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Blissful Airbnbs,Risky Segways,Vegan Tapas: Prague-Hvar-Andalucía-Madrid

Blissful Airbnbs,Risky Segways,Vegan Tapas: Prague-Hvar-Andalucía-Madrid

Old Jan 18th, 2015, 06:28 PM
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Catching up with the Crosschecks. I'm glad you are continuing the report. We were in Spain for a year (mostly Andalucia) when I was a tiny girl. I need to return soon.
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Old Jan 19th, 2015, 03:02 AM
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Terrific, crosscheck! Love your descriptions and just the right amount of detail! I'm getting very excited now for our May trip -- it turns out that we'll be in Ronda for a new festival called the Ronda romantica, so should be a hoot!

Oh, and the food -- you've got my taste buds eager for this trip, too!

Looking forward to reading about Ronda!
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Old Jan 19th, 2015, 08:48 AM
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great to see you back, crosscheck; we went to Seville a few years ago and i can't remember when I last got more lost in as short a time.

but it's fun finding your way again.

keep it coming!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2015, 07:22 AM
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Bookmarking for Seville recommendations
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Old Jan 23rd, 2015, 08:47 AM
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Thanks, tedgale. Expect a Ronda report today or tomorrow.
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Old Feb 18th, 2015, 01:50 PM
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Cross heck,
Patiently waiting for the Ronda Report and it seems a little nudge is in order! I love your descriptions and am eager to hear about your stay.

By the way, in reading an earlier post, I noticed you lived on Thompson Street in NYC. We mayve passed each other on the street -- I lived on Sullivan Street for a long time (tho that was several decades ago).
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Old Feb 18th, 2015, 01:52 PM
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Funny, that must've been a Freudian autocorrect! That should've read "crosscheck"!
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Old Feb 19th, 2015, 03:22 PM
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Cross Heck is what I deserve for tardiness. Thanks for the reminder - I'm on it. And yes, I did live on 222 Thompson (between Bleecker and 3rd, right in the thick of things), also many decades ago. Sullivan was a nicer block, more residential. Coolest neighborhood ever - I love that we might have been neighbors!

My place was a studio with a loft bed on the 6th floor of a walkup, which I shared with a roommate and random guests who wouldn't leave. There was no proper bathroom, only a WC closet and a bathtub in the kitchen, so I joined the Apple Health Club across the street to use their shower. One day the manager asked if they could photograph me in an aerobics class. I told him that I only showered there - I never went to classes or worked out at the gym, but was in great shape because I went up and down six flights of stairs several times a day. Apple didn't care about the false advertising and I ended up in their brochure wearing my leg warmers.
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Old Feb 20th, 2015, 02:33 AM
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crosscheck,
Too funny! I also went to Apple Health club, so perhaps we were very intimate neighbors!

I lived on Sullivan Street between Houston and Prince, in those days, it was a very young SoHo and my place was definitely old-style tenement. I had one of those shower-in-the-kitchen and closet toilet setups, too. My shower was a few feet off the floor and just opposite my stove, so each morning, I'd boil up my water for coffee, and before I stepped out of the shower, I'd pour it through the coffee filter. By the time I'd be dried, my coffee was ready!

It was also smack in the middle of the Italian street festival, the feast of St. Anthony. I was on the second floor, and my fire escape overlooked the sausage and wine stand! Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep during the 10 days in June it took place. But one of the best parties I had in those days was during the feast -- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

And of course, the street was used in the filming of Godfather 2, and didn't need a whole lot of dressing up to fit the time!

Okay, I'm done with recalling my memories...back to Europe now.

Paule
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Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 06:24 AM
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I think I might have been to your party! Finishing up my Ronda report. Expect it today.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 02:47 PM
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Sorry for the delay – Promise to finish this before our trip to Asia in March.

SIESTA: THEY’RE NOT KIDDING
For those of you who are hesitating renting a car, just do it. The roads are excellent, with an abundance of clean rest areas that sell local olive oil. Yes, the Spanish rail system is awesome, but this trip would have lacked a dimension if we had stuck to trains. There are challenges navigating through the comically narrow alleyways in the cities, but that’s part of the fun.

