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Trip Report Adventures in Andalusia...

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Before starting my first trip report, I wanted to thank a few Fodorites whose answers, comments, and trip reports greatly influenced the planning of our first trip to Spain. We benefited greatly from the advice of kimhe, stantonhyde, robert2533 (for introducing me to the invaluable Maribel guides!), annhig, and many others.

About us: I am in my twenties and was traveling with my parents as a little bit of a celebration for my almost-graduation from law school in 2 months (post-graduation, there will be no time for travel with the bar exam looming) and to celebrate my mother’s retirement from work.

About the trip: I was responsible for the entire planning of the trip and selected Andalusia because it had always been a place that fascinated me and I thought we would find the best weather in Spain there in March. We spent Friday – Monday in Seville, departed Tuesday for Ronda via Los Amarillos bus, departed Wednesday for Granada via Renfe and headed back to NY on Saturday morning from Granada.

Day 1: The initial plan was for the three of us to leave on Thursday evening, March 1 via Iberia to Madrid and then onto Seville. Unfortunately, I neglected to give my parents a copy of our itinerary and my father had already scheduled an all-hands on deck meeting with many employees flying into NYC for that day and evening. Thus, we were forced to change his flight by one day and Mom and I headed off to JFK Thursday evening. We were happy that we had packed a small dinner judging by the food served on the plane, although unhappy that neither of us had packed eye masks. The lights on the flight were not turned off until sometime past midnight. Apart from that, both the flight to Madrid and our connecting flight onto Sevilla were largely uneventful. We were both impressed by the newness of the Madrid airport. It made JFK look even more dumpy than usual!

Upon arriving in Seville, we had a taxi take us to our apartment, or as close to the apartment as it could manage since the apartment was located on Calle Mariscal in the Barrio Santa Cruz – a pedestrian-only street. We rented the two-bedroom apartment from Sevilla5 and found it to be very nicely appointed. (http://www.sevilla5.com/). It was comfortable and we enjoyed having the ability to wash our clothes and eat breakfast there every morning. The location was also great – we were right around the corner from several wonderful restaurants and within a 5 minute walking distance of all of the major sights.

After getting situated, Mom and I headed out to find some lunch. We selected Vineria San Telmo since it was around the corner from our apartment. A note about our restaurant choices in Seville: for the most part, I followed the suggestions of Azahar on her blog: http://azahar-sevilla.com/sevilletapas/. Her suggestions were spot on and we truly enjoyed every dining experience. At Vineria San Telmo, we began using some of the very basic Spanish we had practiced before arriving and ordered beers along with the tortilla, warm cabbage salad, crispy prawns, and salmorejo con jamon. The meal was delicious and as we sat there we watched the clouds part and the sun emerge. That morning would be the last time we saw rain clouds during our nine days in Spain. Following lunch, we set out to the supermarket to buy some provisions for breakfast. The nearest supermarket, Mas, had a good selection of fruits as well as breakfast foods like bread, cereal, and jams. It was also interesting to see the giant ham legs being sold to everyday customers. The only disappointment was the milk and eggs – both sitting on unrefrigerated shelves. If I remember correctly from my days of study abroad in Italy, the dairy is sold the same way there. Either way, the boxed milk and warm eggs were unappealing so we passed on both. After dropping our groceries off at the apartment, we set out to walk around and explore the city. We didn’t want to see any of the major sights before Dad arrived so we just walked, and walked, and walked some more. Along the way, we marveled at the numerous stores selling beautiful children’s clothes and, in particular, communion outfits for boys and girls. We also saw many stores selling gorgeous, and expensive, flamenco dresses. We ended our walk at the River, taking in a nice view of Triana as the sun began to set. After resting up a little back at the apartment, we set out to find a place for dinner. We had planned to go into Las Teresas, but it was packed, so we wandered on. As we walked, we came across what appeared to be a Stations of the Cross parade. It was marvelous, with a dozen or so band members, more individuals carrying candles, and finally an image of the crucifixion. Moving along, we eventually wound up at Sacrista on Calle Mateos Gaga. We ate outside and were surrounded by English and French-speaking tourists. While the host/waiter was tremendously nice, this place felt more like a tourist trap than anything else.

