Andalusia Spain Trip Report Long

Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 09:58 AM
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Andalusia Spain Trip Report Long

Andalusia Spain late September 2004, where to begin? We absolutely loved the Andalusia, the diverse country side, the charming people and most of all the fabulous food! I write these reports so we can pull it out years from now and relive our trip. If itís too detailed for you, I apologize. But many on-line, as I do, love to read trip reports. Many thanks to the great information shared on the Fodorís board.

Hereís our two week, 14 night, itinerary

Flight in and out of Malaga Ė rental car Europcar

Granada 2 nights Ė Hotel Casa Morisca - www.hotelcasamorisca.com
Jaen 1 night Ė Parador - www.paradores-spain.com
Cordoba 1 night Ė originally NH Amistad moved to Hesperia Cordoba Hotel
Sevilla 3 nights Ė Las Casas de Juderia - www.hotel-www.intergrouphoteles.com
Cadiz 3 nights Ė Parador
Ronda 2 nights- Hotel San www.hotelsangabriel.com
Nerja 2 nights Ė Parador

FRIDAY
We left Boston just in time to escape Ivan the Terrible, the worst hurricane to hit the Caribbean and Southern US in four decades. Air France was uneventful. Two breakfast beers in Parisís Charles De Gaulle airport were delightful. After all, it was really only 11:30 PM our time. On to Espanola.

SATURDAY - Granada
Our car rental from Europcar was easy. Our Renault Megan had a credit card key to start it. Europe is so different. Speaking of different, when we arrived in Granada we were informed in Spanish by numerous police officers that our hotel, Casa Morisca, was impossible to get to. We knew getting to our hotels would be a challenge, so I wrote the name and address on index cards to show people when we asked in our broken Spanish. Impossible was the answer. Did the hotel burn down? Our directions were to get to the Plaza Nueva and call in our code so the barriers would go down. Saturday traffic was a nightmare. Very frustrated, we decided to go to the Parador at the Alhambra and see what the problem was. We couldnít get into the Parador, but did manage to find a parking spot at the Hotel Alhambra Place. They were so nice to explain that the Tour de Espanola Bicycle Race was in Granada and the area near our hotel was closed. Sigh, now we understood why Impossible. We parked in the Alhambra parking lot and dragged our luggage down to the taxi stand near the Parador. Our driver went down the hill, on a bus/taxi only road and we were at our hotel in minutes. Wow, weíve driven many places in Europe but this was the most frustrating experience. Who new?

Hotel Casa Morisca, located in the Albayzin, the old Moorish quarter, was an oasis. Stepping over the big wooden doorway into the open patio with its original Morisco pool and retractable roof was our first journey back into the remarkable history we were about to experience over the next two weeks. Our room #6 was small but charming, very clean, with a comfortable bed, a nice bathroom and a slight view of the Alhambra.

We walked down the tiny street by the river Darro, more like a stream this time of year, to one of the many tapas bars for our first meal in Spain. We had bread with sliced salami, fresh potato chips that were complementary, potato tortilla, always a favorite Spanish Tapa, Jamon with Manchego cheese and 2 big beers. Time for a three hour siesta.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:02 AM
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Believe me, it was difficult to get up, but we needed to get on to Spanish time soon, or else. Our shower helped. It was refreshing. Our hotel was at the bottom of the Albayzin, a second hill opposite the Alhambra hill, separated by the river Darro. We climbed up the Albayzin on the steep cobble-stoned streets with flower covered villas. One of our tour books described this as an ancient Moorish neighborhood with a mix of dilapidated white houses, elegant Moorish palaces and private villas. It is also up HILL from our hotel. Our legs are crying already. This is our first day and I feel like weíve been here a month.

We walked up the maze of tiny alleyways, lost and experiencing a mixture of lively people enjoying the evening, to the Mirador de San Nicolas. HIGHLIGHT The view looking back over the lighted Alhambra was amazing. The moon was half full and huge. It was magical. Everyone seemed to be out. Michael commented that this was a true gathering of young and old, laughing, drinking, talking and celebrating life. It was Saturday, but we found this was true every evening in Spain. They know how to get pleasure from family and life.

Dinner was a pleasant surprise at El Huerto de Juan Ronas. There is a gourmet restaurant below, but we ended up eating, because the night was so perfect, on the terrace above. The menu was limited, not for all, but fun for us, we were blissful! We had the house salad with tuna, tomatoes, eggs, olives, etc. Then the main event, a kilo (2.2 pounds) slab of oxen steak that we cooked ourselves on a little grill at our table with course salt. This was served with a cold potato, carrot and olive salad. Our walk down took 2 minutes to our welcome haven, Hotel Morisca. Time for bed, we had to find our car tomorrow. I hope the Tour de Espanola Bike Race doesnít follow us though out our travels!

SUNDAY - Granada
We awoke excited to see one of the most beautiful attractions in Spain, the Alhambra. First we enjoyed a great little breakfast at our hotel, fruit, cold cuts, eggs, sweets and yogurt and big cups of coffee. We made a smart move and took the bus to the top of the Alhambra .90 euros each.

