1.1 Paradors are 90 government hotels in converted convents, monasteries and castles, usually moderately priced by US standards (higher than the bargain places we usually used), but high quality and in the most convenient locations. The system began in 1928 (NYT 7/23/06 at s.5, p.10)
Check them out before going to a regular hotel. We made the mistake of assuming Paradors were always too expensive.
They are usually charming, a fine respite. See upscale Cuenca Parador: http://www.paradores-spain.com/spain/pcuenca.Parador. This was the Dominican Monastery de San Pablo, 16th C. 125 Euro per night in 2006. Some $160.00.
2. Michener: Iberia. Reference book for a cultural kick-start.
Take a paperback of Iberia, by James Michener, from the 1950's. It is large, at 818 pages, but you can rip out as you read chapters, and leave them nicely for someone else, if you like sharing. Read Michener the night before you are about to enter a new section of the country.
- Concepts. Viva Yo. This roughly means long live me, as I understand it. See http://www.citybeat.com/2000-11-16/art. Viva Yo was a favorite concept of Picasso, says the site.
- Michener also describes it as, "Good for me."
- It is a good-humored way to look at the situation, when someone takes your seat because you stood up to see better. They did a good viva yo on you.
- The best response is a wry grin of sorts, give a flourish of quiet applause, at their success, then politely ask if they could make a little room so you also could sit.
- Or, when surrounded by people wanting some money for watching your car as you venture a distance away (they know that -- as in Cordoba, with the Cathedral across a long bridge). Navigate a close job of parking, cheer yourself while inside so all can see, then simply exit your own car, then give a hearty Viva Yo, point to one man who looks promising, give him some money, and leave with a sound point in his direction, and a smile. We found no trouble.