The next morning we planned to do the Seville Walking Tour with Concepcion Delgado. Unfortunately, we were the only two who showed up and Concepcion only runs the tour when there are at least four people. Instead, she took us into the City Hall where a small exhibit had been set up to show the restoration work done to the Virgin Mary’s cape and crown for Semana Santa. It was fascinating to see, even more so since we would not have known about it had not Concepcion brought us in. After viewing the small exhibit, we parted ways with Concepcion, making plans to do the Cathedral tour with her on Monday. From there, we walked up to the Macarena district to visit the Convento Santa Paula. We rang a bell and were admitted in by a nun who led us up to another doorway where another bell rang and the door opened to a small museum curated by the nuns. The museum was a mix of lovely paintings and some quirky items (Mary, for instance, donning a straw hat, and a Biblical village scene made up of small figurines, some of whom appeared to be selling jamon and chorizo). From the museum, we also got a view of the nicely maintained cloister. We finished the visit by purchasing some homemade jams from the nuns. It was a fun visit because it seemed to be very much off the tourist path. My mom and I enjoyed lunch that day at Modesto Tapas. It was beautifully warm out and while seated outdoors we found Dad dragging his suitcase to the apartment. Reunited, we enjoyed a lunch of salmorejo con boquerones, spinach with garbanzos, shrimp with garlic, and a few cervezas.

That afternoon, we headed to the Alcazar. I really loved our visit here (perhaps more so than the visit to the Alhambra.) We had beautiful weather, the gardens were lovely, and the audio guides did a good job of explaining what we were seeing. We selected the Alcazar because our 2011 Fodor’s Guidebook told us it would be opened until 7. Wrong! It closed, rather abruptly, at 5:30. This was a bit of a disappointment because we easily could have spent another 90 minutes exploring. Walking around the Cathedral, we headed up Calle Mateos Gaga to Bar Campanario where we ordered some sangria, a version of eggplant parmigiana, jamon iberico, olives, and a small tomato salad. It was all very tasty. Up the road from there, we bought some pottery at a store aptly named Azulejo and then returned back to the apartment to rest up a bit. We ate dinner that night at El Librero, another Azahar recommendation. The food was good, particularly for the price (10 euro for 5 tapas).

More later…

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    Sunday, Day 3:

    We headed to the Museo de Bellas Artes today. On the way, we came across the Museo del Baile Flamenco. Although we were planning on going to Casa de la Memoria for a flamenco show, we hadn’t made any plans there yet and decided to buy tickets to the Museum’s nightly performance at 7. Tickets in hand, we continued our walk and eventually came to the museum where we were admitted free of charge, which was a nice change from the rest of the sights in Seville. The museum was very nice, with beautiful courtyards and even more beautiful art. The highlight was the former chapel that had been converted into another gallery space. We chose to visit the museum on Sunday because the art market was happening outside and we enjoyed walking around and looking at what contemporary artists in Seville were up to.

    Afterward, it was nice to walk along Calle Sierpes, window-shopping and admiring all of the Sevillanos walking around. Along the way, we came across a group of men preparing for the challenge of carrying a float during Semana Santa. This sight, along with others, only confirmed our desire to return to Seville at some point in the future to see the Semana Santa processions.

    Our walk took us to Albarama where we had a fantastic lunch. I would describe it as tapas taken up a level and we had a great bottle of wine to accompany the food: revuelto with cod, a tasty spinach salad, croquettas, grilled octopus, and goat cheese with honey. The waiter was also extremely friendly and helpful. That proved to be true wherever we ate while in Spain.

    That afternoon, we visited Casa de Pilatos. I would highly recommend it. We loved the tile work and the open courtyards. It was particularly interesting to learn that a portion of the house is still inhabited today. Just down the street from Casa de Pilatos we came across the Convento Santa Maria de Jesus. The door was opened and inside, behind a screen, a nun was selling sweets and cookies. We purchased some delicious coconut macaroons and continued on. We ended our walk at Bar Estrella, around the corner from the Museo del Baille Flamenco. Seated outside, we each had a beer before going to the Museum for the flamenco show. If you go, I recommend getting there before 6:30 pm. The show starts at 7 and we were told to come 30 minutes before. The first three rows were already filled at that time. The show was great. Unfortunately, I don’t remember any of the performers’ names, but the singer had a tremendous voice and it was nice to see both a male and female dancer perform. We returned to Bar Estrella for dinner. I would say that it was probably not one of the top meals of the trip, but still good. We finally ordered the famous solomillo al whisky, along with spinach with garbanzos, a special chicken dish, fried squid, and croquettas made out of cabrales.

