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LIFE IN SPAIN

Seven reasons why autumn is the best season to visit or travel around Spain

The start of autumn is just one week away. From festivals and wine to cooler temperatures, here are the reasons why it's the best season to travel to or around Spain.

Seven reasons why autumn is the best season to visit or travel around Spain
Autumn leaves in Madrid's Retiro Park. Photo: Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie/Flickr

Although Spain is popular with visitors year-round, the majority of travellers come to Spain in summer and leave in time for the new school term. This year, autumn begins on September 23rd bringing with it cooler temperatures, fascinating festivals and lots of tasty treats. Here’s why autumn is actually the best time to visit or travel around Spain. 

Fewer tourists 

There are fewer tourists in Barcelona in autumn. Photo: Jeff Chabot / Pixabay
 

Autumn is a good time to tour Spain’s popular sites once the hordes of tourists have left at the end of the summer. Although you may still have to reserve tickets for Granada’s Alhambra or Barcelona’s Sagrada Família, you’ll have more choice on days and times you want to go and won’t have to share these amazing places with so many others, jostling for space to take photos. 

And as the days turn colder or on those rainy days when you don’t want to be outside, consider paying a visit to one of Spain’s world-renowned museums without the headache of too many tourists.

The weather

For those of us who struggle to make it through Spain’s sweltering summer, autumn comes as a welcome relief: a sunny, breezy time when people are still enjoying the outside terraces, but in a much more pleasant temperature. This summer, Spain experienced one of the hottest summers on record, with temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s in much of the country. The fall in temperatures makes it a great time for exploring. Inland cities such as Madrid, Seville and Córdoba are too unbearable during the summer, but perfectly lovely in autumn. 

The festivals 

La Mercè festival in Barcelona. Photo: Feradz / Wikimedia Commons

Spain plays host to some of its best festivals in autumn. Barcelona celebrates its patron saint La Mercè during its annual city-wide festival taking place around September 24th. During this time the whole city comes alive with concerts – street theatre is held in the city parks and circus performances take place up by Montjuïc Castle.

Many towns on the Costa del Sol hold their annual ferias in September and October, including Fuengirola and Torremolinos. And in Zaragoza, the city gets ready for the biggest event of the year – the Fiestas del Pilar held in the week leading up to October 12th, with lots of partying, dancing and fireworks. 

The colours 

Fall colours in Spain. Photo: Valentin / Pixabay

With so many wooded areas of outstanding natural beauty to be found in Spain, you are never too far from those stunning autumn colours. Faedo de Ciñera in León is one of the best places to see nature’s display. It was voted the “best cared for wood in Spain” by Bosques Sin Fronteras (Woods Without borders) and is home to beech trees that date back over 500 years. 

IN PICS: 15 photos that will get you excited about autumn in Spain

The chestnuts and the mushrooms

Go mushroom hunting in Spain. Photo: Šárka Jonášová / Pixabay
 
The Hamlet of Pujerra loves chestnuts, so much so it stages its own annual Chestnut Festival. Despite being tiny (home to around 300 people) it boasts Malaga’s biggest chestnut cooperative and even a museum dedicated to the humble autumnal treat. During the festival, you can taste up to 50 dishes made from chestnuts. There is also an exhibition of the clothes and tools used in chestnut picking. But wherever you are in Spain, look out for the chestnut sellers who appear with their braziers on street corners just as soon as there’s a chill in the air. 

Autumn is also wild mushroom season in Spain, so why not grab a basket and spend a fun autumnal day foraging for some tasty fungi? Be sure to go with an expert so you know what to look for…and what to avoid.

Many towns hold mushroom picking and tasting events, like the mycology (study of fungi) fest in Ezcaray, La Rioja, which runs from the end of October to the beginning of November, with workshops on cooking mushrooms and more. There are similar mycology fests in Beceite, Aragón and San Esteban del Valle, Avila. Mushroom hunting is also very popular in the forests of Catalonia. 

READ ALSO: 10 reasons why a Spanish person might be staring at you

The wine

Autumn is a great wine season in Spain. Photo: Jill Wellington / Pixabay

The grape harvest in Spain usually takes place in September and autumn is a fantastic time to tour some of Spain’s vineyards. This isn’t just limited to the famous regions of La Rioja and Ribera. With wine made in so many regions across Spain, you should be able to find bodegas near you for a glimpse into the age-old wine-making tradition while the air is permeated with the scent of crushed grapes.

