Catalonia and Andalucia in December

Old Sep 26th, 2023, 10:21 AM
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mdn
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Catalonia and Andalucia in December

Hi,
We are in our mid 40s and will be in Andalucia and Catalonia this December. We were in Andalucia a couple of years ago and loved it so much that we just had to go back! Although we’ve been to Spain a handful of times, we have never really spent time in Barcelona, Catalonia or the Costa Brava, other than a quick wedding we attended in Sitges a few years ago. Thus, most of our questions are about Catalonia and the Costa Brava. We are flexible on budget. It will be nice to have a good hotel in Barcelona as we will be there over new year’s and it could be really quiet on 31st and Jan 1.

After a flight from Miami, we will start in Seville in mid December for 4 nights. We stayed at the Mercer last time and loved it! This time we have booked the Alfonso XIII and hoping to go to many of the same restaurants as our last trip, plus perhaps Sobretablas, which we couldn’t go to back then. Then 3 nights in Jerez de La Frontera at the Casa Palacio Maria Louisa, where we were two years ago, but sadly missed the “Andalusian dancing horses”. Do you suggest a day trip to Vejer, Sanlucar or Arcos de La Frontera (haven’t been to any of those and don’t know which one to choose as a lot is closed during December/winter)?

After a quick few days over Christmas in Marrakech, we will land in Barcelona on 27th and are planning to spend 4 nights (27th to 30th) in Costa Brava/north of Barcelona. Do you recommend a base in Girona, Begur/Aiguablava or somewhere else? I’ve looked through @Maribel ‘s Northern Costa Brava guide, but any hotel and restaurant recommendations welcome.

Then, for our final leg, we are keenly looking forward to Barcelona over New Year’s, 30th to 3rd, before making our way back to Madrid for our flight back on the 5th. So many are in utter awe of this city and we can’t wait to see all that it offers.

Thank you for any pointers, especially in Catalonia and Costa Brava!
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Old Sep 27th, 2023, 07:22 AM
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Given that you loved the Mercer in Sevilla and will be staying at the Casa Palacio María Luisa in Jerez (love the hotel!), I do know what type of hotel experience you're seeking elsewhere.

I would personally choose the Mercer again rather than the Alfonso XIII, as I recently found the service there quite lacking, cut back, perfunctory, now that it's Marriott branded, but if you don't want to change or can't change, you can have a personal basis of comparison, having stayed in both.

On the Costa Brava, from Dec. 27th to 30, it will be very, very quiet. I know because I stayed at the Parador de Aiguablava (before the multi million euro renovation) after New Year's Day and through Epiphany, and you'll have it mostly to yourselves and the locals.

Shops will be open in Begur, and the tourist office will have a list of restaurants that will be open, but the picturesque medieval towns around--Pals, Peratallada, Monells, San Felíu de Boada, Ullastret, will be sleepy.

If you´re looking for deluxe lodging in and around Begur, you do have the renovated Parador, now one of the priciest in the network in high season, with spa and gorgeous sit out terraces with stunning ocean views, but it will be less expensive during your dates. I've stayed there several times in low season. The family-run Hotel Aiguablava across the bay is closed during the winter.

For something in the luxury range, 5-star, but slightly inland, you could consider the Mas de Torrent, also with spa and gourmet restaurant
https://www.hotelmastorrent.com/en/

If you want to stay on the Costa Brava's most iconic 5-star resort, the Hostal de la Gavina in S'agaro further south would also be nice. It's the legendary luxury hotel of the Costa Brava with a long list of illustrious prior guests. I've toured it and have friends who have stayed there, and again, the best rooms have lovely ocean views. The restaurant is supervised by Roman Fornell. Very, very "instagramable", and thus, they do weddings.
https://www.hotelmastorrent.com/en/

As to Jerez, where I. finally met legendary and delightful Fodorite Ekscrunchy at the Maria Luisa bar at midnight! (my fault!), I think you'll love the personal attention of the staff.
Incidentally, the aristocratic female hotel owner of the small Kaizen Hotels group, has recently opened a similar, sister Casa Palacio hotel in Sevilla, the Don Ramón, across from the El Corte Inglés. When I was there in late February, it had just opened.