    Monday, Day 4:

    This morning, Mom and I got up to walk to the bus station to purchase our tickets to Ronda for the next day. The bus station was an easy 7 minute walk from our apartment and we didn’t encounter any problems purchasing the tickets. One note: bring cash. Los Amarillos did not accept credit cards. Returning back to the apartment, we all headed out to the Plaza de Toros. It was another beautiful day and the sun shining down on the freshly-painted bullring was quite a sight. The English language tour was great and we really enjoyed seeing the museum and the small chapel. Afterwards, we strolled along the river bank toward the Torre de Oro to take a few pictures.

    We had scheduled a 1 pm Cathedral tour with Concepcion and since we were a little early we stopped for a little pick-me-up of espresso and sweets at Confiteria Los Angeles. Concepcion’s tour was great. It was nice to take a break from the audio guides too. She was full of interesting information and just generally a very nice person. The one thing we missed, though, was seeing the main altar which is completely covered by scaffolding and will be for the next two years or so. A walk up to the top of the Giralda is a must! The city feels small when you’re on the ground, but from above, you realize how sprawling it is. You also realize how many buildings have beautiful rooftop pools!

    At this point, we were all hungry and in lieu of walking to my next choice, courtesy of Azahar, we headed to the closest place we could find: Robles Tapas, just up the street from the Cathedral. The food was good and it was nice to have another chance to eat outside (something that is usually impossible in NY in March!)

    The last sight of the day was the Basilica de la Macarena. It was a long walk, but well worth it. First, it was nice to walk through the Macarena neighborhood and to get a better sense of where Sevillanos, work, live, and go to school. Second, the Basilicia itself was beautiful inside. Third, the Treasures of the Macarena museum next door made the journey even more well worth it. We got a chance to see the completed Semana Santa floats up close. I highly recommend this to anyone who won’t be visiting Seville during Semana Santa and has an interest in it.

    About halfway back home, we stopped at Caveles Bar (just up the street from El Rinconcillo) for a glass of sherry and some jamon. It was full of locals and a fun place to be at 5:30 with everyone coming in and catching up with friends and family.

    That evening, we returned to Vineria San Telmo for dinner. The food was just as fantastic as at lunch, although the service was a little dodgier. I think they were a bit overwhelmed, but the food made up for it. We had tortilla, oxtail in phyllo dough, spinach salad, crispy prawns, a fantastic solomillo, duck breast, and black ink spaghetti. We just kept ordering and ordering! Judging by the number of dishes we ordered, it seems impossible to order something here that isn’t good.

    Overall impressions of Seville: we could have stayed here for a full week. It is a beautiful city and there is so much to enjoy just by sitting outside at a café or bar. We were continually impressed by the friendliness of the people and the beauty of the city. I look forward to returning for Semana Santa sometime soon!

    Ronda and Granada to come…

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    Thanks for writing such a detailed report. I am heading to Spain in September, visiting some of the same cities. I appreciate all the descriptions of the restaurants you went to, I will certainly note them down. Please keep it coming!

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    I do not understand your concern on milk and eggs not being kept refrigerated in supermarkets. Milk in card boxes remain safe for long time, I put in the fridge when open. Fresh dairy is inded kept in a refrigerated counter. About eggs, all are printed with the best-before date. I keep them in the fridge as they'll last longer, but they fry better if not cold.

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    great trip report so far!! I too enjoyed the alcazar in Sevilla more than the Alhambra. perhaps because when I was at the Alhambra the lions were still being restored? but room after room of beauty that is the alcazar in Sevilla. and, oh! the gardens!! The jacaranda trees were in bloom, as well as the bouganvillea, when we were there and the gardens were just so lovely. an interesting thing about guide books is that sometimes things change like opening/closing times so one has to be aware of that. When I was planning our trip I thought we were going to have to squeeze in a quick visit to the alcazar. why? because every guide book told me it was closed on Mondays, the only full day we had in Sevilla. then, one day, I happened upon an official-looking site and that one said it was open on Mondays!! Knowing that one can't believe everything one reads, once we got to Sevilla I had to walk by it to ensure that it was indeed open on Monday! I was soooooooooooooooo excited!! can I go back now? :)

    looking forward to reading more about your trip!!