The Alhambra is amazingly diverse, the Nasrid Royal Palaces, Genteralife Gardens, baths, castles and incredible views, you name it, itís there. You canít help but to appreciate the marvelous architecture, gardens with stunning flowers and trees and fascinating history. It is very dry here. How does all of the vegetation thrive?

It was time to find our car and drive down the hill. Lost is the operative word. We made a corporate decision to drive down the forbidden bus/taxi road, since we knew it would take us to our hotel. It worked and we werenít arrested. After the car was parked safely at the hotel, for free, we walked down two plazas and had a remarkable lunch at Antigua Bodega Castaneda, a mixture of locals and tourists enjoying some of the best tapas in Granada. We had a mixed platter of salamis, hams, cheese and olives and a smoked fish platter. Yummy! It is time for a siesta.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:04 AM
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I had time to write in my little notebook while Michael slept. The landscape to Granada was similar to California, mixed with Colorado, Utah and the Moon all covered with olive trees. We learned the Spanish for dog, El Parro. Plenty of El Parros were out walking with their owners at night. I love dogs.

For dinner we strolled down the Darro river through three lively squares, to Restaurant Cunini, recommended by Fodorís, in El Centro. It was El Closeo. Many of the restaurants were closed on Sunday night. No problem, it is so much fun to search out an unexpected place. We noticed the outside area at Manalo was busy which is always a good sign, and sat down. We had warm sliced octopus with paprika, grilled cod pill pill (garlic and oil) with, soft egg whites, I think, and sun dried tomatoes. Michael saw a dish go buy and we ordered it, the best, grilled asparagus, ever, wrapped in Jamon, Oh My! We closed Granada tonight and were the last ones, just about, home.

MONDAY Ė Granada to Jaen
Heading out of Granada was easier than heading in, almost. Our hotel concierge said it was easy. Up and out we found ourselves at another road barrier, this time with no code. Flabbergasted, what to do? After fretting for a minute a kind lady said to drive up and push a button. We escaped only to get lost again. What fun would Spain be with out getting lost? Finally we were on the incredible Olive Tree Forever You Can See road to Jaen, pronounced Haen. How do they ever harvest all of these trees? They are all over the place!

I thought the Parador-Castle on the Mountain above Jaen would be effortless to find, NOT. This busy working, crossroad (neat history), many one-way streets, lots of construction city was a puzzle. Plus we were there before siesta. It seemed that everyone in the city was in their car trying to go home. Finally we found our way up, up and up the mount to the Parador. Michael rules the clutch. Strangest thing, Jaenís hospital was on the same road up, up, up, out of town, higher than the Parador. Not quite the place I would put a hospital.

Wow, what a view! Our room was spacious with an staggering view over the valley and a big balcony. Interesting, we had no air-conditioning or water. The maid told us it was broken and they were fixing this problem. We assumed the whole hotel had this situation, but as it turned out, our room was the only one that was broken. Hungry, we drove down, much easier than up, plus everyone was gone (siesta), to town. We found a ideal parking place behind the cathedral. You can not believe how quiet this crazy town became after 3:00 pm. Our lunch (skipped breakfast) was scrumptious. Again we found a hopping place, Del Posito. We had Salmorejo, a tomato, pepper, bread stew, with Pimento de Piguilid Rellenous de Bonito, stuffed peppers with tuna, and Pate de Perdiz, partridge pate. Back at the hotel, we walked out to the enormous Cross on the mountainside to an fantastic view. Iím tired!

My husband can fall asleep in a second, Iím so envious. After a rest, I sat on the picture perfect balcony. Scruff, scruff, scruff, I heard. I thought I would see mountain goats climbing the cliffs edges. Wrong, it was El Parros, two scruffy dogs, trying to ascend the summit. Where did they come from? It took us forever to drive up this mountain. They looked hungry. We enjoyed a nice pop on one of our favorite balconies in Europe. We watched the sun setting over the olive groves. As Michael so appropriately claimed, this is the Olive Garden of the world.

Speaking of hungry, in Jaen, eating at the Parador is the thing to do. The elegant dining room was packed, a surprise. It was filled with many dignitaries plus hotel guests. We enjoyed a gourmet experience, starting with olives, of course, and a seafood salsa that was complementary. Then we ordered rabbit in a rice stew and shared it as an appetizer to warm our pallets. Delicious. For dinner we had venison with mushrooms and pork and fruit with coffee, complex and tasty. We indulged in dessert and had an apple flan with ice cream and olive oil ice cream in chocolate cups. Today was another great day.


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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:05 AM
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TUESDAY Ė Jaen to Cordoba
We had a plentiful breakfast at the Parador. The one highlight in Jaen we couldnít miss was the Banos de Arabes, the Arab Baths. Once we found them, after walking up, up, and up, they were a very nice surprise. The baths are under the Palcacio de Villardompardo which also includes the Mueso de Artes Populares and the Mueso de Artes Naif, old objects and really, really happy colorful art. You have to see it to understand. After, we meandered into the colorful public market. Before we left Jaen, we had a well deserved ice cold beer at a Cerverceria. Itís so charming when they bring you free tapas. We were delivered tasty marinated mussels.

The ride to Cordoba proved that there were even more, many, many more, olive trees in this world that you could ever imagine. I have to mention, the drives have been quite pleasurable.

