Brief Synopsis - Our trip to Spain!

Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 07:59 AM
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Brief Synopsis - Our trip to Spain!

My wife and I have just returned from our first visit to Spain. I want to say THANKS to the many Fordorites who contributed to making it a wonderful trip by offering advice, information and trip reports. Thanks so much! Our trip was a total success.

Here is a brief summary. In a few weeks or so I'll have photos posted online with more details.


This was our final itinerary, which was tweaked several times during the planning stages:

Madrid - 3 nights
Toledo - 4 nights
Cordoba - 4 nights, rent car
Jaen Parador - 1 night
Ubeda - 2 nights
Cazorla - 3 nights
Granada - return car, 3 nights
Ronda - 2 nights
Malaga - 1 night near airport

Total of 23 nights on the ground, most of October. This was a faster paced trip than our normal travel style. Our main regret is that we didn't plan more time, even without adding additional stops. We could easily have stayed longer in any of those towns.

In particular we weren't ready to leave Ubeda and Cazorla. We predicted we were going to like the smaller towns and this was the case. We barely scratched the surface of what we could have visited, especially since we had a car for touring the surrounding countryside. We enjoyed the quiet pace and sleepy small town atmosphere. Not to everyone's taste for sure, but it definitely suited us for this trip.

We came seriously close to extending the trip by a week when we were in Ronda. I was ready to push the button changing our flights, but a reality check of all the other moving parts involved stopped us. But that just means we want to return!

We went to Cazorla because my ancestors are from there. They departed in 1492 at the invitation of Queen Isabella and moved to what is now Macedonia. When my grandparents arrived at Ellis Island in 1914 they still spoke a version of Spanish called Ladino.

We have no regrets about missing other destinations typically seen on a first visit to Spain.

<b>Food ...</b>

We have been vegetarians for decades and had heard about the difficulty of finding vegetarian food in Spain. The joke that ham and fish are considered vegetarian is no joke. So comments we have about dining in Spain won't apply to most people.

That said, in all cases restaurants and bars worked with us. Grilled veggies, pisto, salmorejo, gazpacho, hummus, brave potatoes and poor potatoes, mixed salad ,veggie paella, Spanish omelet, spinach and garbanzo, lots of options. And once they knew we were weird in this regard then the free tapa came out vegetarian too. On a couple occasions we did eat some fish and chicken, which were excellent.

Some of our most enjoyable meals were in places with a great many dead animal heads on the walls and "slaughter of the day" prominently featured on the menu. And our most disappointing meal was in a purely vegetarian restaurant in Toledo, so go figure.

And there were olives, olives, and more delicious olives! Plus olive oil and more olive oil. Sometimes we had four types of olive oil served at a meal. We learned enough to know that we generally prefer arbequina to picqual, and that our olive oil expenses at home are now going up. Some of the superb oils we tasted are available in the States, for a price.

The single food item we missed the most was whole grain bread. This seemed to be scarce in Spain.

<b>... and drink</b>

We had glasses of house wine with most meals, usually a Rioja. They were quite drinkable, though we often would have preferred something with more body. We were surprised to find red wine served chilled.

I usually had a beer or two during the day, but on occasion missed a good Colorado craft beer. My wife is not a beer drinker so she often just had <i>agua del grifo</i>, which most establishments were happy to serve, though some tried to sell bottled water.

And gin and tonics! These were discussed in maitaitom's enjoyable report and other Fodors threads.

I had my first GT in Maruxiña Lounge in Toledo: Hendrick's Gin, Nordic Blue Tonic, some cucumber slices, a huge glass filled with ice. Pure heaven, I was an instant convert! There were several more before we were done.

In Granada my wife noticed some Havana Club 7 Year Rum on the bar. We ordered a glass of that and some flan. That combination became our standard desert for the last few days of the trip.

I love the Spanish style of serving drinks. They bring the bottle your table, start pouring, and your job is to say "when".

<b>Spending Money</b>

I've seen several discussions on Fodors about American credit cards in Europe. My wife received her chip and signature Capital One card a few days before we left, but I still had my old stripe card. Either card worked without hassle in all cases: every restaurant, hotel or merchant had no problem. They often asked for the PIN but <i>Solo la firma</i> was all it took to clear that up.