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    Tuesday, Day 5: Off to Ronda

    This morning we all packed up and walked to the bus station. Our bus, run by Los Amarillos, was clean, on time, and nearly 60% empty which left plenty of room to stretch out. The views were great for much of the ride. Once we arrived in Ronda, we hailed a cab and headed to the Hotel San Gabriel. What a fantastic hotel! We were warmly greeted by the man at the front desk who helped us with our bags and provided us with a lot of information about Ronda. I asked if he could make a reservation for dinner at Almocabar, but it was unfortunately closed that evening, so he recommended Restaurant Carmen. On the way to our room, we discovered a small film screening room. The eight or so seats had been rescued from a movie theater that was scheduled for demolition and there were a number of classic films on DVD along with large black and white photos of Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, and others. If we had been there for a longer stay, we certainly would have taken advantage of this quirky room. The other common areas of the hotel were beautifully decorated and our room was lovely and large! Settled in, we walked down to the bridge. Amazing views awaited us everywhere. After soaking in some of the views, we visited the Plaza de Toros and rented audio guides which were helpful. It was nice to have the freedom to walk around on our own here, particularly in the ring, which was not allowed in Seville, and we enjoyed learning more about the famous Ronda bullfighters Pedro Romero and Antonio Ordonez.

    Hungry at this point, we walked up the street to Traga Tapas. What a great meal! We had excellent fried boquerones, croquettas, spinach salad, and a glazed pork knuckle (recommended by the waiter and one of the best things we ate during the whole trip). It must have been so special, in fact, that the waiter thought it deserved new forks, plates, and napkins!

    Following lunch, we embarked on a self-guided walking tour that the Hotel had provided us along with the other welcome literature. It brought us well off the tourist path a few times and was quite enjoyable, though we did get lost a bit (all part of the fun). Our walk took us all over the city, including the Plaza Mondragon, the Santa Maria church, and a lovely square off Calle Tenorio which had great views of the valley and in which a man was playing guitar. It could not have been more picture perfect. Adjacent to the square were stairs that led down, at least part of the way, to the valley. Hiking boots (or at least shoes with treads) would have been more appropriate for this part of the walk than the shoes we were wearing, but the walk down was worth it, as we were rewarded with great views of the New Bridge as well a chance to see one of the former gates of the city. Returning back up, we eventually walked to the Alminar, the Moorish King’s House and finally the Arch of Felipe V. There, we met up with a local man who proceeded to talk to us in Spanish for forty-five minutes. We tried our best to follow him in his native tongue as he talked lovingly about his home city. Unfortunately, my very basic Spanish and conversational French were not enough to get all of the info, but the ultimate takeaway seemed to be: Ronda es muy bonito! At this point, the weather was getting colder and the sun was beginning to set, so we decided to end our walking tour and to continue it the next day.

    We returned to the Hotel and visited the bodega in the basement for a complimentary glass of sherry. Restaurant Carmen was just a short walk from the Hotel and we were seated upstairs, surrounded by photos of the famous bullfighters. It was the first meal in Spain where we did not order tapas and we quickly realized that we were no longer used to our old American-style of ordering (i.e. appetizer, entrée, and dessert for each person.) We were stuffed after the first dish. But the food was very good. In particular, the duck pate and pork knuckle were very tasty and both our waiter and waitress were tremendously friendly.

    I have to say that an overnight stay in Ronda is a must. It’s amazing what a different place the town becomes once the large tour groups depart around 4 or 5 pm. We felt like we had it to ourselves, particularly post-dinner.

    The next morning we had breakfast in the Hotel which was very good for 6 euros each. We were able to pack up and store our bags downstairs since we didn’t need to be at the train station until 1 pm. With some time, we went back to the spot where we had paused on our walking tour the night before and started again. Eventually we wound up at the park, Alameda del Tajo, that is adjacent to the bull ring and, at the end of which, were more great photo opportunities. From there we walked up to the Plaza del Socorro, entering the Iglesia del Socorro for a few minutes, and then ending up at a café outside for a few espressos.

