Finally went to Spain

Sep 3rd, 2013, 06:00 AM
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Finally went to Spain

This is the first time I have ever written a trip report, even though I have taken many trips to Europe. I hope you find it informative as well as entertaining!

Spain has never been at the top of my destination list, but at the urging of our exchange student from 2 summers ago, my husband and I decided to visit. We flew from JFK to Dublin and then on to Barcelona on Aer Lingus, which we got at a very good price. My husband hated Aer Lingus, he said the seats were the most uncomfortable that he ever sat in. I thought they felt like every other plane I’d been on.

We arrived in Dublin very early on Friday morning and had to go through security several times just to go to our connecting flight. I thought it was a little disorganized at the airport. The lines were very long and in the process, they confiscated 2 yogurts that I had forgotten I had in the carry on. Who knew that they qualified as a liquid?!

We arrived in Barcelona mid morning and took a bus to the city. Our hotel was located right off the Placa Catalunya- Hotel Atlantis- business type, clean, decent breakfast. It was too early to check in so we took a stroll down Las Ramblas. First stop- La Boqueria. What a wonderful market! Colorful, noisy, beautiful produce, olives, meats, Jamon, and lots of fish. We slowly walked all the way to the harbor and slowly back again. After a little rest in the hotel, we started out again. Our goal was to meet up with cousins from Germany who happened to be also visiting Barcelona at the same time. We took a walk through the Barrio Gothic on our way down to the harbor again. Loved the old quarters, lots of narrow streets, gothic architecture, musicians playing beautiful music and singing.

We met with our German family and ate dinner on Barceloneta in a restaurant called Peru- not my idea of what to eat in Spain. Wouldn’t recommend- I would have taken a suggestion from this website, trip advisor or Rick Steves. Better luck tomorrow.
Debbielynn is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2013, 06:26 AM
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thanks...looking forward to more...
danon is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2013, 06:26 AM
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Thanks you for sharing. Starting with a visit to La Boqueria is a great idea!
Looking forward to the next installment.
cruiseluv is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2013, 11:01 AM
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More please!
TDudette is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2013, 05:47 PM
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Thank you all for your comments. Here is a look at day 2.

On Saturday, Anna (our friend and student) and her family picked us up and took us back to their city. They live in Vic, about 1 hour north of Barcelona. It was a gorgeous city. The main square reminded me a little of Venice- with gothic influences. The Moors never reached this high north so there was no architectural influence from them. However, the Romans had been there and there was a well preserved temple in the city.

It was also market day, much like other cities in Europe and we walked around and admired the fresh produce. Vendors were also selling housewares and clothing.

This area of Spain is also famous for their many varieties of sausages- they were made from blood, tongue, eggs, salami. I recognized some of them since the Germans also have many of the same. What I found interesting is the fact that there is so much pork everywhere and I didn’t see a single pig in the countryside there or anywhere else we traveled!
For lunch they took us to a restaurant up in mountains called Fussimanya,
where we ate- you guessed it- sausages, jamon and pork! Another typical food of Catalunya is garlic, oil and tomato spread on crusted bread. The food was tasty but unfortunately, my pork was a little undercooked for my taste. My husband, who is Greek, enjoyed the goat . This was a typical Catalan restaurant, full of locals.

Later on, we were driven back to Barcelona, where we saw the magic fountains of Montjuic and the stadium where the 1992 Olympic games were held. All in all, a very busy day!
Debbielynn is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2013, 11:02 PM
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Wow - that 's the first time I heard of Vic being compared to Venice!
CathyM is offline  
Sep 4th, 2013, 02:22 PM
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Following your report. Thanks for sharing.
willowjane is offline  
Sep 4th, 2013, 04:31 PM
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CathyM, I was comparing the gothic architecture to that of Venice. Of course, no water or canals!
Debbielynn is offline  
Sep 4th, 2013, 08:08 PM
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OK - it's funny I spent 2 nights in Vic and Venice never even crossed my mind. I guess everyone sees things in different ways.
CathyM is offline  
Sep 5th, 2013, 09:52 AM
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Great report so far! Thanks a million! going to Spain next year and we are investigating options. Barcelona is on the horizon, I think!
ctoner is offline  
Sep 5th, 2013, 10:50 AM
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Great report, thanks for sharing. Iam going to Barcelona this December, so I find it very helpful. One quick question, how many days are you staying in Barcelona?

Josephvelit is offline  
Sep 5th, 2013, 11:44 AM
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they confiscated 2 yogurts that I had forgotten I had in the carry on. Who knew that they qualified as a liquid?!>>

I had a large carton of icelandic yoghurt confiscated at Reykjavik - I feel your pain. interesting take on spanish food so far - not your average fare at all.

keep it coming!
annhig is offline  
Sep 10th, 2013, 08:11 AM
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Sorry- haven't had a chance to sit down and continue the report in the last few days.

On our third day in Barcelona, our friend, Anna, took us under her wing and spent the day with us. The first stop was the beautiful gothic cathedral of Barcelona. I especially enjoyed the cloisters and the 13 geese that live there. According to legend, there are always 13 geese which represent the age of St Eulalia and the her 13 torments. St Eulalia is the patron saint of the cathedral. Being it was a Sunday, we also had the opportunity to watch the traditional dancing outside the church- called the Sardana. It was a kind of circle dance with sort of grapevine footwork. It reminded me of some of the greek dances I have seen in the past.

