4 days in Madrid, saw all the sights, went to el Prado which was a real highlight. Did some shopping. Was disappointing to see most of the small local boutiques/designers seemed to have closed down due to the recession. We took a day trip to Toledo, had a great lunch there overlooking the whole town. In Madrid we ate at dantxeri, arce, quintanna 30, had one night of tapas on cava Baja and had a really nice meal at el club allard.
We then rented a car (autoeurope)and drove up to la rioja, stayed at a small winery in abalos (bodega Puelles-highly recommend), ate at hector oribe. We drove around, saw a few more wineries, the region was much prettier than I imagined, really glad we stopped in. On to San Sebastian for 2 nights, we stayed right near the old town on the beach (hotel londres, which was under construction). The setting was spectacular with all the lush green mountains and beautiful beaches, reminded me of a smaller version of Rio. We did one night of pintxo hopping, really fun, clearly in a class of its own compared to tapas elsewhere. We had reservations in advance for Arzak, and Akellare for lunch before we drove over to bilbao. They did not disappoint, truly world class meals. In Bilbao we just had time to see the Guggenheim before dropping off our car and flying to sevilla.
We spent 2 days in sevilla, the first we waled around Santa Cruz, casa de pilatos, saw the cathedral, and dined at az-zait. It seemed like a charming enough restaurant, until the next day when my fiancé got food poisoning. That put a damper on sevilla, I went alone to visit the real alcazar, while she was resting, it was quite impressive.
We then picked up another rental car and headed for arcos de la frontera. We spent one night there near the old own, explored and drove off the next day. We took a scenic route through the mountains of the park grzalema, stopped for lunch in the epinonymous town, headed up to zaharra across a mountain pass, then drove into Ronda. We stayed at the parador, got upgraded to a room with a View of the gorge. It was a lovely hotel, glad we chose this parador as it seemed the best value for the experience compared to arcos or Grenada. We really enjoyed Ronda, walked all around the old town, went to a Spanish guitar performance and had some great tapas.
we stayed in Granada the following night. Hotel america inside the Alhambra was a big disappointment. The alhambra itself was spectacular, and we lucked out with the weather. That night we went to hamman, (which was better than the one in Cordoba) explored the old Islamic district, and went to a flamenco show.
We took the scenic route to Cordoba, via priegio. We saw the mesquita, walked around the old quarter, saw the alcazar, roman bridge etc. Ate at choco, really nice meal, a change from traditional, also puerta sevilla and el churrasco. Really enjoyed Cordoba, best food we had in the south, not sure why everyone seems to recommended it as a day trip only.
Finally took the ave train back to Madrid, stopped in to see guernica and dalis at renia sofia, went out for dinner at DiverXO, and flew home the next morning.
Previously discussed here http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/spain-prelim-itinerary-help.cfm
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