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Trip Report Andalusia Trip Report Oct 2016

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Frist of all, I would like to thank everyone who through their answers and advice made this trip such a great experience for us!

A bit about the group and itinerary. Oct 1-11, 2016. We were a group of 7. Six women between 60 and 80 and myself as the “dictator-organizer” of about 40-something ;) We traveled from Tokyo, landing in Malaga and departing back from Madrid. With 9 nights on the ground, we had exactly 8 full days in Spain--this time concentrating on the Andalusia region. These are the places in order that we visited Malaga-Ronda-Granada-Cordoba-Seville-Madrid.

First -- accommodations. All hotels included buffet breakfast:

Malaga (2 nights) – Hotel Molina Lario (****). The location smack in the center was great. It was a nice hotel with pretty comfortable beds (maybe most comfortable of the trip). Breakfast buffet was ok but not memorable. Couple of peculiar things: The layout of the hotel (old bldg. and annex) is on different levels. We had to carry suitcases up a few steps from the door of the elevator to the room (actually I had to do it three times! see below). The hotel has 3 separate elevators (side by side). So make sure to ask at the check in which of these elevators would allow you a direct access to your room. I wish the person at the front desk would have advised us but they didn’t. So three times we had to lug our suitcases up the stairs. I prepaid for a premium TWIN (stated a number of times in correspondence with the hotel that we needed two beds). Upon arrival at 11.30pm we were given a room with one bed. Second room we were given was a twin BUT a standard. Since I did pay for the premium I said I was not willing to forgo about 30EUR/night difference just because they had no other premium rooms left. I was ready to tell them that we’d stay in the standard but with reimbursement of the difference. Finally they found another premium. So three times dragged our luggage and finally were able to settle in the room some time after midnight.

Granada (2 nights)--Hotel NH Victoria Granada (****). This is a very conveniently located hotel. I don’t remember any particular trouble there. Breakfast was good. We never asked for the specially prepared hot dishes, mostly were happy with the buffet. They had wonderful fruit and vegetable smoothies there. In fact, this 4* NH property was much better than our Madrid’s 5*NH hotel in every way (come back to that later). Staff at the front desk was also nice and friendly.

Seville (3 nights) – Hotel Gran Melia Fenix (*****). The lobby welcomed us with beautiful furniture, floral arrangements, and the smell from the sewers. The staff at the reception apologized stating that it was due to construction outside. The rooms didn’t have the smell and the next three days the lobby was odorless too. The only (slightly) negative thing about the check in is that I’ve seen comments that guests are welcomed with a glass of sparkling. The couple checking in next to me was offered drinks but we were not. The rooms were nice and with pretty comfortable beds. We had a view of the street in front of the hotel and unfortunately there was an open terrace of the restaurant on the opposite side. That night a group of young people was happily celebrating something. Nothing the hotel can do about it of course but maybe during the next refurbishing they could install windows with better soundproofing. Now the best part about this hotel—breakfast. I think perhaps the best I’ve ever had. Aside from a great buffet spread, they have a menu, which lists freshly squeezed juices. Delicious!

Madrid (2 nights)--Hotel NH Collection Palacio de Tepa (*****). My least favorite hotel from this trip. I am not sure how the 5* rating is applied. I think it was a 3* or at best 4* hotel. The best part is the location in walking distance to anywhere in the center. The matrasses (at least mine) were I think pretty old. I didn’t feel any padding on the top. Breakfast area is rather small but it was not crowded since we ate early. Buffet was poorer than in Granada’s NH 4* property. I have to admit that email correspondence was very good—by sending a rooming list with passport copies hotel expedited our check in process. However, we didn’t get the same professionalism when we arrived. We checked in on a Saturday, but though the weekend we never saw anyone at the “Guest Relations” desk. My main complaints actually deal with the same female staff (night shift) at the reception. First they misplaced two suitcases—suitcases were delivered to the rooms while we were sightseeing. Her reaction was to make excuses first: “the guests switched rooms so we could not deliver. We are not sure in which room the suitcases are”. However, the rooming list in the computer corresponded with the actual distribution. Her reaction and attitude even irritated our Japanese-speaking guide. Finally the suitcases were located in the back of the reception. Second, on Sunday morning I wanted to double-check the opening time for Reina Sofia Museum (not some obscure attraction). The same clerk checked some flyer and tells me the opening time is 13.30. I was 99% sure that it should be 10am. So I asked her to check online. It took a while and only with the help of another clerk she was able to answer “Yes, 10am. The 13.30 is for the free admission”. I didn’t ask about the free admission time. Anyway, a bit surprising that a 5* hotel staff would not know these kind of basics.