We used cash in situations like boarding the Madrid metro, so don't know how things would have gone if we tried a non-PIN card using a machine.

We did get hit with DCC conversion a couple of times in the first week. These were both only $20 transactions so we let it go, but were careful from then on and specified Euros.

We withdrew cash from bank ATMs in 300 Euro chunks on five occasions. We thought that was a good balance between amortizing the ATM fee and not having too much cash at any one time. For three of the five transactions there was a USD $5 fee, but the other two had no fee.


We each both brought along an iPad. We don't have smart phones, and thought we'd just buy a phone in Spain to use there. But after a couple of days in Madrid we decided we didn't need one. We relied on wi-fi email communication for the entire trip.

In the three weeks there was really only one time a phone would have been useful: a generous man in Martos volunteered to meet us in town and guide us to some 300-500 year old olive trees, out in the middle of the groves. The meeting place was a bit vague - a traffic circle with an olive tree - but it all worked out fine.

<b>Driving and Navigation</b>

We rented a car twice, once for a day trip to Consuegra from Toledo and then for our week going between Cordoba and Granada. My wife drove and I navigated. This might seem like the perfect recipe for marital discord, but we made it through with no issues.

I used the CoPilot GPS app on the iPad. The entire Iberian peninsula can be downloaded so no connection was needed as we drove. It performed perfectly, with one exception being at road construction near Ubeda. The highway had shifted a few hundred feet in recent months and CoPilot sent us up an old entrance ramp that ended in a pile of dirt. We had to backtrack and visually find the new ramp.

For our week's rental my wife wanted an automatic transmission. We got one, but that came with the expected negative side effect of getting a large car: a brand new, unscratched Audi A4.

It's an understatement to say that driving the narrow central streets of Ubeda and Cazorla was stressful. At a few places we had to fold in the side view mirrors to get through, while never sure if someone was coming from the other direction.

Many of the streets are one-way, but controlled by a traffic light so the direction alternates. However, for side streets coming in it may not always be obvious which way traffic is currently flowing. We saw a few cases where people (presumably tourists) were going the wrong way.

We did get to near our hotels, but then decided to park out near a main road so the stress of getting back through town would be done with. We never used the car while we were in the towns.

<b>Alhambra Visits</b>

I'll mention about our Alhambra visits since there have been several threads regarding this recently.

We did three visits spread out over two days: an afternoon garden visit the day we arrived in Granada, then both a morning palace and night palace visit the next day. This may be overkill to most folks, but we were happy with how it worked out, allowing us time to sit, relax and try to take in the mind-boggling palace.

We are glad we did the night visit last since we already knew the places we wanted to spend the most time. Seeing it at night was especially magical. One minor disappointment: I was under the impression that groups were not allowed in at night, only individuals, but that was not the case. There were a lot more people than we thought there would be, including large tour groups, but it was still worthwhile.

Our Ticketmaster receipt said we could print our tickets at any La Caixa machine in Andalucia. Online information about this statement is contradictory. I decided to try the one in Cazorla, thinking it would save time in Granada. There was an Alhambra option on the ATM menu, but after inserting our credit cards it just didn't work. A bank teller said the one in Ubeda would work. At that point we just went on to Granada and got them at the Alhambra main entrance. At 3:00 PM there was no line, and we had all our tickets in less than 60 seconds, much less time than we spent puzzling over the Cazorla machine.

<b>Flamenco Shows</b>

Flamenco is another subject that pops up regularly on Fodors! We attended three performances, two of which were absolutely riveting and a the third that was better than expected. We also saw a classical flamenco guitar performance.

Our first flamenco show was in Cordoba at Arte y Sabores:
Guitarrista - Jesús Majuelos
Cantor - Paco Borrego
Bailora - Laureana Granados
Bailor - Manuel Jiménez

This is a small venue and we had a table right next to the stage (an advantage of booking early?), and were mesmerized by the show. We weren't the only ones: at the end of the show the audience leapt out of their chairs for a wild standing ovation.

Here is a clip of Manuel Jiménez in action (I started the link partway into the video):

And here is Laureana Granados:

In any case, one thing I learned is that no video comes close to the actual experience of being there and feeling the music and dance pulse through your body.

