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What Spanish cities - where Castilian is spoken - do you love? And why?

What Spanish cities - where Castilian is spoken - do you love? And why?

Old Sep 6th, 2013, 11:12 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 517
What Spanish cities - where Castilian is spoken - do you love? And why?

Everyone in our family (husband, daughter, and myself) is currently studying/learning Spanish (Castilian). My husband and I started a series of non-credit courses at the local communtiy college last spring to prepare for a trip to Andalusia, which we took this past June 2013. We LOVED Andalusia!
I would like to go back, but husband and daughter want to go someplace different this year. We will be free to travel again in late March 2014.

I'm having a hard time deciding if I want to return to Spain and see a different region, or if I want to travel to Central or South America.

When I see others' vacation photos of Madrid, I have a hard time getting excited about it. Seems to be the same two pictures over and over again - the Royal Palace, and Retiro Park.
I know, from my experience with Seville and Granada, that a city can be much more than what the photos relate (although the first time I saw photos of Seville, I thought to myself, I MUST go there!) so wondering if there is something wonderful about Madrid that doesn't quite reveal itself in photos....
My husband and I do enjoy museums and would most likely enjoy El Prado and others...

For those of you who have traveled in Spain - Please tell me about the cities/places you enjoyed, and why.
(Barcelona is where I originally planned to book us, but the husband and daughter want to go someplace this time where they can practice their Castilian.)

Thank you!
BumbleB6 is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 11:32 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Well, they do speak Castillian in all of Spain, as far as I know. And I presume that most people speak it in Barcelona, that certainly was my impression (I've been there twice). I think you'd have to in order to be educated and get anywhere, just like people in Quebec Canada will know how to speak English. I certainly got to practice my Spanish enough there, and it sounds like I know it better than your family as I've studied it several years in serious classes.

If you don't know Spanish that well, you can probably practice it enough in Barcelona, anyway, but if you want to pursue other areas. I did love a couple smaller towns around Madrid. I like Madrid, been there twice, but some people don't. I would think you'd enjoy it for a few days, anyway. I loved Segovia and Toledo.

I haven't been anywhere else but Barcelona and Andalusia, so will leave that to others. I know a lot of people like Bilbao, though, and maybe Santander, those places up on the coast, maybe you could get excited about that. Here is one thread to get you started
Christina is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 11:40 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
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I spoke Spanish ( Castilian) in Barcelona without any problem..... number of people living in Barceloan
are from other parts of Spain and South America,
As a tourist, you are rather limited to" practicing" other than ordering meals, checking into a hotel or purchasing
something etc.
Madrid is a big city and not everyone's taste. We love the area around Retiro, the galleries, museums,
shops in upscale Salamnca and restaurants everywhere.
From Madrid , day trips to Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial, Alcala de Henares, Aranjues
and even Valencia are often suggested.
danon is online now  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 11:54 AM
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No matter how much they may wish to contest the fact, Barcelonans are Spaniards and the languages spoken are Spanish and Catalan. Wanting to speak Spanish is no reason to deny yourself a visit to Barcelona.
BigRuss is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 12:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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If you live where there is easy access to Peru, I highly recommend that as a place for immersion Spanish. It's very easy to understand (no lisping, almost an American accent) and the people are wonderful, friendly and helpful (even the taxi drivers). They are also used to tourists. You will usually find someone in even small hotels who understands a bit of English if you get stuck.

I've taken a few Spanish language group tours and that can be as much fun for the Spanish lessons as for the touring. I've been "adopted" a few times.

One of the other nice things about Peru is that the climate is so varied that you can go pretty much any time of year and find acceptable weather. There are a few months where there can be flooding in the mountains, but it is highly variable from year to year.

I don't recommend Costa Rica, it's too easy to slip into English and it's quite expensive. Petty (and more serious) crimes are also increasing since the drug corridor has rerouted itself thru Central America.

I did enjoy Madrid for a few days, and we took a tour via Salamanca, down the western border area (difficult accent to understand), then on to Andalucia and a train to Barcelona.

But it's much less expensive for me to visit South America, and the landscape, archaeology, nature, and food are so much better!
mlgb is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 12:23 PM
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Thank you for all your quick replies so far - esp. regarding Barcelona. I was under the (false, perhaps) impression that Barcelonians would be insulted if we spoke Castilian Spanish to them. Barcelona is still on my bucket list btw.
And right, our Spanish would be limited to ordering food, shopping and arranging lodging, but in Andalusia, being forced to speak just about those mundane things helped a lot. And we just want to learn and experience more of the various Spanish-speaking cultures - even if our experiences as tourists would be limited.
I'm intrigued by Peru and that may be a possibility...

