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Historic cities
Spain is divided into ''autonomías'' or autonomous regions, plus two independent cities. Some of the ''autonomías'' - notably the ones which have other official languages alongside Spanish - are regions with their own unique historical tradition. These include the [[Basque Country]] or ''Euskadi'' ([[Basque phrasebook|Basque]]), [[Galicia]] ([[Galician phrasebook|Galician]]), Catalonia or ''Catalunya'', the Valencian region or ''País ValenciàComunitat Valenciana'', and the Balearic Islands or ''Illes Balears'' ([[Catalan phrasebook|Catalan]]), but also Andalusia. Travelers to these parts of the [[Iberian Peninsula]] should respect their history and language. The [[Canary Islands]] lie off the coast of [[Morocco]] and are geographically part of Africa, as are the two cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
For ease of reference, Spain's many regions can be grouped as follows:
* [[Valencia]] — paella was invented here, has a very nice beach
* [[Zaragoza]] — fifth largest city of Spain that held the World Expo in 2008
* [[Almeria]] — best natural beaches and great selection of "tapas"
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Ferry services were once run by P&O from [[Portsmouth]] to [[Bilbao]] and from [[Plymouth]] and [[Southampton]] to [[Santander]]. However, P&O no longer operates these routes.
As well as the UK, Spain is also well connected by Ferry to Northern Africa (particularly [[TunisiaAlgeria]] and [[Morocco]]) and the [[Canary Islands]] which are owned by Spain. Routes are also naturally available to the Spanish Balearic islands of [[Mallorca]], [[Minorca]], [[Ibiza]] and [[Formentera]].
Another popular route is from [[Barcelona]] to [[Genoa]].
* SPAIN YACHTING GROUP S.L. []. Yacht charter and sailing - INTERNATIONAL YACHTING GROUP, one of the worlds largest yacht charter companies, can take care of all charter requirements, from bareboat to crewed in Spain and Wordwide.
{{related|Ferries in the Mediterranean}}
* '''[[Catalan phrasebook|Catalan]]''' (Catalan: ''català'', Castilian: ''catalán''), a distinct language similar to Castilian but more closely related to the Oc branch of the Romance Languages and considered by many to be part of a dialect continuum spanning across Spain, France, and Italy and including the other langues d'oc such as Provençal, Beàrnais, Limousin, Auvernhat and Niçard. Various dialects are spoken in the northeastern region of [[Catalonia]], the [[Balearic Islands]], and [[Valencia (region)|Valencia]] (where it is often referred to as ''Valencià''), east of [[Aragon]], as well as neighboring [[Andorra]] and southern France. To a casual listener, Catalan superficially appears to be a cross of Castilian and French, and though it does share features of both, it is an independent language in its own right.
* '''[[Galician phrasebook|Galician]]''' (Galician: ''galego'', Castilian: ''gallego''), very closely related to Portuguese, Galician is spoken in [[Galicia]] and the western portion of [[Asturias]]. Galician predates Portuguese and is deemed one of the four main dialects of the Galician-Portuguese family group which includes Brazilian, Southern Portuguese, Central Portuguese, and Galician. While the Portuguese consider it a dialect of Portuguese, Galicians themselves consider their language a Spanish their own language.
* '''[[Basque phrasebook|Basque]]''' (Basque: ''euskara'', Castilian: ''vasco''), a language unrelated to Castilian (or any other known language in the world), is spoken in the three provinces of the [[Basque Country]], on the two adjacent provinces on the French side of the Spain-French border, and in Navarre. Basque is unrelated to any Romance language or to any branch of the Indo-European or Indo-Iranian family of languages. It currently remains unclassified and is deemed a linguistic isolate, seemingly unrelated to any branch of the linguistic family tree.
That being said, airlines, major hotels and popular tourist destinations usually have staff members who speak an acceptable level of English, and particularly in popular beach resorts such as those in the [[Costa del Sol]], you will find people who are fluent in several languages. English is also generally more widely spoken in [[Barcelona]] than in the rest of the country. As [[Portuguese phrasebook|Portuguese]] and [[Italian phrasebook|Italian]] are closely related to Spanish, if you speak either of these languages, locals would be able to puzzle you out with some difficulty, and as long as you speak slowly, you won't need an interpreter for the most part.