In Granada, on the spur of the moment, we went to a Sacromonte gypsy cave, Venta El Gallo. We had low expectations after reading reviews of bored performers going through the motions for tourists, but we still wanted to go.

But we thought the performers put their heart, soul, and most definitely their sweat into the show. We got there early and had a seat near the front, ahead of the throngs, maybe that helped. Seemed to be a family affair, with three generations on stage. It was fun and we were glad we went.

Our favorite show was in Ronda at El Quinque, where we saw:
Singer - Sara Holgado
Dancer - Melisa Soledad
Guitar - El Chani
Palmas - Antonio Platano

Once again a front row table in a small venue, and once again an absolutely stunning performance that we didn't want to end. The passion flowing off the stage is impossible for me to describe. Instead I'll refer you to a trip report by EWYandBTV, who is a much better writer than me:

My wife speaks conversational Spanish and picked up words of some songs, something like:
<i>Listen ...
The church bells no longer sound the same,
My head no longer fits my body ...</i>

Was this about the tortured history of Spain, the human condition, both? Whatever the case, it was emotionally riveting.

As soon as Sara Holgado starting singing we knew we were in for a memorable evening. Here are some clips of her:

And here is Melisa Soledad:

We wanted to return the following night (the food was great too) but they were closed. Instead we went to a flamenco guitar concert by Celia Morales, who gave a virtuoso performance to a small crowd. She played several flamenco styles including Granaina, Alegrias, and Bulerias, including pieces of her own composition.

Any future visit to Spain will definitely include more flamenco!

I'll go through my photos and will eventually have a gallery posted online with more details about the sites we visited. For now I'll be happy to answer any questions.

Thanks once again to all who help us plan this fantastic trip. There were lots of moving parts: hotels, trains, event and museum tickets, and amazingly everything fell into place without a single problem. Thanks!
Nelson is offline  
Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 08:33 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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<B>"I had my first GT in Maruxiña Lounge in Toledo: Hendrick's Gin, Nordic Blue Tonic, some cucumber slices, a huge glass filled with ice. Pure heaven, I was an instant convert! There were several more before we were done."

"I love the Spanish style of serving drinks. They bring the bottle your table, start pouring, and your job is to say "when".</B>

Now I understand why the drinks wee so good...I never said, "When."

<B>"once for a day trip to Consuegra from Toledo..."</B>

We almost did that...How were the windmills?

maitaitom is offline  
Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 08:47 AM
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What a wonderful trip! We must have been crossing paths from time to time. I am filing away your information about the small towns. We are already wanting to return to Spain next year and I think small towns suit us better than large ones (Sevilla excepted).

Flamenco--it is a different mode of reality isn't it? Thanks for your kind words about my writing but I don't think I did it justice. Am hoping that kimhe can jump on this thread and make a few more comments, he is a real flamenco aficionado.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 08:52 AM
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Hurrah ! Have been awaiting your TR ! A good start. Now tell us about Baeza, Ubeda, and Cazorla. And the Feria of Jaen. Most people on this board don't go there so that will be most interesting. Did you try some olive oil ice cream ? Tell all, please.
Bedar is offline  
Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 04:20 PM
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Nice report! You guys seemed to really have enjoyed the flamenco. We did, as well, although we attended only one performance. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 06:03 PM
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Will you post a day by day account?
Your slow travel itinerary appeals to me, just wondering what can be done without a car/ how you spread your sightseeing.
Adelaidean is online now  
Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 06:29 PM
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<i>Now I understand why the drinks wee so good...I never said, "When."</i>
You are too funny man! But, now that I think about it, perhaps the reason my first GT tasted the best was because it took a loooong time before I realized I was supposed to say "when". And I will buy some Hendrick's for home use.

The windmills were not a highlight but still pretty cool to see, especially being an iconic site. We're glad we we went, though it took time away from Toledo. The best part was going inside one and seeing the huge wooden gears and now they could rotate the entire roof so the vanes faced the wind. Amazing. I'll post a photo of that eventually.

We got locked in the castle too. That's another story, but they are pretty serious about what times the gates open and close.

Just acknowledging the obvious about your writing! We weren't sure how much we'd enjoy flamenco, but it way exceeded our expectations. Definitely thanks to kimhe for making sure it was on our agenda. I looked online yesterday and there are some flamenco venues in Denver, about 60 miles from us. They do occasional performances, so we may be able to continue to enjoy it from time to time.

