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Andalucia - very early trip thinking - reactions?

Andalucia - very early trip thinking - reactions?

Old Dec 20th, 2014, 09:05 AM
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Andalucia - very early trip thinking - reactions?

Hello Fodorites,
We are beginning to think about a Europe trip in the fall of 2015. I like to do a lot of reading and work on the language, wherever we go, hence the long time frame. At first, Dresden (some ancestors came from there eons ago) and Berlin were on the bucket list. Then magnetic forces starting pulling us down to Spain, which we have never visited. At first, it was to be Barcelona and Catalonia. Then the Mudejar Force took over and pulled us south toward Andalucia.

Herewith, our very early thoughts about this trip. Your reactions are eagerly awaited.

Us: late 60s, like to walk, love food, wine, art, architecture, history, all that stuff. Also like a chance to polish up our very rusty Mexican Spanish and try it in Iberia. What we do not like are very long plane trips with multiple changes and long layovers, and this explains some of the structure of this initial draft of the trip:

Fly Burlington, Vermont – Newark – Madrid
Train at once to Cordoba (and continue to use trains for the rest of the trip)

Nights:
2 Cordoba – Mezquita, plus the awesome flamenco which judy_rosa’s excellent Fodor trip report recommended
2 Granada – Alhambra s-l-o-w-l-y both day and night
3 Seville
…and now we leave Andalucia for…
2 Toledo – we’re deep into El Greco, looking forward to this
2 Madrid – it’s hard for me to get a feel for Madrid, there have been so many different impressions of it on various Fodor reports. We don’t relish the idea of 7 hours in the Prado.
Leave Madrid for Newark and Burlington

We tend to go for two-night stays in a place, with a three-night stay in large cities that have many great things to see. Our attitude is: sample a few of the big things and put that city back on the bucket list for another visit.

Thanks in advance for comments, ideas, suggestions!
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 09:29 AM
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Hi-

First off, you will �� Spain! The people are friendly, it is still more budget friendly than some other top countries, and the cultural sites will knock your socks off!

I did a trip in 4/11. All train travel.
East coast to Madrid, then train directly to Córdoba for 2 nights
Córdoba to Seville for 4 nights
Seville to Granada 2 nights
Granada to Madrid 4 nights

Highlights:
Alhambra (though otherwise Granada not my fave-but then again I was sick
Córdoba (in a word...the Mezquita)
Madrid is such a great all around city with lots of diverse things to do
Seville Cathedral, Alcazar, everything! (so different from Madrid)

My only suggestion on itinerary is order. Check this it might make sense: Córdoba->Seville (45min by rail I think?)->Granada (last I knew this is a longer train ride because it's regional)->Madrid/Toledo (we didn't go but I think it's an easy day trip from Madrid). On Madrid-it is so much more than the Prado. I felt like it even though it's a big city, it retains a ton of charm and character. I went with my then 10yo daughter and we loved Retiro park, the royal palace, plaza mayor, la reina Sofia (if only to see guernica-go the day it's free), el rastro....I could go on and on but the point is don't overlook Madrid
I don't want to make any other suggestions about your itinerary because there are some much better traveled Fodorites on this forum who will certainly guide you well! Hope you love it as much as we did.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 09:35 AM
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Great info! Thanks so much. Yes, I have been looking at the train times around the Cordoba-Granada-Seville triangle (I have been using bahn.de because some fodorites say it is easier than Renfe to use), but I still don't feel I have a handle on it. Your suggestion is good, I will dig into that.

Madrid: somebody, I think on Fodor's, actually said it felt a little like Chicago (!?$%@??). Surely not. Glad you liked it. I haven't done much reading on the city, but I will.

Did you go to flamenco dances in any city during your trip?

Thanks again.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 09:42 AM
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Yes we went to a free one at la carboneria-it was good but I wish I'd splurged for casa la memoria or one of the other recommended ones...

