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Southern Spain in the winter
Old 06-16-2016, 12:46 AM   #1
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Southern Spain in the winter

I'm trying to isolate down a place to spend between one and two months in southern Spain in the February / March timeframe.


Basically we're looking for a city big enough to do some slow exploration over that amount of time, while taking Spanish language classes. Preferably a place where walking and biking are good ways to get around. We're in our 50s and like to spend time wandering in the areas where people live and work, and we'll rent an apartment rather than a hotel. Partying nightlife isn't a big priority, but festivals like las Fallas look like a lot of fun. For a day or two, anyway.



So far I've looked a bit at Valencia, Malaga and Seville. Guidebooks are fine for some information, but tend to focus on tourist attractions rather than longer term stays. We'll take some day trips and multiple day trips, but really would like to find an interesting home base. So, I guess my question is - what good locations am I missing? I've taken a number of trips to Portugal, but this would be my first significant time in Spain.


Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old 06-16-2016, 08:31 AM   #2
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We spent a month in Portugal and Spain. Portugal was a stay like you are describing. The one thing we found helpful for our 'active' times was our Garmin Etrx GPS. (Or you could use something like that with the same abilities). DW loaded open source maps since they are free. Once down loaded the maps help with directions and hikes, for example. In Portugal we went on a hike and got a bit turned around in a series of dirt roads that went through woods and farmer fields. The roads however were marked (and actually named) on the maps and consequently our Garmin. While we did not know exactly how it would work, it guided us back to the beginning.

Just another thought, there are many Caminos and one might be near you. That might be worth a hike. We started further north, following our Portugal stay, and hiked the Camino de Santiago. That was WELL marked so no need for a GPS there.

I think this could be great for biking, hiking, etc.
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Old 06-18-2016, 03:04 AM   #3
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I'll need to check out what GPS will work best. I've just used my phone with a local SIM card and Google Maps in the past, but that was in Australia and New Zealand, not Europe.

We'll probably rent a car once in a while for exploring, but prefer to use public transit most of the time. Seville is a good transit hub, but gets busier and more expensive at Easter. Leaning towards Valencia at this point.
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Old 06-18-2016, 03:31 AM   #4
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Consider Cartagena, in Murcia.

! Murcia Today - Cartagena News - What's On Cartagena - Where to Go Cartagena - Where to Eat in Cartagena Costa Calida Spain

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartagena,_Spain

It isn't as touristy as other cities, but there is a wonderful Roman amphitheatre that was just rediscovered in 1987, and lots of other historical sights. I suspect that accommodation might be relatively cheap there. Below is an example of a villa for rent.

http://www.murciapropertypage.com/pr...osol-ref-b383/
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Old 06-18-2016, 07:47 AM   #5
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We stopped in Valencia this winter and I really liked it. We also stopped in Barcelona and while both were nice, Valencia seemed much more Spanish, whereas Barcelona seemed more international (a little like Amsterdam almost, so many tourists and expats).

We were there in early March and the weather was very nice. Not hot or anything like that, but not cold either and very sunny.

It certainly crossed my mind to go back and spend more time there.
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Old 06-18-2016, 08:50 AM   #6
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Anything on the east coast has a few tourist central areas. Specifically Benidorm and the Costa Brava.

You'll have entire villages there comprising of overwintering Brits, Dutch and Germans. I wouldn't want to go there. Go a bit more inland (even a few kms) and it clears up a lot

Cordoba might warrant an extra look (lots of history).

If you want to take Spanish classes it might be better to stay in the real south as well. Catalonia and Basque regions have their own dialects, so its a bit less easy to practice live outside.

If Spain is not exactly a hard requirement, Guatemala could be a great destination too. Antigua has a well established 'industry' with intensive Spanish language classes coupled to homestays and outings with fellow students. Programs in all shapes and sizes, and affordable too.
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Old 06-18-2016, 04:26 PM   #7
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Consider Cartagena, in Murcia.
Thanks - checking out Cartagena, it looks like a real possibility. We do prefer non-touristy, but that's usually not a problem in the off-season. Looks like there's a good central area to keep us occupied, and plenty of historical attractions in walking distance. And the rental prices look really good during the early spring.
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Old 06-18-2016, 04:36 PM   #8
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Thanks - checking out Cartagena, it looks like a real possibility. We do prefer non-touristy, but that's usually not a problem in the off-season. Looks like there's a good central area to keep us occupied, and plenty of historical attractions in walking distance. And the rental prices look really good during the early spring.
This is probably the cheapest way to get there from a major airline hub.

https://www.ryanair.com/cz/en/plan-t...ghts-to-murcia
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Old 06-18-2016, 06:04 PM   #9
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You'll have entire villages there comprising of overwintering Brits, Dutch and Germans. I wouldn't want to go there. Go a bit more inland (even a few kms) and it clears up a lot
Yeah, definitely want to avoid areas full of tourists. There's a time for that, but for a longer term stay I'd prefer something with more local flavor.

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If Spain is not exactly a hard requirement, Guatemala could be a great destination too. Antigua has a well established 'industry' with intensive Spanish language classes coupled to homestays and outings with fellow students. Programs in all shapes and sizes, and affordable too.
Central America is definitely on the list for the future, but since our daughter might visit for part of the trip, we've been looking at Spanish speaking areas not in the Zika exposed areas.

Last year we spent some time in Cuba, where our slightly better than beginner Spanish was barely adequate. Mostly just played baseball there, though, which only requires a limited vocabulary.
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Old 06-18-2016, 10:37 PM   #10
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Central America is definitely on the list for the future, but since our daughter might visit for part of the trip, we've been looking at Spanish speaking areas not in the Zika exposed areas.