Once again our travels got interesting. Driving into Cordoba, we knew we were lost. Index card in hand, we had a taxi lead us to Hotel Amistad for 3 euros. After hauling our luggage up to the lobby and waiting for ten minutes, while the hostess was on the phone, we were told that our room was broken and we had to go elsewhere. They were fully booked. This was the one place that I had hesitated booking. People either loved it or hated it, commenting on the unhelpful staff. I was ^*%@. We booked our room three months ago! Note to all, do not take your luggage out until youíve confirmed, and seen your room. They sent us to Hesperia Hotel and she told us it was right next to their hotel. They called a taxi to take us there. After following the taxi over river, I realized we were not staying next to Amistad. However, the Hesperia Hotel, looking back over the river, a 10 minute walk, to the Mezquita, turned out to be a haven for us. Our corner room with a view was fine. The hotel had a cold refreshing pool and a roof top terrace. It was better than we expected. You must learn to go with the ups and downs that traveling can bring you and youíll be pleasantly surprised.

We hiked over the old Roman bridge. A friend who had been here told us that you should walk over the bridge from the Mezquita both day and night to enjoy the view. It is amazing. An ideal afternoon, we explored the small town and checked out our evening dining possibilities. We even took our pictures in the silly geranium alley (see your tour book). It was late afternoon, so we decided to save the Mezquita for the next day. After meandering around the old town and a quick snack, we went to Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Fortress of the Christian Monarchs. This was a beautiful palace, not quite the Alhambra, but charming. The gardens were extraordinary, lots of water fountains, palms, flowers and these big tall tree/shrubs, I donít know the name, that were recently trimmed in to giant columns. The late afternoon sun was so perfect for this magical visit. Tired and thirsty from the heat, we headed back over the bridge. The egret like birds were flying in for the night to the island in the middle of the river. Way cool. So thirsty, we asked a nice old man, where can we get agua? He pointed to a big fountain in the middle of the road. We obviously meant bottled water, but the reply was so funny we laughed. No nap today, boo hoo, but even better, a pool. We were hot and dehydrated, and the courtyard pool was a treat. Who knew is was 60 F freezing cold. We splashed around, with our fellow guests, three German couples, who seemed quite pleased with the shocking temperature. The cold came from a big fountain, pumping ice cold water into the sun heated pool.

It was time for dinner. The promenade on our side of the river was quite active with many parros, dogs, and their masters. I love dogs. We absolutely love how the Spain people embrace life, young and old. Everyone is out walking, dressed up, or not. Dinner at El Caballo Rojo, the Red Horse, was more than we expected. Itís been recommended by many on the Fodorís travel board so expectations were high. We stopped in during the day and made reservations. We were happy to have an ideal table at our disposable. The host was very accommodating and helped us choose our appetizer and dinners. One thing I noticed that many servers during our trip told us we were ordering too much. This was so endearing to us. We had the house salad, similar to antipasto, with tuna, asparagus, eggplant, carrots, swordfish and pimentos. Then the house specialties, Bulls Tail, ten stars, and lamb shank with honey was yummy. We even had a mixed dessert platter; the choice of our host was a pistachio jello-ish cake and a pine nut cake. Michael had coffee and I had a special liquor, better know as firewater. It tasted like Grappa. Goodnight Cordoba, or not. Our room was calenete, hot. This time the whole floor was broken. So we made ourselves a pop and headed to the perfecto patio bar on top of our hotel. It was kind of tacky taking our own drinks, but we didnít want to spend $ at the bar while we were waiting for maintenance to fix our room at 1:00 AM. My goodness, one major bike race, a broken room at Jaen, then we were thrown out of Amistad because of a broken room and now a broken floor. Whatís next?
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:06 AM
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WEDNESDAY Ė Cordoba to Sevilla
We were up early for another picture perfect day. We had a simple breakfast at a café near the Mezquita of Tortilla and coffee. The Mezquita is a spacious sprawling Mosque with a 16th century cathedral in the middle. The columns and red and white striped arches are mesmerizing. Michael described it like a Faberge Egg, only bigger. It has an atmosphere that was exceptional. Weíve been to Istanbul (our favorite city) and this brought back fond memories. This is a very extraordinary place. We dropped a coin down a grate near chapel #44 for good luck. This was noted in our Fodorís tour book. There is a small iron cage over a cross said to have been carved into the pillar by the fingernails of a Christian slave. Believe it or not, our traveling luck did change, for the better.

On the way to Sevilla we stopped in Carmona. It was early siesta time and the town was eerily deserted. Shush, donít wake them up. We found later upon arriving in Sevilla that this is a good time to drive around these wild cities; no one is around making it easier to navigate. In Carmona, we found a parking place and wandered around until we found the Plaza de San Fernando in the heart of old white and bright town. We chose the busier of a few out-door cafes and sat down for our first Frito Misto platter, mixed fish plate. The huge platter with 2 big beers each came to 20 euros. This was a very calming way to spend the afternoon.

Believe it or not, we found our hotel, Las Casa de la Juderia, or at least the sign for it. Itís tucked into a small alleyway off a tiny one-way street. Making the turn into the alley would be a challenge. I was told to pull up and get the bell boy to take the car. There was no one there and the cars were backing up. Fortunately there was a HC parking spot that Michael pulled over into while I ran for the bell boy. Antonio, a handsome young lad, took us to an alternative parking lot not far away. It was a pain lugging our luggage back to the hotel, but hey, this is not the US of A.

