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Back from Madrid, Segovia and Toledo

Old May 1st, 2009, 07:54 AM
  #1  
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Back from Madrid, Segovia and Toledo

Just returned from Spain had a great time thanks to all at fodors forum. I want to thank all of the fodor Spain responders to all my questions prior to my Spain visit, your advce helped make this a wonderful trip!
While planning my trip the company I work for went to a four day week meaning a 20% cut in everyones earnings therefore I needed to have a budget for travel less then we are accoustomed to.
I travel with my job and I had a lot of hotel points and I was able to get my flight using continental airline points.
I mention this so you can understand some of the hotels I stayed at and why. I am going to give my thought on the hotels first, then I will go into some of the highlights of my trip.
Our first three nights we stayed at the Best Western Atlantico Hotel on the Gran Via. This hotel is rated highly on trip advisor and I had Best Western points so my choice was made. It is a great hotel and I highly reccomend staying there. We got a great breakfast included and it is central to all your needs. It is very clean and the staff are excellent.
We also spent three nights in Segovia at Infanta Isabel Hotel (thanks Maribel) this hotel is right in the plaza mayor and we had a room facing the square with two great balconys. The price negotiated was 49 euros per night! Great location and good staff.
Our last two nights were at the Hilton Airport hotel again I used points to pay for this hotel. This is a very beautiful modern hotel that has a Sixt car rental located there that can save you the extra charge of renting from the airport. The bad part of this hotel is the walk to the metro and the long metro ride to down town Madrid. They have an amazing hydro-thermal pool at this hotel that is worth visiting.
I will start the real trip report tomorrow.
HarryS is offline  
Old May 1st, 2009, 07:59 AM
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I look forward to reading your report, Harry!
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Old May 1st, 2009, 11:54 AM
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Me too!
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Old May 2nd, 2009, 05:34 AM
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Mee three!
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Old May 3rd, 2009, 04:24 AM
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Welcome back!! Looking forward to your report!!
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Old May 4th, 2009, 07:37 AM
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Me four!
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Old May 6th, 2009, 02:46 PM
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Sorry for the delay in getting to this report. I am happy to see most of you that have responded were instrmental in giving me great advice for my trip to Spain, thanks again.
We landed in Madrid at 10:00AM on Saturday 4/18. Since we stayed at the Best Western they offer a shuttle to their hotel at 11:00 AM so we were in downtown Madrid checked in before noon.
The first thing we did was take the Madrid vision double decker bus to get aquainted with Madrid. This is a good way to see where everything is. We bought a two day pass and marked the stops for the Thyssen, Reina and The Prado. We were lucky enough to get to spend a couple of hours in each museum and we used the information from your posts to help us find the gems these museums offer. We enjoy musueums in our travels but it is not the reason we chose a city. I enjoyed the Thyssen the mosst. I can see why museum enthusiasts would love the museums of Madrid.
On Sunday we were exhausted but we wanted to go to El Rastro flea market and then to Parque Del Retiero.
This turned out to be a great day. We arrived at El Rastro at 9:30AM as suggested in maribels guide and the crowds were small. It is amazing to see all of the different items for sale and just how large it is. There is a little bit of everything for sale there and we enjoyed going through some of the antiques. It interested me to see how popular old books were at this flea market, many vendors would just dump a large box of old books on the floor and let the people sift through them. We bought some fans for our grandaughters and some olives for us to snack on.
We stayed there for about three hours and headed to the Parque Del Retiero. What a beautiful park! This was a great experience since it gave us an opportunity to see the real people of Madrid enjoying their Sunday afternoon with their family. I have to say that Madrid has the best casual dress I have yet to see. They can dress very casually but still look formal. We people watched we saw two nuns rowing an older nun in a row boat, family picnics, children playing soccer and lots of roller skating.
Most of all we saw wonderful people having a good time and doing it with a lot of class. We needed a relaxing day and this was perfect for us. We headed back towards our hotel and had our real first meal of Madrid.
We went to El Original that was reccomended in Maribels guide and by a few other posts on Fodors. The food was good and it was priced right. It is a modern yet comfortable restaurant and they had a very good but different desert. It was rice pudding with cinnamon ice cream with citrus. It was good! After a short nap we walked to the Plaza Mayor did some snack shopping and went for our first tapa from Madrid. We went to El Tigre and it was very crowded but the tappas were good and El tigre as well as most of the tapas were full of young people.
We went back to the hotel since Monday was going to be very busy. Our plans were to go to Palacio Real and to the train station to buy tickets for our trip to Toledo. More later..
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Old May 6th, 2009, 02:56 PM
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Hi Harry,
Glad you had a beautiful and relaxing Sunday for the Rastro and the Retiro. And I completely agree with your observations about madrileños and their casual but chic way of dressing.
And I think a loop around the city on the Madrid Vision bus is a good way for first time visitors to "get their bearings" and know what they want to go back to for an in depth look.
Eagerly awaiting Toledo....
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Old May 6th, 2009, 06:43 PM
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Monday morning we set out to visit the Palacio Real but to our disapointment it would be closed for the next three days for official business. The good part is we got to see the motorcade of large cars secret service, police and the very dressy honor guards on horseback with drawn swords. We never did find out who the visiting dignitary was.
We went on to the train station to purchase our tickets for Toledo. The train station is beautiful and we took a short tour then got our number and we waited about forty minutes for our purchase. With our tickets in hand we were able to enjoy the rest of the day.
We stopped at a small restaurant by the train station for thei menu del dia. The food was ok but it was crowded and everyone was smoking so that took away from the food and experience. We know that when you travel to Europe there will be a lot of smokers and it is part of the experience. We are spoiled in a state that does not allow smoking in restaurants.

