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Trip Report Madrid & Andalucía: 26 Years Later

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It has been years since I have posted a trip report on this site. The reason is not for lack of material, as DW and I have always been active travelers. In the past thirteen months alone we have visited Israel, Turkey, France, Spain 1 (Barcelona, Bilbao, San Sebastian) and Spain 2, the subject of this report. Probably like the majority of visitors to fodors.com (and listeners to National Public Radio), I tend to taketh more from this site than giveth -- so I hope this trip report evens the score card and can be of use to someone.

Twenty-six years ago, DW & DH set out on our first trip as newlyweds to Spain and Portugal. The purpose of our latest trip was to enjoy a “second honeymoon” of sorts by recreating the Spanish portion of the honeymoon, although for this trip we did not return to Avila, Segovia or Cordoba.

Itinerary

SFO to Madrid via London - Hotel Preciados (5 nights) incl. day trip to Toledo
Sevilla - Hotel Palacio de Villapanes (4 nights)
Ronda - Parador de Ronda (1 night)
Granada - Hotel Casa 1800 (3 nights)
Nerja - Hotel Carabeo (2 nights)
Malaga to SFO via London - Hilton Heathrow Airport (1 night)

Packing

For years now, we have opted to fly with carry-on bags only. Not only does this eliminate lost luggage and the tedious baggage claim area, but it focuses the mind on what one really needs to bring on a trip. Usually there are no problems, however, on one of the Malaga-London legs our bags would not fit into the overhead bins and needed to be gate-checked.

This vacation did not include any washer/dryer equipped apartment rentals, so our packing skills were put to the test. My advice (at least to the guys out there) is to leave the cotton at home and switch to synthetics as much as possible. Packing clothes that you can hand wash at night and wear again the next day (or at most two) saves tremendous amounts of space. That includes your “tighty whities” guys. REI sells comfortable, quick-dry underwear in their travel section. I do not leave home without them. Having said that, I hate the style of most of their travel wear; especially the dreaded zip-off pants. Not a great look. While on the subject of what not to wear, no one really cares that you are a lifelong Cubs/Cowboys/Yankee fan so lose the sports gear unless you intend to only ride hop-on hop-off buses; then I suppose it’s ok. I’ve been pleased with several pants and polo shirts I found at Lululemon that work great for travel. There’s nothing wrong with bringing a nice pair of jeans on a trip, just make sure they are not “dad jeans” (ask your wife if you don’t know what I’m talking about). What I’m trying to communicate to the American traveling male is to care about your appearance, especially when going out to dinner. The women have figured it out; it’s time for the men to step up.

I actually packed a money belt on this trip that I purchased on Amazon (Eagle Creek Silk Undercover Money Belt $30). The silk construction is much more comfortable and breathable than the previous, cheaper models I have owned. Ironically, I didn’t use it once during the trip. Just never really felt the need to use it, especially since we stayed out of crowded metros on this vacation. Eagle Creek also makes packing folders that I have used for years. It keeps all of my shirts wrinkle free and allows easy access to them throughout the trip. Other handy packing aids include those vacuum travel bags sometimes called space bags. I use them mainly to store dirty laundry, but they can also good for packing bulky outerwear.

Electronics

Twenty-six years ago we drove approximately 1,000 miles through Spain and Portugal without the benefit of GPS. Back in the day, there was something very pure about navigating solely via Thomas Bros. maps, however, I don’t miss the endless arguments over whether I knew where I was going and why didn’t I ask for directions. I can’t imagine now taking a trip without my precious Garmin Nuvi*. Prior to leaving, I plug all of our important addresses (hotels, car rental drop off location, restaurants, etc) into my “favorites” so we are ready to go upon arrival. Eliminates 95+% of all in-vehicle conflict, leaving minor skirmishes like when should we stop for gas (she does not like going below half a tank), or radio station choices (I like listening to “foreign” stations).

Note*- Two days before we left, I realized that my 15 year old GPS unit had died. I found a similar, easy to use model at Best Buy on sale for about $90 (Garmin Nuvi 52LM). The problem was it didn’t have pre-loaded European maps so I had to download them from Garmin onto a memory card for about $90 (if I had time I would have bought the navigator card on eBay for MUCH less). BTW, I found out the hard way that new GPS units use micro SD cards, unlike my older Garmin.

For most calls home I wait until reaching the hotel in order to use a phone app like magic Jack that works for free on Wi-Fi. I also modify our cell service to include some extra international calling minutes just in case. Once in the hotel, we use an iPad for restaurant reviews, purchasing entry tickets, or a host of other functions that certainly were not available 26 years ago. On our next trip I am planning on bringing an old, unlocked iPhone and just purchasing a SIM card overseas.

Flights

We flew British Air’s World Traveller Plus service from SFO to Heathrow on a 747 with a 2-4-2 cabin layout. Although it’s tough to beat the lie flat feature of business class, our end two seats felt very private and were certainly more plush/spacious than coach. The wine and food service is essentially the same as business class, which doesn’t really mean much these days. Airline food is just plain bad. The service comes with noise cancelling headphones and an amenity package, again same as business class (yawn). For me, the quieter surroundings and more leg/elbow room make the upcharge from coach worthwhile. Throw in 5 mg of Xanex and I was good to go for the 10.5 hour flight. I really don’t use travel agents much these days, although for purchasing premium airline tickets we generally use a consolidator like Regal Wings.

I suppose everyone knows that Heathrow is one ginormous airport that requires plenty of time to make connecting flights (or is it a shopping center disguised as an airport). I would not feel comfortable with a layover of less than two-and-a-half hours. Our line to going through passport control in Terminal 5 was horrendous. Airport staff were allowing people to cut the line if their flight was imminent, but who needs the stress. Also, gates are much farther away than they may appear to be. In fact, you may need to take airport transportation to get to some of the gates. BTW, on our last night we stayed at the Hilton in Terminal 4 in order to avoid any potential stressful situations. The hotel is quite nice; very well appointed rooms and equipped with the most comfortable bed of the trip. But to use the word “Hilton” and “Terminal 4” in the same sentence is misleading. The two are VERY far apart. In fact, we took a cab to get to the terminal for our flight home so we wouldn’t have to retrace our slog from the night before. I thought the Hilton would be similarly situated like the extremely convenient Sheraton at Charles de Gaulle. It is not.

The flight from Malaga to London was stress free and this time the carry-on bags did fit in the overhead compartment. We did the VAT customs stamp routine at the Malaga airport. Even though we had to wait fifteen minutes for the worker to return from a bathroom break, it was probably quicker than waiting in line at Heathrow. Also, for those returning a rental car at the airport and looking to top off the gas tank, there is a convenient gas station located practically in the airport terminal area. Look for the signs.