The Feria turned out to be one of the things on our list that we didn't make it to. By the time we got to the Parador, after visiting olive groves and a mill, we decided to just hang out up there. It was pretty cool being in an old castle. We could see and hear the fair down in town, but decided to stay put. Then the next morning we pushed on to Ubeda, which turned out to be the right thing because we had several hours nearly alone in the Baeza cathedral, and that was a big highlight.

Will write more about those places when I upload my photos, but just one story: a couple mornings in Cazorla I woke up early, around dawn (when most people in Madrid are going to sleep, I guess), and walked up the hill behind the castle. No sounds except for a rooster crowing, there the huge rock mountains rising out of a cloud layer, ancient castle walls, an old hermitage. Felt like I had stepped a couple hundred years back in time. Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but I find moments like that rare and magical.

Oh, olive oil ice cream: we tried it and it didn't ring our bell at the time, but I admit we really didn't give it a fair shake. We also tried an olive oil based chocolate bar and weren't too impressed. Guess we liked our olive oil straight out of the bottle! I bet I drank a liter on the trip.

tomarkat, one flamenco performance is better than none!
Nelson is offline  
Old Nov 3rd, 2015, 06:34 PM
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Adelaidean, I don't usually keep notes when traveling, but this time I did. So I can do a day-by-day in a simple list format, what we did each day without any commentary if that helps. Give me a couple days and I'll try to cobble that together.
Nelson is offline  
Old Nov 4th, 2015, 02:52 AM
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Glad you had some powerful flamenco experiences. And as you said: "In any case, one thing I learned is that no video comes close to the actual experience of being there". Couldn't agree more. I think there are very few artistic expressions where the video and live experiences are further apart. Flamenco is all about the moment and the communication there and then between the artist(s) and the audience.
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Old Nov 4th, 2015, 08:48 AM
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glad you enjoyed the trip
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Nov 4th, 2015, 01:37 PM
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Great report, thank you! I'm planning a similar trip in May for 16 days on the ground. Did you find that the time you spent in Cordoba and Granada was sufficient? We're looking for small town vibe with cafes and tapas bar to just relax. We're spending 3 days in Madrid, 3-4 in Sevilla and the rest in Cordoba, Granada, and Nerja. We're doing airbnb apts for most places. Any recommendations for places to stay from you?
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Old Nov 5th, 2015, 07:18 AM
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kimhe, I'll confess I discreetly shot a few photos (less discreetly at Venta El Gallo) during the performance, but even that seemed like an intrusion into that artist-audience connection. I kept it to a minimum, but also because I didn't want to be focused (no pun intended) on photography, I wanted to be in the show. If I attended flamenco regularly I'd leave the camera at home.

alaskadiver, if it's small town vibe you want then my $0.02 would go to Cordoba which definitely had a more laid back feel than Granada. For example, walking along the river from the Alcazar to the Roman Bridge and beyond was definitely relaxed. The river is wide, lots of birds around - cormorants, herons, songbirds - not just house sparrows and pigeons. Beyond the bridge are plenty of good restaurants and tapa bars, both right on the river and a few blocks away.

By comparison the Carrera del Darro river walk in Granada had a lot more energy, definitely more of a bigger town feel, lots of people, buskers, etc. Depends on what you are looking for.

And that is based on my experience of a couple nights.

We could have used at least one more night in each place. We did do a day trip out of Cordoba to Almodovar Castle and Medina Azahara, which was pretty cool, but that means we missed some sights in Cordoba like the archaeological museum.

And in Granada our time was focused on the Alhambra so we gave the town itself short shrift.

But for small town vibe then my wife and both I think there is plenty to keep you occupied in Cordoba. Kind of a no-lose situation, good luck!

And thanks, bilboburgler!
Nelson is offline  
Old Nov 5th, 2015, 07:22 AM
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P.S. alaskadiver: we stayed in hotels so, sorry I have no info about apartments for you. We are thinking of using airbnb / VRBO more in the future.
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Old Nov 5th, 2015, 06:08 PM
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<i>> Will you post a day by day account? Your slow travel itinerary appeals to me, just wondering what can be done without a car/ how you spread your sightseeing. </i>

Well I cobbled this together from notes I had in the iPad. Basically a list of the major things we did each day, not much commentary. Good luck if you try to plow through it!

