Calling Spain Travelers--solve this

Dec 28th, 1998, 01:16 PM
  #1  
Rob
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Calling Spain Travelers--solve this

The facts:
-Going to Spain Mar 5-Mar 14, 1998
-Flying from NYC into Madrid
-Flying with best friend (both 27 y/o guys)

The dilemma:
Since it will be March when we go, I figure that it will be warm in the south of Spain and think that we should concentrate our 9 days in Andalucia and the coast. However, my friend is virtually insisting that we make a stop in Barcelona and then head south. I am not very familiar with travel and distances in Spain, but I think we would be spending a lot of time in the train, and that Barcelona should wait for another trip.

The question
Now I ask the experienced Spain traveler, how practical does the Madrid--Barcelona-Seville--Madrid route seem to you?

The follow-up question
If you had 9 days to spend in the south of Spain in March, let me know in what areas you would spend them.

Thanks in advance for your insight.

Rob



The question:
 
Dec 29th, 1998, 06:08 AM
  #2  
Pete
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I would recommend that you stay with the southern route, and hit Barcelona on the next trip...I believe it is approx a 12 hr. train ride from Barcelona to Seville.
 
Dec 29th, 1998, 06:28 AM
  #3  
Maira
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Rob: Second Pete on his advice. I spent 8 days in Southern Spain back in November 1993 and barely scrap the surface of an amazing travel destination. No doubt you guys will want to go back to Spain. At that point, favor Barcelona and give it the time it deserves. The timing, March, makes it even a better idea to stick with the southernmost destination.
BTW, have you considered flying to Malaga Airport from Madrid (short flight)?

While in Andalucia, do not miss Granada (The Alhambra, the Cathedral), Seville (the Old Town, the Cathedral, La Giralda), Ronda (the whole town!), Gibraltar (great pics!),
Marbella & Malaga (late night party towns!).
 
Dec 29th, 1998, 06:31 AM
  #4  
brian in atlanta
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Don't rule out Barcelona so fast. My wife and I (29 yr olds) found it much more fun than the more business-like and busy Madrid. The bar/restaurant/nightlife scene in unbeatable. And we found the sites more interesting. And the women are absolutely beautiful!

Trains will definately slow you down. Use one of the internet travel sites (ITN, Travelocity) to check flight prices. Spain has discount cariers and we found flights were very resonable. We paid $150 each for a flight from Barcelona to Menorca to Madrid. We reserved well in advance. Be sure to reconfirm your flight times that time of year, as they will change (we spent 5 hours in the Menorca airport because we failed to do this).

If you go to Barcelona, stay near Les Rambles in the gothic quarter. This is where all the action is.
 
Dec 30th, 1998, 08:58 AM
  #5  
Steve
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I have to agree with previous posters Pete and Maira---stick with the southernmost route. Granted Barcelona IS beautiful, but if you will be in Europe again soon (which it sounds like you may), visit Barcelona at that time. Another point, the south of Spain is incredible HOT during the summer months. March will be a great time to see this area. Have a great time!!
 
Dec 31st, 1998, 07:51 AM
  #6  
Dick
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We were in Andalucia in March of '97. I'd also recommend not trying to force Barcelona into your itinerary.

We rented a car in Madrid and drove down to the Med coast stopping in the usual tourist spots, then back up to Sevilla where we dropped the car and took the high-speed train back. I'd second all of the previous recommendations, with the exceptions of Malaga and Marbella which we couldn't get out of fast enough, and add Toledo, which is not to be missed and, if you have the time while passing thru Madrid, El Escorial. Actually, I think Madrid gets a lot of bad press - we enjoyed the restaruants and museums.

You must visit Ronda and the best day we had was picking our way through the "white villages" in the hills between Ronda and Sevilla. The tapas bars around the bullring in Sevilla were the best we found outside of Madrid.

So much to see and do - I envy you.
 
Dec 31st, 1998, 08:49 AM
  #7  
Brian in Atlanta
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This is second hand knowledge, but . . . Only stop in Toledo if you have time to spend the night. I've heard that the town is wonderful only after the hoards of tourists and their tour buses leave around six o'clock. If you spend the night, you'll have the whole, beautiful city to yourselves and the locals for the evening.
 