Taxis

Good news for jetlagged tourists taking cabs into Madrid Centro from the airport. The fare is now a flat fee of 30€, period, no additional charge for baggage. On this trip we somehow never made it into the metro system since taxis were plentiful, relatively cheap, and traffic was fairly light. We used taxis at least 25 times during the trip and each driver was extremely professional and insisted on returning exact change to the penny. I can’t sing their praise enough – really impressed, although my sample size is admittedly not that large. The only negative taxi experience occurred in Granada, which was really the fault of our hotel staff and not the driver. We should have just walked to the taxi stand rather than have the driver come to the hotel. For reasons I won’t bore you with, a 4€ ride turned into an 8€ ride. Not the end of the world.

Trains

We also had good experiences on our two train rides, a day trip to Toledo, followed by our transfer down to Sevilla. I did purchase both tickets from the Renfe website (Spanish version) prior to leaving home and YES the Renfe website is a pain in the rear. Following the advice from the many Renfe help websites like seat61.com does not necessarily guarantee success. For several days I received various error messages for no obvious reason. Then inexplicably it worked and I was able to print out PDF copy of the tickets. For the 2.5 hour run from Madrid-Atocha to Sevilla we chose the Preferente service which included wine and snacks. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this service based on the food, but the car was very quiet and the seats plush. The standard tourist fare for the short trip to Toledo was totally fine. BTW, there is only one type of train, the high speed AVE train, which makes runs between Madrid and Toledo. There are no other trains, or stops between the two cities. For some reason, the Renfe website listed both an AVE train and an AVcity train for each time slot. Clicking on the AVcity link led to some sort of seat error message. I’ll bet this doesn’t happen on the Deutsche Bahn site.

Car Rental

I found better pricing directly from Europcar rather than going through a consolidator like AutoEurope. Reserved an Audi A3 “or similar” for 7 days (pick-up Sevilla Railway Station, drop-off Malaga Airport). By searching the internet I found some obscure discount code that brought the price down to 205€. When I picked up the car I was told that there were no more Audi A3s, but I could have a “similar” VW Touran. Really wanted to drive the A3 since DW is considering purchasing one back home. In hindsight, I should have asked to see a picture of the vehicle since it turns out that a Touran is much more like a small minivan, rather than the nimble A3. It drove fine on the open road, but was somewhat of a liability in those cramped, underground parking garages one finds throughout Spain. I would have insisted in swapping cars, but dreaded returning to the long line at the Europcar counter. Oh well.

Madrid

What do I remember of our stay in Madrid 26 years ago? Three things:

1. A jet lagged DH (dumb husband) overpaid the taxi driver by an order of magnitude. These were the pre-euro, peseta days when a decimal point meant a lot (100 to 1 exchange rate).
2. Our hotel did not have air-conditioning.
3. On our first night stroll in Plaza Espana we witnessed a purse snatching by two kids on a moped.

The truth is, those first experiences in Spain have probably benefited us in the long run as good learning experiences. Let’s just say that we are much more savvy travelers these days.

What I didn’t remember was how elegant a city Madrid truly is. Lots of grand boulevards connected together by ornate plazas. A must see is the Royal Palace and gardens, which are located in a wonderful grand public space including Plaza de Oriente and the Teatro Real. It is one of the more ornate and fully furnished palaces you will find in Europe. We visited the Palace a second time on a Wednesday expecting to see the changing of the guard ceremony that normally take place on the half hour. Since it was the first Wednesday of the month, we were hoping to see the much grander Solemn Changing of the Guard. It turns out that King Juan Carlos, or is it Felipe, was visiting that day and the entire festivities were cancelled. Wow. An actual working palace!

On another day we combined the Caixa Forum with tea at the Ritz, the Prado Museum and a stroll in Buen Retiro Park. That was a great day! We actually entered the Prado an hour before the daily free admission hours (6 pm to 8 pm), which meant it was somewhat less crowded due to visitors waiting for the clock to strike 6. The Prado has to be one of the top ten museums in the world, so even if you are not huge museum fans, it is another obvious must see in Madrid. The Retiro Park is much more beautiful today than it was 26 years ago. Be sure to spend time on the rocking chairs inside the Crystal Palace, a great place to rest one’s weary feet at the end of the day. Sure tea at the Ritz is overpriced and not that great, but it’s the Ritz. If you don’t want to waste your money on tea, at least pop in to use their rest rooms.

Ever since I hung a poster of Picasso’s Guernica in my dorm room (don’t even ask) I wanted to see the original in person. So of course, the Reina Sofia was also on our to do list. I found the layout of the museum somewhat confusing, but loved the Picasso, Dali, and Miro content. Photography is allowed in certain galleries and not in others, which is also confusing and leads to constant admonishments from the guards. IMHO photos should never be allowed in any museum. We thought the audio guide was very worthwhile for an additional 4.5€.

Hotel

Probably the bulk of my trip planning hours are devoted to selecting hotels. We are very light sleepers, so the most important criteria for us, by far, is a hotel with quiet rooms followed by central location, room size, price, and quality of breakfast served. Our junior suite at the Hotel Preciados, located in the Centro district, was excellent. The suite was large and the two sets of double pane windows equipped with electric shutters ensured a good night’s sleep. The room was so quiet/dark that we overslept on the first morning and asked for wakeup calls during the rest of our stay. The room had a free mini-bar with wine, juice, beer etc and the hotel served the best breakfast of the trip. We had no complaints.

The hotel is located on a pedestrian only street, Calle de Preciados, just a block or so from the Gran Via and easy walking distance to Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol and the tapas bars along Cava Baja. We even walked to the Caixa Forum, Prado and Retiro Park via a network of pedestrian only streets funneling onto the funky Calle de las Huertas noted for its many cafes and bars.

Food

Of course great, regional foods are one of the top reasons we all love to travel. I would rate the food in Calalonia and the Basque country slightly better than what we found on this trip. In other words, I thought it was harder to find bad food in Barcelona or San Sebastian than in Madrid or Sevilla, if that makes any sense. It takes a lot of time consuming, on-line research to guarantee great dining experiences while on vacation. Even then, one runs into a few duds along the way. Nevertheless, I know you will enjoy most of the restaurants mentioned in this report.

Casa Lucas: We walked down from the hotel to Cava Baja, 30 to have a couple of tapas before turning in for our first night of jetlagged sleep. Unfortunately, we did not react well to a squid dish that happened to be garnished with a mayonnaise-based dipping sauce (the waiter mixed it in prior to serving). Luckily, DW brings a pharmacy of restorative potions on these trips, and our stomachs were back to normal after a short stint on antibiotics. I want to be clear that I still think Casa Lucas serves great tapas, it’s just that our bodies don’t seem to tolerate mayonnaise and we should have sent the dish back. Not a great start, but we did have plenty of great meals on this trip. The wine here was outstanding and inexpensive (a constant refrain in Spain).

