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14-16 day bdy/anniv trip spanning XMas/New Yrs--?-Rome,Paris,Andalusia,OR S Portugal

14-16 day bdy/anniv trip spanning XMas/New Yrs--?-Rome,Paris,Andalusia,OR S Portugal

Old Jul 24th, 2023, 11:54 PM
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14-16 day bdy/anniv trip spanning XMas/New Yrs--?-Rome,Paris,Andalusia,OR S Portugal

Hello all: Iím grateful for the generous advice and information Iíve recíd here over the years. Iím reaching out for opinions and thoughtful reflections--again. This is not an ďItaly onlyĒ question. But it seemed the best place to start the conversation. And looking at other Fodorís boards, I see that many of the Italy regulars here also have a lot of insight on Paris, Spain, and Portugal.



Here goes: Iím finding it challenging to settle on 1 or 2 bases for a trip that Iíd like to take with DH for 14-16 days this year, around Dec 19-Jan 4. I know itís getting late to find accommodation, things will be overpriced during this time, airports likely a mess, hours of daylight short, and the weather not good (cold and quite possibly wet in two of the places Iím considering). The trip is marking a big birthday and a lockdown-delayed big anniversary. Weíve traveled in Europe a good deal, including for several extended stays. Our favorite country is always Italy. Weíve traveled through many regions, from Sicily to the Alps. Weíre B1/B2ish Italian speakers. Rome is our favorite place in Italy and we know the city quite well. We spent several blissful months there during a sabbatical two years ago, which included the Christmas period. So, we are familiar with the weather then--in its best and worst variations. Iím hoping to go out for a delicious meal on both Christmas Eve and NYE (despite meals being overpriced and needing to be reserved far in advance). We would rent an apt (noting again, that inventory may be tight by now).



Likes: We are city people. Smaller cities are fine, provided that they feel vital, interesting, are beautiful, have a good-sized local population, and one doesnít feel trapped with little to do during bad weather. In large cities, weather seems so much less relevant. We love food, cooking (even looking at food in markets), history, architecture, art museums, wandering and walking long distances in beautiful cities, cafes, theater and culture generally, and experiencing the energy of people going about their lives (including getting a sense as to how they celebrate holidays). Weíre not inclined to visit Christmas markets. But we enjoy seeing the lights and decorations, people bustling around, and the shops all decked out with holiday foods and fancy sweets.



Rome is a serious contender for this trip. Weíve been to many other cities in Italy. If we do go to Italy for this trip, then it must be Rome. We could stay there the entire time. But we are also considering dividing the trip between Rome and Paris. Weíve been to Paris on a few occasions. But never in winter. I know that the weather is likely to be poor. But itís Paris after all and I feel confident that weíd be happy. The 11/12 hour high speed train ride between the two cities might be OK for us--though would have to check holiday train schedules. I think weíd more likely fly. (Iíve really enjoyed Lyon, but if Iím in France for this trip, then it must be Paris.) Iíve read that both Paris and Rome have fireworks on NYEówe might go to see them, but thatís not a must. Iíd welcome any thoughts on the general idea of only Rome, only Paris, or splitting our time between these two cities? Hope these donít seem like goofy requests for opinions. And, it we did split the time btw the two cities, any opinions on whether one would be preferable over the other for the first half of the trip (which would have us arriving on Dec 19 or 20th, and staying roughly 7 nights)?