    Ronda is full of small shops selling jamon, cheeses, fruit pastes, bread, etc. and we made a few purchases that would serve as our lunch on the train. It was a particularly scenic picnic lunch as our train zipped through the countryside on its way to Granada.

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    Loving the report and the memories it is bringing.I also recommend allowing them to

    Re. Vineria San Telmo: As dining enthusiasts, we never repeat a restaurant during a vacation but we couldn't help breaking our rule to return there two days in a row. O M G is it good!

    For others who may like wine, their cellar has an endless variety of sublime Spanish wines (and sherries) to try.

    Looking forward to Granada...

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    A personal point of view, as much as I appreciate your great report, the fact that you are graduating soon from law school, your mother is celebrating retirement etc.
    what I really love of this story is the fact that you are having such a great time with
    together with your parents,enjoying Andalucia with all its nouances, happy traveling together......this, today,
    is no small achievement.
    Have a great time, I take my hat to the three of you. Buena suerte.

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    This is great, taking the same route in the summer. I'll probably use this as my guide! :)

    Question regarding cabs: I barely use cabs when in Europe in fear of being ripped off (ie. taken to some outer area or having to pay twice as much, etc). Are the drivers in Spain ok? Did you feel you got ripped off or did you know approx. how much from A to B would have cost you?

    Thanks.

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    It depends on the driver, sometimes you are ripped-off, sometimes you aren't. Take always official taxis, make sure they turn the meter on, but you never know if you are taking a grand towr instead of a straight line...If you want to complain, never quarrel, just ask for a bill and go to a tourist office to get informed about claims.

    Amazing you enjoyed manitas de cerdo, I love them too.

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    Thanks for the replies.

    Graziella: Thanks! I feel very fortunate to have such a great relationship with my parents.

    Jomagpie: we found the cab drivers in Spain to be nice and the cab rates to be reasonable. In general, I researched the cost of cabs (i.e. the cost of a cab from Seville Airport to the city center) and then confirmed with the cab driver when we got in or asked him to approximate the cost. The only time we used a cab in Seville was to get from the airport to our apartment. Everything else was easily reached by walking. Additionally, in Granada, although the buses were great, we found the cabs to be cheap and very easy to locate.

    Another note: I greatly relied on the Map app that came installed on my iPhone. It was fantastic for giving us walking directions in all three cities, including in the maze-like Albaicin. I can't say enough about the freedom to put away those unwieldy paper maps and have clear and direct walking directions.

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    That is true if you don't have a Global Data Plan or don't use WiFi. I contacted my service provider and enrolled in a Global Data Plan for the nine days we were away. It amounted to $40 in addition to my regular bill. I did not use the iPhone for any other purposes other than use of the Map and e-mails/texts and we alternated between my iPhone and my father's.

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    I was interested to read you fit in a visit to the Casa de Pilatos in Sevilla. I plan to do the same when I visit in September. Is it best to take a taxi there or did you use public transportation?

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    We walked to Casa de Pilatos. It was a ten-minute walk from where we were eating lunch near the Plaza Nueva. We never used public transportation or cabs in Seville, except to get from the airport to our apartment. We found it be very much a walker's city.

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    Continuation of Day 6: Granada!

    We arrived at the Granada train station and were met by a cab driver. The owner of the rental apartment we were using had arranged to send him and the taxi cost us 10 euros to get from the train station to the apartment we rented in the Albaicin. (http://www.vrbo.com/181071). Although the apartment was a three-bedroom and I was only looking for a two-bedroom, I really fell in love with the views it provided of the Alhambra. We arrived at the meeting point and found the apartment owner who took us to the apartment. The taxi could only get so close since many roads in the Albaicin are unreachable by car. The apartment was lovingly decorated with lots of furniture and decorations purchased by the owners on their travels throughout Spain and Africa. It was quirky too. For instance, there was only one bathroom on the ground floor despite the fact that our bedrooms were on the second and third floors. We enjoyed the two terraces, particularly the ability to eat breakfast outside in the morning, and the constant views of the Alhambra. All that being said, in retrospect, I think I might have selected to stay in a hotel closer to downtown. We walked past several on the Carrera del Darro along the river that looked lovely. While it looks like the Albaicin is slowly getting cleaned up, it’s not all the way there yet. We encountered graffiti all around, stray dogs wandering around, and dog poop everywhere! Additionally, although the apartment had individual space heaters, it was generally cold at night. The Albaicin is a fascinating place to visit, I just don’t think I would make it my home base again in Granada.

