A Lesson in Living Life to the Fullest
A traveler to Spain should first take great steps to shed off the fast paced lifestyle that has come to dominate most people s lives. Spain is best if you relax and do everything slowly, this includes meals, strolls, trips to the beach or just after dinner chats. Don t expect to be able to get in and out of a restaurant in under an hour.
Instead, try going with the expectation that you ll be there for at least two and half hours, slowly eating course by course, savoring your food, and ready to shoot the breeze. If you consider this kind of meal a waste of your precious time when you could be sightseeing, you re going about it all the wrong way.
If you find yourself in a pinch and really do need to eat something quickly, don t go to a restaurant, but instead pop into a bar. Bars in Spain are really more like café s; they serve tapas, combination platters, drinks and coffee. The sandwiches, called bocadillos, are made on crusty French bread and can be quite filling, though don t expect mayonnaise or lettuce. There are several types of cured meats that are common bocadillo fillings, as well as tuna or omelet. If travelling with children, bars are the best way to go.
Most restaurants in Spain are still painfully lacking in accommodations like booster chairs, high chairs or kids menus. Bars provide the informality that kids usually require and serve a variety of tapas like croquetas or grilled cheeses, called bikinis.
When dining at a restaurant, which you certainly should do and do slowly, keep in mind that dinner is served around 9 p.m. You will be asked what you want for first course and second course. After the second course, you will be asked about dessert and coffees. Coffees and liquors are served after dessert, not during. Finally, you must ask for the check. A waiter will never just leave the check, as that would be considered rude. Tipping is not required, but a small 5 is appreciated.
During lunch time there are great deals at most places called menu del dia which is a fixed price for first and second course, dessert, and a drink. Keep in mind you will likely pay the same price for a soft drink, water, a beer or a glass of wine.
Besides eating, take time to simply stroll. Strolling gives you a chance to people watch, happen upon a street performer, or find a quaint little shop. Spain has many hidden corners just through the narrow little side streets. If you just take a taxi from cathedral to museum and back to the hotel again, you ll never find Spain s most intriguing aspects.
Finally, each city has its highlights and particular charm. Do a little research on cathedrals or important museums. Whether it s Gaudi s Barcelona, the Retiro Park in Madrid or Granada s Alhambra, you re sure to be fascinated and wanting to see more of Spain.