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Our hearts go out to our friends and family in the northern hemisphere right now. Snow and below zero temperatures day after day at the end of March? When will this winter ever end and whatever happened to March going out like a lamb?!
It’s even snowing in London, which only ever happened twice in the three years we called the city home. Even so, the long, gray winters took their toll on us back then, which is why we got very good at escaping on short breaks. Sometimes we based our decision on where to go on cheap deals we found with budget airlines. Doing this we flew to Scandinavia, France, Scotland, Germany and Austria, to name a few.
But sometimes we knew exactly what we needed and exactly where to get it. Our favorite European weekend getaway by far was (and is) always Spain. No matter where we went – Madrid, the Costa Brava or Southern Spain – we could find just what we needed to recharge our batteries: bright sun, good food (and wine!) and satisfaction for our inner culture vulture.
The winter before becoming nomads, for example, an amazing last minute vacation deal in Spain caught my attention and just thirty minutes later I had booked a long Easter weekend getaway to a small town in southern Spain near Malaga. For just 199EUR, the deal included return flights for the two of us and 5 nights in a vacation apartment with terrific ocean views, just five minutes from the beach.
Another time, we escaped a dreary London autumn for a ten-day train in Spain getaway. We flew to Seville, took the train up to Madrid and then over to Barcelona and flew back to London from there. Whether we go for a sun and sand or city break escape, Spain never disappoints. So for those of you who are looking for a spontaneous escape at the moment, read on for why we think Spain is your best bet.
Even when it is cold and snowy in Northern Europe, Spain benefits from its Mediterranean climate. Even in the coldest months of January and February, southern Spain has average daily temps of 15 C (60 F) and 20-22 days of sun each month.
Spain has always been an affordable destination, but in recent years the dire economic situation has meant even more deals can be found for hotels and tours looking to fill up in a financial crisis. Traditionally a summer destination for Europeans, Spain has hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms that need to be filled during the months outside of June-September. We easily found rooms at half-price or better – after all, a booked room is always better for a hotel than an empty room.
You can’t go wrong with Spanish cheese, wine and olives, and though omnivores often indulge in Spanish ham and other meats, we love love love Spanish tapas – from green peppers in sea salt to our all-time favorite, Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette). The best thing about tapas – they are cheap and easy to share!
We find that Spaniards are some of the most welcoming people in all of Europe, though this perception might have been skewed coming from London where no one talks to each other. Either way, in Spain we were always welcomed with smiles and people chatting with us, showing genuine interest in our story and where we are from, and sharing their stories with us as well.
Spain is one of the most culturally diverse countries in Europe – Barcelona is nothing like Madrid, Oviedo is nothing like Bilbao. Little towns in the countryside couldn’t be more different from the beach side resorts, and no matter where you go, cities are rich with historical buildings, beautiful 15th century churches and region-specific architecture. More than anything we love how many places in Spain combine the all-in-one beach and city escapes we crave like Barcelona, Valencia or Malaga. A weekend in Barcelona can be themed around Gaudi, or you can take in some world-class art galleries in Madrid, or delve into the remains of the mix of Jewish, Muslim and Christian culture in Toledo. Most cities in Spain are small enough to be explored in a day or two and we could live in a self-catering apartment on the beach for weeks at a time.
Spain’s high-speed AVE train network connects all the dots on the map, both large and small, making it super easy to criss-cross the country and stop off wherever you’d like, easily combining two cities during one visit, like we did – Barcelona and Madrid are within a two hour reach, or you can head down to the coast after a visit to the Moorish Alhambra Palace and a couple of days in Granada. And if you book your train tickets in advance, they are quite inexpensive, as are flights with all the well-known budget airlines that connect major Spanish cities both to each other as well as to cities throughout Europe. For anyone based in Europe, Spain – and all the sun and sand that comes with it – is easily within your reach.
What are your favorite destinations in Spain? What is your favorite European country for a weekend break?