Category Archives:Spain

Learning Spanish Online: My Journey to Fluency

¡Hola amigos! I have always loved the Spanish language, but since studying it at school I haven’t really put it into practice. It doesn’t help that I’m now living in Australia, which is about as far from a Spanish-speaking country as you can get.

As I’m approaching the big 3-0 (only six months of my beloved twenties left…), I have been trying to tick off a few life goals; one of which is to be fluent in Spanish. To help me stay motivated, I am planning on travelling to Spain for 3-6 months next year (maybe longer, who knows!), which is very exciting. I will be attending immersive Spanish lessons when I’m there (any school recommendations in Sevilla would be much appreciated!), but I want to arrive being able to at least hold a decent conversation.

So, I have researched a whole range of online Spanish learning resources and settled on a few, which I will be reviewing over the course of the next six months: SpanishPod101, Rosetta Stone and Duolingo.

I have been using each of these tools for about two months now, so below are my first impressions.

Duolingo for Spanish

Duolingo is such a fantastic idea and is a great way to introduce people to new languages. It’s actually more like a game (and a very addictive one at that!). I am about halfway through the Spanish course and am finding that my vocabulary recognition is good, but I have no knowledge of grammar from it.

Since getting Rosetta Stone and SpanishPod101, I have just been using Duolingo on and off while I’m waiting for the bus.

Rosetta Stone Language Learning Suite Version 3

This is the latest addition to my language learning arsenal and by far the most expensive. However, I am really enjoying it so far, and it is certainly a step up from Duolingo. The way Rosetta Stone teaches language is through the full immersion method. In other words, there are absolutely no English translations. The sceptic in me believes this is simply a smart business move to cut down costs of translating into multiple languages, thus appealing to a global audience. Anyway…

A definite negative for me is that without the translations you have to work out what a sentence means; this is relatively easy in the first few lessons, but it gets increasingly difficult when more complex grammar comes into play. I have been learning languages for a while so I’m largely familiar with the way the grammar works, but for someone completely new to learning a foreign language, it would probably be very difficult.

However, I would like to get to the end of the course to be able to give a full review on how this method works.

One unique feature of Rosetta Stone, and most likely what justifies its high price point, is its advanced voice recognition system. While it can’t replace speaking to a native, it is a good chance to perfect your speaking skills.

Spanish Pod 101

I don’t know if it’s the chirpy voices of the presenters or the cheesy intro music to each of the podcasts, but I simply LOVE SpanishPod101. I purchased a basic 3-month subscription for less than $25, which is a bargain. What’s great about SpanishPod101 is that you can link it up to your iTunes and listen to one of their thousands of podcasts on the go. It really breaks down topics into easy-to-digest chunks, giving you a much deeper insight into particular phrases, grammar and cultural aspects that you simply don’t get anywhere else that I have found. There’s no listen and repeat going on here.

I have mostly used the podcasts so far, but they do also have lots of video tutorials, as well as PDF downloads and cheat sheets. It would take years to get through all the content they have on the site — so it really is a great resource.

That’s it from me for now, but I’ll be posting updates on how these tools (and my Spanish) is going over the next few months. If you have any recommendations or experiences, please share in the comments below 🙂 ¡Hasta luego!

Spain’s Best Historical Attractions

Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world. Although the country is renowned for its beautiful beaches and warm weather, some of the most popular attractions in Spain are the historical and cultural monuments. So if you’re a history buff, read on!

History buffs rejoice

Spain is home to some of the world’s oldest and most historic buildings and monuments; in fact, it has more UNESCO World Heritage listed sites than any other country in the world and the second most World Heritage cities after Italy.

Wherever you go in Spain you will come across architecture that dates back hundreds of years including breathtaking cathedrals, castles, palaces and more. However, there are several specific historical and cultural monuments in Spain that attract more visitors than others, and we look at some of the most popular below.

La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona

The beautiful La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona is one of Spain’s most visited attractions. Featuring the architecture and art of Antoni Gaudi, the exquisite Roman Catholic cathedral is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site despite never being completed.

The architecture of the cathedral blends Art Nouveau with Gothic, which is what makes its design so unique. Unfortunately, Gaudi died approximately a quarter of the way through the project. Using his drawings, the cathedral was slowly built over the next few decades.

Tours of La Sagrada Familia Cathedral are available throughout the year.

Cave of Altamira, Santillana del Mar

The Cave of Altamira is home to some of the world’s oldest examples of early human life. Within the caves are paintings from the Upper Paleolithic era and the paintings are the first prehistoric ones to be found in the world.

Cave of Altamira, Santillana del Mar
Cave painting at the Cave of Altamira, Santillana del Mar

The caves are situated approximately 30km west of Santander in northern Spain. Currently, you cannot access the actual caves as carbon monoxide from the breath of visitors was damaging them. However, there are plans to open the caves for a brief period for visitors in the near future. There is a replica cave for visitors to see.

Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid

Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid
Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid

The Monastery and Site of the Escorial is one of Madrid’s most popular historical attractions. Situated approximately 45km away from the centre of Madrid, the Monastery and Site of the Escorial is a historical residence of the king of Spain.