Castillian Spanish differs from the Latin American varieties in pronunciation and other details. There is also a tense pronoun ("vosotros", literally "you others", used to address a group of two or more people in the second person) and its associated verb conjugations, not used in Latin American Spanish. However, all Latin American varieties are easily understood by Spaniards, and are recognized as different versions of Spanish by the Royal Academy of Madrid, the barometer for all things Spanish language. While some Spaniards believe theirs is the more 'pure' version of Spanish, most Spaniards recognize the reality that there is no 'pure' Spanish, even within their own country.
French is the most widely understood foreign language in the northeast of Spain, like [[Alquezar]] and [[Cap de Creus]] (at times even better than English), as most travelers there come from [[France]].
Historically, Spain has been an important crossroads: between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, between North Africa and Europe, and as Europe beginning colonizing the New World, between Europe and the Americas. As such, the country is blessed with a fantastic collection of historical landmarks - in fact, it has the 2nd largest number of UNESCO Heritage Sites and the largest number of World Heritage Cities of any nation in the world.
In the south of Spain, Andalusia holds many reminders of old Spain. '''[[Cadiz]]''' is regarded as one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in western Europe, with remnants of the Roman settlement that once stood here. Nearby, '''[[Ronda]]''' is a beautiful town situated atop steep cliffs and noted for its gorge-spanning bridge and the oldest bullring in Spain. '''[[Cordoba (city, Spain)|Cordoba]]''' and '''[[Granada (Spain)|Granada]]''' hold the most spectacular reminders of the nation's Muslim past, with the red-and-white striped arches of the Mezquita in Cordoba and the stunning Alhambra palace perched on a hill above Granada. '''[[Seville]]''', the cultural center of Andalusia, has a dazzling collection collections of sights built when the city was the main port for goods from the Americas, the grandest of which being the city's cathedral, the largest in the country.
Moving north across the plains of La Mancha into Central Spain, picturesque '''[[Toledo (Spain)|Toledo]]''' stands as perhaps ''the'' historical center of the nation, a beautiful medieval city sitting atop a hill that once served as the capital of Spain before Madrid was built. North of Madrid and an easy day-trip from the capital city is '''[[El Escorial]]''', once the center of the Spanish empire during the time of the Inquisition, and '''[[Segovia]]''', noted for its spectacular Roman aqueduct which spans one of the city's squares.
Further north in Castile-Leon is '''[[Salamanca]]''', known for its famous university and abundance of historic architecture. Galicia in northwestern Spain is home to '''[[Santiago de Compostela]]''', the end point of the old [[Way of St. James]] (''Camino de Santiago'') pilgrimage route and the supposed burial place of St. James, with perhaps the most beautiful cathedral in all of Spain at the heart of its lovely old town. Northeastern Spain has a couple of historical centers to note: '''[[Zaragoza]]''', with Roman, Muslim, medieval and Renaissance buildings from throughout its two thousand years of history, and '''[[Barcelona]]''' with its medieval [[Barcelona/Ciutat Vella|Barri Gòtic]] neighborhood.
A word of warning for unsuspecting tourists, Spain now has the highest entry price for cathedrals to be found anywhere in Europe. People from or holiday makers travelling through Italy, France or Germany are sure to find this very difficult to believe and a bitter pill to swallow. With entry fees averaging €8, families will need to take the excessive expense of religious sightseeing in Spain into account.
Another important consideration when planning your trip to Spain is the inaccessibility of Spanish churches. Unlike neighbouring countries Italy, France and Germany, churches in Spain are only open for mass once or twice a day and thus, only open to the local worshipping population. Of course large cathedrals are open all day but these only represent some of the significant christian legacy of Spain. So although there appears to be a wealth of interesting medieval churches littered across the country, most of them will be inaccessible to you as a tourist and you should plan accordingly. Many people fascinated with medieval architecture and art and who have come to see the Spanish equivalents find will find this disappointing, when compared to a holiday in say Italy or England, where there exists a multitude of wonderful medieval churches readily accessible to you as a tourist. When combined with the high entry prices (up to €8) and bans on photography levied against you to visit most of the large cathedrals of the country, a trip to Spain to indulge yourself in Christian history can be very, very unrewarding.