As to day trips from Jerez, yes, I love the beautiful white town of Vejer, my favorite pueblo blanco, because it is kept so very pristine, but ideally you should have a car to explore Vejer and visit the Roman ruins at the beach in tiny Bolonia. Unfortunately, my favorite restaurant, the temple of blue fin tuna, El Campero in Barbate is closed Nov.-Dec.
I prefer Vejer to Arcos, as I find it more beautiful and less touristed, but it also will be sleepy in December. We have visited in March. T
he restaurants of the El Califa group, however, should be open.
https://califavejer.com

There's a brand new tapas restaurant open with views of the beautiful Plaza de España there called Oh, La, La. And the newish El Muro restaurant, Michelin recommended, will be open and one can reserve online.
https://elmurorestaurante.es/portfolio/el-muro/

Or instead, you could drive (or hire a taxi) to take you to the manzanilla town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, which is a town that will have more to offer, dining wise, in December. It´s not really on the heavy tourist trail, has few hotels but a number of fine seafood restaurants on its river promenade, the Bajo de Guía, separated from the town center but walkable. I had a nice rice with shellfish lunch there in March at Casa Bigote, looking across the river to the Parque de Doñana. The place on the town square, the Plaza del Cabildo, for Sanlúcar's famous shrimp fritters, tortillitas de camarones, is Casa Balbino, always lively and busy all year round. Get there early when the kitchen opens at 12:30 (IIRC).
In town, you can visit a manzanilla bodega, if that's of interest, in the town center, there's Bodegas Hidalgo, La Giana, and in the upper town, the Bodegas Barbadillo gives a nice tour and has a museum. The upper town has lovely mansions and churches that are worth the walk up. Both manzanilla houses give tours in English.

https://www.sanlucarturismo.com/en/
https://www.barbadillo.com
https://bodegashidalgolagitana.com
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Old Sep 27th, 2023, 09:05 AM
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Hostal de la Gavina
https://www.lagavina.com/en/
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Old Sep 28th, 2023, 07:12 AM
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good places, but not spectacular

Hello, my name is Edu and I am from Seville.

In my opinion, Vejer, Sanlúcar or Arcos de La Frontera are nice places although not spectacular. They are good to spend a day or half a day in a relaxed atmosphere. All three are poorly communicated by public transport from Seville, so you would have to rent a car or hire a private driver/guide.

In Sanlucar, the food is especially good. From the beach of Sanlucar there is a boat that crosses the river and you can visit a part of the Doñana National Park. I recommend it.

Vejer is also very nice and close to the Palmar beach. Even if the trip is in December, it would not be a bad idea to go to this beach and have a drink in one of its beachfront bars.

For me, Arcos is the least interesting of the three, but it is on the way, so you can make a short stop.

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Old Sep 28th, 2023, 07:48 AM
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Ah! The esteemed Maribel has brought clarity and expert insight to my queries, as always! I wish one day we could also meet you at the Maria Louisa, or anywhere. Some people pick Jesus or George Washington in response to that popular question: “if you could meet any 5 people for a drink/dinner conversation, who would they be?” I suspect Maribel has a fighting chance of making the cut for a number of regulars on this forum!

I do remember @ekscrunchy writing about her stay at the Maria Louisa and about the teddy aka Matteo that was her souvenir. In fact, we have Matteo’s brother, also courtesy of the Palacio Maria Louisa! : )

Costa Brava:
- would you steer us away since it will be so very quiet? We’d flirted with a Andalucia, Barcelona and Valencia (will also be new to us) itinerary, but then thought we’d stay in Catalonia and see that area more thoroughly and save Valencia for another trip. We don’t care about the beaches as much (we live in Miami), but scenic drives and coves are always nice. But if the worthy restaurants—I don’t mean Celler de Can Roca, but the local favorites with regional and seasonal food— and sites are closed, it may not make sense.
- Also, seems like you’re steering us towards making Begur our base rather than Girona? Is it not more central? The parador does sound lovely, but we will be fine with a less luxe place in Girona, if indeed it makes day trip logistics easier along with more restaurant choices in the evenings. We were planning to rent a car in Girona and doing day trips to Begur, Palamos, Cadaques and maybe bus to Olot to visit Besalu and maybe Figueroa en route, if time permits.