    After getting ourselves acquainted with the apartment, we walked up to the Mirador San Nicolas to see the sunset. The mirador was crowded with tourists and locals alike and is indeed an amazing lookout spot, particularly as the sun descends in the west. Immediately below the Mirador was a restaurant, El Huerto de Juan Ranas, that had outdoor seating with more great views of the Alhambra. We each had a nice glass of wine while the sky continued to change color. Eventually, it got too chilly to sit outside and although our dinner reservations at Mirador de Morayma were for 8:30 we headed over anyway. We were greeted by a waiter who told us we were the only people who made reservations for the night and he quickly flipped on all of the light switches! We felt bad that he was opening up the place just for us, but fortunately, in about thirty minutes more guests began to trickle in. The restaurant had been recommended by the apartment owner and it was very nice, although by far the most expensive meal we had during our week in Spain. I would recommend it for the warmer weather months when the large windows and terrace are open so you can really enjoy the views of the Alhambra.

    Thursday, Day 7: Exploring Granada

    We had tickets to the Nasrid Palaces at 10:30 this morning so we woke up early and walked downtown to get the Number 30 bus to the Alhambra. Our walk brought us down through Caldereria Nueva, a street that is lined with tea salons, kebab restaurants, and many Moorish craft shops and street stalls. It’s what I imagined the streets in Morocco to look like. Our timing was excellent because as soon as we got off the Caldereria Nueva, we spotted the 30 bus and headed for it. The goal was to be at the Alhambra by 9 in order to explore the Alcazaba before entering the Nasrid so we skipped breakfast at home. The first place serving food that we came upon on the grounds of the Alhambra was the Hotel America. Note: keep walking! There is a small stand selling snacks and coffee outside the Alcazaba for probably much cheaper than what we paid for our breakfast. At the Hotel, we ordered three coffees, three croissants and the “fruit of the season,” which came as six whole kiwis rolling around on a plate, and the bill came to 23 euros! Yikes.

    Finally arriving at the Alcazaba, we climbed the stairs to the Torre de la Vela (Watchtower) for the amazing views of the Albaicin and the rest of the sprawling city. We tried to locate our apartment, but without binoculars were out of luck. After exploring the rest of the Alcazaba, we walked out in time for our 10:30 tickets to the Nasrid Palace. It was just as impressive as everyone has said, though I think I would go back with a tour guide to be able to more fully appreciate it, particularly since our audio guides were not functioning properly at this point. From the Nasrid we walked into the Charles V Palace. What an amazingly deceptive place – the square exterior doesn’t give any indication of that giant circular interior courtyard! Lastly we visited the Generalife and were able to see even better views of Granada, this time with the Alcazaba and Nasrid Palaces in the foreground. We finally departed the Alhambra grounds at 1:30, at this point hungry for lunch.

    We managed to catch the 30 bus back downtown and walked to Restaurant Oliver, a recommendation from Maribel’s Guide to Granada (http://www.maribelsguides.com/). I would highly recommend this guide. We put away our other guidebooks and relied solely on her advice while in Granada, in addition of course, to the comments from this forum! The bar area at Oliver was crowded and we felt like sitting down at this point so we were escorted into the back dining room which was full of locals, mainly those on their lunch break, eating. The food was great! Mom and I split the paella mixta while Dad enjoyed cod with tomatoes. We particularly enjoyed the yogurt cake for dessert as well as the fresh fruit that was served. The fruit in Granada was generally outstanding! Here again, the waiter was so nice! Just around the corner from the restaurant is the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel). We enjoyed the chapel as well as its treasury and small museum full of Flemish paintings. I would say that we were inside for about forty-five minutes. It really is a small chapel.

