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Trip Report yk's 12 days in Spain by herself Trip Report

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Hi everyone -

I returned last night from a 12-day trip to Spain. I want to post a trip report ASAP before I start forgetting! I want to thank everyone who help guide me through my planning stage, esp Maribel, who seems to have answers to any questions! But I also want to thank you, yes, those of you who posted your Spain trip reports. I have read a couple dozen of trip reports and they have been helpful.

Before I start, I want to warn you all: this will be a lengthy and detailed report, as I always find the detailed ones helpful for my trip planning.

Where in Spain I went

Background information
I am a female in my mid-30s. I have visited Western Europe a lot (15 trips in last 5 years). Some trips I went with my husband, some with friends, some with my parents. None of those 15 trips were to Spain. The one and only time I was in Spain was when I was 9.

My main interest is art (museums), architecture and historic sites. I'm not a fan of shopping at all.

Compared to the average Fodorite (I've been around on this site for 4 years), I think I am below average when it comes to accomodation, and about average on food. I stayed at mostly 2-3* hotels on this trip. For meals, it ranged from €9 menu del dia to a €80 tasting menu dinner.

Why Spain?
Apart from the fact that I've been to most other countries in Western Europe in recent years (with exception of Scandinavia and Ireland), I want to get away from the cold in Boston. Spain is pretty much as far south as I could go! I have always wanted to go to Prado museum and to Alhambra.

Planning and Preparation
This trip was kind of a last minute decision given my current circumstances. In fact, I purchased my plane ticket just nine days before my departure! So, I had only 9 days to plan my entire trip to a country I have not been to. Fortunately, I was able to get most information from guidebooks (borrowed from library), here, and various websites.

I used 40,000 FF miles on AA to fly to Spain, open-jaw, into Barcelona and out from Madrid. I thought it was a good deal, though I had to pay about $80 tax plus $50 late-issue fee (booked less than 21 days in advance).

I used several guidebooks for planning, including Fodors, Frommers, Lonely Planet, and Rick Steves. I don't like RS guidebooks because of his "commentary" style, but I do find them useful when it comes to practical information (such as which bus to take and how long it takes etc).

Things I booked in advance before I left:
- Hotels for 12 nights
- Vueling flight from Barcelona to Granada
- Bus from Granada to Seville
- 6 train tickets on Renfe (to take advantage of the estrella fare which gives me 40% off)
- English guided tour to Barcelona's Palau de la Musica Catalana
- Concert at the same venue
- Alhambra ticket
- Prado ticket (for the Velazquez exhibition which was the closing day I wanted to visit)
- 2 dinner reservations in Barcelona

I also did research on all details before I left, such as how to get from train stations to hotels, or hotels to bus stations etc.

I usually try to read some about the place I'm visiting before my trip, but given the time crunch, I didn't have chance to read much. The only book I was able to read was Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra. Highly Recommended!

Overall Impression of Spain
I was surprised by how different every place is from one another. I had assumed Spain is pretty homogenous and I was so wrong!

I also had expected Spain to be somewhat chaotic (like Italy, maybe because both countries have siestas), but it turned out not. I was very impressed by the punctuality of the trains - just like the Germans! All 6 train trips I took arrived either on time or early.

I was disappointed by the food though. Maybe I went to the wrong places or ordered the wrong stuff, but I didn't think the food was that great. In fact, dinners became one of the most stressful part of my trip. I originally thought I would eat lots of tapas, but I ended up did not, as most places only serve racion sizes. Also the bars and restaurants allow smoking which I find unbearable. And after being there for over a week, it is still difficult for me to eat lunch at 3pm and dinner at 10pm (so I didn't).

I think if I had a travel companion, it would be more fun when it comes to meal time.

I don't speak Spanish except for the simple words. I didn't find it being a problem as most Spaniards I come across speak some English. Unfortunately, the guidebooks I brought (LP for Barcelona and Madrid, Frommers for Andalusia) did not have a good language section, and definitely did not have a menu decoder. It made eating out a bit challenging.

Bottom line
I enjoyed my trip - awed by the Alhambra and pretty much every place I visited. However, I don't think I fell in love with Spain like some other people here. I have no urge to return to Spain in the near future.

Actual trip report to come...

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