You'll see we are not night-owls or party animals so don't expect any romance or adventure.

And our dining will begin to sound quite boring.
Q. How much pisto can a person eat?
A. Quite a lot, apparently.

Anyway, aquí está:

<u>Day 1 - Madrid</u>
Arrive Hotel around noon
Hotel: Hostal Go Inn Madrid, Grand Via near Puerta del Sol. Really high reviews on, but a basic inexpensive hotel. OK for what it is, but next time in Madrid I'd go up a notch. Location and price definitely good though.
Take a siesta for an hour
Artemisia Vegetarian Restaurant menu del dia. Very good, would recommend to non-vegs, place was packed.
Walk to Retiro park, wander around there
Walk to Reina Sofia, see Guernica, some Dali, free entry time, just stayed an hour or less, we were fading
Drank pots of excellent tea at Teoke, Calle de Las Huertas, try to rehydrate after flight
Slow walk back to hotel, enjoying but not participating in tapas scene

<u>Day 2 - Madrid</u>
Metro to Royal Tapestry Factory, highly interesting tour
Lunch Bioteka vegetarian restaurant, Calle del Amor de Dios, Decent food, seemed very popular with locals, place filled up fast
Spend 3-4 hours in Prado
Restaurant Teteria Nagamat, Calle de Las Huertas, Mid-eastern dinner, Excellent & fun.
Brief shopping for gifts, El Cortes Ingles Sol

<u>Day 3 - Madrid</u>
Temple of Debod - underwhelming but we wanted to see it because we had to cancel a trip to Egypt a few years ago, and it was near:
Museo Cerralbo - we could only spend an hour or so, but this was a great stop!
Tapas & beer near Royal Palace, Calle del Bailen, small joint, OK food not great, really friendly staff made it a nice stop.
Royal Palace. We had tix for 2:30, they opened late that day, stayed until 6:00 PM closing. Crowded but incredible if you like these places.
Wandered down to Plaza de Los Carros, sat outside drinking beer & wine as the sun set
Mercado de San Migual, tapas, make our way back to hotel eating small bites here and there
Listen to a Mexican Mariachi band - seemed weird but there they were - in Puerta del Sol. Danced a little of our salsa moves but we were tired.

<u>Day 4 - Toledo</u>
11:30 Train to Toledo
Hotel Carlos V, recommended by a friend, very happy with it, we'd go back. We got a "preimum" room which just meant newer modern furniture. Good breakfast buffet too.
Madre Tierra vegetarian restaurant, disappointing extremely greasy and tasteless food. I ordered a plate of rice and veggies - standard vegetarian fare all over the planet and got minuscule pieces of vegetables under an inch of deep fried batter. When I said it wasn't what I ordered server said batter was rice flour. We were not happy.
Toledo Cathedral - about 3 hours in there, amazing!
Wandered towards the river on east side of town, my wife spent time talking to some old ladies who were sitting on a park bench. They told us not to miss the skyline since they were lighting up the cathedral and Alcazar due to holiday weekend.
They direct us to a small local bar for beer, wine and olives, somewhere near Calle Candeleria I think, but I can''t find it on Google maps
Taxi up to Parador for dinner and to watch the city lights come on.

<u>Day 5 - Toledo</u>
Rent car - This was a Friday and only day we could rent and return same day, due to Saturday and Sunday closing hours.
Drive to Consegura, visit windmills and castle, fun day.
Return car, wander Toledo alleys, tapas at Gambrinus, recommended by shopkeeper, excellent gazpacho, but otherwise mediocre tapas
After dinner drinks on our hotel terrace with night view of cathedral, great!