10 con 10: Very trendy, upscale brasserie that draws from the well-heeled Salamanca neighborhood crowd (2/3 locals 1/3 tourists). The large bar area at the entrance is where locals meet for cocktails to “see and be seen”. Reservations are a must, even for an 8:30 pm dinner. The menu seemed to be a mixture of Spanish and international cuisine. I wasn’t wowed by the food, but we had a fun people watching night.

Casa Mingo: Think the opposite of 10 con 10. No flash, just great food. We had the famous roast chicken, chorizo, tortilla (potato pie in Spain) and salad, washed down by their eponymous apple cider (sidra). We chose the “dulce”, carbonated cider vs the flat “sour” version. This is very cheap, delicious no frills home cooking. A must go! We sat outside between a group of older men that meet here once a week for dinner, and a couple of love birds that couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Although Casa Mingo is off the beaten path, plenty of tourists make the journey too.

La Perejila: We ventured back into the Cava Baja area to try and walk into Restaurante Botin, “one of the oldest restaurants in the world”. I originally thought it was a tourist trap, but the food looked really good and they had suckling pig, a dish I was constantly searching for on this trip. No luck getting into Botin, but instead we stumbled into the lovely tapas bar, La Perejila. We were seated at the marble bar surrounded by eclectic furnishings and chandelier lighting. We were greeted by a friendly, English speaking waitress/bartender who made ordering a pleasant experience (not always the case in some crowded tapas bars). The meal started with complementary cured meats and olives followed by smoked cod, baked meatballs, grilled octopus and cheese with homemade quince, all washed down by copas of local wine. We were given a glass of moscatel and cookies for desert. The best tapas we had in Madrid.

Chocolateria San Gines: We were pleasantly surprised to stumble onto San Gines while walking along Calle del Arenal, one of the many pedestrian-only streets in Madrid Centro. The sweets at this 24-hour per day Madrid institution was on my short list of recommended must haves. Like many must haves, it’s hard to live up to the hype. I really didn’t care for the hot chocolate, or the churros, plus ours was served room temperature at best, since the waiter brought ten to fifteen cups on one tray to the outdoor tables – quite a feat I must say. I hesitate to compare the hot chocolate to Angelina’s on lovely Rue de Rivoli in Paris, but don’t go to San Gines thinking it’s a fountain of gourmet treats.

Markets

A reliable choice for a quick lunch, or snack is Mercado San Miguel, the best of the three markets we found in Madrid. In particular, we enjoyed the cheese vendor, La Fromagerie and El Pescado Original, a fresh fish counter that served great ceviche. It was here that I ordered the first of many plates of pimientos de padron that we consumed in Spain. I love making this dish at home, sometimes mixing in shishito peppers as well. We were hoping to find markets on this trip that rival the amazing La Boqueria in Barcelona or Bretxa in San Sebastian. The only other markets we encountered in Madrid were the smaller, food court type of markets; Mercado de Paz in the Salamanca neighborhood and San Anton in Chueca. Mercado de Triana in Sevilla is another good market, similar in style and content to the above.

Shopping

Over the years I have come to the realization that for my DW, traveling and shopping are inseparable. Put another way, in order to enjoy the former I have to put up with the latter. In her defense, she is fast and we usually do the shopping on the way to a museum or historical site. We are always in search of unique stores and art galleries in every city we visit. Paris is probably our favorite city in the world for boutique shopping (I suppose that’s obvious). As for Madrid, there are a plethora of clothing and shoe stores in every neighborhood. The problem we had is that they tend to be the generic discount, lower-end type establishments, especially the shoes stores. Of course there were exceptions to this generalization in barrios such as Salamanca (on the very high end) and Chueca (smaller, one-off shops). On the whole, we were somewhat underwhelmed with the shopping and came back with little to show for ourselves. Not necessarily a bad thing if you are the one paying the bills, haha.

I usually would not recommend wasting time in department stores; however, El Corte Ingles has a massive, superstore in Puerto Banus that caters to the Costa del Sol jet set. This outlet of the national chain store is stocked with much nicer merchandise than the Madrid store we visited. After the VAT refund plus an additional 10% Corte Ingles tourist discount, I was able to get a great deal on my favorite Zegna jeans and shirts.

Artwork and soccer jerseys seem to be a constant source of purchases on our travels. Artwork tends to memorialize the various trips over the years and soccer jerseys, a staple gift since the boys were little, still bring a smile to their faces on our return (ages 21 and 24 now :)). We really only found one decent art gallery on this trip in Sevilla, although there are nice ceramic shops around Calle San Jacinto in the Triana neighborhood. We did buy a nice painting of the Albaicin at a great, old school frame shop in Granada that carried works from local artists (details to follow). As for futbol gear, every town has a team store, or several in the case of Real Madrid. We picked up a Renaldo jersey on Calle de Preciados store and shirts from the Sevilla and Granada teams later in the trip.

We were also on a mission to find nice cycling clothing (aka kits) on this trip. I figured a country that celebrates the Vuelta every year and gave birth to Miguel Indurain and Alberto Contador should have lots of great bike shops. Alas, I found very few. None in Madrid, clearly not a bike friendly city (except for Retiro Park) and a spotty selection at a shop called Semar in Granada. The best shop I found was Marbella Bike, on Ricardo Soriano (close to the old town), that had some quality BMC pro-gear. I guess for a better selection I’ll have to wait until our next trip to Italy.

Tales from Toledo, Sevilla, Ronda, Granada & the Costa del Sol to follow…

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    >Over the years I have come to the realization that for my DW, traveling and shopping are inseparable. Put another way, in order to enjoy the former I have to put up with the latter.

    You are not alone in this . . . ;)

    Ian

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    Thanks for posting.
    I returned from Madrid ( and Lisbon) last week . It was my sixth visit to Madrid.
    We always stay in Salamanca /Serrano area.
    Some stores in Salamanca are very high end : Prada , Dior, Gucci...etc, but there is a good number
    of reasonably priced stores , many boutiques ,and ever present Zara and El Corte Ingles .
    I like Plaza de Oriente , but tend to stay away from the area around Sol , Mayor and Santa Ana.

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    Following along, missing Spain. We just spent two weeks in Madrid and Andalucia (plus an additional 8 days in Prague/Croatia). Love the NPR analogy - this might inspire me to write a report.

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    nice start, BelTib. We have had a not dissimilar relationship with Spain - a first trip over 30 years ago and then nothing again until a few years ago when we started to do a succession of city visits, which have only served to whet my appetite for another long trip, perhaps to Galicia as we missed that out last time.

