Seeing Spain through a visitor's eyes

 "Spain is a country of contradictions," said Sara Knapp a first-time visitor to Spain. Sara Knapp photo

"Spain is a country of contradictions," said Sara Knapp a first-time visitor to Spain. Sara Knapp photo

What are the impressions from a first-time visitor to Spain?

After living in Spain for years what I used to think of as interesting, different and fascinating actually becomes normal, so I always enjoy seeing Spain through a new visitor’s eyes. Sara Knapp and her family were recently first-time visitors to Spain. They were in Madrid, Barcelona, Granada and Sevilla. I asked Sara to tell me her impressions, good and bad, about what she and her family did and saw.

I think she nailed it when she said, “Spain is a country of contradictions; it's hard to put into a few words.”

 But I will try to break down some of the highlights that Sara mentioned to me.

 Madrid is full of parks, tree-lined streets and gardens. Sara Knapp photo

Madrid is full of parks, tree-lined streets and gardens. Sara Knapp photo

Madrid

In Madrid, Sara and her family loved the Real Jardin Botanico and the many tree lined walkways in the centre of the city.  She said “I was surprised at how green Madrid is. [it is] a lovely city, tons of parks, people out jogging and walking [everywhere].

 Looking for more detailed information on Madrid?

Barcelona

The highlight of Barcelona for the Knapp family was the La Sagrada Familia which Sara describes as  “the most beautiful building I have ever experienced. At one point the audio tour played choir music while the sun was filtering across [the cathedral)—tears were in my eyes. Please note I am not religious, but Gaudi has that ability to let you see the world in a building.”

 The Alhambra palace has to be experienced—it is so much more than words could ever describe. Sara Knapp photo

The Alhambra palace has to be experienced—it is so much more than words could ever describe. Sara Knapp photo

Granada

In Granada, the Knapp family took a tour of the city with Jose Alberca of see-villa.es.  

As anyone will tell you when visiting Granada, the Alhambra is a highlight that you will never forget. The family also had a tour guide going through the Alhambra and said that “between the two guides we now know our Spanish history and have a better local understanding of everything from the government to what to order instead of Sangria.”

Sara said that her 20-something daughters especially appreciated the quality of the tours and wished their teachers had the same ability to make history come alive.

 The Knapps spent an entire day touring the Alcazar palace in Seville. Sara Knapp photo

The Knapps spent an entire day touring the Alcazar palace in Seville. Sara Knapp photo

Seville

The Knapp family delighted in the beautiful city of Seville.

 They visited the jewel of the Alcazar (palace) and said that their choice of buying tickets that let them see the royal rooms was well worth the price. They spent almost an entire day in the Alcazar even eating lunch in the gardens of the palace.

 As for the rest of the city of Sevilla, Sara said “Sevilla itself was a highlight. The atmosphere in the city was fantastic, add in the colour, narrow streets, Unesco sites, parks, river, shopping and restaurants and Sevilla is a joy.”  

 Looking for more detailed information about what to do and see in Seville:

The negatives about Spain

When you visit a new country not everything is going to be perfect. The Knapp family’s main complaint was about the state of the streets of Madrid and Barcelona. Sara said that the trash could use more attention. I have to agree with her on this, you will see papers and general garbage strewn on the sidewalks.  

 Also, as happens to many tourists in Barcelona, the Knapps had a wallet stolen. Pick-pocketers are rampant and target tourists.  Sara said that the family didn’t have to be as vigilant in Madrid or Seville, but I will add that pick-pockets are also very active in both of those centres as well. My advice is that you take photocopies of any of your important documents (passport and driver's licence for example), avoid taking credit cards with you if you can, or have them in a hidden pocket that isn’t in your wallet. Keep limited cash in your wallet. (if you carry more cash, keep it in a separate spot from your wallet such as a hidden money belt)

 Take time to wander the narrow streets of the cities and villages you visit. Sara Knapp photo

Take time to wander the narrow streets of the cities and villages you visit. Sara Knapp photo

Random thoughts about Spain

Spanish men:

 Ladies, what surprised Sara and her 20 something daughters the most were the men. Sara said “The men were the most courteous, thoughtful and helpful people— it was wonderful. Now we know what we're missing. BC men could use a seminar.”

 Final comments about Spain:

“The sense of style of both genders was a treat”.

 “I loved the family atmosphere.”

 “I loved trying out the language nobody minded my awful Spanish.”

Will the Knapps return to Spain?

Overall the Knapps thoroughly enjoyed their visit and would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. 

Sara says that for the next visit she will concentrate on some of the smaller places using Madrid or Sevilla as a base camp. On her list of must-see are Córdoba, Toledo, the white villages of Andalucia and Jerez. She would throw in a few beaches for relaxation as well.  

I hope they will be able to make this trip again soon!