We were close to the botanical gardens and decided to spend some time there. There were many flowers in full bloom and we took a leisurely walk. There is a small building with many beautiful cactus and flowers that you can walk through.

There were a lot of school trip children everywhere for the rest of the week. A little loud but they were very well behaved.

Next we went to the cable car that takes you accross a park.(I can't remember the name) There were only a few other tourists there and it was nice to get away from the crowds.
We went back to old Madrid found the chocolateria San Gines and had some hot chocolate and churros. After eating the churros we needed to walk, it was a beautiful night so we walked through most of the exits of the Plaza Mayor. We decided it was time for another shot at a tapas bar called Taberna Taxakolis on Cava Baja. They had a breaded veal cutlet with roasted pepper and melted cheese that was fantastic. We felt this was the best tapas we had in Madrid. We also had a menu del dia at Renfra Calle Santiago that was very good. They had the large white asparagus included as one of the choices for their menu del dia.

While in Madrid we walked the 90 minute walk in the Bailen district and the 90 minute walk around Chueca following the eyewitness travel Madrid guide book.

We will be leaving for Segovia for two nigts in the morning.


Tuesday morning we got a shuttle to the Hilton Airport hotel to pick up our rental car. We rented from the hotel to save the charge the airport adds to your rental fee. Since we will stay there the last two nights of our trip it was also convenient to drop the car off.
We picked up our car at 9:00AM and started our drive to Segovia but we had some stops planned first.
Our first stop was Valle de los Caidos. A very beautiful sight and I was shocked that there were only two other cars in the parking lot. We met a ranger who could speak english and he took us on a short tour and explained how and why this was built.
A short ride and we arrived at El Escorial. Much larger then I anticipated and quite interesting we took advantage of the rental headphones and began our tour. We finished our tour and it was 1:00PM and we were on our way to Avila.

Avila is a beautiful walled city, unfortunately they are repairing a large part of the wall so access is limited. The cathedral and convent Santa Teresa are worth a visit.
We were now on our way to Segovia.
Segovia is my favorite city in this trip. I loved Madrid and it is a beautiful city but Segovia stole my heart.

Thanks to Maribel we booked a room at Sercotel Infanta Isabel there is no better location to stay in Segovia. Right in the Plaza Mayor with the Cathedral right off of your balcony.
More on Segovia tomorrow..
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Old May 6th, 2009, 06:54 PM
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We too, loved Segovia. Can't wait to read your report. Our daughter studied in Segovia this past fall so it is her adopted hometown. We visited in late December and were enchanted.
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Old May 6th, 2009, 07:15 PM
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Yay! I am so glad you had a good time. We too loved The same Taberna T. & also the Infanta Isabel...enjoying your report very much.
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Old May 6th, 2009, 11:15 PM
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HarryS- great report, loving it. I thought I would love Segovia most as well, but in reality it was Toledo that stole MY heart. Can't wait for more.
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Old May 7th, 2009, 09:35 AM
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We are traveling to Madrid and Cantabria this summer with our children, and reading this report is so helpful! A few questions to anyone reading this--have you ever used www.homelidays.com to rent through the casas rurales program? We love the house, the location in Comillas, but it's always good the check the unknown if you can....
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Old May 7th, 2009, 05:41 PM
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HarryS, very nice so far (and I don't even read reports lately). Thank you for taking the time. Totally agree about the chic clothes comment. Every time I come back, I wonder why we don't dress up a bit better My dream cities are both Toledo and Segovia where I hope to spend a few weeks each, some time soon.

Maribel, Are you near Madrid this august? "Some" possibility of visiting Spain, and I would love to say hello for all your guidance etc.
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Old May 8th, 2009, 06:16 AM
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Drat!!!! ComfyShoes, do you have to visit in August? I'll be leaving the very last day of July! If not this time, then on your next trip. I'm happy for you that you may have a chance to visit this summer. That's great news!

sdbeach,
I saw your question about the casas rurales and Comillas on another thread re Nekatur. I've vacationed in Comillas and may be able to tell you about the location of the house, if you don't mind starting another thread specific to Comillas.

Harry,
Were you still able to walk a portion of the walls in Avila? Glad you enjoyed the Infanta Isabel, and like you, I love Segovia best. It stole my heart many years ago.

Keep up the good work on your report!
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Old May 8th, 2009, 05:20 PM
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Thanks. My wife and I try to visit once every couple years so may be next time.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 10:39 AM
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Once again I appologise for the delay in my trip report. I tried to add some pictures at the end of my Segovia repoert and lost the whole thing!
I will post pictures at the very end of my report to avoid this from happening again.

