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2 Weeks in Spain

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My wife and I spent two great weeks in Spain 8-22 September 2013. Got a lot of help from this forum in planning the trip.
Will not go into detail about how beautiful everything was - others have done a good job in this regard. Instead will try to provide some helpful advice so... Spent a week in Barcelona - a couple of days in Granada, couple more days in Sevilla and Madrid with a day trip to Toledo. Booked all train tickets thru Petrabax after much grief attempting to use the RENFE Site. Petrabax very easy to use and you can call their USA # for help. Train system very modern and comfortable. No food available from Granada to Sevilla but a nice club car from Sevilla to Madrid. We booked the Toledo trip in advance but would recommend booking only the Madrid to Toledo portion, that way you can get back to Madrid whenever. We came back around 4pm and had no trouble getting a ticket.

Barcelona: Do go inside the Sagrada Familia - pay no attention to those who say it is not worth it - it is. Go early at least a half hr before it opens and you will have a short wait. Any other time and the line goes on forever. Unless your a professional It is difficult to take good pictures inside, just too massive and people everywhere so I suggest buying the book which has great pictures. Same with the Alhambra, buy the book, you won't be sorry.

Granada: Bring good walking shoes. All up and down on cobblestone or just rocks placed in cement - lots and lots of walking. Stayed in a fantastic Apt with a private terrace which had a straight on view of the Alhambra - Apt Santa Ines at Placeta de sante ines, 3 Albayzin Qtr. This place has 3 floors and was quiet and comfortable.
btw, the only apt that we stayed in that had hand or shower soap was the Apt Fabiola in Sevilla, highly recommend. Take plenty of hand sanitizer.

Alhambra: Purchase tickets on line but you have to pick up your tickets in Spain using the same credit card you used to buy them on line. You can go to any Caixa bank in any town to pick up your tickets, easy process. Recommend picking up tickets before you get to Alhambra (we got ours in Barcelona) Then you can use the Justice Gate which saves lots of walking and yes you can get the audio program inside. We are glad we went early 0930, no lines and not as crowded as later.

Good info on Maribel's guides for the Sophisticated Traveler website.

Sevilla: Even if you have seen the Alhambra do not miss the Alcazar - it is different and well worth the time. Great Flamenco in Sevilla. We went to a show at the museo del baile flamenco. This place lived up to its reputation. Get there about 30 minutes early for a good seat. Best seats in front row right side.
Madrid: Stayed at the Hotel Intur Palicio San Martin. Nice comfortable bed, quiet, well worth $$ Nice location near el arenal a very nice walking st. and near the metro.

Apartments are great but there is no assistance available such as in a Hotel.

Cell Phone: We took ours although we hate them (Yes, we are a couple of seniors) You younger folks can ignore this but if a cell phone gives you headaches this might help. In Spain turn your cell data off and your roaming on (we got some bad advice from verizon on this) Press the 0 or + button and hold it until the + sign shows. Now dial the country code 34 for Spain then the nine digit number. Be sure to turn roaming off after the call. Some Spanish folks told us a double 00 is the same as the + but that never worked for us.

One final thought or I should say caution. We are experienced travelers and have never been the subject of a pickpocket attempt but the odds finally caught up to us. We were in Madrid having a nice dinner outside - the bill came and like a newby I left a 50 euro note sticking out of the bill holder. This young begger, there are beggers everywhere, came up to the table and of course I ignored her she held a paper over the bill and took the euro note - I noticed it as soon as she left and the waiter ran her down and returned the euro note but lesson learned. Never, Never let your guard down.

I do hope this post will be of some help to those of you planning a trip to Spain. Of course these are my thoughts and my experiences others may have a different view.

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