We did this section of the journey without a guidebook. I ordered one but forgot to pack it. Had one in my Kindle, but that never seemed to be handy when I needed it and when I did have it, it just made me angry (rant about Rick Steves to come). So when the car rental guy mentioned that Grasilena was a must-see on the way to Ronda, we heeded his advice.

Maybe a guidebook would have warned us that the entire village, perched picturesquely (and precariously) on a cliff, would be closed for siesta. Our first white village was straight out of central casting, but all the cool shops were boarded up and the one open restaurant had a long wait. We ended up at a cafe, where we snapped some pics and had espressos to go with our power bars.

HELP ME, RONDA
The town (actually a city) was all decked out for its annual festival, the ‘Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero,’ also known by either half of its name - Feria Goyesca or Pedro Romero. The 4-day feria begins with an over-the-top parade that must be seen to be believed (trust me), and culminates with the hardest-to-get bullfighting ticket in the world, probably because matadors and patrons alike dress up in lavish costumes similar to those in Goya’s paintings. I have avoided seeing a bullfight despite a prolonged residence in Mexico and many travels to Spain, but after being in Ronda during the feria, I would be somewhat interested in adding this kitschy experience to my bucket list..if only they didn’t torture and kill a bull.

Arrived in Ronda at around 3pm, with the parade scheduled for 5:00 (or so we thought – strangely little about the festival was online and we had to rely on hotel people for info). Pretty much every through street was closed. On top of that our GPS had a breakdown and decided to test if we really were insane enough to follow its ridiculous directions:

“Turn right. Turn left. U turn. Go up the hill. Go down the hill and crash through the barrier. Now drive off the cliff.”

We wisely only listened to Mr. Psycho about half of the time, and it took us 20 minutes to find our guest house, Enfrente Arte, a surreal idiosyncratic inn in a residential neighborhood, highly recommended in the guidebooks. We had agonized about whether to stay there or at the pricier Montelirio, a traditional old world hotel in the day tripper area, perched on the famous gorge, with the best view in Ronda. We ended up choosing Enfrente because of Mr. C's acrophobia (see my Angkor Wat trip report).

FOR THOSE CONSIDERING ENFRENTE ARTE
Fun, but not for everyone. More than a hotel, it’s an altered state of mind...like time traveling back to the 70s and moving into Dali’s brain. Has a cult following among alt Swedes/Belgians and there's lots of interaction with fellow guests because of the 24/7 free drinks (this perk has a flip side – means you’ll be interacting with raucous drinkers.)

We had the 'deluxe' room where Madonna stayed - four poster bed, Hemingway memorabilia, mosaic toilet bench (a hit on Instagram), terrace with valley view, front window with iconic Pueblo Blanco street view. Endless patios and nooks, fish pedicure pond (though somewhat murky, so we passed), all decorated with the recycled and the unexpected – a Fiat, stone camels, glowing octopi, hanging trombones. Famous breakfasts are cooked to order, with dishes stacked up in the Fiat trunk.

Cons: A steep 10-15 minute uphill walk to old town. This is somewhat of an advantage because it guarantees serious exercise, but we would have preferred being closer to the action. Also, the mattress was too firm (an issue throughout Andalucia...and we do like firm beds).

BOTTOM LINE: Mr. C loved EA (and he spends a lot of time in 5* hotels for work). But I wished we had stayed in a junior suite with that once-in-a-lifetime view at the more sophisticated Montelirio. We had drinks and tapas there one night and Mr. C was not as gorge-averse as we thought.

THE PARADE
A trip highlight. We almost skipped Ronda altogether because friends had insisted that we would like the trendy white village of Vejer de la Frontera more. But Ronda delivered - the logistics were seamless and the intensely colorful parade was a killer cultural event and photo op. The Goya costumes were only part of the fun. There were giant pig mascots, all sorts of accomplished dancers of all ages and a multicultural display represented a diverse array of local ethnic groups.

We wandered over to the pedestrian mall just minutes before the parade started and were invited to sit at an outdoor table with some expats at a primo spot at Toro Tapas. There, after following Mr. C’s diet for a few days (and not eating meat in general), I went on an anti-vegan pork binge. Our new parade-mates included an Australian couple whose daughter coincidentally attends the same midsize college as our son and we later joined them for a very yummy paella dinner at the highly-rated Puerta Grande, which lived up to the hype.

