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Trip Report Spain trip report

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It has been very hectic since our return from Spain but I wanted to post this in the hope it may provide a little entertainment/information to the readers of this fantastic forum. I had posted several questions before our trip and want to thank everyone who replied for their advice. We had a wonderful trip. Arrived Oct 11th in Barcelona, overnight train to Granada, then Ronda, Seville, and left from Madrid on Oct 25th (day trips to Gibraltar, pueblos blancos, Cordoba and Toledo), so here goes……

Day 1. Barcelona. Very easy checkin and getting through security at Atlanta airport. Plane was only about half full so lots of room to stretch out. Ambien worked its usual magic and we slept a lot and woke up refreshed. Also very easy customs and luggage pickup. Taxi to Raco del Pi just off Las Ramblas. I had been fore-warned that the taxi driver might not know how to drive to the door so I had a good map and when we were dropped off a block and a half from the hotel, it was an easy walk to find it. We liked this hotel a lot (had a room with a small balcony overlooking the small street). Location, staff, room and breakfast were all fine. We arrived early (about 10 AM) and after only a very short wait (made more pleasant by the glass of cava and snacks provided) we were able to get in to our room. Quickly unpacked and went for a walk down Las Ramblas to Port Vell then to the Picasso Museum. We always rent audio guides if available and we enjoyed this museum a lot. Lunch near the Cathedral which we then toured. Back to the hotel for a short nap then wandered around the Barri Gotic, had dinner and called it a day.

Day 2. Barcelona. Up quite late (good shower and bathroom for Europe) then took the Metro (very easy to use) on to the Sagrada Familia which of course is fantastic. After touring the bottom, we took the elevator to the top of one of the towers and had to walk down. This usually is not a big deal but the winding stairs were dark and open on the inside all the way down. Quite scary actually. After finally making it down, my wife declared it the worst European experience of her life (she is deathly afraid of heights and with no inside rail, it was tough). A few glasses of wine and some tapas and we were ready for the next adventure. Dinner that night at Set Portes which we enjoyed tremendously (great server, great food and lots of cava and red wine).

Day 3. Barcelona and overnight train to Granada. Up early, packed, breakfast at hotel and left luggage with front desk while we spent the day sightseeing before catching the train that evening. Very good tour of Liceu Theatre, then metro to Park Guell. We walked to the very top and it was worth it. Wonderful views and the park itself is interesting. Taxi back to La Pedrera in L’Eixample and had lunch at a sidewalk café. Decided to tour Casa Batillo instead of La Pedrero and loved it. Metro back to hotel, picked up luggage and taxi to Sants train station. Showed printout of receipt (I had bought tickets when I made the reservations weeks earlier) and picked up tickets. Wanted to have dinner but no good place at the station. We found a hotel connected to the station, went up the elevator to it and discovered a wonderful little bar where we had food and drinks. Found our berth and laughed about the size. The bottom bunk was folded down in to a bed but we pushed it up to reveal 2 seats and a little table. It was very nice to sit there with a glass of wine watching the waves break on the beach as we rode toward Granada. About midnight we tried to fold it back in to a bed but needed a special key so I had to find a conductor for help. Pretty funny trying to explain what I needed (I speak no Spanish and the conductor spoke no English) but we finally worked it out. Again, ambien did its thing overnight and we were ready for Granada.

Day 4. Granada. Train arrived on time (9 AM) and easy taxi to Alhambra Palace Hotel. Room was ready and it was great. Very large balcony overlooking the city. Took showers then walked to the Parador for lunch on the terrace. Terrace was very crowded, the waitress was surly and the food was not good. The setting, however, was lovely. After lunch, we flagged a taxi to take us to the Cathedral. We were accosted by ladies with sprigs of rosemary and generally did not like the area. Decided to walk to the Albicin along the Darro River on “most romantic walk in Andalucia” according to some of the guide books. HA. Maybe 400 years ago but not now. The saving grace was the mirador at Plaza San Nicolas – fantastic views of the Alhambra. Dinner at the hotel restaurant overlooking the city – very good.

Day 5. Alhambra. Sunday brunch at the hotel –very good. Walked to the Alhambra and picked up tickets for 1:30 entrance in to the Palace (I bought online weeks ago and I highly recommend this – the lines were huge if you didn’t prebuy tickets). The Alhambra was as good as the hype (for what it’s worth, it is a candidate to be one of the new 7 wonders of the world). Decided to give the Parador another try for a late lunch but this time eat inside and try the regional cuisine – MUCH better. Room service for dinner that night and watched a movie – needed a break.

Day 6. Ronda. Breakfast on our balcony at the Alhambra Palace Hotel. Taxi to Avis at the train station. Picked up car and easy drive out of Granada. I had printed directions from Mappy and of course the exit we needed to take to Ronda was closed so my wife had to use our maps (luckily we had fairly good ones) to navigate us through some back roads but we eventually found the Parador. EXCELLENT hotel room. I had not requested it but they gave us the top room closest to the pool with the huge wrap-around balcony. Unbelievable!!! Ronda was our favorite place in Spain (maybe this room had something to do with it but we loved the town also). Unpacked and had a late lunch at a sidewalk café in the old town on the other side of the gorge. Walked around a lot and really enjoyed the town. Too full for a big dinner so had café y leche and desserts at the Parador bar.

Day 7. Day trip to Gibraltar. Continental breakfast in the room. Then good audio tour of bullring and museum. Scary drive through bad weather and over mountains to get to Gibraltar. Finally figured out where to park after U-turn to get out of line trying to drive in and walked to border. Bus to cable car but it was not running because of the wind. A minivan/taxi guy talked us in to a tour and we are glad we did it. Stopped at overlook, St Michaels’ caves, tunnels and of course the apes. A girl from Germany was getting her picture taken with an ape on her shoulders when it peed on her back. She was a great sport about it, took her shirt off and washed it at a faucet by the road. As he was washing her back, the driver said it was the highlight of his 3 years of giving tours (she was very cute)… The roads going to the top of Gibraltar reminded us a little of the road from Positano to Ravello on the Amalfi Coast – very narrow (but not nearly as scenic)! On the way back to Ronda, a carnival had set up in the middle of a round-about covering up all the signs in one of the little towns we had to go through. We took the wrong road and ended up right in the middle of the carnival where all the people were walking. Turning around and finding the right road was quite a challenge. Had dinner at the Parador (red deer loin for me, sea bream for my wife) Excellent.

Day 8. Pueblos Blancos and Flamingo!!! Headed for Grazalema through pouring rain, lightning, thunder and on a road barely wide enough for 2 cars. The longest 16 km I’ve ever driven. Still lightning and pouring rain at Grazalema (didn’t even get out of the car) so headed for Arcos. Very beautiful town and it even stopped raining for a while. We had debated staying at the Parador in Arcos or Ronda and are VERY happy we chose Ronda even though Arcos is very pretty. Somebody upstairs must have been trying to make up for all the rain as we saw a beautiful rainbow on the way back to Ronda. Walked to Museum Lara for Flamingo show. We really enjoyed this show. 3 dancers (2 female and 1 male) 3 musicians and front row seats – it was hard not be in the front row because there were only 16 people there. During intermission, some of the exhibits in the museum were quite interesting (punishment and torture devices).

More later….

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