13 Jun, 2014 @ 15:57
2 mins read

The Beckett List: How NOT to ‘do’ Spain

almadraba tuna vejer

WHAT is it about vacationing Americans that makes them want to ‘do’ an entire country in one visit?

I recently devised a bespoke tour for the American side of my family who were over on a two-week trip to Spain and Portugal and keen to ‘do’ the Golden Triangle of Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba, and maybe Madrid and Barcelona too, while they were at it!

Fortunately I vetoed most of it. Because after two nights of schlepping round Seville, when we visited more farmacias for sticking plaster than cultural attractions, they’d had enough. (Why folks buy unbroken-in shoes to wear on holiday is another mystery.)

Sevilla is a stunning city but it’s BIG, and not knowing where the hell you are causes blisters! It took us 90 minutes, a Google map, GPS and conversations with four strangers to find the tapas bar I’d picked out on Trip Advisor. Having been variously sent south, north, east and west by a road digger, a policeman, a student and a waiter, we caught a cab and were dropped five minutes away from where we’d started from.

Tapas confused our visitors (“Where can we get a whole meal?”); the local specialities repelled them. (“Cold soup? No thanks!; “This is the cheek of a pig? How gross”). The sangria was “more fruity” in Portugal, the prawns in the paella were the size of lobsters and not in a good way (“I can’t eat something with eyes that big”) and Spanish restaurants compared unfavourably to Olive Garden and Taco Bell “where at least you know what you’re getting.” The best meal of the weekend was declared to be the Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s.

ALMADRABADOO: The tuna was a hit with my bro!

That was before they’d tried almadraba tuna in Vejer. They were blown away by places they’d never heard of – Tarifa, Zahara, Caños de Meca, the stunning landscapes and quaint Victorian stations they saw through the carriage windows aboard Mr Henderson’s Railway, the cuisine at the Molino del Santo …

It’s the fear of going all that way and not seeing them that makes tourists want to tick the big-name cities off their Bucket Lists. But rushing from the Giralda to the Alhambra to the Cordoba mezquita in 72 hours to hear about battles and dates isn’t my idea of fun. Not to mention checking into multiple hotels and relearning how to work the TV remote, the safe and the soap dispenser. Day trips from one base to remote pueblos and rural idylls top my ‘Beckett List’.

My American family no longer disagree, although they saw Sevilla once more on an unscheduled 4am visit when they missed the airport turning. This made them late for the plane which caused their luggage to go astray. Their bags saw Amsterdam too!

My boyfriend’s family are over from New Zealand next, to visit Morocco, Sevilla, Jerez, Málaga and us before heading to France, Italy, Greece and God knows where else. Don’t get me started about Antipodeans ‘doing’ Europe. If I get my way they won’t see half of it, and they’ll have a far better time!

Belinda Beckett (Columnist)

Belinda Beckett is a qualified journalist and freelance writer based in the Campo de Gibraltar, specialising in travel & lifestyle features and humour columns.


  1. I completely agree! Not only is it deeply patronising to imagine that one can ‘do’ Spain (and sometimes Europe!) in a week or less, it also fits in brilliantly with the idea so prevalent with many Americans that our ‘quaint’ (a truly detestable word!) countries can be treated like some kind of theme park, it also means that you will definitely miss most of the good bits.

    My Cardiff-based cousin and his wife recently visited Spain for a three week holiday and carefully planned their itinerary so that they would have a decent amount of time in each place they visited. It’s the only way to do it.

    And their shoes had been worn very well before departure. I agree – what kind of a mad idea is it to wear brand new shoes on holiday?

  2. Belinda: “vacationing Americans want to ‘do’ an entire country in one visit”, “Tapas confused our visitors”, “local specialities repelled them.”, “Spanish restaurants compared unfavourably to Olive Garden and Taco Bell”, “best meal of the weekend was Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s.”

    Paellataffy: “the idea so prevalent with many Americans that our ‘quaint’ (a truly detestable word!) countries can be treated like some kind of theme park”

    Gee whiz! How is it that your correspondents can each encounter a couple of tourists and become instant experts on the tastes and attitudes of every one of three hundred million Americans?

    Me, I’m still trying to overcome my prejudice that every Englishman wears shorts and sandals with long black socks, and insists on drinking warm beer in a hot climate.

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