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    Hi minamax10, I'm glad you enjoyed your Spain trip. Andalusia is on my radar for some next trip.

    It's a pity that your trip report is buried under all those spams at the moment.
    *Why so suddenly, and so many today, spammers? *

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    Thank you FuryFluffy and Bedar! I think i'll be posting in bits now and then.

    Transportation:

    Minibuses -- Since we traveled as a group, we had minibuses for the day trip to Ronda and for longer transfers (Malaga-Granada-Cordoba-Seville).

    Taxis -- were very convenient and inexpensive, so we used them a lot in the cities themselves. We split the group and always had 2 cars ready. Until our very last night, we had no problems with taxi drivers. However, that night, going from our hotel to the restaurant, the driver cheated one of the ladies in the other car. She gave him a 20EUR note but he gave her change for a 10EUR note. She didn’t realize what had happened until after he drove off. As it was our last night and we were ready for dinner, we decided to just let it go.

    AVE train – Seville –Madrid -- purchased our tickets way ahead of the trip on RENFE site. Had a lot of trouble paying with a Japanese credit card. Finally, I was able to complete the transaction using PayPal. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but it worked very well, so I do recommend trying PayPal as soon as your credit card is rejected. Would have saved myself hours spent on RENFE site.

    A word of warning regarding Santa Justa Station in Seville. I was reassured that the station is very easy to navigate. And it was. It’s a pretty small station and finding the departure platform is not a big problem. BUT! I didn’t realize that one entrance to the platform also means that there will be a lot of people trying to get to the platform at the same time. Sort of a bottleneck effect. We arrived (in what we thought) plenty of time and once we passed the luggage-check point, I breathed easier. That was a premature relief. Our car number was 4. And boy, that is one long train! Our car was at the very end of the platform so we started walking fast, then jogged, then ran (imagine that picturing older ladies with suitcases!). We basically made it onto the train with perhaps 3-4minutes before the train left the station. So for anyone buying train tickets to use AVE from Seville to Madrid, I would recommend not getting tickets for the smaller numbered cars. OR if you do have a ticket for cars 1-10, that you get to the station in plenty of time.

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    Hi Karen, if I were to do it again (from Gran Melia Colon Hotel), I would allocate 60min. https://goo.gl/maps/Sw6pR6QEta42 I think that would be enough time to safely get there and not rush onto the train as we did. I'd rather have a bit more time to get drinks for the train etc than dash as we did.

    following our hotel's concierge, we scheduled departure for 8am in order to make it to the 8.45am train. Being a Saturday I thought the streets won't have much traffic. And they didn't, but our driver was much slower than I expected. Also, there are only two luggage screening lines, and so that took a lot of time. Then the run to the car #4. So for us 40-45 min was not enough time. Therefore, I'd say from the location similar to ours, it'd be safer to have 60min or so.

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    RESTAURANTS:

    One of the running themes this trip had – al fresco dining ;) This is something so quintessential European to me. You can hardly find any places in Tokyo where one can eat outside. We’ve been visiting Europe for 5 years now, but so far have had rotten luck with weather. So all my plans to have a meal while enjoying fresh air had to be changed (with one exception of a lunch in a charming Romanian village). This time I set high hopes for Andalusia in October and my hopes were realized in full. I think half of our meals were al fresco!

    I obsessively researched restaurants before our trip. Those who followed my planning might know that in order to fit in a restaurant I might even change our itinerary ;) Restaurants picked for this trip were mostly “great” with a couple that were “good”. I don’t think we had a bad meal this time.