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    How lovely to be able to return and re-arrange your memories of a place, BelTib.

    I quite agree with you about Madrid, Prado and Reina Sofia. My late DH always feared that I would equate travel with shopping!

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    I'm enjoying your trip down memory lane -- what a wonderful trip to take!

    I'm looking forward to more and appreciating all the details as we will be going to Madrid and Andalucia in May.

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    Toledo

    There are lots of nice day trips from Madrid to choose from including Avila, El Escorial, Segovia or even Cordoba via an AVE train. We chose Toledo simply because we had never been there and it is so easy to get to. There is really no reason to drive or bus to Toledo since the train will get you there in 30 minutes for about 20€ roundtrip. Your only stop will be the Toledo train station which is a gorgeous, Moorish inspired 1920s building. I would strongly recommend taking a cab to the center of town, not only because it’s a long uphill walk (unless the escalators are working), but there are a couple of scenic overlooks that should not be missed. For a few extra euros you can ask the driver to take the circular route along the Rio Tajo and stop for some nice panoramic photos of the old town.

    We spent half a day in Toledo with our wonderful guide Elena Pérez (approx. 140€). She was born and raised in Toledo (still lives there), extremely well spoken, and most importantly was a very pleasant person to spend time with. Her contact information along with several other guides can be found at www.guiasdetoledos.es. Toledo has an intimate, medieval museum like quality to it. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering the narrow alleys of Toledo with Elena explaining the comingled history of the Arabs, Jews and Christians (at least until 1492). The cathedral was the highlight of the visit for me; someone who is definitely not a church aficionado. Stops at the two synagogues in Toledo were also worthwhile. El Greco fans should not miss the Chapel of Santo Tome and the huge painting of the Burial of Count Orgaz. We ended the day at the marzipan shop also called Santo Tome which is located across the street from the main Plaza de Zocodover. Needless to say, our supply of marzipan was fully consumed on the train ride back to Madrid-Atocha.

    Even though I’m sure Toledo is generally a very safe city, there is always the threat of pickpocket gangs roaming about. I was very impressed that our tour guide received several texts from other guides during the day, warning us to be on the look-out for two, well dressed women pickpockets. One text even included a photo of the women. At least in Toledo there is a coordinated effort amongst the tour guides, site workers, and the police to root out these miscreants.

    While on the subject of tour guides, I must confess to my DW that my idea of trying out the so-called “free walking tour” approach to our guiding needs in Spain was an absolute failure. Blinded by the success of two really good free tours in New Orleans and Savannah lead by knowledgeable and energetic amateur historians, I thought why not give it a try in Madrid and Sevilla. All I can say is, in our case, it was true that you get what you pay for (note that in the past I have given out very generous tips when deserved). Our so-called guide in Sevilla was a young Dutchman working for Poncho Tours, who apparently thought it would be cool prancing around Europe guiding unwary vacationers for tips. I have no problem with his birth country being Holland; it was his lack of ability to speak in coherent sentences that was so aggravating. These tour companies get hundreds and in some cases thousands of excellent reviews on tripadvisor, so obviously it REALLY depends on who you get as a guide on any given day. So DW, I pledge I will never risk our valuable vacation time on another “free walking tour”. Reflecting on our time in Toledo made me realize how a private guide like Elena Pérez can contribute to a rich and fulfilling vacation.

    Hoping to post notes on Andalucía and the wonderful maze that is the old town of Sevilla before the end of the World Series....

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    BelTib,

    thanks for your tips on seeing Toledo which is still on my list of places to see, unfortunately [in the sense that I haven't got there yet]

    Interesting what you say about well-dressed pickpockets - there's another current thread about a similar group operating in Valencia.

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    Yes bilboburgler. I believe I gave her 150€ and let her keep the change. ;)

    Prices do vary greatly. I have paid anywhere between $200 to $300 per day lately for guides in Turkey and Israel. Blue Badge guides in London start at about $235 for a half day, or $380 for a full day. You are correct. Private guides are expensive, but good ones can add an extra layer of enjoyment to a trip especially from an educational standpoint. Our kids seemed to be more focused and behavior improved when we had a guide.

    Funny story:

    Years ago we hired an Italian guide in Rome who looked like she stepped out of a copy of Vogue Magazine. Very attractive, full makeup, even wore Manolo Blahnik pumps while showing us around the Forum and Palatine Hill – no kidding. The problem was her delivery was so rehearsed, it sounded like she had memorized a few paragraphs from a Roman tour book. If you asked any questions, she got flustered because it made her go off script. She was dreadful. During a break I called my travel agent in a fury, demanding a full refund when we got home. His response was that George Clooney thought she was wonderful! (He had hired her the previous day during a break in filming Ocean’s Twelve).

    One must always exercise due diligence before selecting a guide.

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    One must always exercise due diligence before selecting a guide.>>

    when we were in Valencia, we took a train to a place called Sagunt to see the castle up above the town, which has a history dating back to pre-roman times. we were just starting to explore the site, which straggles for over a km across the hillside, when we were approached by a chap offering to be our guide for the grand sum of €2 each. so we exercised "due diligence" and said yes. We spent a fascinating hour or so in his company, he was very knowledgable, had excellent english, and he made the whole place come alive. When we parted, we paid him rather more than the €4 we owed him.

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    [Still can’t believe our Giants got into the World Series. I did not follow the news while traveling in Spain. To the KC fodorites out there: great Game 7 and congrats on a well-played season.]

    Sevilla

    Originally we booked Hotel Casa 1800, but cancelled after reading about the noisy construction work going on next door. We ended up staying at the luxurious and extremely quiet Palacio de Villapanés. This property is an 18th century palace that has undergone a complete restoration in 2010 after being purchased from the original owner’s family. Our room was spacious and well equipped (i.e. two sinks, individual comforters on the bed (I love that idea), huge walk-in shower area, and free-minibar). No complaints with the hotel itself; a classic boutique. The compromise one makes staying here is in the location. Hotel staff said it is an easy 15 minute walk to the center of town. That may be true if you were born and raised in Sevilla, but I found it to be a longer, very confusing walk down many narrow, twisting streets (reminded me of how felt in Venice). The extra effort/time to walk back to the hotel especially after a long day of sightseeing was not insignificant. Having said that, once we made a commitment to using taxis to get around town, I actually appreciated coming home to our peaceful palace every evening.

