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Andalucia: Sevilla, Jerez, Cordoba, Granada – Final Trip Report, Spring 2024

Andalucia: Sevilla, Jerez, Cordoba, Granada – Final Trip Report, Spring 2024

Old Mar 14th, 2024, 10:35 AM
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Andalucia: Sevilla, Jerez, Cordoba, Granada – Final Trip Report, Spring 2024

How to begin?! After all the planning, reading, researching, dreaming… here at last! First off: thank you to Maribel for all of the great input in trip planning (and all the other posts from ekscrunchy KarenWoo @studenttobe are the names I recall). Note: I am home now and finally consolidated all of the "days" of previous TRs, and added the end of the trip.

So, Day 1: Tuesday, Feb. 27 for 4 nights in Sevilla, after a pleasant airplane ride on Iberia, business class, courtesy of a great Amex Platinum discount offer, which is the whole reason why I booked this trip to begin with! Yay, Amex!

We arrived before the official check in time at Hotel GRAVINA 51 in El Arenal neighborhood after a speedy taxi ride from the airport. Welcome to Spain. Our “preferential” room was not ready, so our kind host Eugenio held our bags, and we ventured out to get to know the neighborhood. Lovely! We took a nice walk around and ended up at Caztigo for tapas (recommended by Eugenio, very close to the hotel) and scored a great spot at the bar. Ahh! Had a delightful glass of a Verdejo mix, chiparones a la parrilla (grilled squid) y croquetas, which were soft, round and delicious. We also had a tartar of fish and meat on a brioche, which was just ok.
- Checked in to the hotel at 3 pm. Great room. Welcome bottle of cava was special. Took a nice 2 hour nap.
- Walked toward Isabella II bridge toward Triana, and then along the river, with all of the Sevillanos, who were out strolling as well. I love this about Spain! Stroll, talk, enjoy life and the company that you are with.
- Dinner at Petit Comité for 8 pm reservation. Delicious. We had: anchoas (raw, and they were quite pungent), boquerones fritos (yum), all of the olives, and croquetas. I had the bacalao (cod in a pea velouté) and Tom had the “pluma ibérica” a la brasa, with a nice bottle of Habla del Silencio from Extremadura which was a beautiful mix of Syrah, Cab Sauv and Tempranillo. (Ibérico Pluma is taken from the neck end of the pork loin from special Iberian Black Pigs, making it very lightweight, and it looks like a feather.) It was amazing!

Wednesday:
- Slept till 9:25 am and had to rush to breakfast in order to make it to the Plaza Nueva by 10:30 for our Sevilla Walking Tour with our host Marina. It was fantastic!! Learned about the history and architecture, walked the shopping district streets of Sierpes and Tetuán, walked thru el Barrio de Santa Cruz, saw the ruins at the bottom of Las Setas, admired the Catedral de Sevilla and the Giralda from outside, and ended right by the Alcazar.
- It was a national holiday that day (Día de Andalucia) so the streets were full with people!
- We then walked back to Bodega Santa Cruz (Las Columnas), which was bustling with locals, and I ventured into the bar to order 2 montaditos and 2 cañas, for Tom and me. Montaditos are little sandwiches filled with a little meat and grilled. Yum. It hit the spot.
- Went back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.
- Walked around our barrio of El Arenal and found a spot at the bar at Bar El Favorito, where we had a small ración of tortilla española, patatas bravas, espinacas con garbanzos and a beer. It hit the spot and was a nice surprise!
- Went to Casa de la Memoria for an outstanding Flamenco show, “Bravo!” It was exhilarating!
- Finished the day at La Azotea, where we had more tapas and spoke with a lovely couple next to our table, after we both finished our dinners.

Thursday:
-Slept till 9:30, had another great breakfast at hotel
-Walked to the Plaza de España: saw the Puerta de Jerez, the Hotel Alfonso XII, all that “other part of town” including the Melia Hotel, etc etc., and the beautiful building at the Plaza. Took the other way back into the Monuments area, thru Puerta de Roma, and went straight to the Alcazar. I’m so glad that our hotel was in El Arenal.
-Met Concepcion Delgado of Sevilla Walking Tours for the Alcazar tour, together w/ 2 other fun couples. FANTASTIC. 1 pm to 3 pm…. I loved her! And I enjoyed all of the additional historical facts that she shared… not to mention the beauty of El Alcazar.
-Opted to skip the Eslava lunch reservation and ate at Bar Las Teresas instead, only because of the convenience and proximity since we were a little tired of standing and were hungry. Good, not great. 7.5. Server was tired and seemed cranky! Sat outside, nice breeze. Ate costillitas, mushroom caps (great!), and fried calamari for Tom. A couple of beers were refreshing.
-Went to Casa de Palacios (because the Cathedral was closing early at 4 pm). A nice long walk to another part of town…. Super interesting, and easy self tour.
-Back into el centro….. stopped at Bar Comercio for churros y chocolate. OMG!
-Tired! Walked back to hotel for a little rest, great shower, and a regroup.
-Dinner reservations at DisParate! Delicious, and the best meal that we had in Sevilla. Tom had the lomo de puerco and I had the fish. Starter was a selection of croqueta, fish fritter and anchoa on a little bread puff. Y los huevos estrallados were a production, and wonderfully presented by the waitress. Oh my!

