 1469 Ferdinand of Aragon (born 1452 in Sos del Rey Catolico, although I assume it wasn't called that at the time) married Isabella of Castile and the stage was set for the catholic kings to finally drive the moors from Iberia. The last moorish stronghold of Granada falling in 1492.
In 1517 Carlos I assumed the crowns of Aragon and Castile, thus uniting Spain (except for Portugal, which although an independent kingdom from 1139, has to fight the battle of Ajubarrota in 1385 to assert its independence and then have to rise in revolt in 1640 after Philip II of Spain had assumed control on the demise of the Portuguese ruling house.).
Many fine moorish building remain in Spain including The Alhambra in Grenada and The Mezquita in Cordoba (albeit with a christian cathedral in the centre) and the cuisine of places such as Cordoba have strongly mozarabic styles.
converted moors remained in christian Spain under the Inquisition but
later centuries further expulsions of jews and moors took place. The
left in Andalusian society by these expulsions were often taken up by a
only slightly less persecuted minority, the gypsies (gitanos).
the early 19th Century most of Spain's colonies gain independence and
1807 Napoleonic forces have occupied Spain only to be driven out in the
spanish war of independence, known as the Peninsula war in the UK.
troops fought under the Duke of Wellington who was given land near
and the title of Duke of Cuidad Rodrigo in gratitude after the victory
While you are in Spain you have an opportunity to try the varied cuisine. From the roast meats of the centre, fried fish of the south, rice dishes of the east and in the north, in the Basque country, cooking!
In touristy areas and northern european enclaves you may well find restaurants catering to non spanish mealtimes. But once away from those areas you will find very different timings from those you are used to. Breakfast should not be a problem as it is likely to run from early through to the late "second breakfast". Lunchtime, work permitting, will tend to be late, around 2pm and you may find places where some people are still eating lunch after 4pm! Similarly dinner is late, very late. Some places will start to open from 8pm but will generally be empty at first. Don't expect to see them fill up until after 9pm and its not at all uncommon, especially in summer and at weekends for people to be still eating dinner after midnight. If you want to eat earlier you can resort to tapas bars which will be open at northern european dinner times, but that will be to miss the best of the atmosphere and part of the experience. Just imagine you have entered a different time zone and of course don't go straight to bed after that late meal! Not enough sleep? Take a siesta!
Click on the map for a taste of Spain
Some say Africa starts at the Pyrenees, I think friendly people start at the Pyrenees!
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