    Breakfast is an additional cost at Palacio de Villapanes so we decided to venture out onto a nearby commercial street frequented by neighborhood locals (turn right from the hotel). On Calle Recaredo we found Bar Entre dos Hermandades; the type of establishment that isn’t necessarily interested in catering to a couple of gringos like us (no English menu here). I know I gave the old-timer behind the bar a headache with my poor restaurant Spanish, but after a few visits he seemed to tolerate, then even warm up to us. He served us strong coffee and our first of several huevos estrellados, a huge dish of silver-dollar sized potatoes covered with fried eggs and Ibérico ham. I noticed that lots of people were eating molletes for breakfast, the Adalucían specialty of toasted bread topped with olive oil, garlic and crushed tomatoes (had it in Mexico, usually topped with beans and cheese). One day we stopped in for a late afternoon snack of my favorite pimientos de padrón washed down with sangria. All delicious.

    Sevilla can definitely be a challenge to navigate even for visitors who think they have a good sense of direction (me). The hotel provided map was of little use so I bought a real city map at a bookstore on Calle Escuelas Pias, the other commercial street near Palacio de Villagpanés (left turn from hotel). Map in hand, I felt better wandering the streets and we eventually found the center of town by gazing up towards the Giralda Tower. A worthwhile climb up about 35 wide ramps leads to the top of this bell tower and a glorious 360 degree view of Sevilla. DW does not usually do well with heights or confined spaces, but had no problem conquering this tower. Ramps make a big difference and I don’t think we would have made it to the top if there were stairs. This is a BELL tower so don’t be surprised by very loud sounds when you least expect it. The Cathedral itself is over-the-top impressive. Toledo’s cathedral may have more historical importance, but the Christopher Columbus tomb, gold alter and beautiful choir area make Sevilla Cathedral a not-to-miss site.

    The Alcazar was another highlight of our stay in Sevilla. In fact we visited twice. We bought tickets online for what we thought was simply a nighttime tour of the palace and grounds, thinking it would be cooler and less crowded than during the day. In actuality, a fairly small group of us were lead through various rooms of the palace, as actors dramatized historical events of the period. Their costumes were beautiful and dramatic lighting added to the ambience. The only problem for us was that they only spoke Spanish. The available audio guide gave some useful information about certain rooms, but definitely no translation of what the actors were saying. Nevertheless, it was a real fun experience. We returned the next day to do a complete tour that included the wonderful gardens.

    One day we took a taxi across the Guadalquivir River (or was it the Alfonso Canal) to Barrio Triana. Be sure to go in the morning to experience the Mercado which is located at the foot of the Isabel Bridge. Great place to stroll & snack (there’s even a tiny flamenco theater inside). Craft beer fans should search out a nano-brewery in the market called Cervezas Taifa. They make on-site a nice pilsner called “Rubia” and a “Tostado” IPA. A rare find in this part of Spain. After the market, we continued down Calle San Jacinto, the main street in Triana, to Calle Alfarería which leads to several nice ceramic shops. This is a great area to buy gifts of hand painted tiles, although the selection of pottery was probably better at Pincel y Barro in Toledo. We later realized that it doesn’t take too many tile purchases to overload the luggage (carry-on in our case). An excellent place to stop in the neighborhood for lunch, or dinner if you snacked too much at the market, is La Comidilla. Lots of locals eating there, nice tapas, and one of the best salmorejos of the trip. They serve Taifa beer too! A nice ending to the afternoon was a walk along the river to the San Telmo Bridge, and crossing over to reach the Torre del Oro for one more great panoramic view of the city.

    Our trip to Spain was planned to coincide with Sevilla's multi-week flamenco extravaganza called La Bienal. We purchased our tickets months ago to see Pastora Galvan & Dentidades at the Teatro de la Maestranza, although shows are staged at different venues all over town. The Maestranza is a large, modern theater located along the river in the Arenal neighborhood. It doesn’t have the grand ambiance of a Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, but the sight lines and acoustics are very good. Before the show started at 8:30 pm, we took a horse-drawn carriage tour through Maria Luisa Park and got our first look at the amazing Plaza de España. Since it was getting late, I asked our driver if he could drop us off at the theater, and surprisingly he agreed. We made our grand entrance on the busy Paseo de Cristóbal Colón in front of hundreds (ok, maybe dozens) of theatergoers making their way inside. As the coachman dramatically opened the carriage door with a flourish, we felt both elated and somewhat embarrassed, walking up the steps through the crowd. The show was spectacular and of course had that very intense flamenco edge. I loved how the audience showed its appreciation during the performance by calling out words of encouragement and admiration. After the show we intended to have a late dinner in the neighborhood at La Brunilda or La Bulla, but the crowds were too much to handle (at least and 1.5 hour wait for a table). In fact every restaurant in the Arenal seemed packed. Since it was getting late, we went back to the hotel and ordered room service. Sometimes it’s just meant to be that way.

    The next day we saw more flamenco at the popular Carboneria; not a good idea after our spectacular Bienal experience. I will say Carboneria is an interesting place, but be prepared to sit on benches, eat bad food, and hang out with hoards of sweaty tourists (it’s really hot in there). We could only last about a half hour. The show is free though and the performers are very sincere. Carboneria is one of those love it or hate it experiences.

    I must mention the absolutely best tapas restaurant of our entire trip, Vineria San Telmo. We definitely would have eaten there multiple times, but unfortunately we discovered Vineria San Telmo on our last day in Sevilla. It is located on the outskirts of Barrio Santa Cruz near the Jardines de Murillo, although the outdoor tables are really closer to a parking garage entrance than the gardens. But one comes here for the unusual, gourmet, inexpensive tapas. The portions are huge so I would suggest ordering tapas, or ½ raciones. We had rocket salad with brie and honey, squid ink pasta with grilled scallops, a tower of tomato, eggplant, goat cheese and salmon, a Moroccan pastille dish, and a few others that I can’t remember other than they were great. Eat here!

    Random thoughts on Sevilla:

    • For trip planners trying to decide between Sevilla and Granada. Don’t. Make sure you do both!
    • We should have spent more time doing our restaurant homework and making reservations. There is great food to be had in Sevilla, but there are LOTS of mediocre, tourist traps.
    • We really only had three full days in Sevilla and could have used at least one more. Probably would have had time to rent one of those SEVici bicycles to explore the entire Maria Luisa Park. Also, never had a chance to see “The Mushroom”.
    • Special thanks to the gorgeous Hotel Alfonso XIII. Almost every afternoon we found ourselves on their beautiful grounds taking a short break before continuing on with our site seeing.