Friday, March 1
- Up early for breakfast at the hotel
- Pick up at 5 pm by Roger of “A Question of Taste” tours, for our tour to Jerez de la Frontera, a comfortable 75 minute ride with this nice ol’ chap from Wales who was a great host.
- Visited Bodega Listau and learned all about Sherry. Tasted Manzanilla, Fino, Palo Cortado, Oloroso and Pedro Jimenez, as well as 2 sherry vinegars which we purchased!
- Then visited Fernandez de Castilla Bodega, where we tasted some Oloroso from the barrels, and then had a lovely aperitif with the owner, Jan Pettersen. Together with Roger, we engaged in great conversation and covered various topics of interest. Talked too much and were late for our lunch at Amar.
- Fantastic meal with Roger: ensalada de patata, con atún y huevo, ensalada de roquet con queso de oveja, caracolitos of some sort in wine sauce, and an egg dish, scrambled with other goodies.
- Returned to the hotel, and regrettably, we were too full to eat at Restaurante Amara, where we had reservations at 8:30 pm. It was a busy Friday, so we decided against Amara and instead had a few croquetas and wine late, at the bar area of Hotel Colon, which was down the street from our hotel. It wasn’t Amara, but it did not disappoint. Ribera del Duero tastes more delicious in Spain!!

Saturday March 2
- arrived in Cordoba via train before noon and checked into the bustling Hotel Hospes Palacio de Bailío. It was bustling because it was Sunday and people were checking out and checking in. Great bellboy service by Christian and the other guy with the pretty blue eyes (forgot his name!). Our room wasn’t ready and we didn’t get the Amex FH&R upgrade, but they gave us a lovely room with plenty of space, a bottle of cava, and the little piece of chocolate cake (which everyone seems to get, @Studenttobe !!).
- “killed time” by walking around the hotel, which was initially unimpressive, esp. after coming in from Seville, and ventured into Palacio de Viana for a peak (Tom didn’t want to go in and I was fine with this as well).
- I put “Casa Pepe de la Judería” on my Apple map app, and it took us straight there, thru a nice and fun walk, winding the narrow streets. It had us arriving at 1 PM sharp, opening time! As we got in, there were 4 middle aged Spaniards (older than us) jovially taking pics of themselves in the corner of the bar… the wall behind them had all sorts of black & white and discolored framed photos of bullfighters, and these 2 couples were laughing and enjoying themselves in the moment; in fact, I almost asked them if they wanted me to take their pic (but I didn’t). They moved down the small and narrow bar area, and we scooted in next to them. So close that we were almost on top of each other, but no matter! They ordered cañas and a mix of Fino and Pedro Ximenez for one of the women. I ordered 2 cañas and a small portion of croquetas (this time, de Jamón, yeah!! Mami would have been happy!). They ordered a bunch of food, including the Ox tail (which was really cow). At some point, I said something to them, because they were so jovial and lively, and that was it!!… the conversation and camaraderie began! We talked about my grandparents from Asturias, about retirement, about Marbella and Malaga (which they poo-pooed), and, about Sevilla!! (they were from Sevilla and were there for the weekend). I translated for Tom.
- They ordered more food, more beers and wine. I ordered the berenjena con miel, which they had ordered as well, and another caña, and then, when their salmorejo came out, one of the gentlemen offered us the first spoonful!!!! I can’t express how great this moment was! They reminded me of Sarina and Pepe, our second cousins from Oviedo; I remembered my roots, and felt so happy in the moment!
- I know I’m now going overboard with this experience, but by this time, I also started talking to the other neighbors; the woman was from Alicante and she was celebrating her birthday with her husband, her sister and her brother in law. I asked if they could take our picture with the other friends, and then we took pictures with them, our new friends!! (Tom thought I was crazy)
- Hard to top that experience!
- After checking into our room, we rested a bit, and prepared for dinner at El Bar de Paco Morales. It was drizzling (and I was very thankful for my hat! For once, I packed well for this trip!)
- We were one of the early tables and got great service there. The food was amazing! I had Paco’s inventive Salmorejo de Naranja con bacalao ahumado y nube de mozzarela, we had the gamba de cristal frita y pimiento asado a la brasa, as well as the flamenquin, which was so delicious that Tom ordered a second (and we ate the whole thing)! Flamenquin is a traditional dish from Cordoba made w slices of jamón serrano wrapped in pieces of pork loin, coated breadcrumb batter and deep fried.
Oh my.
What a day! Ready for the Mezquita on Sunday …