The hotel was ideal. Our room was big and cold (yeah air-conditioning). Our room #43 was a junior suite on three levels. You walked in on one where the bathroom was, then up to the large bedroom with vaulted ceilings, and down one level to a charming sitting room. It was great to unpack for three nights. Changing hotels was one of the toughest parts of touring the Andalusia. We found a large mas, supermarket, on the main street, a quick walk from the hotel and stocked up on water and the essentials, beer and French vodka. We took a quick nap and woke up freezing. We were in Spanish hotel heaven. While I was showering, the maid brought us two fluffy bathrobes. We loved Sevilla already.

Sevilla is an amazing city, now our favorite city in all of Spain, and close to the top for Europe. Sevilla is thrilling to be in for atmosphere, food, happy people and historic sightseeing. We meandered to Modesto, close to the hotel and recommended by many. We had a chilly beer at the hopping bar while we waited for a table. It was a dazzling night so we sat outside. Dinner started with olives, of course and caper berries and pimentos stuffed with tuna. For dinner we shared the octopus, tender and tasty. Then something called Uncle Jims casserole Ė ham, mushrooms and shrimp recommended by Fodorís. This was a bizarre dish but tasty. The service was fast and friendly. Order your appetizers before dinner so everything doesnít come at once. Dinner was 39 euros, and of course with 4 big beers. We enjoyed the evening walking around the Barrio de Santa Cruz with the locals. We knew at once we had fallen in love with Sevilla. It was good not to have any plans for the next few days other than getting lost in this wild town. Michael treated me to a wonderful ice cream cone. A magnificent ending to a very lucky day. It must have been the coin we dropped into the floor of the Mezquita.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:08 AM
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THURSDAY Ė Sevilla
Both of us had crappy colds, so it was great to sleep in until 12:00 noon. Weíre off to explore Sevilla and get lost, what fun. We wandered down by the Cathedral then up Calle Sierpes, Sevillaís most famous shopping and strolling street. We got a kick out of the large fabric canopy that covered the street from building to building to kept the sun out and the flavor of Spain in. At the end we found La Campagna, known for its pastries. For breakfast, I had a cold beer and a grilled ham, cheese, egg and tomato thingee. Hey it was after 1:00 PM after all. Michael had a sweet bread with coffee and an unexpected chocolate cake that we had inquired about but didnít order. She didnít understand and brought us one anyway.

We found Casa Pilates. This was a captivating way to begin our tour of Sevilla. Michael explained how surprised he was to find something so charming in the middle of this labyrinth of a city. Itís an oasis in the middle of chaos. This 16th century palace is adorned with ceramic tile mosaics. It was absolutely beautiful. After our self guided tour, we tried to find the church nearby where the nuns sold cookies through a rotating window. No luck. You must give in to Sevilla and stroll around, that is its charisma. We spent hours trying to locate restaurants we wanted to inspect for our next dinners. Checking menus is a delicious task for us.

We had tapas at Bar Gonzala behind the Cathedral. We had white anchovies and a platter of the real deal, Jamon de Iberico. Bread and beer completed this magnificent moment. Oh my, we love Spain. While waiting for tickets to the Cathedral, we met a New York couple. Conversation in September of 2004 was only about one thing, the Yankees verses the Red Sox. They were the first Americans we met in six days. The Cathedral is the largest gothic building in history and the third largest Church after St. Peters in Rome and St. Paulís in London. The grave of Christopher Columbus is inside this massive Cathedral. Although, that has been disputed.

We got lost once again, and finally found our way back to the Bar at Modesto for a cold beer before our late siesta. Sevilla is one hot city. You need to drink lots of water. I wish I was hungry, everything looked scrumptious.

Michael watched a bull fight, dreadful, but a major part of their culture. I took a bath instead. Every night we would order ice for a pop, a nice vodka and soda. Hey, you canít live on beer and wine, or perhaps you could. It was always humorous calling for ice, pronounced Jello. Noss trah, en grande el cubo el hielo por favor. Our Spanish was improving everyday. Dinner was at Hosteria de Laural, located in a pleasant square not far from our hotel. It was late and all of the early tourist diners were finishing up. Yes, this restaurant was popular with tourists, but its location, outdoor dining, and good food turned out to be just right. We had clams in a tasty sauce, then shared baby lamb chops and a whole partridge dish. A roving Mariachi band completed the evening. After an ice cream we found a discovery near our hotel. Many dumpsters were outside of buildings that were being renovated. We walked by one full of cement and oh my, beautiful yellow and green whole tiles. Free souvenirs. We took a few, as people watched us rummage through the dumpster. They now have a lovely home in our living room. We were back at the hotel at 12:35 AM, our earliest night ever.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:09 AM
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FRIDAY Ė Sevilla
We woke up at the crack of 11:30 AM. I know weíve finally settled into Spanish time. We enjoyed tostadas for breakfast down by the Cathedral. Then we took a horse and buggy ride, a must, with Antonio and Pantojas, the dancing horse. It was a bit cool today and the ride through Santa Maria Park was lovely. The Real Alcazar was a mock Moorish palace built 100 years after the Christians conquered the Moors. We liked this palace very much. The gardens were remarkable. How does everything stay alive with no water and so much heat? Afterwards we walked to the Bull Ring. It was closed. Then we headed over the bridge to Triana. It was siesta time and no one was around and most everything was closed. We walked back the other bridge near the Torre de Ore, the tower of gold. We stumbled upon a busy little restaurant, always a good sign, named Moneda. Timing was perfect, 3:30 PM and hungry. We had grilled baby squid and fried stuffed eggplant. Excellent.