To complicate matters, Iím also wondering whether we should go an entirely different route with this tripónamely go to Andalusia OR to southern Portugal (though not to the beach resorts in the latter). Either way, weíd envision a 1-2 bases trip. Cities in either Andalusia or southern Portugal, I think (but correct me if Iím wrong-Iíve not been to any of these places) would also have great food, culture, beauty, energy, and a greater likelihood of warmer, dryer weather that would support more comfortably our habit of being fl‚neurs. Iíve been reading some great TRs, particularly those that focus on cities in Andalusia, several of which describe winter trips. Iíve enjoyed previous trips to Madrid, Barcelona, the Costa Brava, and the Basque country. Iím not interested in returning to any of them for this trip. I did become a little overwhelmed thinking about two bases in Andalusia (Valencia, Sevilla, or Malaga seem great, though Cordoba and Granada also caught my eye). I havenít dug into the TRs enough to get a sense of distances or tradeoffs btw these places. I also donít have a sense as to how any of these cities would feel to us, especially at the time of year Iím envisioning. Would they feel festive and full of life, with both locals and tourists out in cafes? After a few days of seeing the ďmust doĒ sites would we wish we were in the bustle of much bigger cities like Rome and Paris? Iíve looked at comparative population statistics. If we donít go to Andalusia on this trip, then I might go myself for 2 weeks in late March/early April as an add on to a work trip in Europe. I have more appetite for intensive sightseeing and tolerance for 3+ bases than DH. (A friend, who has similar tastes to mine in food and travel, mentioned to me that she found the food in Andalusia not nearly as good as in Barcelona, the Basque country, regions of Italy, Portugal, or Paris. She also said she found the art in Andalusia less engaging. One personís opinion of course. But it gave me a bit of pause.) Iíve also read some TRs on southern Portugal, though Iím not sure if itís a good fit for this trip. I couldnít get a sense as to whether some of the southern cities that come up regularly in TRs would feel too small for us, even though clearly beautiful with rich histories and cultures (and would likely have good weather). In Portugal Iíve only been to Lisbon--loved it.



In closing this missive, Iíd welcome any opinions, suggestions, or sense of what seems like the best fit for this trip based on what Iíve described. I hope this doesnít involve too much psychoanalysis! Thanks in advance for any thoughts. And just an pre-emptive disclaimer/apology: despite what I said about being a city person, Iíll be on a technology-free hiking trip July 30-August 3, and therefore wonít be able to thank anyone who might write w/in that period until Iím reunited with my devices on Aug 4. Iím not someone who asks for advice and then disappears, but I thought Iíd post this query now.








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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 12:40 AM
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For Christmas I'd look at Egypt, Morocco or the Canary Isles, but then I live in Europe

But if you must do a more Europe based holiday then go for a southern city.

Not Paris
Probably not Rome

Faro, Cadiz, Malaga, Valencia, Grenada, Palermo are all worth a look
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 06:46 AM
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As always, much food for thought, Bilboburgler—thank you. Faro (perhaps in conjunction with Tavira) or basing ourselves in 1-2 of the cities you flag in Andalusia are appealing options. I will keep them in the mix and continue to investigate. (Note: thought some more after posting last night re the comment re food in Andalusia made by friend and am disregarding it in my deliberations. Food in so many regions of Spain is wonderful (as I’ve experienced it) and Andulusia would have access to great ingredients. And places where cultures have long met always have food traditions that appeal to me.)

Re Palermo: I’ve loved during solo visits and one visit with DH. DH, however, liked it far less during a joint trip, so I don’t have it in the mix this time. I’d thought about the Canaries (have never been), especially Tenerife, but it’s not a good fit (betw flight logistics from our part of the USA and wanting a different feel on this trip). Egypt and Morocco are great ideas; however, are not in the mix this time around. Many thanks for your reflections-I will weigh the idea of Andalusian cities or Faro against the Paris or Rome pluses/minuses. Thanks again.
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 06:49 AM
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No advice for your dilemma but I can’t imagine thinking Andalusia’s food was not as good as elsewhere - we found the food in the region to be superb. And the art and architecture is some of the most glorious work - the Moorish and Mudejar architecture is stunning. The Alhambra in Granada, the Alcazar in Seville - and don’t forget the gorgeous tile work in Seville. And the colors, the light in this region - and the music. Flamenco here has deep soul.