Sunday, Day 2 in Cordoba
- was fantastic! We had a terrific breakfast at the hotel and took our time in the AM. There was a marathon going on that morning, which we got to watch.
- Then walked over to La Plaza de las Tendillas for a “GuruWalk” tour in English of the Heritage / Cultural sites. We had never done a Guru Walk tour before and this was great, and a last minute plan which I almost cancelled. Our tour guide was a young woman, Ashley, who had roots in both Cordoba and Arizona, and she spoke perfect English. We learned about San Rafael (and all of the men named Rafael in the area), visited the Jewish quarter, the Calleja de las Flores, saw the outside of the Alcazar and La Mezquita and had great interaction with our group of 8.
- The tour went way beyond the 2 hours and we were somewhat hungry so we ended up backtracking to a Moorish tea house, Teteria Petra, which Ashley had recommended. We wanted to check it out b/c we had dinner reservations at Casa Mazal and she wasn’t as fond of this restaurant as Petra, and Tom thought that maybe we would change our plans. I said, why don’t we just grab a bite here, and come back to Mazal for dinner?
It was great! We had tea and a nice selection of salad, hummus, and falafel, then had couscous with chicken. Lots of food to consume in less than an hour, and it was just great!
- We rushed over to La Mezquita for our 4 pm ticket appointment of the entry… and WOW! What a spectacular sight!!!
- La Mezquita was breathtaking! It was so beautiful! And it was so nice that Tom and I could you stroll together on our own and be wowed by this magnificent building (without a tour guide, for once!)
- Back to the hotel for a great shower, and then on to Casa Mazal, which was good, not great, but hit the spot. We had great service there and enjoyed the meal, and were happy that by this time we knew the city enough that we could get back to the hotel with some sort of familiarity, which is a wonderful feeling after one spends enough time in a place. (Not long enough, but it will suffice!!)
Granada the next day!


Monday, March 4
​​​​​​​- took a super pleasant train ride from Cordoba to Granada on Renfe AVE, which was speedy and comfortable.
- checked into the Seda Club Hotel, a 20-room 5-star hotel on Plaza Trinidad which opened in Feb. 2023 and is part of the Amex Fine Hotel & Resorts (FH&R) program. They could not give us the optional upgrade since the hotel was full, but the room was ready for us early which was nice. Very well appointed room decorated in beautiful blue tones. The room was pretty small. If you want more details about this hotel, pls message me. Happy to share!
- walked around the city, up to the Albaycin narrow streets. Indeed, you need comfortable shoes here, as the roads and sidewalks are uneven in parts due to the rocks that they are paved with.
- We had a glass of wine at the bar before dinner. 2 glasses of delicious Ribera del Duero for 8 euro!! Spain knows how to treat wine properly. It’s appalling how the US has abused the wine culture and charges so much for so little!! Just not right.
- We had dinner reservations at Carmen de Aben Humeya, with a beautiful window view of the Alhambra at night. We headed out early and walked all the way up, steeper and steeper to get to the place. We huffed and puffed and got our heart rate up. Never mind that the glass (glasses?!) of wine that we had at the hotel did not help the cardio situation (sorry, Tom). The farther up we went, the quieter it got. The less populated it got. Quieter. Higher. Less People. Pretty. Not dangerous despite the lack of folk.
- We found the restaurant up top. And upon entering this rather small space, we first got greeted by the stifling hot air (heat) blowing by the glass door entry way (because it was quite chilly out), we then got welcomed by the host /maitre d’ who could not find our 8:30 pm reservation. MInd you, it was 8:15 or 8:20…. Search, search, and he found a reservation made by our hotel for another person, for 8:30. Anyway and bottom line, we got seated by him…. Good for him, he could have lost a table of 2 and at the end, there was 1 or maybe 2 other tables that never got occupied. (Note to self and to my hotelie sister… I was pleasant, not overly demanding, not rude, but firm. I was self-assured b/c I was certain that we had a reservation…I also later found the email w/ the confirmation of the reservation by the hotel, which I duly showed him a few minutes after we were seated. He was cordial, apologetic, pleasant and kind as well. All good.
- Dinner was delicious. I had fish. Tom had pork.
- We had the most delicious olive oil. OMED Extra virgin olive oil made of 100% Piscual Olives. Intense Fruity. (Note to self: Acula, Granada). Fantastic. The bottle was square not round. Actually rectangular, like a brick. I asked about buying some (hesitated). It would have been like putting a brick in our bags for the return home. (Did not buy)(Our hotel, BTW, had a similar delicious olive oil at breakfast. Picos del Guadiana Menor. Also, Piscual “cosecha temprana”. Nice!