    One last random thought:

    • We must have asked at least a dozen strangers to take our picture during the trip. You know the drill. You casually look around at passersby and try to figure out who might be willing to take the photo (most) and who might have the ability to take a decent picture (not many). But is this long accepted travel practice coming to an end? On this trip for the first time, I noticed lots of tourists carrying these so-called “selfie poles”; gadgets that can extend your iphone two or three feet out in front of your face so don't have to ask for help. My first reaction was what a cool idea, but can you imagine dozens of these poles swinging about as a large tour group angles for the perfect shot. Might be dangerous:)

    Ready to pick up the rental car and head south for Ronda…

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    we got hopelessly lost one night in Seville. Fortunately we came across a group of middle aged ladies who were very happy to help us find our way - though their directions weren't perfect [or was that our comprehension of them?] they were good enough for us to find our way back to somewhere we recognised.

    as with getting lost in Venice one night, it's all part if the fun!

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    Glad to see you enjoyed your night at the Bienal with local girl Pastora Galvan and her show Identidades. She was the queen of the bienal back in 2010 and was then voted best female flamenco dancer of the year by Spanish critics. Got great reviews for this year's performance as well, even though many say that Farru, impersonating his famous grandfather Farruco, was the absolute highlight of the evening. http://www.deflamenco.com/revista/resenas-actuaciones/pastora-galvan-identidades-bienal-de-flamenco-review-photos-1.html

    Promo for the performance you saw:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-hp6JVzC7A

    I was in Maestranza a few night before to see Rocio Molina. Sensational. One child in the audience howled with terror. You never know where this girl goes next. http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/oct/15/rocio-molina-flamenco-bosque-ardora

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    Ronda:

    Turning on the rental car ignition for the first time always triggers that great sense of anticipation one gets only on vacation. I understand the convenience of train travel, but given the opportunity, I’ll take the open road anytime. The scenic drive down to Ronda took less than two hours since we didn’t make any stops (I got outvoted on a detour to visit Grazalema). We checked into our room at the Parador de Ronda and immediately threw open the balcony doors to soak in our first view of the impressive, 200-year-old bridge that spans El Tajo, the deep gorge that separates the old and new sections of Ronda. The scene is incredibly beautiful in the changing light of day, or at night, when floodlights cast a dramatic glow on the stone arches of the bridge. As if the view wasn’t lovely enough, we were also greeted by the sound of Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra filtering into the room from a guitarist playing outside on a public bench. It was a magical “moment” that we will always cherish. Fodorites know these moments well; it is why we all love to travel abroad.

    A one-night stay gave us plenty of time to go on a short hike through the surrounding hills and walk the streets of Ronda. Next to the parador we visited our first Plaza de Toros which included an interesting museum (loved the vintage bullfighting posters) and a huge, very photogenic bull statue. I was told Ernest Hemmingway spent a fair amount of time in Ronda writing “Death in the Afternoon” and/or “Dangerous Summer”. His presence in this part of Spain seems to be well preserved. From here, be sure to cross the street and find Calle Espinel, the main pedestrian-only shopping area that the locals use. Most of the tourist boutiques and quaint streets are on the other side of the bridge from here in the old town. There are several interesting side alleys, courtyards, small plazas and historic buildings that offer great cliff-top views. If you walk far enough through the old town following the big curve along Calle de Armiñán, past the ruins of the Citadel, you will be rewarded with a nice lunch of tapas at Bodega San Francisco. They will serve you inside the restaurant, on the sidewalk, or even in the nearby Plaza Ruedo Alameda.

    Ronda gets very quiet at night; a nice change of pace from go-go Sevilla. It also cools off quite a bit in the evening, so we wore sweaters for the first and only time during the trip. Our one dinner in town was at Meson El Sacristan, located in the charming Plaza Duquesa de Parcent in the old section. Since we made reservations earlier in the day, I was able to reserve an order of cochinillo asado, which the owner Antonio said takes several hours for him to prepare. This was my second suckling pig of the trip, and the best to date. There were very few people eating that night, so for the other courses Antonio pretty much prepared whatever we wanted – never did see a menu.

    The next morning we ate a filling breakfast in the parador's large dinning room. The food was plentiful and slightly above average; not too bad for such a busy parador. As was our habit during entire trip, we made afternoon snacks out of the ubiquitous bread rolls, manchego cheese and jamón ibérico. After taking our fiftieth and final photo of the gorge, we were ready to move on to Granada.

    Note to kinhe:

    Thanks for the flamenco links. Great way to recall our visit to Sevilla. What an amazing/passionate art form.

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    Granada

    The driving instructions given to us by the Hotel Casa 1800 staff were to park in the Puerta Real parking lot downtown, take a 5-minute taxi to Plaza Nueva, and walk 2-minutes or so to the hotel. The extra effort in getting to the hotel was well worth the trouble, since we thoroughly enjoyed staying in this elegant, quiet, boutique hotel located on a pedestrian-only alley in the heart of Granada. Most of the rooms, including our 3rd floor junior suite have windows that open onto a peaceful inner courtyard. Late risers staying in rooms on lower floors may object to noises coming from the breakfast area (served at 8 am). We especially liked using the Nespresso coffee machine, and the afternoon tea provided a time to rest/snack and bridge the gap before the customarily late dinners. The location next to Plaza Nueva was perfect for grabbing a taxi to go up into the Alhambra or Albaicín hills (an easy walk back down), or for strolling along the Darro River.

    There is an obvious difference in the more laid-back lifestyle of Granada, compared to the late-night, go-go street life in the much larger city of Sevilla. Granada also seemed to be a more liberal town as evidenced by the many college students, free spirits (dare I say Hippies), cave squatters, and the lingering odor of cannabis in the air. I have to admit that I was less aware of the connection between Granada and pomegranates; but eventually it clicked after seeing all of those street bollards shaped like the fruit. Once my eye was trained, I saw pomegranates everywhere – on ceramic street signs, manhole covers, storefronts and even hanging in public gardens!

    A great way to explore the hilly streets of Granada is on a Segway. I can’t believe I once labeled these two-wheeled, gyroscopic contraptions as gimmicky, and used mainly by tourists to monopolize city sidewalks. I am a Segway convert! We took a 2 ½ hour tour throughout the Albaicín and Sacromonte neighborhoods with Play Segway Granada. This was our first Segway experience and I must confess it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. Our small group consisted of Malik the guide, and one other couple from Belgium. We each wore a bicycle helmet and a bright yellow safety vest. It took just a few minutes to become adept at operating the Segway and away we went. The guide was very well versed in the history of Granada and we stopped at many different sites, shops, and cave dwellings scattered throughout the hills. There is no way we would have seen as much “hidden Granada” on our own. In fact, we had such an amazing time that we booked another 3-hour trip the next day with a different company (Granada Segway Tours, the red Segways). Their itinerary included the Alhambra, the San Matías neighborhood, and huge chunks of the downtown area all the way to the University of Granada. This time we had a guide to ourselves. He seemed to know everyone in town and his knowledge of the Alhambra was impressive, but he was a little too comical for my taste with his incessant joke-telling (he has seen way too many Austin Powers movies). Each guide did impress me with their attention to our safety at all times and respect for pedestrians. Our boys would have loved joining us on this part of the trip.