<u>Day 6 - Toledo</u>
Found "Il Cappuccino" coffee shop near our hotel, turned out to be best cappuccino of the entire trip.
Sinogoga Transito - particularly interesting to me since I'm half Sephardic, great Mudéjar decorations.
Two plus hour lunch at Dehesa d' Majazul which we stumbled upon. They were packed but we got seated in about 10 minutes. Waiter said "oh sh*t" when we said vegetarian, but then went out of his way to get us a good meal. They make their own cheese. Memorable and fun meal, great food. Recommended.
El Greco museum - really enjoyed it, big line to get in but somehow didn't seem crowded inside
Walk down to Puente de San Martin, then followed river path all the way Puente Alcantara, couple of hours I guess.
Climbed hill to Plaza Zocodover, bought some Santo Tome Marzipan, hung out there for a while

<u>Day 7 - Toledo</u>
Coffee at Il Cappuccino
Cathedral Tapestry and Textile Museum - stumbled on it while wandering around, a sleeper highlight of the trip! Busy holiday weekend and we had this place completely to ourselves for over an hour. Amazing tapestries and other artifacts from the cathedral.
Convento de Santa Isabel de los Reyes - wandered into this too and got a private tour of their cloister and musuem from a nun who told my wife all about her life. Very interesting.
Lunch at La Maruxima: salmorejo, ravioli squash w/ garlic, roasted peppers, & more, my first gin tonic w Hendrick's gin. One of our favorite meals.
Monestary San Juan de los Los Reyes - excellent top Toledo sight
Santo Tome Church - Count of Orgaz - extremely crowded, we carry small binos in museums so we can hang back from crowds and still see the pieces (we are short). I enjoyed the El Greco works we saw elsewhere compared to this for some reason.
Taxi up to La Ermita for another gin & tonic and to enjoy Toledo skyline once more
Taxi to Bisagra gate, walk around there at night for a while
Sit in Zocodover Plaza eating gelato

<u>Day 8 - Corodoba</u>
Museo de Santa Cruz - great little museum, only had an hour or so, could have stayed longer but we had a train to catch
Train to Córdoba arrive ~4:30 PM
Hotel Eurostars Palace - chosen because we would have a car our last day. They have parking and are on a main road but just a 5 minute walk to old part of town. We'd go there again without question.
Dinner at Casa Rubio - including excellent Cordoban mazamorra and "Moorish potatoes", nice meal including one of the better house wines, but my notes are coming up blank on Google, "bio bora" or something??
Walk to Roman bridge, hang out there and relax, back to hotel for an early evening

<u>Day 9 - Cordoba</u>
Relax over coffee across from cafe Rubio, wander Cordoba alleys
Early lunch at Restaurante el Indiano, Plaza Angel de Torres, spinach garbanzo, pisto excellent, we ordered more
Cordoba Mezquita - maybe 4 hours hanging out in there. Found relatively quiet corners to sit in.
Light meal at La bicicelta, funky litle restaurant we stumbled on, We loved it! Superb hummus plate, gazpacho and sangria, pastries and cakes.,
Later dinner at non-memorable restaurant near Mezquita around the corner from:
Artes y Sabores Flamenco! Amazing show as noted above. We stomped our way back to hotel to applause from outdoor diners.

<u>Day 10 - Cordoba</u>
Popped into Santa Isabel and Mozarabic churches
Wander through alleys and streets up to Roman temple
Lunch in Taberna Salinas, very nice another great pisto.
Visit Palacio de Viana - October not prime time but we enjoyed the patios
As we were walking back we met a priest who opened up the Cristo de los Faroles church and let us look around inside.
Return to La bicicelta for dinner
Attend equstrian show at the royal stables - good fun

<u>Day 11 - Cordoba</u>
Rent the car we'd use for the next week, used it for day trip today
Castle de Almodóvar - very picturesque castle about 20 miles form Cordoba
Medina alzahara - unfortunately the main rooms were closed for renovation, but very interesting visit and nice little museum, only a couple miles form Corodba
Drank some wine at our hotel bar
Visit Alcazar - beautiful gardens, spend a couple hours
Wander around Jewish quarter and back to Roman bridge
Dinner at Restaurante Amaltea near bridge, mid-eastern food, tabbouleh, roasted veg & asparagus, cheese with figs

<u>Day 12 - Jaen Parador</u>
Up early, coffee at Eurostars Maimonedes
One more visit to Mezquita during the free hour from 8:30-9:30
Drive to Martos, about an hour, have tapas in little bar town center
Meet Ciricio Toro, who takes us to see 300 to 500-year old olive trees, pretty neat
Tour Los Madrenos olive mill
Drive to Jaen parador about 30 minutes, arrive around 5:00 PM
Have some wine and a GT in Parador bar, neat old castle room with arched stone wall ceiling
Wander parador grounds to get a view of Jaen city, with catedral lights and fair going on
Dinner in parador, including lentil soup that tasted like my mom's, and a Sephardic roasted pepper and veggies, really delicious

