Roger W. Smith, “Some Comments about Spain”

 

 

The following are comments based on a trip to Andalusia, Spain which I am on currently.

 

Women pleasant looking, but few beautiful ones.

Loads of people seem to be idle, both youth and the elderly.

Most people don’t speak English.

Castilian accent, while different than Latin American one, not pronounced and usually not noticeable.

When addressing someone, señor and señora seem to be rarely used.

When the Spanish say de nada, you’re welcome, they elide the words, so it sounds like “dnada.”

The Spanish don’t seem to recognize, or at least acknowledge, the almost universal okay. Instead, they say vale, meaning okay.

If you walk up to a store counter, the clerk will often say “¿dígame?,” which might be translated loosely as “what do you want?” — instead of saying the Spanish equivalent of “may I help you?”

Food second rate — paella a disappointment. An exception to this general comment would be that the seafood here in Andalusia is very fresh and good: codfish (bacalao) is a favorite; you can get much better swordfish here than in New York; salmon and tuna popular, but I didn’t try them. Restaurants are inexpensive compared to New York.

Service in restaurants poor, slow — waiters slovenly and inattentive. You can sit at a table in a crowded outdoor restaurant/bar for a long time before you are noticed. A waiter would never think of coming back to your table to ask if everything is okay or you want anything more. You have to make an effort, often a strenuous one, to get his attention to bring the cuenta (check) so you can pay and leave.

Hotels not great. So called Wi-Fi for hotel guests is a ripoff. Internet access is like the old days of dial up online access 20 years ago.

Bookstores: books are divided by category (e.g., classic Spanish literature, foreign literature in Spanish, foreign literature in translation, poetry, etc.), but within a given category, they are not arranged in any order whatsoever, so if you’re looking for a particular author, you probably won’t be able to find him without the assistance of the staff, and sometimes the staff doesn’t know.

Street signs in cities are lacking more often than not. It’s hard to get directions — no one seems to know. Streets in central sections of old towns are narrow alleyways with bewildering twists and turns and forks — one doesn’t know where a given street ends and another begins. City street maps are difficult to decipher, and many street names have been omitted.

Old cobblestone streets very narrow with no curb and houses that abut the street. Cars actually navigate them.

No one ever seems to be going in or out of the ancient habitaciones in the old part of town, but people, obviously, do live there.

Loads of pedestrians. Sidewalks crowded. Street front bar/restaurants, cafes everywhere.

Virtually no street parking in city center.

Virtually no grass.

Cars will often not give quarter to a careless pedestrian. There are lots of noisy motorcycles with young riders.  No bicycles.

Big trolley cars in Seville with, inexplicably, no windows for passengers to look out of.

Ancient churches. Several go back to the thirteenth century.

The post office in the city of Ubeda opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. Many small stores and businesses in Spain shut down in midday, then reopen in the evening. A small town can seem like a ghost town in the middle of the day.

In the Andalusian town Baeza, a sign in a laundromat window gives hours of service:

 HORARIO LAVENDARIA:

 DE LUNES A VIERNES:

MAÑANAS: 9 a 13:30 h.

TARDES: 18:00 a 20:30

In other words, open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Highways are excellent. Very little traffic, much less than in the US.

Climate here in Andalusia in late spring already hot and mid summer like. Cool in mornings, cools off notably in evenings. Dry air. Hot and very sunny, but not humid.

Private houses do not seem to have air conditioning. Ditto for many business establishments.

Lots of olive trees.

 

— Roger W. Smith

      June 2016

 

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Photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

 

near-ronda-spain-5-22-2016

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. He hosts separate websites devoted to the authors Theodore Dreiser and Pitirim A. Sorokin and to classical music as well as family history/genealogy.
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