Tonight we explored the real Sevilla. Heading northeast on the main street off of our hotel, lost again, we found Bar Extremunda. Wow, this was the real deal. There are 4 or 5 tables and the place was packed. It looked like a hunting lodge. They are known for grilled meats. Someone recommended this wild place on the Fodorís board. We let our waiter, the chef, take charge. He was happy to serve Americanas. We had a plate with cheeses, ham and salami, then mixed grilled plata with beef, pork and potatoes, then a plata of spareribs. Dinner came to 33 euros. This was a fantastic way to end our time in Sevilla.

SATURDAY Ė Sevilla to Cadiz
We had breakfast at the packed café across the street from Las Casa de la Juderia. We opted for tostadas, but they were serving the special, American breakfast, of fried eggs and bacon to many. Exiting Sevilla was no problem. The road to Cadiz was fairly flat with cotton balls flying around the highway from the fields we passed. Our guidebook stated that you have to travel through ugly neighborhoods to reach old Cadiz. We didnít find this true. The first thing you see is the Puerto with the huge container lifting crane. Traveling over the bridge and seeing the Atlantic was exciting. We live in Boston and love the ocean and all of the luscious creatures that live in it. We would never eat Nemo of course. The drive to the Parador was easy, thank goodness. This was a ideal place to stay. We splurged and got one of their few suites, book ahead. Wow, a big living room with a great balcony and the bedroom also had a balcony. Getting a room with a view is a must. Of course the AC wasnít working. Sigh! We headed out for a small snack, so we thought, while the concierge promised they would fix the AC. We walked the water-way, by a wedding in a superb park. There were lots of kiddies enjoying their weekend. We headed to Zorrilla Street, a busy place for tapas. We choose a hopping local packed place called Cerverceria Marigueria. The bartender-server recommended a fried fish platter for two, a Cadizís specialty. We said no and ordered salad with tuna and the specialty, Tortilla Camerone (shrimp). We werenít that hungry and it was around 4:00 PM and wanted to save our appetite for dinner. The bar was so full of character. The food was good and the beer was cold. We were just about finish when the bartender-serve brought us a huge fried mixed fish platter. Didnít we say no? I guess he didnít understand and certainly wouldnít be be happy if we refused it. Oh well, letís just eat it. Oh my aching stomach! Lunch was 28 euros.

We walked back through the old town which was so peaceful. We tried to get into our room but there were two men on a ladder in our hallway draining the AC. No nap, I guess. We went down to the bar and had two cold beers sitting out on the delightful veranda overlooking the pool. We watched a house/wild cat and little guest dog face off. Not too surprised, the cat won.

No time for a nap, but I did take a relaxing Jacuzzi. Life is great! We took a taxi to El Alijebe, recommended by the concierge. We had a friendly taxi drive who told us all about Iberico Jamon. El Alijebe was a pleasant restaurant that filled up with locals quickly. Cadiz was not touristy at all. I suppose the summer time is a different story. The amiable waitress helped us with the Spanish only menu. We started with a fish carpaccio with aged Manchego and a avocado spread with olive oil. Amazingly delicate flavors. Then we had Bacala with eggs and stick fried potatoes that was incredible. For dinner we enjoyed lamb chop w/sweetbreads, mushrooms, beans and potatoes in an excellent sauce and a bull steak w/chimcurri sauce. This meal was a surprise, a bit rustic yet gourmet. Dinner was 59 euros. Our feet were sore, so we tried to take the bus. Apparently we kept standing in the wrong bus stop area for the one that headed back to our hotel. We could have walked home quicker, but the experience was fun. After .83 euros each, we arrive at the Parador to a most welcome bed, and a little AC. Fortunately it was cool enough outside to open up the windows and listened to the surf rolling outside.

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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:10 AM
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SUNDAY Ė Cadiz
Toady was our relaxing day with nothing planned. It was a little foggy and cool. The weather so far, has been about 80˚, up or down everyday and sunny. We headed out of the Parador looking for a little café for coffee and the Tour Cadiz bus was stopped outside, an omen .We hopped on the double-decker bus. It had headsets and a tape that played various languages. We were at the end of the clockwise tour. We stopped down by the main bus station where many got off and many got on and the tour began. The tour was 9 euros each and you can get on and off all day. It was great hearing about the history of Europeís oldest town. The sun came out. Down by the long stretch of beach families, young and old, enjoyed the beautiful day. We loved how the Spanish cherish their lives.

