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Need Maribel's Advice on Short Visit to Spain

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We will be going to Spain in mid April (2013) for about 6 days before putting our college son on a train from Barcelona to Paris where he'll be studying for the following month.

We'll probably fly into and out of Madrid and would appreciate suggestions on an itinerary. My husband doesn't really like big cities. Also he prefers to spend 3 (or at a minimum 2) nights in each place to avoid constantly packing and unpacking.

We're thinking about maybe trying to see a few Madrid highlights - Prado, for instance - then touring towns around Madrid (Segovia, Toledo, etc.) before taking the train to Barcelona and spending a couple of days in that area. After our son leaves we may extend our trip another several days to go south, maybe to the Granada area, before returning to Madrid to fly home.

Questions: (1) Would Madrid be a good base to see the surrounding towns or should we stay outside Madrid? (2) What about public transport versus renting a car? (3) Any itinerary ideas would also be wonderful.

Many thanks!

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