I think my problem is there are so many options, it's overwhelming!

As for Madrid, what would be a good area for renting a vacation apartment for the three of us?
We're in Chicago metro (close 'burbs and my husband works in the Loop and it's a close drive or train ride, so we go there a lot.) We're used to big cities and actually prefer them sometimes. And yeah I'm aware of the pickpocket issues and precautions to take, etc.
BumbleB6 is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 12:56 PM
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Please don't be scared off by Madrid. My wife and I enjoyed it very much...(stayed 3 days) I think the consensus on these forums is that Barcelona>Madrid and I hear a lot of negative things about it. That might be so but there's a lot more than Retiro Park and the Palace. Go for the tapas scene, over the top architecture, history, Serrano ham, museums, churches, and lively nightlife. If none of that sounds great I'd say "yea.... Skip it"

Air pollution was about the only thing I hated there.... Anytime I was near a street it smelled like a burnt tire. Churros were great!
tailsock is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 03:00 PM
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Having spent a lot of time in both Spain and South America I would definitely consider Peru or Ecuador. The accent in both places is very clear and they tend to speak slowly ( especially true of Ecuador). Prior to our current trip to South America we spent seven months in a very small town in the hills of Andalucia in the hope of improving our Spanish. Big mistake as the accent was all but unintelligible!

Madrid is ok but not my favourite place in Spain by a long way. Barcelona has much more going for it as does Sevilla IMO.

South America has a lot more going for it in terms of places to go, things to do etc. but do check out the weather situation in both places.
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Old Sep 6th, 2013, 04:25 PM
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Thank you, Crellston and tailsock, for your insights.

I agree that Sevilla is a fascinating and enjoyable city. We spent a week there in June - At first, we couldn't understand anyone. A few people spoke English but none of the taxi drivers and grocery cashiers did, and only a few wait staff. We ate a few times at a restaurant we liked a lot, and the owner spoke no English, either. So by mid-week, after being forced to communicate with people in Spanish, we started to understand people when they spoke Spanish in their unique Andalusian accent. It helped that our Spanish instructor had warned us about their pronunciation of z as "th", and their tendency to drop the s at the end of words.

I am intrigued as well by Ecuador and Peru - and all of these places actually! I have some thinking and deciding to do! (I'm basically the trip planner in the family - Barcelona was one of the few suggestions the other two have shot down. They usually go along with whatever I choose..)

Thanks again for all of your suggestions!
BumbleB6 is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 04:35 PM
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I didn't care much for Madrid, although I loved Toledo. I spent a few days in Ronda, resting up, and enjoyed that too, but (aside from Granada, for the Alhambra) I really preferred northern Spain. Cooler, greener, magnificent cathedrals (Leon and Santiago), good food, good scenery.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 04:43 PM
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There are many different accents across Spain (as in the us) - and depending on the person they may speak closer to true Castillian (Toldeo and Madrid are part of the ancient Kingdom of Castille) or more locally.

My uncle spoke with a Castillian accent in Andalusia and they commented on how "aristocratic" his accent was - since they speak somewhat differently.

As for Latin America - that is all different from Castillian. (Not sure why you are leaning that in particular. I know my mother and her siblings were taught that in the NYC public schools - but that was in the 1930s. By the time I got to school mexican spanish was considered to be standard and that's what we were taught - in the early 1970s).

But despite the accent spanish will be understood anywhere except in the smallest catalan hill towns.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 05:04 PM
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Of course you know that all Latin American Spanish is not the same, either?

I've been asked if I can understand the Mexican-American Spanish spoken around home, as well as I can Peruvian and the answer is no. It probably has more to do with the tranquillo pace of the Peruvian accent and that they seem to pronounce most letters in a word.

My High School Spanish Teacher was Cuban, so anything seems slow compared to that!
mlgb is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 06:09 PM
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This thread is proving to be very informative! My Spanish teacher at the community college is also Cuban (how I'd love to go to Cuba too!)

thursdaysd, I'd love to hear more about the cathedrals in northern Spain, if you get the chance... (btw I was bored in Ronda, but I'd just come from Sevilla, so...)
BumbleB6 is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 06:18 PM
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Well, Madrid has the Prado and the other cities do not. Also, head for Barcelona. Great city.
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Old Sep 6th, 2013, 06:56 PM
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I might have been bored in Ronda if I had been on a short trip, but as I said, I was resting up - I was six weeks into a long trip.