    By this time, and after a big lunch, we were all getting a little tired so we returned back to the apartment and had our first Spanish siesta of the trip. It was nice to sit on the couch and look back at the Alhambra after exploring it all morning. Eventually, we flipped on the television and found Julie & Julia being aired on an Arab language station. There we were in Spain, watching an American movie in English with Arab subtitles – talk about cultures crossing! It seemed a perfect little modern-day example of all the blending of cultures in Andalusia, and in particular, Granada.

    With our strength regained, we left the apartment and walked to Pena Flamenca La Plateria for a 10:30 pm flamenco show. From my understanding, this place is normally a members-only club, but on Thursday evenings it opens its doors to everyone. We headed into the bar first and experienced our first taste of the free tapas tradition in Granada. With three beers, we were given a tasty potato salad and we supplemented that with jamon and some cheese. At around 10:30 everyone exited the bar and walked across the courtyard to gain access to the flamenco space. The tickets were 8 euro each (what a good deal!) and once seated inside at tables we were served complimentary pitchers of sangria. Waiters occasionally came around to take food and drink orders too. The flamenco performance was fantastic. We were there until 1 am and really enjoyed it. The crowd seemed to be a mix of locals and tourists and before the show and during the break we were able to talk to those sharing our table about their travel stories and recommendations. What a great night!

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    thanks for your reply re Casa de Palatos. Even though I have places I'm interested in seeing in Spain marked on various city maps, I still don't have enough of a concept of how long of a walk it is to reach them. I prefer to walk a lot when I'm traveling as it's so much fun to explore.

    I'm still happily following your adventure. Re Granada, were you happy you saw the Alhambra in the morning? I am not sure if I should see it in the morning or afternoon There doesn't seem to be a consensus in all the research I've been doing.

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    Good report, and well done for a major first holiday plan.

    Now what is it about Americans that they have to store eggs in a fridge? Is there evidence that unfertilised eggs last longer chilled and what about picking up flavours from the fridge.

    Still my partner stores honey in a fridge so go figure.

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    Excellent work again nyc, we too are staying in an apartment in the Albaicin. Will follow up on your dining experiences and the flamenco in particular sounds wonderful. Thank you again.

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    JerseySusan: We were happy to be there in the morning because the light was particularly good, but it was freeeeeezing until about 11 am when things finally began to warm up. I'm guessing that won't be an issue in the warmer months. Sorry that I can't compare it to the afternoon session.


    Friday, Day 8:

    After the very late night of flamenco, we decided to set no alarm clocks this morning. When we all did wake up, Mom and I walked up to Plaza Larga to buy some pastries and fruit from the market that’s set up in the plaza each day. These are the kinds of moments that we most love about travel – getting to pretend that you’re a local for a bit, asking which fruit the seller recommends, trying to ask the pastry shop employee if she sells the items to go (para llevar?). Apartment rentals make it that much more fun, by being able to take your purchases in hand, return home and enjoy a great breakfast on the terrace, looking out over the Alhambra hill.

    Since we were staying the Albaicin, but had not explored it all that much, we decided to do Maribel’s self-guided tour of the area for the morning part of the day and visit the Carthusian Monastery in the afternoon. The tour of the Albaicin was great and I highly recommend it! We walked down to the Plaza Nueva where we discovered a nice shop, La Estampaora, and purchased some watercolor prints of Granada. From there we followed her guide to a tee. A few notes on the walking tour: (1) you need to be a good walker for the tour as it involves some steep walking a la San Francisco; (2) the guide doesn’t explicitly tell you to stop in the Iglesia de San Salvador, but do! It’s a beautiful church that, like so many others, was once a mosque and there’s a nice courtyard; (3) definitely, definitely stop at Bar Aliatar in Plaza Aliatar. The snails were great and it was here that we had our first and only meal in Granada made up of complimentary tapas with drinks. The first complimentary tapa was a plate of delicious langoustines, followed by tortilla, followed by slices of cheese on bread with fantastic olive oil drizzled on top. I loved this place, particularly enjoying the sun while sitting outside and listening to the musicians. Other than that, no other notes on the tour, except to do it!

