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Summary: Southwestern Europe is where Spain can be found, bordering the Bay of Biscay, the Mediterranean Sea, the North Atlantic Ocean, and the Pyrenees Mountains, southwest of France. Its terrain is mostly a large, flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills and the Pyrenees in the north. Spain has spent its time adjusting to the monetary and other economic policies of an integrated Europe.

Capital: Madrid
Time Zone: DST +0200 UTC
Population: 40,280,780
Languages: Spanish
Power: 230 V, 50 Hz
Currency: Euro - Currently 1 EUR € = 1.4607 USD $
Climate: Spain is temperate with clear, hot summers in the interior, although more moderate and cloudy along the coast. During the winter, it is typically cloudy and cold in the interior, and partly cloudy and cool along the coast.


Madrid: Madrid became Spain's capital in the 16th century, and boasts a nightlife that can produce traffic jams at 5am. Enjoy the Moorish quarter near the Royal Palace, then the Centro Reina Sofia museum with paintings by Dali, Picasso, and Bacon, browse the art in the Museo del Prado and find peace in the nearby quiet oasis Parque del Buen Retiro, with a large artificial lake at its core. Just 45 miles to the southwest is Toledo, with roots dating at least as early as the 4th century and having a stunning cathedral and quieter streets at night.

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Barcelona: Barcelona has maintained its popularity after hosting the Olympics in 1992. In addition to hosting narrow alleys in its gothic quarter, you can find sights like the Sagrada Familia cathedral, the famous Museu Picasso, with a focus on Picasso's blue period art, and single walks through the shopping area Passeig de Gracia or Montjuic, a hill near the city center. A side trip to the Balearic Islands of Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca offers sun, sand and sea-side fun, plus a little archaeology and architecture.

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Pamplona: The San Fermin festival, the annual, week-long tradition of bulls and celebration, has lived for more than a hundred years. Parties and festivities can last all through the night, and you will often find someone sleeping by the side of, or in the middle of, the street. Best to run with the bulls during the first day, if you dare, as there is safety in numbers, and know your exits!

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Seville: In the western part of the moorish Andalucia province, Seville is cut by the Rio Guadalquivir and home to fiestas, flamenco, and bullfighting. Sights start with the Alcazar, the royal complex with the Mudejar Palacio de Don Pedro at its center, with the nearby Cathedral, the official home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus and towered by the Islamic La Giralda minaret beside it, and the Archive of the Indies, home to restoration projects on books dating back to the 15th century, all in the same area.  

 

Eat and relax: Dining in Spain is as much about being social as it is about food. Expect to shift your meals to later in the day, and spend more time enjoying it.

Wind Farms: Spain, like much of Europe, is turning its eye to renewable sources of energy. As a result, you can find stunning views of many of these wind turbines, sometimes hundreds in an area, catching the breezes, especially along the eastern areas.

Basque Movement: Spain has many subcultures that are unique and often independant. Of these the Basque ETA has been working to express their separatist agenda, creating some concern on the international front but focuses against political targets.

Local Customs: Shorts are usually worn only by tourists, but try to dress a little more formally for churches and shrines. Greetings typically include two kisses, for the phrase dos besos. The further south you travel, the warmer the weather and the less reserved the natives tend to be.

Food: Tapas are appetizers ranging from local sausage to tiny fried fish. Gazpacho, a kind of chilled tomato soup, and paella, a mix of rice, shellfish, and chicken, are also well known.

Phrases: Hello: Ola, thank you: gracias, do you speak english: usted habla ingles?

Tipping: Hotels include a service charge in the bill, but maids and bellhops generally expect small tips. Although you do not have to tip, you can leave small change at bars, pubs and restaurants, and more than small change at more refined restaurants. Cab drivers expect less than a Euro.





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