I remember Renfe was very difficult to navigate. Make sure you check out the man in seat 61 website-lots and lots of good train travel advice....
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 10:12 AM
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Your itinerary seems fine. Madrid is a capital city with some elegant parks, and many great museums, food markets and an old town, and some interesting walkable smaller neighborhoods, I don't know what else to say about it that makes it that different from a lot of other such cities that you find so unusual in thinking about it (except it's Spanish, of course). It has a good metro system, also, so easy to get around.

I'm not sure what your Mexican Spanish consists of that is that different from standard Spanish. I travel to both Mexico and Spain and the basic language is the same, of course, for regular things you say. Of course there are a few words that are different in each, but it's not anything that is that common or frequent (like the words used for public toilets, and they should understand you, or the words for to drive a car). Pronunciation is slightly different if you use the Castilian pronunciation for c and z. There are some other differences like the different usages of vosotros vs. ustedes but not things that an average tourist would likely be saying that much. So unless you are very fluent in Mexican Spanish, I wouldn't worry about it.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 11:55 AM
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Your trip seems fine, but I think you should spend another couple of days in Madrid. It's wonderful. Whatever site you use, be sure to get train tickets well in advance. They will be much cheaper.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 12:57 PM
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In general, I like your plan! I especially like that you are giving Cordoba, Granada, and Toledo each 2 nights -- I thought them WELL worth that time (or more). I spent more time in Madrid, but then I savored my long days in its art museums. Since that's not your interest, the time you've given it should give you a taste.

Actually, since Madrid is easier to get to than Andalusia, it makes sense to "shortchange" it, rather than any of your other destinations. So you might want to consider adding a day to Sevilla. And you might want to consider is adding a night in Ronda, even though you prefer 2 night stops. It can be reached by public transportation (bus from Sevilla or train from Granada).

Do watch for where you will be on Mondays -- many things in Spain are closed then.

It's a wonderful part of the world - enjoy!
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 01:55 PM
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Thanks to all. Just to explain that we are not really Visigoths, I do in fact like three-star art museums but have seen many in other European capitals, and since time is limited I wanted to focus more on some very special Spanish places, hence see-sawing between Catalonia and Andalucia. Toledo was thrown in because it seems uniquely beautiful, plus the El Grecos. Will check on Ronda...
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 02:26 PM
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"we are not really Visigoths" -- Interesting choice of words, as there are some wonderful collections of Visigoth artifacts in both Madrid and Toledo. ;-) And FWIW, I wasn't criticizing -- most people don't want to spend day after day in museums!
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 04:35 PM
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Don't worry about being understood in your Latin American Spanish. There are so many of them living and working in Spain that most people are used to it.
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 05:34 AM
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Regarding flamenco along your route, here are some recommendations for excellent places with top of the shelf artists:

Although flamenco comes from the South/Andalucia, Madrid is the flamenco capital of the world. Everyone has to conquer Madrid to get to the top.
Casa Patas, in the heart of Madrid, is arguably the absolute best tablao (flamenco restaurant) in the country in recent years: http://www.casapatas.com/

In Sevilla there are only great artists at intimate Casa de la Memoria. Pastora Galvan was voted best female flamenco dancer 2010 by Spanish critics, and she has danced here almost once a week for the past four-five years: http://www.casadelamemoria.es/

In Granada you should go to the Thursday or Saturday night performances at Peña la Plateria, the oldets existing flamenco club in the country: http://www.laplateria.org.es/

In Cordoba, I would recommend Arte y Sabores way over Tablao Cardenal. Intimate Arte y Sabores has in almost no time got a great reputation among the flamenco artists and aficionados themselves. Even though the more touristy thing at Tablao Cardenal can also be good, Arte y Sabores is more the real deal. https://www.facebook.com/tablaoarteysabores
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...Andalucia.html
http://tablaosflamencos.com/en/tabla...res-de-cordoba

For flamenco theater performances with the greatest artists, see the updated schedule here: http://www.deflamenco.com/seccion-conciertos.html