<u>Day 13 - Ubeda</u>
Breakfast parador buffet, including 4 pieces of chocolate torte, I guess it was good!
Tour Santa Catalina castle, right next to parador
Drive to Baeza, about an hour
Have a lunch of: tea, beer and gelato (why not?)
Wander around Baeza streets admiring architecture and wind up going into:
Baeza cathedral - a highlight for us, beautiful cathedral and small cloister, we were pretty much alone for a couple hours
Drive to Ubeda, fearfully negotiating the narrow streets to our hotel
Hotel Nueve Leyendas, great location, 18th century building, wonderful owners
Decided to have dinner at parador, one block away since the one in Jaen was so good. Jaen was better, but this was still good.

<u>Day 14 - Ubeda</u>
Breakfast in hotel
Tour very impressive Church of Santa Maria de los Reales Alcazares
Visit nice little archaeological museum
Wander around town, it was Sunday a lot of sites and shops were closed so we just admired impressive exterior architecture, hung out in a plaza for a while. Ubeda is sleepy but we get the feeling it's poised for a tourism explosion, maybe felt that way due to new highway construction?
Dinner in little bar / tapa place at Calle Cotrina, outdoors with nice views over Jaen landscape

<u>Day 15 - Cazorla</u>
Breakfast in hotel, spent a long time talking with owners about everything from hotel business to Hank Williams, (owner collects country & western vinyl)
Visit Sacra Capilla del Salvador Church, yet another Andrés de Vandelvira masterpiece
Visit Casa de Las Torres, an old palace now a school
Stop into an ironworkers shop next door: Forja Santa Maria Tiznazo, amazing stuff. We may yet order something big from him, but wanted to take some measurements at home.
Drive to Cazorla, about an hour or less, amazingly make it to our hotel at Plaza Santa Maria and back to a parking lot without a scratch
We needed a drink after that so stopped at bar in Plaza de la Constitucion and hung there for a while, I had a GT, my wife a maitai.
Walked back to our hotel: coll hotel built on a hillside near the outskirts of town. We wound up in this room:
Great location, enjoyable hotel.
Dinner at La Cueva de Juan Pedro, slow service but best pisto of the trip! Sephardic potatoes, lots of olive oil. Good.

<u>Day 16 - Cazorla</u>
Woke up early and walked around town in the dense fog, hoping for castle view.
Visit Cazorla castle and the Bóveda del Río Cerezuelo, a vault built to control the river flowing under Church of Santa Maria. The church collapsed due to flooding and rockfall anyway, now a picturesque ruin.
Wander around Cazorla town, looking for souvenirs for my family, I wanted to buy some Cazorla olive oil but getting it shpped back was problematic.
Superb 2 hour lunch at Mesón Don Chema, They specialize in game but did grilled vegs salmorejo to perfection, cheese flan, caramel vodka, best house wine. The owner was a great guy, gave us a bottle of olive oil as a memento.

<u>Day 17 - Cazorla</u>
I woke up early and walked up hill alone behind castle, beautiful views, excellent walk.
Breakfast at hotel then my wife and hike farher up hill past castle, more great views.
Lunch at La Cueva (we missed Don Chema opening hours), tried rim ram, a Cazorla fish dish, it was OK, but I liked their pisto better.
Taxi to la Iruelo castle and spend the afternoon up there
Final souvenir shopping

<u>Day 18 - Granada</u>
Drive to Granada, a bit under 3 hours, return car, taxi to hotel
Hotel Guadalupe, near Alhambra gate recommeded by Fodorite annhig. Worked out perfectly for us since our focus was Alhambra visits and it's not that hard to get to town anyway via bus, taxi or even foot.
Afternoon visit to Alhambra Generalife
Dinner in hotel, flan and Cuban rum fo dessert

<u>Day 19 - Granada</u>
Morning visit to Alhambra palaces (9:30 entry) and time to return to Generalife before 2:00 PM cutoff. Snack at cafe in between.
Long late lunch at hotel which included our only paella of the trip.
Night visit to palaces
Dessert at hotel bar, 2 Cuban rums, 2 flan, 1 marscapone

