1st time to Spain

Nov 8th, 2009, 03:48 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 136
1st time to Spain

My wife and I have done 10 "do it yourselve" trips to Gy Italy and France - rented gites, driven all over these countries, gotten by without language skills except for german.

I would like to vist SW France to see that area and then venture into the Rioja district and other N Spain areas.

My general questions are is Spain anymore difficult than say France without language skills, availability of gites to rent, driving difficulties, getting by in restuarants etc.

I like the freedom of doing it ourselves but maybe a tour is one way to solve some problems

any ideas, thoughts - thank you Dale
dsevig is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 04:43 PM
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Not in the lest. Even though you will traceling through Basque Country eveyone speaks Spanish as well with some English in places like San Sebastian. If you muddled through in France and Italy you will have no problem in Spain.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 04:44 PM
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While in France, many people have (finally) learnt English, in Northern Spain practically nobody speaks English. We had been to Santander, Bilbao and Rioja this summer and found it amazing that nobody spoke any other language than Spanish (or Basque).

However, communication went somehow even more smoothly than in France. The people in Spain are very open-minded and friendly and you get along even without knowing the language (but a dictionary will help).

In general, travelling Spain is very easy.

Regarding restaurants: Be aware that between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. all restaurants are closed. In the center of Santander, you don't even find a sandwich bar or a fast food place which is open during siesta time. And when the restaurants open at 9 p.m. for dinner, the locals do rarely show up before 10 p.m.

I always observe that Americans are puzzled by this schedule, but it helps with the time-lag.
traveller1959 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 04:49 PM
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These two replies are outright contradictory. I can tell only of our experiences:

During our trip in July, we found not a single person in a restaurant (including two Michelin-starred restaurants) who spoke English. In our hotel, nobody spoke English. No taxi driver spoke English. No person in any shop and no attendant a any gas station.

Even at Marques de Riscal, the guided tour was in Spanish. However, in the ridiculously overpriced Marques de Riscal Hotel, everybody spoke English. Maybe it is a matter of price.
traveller1959 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2009, 06:29 PM
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Have traveled through Spain several times and while English is not as widely spoken as in Germany and Scandinavia we found that in restaurants, hotels and shops - except in very small towns - there was always someone who understood some English - even if they weren't fluent speakers. As long as you bother to learn the courtesies and a few phrases - and have a reliable menu reader - you should have no problem at all.

I have found you can manage as a tourist with around 50 words - which you can acquire in about a week - assuming you're starting from ground zero. (Note: this does not include any grammar and you will sound like you're about 3 years old - but you can be understood about basics.) Most important to learn are hello, please, thank you, do you speak English?, I don't speak X, and please speak more slowly.
nytraveler is offline  
Nov 9th, 2009, 12:52 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Right, we don´t speak much English over here...shame on us...but you won´t have any trouble communicating with us in our "Indian English", sign language or finger pointing to what you like. It´s part of the fun of travelling.
mikelg is online now  
Nov 9th, 2009, 05:16 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 5,934
Would very much recommend San Sebastián and the Basque Country. Have gone regularly since the late 80's. Excellent food, great beaches, beautiful landscape and a living culture that people take great pride in. Lots of postings about the city and the region on fodors. This link gives you a good idea: http://marshlands.blogstream.com/

Apts. for rent in San Sebastián:

About gites and other info, see/contact the local tourist information:
kimhe is offline  

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