A recent report that the Spanish Tourist Industry is trying to inculcate a warmer welcome from the locals to us beer belly Brits is gratifying, but does not, I feel, get to the root of the problem.
I have visited Spain only four times - Majorca, Menorca, Tossa de Mar and Majorca again, all for the purposes of getting some sunshine during the winter months. I do not get drunk, I do not puke, I do not take drugs or go to discos. I like to walk, eat and dine.
The trouble is, on each occasion, I have been aware that the "welcome" I got was paper thin. At one hotel, two nights of our stay were wrecked by Spanish college students who rampaged through the hotel all night. My complaints were met with a shrug. On another trip I took a liking to a very local restaurant and asked to book for Sunday lunch, only to be told that they only served local people on Sunday. My overall impression is that if anything goes wrong, you will not get much help or sympathy.
Having said that, when they try they really do try. I remember turning up in Ciudadela at about 2.30 one day when we were parched and starving hungry from a long walk. We went into a tiny cafe and asked for lunch. There was a look of horror on the face of the Woman who was obviously the owner. "But we have stopped serving lunch and there is nothing left", she said with a look of anguish. She did, however, invite us in, sat us at a table and said that she would try and find "something simple".
Within minutes we had: A carafe of wine, crusty bread, fresh Gazpacho, fish fragranced with salt sea air, a huge mixed salad and fries, followed by "flan". I think we were charged the equivalent of a few pounds for two.
I recently re-read a wonderful account in microcosm of Spain's transition from impoverished agricultural/maritime economy to Tourist hotspot, in the Norman Lewis book, "Voices of the old Sea". What struck me was that Lewis had to spend months, even years, spending every summer in the same small seaside town in order to be acknowledged or included in the affairs of the locals, despite speaking good Spanish, and the local dialect and working hard with the fishermen.
Somehow, I think, in these days of straightened economies and competition for tourist Euros, the Spanish have to learn a lot more than how to smile.