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first trip to Spain - questions and itinerary review

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Background: DH and I are in are early 30s and have traveled together to Italy and Ireland (and I've been backpacking to other countries in college). We enjoy staying on the move and seeing a lot. Favorite things to see and do include: Architecture, roman ruins, castles, historical tours, small picturesque towns/villages, nature (light hiking), cultural activities, wine, interacting with locals. This is would be a fall 2015 trip.

Day 1 (Sept 26): Flight

Day 2 (Barcelona): Arrive Barcelona 7:10 or 8:45am (not sure because of layover times) and check into hotel. Do RS Bari Gotic Walk and see sights along way (see Castellers at Placa Sant Jaume at 12), check out Barcelona History Museum, Guell Palace, walk down the Ramblas. Catch Food Lover's tour 7:30-11:30.

Day 3 (Barcelona): Sleep in. Go explore Guell Park mid-morning. Catch english-guided tour at Sagrada Familia at 3pm. Explore Barri de Gracia neighborhood. Do evening tour of Casa Mila (La Pedrera).

Day 4 (Barcelona): Check out La Boqueria market early morning. Tour Casa Batllo at 9am. Casa Lleo Morera guided tour at 11am. Catch english-guided tour at Sant Pau Art Noveau Hospital tour at 1pm. Explore El Born neighborhood in afternoon. Watch a show at Palace of Catalan Music.

Day 5 (Barcelona): Lots of options here. I think it would be nice to get out of town and see some nature since so much of our trip will be spent in cities. Options include seeing Montserrat and hiking in that area, hiking somewhere else (with or without tour?), or maybe a winery tour. Or something else?

Day 6 (Granada): 10:45 to 12:15 flight, followed by 40 minute bus ride into town. Check into hotel. Explore city and/or take guided walking city tour. Go on late night tour of Alhambra.

Day 7 (Granada): Catch early tour for Alhambra and spend most of the day there, including the Alhambra museum. Explore city in late afternoon and early evening. Go to San Nicholas for view of Alhambra at sunset. Go to baths at Hammam Al Andalus Granada either before or after the sunset views.

Day 8 (Seville): 8:43 - 12:03 train to Seville. Check into hotel. Visit Archaeological Museum and the Cathedral and Bell Tower. Go on a tapas tour in Triana.

Day 9 (Seville): Visit Royal Alcazar, Plaza de Espana, and Museo Palacio de la Condesa de Librija. Flamenco show in evening.

Day 10 (Seville): Day-trip to Cordoba (per DH request to move around as little as possible). Mezquita, the Artisan Market, and the Roman bridge. Explore and return to Seville.

Day 11 (Seville): Lots of options for this day, too. Thinking it might be nice to do a olive oil tour, a winery tour (or maybe some kind of combo of the two). Or, possibly take a tour of the white cliff towns. Or we could day trip on our own somewhere.

Day 12 (Merida or Careces): Pick up rental car early in Seville. Drive two hours to Merida (arrive by 11). Spend day visiting Roman sights and museum.

Day 13 (Madrid): Train into Madrid. Take a guided walking tour of city. Explore. Tapas tour that evening.

Day 14 (Madrid): Day-trip to Segovia. Visit Roman Aqueduct, Segovia Cathedral, Alcazar Castle, and Vera Cruz Church.

Day 15 (Madrid): Royal Palace, Retiro Park, Templo de Debod, Chocolateria San Gines.

Day 16 (Oct 11): Flight

1)Barcelona: We can mix any of our evening stops depending on what is available on what night. I haven’t had any luck finding a true event schedule because I think it’s too far out. I'm aware that La Merce will be active in Barcelona, but I'm not sure what festivities may occur on a Sunday. Does anyone have a clue what to expect?

2) Any particular recommendations for Day 5 (Barcelona)?

3) How much time should we allow ourselves to get to Barcelona airport and to get through security for our flight since it's in-country?

4) What day would be better to go to the baths in Granada?

5) Are certain nights (like Saturday) better than others for Flamenco in Seville?

6) Any particular recommendations for Day 11 (Seville)? Since we'll be getting a rental car for visiting Merida, we could get it a day early and use it for this day too if it's required to visit long as parking and driving in Seville isn't a nightmare.

7) How much time should we budget for sites in Merida? Should we stay in Merida or drive on another hour to Careces? Careces sounds magical but I don’t want to cut Merida short, either.

8) Does anyone have a good, english-speaking guide for Merida to recommend?

Any other tips, tweaks, thoughts? My apologies for the terribly long post...I'm getting it narrowed down and wanted to give you the best idea of what we're thinking. Thanks in advance!!!

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