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Ten colourful characters you’re likely to spot at Spain’s popular beaches

Anyone who's spent time in Spain in summer will know that when you hit the main tourist beaches there are certain interesting characters you'll always come across, from the kitted-out Spanish families to the sunburnt foreign holidaymakers.

Ten colourful characters you're likely to spot at Spain's popular beaches
How many or these colourful characters have you spotted at popular beaches in Spain? (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

The kitted-out familia

Let’s face it, there are always some who know how to do a beach day properly. While you’re there with your one measly baguette wrapped in foil, this family has brought slices of homemade tortilla, glasses of gazpacho, platters of perfectly-chilled cheese and ham, oh and abuela’s famous almond biscuits. And they’re not just sitting on a towel, no, they have brought fold-away tables and chairs, a cool box filled with ice-cold drinks and a stereo for that all-important summer soundtrack. Perhaps they have a mini tent to shade everyone from the sun too.

Deckchair? Check. Radio and headphones so I can listen to el fútbol? Check. Tortilla in tupperwear? Of course. (Photo by JOSE LUIS ROCA / AFP)
 

The local sun worshippers

One character that you’re sure to see all over Spain are the leathery-skinned locals who turn their bodies to face the sun, rather than the sea. They never burn and ensure they continuously flip themselves over like burgers so that they’re ‘well done’ on all sides. Spritzing themselves with oil occasionally to speed up the tan, they’ve come to the beach for one reason only. You’ll rarely see them swimming, playing beach paddle or building sandcastles. 

Many Spaniards love to roast in the sun. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP 
 

The lobster-hued tourists who forget their sun cream

You can spot them a mile off, and you just know that they’re not locals. Yes, it’s the scarlet-skinned visitors, who will most likely hail from the UK or Germany. Naturally, they don’t have a parasol and have forgotten that all-important sun cream. They may have gone out partying the night before and have fallen into a hangover-fuelled sleep under the blisteringly hot Spanish sun.

You don’t need infrared to spot the northern European tourists in Spain, as many are already ultra-red. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)

The paddle boarders who keep everyone entertained 

Stand-up paddle boards have become a big craze in Spain over the past five years or so and inevitably there will always be someone in the water who is trying it out for the first time. Everyone along the beach watches in anticipation as they climb up and wobble on the board before spectacularly splashing into the sea. As they try again and again, it becomes a bit of a joke for the spectators until the paddleboarder finally manages to get going, amid cheers from the shoreline.

Standup paddleboarding (SUP) is becoming increasingly popular at beaches in Spain. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

The manteros 

No matter how many beach blankets or towels you come laden with, you will always be persuaded to buy another from the manteros, the name Spaniards have given those who sell mantels or cloths to sit on, on the beach. The manteros are often immigrants or refugees from West Africa and their colourful billowing pareos or beach blankets can be seen gently floating across the sand throughout the country. Even if you have one yourself, the exotic prints and elephant motifs make for a great gift to take back home, costing between €10 and €15.

A visit to some of the most touristy beaches in Spain can feel almost like being at a street market. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

The roller skaters along the boardwalk 

Whether you’re on Valencia’s Las Arenas or Mallorca’s Playa de Palma Nova you’ll find locals roller skating along the boardwalks just like in Miami or Los Angeles. Zipping in and out of the crowds with ease, they expertly navigate the chaos of the Spanish beach in summer.

Although e-scooter riders have taken over Spanish cities, skaters are still the stars of beach boardwalks. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

The enthusiastic beach volleyball players 

Before you reach the lines of sunbathers, on many beaches in Spain, you’ll pass the beach volleyball courts, where young, tanned locals and foreign residents alike are showing off their ball skills. Not matter how hot the weather or the time of day, you’re sure to find them passing and spiking across the net and occasionally elegantly face-planting themselves in the sand. Want to join in? They’ll often be more than happy to let visitors join their games when the teams are uneven.

Wild dives to reach far-flung balls hurt a lot less if you fall on the sand, that’s for sure. Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

The keepy-uppy crew

We’re sure you’ve often noticed the group of Spanish teens along the shorefront, all trying to keep a ball in the air – and if you haven’t, you’re bound to have heard them. Screaming and laughter ensue as they like to show off to other beach goers, doing scissor kicks and back flips into the sea.