With no breakfast, we were hungry. We headed up on a busy street in old town near El Faro. We had another terrific meal at Bodegas Luis Camâs Argentina. We met a musician who had been to Canada and spoke great English. He told us the people in the kitchen came from Brazil, San Salvador, Argentina and Spain. Our friend helped us order a traditional Argentinean salad that had smoked salmon, anchovies and corn with a creamy delicious dressing, then some of the best empanadas Iíve ever had, and a grilled beef rib with chimichurri sauce. Lunch was just right. We walked out to the way cool fortress which was locked. We had the greatest time watching the young lads in their swimsuits huddled over a blow hole. When the waves came in, the water blew sky high out of the hole, soaking the kids. It seemed we watched them forever. Michael wanted to join the fun and took his shirt off and joined the boys. They loved it. Luckily it wasnít one of the biggest spurts. I could see the headlines now, American sucked into craggy hole in rocks and lost into the ocean. We had lots of laughs. We went back to the Parador to relax by the pool. Iím so jealous of my husband, he can fall asleep anywhere.

Our dinner, at the much recommended El Faro was perfect. We started with octopus in a cream mustard sauce. Then the paella for two which was the freshest, best ever. For dessert, which we usually never have, we had a chocolate cake split and filled with ice cream and a caramel sauce on top. Our very proper waiter winked and smiled at us secretly when we licked out plates. Dinner with 2 bottles of vino was 79 euros.

MONDAY Ė Cadiz day trip to Sanlúcar
We found a nice grocery store up the street from the horse statue. We headed to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, getting totally lost going through Puerto de Santa Maria. In Sanlúcar we drove through the old upper town. No one was around. It was siesta time. We found the Baja and sat down at a beachside bar, Poma, and had a big bowl of Almerjas, clams, Andalusia style. We headed to Bonanza, a fishing port, 4 km upriver from Sanlúcar. The fishing port has a lively market between 4 Ė 6 PM. We were there before 4:00 and watched the boats come in. We popped into a dingy little fisherman bar for a quick beer. Even with two small beers, we were served a bowl of olives. We love Spain. The bar was lined up with espresso cups, getting reading for the fishermen. At 4:00 we headed over and unfortunately public wasnít allowed in until after 5:00. We peeked in the loading docks and watched a restaurateur purchase huge bags of little clams. We left because, as my husband explain, this was cutting into his pool time. Next time Iíd love to stay in Sanlúcar so we could get up and take the tour of La Donãna National Park.

We had great tapas at the Parador. For 7 euros we got 4 tapas, broad beans with cuttlefish in an awesome sauce, mushrooms and shrimps, red peppers with mackerel and pork cutlets. Just right. We lounged by the peaceful pool until after 7:00, very relaxed. We enjoyed a pop on our porch and watched the blazing sun set into the ocean.

We went to restaurant San Antonio in a gorgeous square not far from our hotel. We were surprised that the place was full of locals. We sat outside and started with anchovies on toasts with tomatoes. For dinner we had fried marinated rabbit and a rabbit and rice stew. The portions were huge. Dinner was 37 euros. While we were sitting there we heard huge bangs, almost like gun shots. The many locals strolling in the square with kids and dogs looked perplexed. We found out that the wind was pulling large shutters out and then slamming them shut with a bang. It was a government building across the square. The fire department arrived and climbed up their ladder, through the open windows and shut the shutters. It was quite a commotion. Our last night in Cadiz was exciting, except for the fact that the AC went off again from 2 Ė 6 AM. I think they did that on purpose.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:11 AM
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TUESDAY Ė Cadiz to Ronda
As we left Cadiz and tried to get over the bridge we notice that the police had it closed. We followed a local truck and found a little side street that lead right up to the bridge. Apparently it was some kind of march of men, possible protesting or striking. We sat there for 10 minutes or so until the last man crossed.

The road to Ronda was quite beautiful and scary in parts. We stopped at Arcos de la Frontera, the first of many Pueblos Blancos. Michael didnít believe that there was a parking lot up at the top of the old town. The tiny alleyway road went up, up, up, to the Plaza de España, the highest point in the village. The view over the cliff was breathtaking. We headed through the mountain passes on a curving winding road through cork trees that reminded us of Portugal, passed goats, wild horses and possibly eagles. We took the #531 road to Zahara de la Sierra. It wasnít too scary because you had to drive slowly. There was a great view point you could climb up to halfway there.

We stopped for lunch. I tried to tell the nice man waiting on us that I was scared from the ride and put my arms around me and shook. He said, no, no, itís not cold up there. Finally he understood and said that I was El Panico! Yes, that was it. I begged him for a different way back and he directed us down by the aqua blue lake and a lower road, although still very interesting, to Ronda. Zahara was unspoiled. We had a house salad and then scrambled eggs with shrimp, jamon cubes and asparagus outside at a little café in the square. We were too tired to climb up to the Moorish castle on top of the town.

Ronda was so quaint; you could see why itís a big tourist destination. The new bridge over the gorge was built from 1755 Ė 1793. We read that the architect fell off the bridge to his death after he finished it. I fretted over whether to stay at the Parador or San Gabriel. The Parador only had a two level suite available. We opted for San Gabriel and were pleasantly surprised. This 18th century home was converted into a unique hotel that was furnished with antiques. They even have a video screening room that was built when the cast of Don Quixote stayed there during the filming. We parked our car down from the hotel at a magical petite park. We found a space and Michael declared he wasnít moving the car for the next three days. Our mini suite, #15 was adorable with the bedroom on a second level. It looked like a little hobbit house. The staff was extremely friendly. Iím so glad we stayed there. We went for a walk over the big gorge bridge. I was a little unnerved looking down to the river below.