Dec 31st, 1998, 10:02 AM
  #8  
graziella
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So much good advise, please follow Dick,s he is absolutely right, in Spain there is a say " el que mucho abarca poco aprieta".... Buena Suerte, enjoy de paellas, merluza, mero,and wonderful pez espada a la plancha, gambas, gazpacho, filetes, tapas adn many excellent tragos, buena suerte... do not rush ......( it is hard at 27 and being anAmerican??...but try..
 
Dec 31st, 1998, 10:26 AM
  #9  
Rob
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Dick,
The places that you visited during your March 97 visit seem similar to the places that we are planning to visit March 99 (Andalucia). But, you brought up something I never considered--renting a car in Madrid and heading south. Can you tell me a little more about it...cost, license (int'l), time, practical?.
Also, can you tell me what the temps were like when you were there
Ronda and Seville are at the top of the list of places to see...still looking into a nice place on the coast (ideally, not high profile place).

As far as being a 27 y.o. American male in NYC...not a bad life. Can't wait for Spain!

Thanks for the insight
 
Dec 31st, 1998, 11:48 AM
  #10  
Margaret
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I just returned from 10 days (2 fly days) in Spain and Portugal, including a day trip to Tangier, Morocco. I suggest making Barcelona a separate trip. We plan to do that in the future & may add a drive to Italy on the same trip. There are too many wonderful sites to see throughout Spain. We drove from Madrid to Lisbon, down the coast of Portugal, the Algarve,(Sagres is a must-see), to the southern tip of Spain & the Costa del Sol. We took a hyrofoil to Tangier, Morocco, & enjoyed a guided bus & walking tour thru the Kasbah. We also visited the Rock of Gibraltar with its caves, tunnels, and barbary apes. Then we worked our way back to Madrid via Granada.
 
Jan 1st, 1999, 10:50 AM
  #11  
Rob
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Margaret,
Perhaps you also could answer the question that I asked Dick...about renting a car in Spain--pros/cons, etc. Also, how long was the hyrdofoil trip to Tangier.

 
Jan 1st, 1999, 12:45 PM
  #12  
Maira
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Rob---I'll like to offer some personal insight on our experience renting a car while spending 8 days in Andalucia. We flew into Malaga airport and pick a car that we rented thru AAA from AutoEurope ($240/7 days). I believe their US rep is Avis. Rent for the states; is cheaper and more reliable. Gas was expensive but it does go a long way. Driving was easy, the roads will remind you of California. Although there aren't a lot of signs on the road, it it relatively easy to move around. The main advantage of driving in Southern Spain is that there are so many amazing sights and interesting places that aren't even written about that you can only encountered/visit venturing on your own. I remember driving from Malaga to Gibraltar and, out of curiosity, following the signs for some Roman Ruins. All of the sudden, right in front of us, an archeological site of the Roman Town of Baelo Claudia (temples and all). Next to the ocean, it was established for commercial trade. Will never forget the feeling that time had just stand still...

For maps, there have been a number of highway re-designations. I learned on this forum that Michelin has the most updated maps. Also www.euroshell.com should give you some idea as far as distances and driving times between cities.

Truth is Spain is highly enjoyable regardless of what mode of transportation you choose...
 
Jan 1st, 1999, 12:58 PM
  #13  
bo_jack
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(Since Iím not much of a football fan, Iím fooling with the computer today.)

I recommend the car rental. My wife and I had no problems at all in November; however, we both do have a good bit of European driving experience. If you pick the car up at Barajas Airport, it is fairly easy to get out of Madrid onto the main south-bound highway. (Actually, we did not find driving in Madrid to be any more difficult than in large US cities, but many people seem to recommend against it.) The highway is comparable to a good US Interstate down to Jaen and over to Seville. From Madrid to either Granada or Cordoba is about a 6-7 hour drive with stops for food, but no major site seeing -- an easy one-day trip. The road south from Jaen is not four-lane, but is a good two-lane highway. From Granada to Motril, you are going through mountains, and the road has lots of curves; but itís not much different from driving on similar roads in northern California. From Motril to Malaga, it is a two-lane coastal road (hilly, but with reasonable passing lanes). In Malaga, you are back onto four-lane roads; although there was some construction going on in November. Really, not much different from similar topography and cities in the US in terms of highways and drivers. We did think the 18-wheel truck drivers to be somewhat better than in the US -- stayed pretty consistently in the right-hand land and did not push hard on the cars in front of them.