Keepy-uppy, scissor kicks and nutmegs: the beach shore is a chance for teens to show off their footy skills in Spain. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

The drink hawkers

Coca-cola, cerveza, agua, water, beer is the familiar sing-song like tune you’ll hear being shouted across beaches from Barcelona to Malaga. They’re often sold by immigrants from the likes of India and Pakistan, who will ensure that even if you’ve forgotten your own, you can always enjoy a cold drink on the sand. But with several dozen hawkers trawling the sand from morning to dusk, you’ll find the phrase quite repetitive and will often be harassed to buy a drink, even if you have one already. Be aware that while drinks in sealed cans and bottles are ok, don’t be tempted by the hawkers trying to sell you cocktails in open cups. Barcelona City Council once analysed the mojitos sold on their beaches and they were found to contain fecal matter.

Don’t be tempted by the mojitos on Barcelona’s beaches. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP

The beach masseuses

If the beach wasn’t quite relaxing enough, you can always unwind further by enjoying a massage right on the sand. Often hailing from the likes of the Philippines, Thailand and China, countries known for their excellent massages, these masseuses will deftly get the knots out of your shoulders in no time. Be aware, some of them will just come up to you and start the massage without you ever having agreed to one. If you’re not interested just politely decline and they’ll leave, but if you’re happy and are willing to pay, just lie back and relax.  

Although not as prevalent as at beaches in South East Asia, masseuses do offer their services at Spain’s most touristy beaches. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP)

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Six beautiful villages and small towns which are close to Barcelona

Barcelona is an exciting city to live in, but it's also great for weekend getaways. Here are six of the most beautiful villages and small towns within a one or two hours' drive from the Catalan capital.

Six beautiful villages and small towns which are close to Barcelona

Whether you prefer hiking in the Pyrenees or strolling on the beaches of the Costa Brava, there are plenty of lovely places to visit just a short drive or train ride away from Barcelona.

In fact, if you live in the Catalan capital, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to ideas for weekend getaways. Here are six of the most stunning pobles (villages in Catalan) that are definitely worth a visit.

Sitges

Sitges is a popular weekend seaside destination for Barcelonans and foreigners alike, and for good reason. The town has plenty of restaurants and shops as well as a beautiful seaside promenade and beach. Don’t miss a visit to the Maricel Palace, one of the most emblematic buildings, which also houses a collection of painting, sculpture and medieval art.

A beach in Sitges. Photo: sytpymes/Pixabay

2. Castellar de n’Hug

Located on the southern slopes of the Pyrenees, this village is near the waterfalls that are the source of the Llobregat river, which reaches the Mediterranean just south of Barcelona. Its well-preserved cobbled streets and stone houses are typical of the region, and if you board the Tren del ciment (the “cement train” that used to lead to a former cement factory) you can visit the nearby Artigas Gardens, designed by none other than Antoni Gaudí.

The awe-inspiring vistas of Castellar de n’Hug. Photo: Josep Monter/Pixabay

 

3. Begur

Begur is one of the Costa Brava’s most picturesque villages and its turquoise beaches attract many tourists in the summer. Surrounded by rocky cliffs and pine forests, the town has a colourful historic quarter dating back to the 15th century, but it’s also known for its grand colonial built in the early 20th century with a distinctive Indies style.

Begur is a sight to behold. Photo: Enquire/Pixabay

4. Miravet

Nestled on the slope of a hill and on the banks of the Ebro river, Miravet is a tiny village of just 700 inhabitants in the province of Tarragona. It strategic location meant it was occupied by a long series of settlers, but its 12th century Templar castle is the main attraction. The warm springs of Fontcalda are a 40-minute drive away and well worth a visit.

Miravet is as picturesque as villages come. Photo: Ryan Hogg/Pixabay

5. Peratallada

Just 22km east of Girona, this picturesque village takes its name from its stone buildings (the Catalan words pedra tallada mean ‘carved stone’). As one of the most significant centres of medieval architecture in Catalonia, it was declared a historic-artistic monument.

Find peace and quiet in Peratallada. Photo: Jaime Alcolver/Pixabay

6. Besalú

If there’s one place that exudes the Catalan middle ages, it’s probably Besalú. This town’s rich medieval legacy includes the 12th century Romanesque bridge across the Fluvià river, the Cùria Real and the residence of Cornellà, with its vast arcaded gallery, as well as several churches. A trip to the village could be followed by hike in the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa Natural Reserve, which includes 40 dormant volcanoes.

Travel back in time during a visit to Besalú. Photo: Adolfo Rumbo/Pixabay

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