    In order of visits (I will comment on them in more detail later):

    Ronda –
    Albacara Restaurant (Lunch on the terrace with an incredible view)
    Bodega Garcia Hidalgo (Homemade diner and wine, by Isabel)

    Malaga --
    Casa Aranda (amazing churros & chocolate!)

    Granaga –
    El Trillo Resturante (Lunch, good but slightly below expectations) ,
    Restaurante Estrellas de San Nicolas (Dinner on the terrace, incredible view and delicous food)
    Parador Restaurant (Lunch, delicious but service was a bit below par)
    La Botilleria (Dinner, delicious and reasonable)

    Cordoba –
    Taberna Casa Luque (Lunch, outside table. Took two different concierges to book it!)

    Seville –
    Enrique Becerra (Delicious Tapas dinner)
    Petit Comite (Lunch, amazing modern tapas and... good looking servers!)
    Cuna 2 (Dinner after the flamenco show, beautiful tile decor)
    San Marco Santa Cruz (Lunch, ancient arab bathouse. Really good!)
    Eslava Tapas (Dinner. No reservation challenge. Amazingly good!)

    Madrid –
    Moratin Vinoteca Bistrot (Lunch, Oh wow!)
    Alcaravea, Cerveceria Restaurante (Dinner, second visit in two years)
    Mercado de San Miguel (Lunch, expensive but so much fun)
    Restauran Goya, Hotel Riz (Dinner, very nice tasting menu to celebrate the end of our trip)

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    Have to make a small disclaimer. I think our itinerary might not be suitable for individual travelers. The thing is that I do work very hard on the timetable for each day, which we try to stick to. Having private guides helps to keep us on time. So for some this trip might sounds very fast paced but we still enjoyed it a lot!

    Overall weather in October (Oct 1 though 10) was great. We didn’t have a single day of bad weather. No a single rainy day. Honestly, wish it were a bit cooler since some of the days were 35C! but it was not unbearable. In fact, it’s much easier to deal with than the hot humid summers in Tokyo. There’s no humidity in Andalusia. I didn’t feel sweaty at all.

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    Day 1/ almost uneventful (see my comments above about elevators vs. stairs at this hotle) check in at the hotel Molina Lario Malaga.

    Day 2 / Ronda and Winery!

    Private minibus + Japanese speaking translator + local guide in Ronda .

    It turns out that there are no licensed Japanese-speaking guides in Malaga-Ronda area. There are two agencies who arrange guides and my only option was to have 1 interpreter + 1 local guide in Ronda. A pricy option but nothing I could do about that. For those who have never had to deal with this situation I’ll explain. All information given on that day was actually by the Japanese translator. The only thing the local guide told us was her name. She was there just for the purpose of providing the “license”. I requested the local guide’s accompaniment from 11.00h until 15.30h (without her our Japanese speaking guide is not allowed to give tours). However, on the way to Lunch at 1pm, this local guide shocked me saying that she cannot stay later than 2pm. I was completely surprised since my itinerary to the agency stated that we’d need her till 3.30pm. Anyway, I really felt that it was 150EUR completely wasted. I don’t appreciate the situation where we are forced to pay someone for just standing there. After she left, our Japanese-speaking translator continued the tour, so that made me wonder why did we needed that local guide in the first place.

    Anyway, I doubt anyone would be in need of Japanese speaking guides on this forum so here we go to the itinerary itself ☺

    Ever since I started to plan our first trip to Spain (Sept 2014), Ronda has been calling me. Unfortunately, in 2014 it was just impossible to fit it into our itinerary, so I put it on the backburner. Finally, Ronda here we come!

    We used EcoTransfers Costa del Sol company and had a very positive experience with them. Reliable. Reasonable. Good at replying on time. And the best, we were able to pay on the day of the services instead of a prepayment by a bank transfer that would also have added bank fees to the costs.

