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Spain without the souvenirs
April 11, 2010 3:27 AM   Subscribe

I want to go to Spain for a weekend away next month, but I'm really over big European cities -- tourists, tchotchke shops, metro systems, must see galleries and museums. Where can I go?

Somewhere sleepy and atmospheric, with a slower pace of life, where we can hang in (queer-friendly-ish) bars or restaurants, wander some crumbling old churches, maybe sit under the shade of an orange tree and watch the sun set on rustic hills. Cordoba or Valencia seem like they might fit the bill -- or not?

I'd be up for going to a smaller, semi-rural town somewhere, but I don't want to end up in some random, Spanish equivalent of Wagga Wagga. Also I don't drive and want it to be reasonably close from a budget airline airport. I guess inland is preferable (want to avoid seaside resorts serving full English).

Any ideas?
posted by dontjumplarry to Travel & Transportation around Spain (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I liked Valencia; it sounds like it might be what you're looking for. South of Valencia is a little place called Sagunto where I saw beautiful, beautiful Roman ruins. I can't speak to whether it's queer-friendly but the beauty might make it worth a day-trip from Valencia.
posted by motsque at 4:17 AM on April 11, 2010


Either Granada or Toledo, which is right outside Madrid. Both are beautiful and have lots to do.

I also loved Coimbra in Portugal.
posted by thenormshow at 5:33 AM on April 11, 2010


Where are you coming from, exactly? Direct flights might make it easier to avoid transport shenanigans.
posted by mdonley at 5:35 AM on April 11, 2010


Valencia. It's a nice city, accomodating to your needs, but not overrun with tourist outlets and tour busses. It's a big place and it's on the coast, but in one of the backstreet bars or restaurants you wouldn't know it. Loads to see and explore without feeling like you're on a package holiday to Spain.
posted by fire&wings at 5:38 AM on April 11, 2010


Valencia is sort of bustling. I only passed through Toledo but it seemed sleepier, although full of tourists. Southern Spain is certainly the most popular option but I'd encourage you to consider Northern Spain. Off the top of my head, you might fly to Santander or Bilbao, take the train to Logrono, and either hang out there or take a quick bus to Najera. Najera has about 8,000 people but it's just lovely-- situated against cliffs, with a river running through it. Logrono is bigger, more of a college town, but has many charms, including a famed tapas crawl. Both are in the La Rioja region so the wine is great.

Alternately, you might like Santiago de Compostela. It's larger, but lacks a metro or any major museums. The dark cathedral is awesome, and the street music (mostly Celtic) will constantly surprise you. It's full of pilgrims, but not many mainstream tourists. I spent a day sprawled out on the ground in front of the cathedral just staring at it-- that wouldn't be accepted in most cathedral cities.
posted by acidic at 5:38 AM on April 11, 2010


Coming from London. These sound brilliant, thanks. Up for going to Coimbra or elsewhere in Portugal if anyone has any suggestions there.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:53 AM on April 11, 2010


How about Úbeda and Baeza? World Heritage Site Churches, surrounded by hills, population low enough, Andalusian sun. Might be a challenge logistically for a weekend, though.
posted by mdonley at 6:10 AM on April 11, 2010


Heck in Portugal you can go right to Lisbon to get a small-city feel, and while there is not a huge crush of tourists you will find all the services you need as a visitor.

The atmosphere is great: I found the Portuguese to be much friendlier than the Spanish - in general - and the pace of life even in the capital to be very laid back. Make sure to hit to some of the non-touristy fado restaurants in the Alfama neighborhood to have a slow intimate meal with fantastic music and often chatty locals. Or, if you get a place to stay up near the Monastery in Belem, you'd never have to leave the metropolitan area but could get some seaside time and an even slower pace.

Portugal quickly became one of my favorite places I've been, and I look forward to going back.
posted by whatzit at 6:20 AM on April 11, 2010


Segovia!

it's got some tourists, but most are day visitors from Madrid (there's good bus transportation to and from there) - don't think i heard a single english word when i was there

and it's oh so very beautiful there - many sleepy back streets & windy avenues - be sure to talk a walk around the north end at some point to enjoy the mountain scenery & the famous castle

lastly, here's a list of some queer-friendly venues & a brief profile of the nightlife
posted by jammy at 6:55 AM on April 11, 2010


I popped in to say Segovia as well. Lovely.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:00 AM on April 11, 2010


Segovia is lovely, but it will be filled with busloads of tourists. I came in here to suggest Granada. It is an important city, and there will be some tourists, but it's a wonderful mix of city and country, has some gorgeous hills, and was laid back and friendly when I visited. There's a lot of history there if you want that, but any tourist-related activities will be centralized in 2-3 places, which you can avoid if you'd like. Though if you're there, I would go to the Alhambra and Generalife even just for a bit.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:29 AM on April 11, 2010


Haven't been, but have always wanted to check out the Andalucia region, the larger cities in which sound like they fit your needs. Enjoy!
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:32 AM on April 11, 2010


Salamanca has a university founded in 1218, a lot of historical architecture, and a really fun, vibrant plaza scene.
posted by fructose at 8:55 AM on April 11, 2010


Girona? You could fly directly from London and the old city is lovely.
posted by lux at 9:35 AM on April 11, 2010


Sitges, near Barcelona. A little more tourist oriented, but apparently with a vibrant gay community. It's between mountains and the sea so you get the best of both worlds. Still largely a small, sleepy city with gorgeous scenery.

If you go, you must try fideua, the local answer to paella, made with thin, short pasta instead of rice. Yum. Best eaten at a beach-side restaurant watching the sun go down with a nice bottle of white wine. I'm partial to Vina del Sol, which pairs very well with fideua.
posted by Expat at 9:41 AM on April 11, 2010


Seconding Salamanca!! Do look into it. You can take a 2 hr train from Madrid.
posted by infinityjinx at 12:48 PM on April 11, 2010


My girlfriend and I just got back from ten days in Spain. Seconding Cordoba and Segovia -- we didn't discover any particularly queer friendly things to do (honestly, we weren't looking too hard), but both towns were lovely. We also had a really good time in Avila. Since Semana Santa is now (kind of) over, perhaps there will be fewer tourists too.
posted by lassie at 8:12 PM on April 11, 2010


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