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Trip Report Trip Report, Madrid, Seville, Granada, Cordoba

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Trip Report Southern Spain March 11-27, 2016
This is a trip report on our travels to Southern Spain this past spring. We went to Madrid, Seville, Granada, and Cordoba.

First, in general terms, we made all the arrangements ourselves. We used this wonderful forum and Trip Advisor to investigate hotels and guides. Thanks to the many who provided input during our planning.

Hotels:
Madrid: Hotel Preciados. Very well located and good service. Nearby everything. The Hotel arranged for airport pick-up which was very helpful. We paid about 222 euros plus tax including breakfast for a two room suite. The rooms are very modern which we found to be a bit “cold” and had all kinds of fancy lights and light switches. There were so many switches that glowed in the night we had a very difficult time sleeping. Amazing breakfast buffet. I would not recommend this hotel if you like sleeping in a dark room. We stayed at a different hotel on our return to Madrid.

Seville: El Rey Moro. This was a wonderful hotel in the old quarter with very narrow streets. We flew in from Morocco and the hotel arranged for taxi pick-up. This was essential since the taxi cannot drive you to the hotel. They stop about a block away and have to walk you up narrow walking streets to the hotel. This was not an issue and made for a wonderful hotel setting. As you enter the hotel, you are greeted by a fantastic courtyard and very helpful staff. Our room was great and about 277 euros for a junior suite including an amazing breakfast buffet. The location was terrific and we walked to every major site and there were so many restaurants to select from we had difficulty choosing among them. We just ate tapas everywhere. The Seville “Free Walking Tour” picks up at this hotel. It is well worth it so tip the guide generously.

Granada: Palacio de Santa Ines. This is a very special hotel in a very special city. It was a 16th century palace and we stayed in what was the living room. It was the largest hotel room that we have every reserved. The room was the size of a volleyball court with high enough ceilings to play. The wood work and ceilings bring strong feelings of the 16th century and the thick double paned windows kept out the night club noise down the alley. It’s the location, however, that is a knockout. It is in the heart of the Albayzín which is a long promenade which is at the base of the Alhambra. It should be noted that while this hotel is accessible by stairs up an alley, it is not in the hilly or steep part of the Albayzin ofen described in tour books. Anyone who can walk a flight of stairs up and down to the Paseo del Padre Manjon can easily manage this very unique hotel. From this hotel, we walked everywhere including to the bus stop to get up to the Alhambra (more on this later). Every evening on the promenade there are street entertainers and on Sunday, there was an art fair. Of course, plenty of great food awaits you. We paid 270 euros per night including breakfast for the best room in the Inn.

Cordoba: La Hospederia de El Churrasco. This is another boutique hotel in a small alley just a few blocks from Mezquita. Our relatively small room had a great outdoor balcony where we could have a drink and listen to the sounds of the church bells. The location was terrific and service good. 239 euros w/ breakfast.

Madrid: Returning to Madrid, we stayed at the Hotel Intur Palacio San Martin. This is also wonderfully located and only a few blocks from the Hotel Preciados. It was about the same price (228 euros) including breakfast) but much nicer. The central court allowed casual seating and the overall service was better the Preciados. Again, you can walk every major site from this hotel. We would stay here again if we return to Madrid.

Highlights:
Madrid: On our first day, we went to the Plaza Mayor for the morning FREE Walking Tour of Madrid. The tour was three hours and was fantastic. The guide makes money only if you choose to tip which, of course, we did. The guide spoke perfect English and was very knowledgeable about the social and political history of Madrid and Spain. We couldn’t have been more pleased. Obviously, the Prado was amazing. We got for free in the evening but you need to get in line early. Our second visit, we decided to pay and go during the day. BTW: throughout Spain we got senior rates at all the sites…we are not too proud to ask! Mostly, we enjoyed the street life in Madrid. Also took the train to Segovia which was well worth the ½ day journey.

Seville: The Free Walking Tour was excellent. It was very comprehensive and gave us a great overview of Seville and places we could return to on our own. The Bull Fighting Ring was closed but the museum/tour was well worth it no matter how you feel about bull fighting. HINT: Get tickets to the Alcazar online. We got them just the night before we wanted to go and saved hours of standing in line. The audioguide of the Alcazar was well worth it and the special tour of the upstairs Royal Palace with worth the few extra euros you have to pay BUT make sure you get reservations ahead of time.

Granada: We arranged for our tickets and private tour of the Alhambra through Anne Gangemi who runs www.granadapicnictours.com. She did everything for us. She arranged to get us at our hotel, got our tickets and reservations to the Alhambra, and arranged for a wonderful private guide. I'm not sure we could have managed without guide and going with a large tour group looked very unappealing as we walked around at our own pace asking our own questions. This is definitely the way to go. It was 78 euros per person and the best money spent. We also signed up for Tapas tour with Anne and her husband for 48 euros each and they brought us to local places that we would have never found. They are also wonderful people to hang out with.
Transportation: We travel from city to city by train or bus. Both were very easy. I was reluctant to take the train/bus from Seville to Granada but it was so simple and efficient.

Food: Sorry, I don’t have a report on food. We just stopped in places recommended by the hotels or other travelers and never had a bad meal. All were moderately priced but I didn’t keep track of specific names.

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