Can you tell we loved this region? I’d go back in a heartbeat. When we visited, we thought Seville is a city we could imagine living in. I guess I’d recommend a stay in Seville - it was one of our all time favorite places.
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 07:04 AM
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Thanks Progol—all that you shared is really helpful and evocative. (I regretted sharing the comment about Andalusia—and letting it give me pause—as soon as I got to bed last night.) Thanks for all the great reflections. And yes, I can feel the passion—and understood what it’s like when you visit a place and think “I could live there.” I’ll continue to deliberate on the Andalusian cities in play (esp Seville) against our traditional favorite cities of Rome and Paris. It’s always a lucky sort of dilemma to choose betw places you know/love/hold special memories against wonderful new places to experience. The time of year of this trip (in the sense of it not being ideal to travel at times that span XMas and New Years is making me think a lot about getting our base(s) right. Thank you.
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 07:53 AM
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Seville or Cordoba would be high on my list but the climate might be a bit too cool/wet
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 08:26 AM
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Thanks Bilboburgler for the comment on Seville and Cordoba at the time of year in play vs the other cities in Andalusia that you mentioned in your earlier reply. (I take it that Seville and Cordoba would still, on average, be likely to offer a more pleasant climate than Paris or Rome at that time of year. At least the avg weather stats I find on line suggest that this is the case—noting of course the caveat about the utility of averages in re weather info. We will continue to weigh the different trip visions as weather is one consideration for us. Though I realize that I should consider it in re the quality of a city-focused trip experience that aims to mark some special life landmarks. Reflections here always give me so much great food for thought (and completely shaped my choice of a Covid-times location for our sabbatical—brilliantly, as well as a perfect recent trip to Puglia, a trip Sicily, etc…). There is nothing like this community! Thanks all!
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 09:12 AM
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Rome is my favorite place. Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to weather, but I will just mention that when I was in Rome over Christmas (not recently, it was 2006), the weather was great. During the day, when out in the sun, I could take my jacket off. In the shade, I needed it. It was not a heavy winter jacket like you need in Upstate New York, more like one for late fall. Of course, it cooled down a lot in the evenings.

One thing I really enjoyed on that trip was looking for all the presepi (nativity scenes). Many churches only display them at Christmas time. There was a big display of a couple hundred presepi from all over the world at Santa Maria del Popolo in Piazza di Popolo. I remember being amused that the American one was Eskimos! I don't know if they still do that show. The Italian nativities are interesting in that they show them with all the townspeople going about their business instead of in a manger.
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 09:27 AM
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Same on Rome for me (and also for DH)—thanks, SusanP, for your thoughts. DH mentioned last night that it’s “our place”—adorable. Of course we both chuckled that people have said the same for millennia ) but hopefully no one else will be grotesque enough to inscribe their love on the Colosseum). The last Christmas we spent in Rome was in 2021 and we were fortunate to have Christmas Eve dinner outdoors under heat lamps, wearing light down “sweater” jackets (not winter ski wear ). It was Covid/delta wave times and we were very cautious. And long days walking in Villa Borghese felt comfortable. No guarantee of course. And I agree w/you-I loved the presepi display at the Vatican—love what you said about the American one. I don’t recall what it looked like in 2021, perhaps bec we were so taken by several sort of “post modern” presepi. What you’ve said is really helpful as we think through the tradeoffs of sentimental favs (Rome, perhaps w/Paris) vs a new/interesting/more likely warm/dry destination, such as Andalusia. Thanks for taking the time to share your reflections.
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 10:40 AM
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I have to admit the tapas bar always makes for a good time in Spain and while other countries have their own bars and Italy has so very much it is hard to not like a glass of world class wine with a nibble in the early evening
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 10:52 AM
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So true-I'll never forget several evenings when we did pintxos crawls as an early dinner (let alone tapas in other regions of Spain)-thanks
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 11:53 AM
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we spent last christmas and nye in andalucia for 2 weeks and loved it. perfect sunny weather around 70 degrees. we spent 3 nights granada, 2 cordoba, 5 in seville (here for christmas and christmas eve) and departed from malaga after 4 nights. fun and festive and enough spots open to eat on christmas eve and day and plenty to do in seville outside.
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 11:56 AM
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and sun goes down 6:30 or so so alot of daylight time! and yes the food and wine!
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Old Jul 25th, 2023, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by plambers
and sun goes down 6:30 or so so alot of daylight time! and yes the food and wine!
Plambers, Thanks so much for all the useful details you shared here and in the above post. And the info on the breakdown of bases and sunset time is really helpful. All that you said is useful and encouraging. Glad you had such a nice trip. (All this food talk is making my sad "desk lunch" look worse and worse..but seriously it's helpful.)
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Old Jul 27th, 2023, 06:15 AM
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I’m feeling more and more like the new option of Andalusia or S Portugal is calling me, which I hadn’t expected as I was initially strongly inclined to return to old favs. BUT all this great advice in response to my query (and the TRs I’ve been reading) is really causing me to rethink. I’m going to dig in on research in this new direction and force myself to make a decision by next week at the latest. This community is amazing and thoughtful. So grateful to you all for sharing your experiences.