Tuesday, March 5, Day 2 in Granada: The Alhambra
- Got up at the crack of dawn for our appointment w Margarita Ortiz, private guide (and guide to Rick Steves, thank you, Maribel ).
- we took a cab early (right after 8 am), to arrive by 8:30, and walked up to the entrance, only to find Margarita petting a beautiful black cat!! . It’s great to start a tour early to avoid the crowds.
- The Alhambra was all that I thought it would be and more. Majestic. Enormous. Like fireworks, every ahhh and oooh, with every new room visited. Margarita was pleasant, knowledgeable, humble, gentle, sweet, and kind. She wanted to take our picture at every special moment / room. and it was so funny to see her slight frustration with the Chinese guests who just wouldn’t give the Alhambra (or I’m sure, any other historic monument) its proper respect.
- The tour was a good 3.5-4 hours, ending in the Palacio del Verano, the Summer Palace of the Sultan/s and its beautiful garden. We could have gone on for another 30-60 minutes w/ her…she did not rush us; I could however, tell that Tom’s eyes were glazing over w the amount of info and detail and dates that she was giving us. Me, I could have gone on w/ her for a bit.
Note: when we got to Washington Irving’s quarters, I told her that I had a facsimile edition of the same from my dad, and she perked up with joy and said to let her know if I ever wanted to get rid of it! My dad had it from “Sleepy Hollow Press”, a proper reproduction of the original, and he dedicated it to my mom (in 1991) telling her that Irving was the man that made it possible to save the Alhambra. How I wish now that I could talk to my parents to ask them about this and learn their story of the Alhambra. Clearly, they were both there together, otherwise he would not have given her this book. I miss you, mom and dad.
- The rest of the day pales in comparison to the Alhambra visit.
We walked down the hill, toward the Albaicin. We eventually got back into main part of town, and went to Bar Oliver, where we got a caña of beer and a most delicious plate of baked sliced potatoes in olive oil. We then went back to the room to rest/nap. And then started back again at 7ish at the hotel bar for a glass of Ribera del Duero (again, our favorite Spanish wine), and a tapa of berenjena con miel.
- We had no formal reservation (on purpose), as I planned to do a tapas crawl! We went to 4 wonderful bodegas: Los Manueles (they served us beef stew), Bar Cunini, back to Bar Oliver and finally to a younger crowd bar by our hotel called TocaTeja (recommended by our waiter at the hotel bar).

Granada grew on us as were there. I thoroughly enjoyed that last evening, and I will be always grateful that we got to experience the glorious Alhambra. To God be all the glory. While the builders sought to give homage to Allah, I gave glory to Almighty God. I saw such beauty, all God-given in the end!

Wednesday, March 6
-Late morning at the hotel, had breakfast and walked around the hotel on this beautiful crisp morning, then took a cab to the airport for our flight to Madrid.
-Our hotel in Madrid was the Room Mate Alba hotel in the Barrio de las Letras. We have stayed at the Doubletree el Prado in the same area a few times before, and I’m still wondering why I tried to “fix what was not broken” by choosing RoomMate. (First time for me with this chain). The hotel was fine but the room was super odd. Anyway, all good, just 1 night there.
-We walked around the area to familiarize ourselves with the area, found TriCiclo, where we had reservations for dinner at 8:30 pm that night. @Maribel, DisTinto was closed for renovations, so I was bummed, but Bar Cervantes was quite lively, so we went in for a quick bite and drink, which became another eating frenzy of delicious bites!!
-Walked all around the area, down Paseo del Prado, la Gran Via, and ended up in Plaza Mayor before returning to the hotel.
-TriCiclo was superb! The service was impeccable. We started with a delightful Vermut, and had alcachofas prepared scrumptiously with some crispy ham, a rice dish with a langostino, which the server squished to perfection so that all of its juices gushed out, and finally the crispy cochinillo, which was delightful. We finished with a white chocolate ice cream dessert that also had yogurt (?) and it was the perfect way to end our last meal in Spain!

End of the trip!

Now that we’re back home, I have such wonderful memories of our time there. I wouldn’t change a thing about the trip, other than adding 2 more nights to the itinerary! I know that Tom felt I overscheduled us, and he is right. If we had a couple more days, we could have done things more leisurely. One cannot possibly do all that there is to do in a city!! Pick the critical sights/places/restaurants, and then backfill, allowing time for those wonderful moments where you just walk, find special places, and meet people. I loved Sevilla and want to return there (need to visit La Catedral, after all!!). I thought about my parents all of the time (and my family) and missed them! I’m so grateful!
Viva España!



pattytravel is offline  
Old Mar 14th, 2024, 10:58 AM
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Thanks for retelling your journey in a single TR, easier to read and save.
Sounds like a fabulous trip.
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