    We left the hotel at 9.30am using a private minibus transfer. In hindsight, should have left at least half an hour earlier since the road to Ronda does take almost 2 hours. Our driver I think took the seaside route (as if you were driving to Mijas), which I think takes a bit longer than the inland route. I asked our guide to make a stop at the bottom of the gorge to have a photo op of looking up to the bridge….but when we stopped at the “photo point” it was not the right place! In fact, the spot she picked was not special at all! All I can remember about it was looking in the direction of the old Roman bridge (I think?) and being next to the gas stop. The reason I am mention it here is that IF you are planning to ask your driver / guide for a photo stop on the way to Ronda, do make sure you either have a print out or a photo saved on your phone that you can show them to explain the exact location that you are interested in. I should have done that, so that’s my miss.

    Well, we were really happy to get to Ronda. We started with the Bullfighting arena. It was an interesting tour to see and actually stand on the grounds. As history – yes, it’s worth seeing and learning about it. However, I am totally for the idea of abolishing bullfighting altogether.

    The day was getting hotter and hotter. We walked to the restaurant Albacara for our very early (by Spanish standards) lunch. In fact, I was very grateful to the restaurant that they open for lunch at 12.30h since we had a very early dinner planed for that day, I wanted to have an early lunch. We were given a round table on the terrace-- the view was very impressive. The service I felt was friendly and efficient. The food well presented and delicious. Yes, it’s not the cheapest of the places in Ronda, but the view and the quality of the food merits the price. We ordered jamon to share, individual gazpacho, salad with goat cheese and apples to share, shrimp balls, and a few more plates. I was quite happy with our restaurant choice.

    After lunch, we walked more through the city and visited Ronda’s church. Even though it was a beautiful and interesting church, I was impatient to get outside and close to the bridge area. After all, for me Ronda is more about its natural beautiful setting than any of the attractions. We walked to the gorge area and have a little time to take some photos. There were a lot of people. a LOT. In fact, it was practically impossible to take a photo without someone else in the background. Ronda is a popular place!

    Around 3.30pm, it was time to say goodbye to Ronda and move on to what I conceder to be on of the highlights of our trip—a visit to the Bodega Garcia Hidalgo. The drive I think took less than 30min. We were warmly greeted by Miguel and Isabel. Miguel took us on a tour of the vineyard and showed us some of the production areas. We aren’t much of wine connoisseurs to be completely honest. My main interest in visiting this particular bodega was to enjoy a homemade meal alongside with their organic wine. I had read a lot of good reviews about the visits and especially the food.

    We had a lovely meal outside. Fresh air, homemade jams, vegetables, pates, tortillas, paella, delicious wine, and much much more. If I were to point out one area of improvement, it would be to have grape juice for those who do not drink alcohol. In our group we had 2 ladies who cannot drink. They had orange juice instead of wine but seeing since it was a winery, I think “mosto” or any grape juice would be more appreciated than orange juice. But this is a very minor detail. Over all we had a great time. Boy, what a way to celebrate our arrival to Andalusia!

    By 7pm or so we were very well fed and liquored ;)) Finally, after purchasing a bottle of Isobel 2014 to take back to Tokyo, we were ready to return to Malaga. I think most of us snoozed on the way back.

    Once in Malaga, I went to explore a bit more on my own. I wanted to check the route from the hotel to the Roman Theater to the Picasso Museum for our no-guide morning on Day 3. The pedestrian center of Malaga is lovely. I kept thinking that the pavement must have been washed! it was almost shining under the soft yellow lamp lights. I easily found the Roman theater and the museum by using Google maps on my iPhone. I also went to check out where Casa Aranda was. Kimhe (on this forum) highly recommended stopping by for a churro. I was not sure if our itinerary next day would allow this luxury, but wanted to find the location nonetheless. After this little reconnaissance expedition, it was time to catch some z’s…. Next day …Granada!

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    minamax - I do like your style of writing, and for group travel I think that you have a very reasonable pace. I know how hard you worked on the itinerary for your ladies, which is difficult when their preferred meal times do not co-incde with spanish ones but you seem to have got it to work - brava!