Last year we spent some time in Cuba, where our slightly better than beginner Spanish was barely adequate. Mostly just played baseball there, though, which only requires a limited vocabulary.
Along this line of thinking, I'll throw out the central highlands areas of Mexico. Basically within several hours of Mexico City. Even cheaper than the very affordable non-tourist areas of southern Spain. Climate likely to be more moderate in winter than the southern Spain winters (YMMV based on locations in MX and Spain). A huge benefit, if you would like to develop Spanish skills to help in the US is that you hear a lot more Mexican Spanish here than you do Spain Spanish.

I haven't heard a lot about zika threat in the central highland areas (these areas aren't tropical at all). It's also a much shorter flight from the US.
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:20 AM   #11
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I live in Tenerife which is a very large island which a lot of diversity.
I suggest you rent a flat up north in the capital (Santa Cruz), or Puerto de la Cruz, and get enrolled for your language lessons there, and explore the island day by day.

Climate: eternally pleasant Spring
Costs: the cheapest across EU (except Portugal)
Activities: sea, mountain, paragliding, surfing, hiking, name it....
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:21 AM   #12
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ps: safe: unlike South and Central America
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:21 AM   #13
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ps2: you are a cheap flight away from all EU capitals in Tenerife
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:23 AM   #14
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PS3: you can drive around the Island in 3-4 hours and the cities are big enough, but many interesting villages around too
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Old 06-19-2016, 09:30 AM   #15
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:10 AM   #16
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Recently returned from a month in Spain. I tried to use my limited Spanish as often as possible. Selected the route for both travel reasons and to evaluate town(s) for a 1-3 month trip next year to both see if I'd like to try for a long stay visa and to turn my Spanish into something much more useful.

What I learned about my ability to understand accents and rhythms of spoken Spanish: 1) Cordoba was the easiest city in southern Spain. 2) Seville was by far the hardest. 3) Barcelona was a problem because they'd mix Spanish with Catalan. When I requested word corrections or translations, it was ALWAYS in Catalan.

Except for Madrid and some mountain top walled towns, it was easy to get out of tourism central. At first I looked at the map of tourist highlights, then plotted a ride on public transport 2 stops outside that area. Then I tried asking an employee at my lodging for a recommendation and gave my reasons. Most of the time their responses were both enthusiastic and useful.
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Old 06-19-2016, 10:19 AM   #17
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I live in Tenerife which is a very large island which a lot of diversity.
I suggest you rent a flat up north in the capital (Santa Cruz), or Puerto de la Cruz,
Friends of ours, (who also have other friends who rent seasonally in Tenerife), tried to find accommodation there for this past winter (starting their investigation long before the beginning of the season) - they had contact names from their friends and also did a multitude of online searches, (these are people who often winter in NZ/Oz/Hawaii, etc, so they're not novices)........they did not receive a single response, and finally threw up their hands and quit.
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Old 06-19-2016, 01:14 PM   #18
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Quote:
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I live in Tenerife which is a very large island which a lot of diversity.
I suggest you rent a flat up north in the capital (Santa Cruz), or Puerto de la Cruz, and get enrolled for your language lessons there, and explore the island day by day.

Climate: eternally pleasant Spring
Costs: the cheapest across EU (except Portugal)
Activities: sea, mountain, paragliding, surfing, hiking, name it....
Hadn't really considered the Canary Islands, but it's an interesting idea. I'd assume a car is needed to explore Tenerife, right? It looks like there would be some good mountain biking opportunities there, too.
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Old 06-19-2016, 01:23 PM   #19
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Along this line of thinking, I'll throw out the central highlands areas of Mexico. Basically within several hours of Mexico City. Even cheaper than the very affordable non-tourist areas of southern Spain. Climate likely to be more moderate in winter than the southern Spain winters (YMMV based on locations in MX and Spain). A huge benefit, if you would like to develop Spanish skills to help in the US is that you hear a lot more Mexican Spanish here than you do Spain Spanish.
Staying in Mexico was actually my initial idea for an extended trip with some language lessons. But my wife is kind of leery of Mexico based on some prior experiences there, and news reports. (Yeah, I know - it's like basing a trip to the US on reports from the south side of Chicago. And we go to Chicago a lot ...)

The dialect is an interesting issue - we've got more local exposure to Mexican Spanish, so that would likely be more useful in day-to-day life. We found the speed of Cuban Spanish difficult - but the speed of any native speaker is probably going to be an issue anywhere with advanced beginner skills.
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Old 06-19-2016, 01:32 PM   #20
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Staying in Mexico was actually my initial idea for an extended trip with some language lessons. But my wife is kind of leery of Mexico based on some prior experiences there, and news reports. (Yeah, I know - it's like basing a trip to the US on reports from the south side of Chicago. And we go to Chicago a lot ...)

The dialect is an interesting issue - we've got more local exposure to Mexican Spanish, so that would likely be more useful in day-to-day life. We found the speed of Cuban Spanish difficult - but the speed of any native speaker is probably going to be an issue anywhere with advanced beginner skills.
Understood re: safety concerns. I'm currently getting a big fat "no" to Europe (terrorism) and Colombia (violence 20 years ago??) from DW.

Last summer when we spent 7 weeks in Mexico, it took me two weeks before I remembered I was in "a dangerous place" and should be on the lookout. I laughed and went back to enjoying my day in a relaxing manner.

I'd think about the dialect issues if you're serious about picking up Spanish skills for use in the US. Mexican Spanish seems pretty ubiquitous in the US. If you want a really shocking Spanish dialect, go to Argentina. I had to ask myself over and over whether they were speaking Spanish, Portuguese or Italian the accent was so thick.
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