Homepages of some of the greatest dancers on the current scene. All these, and many more, excellent flamenco artists perfom on stages around Spain almost all the time and in front of a predominantly local and knowledgeable crowd.
Rocio Molina: http://www.rociomolina.net/
Eva Yerbabuena: http://www.evayerbabuena.com/en/
Maria Pages: http://www.mariapages.com/en_index.php
Fuensanta La Moneta: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fuens...30508377089362
Pastora Galvan: http://www.pastoragalvan.com/

And also brilliant male dancers such as Israel Galvan, Joaquin Grilo, Andres Marin, Marco Flores, Antonio Canales to mention a few.
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 06:03 AM
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Some are better informed on details. However we were in Andalucia just last October...see report Spain and Portugal in Depth. So a few comments. Madrid: yes a bustling metropolitan city with parks, etc. But for me Prado was a highlight and I wanted to go back once more to see the masterpieces plus Goya.

Indeed El Greco in Toledo, the Burial of the Count of Orgaz in Iglesia de Santo Tome. But also his paintings in Prado. In Cordoba, yes the wonderful La Mezquita with its Moorish pillars. Our flamenco performance was in Sevilla and I posted a link to a great history of flamenco.

Certainly must not miss the Alhambra in Granada and the city itself. The Alhambra does mean lots of walking but that's true everywhere.

You mentioned Dresden and Berlin which were on our overseas trip last year. And btw we are much older than you but did survive the considerable walking on peddle/stone streets in Andalucia. Still the up hill trudging and many steps were a challenge.

Now then, where we need to visit is Burlington and lovely Vermont sometime (living in Watertown, MA).
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 01:53 PM
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kimhe: Thank you for such detailed information about flamenco. I have never attended a performance and am looking forward to this very much. I will do my best to make our schedule coincide with the times it is offered in Sevilla (Pastora Galvan) and Granada.

Ozarksbill: The Prado, from the descriptions I have read, sounds as massive and intimidating as the Louvre but I guess the key is to focus on a relatively small number of works. Yes, Burlington is a great little city. Perhaps I shall do a Trip Report on it? (But I don't know if one is supposed to do a TR about a place where one lives?) Thanks again for your comments.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 05:25 AM
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There is no comparison between the size of the Prado and the Louvre! You can easily see the highlights of the Prado in one visit. At the Louvre, you have to decide what style / century / school of art you want to see. Otherwise you spend most of your time racing from place to place.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 09:06 AM
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Good, I'm convinced, the Prado is on the list!
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 09:10 AM
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After all the other useful comments, I will make only one: Reserve/buy your tickets to the Alhambra early. I bought my ticket for the most recent visit there a MONTh ahead of time and was able to visit only in the evening.

I did enjoy the evening visit as much as I had enjoyed earlier daytime visits, but if you want to see it in both daytime and evening, order your tickets as early as you can.

P.S. The geology around Ronda is fabulous.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 09:33 AM
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You said "time is limited".which it is with only 11 days. Skip Ronda. It's a secondary site.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 12:21 PM
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Good info! Another question: is it worth it to do the daytime and also the evening tours of the Alhambra if you are an architecture geek, or is it really boring overkill?
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 04:02 PM
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It is absolutely worth both daytime and evening visits to the Alhambra! And IMO, best done in that order. If you have to choose between evening visits to the Nasrid Palace or the gardens, do both, and do the Nasrid Palace after your day time visit.

And just to be clear, my recommendation for Ronda (given your timeframe) was contingent on skipping Madrid on this trip, even though you are flying in/out of it, just because it is easier to get to Madrid than to get to Andalusia (meaning that you could go back to Madrid more easily than you could go back to Andalusia).
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Old Dec 23rd, 2014, 09:47 AM
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It's always fun to plan a trip! And looking forward to Andalucia. I still vote for Madrid and the Prado and concentrating on a favorite few artists. Alhambra plus gardens...certainly to look forward to. As mentioned in my Spain and Portugal in Depth report we were unfortunate having pouring rain. Yes, the ticketing is tricky, requiring strict checking at several entrances...wonder did they have an incident?

You will marvel at the countless olive trees on hillsides, so green. Just now I am intrigued by listening to flamenco music...hope you can take in a performance. Ours was in Sevilla.
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