RANDOM RONDA
Hiking: We intended to hike the day after the parade, but by the time we got it together it was too hot to hike, unless you go first thing in the morning.

Walking: Wandered through old town. Gentrified, but there’s some fab architecture, decent places to eat and a few interesting shops.

Bullring: Sí, por favor. Iconic.

Laziness: Spent time at the pool, where there weren’t enough lounge chairs.

Live Music: One of the Belgian expats who worked at EA had highly recommended that see a hot band perform at a club in town. This was the first of our many Gypsy Kings soundalike experiences.

Sunset: Had tapas and a sherry tasting right on the gorge at the Montelirio. This is a must do, quintessential Ronda.

Carnival: Another rec from the helpful Belgian. Hopped on a shuttle bus at the Parador (which I would avoid – too businessy) to the carnival, a fairly generic setup with rides and arcade games but just fantastic for photos. We were among the few non-locals. At 11pm the fairgrounds were transitioning from a good clean fun family event to a drunken blow out. Our hotel guy had left our name at one of the VIP tents, where an Andalucian version of Oktoberfest was about to happen. We waited around until after midnight but left before the real action started (per several hungover guests the morning after). Maybe next time, if we get it together to return for the procession before the bullfight.

SO, SHOULD YOU GO TO RONDA?
For a day trip, I honestly wouldn’t bother unless you want your Instagram followers to ooh and aah at the famous gorge. For an overnight, don’t think twice if you’re a hiker or can be there for a festival. For two nights, you’ll be rewarded with some relaxation time, and if you get off the beaten track you’ll get the appeal to Hemingway and others in a less touristy time.

NEXT: THE ALHAMBRA AND THE ANNOYING RICK STEVES
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:43 AM
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Oh, this is fabulous crosscheck! All is forgiven!

I went back and forth beween Montelirio and Enfrente Arte, and have kept my reservation at Montelirio (room with a view!), thanks to your recommendation. I had a panic over parking when I discovered that we were, in fact, going to be there during a 3 day festival, and wasn't sure if it would be possible to park.

It turns out that we'll be there during the Ronda Romantica, a celebration of the "romantic era" of "travelers, horsemen and bandits". This is a relatively new event and there is almost nothing in English about it -- so reading about your stay during a festival has gotten me even more thrilled to know we'll experience one.

And point well taken about the siesta! I'll keep it in mind when we do our traveling!

Paule

PS - I hope you had a good time at my party!
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Old Apr 7th, 2015, 12:38 PM
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CC:

I'm contemplating booking a tour (private or small group) of the Alhambra (not with Rick Steves - but possibly a company I gather he recommends).

Before I do... do tell... what's he done this time?
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Old Apr 7th, 2015, 12:56 PM
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oh, can't wait for more.

Never ben to Ronda - it's now on the must do list, not so the Enfrente Arte. We'll be opting for the view of the gorge - thanks for the tip.
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Old Apr 7th, 2015, 12:58 PM
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Crosscheck, makes me very sad that your experience in Madrid has been so negative.
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Old Apr 7th, 2015, 02:20 PM
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latebloomer, A friend just emailed for Spain tips and I was reminded that a) I never finished this report and b) Rick Steves is a dweeb. I'm a bit jetlagged because I just returned home from China, Korea & Japan, but will get on it this evening when I get my second wind.

annhig, thanks - more tips to come

Revulgo, Haha - Guilty as charged. Will happily share tales of Madrid as soon as I finish a pot of green tea.
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Old Apr 7th, 2015, 03:26 PM
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Oh good, I didn't want to nag as I knew you were off on another trip....BUT my trip is less than a month away so I'm pleased you are ready to finish this. And truly looking forward to your rant on Rick Steves!

Paule
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Old Apr 10th, 2015, 01:38 AM
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Must be a large pot of tea, CC!

Paule
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Old Apr 10th, 2015, 06:55 AM
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Haha - I ended up with a pesky real life deadline. But the Granada post should be good to go this afternoon, complete with cringeworthy Rick Steves quotes.
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Old Apr 10th, 2015, 05:19 PM
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Can't wait to read it, CC!
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