Do you think that men and woman seek different holiday experiences? If so, you might be interested in a series of female focussed travel guides suggesting activities and destinations that women would particularly enjoy. Patricia Harris has tapped into thirty years of exploring her favourite country to write 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go.
“A lot of what I’ve selected are some of the most wonderful and intriguing places in Spain – ones that would actually interest anyone,” Patricia told me. One example is the Alhambra in Granada, the last stronghold of the Moorish rulers. “It is such a fascinating place for people interested in architecture, history or gardens. I try to give it a slant for women, although men would love it too. I try to untangle some of the stories. Women led more private lives there. The men – the rulers – have been well recorded in history so I’ve tried to explain what life would have been like in the harem.”
One of Pat’s favourite places is in the La Rioja area and she says nature lovers should head to the small cathedral city of Alfaro in the spring. “It has 200 pairs of white storks nesting on one 17th-century cathedral. The birds are endangered so it’s unusual seeing them in an urban setting. It’s a wonderful place full of hope and joy when you watch the parent stalks bringing the food back and forth to the babies that always have their beaks open. As they get stronger they start hopping around and trying to lift off and fly. They’re really big and they make a loud ‘clacking’ sort of noise!”
The Spanish city that has changed the most in Pat’s thirty years of visiting the country is Malaga. She always recommends to friends who are visiting the Costa del Sol to base themselves there instead and take the 20-minute train ride to the beach, returning for the city’s nightlife in the evening. “Malaga has moved its commercial activities from the central harbour and cleaned up the air. They’ve put in a beautiful new marble-lined promenade and several new museums have opened. One features 19th-century Spanish art. There is also a branch of the Russian State Museum. It’s a city that’s really on the way up – an exciting place to be just minutes from the beach.”
Of course there are plenty of food recommendations in the book too and Pat says the Spanish tradition of tapas is a good choice for solo female travellers. “It’s fine, even if you’re by yourself, to stop in a bar, sample the specialty and have a glass of wine or a beer. In San Sebastian, which is one of the best eating cities in Spain, I outline an entire tapas tour with a lovely woman who can accompany you and guide you around the bars.”
Pat’s a big fan of travelling around Spain by rail. “Their train network is amazing. You can travel from Madrid to Seville in around two-and-a-half hours. It’s easy to base yourself in one place and see a lot of the country.”
I asked Patricia to recommend a destination in Spain for somebody seeking relaxation and pampering? “I’d suggest the Marques de Riscal winery and spa in Elciego in the Basque country, eighty-minutes drive from Bilbao. It’s one of the most distinguished and established wineries in the area. They opened a hotel designed by the Canadian architect Frank Gehry and a French spa company partnered with them to offer a spa with wine-based therapies. It’s a place where you have a beautiful setting, a lovely hotel, great food and wine and spa pampering.”
Pat believes you should try to get to under the skin of the place you’re visiting. “I think the Spaniards have a real joy for life. They work hard but they also socialise, go out for nightlife and enjoy a two-hour lunch. They know how to live well and one of my goals for the book has been to encourage people to adapt to the Spanish rhythms and enjoy the lifestyle while you are there. Travel is not just about the great sites but it’s also about the people that you can meet and the way in which you can embrace the whole way of life.”
You can read more advice from Pat in 100 Places in Spain Every Woman Should Go, which is available on Amazon.