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    Thank you, Annhig! Indeed it was a lot of work coming up with the program. And until we actually completed the trip, it was hard to tell whether my choices were right or wrong :))

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    Day 3. Morning in Malaga + Granada (Albaicin district, Cathedral / Royal Chapel / Dinner with a view!)

    Private minibus transfer + Japanese speaking guide + taxis

    In the itinerary that I came up with, our morning plan was to visit Malaga’s central market and have about 1-hour visit to the Picasso Museum. We completed the program.... 50% ;)

    The market was great. It’s a short walk from the Molina Lario Hotel. Being a Monday, the seafood produce area was closed, but other stalls (fruits, dried fruits, meats, oils, olives) were calling us. It was hard to keep us from overbuying. We purchased some dried figs, nuts mixes , olives, and saffron to take back to Tokyo. I almost (almost!) purchased a bottle (if you can actually call it a bottle as it’s made of cow’s stomach lining) of Malaga sweet wine. At the very last second, I pictured all that wine exploding in my suitcase, and that’s the only way I could control myself. We also bought some fresh fruits to take on the bus with us as the drive to Granada is pretty long.

    As I feared, we did spend more time at the market and so the Picasso museum part of the program was weighing heavily on me. So I put it to the vote : “Picasso vs famous Malaga’s churros”. And not surprisingly, churros won! So off we went in search of Casa Aranda . The search was not long as the café is basically just outside the market walls. I’d always wondered about this Spanish breakfast staple – Churros with hot chocolate. To be honest, even for a sweet-tooth such as myself, it just didn’t seem to be breakfast appropriate food. My only experience with churros up to that time was in the states and in Japan. And now I can tell you this….Spanish churros and hot chocolates are nothing like what you find outside of Spain! Wow, so airy so delicious! And the hot chocolate was not too sweet. Actually, it was not sweet at all. We sat ouside munching on churros, drinking café con leche, and not missing Picasso at all ;) We strolled back to the hotel-- window shopping and regretting not having any time to hit any of the shoes/accessories stores that Malaga is abundant with.

    I liked Magala and I wished we had more time there. But our next destination was Granada, and so we boarded the bus to head there. We used Autocares Paco Campos. The buses and drivers were good but I do have to admit that correspondence with the company was difficult due to the fact that no one really speaks much English there. Nevertheless, with the help of our hotel front desk staff and guides, we were able to solve all of the questions that arose.

    Our Japanese-speaking guide in Granada (her mom is Japanese and her dad is Spanish) was great. I really enjoyed her personality and she was a well of knowledge. Before our arrival, we agreed on the program and I think our approach worked very well. For anyone challenging Albaicin area (our first introduction to Granada), I would highly HIGHLY advice starting at the top and walking down. We had our driver drop us off at the top of Albaicin and we walked towards the city center. I can imagine how exhausting it’d be walking up. Here I have to admit that Google map (though very useful) would be completely useless for Albaicin! It’s a maze of teeny-tiny streets. All cobbled and really hard to walk on! Even thout Google map said ”300 meters , 6 min” walk from Mirador de San Nicolas to our Lunch restaurant (El Trillo) it was nowhere near that close or easy to get to. I think if you measure the distance it probably was indeed 300 meters, but walking on those cobbles was a challenge and it took us a long time to find the restaurant. And by us, I mean our guide. She herself said that it took her about a year to actually get comfortable to being in the Albaicin. So I can tell you that I was glad I didn’t insist on meeting her at the reataurnt after lunch.

    We loved the Albaicin. Such a fun place to explore. But! I had my first culture shock there. Not only do you have to look out for great features and architectural gems, but you also have to pay attention to....not to step into dogs’ poo! It was everywhere. I am not kidding. I think I’ve gotten used to living in Tokyo where everyone walks with doggy bags and spray bottles to clean after their dogs. That’s not the case in Spain.