Grape Escape: Discovering the art of winemaking in the vineyards of Rioja 

Hearty food

As soon as the temperature gets a little cooler, it’s nice to cosy up with some warm Spanish cuisine, especially after doing everything possible to avoid hot dishes in the sweltering summer.

Though they can be enjoyed year-round, there is nothing quite like churros con chocolate to warm you up from the inside.  

Spaniards also love to make use of seasonal crops, so it’s time to give up the refreshing gazpacho so perfect in the summer months and instead tuck into crema de calabaza (cream of pumpkin soup), cocido madrileño (typical stew from Madrid) or caldo gallego (Galician broth or soup) with autumn veggies. 

READ MORE: Ten best cold weather tapas

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LABOUR RIGHTS

‘A long way to go’: Spain’s domestics fight to end discrimination

For years, Aracely Sánchez went to work without counting her hours, always fearful she could lose her job from one day to the next.

'A long way to go': Spain's domestics fight to end discrimination

“They would always ask me to do more and more and more, as if I were a machine,” she told AFP of her employers at a house in Madrid.

Within a collective of domestic workers, this 39-year-old Mexican has been trying to assert her basic rights to have time off every week, to be paid for working overtime and to have unemployment cover.

But given the precarious nature of this type of work in Spain, it is a challenge.

“There are employers who are very humane and who respect us, but there are many who try to take advantage of the situation,” she explained.

“They say: if the job doesn’t suit you, there are plenty more where you came from.”

According to the Workers Commission union (CCOO), nearly 600,000 women serve as domestic staff in Spain where taking them on for housework, cooking or childcare is widespread.

Of that number, nearly 200,000 are undeclared, working in the black economy without an employment contract.

“Many of them come from Latin America and they don’t have papers and find themselves in a very vulnerable situation,” said Mari Cruz Vicente, the CCOO’s head of activism and employment.

‘Exposing violations’

Following a ruling by the EU’s Court of Justice (CJEU) and pressure from the unions, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez adopted a reform this month aiming at ending the “discrimination” suffered by these workers.

READ ALSO: The new rules for hiring a domestic worker in Spain

Under the changes, dubbed by the government as “settling a historic debt”, domestic workers are now entitled to claim unemployment benefits and cannot be dismissed without justification.

They will also be covered by healthcare “protection” and be able to access training to improve their “professional opportunities” and job conditions.

“This is a very important step forward,” said Vicente, while stressing the need to step up efforts to register those who are working without a contract and don’t benefit from the reform.

“This reform was very necessary,” said Constanza Cisneros of the Jeanneth Beltrán observatory which specialises in domestic workers’ rights.

“Spain was very behind. Every day we have people coming to us whose rights have been violated. We have to end such practices now,” she said.

“Such situations have to be exposed.”

SPAIN-DOMESTIC-WORKERS

Around 200,000 domestic workers who are working in the black economy without an employment contract will not benefit from Spain’s new labour reform. (Photo by Ezequiel BECERRA / AFP)

‘Not seen as people’

Mexican home help Sánchez has often experienced such abuses in more than two decades of employment.

In 2001, she arrived in Madrid to take up full-time employment caring for an elderly person for €350 a month.

She then spent the next 15 years working in short-term jobs, almost always without a contract, despite the fact she had a valid residency permit.

“When I said I wanted a contract, they never called me back. They didn’t want to pay contributions,” she said, describing her work as “undervalued” with domestic staff seen as “labourers” and not “as people”.

Amalia Caballero, a domestic worker from Ecuador, has had a very similar experience.

“We often finish very late, or they change our hours at the last minute assuming we’ll just fall in line. But we also have a life that we need to sort out,” said Caballero, 60.

She also talks about the “humiliations” often endured by those who live with their employers.

“One time, one of my bosses asked me why I showered every day. It was clear he thought (the hot water) was costing him too much money,” she told AFP.

But will such attitudes change with the reform?

“There’s still a long way to go,” she sighed, saying many domestic staff “have completed their studies” back home and even hold a degree.

“People need to recognise that,” she said.

Cisneros agreed.

“Our work needs to command greater respect, not least because it’s so necessary. Without staff to pick up the children, run the household and look after elderly people, what would families do?”

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