Segovia is a beautiful friendly city. It is large enough to keep you busy with aatractions yet small enough to get to feel comfortable with where you are.
We started out by calling our hotel the hotel Infanta Isabel to get directions on where to drop off our rental car. They were nice enough to offer to meet us at the entrance to the city and have us follow them to the hotel. A nice gentleman (looks like Robin Williams) met us at a pre determined spot and we began to follow him to the hotel. Before we left I asked if he would take it slow since I was not familiar with the rental car or the area, he agreed.
His idea of slow and mine are miles apart! I had a hard time keeping sight of him, we finnaly made it to the hotel and I was happy to hand off my car keys to their valet service.

After checking in we started right at the Plaza Mayor and walked around until we got to the cathedral. We enjoyed the altarpiece and spent some time just admiring this beautiful place of worship. I do wish they would clean the outside structure, I went to Rome in 1999 and they were cleaning everything for the celebrations in 2000 and it made a big difference.
It was time for a snack so we decided to try a suggestion from Maribel and went to the bakery by our hotel and bought some Ponche Segoviano.
I am not a pastry person, I would rather have ice cream that is until I tried Ponche Segoviano. It is very, very, good!
We went to the hotel and asked them to make reservations for us at El Yantar for our trip to Pedrazza and for our dinner the next evening at "Duque" for our try at Cochinillo asada. \

We worked our way to theaquaduct it is truely amazing. You have to look up under an arch and marvel that isstill standing and no mortar or other sbstance has been used.
We enjoyed some tapas bars the rest of the evening and called it a night.

Very early the next morning we awoke to some loud noises in the Plaza Mayor and wondered what could be going on so early in the morning. We got up and looked out into the Plaza to see that it had been set up as a local vegetable market. Huge stalls of fresh vegetables and fruit with a few clothing stalls had been set up early that morning. It was nice to see the people of Segovia walking with their hand carts to purchase their fruit and vegetables. We wnt down to the square and bought some frui to snack on for the rest of the week. The vegetables were beautiful and some of the largest peppers I have ever seen.
Today we were going to do a walking tour and visit the Alcazar.
The Alcazar is a beautiful castle and you can see why it influenced Walt Disney. (When we left Segovia we followed Maribels guide and got some great photos from the road and yes there were children playing soccer on that field)
We visited everything we wanted to see in the next day and a half and were impressed with the beauty, history and charm of this city.
It was now 3:00 PM and time for our reservations for cochinillo asado.
The restaurant is nicely decorated with linen tablecloths and nice tableware.
We ordered the "menu Gastronomico" This is a set menu and was priced at 42,80 euros IVA incluido.
You get everything listed below!
1st Plato DEGUSTACION DE:
ENTRANTES SEGOVIANOS
Queso de la region
Chorizo de la olla
Morcilla a la segoviana
Picadillo de la matanza
Judiones de la Granja
La tipica sopa castellana
Salchichas al vino blanco
2nd Plato COCHINILLO ASADO EN HORNO DE LENA (MARCA DE CALIDAD)
vino joven de la region
POSTRE: Tarta Ponche segoviano
cafe y aguardiente de la casa.

As you can see there was a lot of food! And all of it was good!
They served the 1st Plato on a large round wooden tray with different compartments to hold each item. We each got an individual tray of food.
They brought out our cochinillo asado before they carved it so we could take a picture and admire how it looked.

The meal was a great high- light of a great day and a wonderful city. This was one day where we will be too full to try mant tapas bars this evening.

The roast suckling pig was delicious and we ate like true Segovians taking our time discussing our day and planning the evening. I have only had this dinner once so I can not compare it to the other famous asadors but I can not imagine this done any better. Maribel, the Tarta Ponche segoviano served here was a little different then at the bakery but was excellant I could not tell yoy which one was better.

We will be leaving for Pedraza and Sepulveda in the morning so the rest of the day and evening will be at a relaxed pace.Segovia is such an east place to walk that we went back to the Aqueduct to see the sun set.
After a beautiful sunset we walked back to our hotel and enjoyed the view from our room as the cathedral was glowing from the flood lights. Truely a very pretty sight.
Next off to Pedraza and Sepulveda.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 04:07 PM
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HarryS, Your report is easy to read and really enjoyable because it reminds me of our trips there. All these food details are making me terribly jealous and hungry, however!

I have never been to Pedraza and Sepulveda so look forward to their details.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 06:41 PM
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What a nice report & the memories too.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 07:10 PM
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Great report, Harry! Glad those kids are still down there below the Alcázar playing soccer. I paid them well to be there 24/7 so that folks couldn't possibly miss the location of that panoramic view spot!

Glad you chose Duque and enjoyed it. It get short shift, since most folks go either to Cándido at the Aqueduct or José María on the Plaza Mayor. It's the best value, I think, of the 3 hornos de asar. Pleased you liked their ponche segoviano.

That was very nice of the staff to guide you to the hotel and help with the rental car return.
Kudos to them!

Now, on to the Hurok girls' favorite medieval town-Pedraza!
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