Today we potter back to Spain and the region of Valencia to talk travel and tours with Paddy Waller, the man behind The Artichoke Adventures and the tour business The Spanish Thyme Traveller. Paddy is definitely the man to go to when searching for Spanish travel tips and has more Spain-related facts in his head than a highly esteemed professor (in fact I think he should be one). Anyway, less about my (Will’s) opinion, let’s see what he has to say about Spain.
1. Hi Paddy! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Spain?
Hi! My name is Paddy Waller and my site is The Artichoke Adventures. I write about Spain and especially about the regions of Valencia, Teruel and Murcia. I have travelled all over Spain for the last thirty years(so I’m an oldie) twenty-two of which I have lived here Xativa, Valencia. I have travelled in Spain in various different ways, from hitch hiking when I was young to luxurious travel connected with my working life. I especially enjoy exploring the more rural and isolated parts of the country and National Parks. I particularly like going off the beaten track and I love walking so I like like exploring new out of the way place. My wife Julia ,is Spanish so from the beginning of my time here this helped to be part of a Spanish family and see things that many tourist didnt get to see. I went to villages, mountains etc where the access was difficult….in those days there were villages without proper roads connecting them to the outside world. You had to arrive there either hiking or on a dirt forest roads. When you get to a village and you ask for the road out of it and they say this is no other road…that’s a fun place to visit! Sort of a dead end but in a nice way(well not all those villages are that great but the concept of being at the end of a road is fun).
2. Why did you choose this country? What was it about Spain that called to you?
As mentioned above my wife is Spanish so that was a big reason but what I really love about Spain is its people, food and varied countryside. Every region is so different. And I love mountains and especially birds of prey both of which Spain has alot.
3. How much money can someone travel around Spain for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
This depends on your attitude and budget. When I hitched round Spain as student I slept rough on beaches, in fields etc as well as in hostels and friends houses That was cheap!! Nowadays
there are cheap hostels (10 to 20 Euros a night) depending on the city and what kind of room etc. if you look around you can normally find cheapish prices. And unfortunately the crisis means in many instances you can bargain on the price…more expensive places will drop prices if you negotiate. Food is also relatively cheap if you shop around. The more traditional/old bars tend to be cheaper for tapas and sandwiches(bocadillos) and again if you spend 5/10 minutes checking you can see pretty quickly where the cheaper places are to eat in most cities. Avoid eating right in the centre of big cities as they are normally big tourist traps….follow the locals! Most normal bars do the typical cheap lunchtime menu for around 8/10 euros.
4. What is the local cuisine like? Do you like to try new things or do you find yourself pining for the familiars of home?
Local cuisine is excellent: Paellas, tapas, loads of vegetables etc I try most things and love going to new places and trying local food and wine when travelling around the country. First question on ordering is always “So what local dish do you recommend we try?” And wine…I enjoy wine immensely and Spain is full of great wine.. Diverse and excellent! I do miss some British food but not much as my wife knows how to cook most UK recipes if I ever have the yearning.
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Spain and why?
I would recommend visiting the obvious museums like El Prado, the Dali Museum in Figueres…and if you like museums then look out for the smaller ones in the cities as they are often better than the big ones!! Eg. Los Baños del Almirante in Valencia is a great little place which even a lot of the locals dont know. Fiestas: go to at least to one fiesta. The best partying fiesta in Spain is probably Pamplona. It is famous for the bulls internationally but in Spain it is also famous for being one of the wildest parties out there but all the fiestas in Spain are pretty mad as it is one of the things the Spanish do very well! The Fallas in Valencia is an amazing experience of noise, colour, music, food and drink. Then the Ferias or Semana Santa in Andalucia give you a lovely insight into the culture further south. But if you ask around there are fiestas year round so you can normally find one near to where you are…any fiesta is interesting and fun as they are normally pretty “ different”. Another great way to experience the culture of the country is, if you have time(30+/- days), to do the whole of El Camino de Santiago….its cheap and you see the whole of the North of Spain from a walkers perspective(natural pace and close up)…you really get to see a lot of history, culture, and taste amazing food and wine and meet loads of people. If you haven’t got time to do a lot,hen 3 or 4 days to do a section is still a fun experience. You need to have good walking shoes/boots but lightweight and train for a a few weeks before by walking! Highly recommend the experience….its physical but a great experience.
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?
I love the different microclimates and regionality of Spain. One minute you can be in a semi desert and half an hour later climbing a winding road into a pine covered mountain paradise with streams and green pastures. These contrasts never cease to surprise me, and you never get bored. My least favourite thing………..travelling wise I cant think of one but as a country my least favourite thing are the incredibly inefficient civil servants one comes across.
7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?
Food, nature, culture, fiestas…………these are the things that most interest me and hopefully my readers find some of it enjoyable to read.
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around Spain without?
A relaxed open mind.
9. What kind of response have you had to your blog posts about Spain? What post had the most interest?
People seem to like the nature blog posts as well as the food ones. I reckon my most popular one was “The Walk of a Million Foosteps” about El Camino de Santiago
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling around Spain what would it be?
Two things!!: Learn some basic Spanish and go off the beaten track……nowadays the centre of so many cities have been “corrupted” by tourism. Visiting the typical tourist spots is fine but there is a different and very very beautiful Spain hidden out there. Explore!
Huge thanks to Paddy for sharing all his knowledge about Spain.
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