Santiago cathedral is magnificent, as befits the destination of so many foot sore pilgrims, but I wrote this after I visited:

"I found all the baroque glitter in Santiago cathedral totally obscured the original Romanesque majesty of the building, while Leon cathedral´s soaring austerity was enhanced by walls of stained glass (admittedly some in dire need of cleaning). ... Leon is also home to St. Isidore´s Basilica, where I gazed in awe at the 12th century frescoes spread across the walls and ceiling of the royal burial vault. An 11th century wood and ivory casket and 16th century silver chalice also held my attention."
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Sep 6th, 2013, 07:01 PM
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I found Ronda a bit dull too. Beautiful, but it seemed smallish, closed to interaction with the flood of visitors and so for us, tourist weary. (but we'd just arrived from Morocco which is very "in your face", so by contrast, I guess anyplace would seem dull and anti-social) I liked Granada pretty well and liked getting away from the Alahambra to have a look around the rest.

Agree that Latin American Spanish is different than "proper" Castillian. As much so as the difference between American dialect and the Queen's English. And different from other regions of Latin America. Our spanish instructor was a Porteño (from BA) and she thought that the Mexican accent was the most formal and structured in Latin America. I'd love to go immerse in Guanajuato and really learn the language well. What a beautiful, lively city. Peru is a great time though and a worthy argument just for the sake of being there.
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Old Sep 7th, 2013, 02:32 AM
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Barcelona is of course a very good idea.

But you should also take a look at Belle Epoque San Sebastián/Donostia. The culinary capital of Spain if not all of Europe, beautiful landscapes and a local culture that people take great pride in. Many Spanish will point to San Sebastián when asked about either the most beautiful or/and their favourite city in the country. European Capital of Culture 2016.
Always updated info:

Everybody speaks castellano, even though many also speek some or much Euskerra/Basque.

"Is San Sebastián the best place to eat in Europe?":

All about going for the famous pintxos in this food crazy city:

San Sebastián has got some of the finest city beaches in Europe (La Concha, Ondarreta and Zurriola). Although it might still be a bit to cold for swimming in late March (I do it, but I'm from Norway...), the Zurriola beach right in the city center is very poular with surfers year around.

You are also close to Bilbao with the spectacular Guggenheim museum.

Several small and fine fishing villages along the beautiful coast between San Sebastián and Bilbao.

Here are plenty of apartments to rent:

Video presentation of San Sebastián (the last minute gives you the grand view):
kimhe is offline  
Old Sep 7th, 2013, 05:43 AM
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How about Burgos, Salamanca and Leon
Graziella5b is offline  
Old Sep 7th, 2013, 08:16 AM
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In Barcelona most people in the service industry speak English it seems like to me. I am one of those people that prefers Madrid to Barcelona. The museums are awesome (a word I rarely use). There are great neighborhoods with amazing shopping. Too many amazing restaurants to get into, and a classy, Castillian character. Don't get me wrong, I love Barcelona too. Outside of Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, and Avila are fantastic places where you could enjoyably spend several nights. They speak Castillian in every part of Spain but this would put you in the heart of Castilla where you could compare their Spanish to "the King's English". As far as Central and South America goes, in Spain life is good, they like to enjoy it (I know unemployment is astronomical)they built beautiful cities, to stroll around in the evening and they like to stop often to eat really good food and talk to friends. I used to go to Peru a lot on business and the poverty of some areas was heartbreaking. Machu Pichu is one of the world's must sees though. Go to Madrid, it's one of Europe's best cities much like Chicago is one of America's best cities.
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Old Sep 7th, 2013, 09:04 AM
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We thought the people in Madrid (and Spain in general) to be quite formal with strangers. We were surprised by this. I wonder if this is what Egbert means by "classy". Of course the Prado is amazing. I went twice. But I was not so fond of the food around Madrid, instead I preferred that in the south and in Barcelona. BTW, I do not think Spain is any safer than Peru. My brother lost all, and I do mean all, of his luggage in Valencia, because they foolishly left their car out front while checking in to their hotel!

I did like that area between Segovia, Avila and Salamanca, amazing architecture in the old cities.

Peru has changed quite a bit since my first visit, not very long ago, when there where still signs of fortifications in Lima against the Shining Path terrorism. Yes,there is poverty (especially in the north coast area where many work the cane and cotton fields, it is heartbreaking). But, the economy is one of the strongest in the world (6% unemployment, far lower than Spain?). I have wondered if the friendly, positive attitudes of Peruvians reflects a national optimism).

There are a number of smaller cities that are popular for Spanish schools, Arequipa and Cusco in particular.

The historic center of Arequipa is a World Heritage site, is one of the centers in Peru for Spanish schools, and has a mild climate.

If you haven't read crellston's blog, I think you'd enjoy it. They have certainly been around. He is planning on spending a few weeks in Arequipa so be sure to check out his excellent blog. (When he gets around to updating it..crellston!)
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