<u>Day 20 - Granada</u>
Bus into town to visit Royal Chapel
But first find delicious pastries at Puerta Bernina, across the street
Shopping, epic quest for tee-shirt that doesn't exist
Back to hotel for a siesta, we were tired today
But then decided to go to Venta El Gallo for flamenco
Walked down hill via Cuesta del Rey Chico and then up to restaurant Aben Humeya, mentioned in maitaitom's report. It was 7:30 (early) so we got seated at an Alhambra view table without reservations. Cheese tapas, pomegranate salad, grilled asparagus and grilled chicken, great wine, superb service, we tipped like Americans. Our most memorable meal.
It was starting to rain, taxi to Venta el Gallo in time for 9:30 show.
After show started to walk back to hotel, would have taken maybe 30-45 minutes, but it was cold and started to drizzle so we grabbed a cab

<u>Day 21 - Ronda</u>
Breakfast at hotel
Spend an hour in the nice Carmen de Los Martires gardens
Then catch 12:30 train to Ronda, first part by bus, no problem
Ronda Hotel San Gabriel - an old mansion, neat furnishings, good breakfast, small room but great location
Attend amazing flamenco show at La Quinque! Their Moroccan pastilla was pretty darn good too.
Walked past bridge, all lit up, back to hotel

<u>Day 22 - Ronda</u>
Breakfast hotel buffet
Unfortunately Mondragon Palace closed when we went there so we walked to impressive old city walls and gate
Visit Iglesia del Espíritu Santo
Walk to Arab baths and tour them for 30 minutes or so.
Lunch in Italian restaurant, veggie lasagne and crepes
Visit Bull ring, somber to us I guess, but quite interesting, excellent museum of bullfighting regalia, artwork and posters.
Attend Celia morales flamenco concert

<u>Day 23 - Malaga</u>
Breakfast hotel
Raining but we walk down the taril to the callsic view of the new bridge
Afternoon train to Malaga Hotel PIcasso Malaga, close to airport
Walked to dinner at seafood place on Mediteranean coast, I had grilled fish fillets
5:00 AM wake up for 7:15 AM flight home.
Nelson is offline  
Old Nov 5th, 2015, 07:16 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
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Thanks Nelson, really helps to see how you structured your days, especially given that Ronda and Cordoba are often daytrips, which doesn't appeal to me. I was hoping they'd be towns I could wander around for a few days.
Adelaidean is online now  
Old Nov 6th, 2015, 12:49 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Great detail. Thanks.
margo_oz is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2015, 02:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,133
Thanks for your report.
Re Ronda, we will be there next June and will surely book tickets for the flamenco show at La Quinque (we, too, loved the show at Arte y Sabores in Córdoba). May I ask you where you booked tickets for Celia Morales? Where does she perform?
MyriamC is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2015, 07:27 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 17,573
I've struggled with the whole vegetarian thing in spain since the time when I discovered that the croissant I thought I was eating (ie butter based) was in fact lard based. A little later in a down market bar I was handed the communal pack of "butter" to spread on some toast and just managed to avoid lard yet again.

Take care.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2015, 08:52 AM
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Adelaidean, glad it helped a bit. I didn't include everything, especially semi-aimless wandering, "this street looks interesting", which is possibly 20% of the time. That's how we stumbled on things like the Cathedral Tapestry Museum in Toledo, which turned out to be a highlight. Most definitely Cordoba is not a day trip, IMHO.

MyriamC, We decided on Sunday after the El Quinque performance to go to Celia's Monday show. I sent her an email Sunday night from our hotel and had a reply Monday morning. Then we just went down and picked up our tix before the show. There were only a dozen people attending, which was too bad, so reservations weren't really needed I guess.

The show is near Plaza Carmen Abela. Provided you don't get lost it's about a 6-7 minute walk from the Puente Nuevo.

Here is her website with contact info:

bilboburgler, a lard based croissant! That's wrong, croissant are about butter! We thought we might be more adventurous with the food in Spain, but it never really happened. We did eat some sliced ham once when it came on a free tapa, and it actually tasted quite good, but it's hard to suddenly switch decades of eating habits.
Nelson is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2015, 09:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Thanks for the information on Celia Morales!
MyriamC is offline  

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