Travel tips from Andalusia

Driving: Two-lane highways are the rule, and lots of time is spent waiting to pass slow-moving vehicles. The Spanish have a solution: pass at will. You will find cars passing you in hair-raising situations. But after two days of driving in Spain, I was doing the same thing.

Gas stations are plentiful - and charge uniform prices. Some guides recommend filling up in cities, because you might find yourself out of gas in the country.

Conversing: It is often difficult to find someone who speaks English in Spain. You may find yourself frequently waving your arms in pantomime, trying to make yourself understood. Pronunciations vary greatly. Even if you can make your questions understood, you'll have trouble understanding the answers. Beyond learning the language, your only hope is the endless patience of the Spanish people, who are willing to stand for hours, waving arms right back at you.

Dress: Dress strategically. The climate in Andalusia requires much peeling off of sweaters and then re-bundling. Dressing like an onion, so that you can peel and add layers, works well.

Spanish city life calls for dressy clothing in restaurants and theaters, dressy casuals in shops, and rough-and-ready wear in the countryside.

Eating: Gourmet magazine says about Spain, ''No longer does one have to feast the soul on art and starve the stomach.'' Well, if Spain has outgrown its reputation for mediocre food, I didn't find evidence of it. Not that I undertook a thorough search. But I wandered into one restaurant after another where the entree almost never lived up to the appetizers. The one glorious constant was gazpacho soup, which I tried to consume with every meal, and which seldom failed to please the palate.

Safety: Almost every place I visited in Spain seemed trouble free. Be aware, however, that reports of muggings and attempted assaults circulate very freely among tourists and residents here.

Madrid has a reputation for increasing crime problems. In Seville, police and guidebooks warn of youths on motorcycles who pull up next to a car at a light, break the window, and steal valuables while the passengers are in the car. Granada and Malaga are reputedly less dangerous cities. But alertness is recommended.

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