The fast ferry from Algeciras to Ceuta is about a 1 hour boat ride (very nice boat) and costs about $42 per person. I expect the fast ferry to Tangiers would take a little more time, but not much longer, and probably cost a little more. Going toward Algeciras, there are lots of road-side places selling ferry tickets; however, I would recommend waiting until you are at the docks in Algeciras to buy tickets. I donít really know what tickets the road-side places are selling -- could be a slow boat that does not even run daily. The fast ferries were running about every hour during the day in November. If you leave your car in Algeciras, I would recommend that you try to remove your luggage before parking. We left our car in a fenced lot right next to the Trans-Mediterrane (Ferry) ticket office and had no trouble; but it was obvious that there was nothing to steal in the car. (We spent a couple of nights in Gibraltar Town, so the luggage was in the hotel.) Cost of parking for the day was probably about $10 to $15, and the lot ďfeltĒ safe. (Ignore the people outside the parking lot who are trying to get you to go and buy tickets at places that give them commissions; they have no real ties to the parking lot.) Although we did drive into Gibraltar with no problems, I donít recommend it unless you have some previous European driving experience and are fairly unflappable drivers. Streets are really narrow and difficult to understand -- even though the signs are in English. However, Gibraltar is quite an interesting experience in itself.
 
Jan 2nd, 1999, 11:42 AM
  #14  
Margaret
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Rob - Bo_Jack covered your questions very well. The hydrofoil to Tangiers took an hour and a half. We purchased combination boat/bus tour tickets in Algecias. We parked in the parking garage at the facility there. Word of warning: as we drove into the entrance, a young man approached our car and wanted $$ for parking. We had heard of this happening to someone, so we didn't listen to him. We told him we "have ticket for garage" and drove up to the parking garage. We earlier decided to stay another night and left our luggage in our room in a very safe hostel in Tarifa. (20 km from Algeriras.) It was a very scenic drive.

About the car rental. I had reserved my car several months before our trip thru an agency that also used AutoEurope. The charges should have been around $250, but when we picked up the car, we ended up paying very high insurance fees. It's worth doing a little more homework on the rental/insurance planning of the trip. We still prefer the freedom of traveling by auto.
 
Jan 2nd, 1999, 01:06 PM
  #15  
bo_jack
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Seeing the above information about the car rental, I'll add the following factual information, without interpretation or comment. We rented from Hertz on a pre-pay plan, and took advantage of a promotional coupon. The cost was nominally $215 dollars for 9 days. We paid an additional $96 for an additional driver and the tank of gas at the end (bring it back near empty). We have never had any trouble with Hertzs accepting the insurance provided by American Express or VISA.
 
Jan 2nd, 1999, 01:24 PM
  #16  
Rebecca
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We were in Spain and Portugal last June for two weeks. We had been faced with the same dilemma, but I'm so glad we decided to forget Barcelona (for another trip)(I'd actually been there before, but prefer Madrid, surprisingly enough). We flew to Madrid, took the fast train to Cordoba, then a bus to Granada where we picked up the car we had reserved at home through Autoeurope. The car and all arrangements were excellent. We then drove south into The Alpujarras mountains, which are spectacular, and then into Andalucia. Then to Portugal and back to Seville where we returned the car and took the fast train back to Madrid. I recommend going to www.eurotrip.com for great information about renting a car. Have a wonderful trip! You have a great opportunity to travel in southern Spain without the deadly heat of summer.
 
Jan 4th, 1999, 05:11 AM
  #17  
Dick
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Rob: Sorry to be so long getting back to you but I've been away and just now saw your request for more info. The other folks who responded in the interim, especially bo_jack, have provided so much good information that I can only confirm their responses and add a little around the edges.

I found driving in Spain, even in the heavy traffic around Madrid and the narrow streets of Toledo, to be a pleasure and would recommend it to anyone as a means of ensuring the most flexibility in your schedule. I think the tales one hears of terrible traffic and/or drivers in other countries depend a lot on the perspective of the traveler - I live in Boston, where bad traffic and awful drivers were perfected, if not invented, and I find driving in both Europe and Latin America to be a relaxing change. If I had spent my entire life only driving in Montana I might feel differently.