Andalucia: noted on Vejer and we will do as directed. Maybe a day trip from Jerez.

In Seville, We will also go back to Bar Eslava and report back, considering the change in management. We loved it the last time we were there as much as our other favorites like Azotea and so on. We never tried Abantal, Sobretablas or Barra de Cañabota and may pick one of those this time.
The Palacio Don Ramon hotel looks amazing! Thank you for that. The only reason we haven’t booked it already is because the gym is elsewhere. If it isn’t close by, we are considering the Colon Gran Melia, but I’m still enticed by the Don Ramon and Mercer.

Muchas, muchas gracias, Señora Maribel!
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Old Sep 28th, 2023, 08:16 AM
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I don't necessarily want to steer you away from the Costa Brava if you have a keen desire to stay in Catalonia and see more of this wonderful region that I could easily spend a month exploring. When we took our winter trip, with more time than you have, we used a Pyrenees base (Seu d'Urgell at the Castell de Ciutat) and a Costa Brava, Begur-Aiguablava base (the Parador). We also visited Vic, on the Three Kings' night, for the parade (with fire!)
https://www.hotelelcastell.com.

But with your 4 nights, you should choose just one other Catalunya base beyond Barcelona and explore from there. Begur or Girona.
From Begur you would be within driving distance of the Dalí triangle (Cadaqués, Púbol, Figueres), the extinct volcanic region of Garrotxa, medieval Besalú and all the medieval villages closer to Begur.
But...Ditto to a base in beautiful, multi-layered Girona, which would be far more lively, more options for dining and be within striking distance of all of the above. For late December, I vote for Girona! And shop at the Roca brothers´Casa Cacao, or even stay there!
https://hotelcasacacao.com

As to restaurants, you can check to see if these will be open (not quite El Celler de Can Roca) but very well regarded:
In Girona, the Roca brothers' new NORMAL or MASSANA with one Michelin star, DIT TI FET with two (young couple with trained with the Roca brothers), DIVINIUM (Joan Roca recommended)
In the Begur area, ELS TINARS in Llagostera, SA RASCASSA in Aiguafreda, MAS COMANGAU in Begur and LA XICRA in Palafruguell
In Cadaqués, COMPARTIR, but they have a second restaurant in Barcelona

In Sevilla, I think you´d enjoy Sobretablas and it would given you a chance to dine in the Porvenir neighborhood. Also the Barra de Cañabota is quite fun and serves impeccable seafood, same as the mothership, Cañabota, around the corner. I was there in March and can still vouch for it.



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Old Sep 28th, 2023, 08:20 AM
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Hi EduSeville,
Thank you! The culinary delights in Sanlucar have me salivating! The owner at La Azotea in Seville did have a special of langostinos de Sanlucar during our last trip. I was oblivious to the culinary podium that Sanlucar de Barrameda stands on. I’d heard of gambas from Palamos and the gambas rojos de Denia, but never the ones from Sanlucar. The owner, Juan, meticulously explained why it’s so special as we polished the shrimp head off with some sherry!