    I was surprised to find a fairly large, Moorish bazaar area between Plaza Bib-Rambla near the Cathedral and extending across the Calle Gran Via. I would not make a special trip there, but if you happen to be in the area, why not experience a taste of the Middle East/North Africa in Granada. We found nothing to buy, but a stop for a glass of mint tea and baklava reminded us of our trip to Istanbul earlier this year.

    A more authentic way to get your Arabesque fix is at Hammam Al Andalus located on Calle Santa Ana, one of the many alleyways just off Plaza Nueva (we bought discounted tickets through our hotel). The interior was breathtakingly beautiful with intricate tile-work, domed ceilings and column-lined pools of different water temperatures. Tea was provided and we had a choice of several scented massage oils. We probably enjoyed this experience more than our Istanbul hammam since in Granada the baths are coed (bring your swimsuits). What a great way to end a long day of sightseeing.

    Last Granada tips:

    Alhambra: As you may know, tickets for the Nasrid Palace need to be purchased well in advance. We entered the Alhambra through the Gate of Justice, which is much closer to the palace than the main entrance. Audio guides are a must and they can be purchased outside of the palace while you wait in line. The sales person is usually at the end of the line; if not check next-door at the Palace of Charles V bookshop. It does get crowded so either come early or late to avoid the bus tours.

    El Trillo Resturante: One of the items on our Granada bucket list was a romantic dinner, al fresco, under the moon and stars, facing the floodlit Alhambra walls. El Trillo not only provides the view, but excellent food to match. We had delicious red tuna tartare flown in from Cadiz, artichoke salad, cod and if memory serves, another of my baby pork dishes. All really good. Most of the outdoor seating is in a secluded garden, so if you want the view you must request one of the four or five tables on the upstairs deck. This is not the easiest restaurant to find in the maze of narrow Albaicin streets, but it may be the best in the area. Another Albaicin restaurant that was recommended by our hotel is Restaurantes Estrellas de San Nicolas. It has an even better view of the Alhambra, but IMHO the food does not compare to El Trillo.

    Damasqueros: This was our best meal of the trip, period. No surprise here since the cook, who is also the co-owner with her husband, learned her trade at the 3-star Michelin restaurant, Martin Berasategui in San Sebastion. The tasting meal changes weekly and was prepared beautifully with impeccable service. I added the wine pairings that were all delicious, full pours. In fact, Santi (the husband) insisted on pouring another glass of any wine that I happened to especially praise. This meal would have cost at least twice as much in SF or NYC. An elegant, hidden gem. Note: Damasqueros is located on a small street in the Realejo neighborhood and should not be confused with Bistro, or Bar Damasqueros that you will see on the other end of the same street.

    Art Gallery & Ice Cream: We finally found at nice art gallery called Granada Capital Galeria de Arte. It conveniently located on Gran Vía de Colón, 13 across the street from the best ice cream in town, Heladeria Los Italianos (all the locals go there).

    Closing Thought:

    On our honeymoon 26 years ago, we visited Granada and stayed at the Parador de San Francisco located inside the Alhambra walls. We returned to the parador on this trip to reminisce, and to recreate our first delicious taste of gazpacho together as husband and wife, in the garden restaurant, overlooking the Alhambra, with the scent of jasmine in the still night air. Sadly, we found out how tough it is to conger up past memories as our server was very inattentive, the gazpacho somewhat watery, and the German couple next to us kept blowing smoke towards our table. Hopefully our original memories of that special night will still linger on a while longer…

    Coming up. Our final days in Nerja, including stops in Marbella, Puerta Banus and Malaga.

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    your Granada trip sounds delightful, Bel. We too found the arab market and enjoyed wandering round and drinking tea, but in our case it was in a tea -shop overlooking the Alhambra.

    I agree that the atmosphere is very nice and i would have liked more than 2 nights there.

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    Nerja

    The last two nights of our trip were spent in Nerja for two reasons:

    1. Given the opportunity, we love to end our trips relaxing on a beach for a couple of days.
    2. There are lots of flights to back to London via nearby Malaga.

    At the risk of sounding like a travel curmudgeon, the Costa del Sol was never on my list of must visits. I have traveled throughout Spain avoiding this area because of fears that it is an overdeveloped, concrete jungle of condos and nondescript hotels. For the most part, that’s exactly what it is. I’m sure Nerja was once a serene, sea-side village of white-washed buildings clinging to the Mediterranean Sea, but these days, any lingering quaintness or authenticity has been sucked out of it by the hordes of tourists and expats that flood its streets. I totally understand the British demand for a place in the sun to retire, but I was quite surprised by their sheer numbers in Nerja. Very little Spanish is heard on the streets or in the restaurants for that matter (one of our waiters had a great East End accent). If I wanted to see fish & chip shops, pubs, and curry houses, I would have gone to the UK, not Spain! Full disclosure: I did enjoy a Guinness (or two) and the fiddle playing at the Irish Harp Bar on Calle Carabeo.

    On the positive side, we found a true oasis in Nerja at the Hotel Carabeo and its excellent Restaurant 34. The hotel is located on the side of a cliff overlooking the sea; far enough away from the center of town to allow for a very quiet night of sleep. We were fortunate to reserve the penthouse, which is really a three-room apartment with two bathrooms and a huge, tiled deck that faces the Mediterranean. It was the perfect place to lie on a chaise lounge and finally start that novel that I had been carrying around for the entire trip. We loved having breakfast overlooking the swimming pool and the sea in the distance. Our experience at Hotel Carabeo was first class. What we didn’t know was that the Feria de Nerja was held on the weekend we arrived in town, which meant that the closest car park (can’t get that British English out of my head) to the hotel was used for the festival grounds and not for hotel parking. That was a minor inconvenience compared to the unbelievable amount of noise generated by the fair from 4 pm until about 4 am. The constant ear-piercing music blasting out of huge speakers made it nearly physically impossible to walk through the fairgrounds. There was absolutely nothing quaint or endearing about this fair. Thankfully, once inside our hotel room we heard but a slight thump, thump from the bass notes.

    It is fairly easy to avoid the tourists on the streets of Nerja by heading to one of the several secluded beaches that dot the coastline. There are many restaurants along the beach, however we only ate in town at El Pulguilla, which is a very simple, mostly outdoor, inexpensive seafood restaurant. We had really good grilled monkfish, squid and a few tapas. Also, Restaurant 34 is a very good, upscale continental restaurant located inside our hotel. If you reserve, be sure to ask for an outside table overlooking the sea. Nerja is one of the southern Spanish towns where you will still find bars serving free tapas with each drink you purchase.