    El Trillo Restaurant. I still think it was a good choice for our lunch. but restaurant’s garden looked much nicer in the photos on their website than it did in real life. I understood some of the comments on TA that the restaurant should invest in the new “grass carpeting” and luncheon mats. They were a bit on a dirty and ragged looking side. Again our lunch was early, so there was only one other table occupied (by tourists from Asia). Nonetheless, the food was good and beautifully presented. It's not a restaurant that serves traditional cuisine but more of a fusion modern take on Spanish dishes. I think the ladies particularly liked Arroso Negro with squid ink and the hummus dish.

    I have to add, that for pretty much every restaurant during this trip, we took a few appetizers and a few main courses to share. To think of it, probably our last dinner at the restaurant Goya, was the only one where we didn’t share. Seeing that we are all women and seeing that Japanese do not eat as much as people from other countries, this style was perfect for us.

    After lunch we continued our walk down to the city center finishing our cultural program with a visit to the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel. It was fascinating to learn about Isabella and her resting place. We were getting pretty tired by then and so our attention was not at its best.

    The check in at the NH Hotel Victoria was pretty smooth. And I even had enough time to get to the Corral del Carbon to print out our tickets for the Alhambra the next day. We arranged taxis to take us to the Restaurante Estrellas de San Nicolas. Until the very last day, I kept jumping back and forth between Restaurante Estrellas de San Nicolas and Morayma Mirador as a choice for our fancy welcome dinner. I am glad that I finaly picked Restaurante Estrellas de San Nicolas. The weather was pleasant (I was comfortable in a top with short sleeves) to enjoy dinner on the terrace. The view from the restaurant is spectacular (minus a slightly annoying crane to the left of the restaurant ☺). The terrace is on a smaller side. We had a table for 7. Three people on each side and I was seated at the head of the talbe. Once you sit down, there is not much room to move about or take photos. But for a romantic dinner, I think it’s perfect. The food was interestingly and createvily presented. We had more jamon, giant sangrias, eggplant fritas (which looked like French fries for which they were mistaken by one of my companions ;), deconstructed bull’s tail, fish special, and some delicious desserts. We really enjoyed our meal and I can safely recommend Restaurante Estrellas de San Nicolas for a very nice and memorable meal in Granada.

    Taking the taxi back to the hotel was something that could be a very well featured in a movie-chasing scene! The road is so windy, that it was almost like being on the roller coaster!

    Day 3 was a success and we were looking forward to our day at the Alhambra!

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    I think that your ladies are very lucky to have you as their organiser minamax; I hope that that they appreciate the pains that you take for them!

    I remember when we went to Granada a few years ago we did actually walk up to the top of the Albercin and then [suitably refreshed] back down again - not sure I'd be up for doing that now. I do remember the cobbles but not the dog poo but perhaps I'm more used to it than you are.

    looking forward to reading about what you made of the Alhambra!

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    Great report, and glad you enjoyed the chocolate con churros in Málaga classic Casa Aranda :-) You landed in Málaga the same day we departed from there - after some fabulous days - to see flamenco history in Sevilla. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SreE1gvhcJE

    The flamenco/dance genious Rocío Molina is in love with Japan and very inspired by Japanese culture, and she's also a great favourite of the huge Japanese flamenco crowd. She's even got a Japanese facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/RocioMolinaJapan/

    Won about every prize there is to win in the flamenco and dance world, and here's a portrait in The Guardian, "Flamenco and beyond": https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/oct/15/rocio-molina-flamenco-bosque-ardora

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    Where did you stay in Seville? You listed Gran Melia Fenix which is in Madrid. Perhaps, Gran Melia Colón? It sounds like you had a wonderful trip with a lot of excellent pre-planning.

  • Comments have been removed by Fodor's moderators

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    Another Fodorite (crefloors?) and I wrote something in Korean and the comments were removed. Serves us right, no doubt.

    My comment said "Great trip report, thanks for posting!"

    minimax, it was fun following along when you planned this trip and it's fun joining you now. Looking forward to hearing about your visit to the Alhambra.

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    Day 4 / Alhambra x 2! and an Arab bath experience.

    Taxis + lots of walking + Japanese speaking guide.