So yes, I will def try to fit in a quick visit to Sanlucar. To me it seems as though Sanlucar will be as rewarding as our meal at El Faro in Cadiz. Vejer, also on our list, could complicate things though. Choices, choices.
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Old Sep 28th, 2023, 09:12 AM
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I would recommend looking for a hotel in Girona. It's a good central area to visit the northeast of Catalonia. And beyond the Roca monopoly, there are many nice places to stay. And not only in the center of Girona, but you can look in the typical farmhouses where you can relax in beautiful surroundings. Just because it's low season doesn't mean everything is closed. People still live here, we still eat in restaurants and businesses are still open. All except those that are clearly intended for tourists in the beach areas. If you tell me more clearly which places you would like to visit, I can recommend a hotel/restaurant. All the Roca brothers' restaurants (with the exception of Celler) ultimately only have their brand, but there are many better and more personal ones.
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Old Sep 28th, 2023, 09:56 AM
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If you'd consider a countryside "farmhouse" (a masia) stay in pretty surroundings, as Besalu suggests, we've stay at La Plaça in Madremanya for an easy "in and out" for our day trips. Truly great food. In the same village there's also the Racó de Madremanya. It´s a 30-minute drive from Girona city.
But you would miss the liveliness of the city in the evenings.
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Old Sep 28th, 2023, 02:07 PM
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Make where that we've stayed.
La Plaça sits 25 km from Girona and their restaurant is Repsol recommended. The masia dates from the late 12th, early 13th century and has only 11 rooms.
Here´s the Telegraph review
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/d...de-madremanya/
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Old Sep 28th, 2023, 11:36 PM
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mdn,
This new Girona design hotel, the Palau Fugit, just came into my radar today. It looks interesting.

https://palaufugit.com
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Old Sep 29th, 2023, 06:44 AM
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We stayed in Historic Hotel in Girona. Located in the old Jewish Quarter and next to the Gothic Cathedral. This hotel has rooms and apartments. We were traveling with our adult daughters and rented an apartment. We loved the ambiance and location.
https://www.hotelhistoric.com/
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Old Sep 29th, 2023, 07:19 AM
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KarenWoo's choice is also a nice one. I know it.
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Old Sep 29th, 2023, 08:30 AM
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Maribel and KarenWoo
Thank you for the hotel recommendations. The Palau Fugit and the Historic Hotel could fit the bill.
Thanks for all the restaurants too!

Current plan: arrive Girona early afternoon on 27th and explore Girona. The next three days we will take day trips with evenings in Girona.
28-30th: 3 days of day trips in rental car. Perhaps the Dalí triangle one day; Begur, Aiguablava, Palamos area another day; and on day 3…. Ummm still thinking, but maybe Besalu? I understand one needs to take the bus to Olot as driving there is tricky? On day 3, we need to be back in Girona by 4 pm to return car and take a fast train to Barcelona. That’s the general idea.

So that will give us 3 lunches during our day trips and 3 dinners in Girona.
@Besalu, would love to hear your recommendations for local favorites too, in Girona and some of the other town mentioned above. I do see your point about the Roca fame towering over other good, small restaurants that can be great as well.

Last question, in Barcelona, we booked the Emma hotel as a place holder, but I know we can do better, especially location wise for first timers. There are so many good ones, that I’m struggling to decide.
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Old Sep 29th, 2023, 08:52 AM
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Yes, I think Besalú definitely on day 3. I don´t find driving to Besalú tricky, I've done it, but.....There is a Girona to Besalú bus run by Teisa. The bus takes about 55 minutes.
I've attached the pdf schedule.

We've stayed at the Emma when on a budget. Yes, you can do better, as in a greater comfort level, more. amenities but it´s not bad at all. It actually has a great location, which is why we chose it. But, it appears they've changed the name to the Allegro and no longer a Roommate but instead, now belongs to the Barceló group. ???
https://www.barcelo.com/es-es/allegro-barcelona/.

We've also stayed nearby (as has danon) at the 4-star Derby Granados 83, just around the corner on leafy, pretty Carrer Enric Granados. All of these are in the Eixample.

Temptations in Barcelona----check rates for the Majestic (our favorite) on the P. de Gracia (of course, not cheap!), the H10 Metropolitan (absolutely dead central), the H10 Casa Mimosa, (the H10 chain has really upped their game, ime), the Monumental on the P. de Gracia, the Alma, the Cotton House if you have Bonvoy points...the Casa Sagnier (former Murmuri) on the Rambla de Catalunya.