Last edited by Moderator1; Oct 21st, 2023 at 12:09 PM. Reason: Deleted response to a deleted post
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Old Aug 7th, 2023, 12:45 PM
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Very much appreciate everyone's advice. I'm going to spend the next few evenings digging deeply into TRs dealing w/Andalusia and S Portugal and then we'll make the final decision on our country base. Then I'm sure I'll be back to folks here for some advice on bases and lodging if we (as I suspect) decide to move away from our original leanings toward places we know and love (namely, Rome and Paris) in favor of those suggested in this thread, not least bec. of the time of year for this trip. Thanks again to you and others here!

Last edited by Moderator1; Oct 21st, 2023 at 12:10 PM. Reason: deleted reference to a deleted post
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Old Aug 23rd, 2023, 10:56 AM
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We've spent Christmas in Andalucia, based for 5 days in Malaga. It was fantastic - great weather (low 70s and sunny), plenty to do in Malaga but also easy connections to other cities for day trips (Granada and Cordoba). I know some are down on Malaga (e.g., Rick Steves) but we found it vibrant and walkable. It has the largest holiday light show in Euope, or some such, and then there's another light show at the cathedral. Oh, and the cathedral itself is definitely worth seeing, along with the Alcazaba. There's also a Christmas market down by the sea. We went to a flamenco show on Christmas day, which was fun. We even paid extra to have our hotel room decorated for Christmas and so had a little Christmas tree (Hotel Molina Lario).

I thought the food in Andalucia was good, though maybe not a real standout like some other places we've been.

Loved the trip, I'd go back to Andalucia/Malaga for Christmas in a heartbeat. One note: everything was much more crowded (in both Malaga and then Madrid) in the days between Christmas and New Years versus in the time we were there leading up to Christmas.
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Old Aug 24th, 2023, 06:01 AM
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Hi aquamarine_seas—Thanks so much for what you shared. I can see that based on what you and others shared that if we love Andalucia on this trip (as I expect we will) that we simply must go back for the Christmas to New Years period. What you described of how you celebrated the holidays sounds magical. Thanks for those details-they are inspiring. Thanks as well for the reflections on Malaga in particular (and on food in general). I’m going to keep all of it in mind as I plan the specifics of the trip in the coming week or so. I’ll be coming back to this forum (in a new thread) for some advice as I get down to the nitty gritty of arranging things. (For reasons of cost, we’ve moved the trip to start earlier—late Nov to early Dec—as flights were simply out of reach, and we were able to get a good deal using money and miles. Will start looking at flights earlier next time.) Still, with so much to see we are very enthusiastic about the trip to this fascinating region. Thanks so much.

Last edited by Moderator1; Oct 21st, 2023 at 12:07 PM. Reason: removed response to a deleted post
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