For dinner we walked to Tabera de Santa Domingo. It was busy, a good sign. We had a mixed cheese plate, a soup with white beans and chorizo, bullís tail and yet another grilled rabbit. We were on a rabbit roll. Everything was delicious. Dinner was 59 euros.

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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:12 AM
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WEDNESDAY Ė Ronda
Another no schedule day. Off to explore Ronda. We walked up to Carra Espinel Street. This pedestrian zone was full of locals and lots of toy stores for some reason. This was a bustling mini-metropolis. We tour the bullring and were treated to horses being trained in the riding ring. This was a great place, although we didnít like the bullís holding pen. The famous Bullfighter, Pedro Romaro killed over 5,600 bulls. I tried to figure out how many bulls a day, during his career, that he would have had to kill. We found out that he lived to over 90. I wonder if he was still fighting then.

We went to the appropriately called shop, Jamon and Queso, and purchased a delicious picnic then headed to the little park where our car was parked. Our favorite accompaniment, which I bought in Jaen, was the can of anchovy stuffed olives. We were joined by the best dirt dog ever. After lunch we went to Casa de Mondragon. The palace was lovely and included a small museum about the area. It was captivating and highly recommended. The small gardens were gorgeous. We meandered around and decided to walk down to the Banos Arabes. Down the ramps was lots of fun, past the oldest bridge. The baths were historic and the short movie was well done. Instead of climbing the stairs the girl at our hotel told us to take the road out. She marked our map. We headed away from the baths and realized we were heading down, not gradually up. After a way we met up with a young German couple who directed us up a steep dirt path to get back up to town. We walked by a farmhouse with some unsavory looking characters and scruffy dogs. I felt a bit uncomfortable. We finally made it back to the bottom of old town and had to walk up to the hotel. Our poor feet ached. Nap time.

We had dinner outside, at Dona Pepe, in the new part of town. Dinner was enchanting, sitting in the lovely square, watching the boys play soccer. We had a pasta dish, a nice change, with clams, asparagus in a creamy tomato sauce. Then bullís tail, it felt appropriate since we were so close to the bullring. We had a tasty cod with tomatoes au gratin. Excellent! We finished with a complementary glass of sherry. Dinner was 69 euros.

THURSDAY Ė Ronda to Nerja
We had a quick breakfast at the little Arminea Café and then off to Nerja. The highway #397 to San Pedro out of Ronda was probably the scariest ride Iíve ever been on. The road hung on the cliffs edges and of course, I was on the outside next to the tiny guard rail with lots of curves. We made it safe and sound to Nerja, past more cranes I have ever seen in my life. The Costa del Sol is a cement nightmare. The Paradorís grounds were gorgeous. I was unhappy about our first floor room. I wanted a view of the Mediterranean, but we had a nice terrace looking out at the unique assortment of trees and plants and the AC was great. We walked to the Balcony de Europa. What a spectacular view. We felt like we were on the Amalfi Coast. Almost every place was closed for siesta. We had tapas at La Biznaga Café, a modern style place. Lunch was chicken wings, stuffed peppers, cod balls, meatballs, and stuffed mussels. The pool was an oasis. We took the elevator down to the beach and put our feet in the Mediterranean. This place is surreal.

We had dinner at Casa Lugue, recommended by Fodorís. What a fabulous surprise. The food was Basque style, funky and different from the food we had been enjoying. They just had tapas, small or large sized. We watched many people come in, get menus and then leave. Perhaps it wasnít what they were looking for. We had olives, croquettes with ham and mushrooms, cod with shrimp and langoustine. Then we had duck with orange sauce and pork cheeks with molasses and Jerez vinegar. Oh my. With four big beers, dinner came to 50 euros. Our waiter was a character. He appeared snobby, but was actually very funny. We had an ice cream at the Balcony, a great end to a long day.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:13 AM
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FRIDAY Ė Nerja
We actually were up early and off to the Caves of Nerja. Michael had never been in a cave. It was incredible! They have the worldís largest column. They hold concerts in one area itís so big. Awesome! We drove up to Frigillana, 6 km from Nerja. Itís a pretty little white town. We did our usual force march to the top of the hill. We saw a man with his horse climbing down the steep cobbled streets. Back in Nerja we went to the recommend Round Bar for tapas. We had baby pill eel, white anchovies with olives, spring rolls, seafood salad, cod with tomatoes, snails, ribs and 4 big beers. Lunch was 12 euros. We question the bartender, because we thought it was not enough. He said no it was correct. This was our last and best lunch in Spain.

Our last meal was at La Marea an amazing seafood restaurant, again, with all locals. We saw the bell man from the Parador eating with his wife and child and bought them all a drink. We started with octopus salad with salsa and razor clams with parsley, garlic and oil. For dinner we shared a giant grilled squid from 20 Thousand Leagues under the Sea and a whole big fish. Dinner was not cheap, but worth it, 81 euros. We had one last ice cream near the hotel. There was a horse tied up outside the ice cream parlor. Hello Mr. Ed. This was the grand finale to our Spanish adventure, a county full of life, smiles and great food.