    With our tickets for 10.30am entrance to the Nasrid palaces in hands, we departed for the Alhambra at 9am (I knew the day would be long so I didn’t want an early start). We took two taxis up to the complex, and again I highly recommend skipping the walk in favor of either taking a taxi or using the public minibuses. I was later told that most Japanese tours actually walk uphill and start the tour already being pretty exhausted.

    Since I had 7 tickets and a private guide, we were considered to be a “group tour” which meant I had to go to the Alhambra office to fill out some forms but also meant that we were granted an entrance for the groups. According to do our guide that is the case for any size group, i.e. even if there is only one person who is accompanied by a guide, they too can skip the line and go in ahead of the individual visitors. So I guess there are perks to paying more for a private guide. Anyhow, in our case, we must have visited the Alhambra on one of the most unusual days ever – there were no people in line at the Nasrid palaces when we go there. I mean no groups at all waiting! Our guide looked perplexed saying, “where are all the people?” I assume this situation does not happen too often.

    Okay, I am skipping ahead, so let’s get back to the beginning. I requested our guide to do the Generalife gardens first, followed by the Nasrid palaces, and finishing with a short visit to the Alcazaba fortress. I wanted to do the most important areas while we still had enough energy to enjoy them to the fullest. The gardens were absolutely lovely—but I did keep wishing for the impossible…to be there alone. There were quite a few people in the gardens. If you were not interested in taking photos, then I think it would not be a real problem. It was difficult to take photos without someone in the shot. It was very warm and sunny. So we had a really pleasant time in the gardens.

    Since I knew that we can enter the Palaces until 11am, we didn’t really had to rush. A few minutes to 11am (the cut off for the 10.30am time slot to the Nasrid Palaces) we were at the group entrance. As I said, getting there between the time slots (10.30 and 11am), gave us a chance to explore a few of the rooms practically on our own. And each room we passed was more awe-inspiring than the previous one. I had not realized that Nasrid Palaces used to be quite colorful and once I heard that, I just kept trying to imagine what it must have looked like in its original state. We stayed probably until about 1pm in the Nasrid palaces and the Partal gardens for a few more photo ops. Our last stop before lunch was the Alcazaba.

    As I suspected, half of the group (3:3) chose to sit this one out but the other half (including myself) managed to climb the tower. The view was amazing! It was heartbreaking to see the foundation of where the buildings used to stand. So sad to see when historical landmarks are destroyed by nature or humans, especially humans.

    It was getting a little after 1.30pm when we got to the restaurant at the Parador. Through email communication with the restaurant I knew that going with a la cart option would take too long, so I preordered their Nasrid Menu (29EUR /person without drinks). I had seen some less than positive reviews of the food, but I thought the food was delicious and very beautifully presented. It’s a really good value as you get to try 5 different dishes—all very unique. There’s a middle-eastern flavor to all of the dishes and not as single one that I didn’t like. Service was alright. Not really good but not really bad either. I did feel like Scarlett O’Hara though….the server tried to take away my food before I finished. And unfortunately she succeeded twice! I had an urge to grab her hand and swipe the last piece of desert that was still on my plate, but restrained myself seeing as we were in a very elegant environment.

    I really recommend our Alhambra itinerary for anyone who wants to enjoy a leisure pace and a nice meal (Nasrid Menu). After lunch we had pre-purchased tickets for the Spa Al Andalus.

    Spa experience: this is our 5th trip together, and our 3rd spa visit (Russian Banya & Budapest Thermal Baths). I’m still on the fence about the one in Granada. Yes, I am glad we went. It added an extra “special” touch and variety to the program. But I did think it’s a bit pricy for what it is (32EUR/person after a 20% discount). You get a 2-hour session which in reality (after all the explanations + standing on line to use the showers etc) probably means that you get about 75-90min most inside the spa. Our pre-paid tickets included a 15min massage and after we compared notes, not a single masseuse earned high marks. We all asked for legs-only massage thinking it’d be nice after a lot of walking in the morning. The massage was too light for my taste—it felt like a butterfly was hovering over my legs. Perhaps, that’s just the style practiced here. Staff also kept shushing people ☺ I found that the lighting (even though I understand the reason for it) was too dark everywhere. I mean it’s alright for it to be dim in the relaxation areas, but in the showers I kept looking for the switch. It was so dark that you could not read labels on the bottles (shampoo vs body soap…toiletries are not very high quality). Also, for the number of people who are allowed at one time and who in the end have to leave at the same time, there are not enough shower stalls. I probably am being picky but I was coming from Japan (the land of hot springs and public baths☺), so my expectations might have been too high. The different baths were nice though.