    After we finished, we hopped on a bus that took us downtown where we transferred to the Number 8 bus to take us to the Carthusian Monastery. Only trouble: we got on the bus going in the wrong direction and didn’t realize it for quite some time. Thus, we had to hop back off and retrace our steps, adding a bit of time to our journey. A visit to the Monastery is well worth the trip, though. The chapel is just as over the top as described in the guide books, and the other spaces of the monastery off the central courtyard have a number of interesting paintings that give you a sense of the history of the Carthusians.

    After our visit, we hailed a cab outside the monastery that brought us back downtown where we started to walk and window shop. At this point, many locals were done with their workdays and also out walking, talking, and browsing in the many shops downtown. It was great to watch all of the families out together, particularly the number of grandmothers and/or grandfathers accompanying their children and grandchildren. Our destination, or rather, my destination was Gran Café Bib-Rambla because we had been in Spain for nine days and had not yet had any churros. We arrived and promptly ordered churros, chocolate, and three espressos. It was delicious. The churros here were not served sprinkled with cinnamon sugar the way I’m used to having them in NY, but maybe that’s a Mexican style? Not sure. The outdoor seating area quickly filled up with lots of families with children anxious for the fried treats too. We followed up with a little shopping, including a stop at a small store called Pashmina Republic selling beautiful scarves. Three purchases caused the shop owner to gift my father with a scarf of his own! It came in handy during our evening tour of the Nasrid Palaces.

    I was on the fence about doing a night tour, but eventually decided that since we had the time, we might as well. It’s amazing what you notice at night that you didn’t notice during the day and the spaces really have a magical quality about them at night. In addition to the Nasrid, we were able to walk into the Charles V Palace where we could look up through the large open courtyard to see the stars spread out in the sky. We all agreed that it was a great way to spend the early evening. I would suggest getting up there early so you can watch the sun set and the colors change over the Albaicin hill and, as everyone says, don’t do a nighttime visit without also doing a daytime visit.

    The plan was to return back downtown and eat dinner at Los Diamantes on Calle Navas but when we got there it was packed! And neither Mom nor Dad felt like squeezing in at the bar so we walked further down the street and came to a place called La Chicota that was also very crowded. We ordered racione portions of albondigas (meatballs – and, oops, forgetting about our Lenten obligations! Although really any fast would have been ruined by those churros!), fried boquerones, and pisto (ratatouille). The food was good, but I kept wishing we had been able to try the fried boquerones at Los Diamantes!

    And with that, our nine days in Spain were over. The next day, we packed our bags and dragged them down the cobblestone streets of the Albaicin, through the Caldereria Nueva on our way to Plaza Nueva where we had some breakfast before meeting Manuel, the cab driver who had brought us to the apartment just a few days earlier. Our travels back home were happily uneventful and we returned to NY full of stories to tell. I feel fortunate that this trip, unlike so many others, did not feel like it was over in a second (sorry for the double negative.) Perhaps that’s due to changing scenery every three days, I’m not sure. It was a fantastic trip and a great introduction to the beautiful country of Spain and its tremendously welcoming people.

    Now where to next?

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    Take a look at Belle Epoque San Sebastián, a favourite for Spanish and French holiday makers for some 150 years. The culinary capital of Spain, beautiful landscapes, some of the finest city beaches on the continent and a local culture that people take great pride in. European capital of culture 2016.

    See these articles: "Is San Sebastián the best place to eat in Europe?": http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2005/mar/13/foodanddrink.shopping2
    NYT, last august: http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/travel/36-hours-in-san-sebastin-spain.html

    I've lived here and visited almost every year since the late 1980's and could give you lots of suggestions for both San Sebastián and the beautiful Basque region in general.

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    nyc, I'm not even finished with your report yet, but I had to comment. I'm reading your report just for entertainment value mixed with nostalgia for Spain. I lived "en la Macarena" in Sevilla with a host family - 12 years ago, I can hardly believe - and I walked to school near the Cathedral every day. So it sounds like you experienced the very same daily walk I did. I think that neighborhood is a little more off the beaten path, so I'm glad you sought it out!

    Also, to echo the others, congratulations on your trip with your parents - I went with my parents to Italy when I was in my mid-twenties and we had a blast. It's always an adventure, isn't it???

    Great report, thank you so much for sharing it! Now I have to go dig up my journal and re-live the memories!

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