SATURDAY Ė Nerja to Malaga to Boston, MA
We left Nerja at 9:30 AM for a 12:25 PM flight, which after dealing with dropping off the car was just in time. The car return at Malaga was a ZOO! The flight to Paris was late and we only had 40 minutes to make our connection. Other than two other exhausted people, we were the last to board the flight home. Whew, we made it. Looking back, this was by far one of our favorite European vacations. Now itís time to plan next yearís trip to Tuscany. I hope the food is as good as it was in Spain!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 12:25 PM
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easygoer,
Thank you so much for posting your wonderful trip report! I relived so much of our trip while reading yours...we went to so many of the same places and loved them as you did.

I'm glad you liked El Caballo Rojo in Cordoba and Dona Pepa in Rhonda as we did. I'm also glad to know that someone else found the roads to and from Rhonda as scary as I did. You mentioned that you slowed down for them--guess what--DH didn't, despite my concerns--which is why on the trip I'm planning to for May, I don't want to rent a car.

I too am charmed by the overall attitude and love of life I found among the Spanish people. So charmed that I have been studying Spanish for 2 years.

I too am a big dog lover and practice my Spanish with my dog (la pero or el pero)Tasha, my German shepherd, who, unlike most people, doesn't laugh at me when I speak Spanish.

So glad you had a great trip--I think part of it was due to your great attitude!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2005, 12:58 PM
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What a wonderful trip and a fantastic report. You certainly experienced the best and didn't worry about the little hiccups in between. We will be doing that drive to Zahara this year and am a tad anxious but hey it's a must, isn't it? The worst thing is we don't even drive on Europe's side of the road normally, extra scary for us!
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 02:46 AM
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A fantastic report - it's helped me re-live our time in Andalucia last August. We stayed in Casas de la Juderia the night before we got engaged, and we got engaged in Carmona. The weather, the tapas - all your descriptions have brought it all back to me! Thank you!
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 05:18 AM
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I loved your trip report, easygoer. We were in Andalucia late last September as well and had a wonderful time. Your report sounded so much like our trip! I, too, loved the food and the region and the weather and the sights - Sevilla is my favorite city in Spain. Thanks so much for bringing back the memories of our trip!
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 02:16 PM
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It was great reading your trip report - especially since I am in the middle of planning a trip to Spain for next summer. Maybe you can answer a question. Because of time and transportation limitations (I'll be using trains) I am considering not going to Granada. I definitly want to spend a few days in Seville, and also Cordoba. But I know most people consider Granada "more improtatnt" to see than Cordoba. I assume that's because of the Alhambra. Since you've just been to both, can you tell me a litle about the towns (not the major sites, those I can read about in guide books). Did you enjoy Cordoba as much as Granada? Do you think it would be terrible to skip Granada? I'll have about 6-7 days in that area and could do 2 days each in all three towns but I'm leaning towards just Cordoba and Seville and I'm just wondering if I'm making a mistake. What do you think?
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 03:26 PM
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Fantastic trip report! Truly enjoyed it as I'm going to Spain Sept-Oct of this year. I was looking at staying at San Gabriel in Ronda, but wasn't sure as I'm not certain how much time we will have in the region. (Arriving/leaving from Madrid and want to see a couple of other places as well.) After reading your report, I think I may rethink the itinerary.

Thank you so much!
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Old Jan 24th, 2005, 03:54 PM
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Isabel, we were only in Granada two nights and Cordoba for one night. We really only had time to see the big sights and, of course eat. You need the board expert's advice. Personally we LOVED the Alhambra. Where are you traveling from? It may take you a day to get to Granada and you need one full day to see the Alhambra. How about two nights in Granada and four nights in Sevilla with an easy day trip by train to Cordoba. That is what many recommend. You'll love it no matter what you decide. But you'll definitely want to go back.
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Old Jan 25th, 2005, 01:35 PM
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easygoer - the Andalusia part of my trip is the middle, between Barcelona and the Madrid area. I asked the question because what you suggested - Granda and Seville with a Cordoba stop over is what is overwhelmingly suggested in guidebooks, and I think here as well. My problem is that it will be much more difficult to get to Granada than Cordoba and so if I only feel I have time to do one of those cities then logistically Cordoba makes sense. On the other hand, I don't want to spend vacation time in a boring city just cause it's easy to get to! And while the Alhambra sounds wonderful, so does the Mezquita. So what I really want to know is how you felt about the towns themselves. For just strolling around, taking photographs, maybe shopping for local crafts.I've read some people say they were disappointed in Cordoba, but they don't say why. I probably will post the question as a seperate thread but I thought that since you were just in both towns I'd get your opinion.
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Old Jan 28th, 2005, 11:49 AM
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Easygoer-we must have been right behind you on your trip. We were there last week Sept/1st week Oct. We also went to the Jaen parador but must have had an off night-we were not impressed by the dinner at all. Loved our room but we had a "stench" of sewage coming from a drain on our balcony. It would come and go and when it came it was awful. We were also in Seville for 4 nights and loved it. And we stayed in the south of Spain for a week and did a day trip to Nerja. We hope to go back next year and rent an apartment for a week-we loved it.
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