===Art museums===
* '''Festival de Patios''' - one of the most interesting cultural exhibitions, 2 weeks when some people open doors of their houses to show their old Patios full of flowers
* '''Arde Lucus''' - biggest roman recreation festival of Europe, all inside the walled city of [[Lugo]], UNESCO World Heritage. Last weekend on Juny.
* '''Cata del Vino Montilla-Moriles''' - great wine tasting in a big tent in the city center during one week in May
Regional variants can be found, such as '''bombón''' in Eastern Spain, solo with condensed milk.
'''Starbucks''' [] is the only national chain operating in Spain. Locals argue that it cannot compete with small local cafes in quality of coffee and visited only it's frequented mostly by tourists, thought it has become somewhat popular with young "hip" people. It is not present in smaller citiesbut it's basically everywhere on Barcelona or Madrid.
'''Café de Jamaica''' offers many kinds of coffee as well as infusions.
====Culture and identity====
* Spaniards in general are very patriotic about both their country and the region in which they live. Avoid arguments about whether or not people from Catalonia , Galicia or the Basque Country are Spaniards. Safety is generally not a concern in case you engage in an argument, but you will be dragged in a long, pointless discussion. If you are in the deep Basque Country, however, you may actually run into some serious problems.
* Spaniards are generally very interested in maintaining their linguistic and cultural connections with Latin America. However, most Spaniards are also quick to point out they are Europeans and do not understand the common North American notion that "Hispanics," including Spaniards, are somehow all the same. People from other Spanish-speaking countries or backgrounds may encounter a variety of receptions from being embraced as cultural kin to rejection or apathy.
* Spaniards are not as religious as the media sometimes presents them, but they are and always were a mostly Catholic country (73% officially, although just 10% admit practising and just a 20% admit being believers); respect this and avoid making any comments that could offend. In particular, religious festivals, Holy Week (Easter), and Christmas are very important to Spaniards. Tolerance to all religions should be observed, especially in large urban areas like Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville or Malaga (where people and temples of all beliefs can be found) or different regions in southern Spain, which may have a sizeable Muslim population (which accounts for almost a 4% of the country's population).
* Despite being a Catholic majority country, '''homosexuality''' is quite tolerated widely accepted in Spain and public display of same-sex affection would not likely stir hostility. In fact, same-sex marriages are legal and recognized by the government and provide legal benefits to same-sex couples. However, a gay friendly country does not always necessarily mean that the Spaniards are friendly to gays: (people in places like Madrid or Barcelona, which are 2 of the largest urban areas in Europe, will obviously have a more open view than those from rural areas). As in any other place, elderly people do usually have far more conservative points of view. Still, violence against gays is rarely heard of and Spain should be safe for most gay and lesbian travelers.
* Avoid talking about the former colonial past and especially about the "Black Legend." Regardless of what you may have heard Spain had several ministers and military leaders of mixed race serving in the military during the colonial era and even a Prime Minister born in the Philippines (Marcelo Azcarraga Palmero). Many Spaniards take pride in their history and former imperial glories. People from Spain's former colonies (Latin America, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, Western Sahara and Northern Morocco) make up a majority of foreign immigrants in Spain (a 58%) along with the Chinese, Africans and Eastern Europeans. Equally, Spain is one of the main investors and economic and humanitary aid donors to Latin America and Africa.
* It is customary to kiss friends, family, and acquaintances on both cheeks upon seeing each other and saying goodbye. Male-to-male kisses of this sort are limited to family members or to very close friends; otherwise a firm handshake is expected instead (same as in France or Italy). A happy medium is the traditional ''abrazo'' (hug) which is usually done to people that you haven't seen in a long time and/or are very glad to see, regardless of gender (male-to-male is somewhat more common). When somebody expects a hug he/she usually will throw his/her arms towards you: this is more common than you may think, but don't do it with complete strangers as it's probably a ruse to get your wallet.
* Related to this, Spaniards are keen to maintain physical contact while talking, such as putting a hand on your shoulder, patting your back, etc. These should be taken as signs of friendship done among relatives, close friends and colleagues.
* When in a car, the elderly and pregnant always ride in the passenger's seat, unless they request not to.
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