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Trip Report Our Spain Adventure -- Cordoba, Seville, Granada and Barcelona! (Part One)

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This will be my first time writing a trip report -- I've thoroughly enjoyed reading other trip reports on this site and hope you will find mine just as entertaining and hopefully informative.

My idea for a trip to Europe was to surprise my DH for his 70th birthday -- one night, months ago, he was watching an Anthony Bourdaine CNN special about Granada -- and told me he'd love to go there 'someday' -- and that was the moment Spain became THE destination.

My research began back in December 2013 -- we traveled at the end of March 2014. Research for any vacation, for me, always begins and ends with Fodors....with some TripAdvisor and Rick Steves thrown into the mix. I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone on this site for their advice and PATIENCE as I worked through all the details in planning our dream vacation.

Things I fretted about prior to my trip:

How many days to spend at each location -- we spent two nights in Cordoba, 3 nights in Seville, 4 nights in Granada and 4 nights in Barcelona. In retrospect, I would have cut one night from Cordoba and added it to Seville, and cut one night from Granada and added it to Barcelona. Seville and Barcelona were by far our favorite destinations.

What to wear: I obsessively tracked several weather sites for weeks prior to our trip -- and just the week before we departed, weather overall looked like it would be in the mid 60's -- so I planned accordingly, bringing spring-like clothing. Well.....a cold snap hit most of Spain (certainly the cities we visited) and I found myself purchasing a coat to keep me warm. So the answer here is -- weather is unpredictable! Overall the weather wasn't bad, only 4 days of rain out of 14, but it was much chillier than I expected. I suggest if you travel to Spain in the spring -- a light sweater won't cut it -- bring a lightweight coat (or buy one there like I did).

Another tip: I strongly suggest that you take all the clothing you plan on taking with you and place them in a pile -- then, REMOVE half the items! I absolutely over packed, and wound up wearing only half the clothes I brought with me. Unless you are a heavy sweater or the like, you really CAN wear the same shirt more than once. And you'll probably wind up wearing your really comfortable jeans most often. Dressy clothes can be worn multiple times -- no one other than you and your travel companion will know this!

Shoes: I took my super comfortable Clarks shoes (2 pairs) flip flops, strappy sandals and my sneakers. With all the walking we did, I wore my sneakers the most. I know I looked like a tourist wearing sneakers, but guess what? I am a tourist! And we walked for miles and miles (and miles) every day. The sneaks were the only thing that could keep up with all that walking! And....everyone in Spain wears sneakers, I couldn't tell who was a local and who was a tourist based on footwear alone.

Train schedules: we traveled by train between Madrid/Cordoba, Cordoba/Seville and Seville/Granada. It was easy and efficient. Trains leave dead on time so give yourself enough time to get to the station and find your way. That said, the only station we had to ask for track information was Atocha in Madrid -- the others were relatively small and we needed no direction to find our way to the right track.

Also, something I noted -- we arrived on the red eye from Philadelphia in Madrid on a Monday morning. Not sure everyone knows this, but, planes are not allowed to land in Madrid prior to 7am because of some sort of noise ordinance on behalf of some residential housing next to the airport. So we circled around for a while, then we landed. But we couldn't pull up to the gate until 7am. I'm not sure if this restriction was only for our landing strip only or if it is a general ordinance, or maybe this applies only to Monday morning arrivals.

But, whatever the case, our plane was the first to arrive at the gate. So we breezed through Passport Control, etc., and were at Atocha before 9am. Fearing long lines at the airport, I booked our train trip to Cordoba for 11:30am. Because I had purchased the train tickets in advance, they could not be exchanged for an earlier train. So we hung around Atocha for over 2 hours. You can never gauge how much time it'll take to get through passport control and travel to Atocha, but I just wanted to share our experience with you.

Hotel vs. Apartment rental: I was very hesitant booking apartments instead of hotels for this trip as I've never rented an apartment overseas before, didn't want to carry a lot of cash with me, etc., so I went with hotels throughout. My opinion, now, is that if I stay in one city for more than 2 or 3 days, I will opt for an apartment. Staying in a small hotel room for 4 nights was a real drag and I wish I had been able to have a small kitchen to purchase some of that delicious Jamon Iberico and wine for end of day relaxing. I think there are apartment rental websites that take a credit card for the full rental -- will definitely go that route next time!

Pick pockets: I know there is a real concern about pick pocketing throughout Spain, especially in Barcelona. I bought a Baggalini cross-shoulder bag that I wore under my coat or sweater at all times. But....I really did not notice any suspicious activity throughout our 2 week trip. Not even in Barcelona. Maybe it's the energy I project (I'm a Jersey girl, LOL) or whatever, but I was never confronted. I think it is because I walked with PURPOSE, and was very aware of my surroundings at all times. I saw a lot of tourists just walking around almost in a daze.....and maybe those are the ones who are approached? I was 'eye-balled' by one guy in Barcelona, but I just stared right back with an 'I dare you' look....and he walked away. So my advice is walk with purpose, don't look lost (even if you are) and just be aware of time and place and you should be OK.

Next up.....Cordoba!

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