We've never stayed at the Mercer or the Neri or the Kimpton in the Gothic Quarter because we prefer the Eixample to be near our favorite restaurants, nor have we stayed at the port area at the Serras but it's gorgeous if you want water views . The Casa Camper is popular but I prefer the Example location rather than the upper Raval. YMMV

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/d...-in-barcelona/
Attached Files
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Old Sep 29th, 2023, 09:25 AM
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We took a roadtrip after we checked out of hotel in Girona, and before heading back to Barcelona. Our first stop was Besalu, I am looking at my old TR. It took us an hour to drive from Girona to Besalu, where we had breakfast at an outdoor cafe facing the Fluvia River. Then we drove over the Eastern Catalan Pyrenees to Ripoll to visit a 9th century monastery. The scenery along the way is gorgeous! The road is a serpentine, curvy road with spectacular views. After our stop in Ripoll, we drove back over the same route, through Olot, to Rupit, a town made of medieval stone houses. Then made a quick stop in Vic before returning to Barcelona. Driving to Olot is not tricky; it's just that you are on mountain roads. I see your trip is in December. Not sure if the mountain roads would be treacherous in December. Maribel would know more than me. We were there in October.

I wrote my trip report under my old screen name, kwoo. You can search for it if you think it would be helpful.
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Old Sep 29th, 2023, 10:43 AM
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No it won’t be tricky. We visited all the wonderful villages that Karen visited, albeit on several trips and added the villages of the Vall d’Bas and Tavertet up fom Vic. That is too much for one day but….It’s all gorgeous!
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Old Sep 30th, 2023, 09:42 PM
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Reading along for day trip ideas as we will be in Sevilla for almost three weeks. We will not have a car. Does the ALSA bus system serve the smaller towns and villages nearby? I am thinking of Carmona or Arcos de La Frontera? Or do we take a local train?

I see this pass for three bus trips and am thinking we can go from Granada to Sevilla, then take one return day trip somewhere.

https://www.alsa.com/en/web/bus/pass...nationId=90340
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Old Oct 1st, 2023, 03:49 AM
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To go to small villages nearby you'll take a different bus line. Alsa doesn't serve the small villages.

No, Arcos is not reachable by train. You'll need to take the bus but....service is very limited, two departures per day, which makes a trip to Arcos by public transportation difficult.
And buses leave from the other bus station, Prado de San Sebastián. You have a 9:30 am departure, arriving at 11:15 and for your return, a 4 pm departure arriving 2 hours later at 6 pm.
https://www.autobuses-sevilla.com/bu...busca=clickbus

Most people go by car to Arcos and park in the lower town in the guarded parking lot, then take the municipal shuttle up to the top. (I've explained this, along with a Rick Steves video on another thread.). Driving up to the top of Arcos, where the Parador sits, is not for the faint of heart and certainly not pleasant in a car larger than a compact. I did it once in an SUV and never again!

For Carmona you'll need to take the bus. It makes for a much easier day trip as it's much closer. Carmona is to me, a smaller version of Sevilla. I've stayed in its Parador.
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Old Oct 1st, 2023, 04:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Maribel
To go to small villages nearby you'll take a different bus line. Alsa doesn't serve the small villages.

No, Arcos is not reachable by train. You'll need to take the bus but....service is very limited, two departures per day, which makes a trip to Arcos by public transportation difficult.
And buses leave from the other bus station, Prado de San Sebastián. You have a 9:30 am departure, arriving at 11:15 and for your return, a 4 pm departure arriving 2 hours later at 6 pm.
https://www.autobuses-sevilla.com/bu...busca=clickbus

Most people go by car to Arcos and park in the lower town in the guarded parking lot, then take the municipal shuttle up to the top. (I've explained this, along with a Rick Steves video on another thread.). Driving up to the top of Arcos, where the Parador sits, is not for the faint of heart and certainly not pleasant in a car larger than a compact. I did it once in an SUV and never again!

For Carmona you'll need to take the bus. It makes for a much easier day trip as it's much closer. Carmona is to me, a smaller version of Sevilla. I've stayed in its Parador.
.

https://siu.ctas.ctan.es/es/movil/ho...g=es&linea=220

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