    After a late dinner at our hotel, we walked back into the center of town to the lovely Balcon de Europa that juts out perpendicular to the sea. The crowds were mostly gone by then and we were far enough away from the fair to enjoy a peaceful stroll. The view looking back towards the floodlit town and cliffs was truly gorgeous. Maybe my initial impression of Nerja was too negative?

    Marbella

    We went for a nice drive along the coastal highway from Nerja to Marbella and Puerto Banus. This is an excellent road that winds through many tunnels offering beautiful views of the sea. It was also the first time we had to pay a toll since leaving Sevilla. We pulled into the Marbella Club Hotel and realized that it would have been a great choice for spending our last days on the Costa del Sol. For some reason I never really investigated staying in Marbella. We bought small salads and sandwiches to-go at a sort of organic deli/restaurant across the street from the hotel. We parked the car at Puerto Banus and had a picnic at marina as we watched the mega-yachts go by. Puerto Banus is an incredibly up-scale enclave that attracts the jet-set crowd making it a fun place to people watch. It reminded us of Saint-Tropez minus the beautiful beaches. We were really surprised how much we enjoyed walking through Marbella's old town. It has much better shopping than Nerja as well as quaint, narrow streets and a beautiful church.

    Malaga

    Before heading to the airport with stopped in Malaga for a few hours. It was a Sunday and not very many people seemed to be on the streets. We strolled along the recently restored waterfront and explored the streets of old town Malaga. We visited the Museo Carmen Thyssen, which is located in a beautifully restored 16th century palace (never made it to the Madrid branch). We also stopped at the wonderful Museum of Glass and Crystal set in a restored 18th century house. The enthusiastic owner of the museum guided us through his home and told many stories about his life of collecting rare crystal. Absolutely a must see in Malaga.
    _________________________________

    Our trip to Spain was a great success due in large part to the knowledge gleaned from the countless posts I've read on this Travel Talk Forum. Thank you all!

    Where are we going next??
    Starting to think about Berlin and Prague followed by...

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    When it comes to Nerja, the Feria is totally crazy, but it's also lots of fun if you know how to enjoy it. Lots of cultural activities, great concerts etc. Had an unforgettable night at a concert with local hero and eventually huge national copla star Antonio Cortes a few years ago. Some 3000 very proud nerjeños in the huge tent on the festival grounds. Not any English to be heard here, no.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uog7lx-2d9Y
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3_UrH6iq-0
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrV4bgsfIYk

    A very young Antonio Cortes (16 or something) singing a traditional saeta on the streets of Nerja during Semana Santa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQUDWsfCHF4

    Now, on other stages: http://www.antoniocortes.org/

    And plenty of very genuine tapas bars/restaurants in the beautiful Casco antiguo/Old town in Nerja. Some of my favourites within a couple of hundred meters:
    La Puntilla (fantastic fish and seafood tapas): http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g315917-d1897626-Reviews-La_Puntilla-Nerja_Costa_del_Sol_Province_of_Malaga_Andalucia.html
    Los Bilbainos: http://www.nerjatoday.com/barsandrestaurants/los-bilbainos/
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g315917-d3239473-Reviews-Bar_Bodega_Los_Bilbainos-Nerja_Costa_del_Sol_Province_of_Malaga_Andalucia.html
    El Cangrejo: http://www.nerjatoday.com/barsandrestaurants/el-cangrejo/
    El Velero (the best carne con tomate in all of the Malaga region?): http://www.nerjatoday.com/barsandrestaurants/el-velero/
    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g315917-d5111434-Reviews-El_Velero-Nerja_Costa_del_Sol_Province_of_Malaga_Andalucia.html

    There is much more to Nerja than meets the eye.

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    Thanks again for your great mouth-watering report! I'm saving this for our trip in May. Loving the description of some of your meals and have noted the places in Seville and especially Granada! I'll be taking many notes before our trip in May!

    Paule

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    Hi kimhe,

    I was expecting your reply ;). I know how much you love Spain; especially the cuisine and arts. BTW we probably carried on this trip five pages of notes taken from your posts, so a big thanks from DW and me for your generous sharing of tips and suggestions.

    I did want to echo your recommendation of La Puntilla. I left it off my trip report, but we did eat there for lunch and it was great. We actually ate quite well in Nerja. I just think for me, there was something lacking with the entire Costa del Sol portion of the trip. I recently re-read an old trip report of mine from the Côte d'Azur (can’t believe it was '08). I know comparisons are dangerous, but maybe I was hoping to find the Spanish equivalent to Le Lavandou, St. Tropez, Antibes,St. Paul-de-Vence etc; I did not.

    Having said that, your response makes the point clear that if you know where to look, you will find authenticity almost anywhere. It was fun seeing all of the mothers and daughters in town dressed for the Féria in their finest “trajes de flamenco”. I wish I knew about the concert you mentioned, however, I stand firm on my overall negative description of the fairground itself. The fair I observed was as tacky as they come; complete with rigged carnival games, greasy food, and that constant, high decibel, mind-numbing racket. At least it was completely safe, without the thugs that seem to show up at our local county fairs.

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    Malaga is a lovely Andalusian town , we did not find anything remotely " British " about it as might be the case in many places on Costa del Sol.
    Thanks for the long report.
    Berlin and Prague are both great cities. I stopped in Dresden between.
    Happy planing.

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    Hi BelTib,

    Glad to hear that you found some of the tips helpful!

    Just a comment on the Nerja Fair:
    Nerja during the Feria is a kind of a "state of emergency", but it's in general very local and very Andalucian, even the tacky fairgrounds. A friend and I wandered through the fairgounds late at night with a big smile on our faces a couple of years ago, remembering the unbeatable frase from Gerald Brenan's housekeeper in his classic "South from Granada". Brenan was telling her that he was going back to England for a couple of weeks, and she replied that she never understood what he went to this "Europa de Francia" for. Brenan's housekeeper would most probably consider Madrid as "Europa de Francia", and the Nerja Feria is definitely not a "Europa de Francia" thing. A couple of minutes later we were in a kind of a prison cell cage 30 meters up in the air in a frantic revolving wheel, heart in mouth and having a great Andalucia moment.

    The Nerja fair has, although in a much smaller scale, many similarities with for example the famous Sevilla and Cordoba spring fairs with its parades, competitions, masses, religious processions and very popular midnight concerts: http://mynerja.com/view/news/nerja-feria-2013/

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    Just had a quick glance, and can't wait to read in-depth.

    Was grateful to see another reference to audioguide availability near the Justicia Gate at the Alhambra. Thank you!

    And thanks for the shout out to KC Royals fans - what an amazing fall that was! :-)

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