The weather in Andalucia in March of '97 was spectacular. We flew through Amsterdam, which was cold and rainy, and the clouds continued all the way to the Pyrenees, at which point the sky cleared and we never saw another cloud until we got back to Amsterdam over a week later! Daytime temps in Madrid were in the 70s, increasing to the low 80s as we got closer to the coast. Evening temps were about 10 degrees lower. Altitude is also important - coming over the mountains from Marbella to Ronda it dropped into the 40s briefly, but we were only passing through.

I can't recommend a place on the coast because we didn't plan to stay there and, when we saw how developed it was, were glad we didn't. We covered the stretch from Motril to Marbella and it was far too busy for our taste - you might feel otherwise. It is a pretty drive for the most part, however, as the road winds around various headlands and cliffs.

Someone mentioned Toledo being pleasant only in the evenings after the tourists leave - that wasn't our experience. We had no trouble doing whatever we wanted to do regardless of the time of day. Maybe that's because we weren't there in peak season (and you won't be either). I can't emphasize spending time in Toledo strongly enough. If we could go back to only one place in Spain that would be it.

Hope that helps - don't hesitate to e-mail me directly if you have any other questions.
 
Jan 7th, 1999, 02:45 PM
  #18  
Ronda
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Everybody has their own opinion on what to see and what to do...I'm no different.

First let me start with I am an American female 23 years old, but I have spent over half my life (13 years) living in Spain. I am partial to the town of Ronda as that was my home. Very beautiful, very authentic. The people of Andulucia are very friendly more so than the average. Seville has almost anything you would want to do so skip the Barcelona trip uptil next time. It's about 11-12 hours by train. Do however spend time in Sevilla, Grenada, Cordoba and Ronda. Whatever you decide, you will have a great trip as Spain is filled with beauty.
 
Jan 8th, 1999, 01:56 PM
  #19  
Michelle
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I just returned from a 13 day trip to Spain, 3 days ago, all driving beginning in Madrid. I spent the first 3 days in Madrid with 1 day taking a day trip to Segovia and the El Escorial. I would definitely recommend Segovia. It's very charming, great Roman aqueduct, castle, beautiful town. Madrid is a lot of fun, very cosmopolitan, great places for tapas, lively, not good for driving. We rented a car from the U.S., picked it up at the airport and only drove our 3 days in Madrid for our day trip to Segovia.

We drove from Madrid to Toledo (1 hour max). Toledo is an incredible city and by far one of my favorites. Easy to see all the sites because their all in the old section of town.

From Toledo, we drove to Cordoba (4 hours going at least 80mph, which is very easy as the highway is direct). We fell in love with the city of Cordoba also but you only need 1/2 day and an evening. The next morning we travelled to Seville (1 hour drive from Cordoba). Seville is a nice city but I preferred others. Perhaps because there was a terrible rain storm the day we spent in Seville and had to stay in our hotel most of the day. The next day, we drove through the mountains and ended up in the late afternoon arriving in Ronda. We spent the night in Ronda, but I would have rather spent the night in Gibraltor as there wasn't much to see or do in Ronda. I'm sure it didn't help that we didn't like our hotel in Ronda, though. The next day, we drove from Ronda to Gibraltor, which is such a beautiful city. I wish we would have spent the evening there. From Gibraltor, we drove along the coast and spent the night in Nerja, which is the most incredible city of all. My husband and I fell so much in love with Nerja that we cancelled our plans to continue to Granada and spent 4 days on the coast. Nerja is not like the other built up towns. Very quiet, charming, gorgeous beaches. We flew out of Malaga instead of our previous plans of flying out of Madrid. Very inexpensive flights, well worth it. If you need any suggestions on hotels, restaurants, please let me know.

Enjoy your trip. My husband and I fell in love with Spain.
 
Jan 8th, 1999, 07:27 PM
  #20  
Kathy
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Michelle: Sure enjoyed your Spain report. Can you help me. I'm going to Spain Jan. 31, first overnight stop is Nerja. Tried faxing for a hotel room there but it wouldn't go through. Would appreciate hotel, restaurant, bar, etc. recommendations, especially for Nerja. Thanks very much. Kathy
 

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