    After a short walk back to the hotel and an even shorter rest, we were ready for our 8pm reservation at La Botilleria. It was a great dinner with some very delicious wine by the glass. We ordered a double order of a few different items of the menu. Don't get fulled as I did by the size of the portions when you see photos on TA etc. Portions are much bigger than I expected and we ended up with too much food! We had their wonderful salmon salad and blood sausage lasagna. We did get a free tapa with the first round of our drinks. I think we were too full for dessert if my memory serves me right. A couple of glasses of nice wine might play tricks with your memory too ;) In fact, with each additional pour of the wine for my companions, I was getting a bit more and more worried! Nope, not about the bill ☺

    Actually, despite some advice in favor of not doing this, I bought 7 tickets for the night tour of the Nasrid palaces at 10.30pm. Before the trip, I knew that I myself didn’t want to miss this opportunity; and I didn’t want to keep it a secrete from the ladies. So I purchases tickets for everyone despite the fact that poor lighting + tiredness from a very long day + a few glasses of wine= bad idea! I honestly tried to politely discourage them from joining, but to my utter surprise, they all said they are ready to go back to the Alhambra.

    To skip suspense, I can say that we had absolutely no problem navigating the grounds and none of the ladies had any difficulties walking around the palaces after dark. Indeed it was a very special experience and I am so glad I went ahead and planed it. The biggest difference we noticed between the day and the night tour is that to me the motives and writings on the walls (carvings) seemed to appear even more 3D. They seem to stand out so much more because of the light and shade. To anyone considering whether it’s worth going back twice on the same day, I will say Yes! As many people noticed online, it’s better to do the night tour after the day visit. I agree.

    And so our last day in Granada came to an end. Day 5 will take us to Seville by way of Cordoba.

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    Minamax - I'm surprised that you managed to get round the Generalife before you did the Nasrid palaces - i think we spent almost as long there as we did in the main complex, so no time for the Hamam for us.

    also I'm not sure about whether it's best to do the night visit before or after the day-time one - we did it before and didn't feel that we'd missed out that way.

    I liked your comments about not walking up the hill - we solved that problem by staying in the hotel Guadalupe which is right opposite the main entrance to the Alhambra - so when we wanted to go into the town, we had a nice walk down and got the bus back up.

    <<Another Fodorite (crefloors?) and I wrote something in Korean and the comments were removed. Serves us right, no doubt.>>

    Nelson - I think that their anti-spam programme [when it's working] probably removes everything in Korean including legitimate posts.

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    Hi Annhig, we had about 1 hour maybe a little more for the Generalife. Yes, I would have loved to have more time, but we still didn't really feel rushed. Of course in a perfect world scenario I would have loved to have as much time as I wanted at the Alhambra, but we get what we get ;) I think having more time at the Alhambra and skipping the Hammam was a good idea--I don't think you missed much ;)

    As for the night visit, I mean if one has only an option to do both day and night visit on the same day, it still is very worth it. In our case out of two nights in Granada, Alhambra night visits were available on the second night only. I guess if someone is in Granada two nights and plans to do a day visit and night visit on different days, I still think it might be better to do the night visit after the day one. After we toured with the guide during the day, we knew where to go and what we were looking at when we returned in the evening. But either way would be great as long as one tries to do both day and night-- regardless of the order!

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    But either way would be great as long as one tries to do both day and night-- regardless of the order!>>

    agreed. We had booked the day time visit for the day after we arrived and not thought about doing the night visit but as we were there and had nothing else planned we thought "why not"? and we were so glad we did it. This was a few years ago and I'm not sure whether you could do the same thing now, even in November!

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