7 days in Spain - Trip Report

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Jun 17th, 2018, 06:30 PM
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7 days in Spain - Trip Report

SPAIN Trip Report.
Itinerary- May 20-29, 2016
May 20: Departed from Atlanta, USA @10pm.
May 21: Arrived BCN Barcelona at 5:30 pm. Went to Tarragona, stayed for 5 nights.
May 22: Explored Tarragona and beach.
May 23: Barcelona guided bus tour round trip from Tarragona.
May 24: Visited Sagrada Familia, Park Quell, return to Tarragona at night.
May 25: Guided bus tour to Montserrat and Sitges from Tarragona.
May 26: Went for Madrid.. Checked-in to Marlasca Hostel, stayed for 3 nights. Guided bus tour to Toledo.
May 27: Guided walking tour in Madrid in the morning. Afternoon guided bus tour to Escorial
May 28: Guided bus tour to Avila and Salamanca.
May 29: Departed Madrid 10:50:am reached Atlanta 8:10 pm.

Our family of 4 visited Spain in May 2016- my husband, me, and our 2 kids in college. Our total cost was around $8,000 ($2,000/person) including flight, train, bus, tours, hotel and food. My cousin who moved to Tarragona, Spain recently helped with arranging tours/hotel/train through a Spanish travel agent that he knew there. Tours were about half of online price and that really helped to bring the cost down.

Day 1:
Landed in Barcelona BCN at 5:30 pm. Immigration clearance was a quick 5 secs process. When we came out, my cousin was waiting outside in the visitors area. There we found a 3 ATM machines. Took cash out using 4 different cards as we had to pay the agent in Euros. Maximum limit on each card per day was Euros equivalent to $400 plus $5 transaction fee. Then we went to the bus station just outside the airport. Bought bus tickets there to Tarragona, €13. It was a very comfortable a/c bus ride, took about 1 hour to reach Tarragona. My cousin arranged lodging near his place (similar to Airbnb) as paying guest.

Day 2:
It was Sunday. Went to mass in the morning in Tarragona Cathedral. Then we went to explore Tarragona in audio guided tour trolley €6/person . They gave an earphone to plug into their audio system and you can choose different languages for audio. You can get down at trolley stops to explore that area and get into the next trolley to continue tour the whole day. Tarragona is a beautiful place with lots of history. It has a Rambla that leads to the beach. We loved their Rambla! People of all ages come to Rambla to have a nice social life. It has lots of Tapas places, restaurants and Gelato places around Rambla. We also went to the beach which was very clean with golden sand. We ate a variety of gelatos. Loved it!

Day 3:
Went for Barcelona guided bus tour, round-trip from Tarragona bus station. Requested English-speaking guide when tickets were reserved. We took the panoramic Barcelona tour. It stopped at a few places to explore, but we felt that the stops were not enough to explore Barcelona. We just had to see places in the moving bus than stopping down at attractions. It took us to Montjic Hills in Catalonia which gave an awesome view of Barcelona.

Day 4:
We bought tickets in advance online to visit Sagrada Familia at 11:45 am. and passion tower visit at 1:15pm. Started from Tarragona in a train at 8:15 am that would have reached Sagrada station in an hour. But we had an issue on the way. A man jumped in front of our train and committed suicide. Train stopped seeing the man, but it was too late to save him. Then another train came to the side and took all the passengers and then we continued the journey after 2 hours of waiting. We reached Sagrada entrance a little later than our scheduled time, but he they let us in. We took self guided audio tour there. The view of sun rays coming inside through the stained glasses was really spectacular in the afternoon. At our scheduled time, we went up to the passion tower. After that we went to Park Quell, we decided to walk as it was only 2.5 kms. We took the Rambla route, stopped to see games and activities going on there. At night, we took metro train to reach bac Tarragona.

Day 5:
Visited Montserrat and Sitges. Went on a guided bus tour from Tarragona with English speaking guide. Bus took us to the base of the mountains. From there there’s a train that took us, climbing steep mountain, to reach Montserrat monastery area. Awesome train ride through the beautiful steep mountains with breathtaking views! Visited Montserrat Bascilica, watched L’Escolania boys choir at 1pm. They perform twice daily. Visited Montserrat museum add then explored the area walking around. There are walking trails to explore mountains more if you are interested in hiking. There os a cable car to take to the very top of the mountain. We didn’t do that. Took the train to reach back the base. From there, went to Sitges in our tour bus. It’s a beautiful beach town known for its Mediterranean beaches and seafront promenade lined with grand mansions. The compact old town ais filled with shops, restaurants, and many bars and nightclubs. We spend the rest of the day there. They have good cheap wine and the best gelato. Reached back to Tarragona at night.

Day 6:
Went from Tarragona to Madrid in a high speed train. Reached Madrid in 2 hours. Checked-in to Hostel Marlasca. Travel agent reserved a 4 persons room, which was not a great idea. 4 individual beds were put into a double room. So, it was a little crowded for 4 of us. We should have asked for 2 double rooms instead. Well, for our family, we managed ok. And we were not in the room except at night for sleeping. It’s very close to Sol metro station, it's in the center of Madrid which means very noisy Taking train from there was so convenient though. After lunch, we went for a guided bus tour to Toledo. Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill above the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain, known as the "City of the Three Cultures" for the cultural influences of Christians, Muslims and Jews. We visited cathedral and explored the area.
Reached back to hotel at night. Main activity for people there in the evening is tapas/bar crawling. Wine is so cheap there. We had lots of wine, sangria and oh.. Palella!

Day 7:
Went for a half day guided walking tour in Madrid, started at 8 am. Our tour guide was awesome. We really enjoyed the tour.
After lunch, the same guide took us to Escorial. El Escorial is a historical residence of the King of Spain, in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, about 45 kilometres northwest of the capital, Madrid, in Spain. It is a Spanish royal site that has functioned as a monastery, basilica, royal palace, pantheon, library, museum, university, school and hospital. Garden of the Friars is very beautiful and is a must see.

Day 8:
Went for a guided tour to Avila and Salamanca with the same tour company, with a different guide. Avila s a city in the rolling hill country northwest of Madrid. It’s best known for its intact medieval city walls, with 80-plus crenelated, semicircular towers and 9 gates, including the arched El Alcázar, on the eastern side. Long sections atop the walls are walkable. Ride to Avila was beautiful. Due to higher elevation, it was cold up there. We wore a light jacket.
After lunch we went to Salamanca. Visited University of Salamanca, the first university in Spain and the fourth oldest university in the world. Then went to Plaza Mayor. Sampled a variety of dishes with fresh ingredients sourced directly from the nearby mountains and countryside. Reached back to hotel in Madrid in the evening. Explored Madrid until after midnight. People were outside until 3pm ro so.

Day 8:
Took a taxi to MAD airport, €30. Train is available from Sol metro station with a train change half-way through as there are no direct trains. To avoid train changes with luggage, we opted for taxi. Departed Madrid at 11 am, reached Atlanta, USA at 8 pm same day.
MJJoe is offline  
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Jun 21st, 2018, 06:42 AM
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MJ, Nice report. Thank you!
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