The impressive buildings date back to the 15th century and there are numerous sections that you can visit. The Basilica, Palace of Phillip II, Pantheon of the Princes and Gardens of the Friars are particularly exquisite.

Visitors are able to walk around the beautiful buildings either alone or on guided tours. Tours are available in several languages, including English, and are well worth doing to find out some interesting facts.

Vizcaya Bridge, Portugalete

Vizcaya Bridge, Portugalete
Vizcaya Bridge, Portugalete

For those interested in spectacular engineering projects, the Vizcaya Bridge in Portugalete is one of the most amazing of them all. Built in 1893 it is the world’s oldest transporter bridge and was designed by Alberto Palacio – a disciple of Gustave Eiffel’s (the creator of the Eiffel Tower).

The bridge was built to connect to cities on opposite sides of the Nervion River without disrupting maritime traffic. The bridge is 164 metres tall and is still in use today, being able to transport six cars and almost one hundred passengers on every trip. The gondola runs every 8 minutes during the day and once every hour at night. It is a popular tourist attraction for visitors from around the world.

Tower of Hercules, A Coruna

Tower of Hercules, A Coruna
Tower of Hercules, A Coruna

The Tower of Hercules, situated in the town of A Coruna in north-western Spain is one of the oldest monuments in the country. Dating back to the ancient Roman period, the Tower of Hercules (in Spanish: Torre de Hercules) is 180 feet tall and was built as a lighthouse that looks out over the North Atlantic coastline of Spain.

Not only is the Tower of Hercules a National Monument of Spain but in 2007 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite being built so long ago, it is still the second tallest lighthouse in Spain, after the Faro de Chipiona.

The lighthouse is situated approximately 2.5km outside of A Coruna and is one of Spain’s most visited historical monuments.

Weather in Spain: When should you go?

One of the biggest reasons many travellers choose Spain for their vacation is the beautiful weather. However, Spain is a large country that has a range of climates, from the icy mountain regions to the blazingly hot summers in Seville. So let’s take a closer look at what you can expect weather-wise if you visit one of my favourite countries in the world — Spain. ¡Vamos!

About Weather in Spain

Spain is renowned for its warm, sunny weather and if you head there during the summer months you will almost always be guaranteed plenty of sunshine wherever you are in the country. However, there are quite clear variations in weather patterns around the country so before you head there you may want to check the weather in different parts of Spain during different seasons. For example, the country’s capital of Madrid can exceed 90 degrees in the summer months but due to its elevation can drop down to a cool 25 in winter.

weather in spain

Not only does the weather in Spain vary between seasons but there are huge variations between different cities and regions. The south of Spain is best known for its exceptionally warm weather, whereas the northern region is much milder.

Below we take a closer look at the specific weather in Spain during different seasons.

Seasons in Spain

The weather in Spain can be divided into four seasons, much similar to the USA: spring, summer, fall and winter.  In Spain the seasons are equally divided into three months each in length: summer runs from June through August; spring runs from March through May, fall runs from September through November and the winters from December through February.

The temperature variations between the seasons vary in different regions of Spain. The hottest major city in Spain on average is Seville in southern Spain – with average July temperatures of 66/95 (low and high). The coldest city in Spain on average is Santiago, with average July temperatures of 61/72 (low and high).

Summer in Spain

Summer in Spain is the warmest time of the year and also the most popular time for tourists to go and visit. Temperatures across Spain rarely go below 60 Fahrenheit during the summer months and regularly exceed 90.

The temperatures in central Spain, such as the capital of Madrid, are almost unbearably hot in mid-summer, so most people tend to head to the coastal areas such as Barcelona and Costa del Sol where temperatures are much more favorable.  This includes both tourists and residents of central Spain, so you will find that a lot of shops and restaurants are closed during the summer months.

Winter in Spain

Although the most popular time to visit Spain is during the summer months, the winter can be a lot more tolerable in terms of the weather in Spain. In fact, few people realize that it actually snows in Spain.

The cities that are almost unbearably hot during the summer months are some of the coldest during the winter. A lot of the country is situated at a very high altitude, which makes the winters incredibly cold. Central Spain, including the cities of Toledo, Madrid and Salamanca are the coldest regions of Spain during the winter. As soon as you head north or south from these regions you will find slightly warmer weather.

Southern Spain still has quite warm winters, particularly in the Andalusia region. The north coast is kept relatively warm by the Atlantic Ocean.

Rainfall in Spain

Rainfall can make or break a trip to Spain; even if it is quite cold outside it can still be very pleasant if the sun is shining. Rain is much more common during the winter months – summers tend to be quite dry across Spain.

December is typically the rainiest month in Spain and Santiago (in Galicia) is the rainiest city in the country. Santiago averages 21 days of rain during December and 12 in June.

Valencia, Seville and Granada in Southern Spain see the least rainfall in Spain. During the summer months, there is barely any rainfall at all and the winters have an average of 9 days of rain per month. Rainfall is rarely heavy at any stage throughout the year – it is generally in short spurts.

If you’re already in Spain or about to head there, you can check the latest weather at The Weather Channel.