We then took the local bus across Barcelona to go to Park Guell. It was different than I had envisioned- lots of greenery and flowering bushes. The only pictures I had seen in the past where of the architectual elements. They were interesting but unfortunately, not my cup of tea. We did enjoy the view of Barcelona and my husband loved the little gingerbread houses by the lower entrance to the park.

We then bussed to Sagrada familia- another site I knew I had to see but had no desire to go inside. I know there will be many who disagree but Guadi's architecture is a little odd for me. I did enjoy the nativity facade but the passion facade reminded me of a science fiction movie. I much prefer churches and cathedrals in the old style- either Romanesque or gothic. Sorry.

We also saw and took photos outside of Casa Batillo and Casa Mila.

I love to find good but inexpensive places to eat. For dinner tonight we wandered in El Born neighborhood for tapas. First we went to a place called Sagardi- a basque tapas bar. You choose your tapas, which are all laid out around the bar, and then they count the amount of toothpicks to figure your bill. I can't remember exactly what I had, but they did have a lot of fish.

Next stop was almost directly across the street- Taller de tapas. I really liked the food here. We sat and the bar. My husband had octopus and I had chirozos in brandied wime, sauteed spinach . potato bravos with a delicious reddish mayonaisse sauce? dip?. I had these potatos in other restaurants but the best were here. I also am not a drinker- only like sweet wines, not beer. The bartender here made a delicious sangria for me.

Tomorrow morning, onward by plane to Seville.
Debbielynn is offline  
Sep 10th, 2013, 08:35 AM
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Just a little note about us and our traveling style. I am in my 50's and my husband, who is Greek, is in his 60's. We both love European travel and have been to many countries since 1978, when we got married.

We can't afford luxury accomadations and michelin restaurants. I do like budget accomadations, but my priority is cleanliness and location. I usually check out places in Rick Steve's books , fodors, frommers, tripadvisor and and choose places that seem to have good write-ups. The same for restaurants. Most of the time we have had good advice.

I enjoy trying the local food ( as long it is not too unusual) and I always try to get off the beaten path and explore. Many years ago we took a Gate 1 tour of Italy- while we had a great time, I discovered that I could do the same and more on my own.

I now plan the trip, many times open jaw so we don't have to back track and also, many times involving a short stay in a second country due to the airline I have booked. On this trip we flew on Aer Lingus and will be spending 2 nights in Dubin on the way back to NY. We usually also rent a car at some point in the trip as we like to have the opportunity to stop when we want and when we see something interesting.

I now tend to book my hotels in advance. Years ago, sometimes in the smaller towns we would just "wing it" but have had a few close calls where we were unable to find a room at the last moment.

I also like to travel with several tour books but that becomes very heavy in the suitcase and in my pocketbook ( the actual bag, not the money!) so on this trip, I just brought my Rick Steve's Spain. I like his books, he gives a precise and interesting summary on the sights- not so much that it is boring or overwhelming. I tear out the pages and carry just what I need for the day. I did see another tourist on this trip with a new item from Rick Steve's website- a binder to hold the loose pages- will be getting one for my next trip!

Some thoughts on Barcelona-
I had been very nervous about all I had read on pickpocketing in Barcelona and how it is the worst city for that in Europe. Never in the 3 days did I feel unsafe or threatened- I always wear my pocketbook across the front of my body and also wear a money belt. My husband keep his wallet in his front pocket and we never had any troubles.

Barcelona also reminded me a little of Paris- perhaps some of the buildings, shops, the vibe- not actually sure what but not as "Spanish" as other cities we would be visiting in the coming days.
Debbielynn is offline  
Sep 11th, 2013, 06:18 PM
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We had an early morning flight from Barcelona to Sevilla. Since our hotel was near the Placa Catalunya, we took the Aerobus to the airport. We found it easy and economical. Just be sure to know the terminal you are leaving from so you can catch the correct bus.

The Barcelona airport was modern and efficient and we only waited a short time to drop off our suitcases and go through security. I was very impressed with their system.
We flew on Vuehling, the cost for 2 adults was 101 euros , including one suitcase each. I found this a better price then the train and also less time consuming.

Our hotel was at the edge of the Jardines de Murillo. The location was very convenient to the Santa Cruz neighborhood but I was very disappointed with the hotel. I had checked the reviews on tripadvisor and and they seemed good but this hotel did not meet my standards. I found it neglected and dirty and would not recommend it to anyone.

I had booked a tour of the Cathedral of Sevilla with Concepcion- who was recommended in the Rick Steves book. I would definitely recommend this tour- informative and interesting. What I found odd in the Spanish churches was the fact that the choir area was always in the middle of the church. It was hard to appreciate the massive size of the cathedral due to this. In other countries, such as France and Italy , one had an unobstructed view of the entire inside . We also climbed, very slowly, up to the top of the Giralda tower. What a beautiful view of Sevilla from up there! I especially enjoyed seeing where Christopher Columbus was buried and learning about Isabel and Ferdinand. I know very little about Spanish history and was able to learn quite a bit on this trip.

We wanted to get tickets for a flamenco show while we were in Sevilla and the Casa de la Memoria was highly recommended by this site and others. We were able to get tickets at the
Centro de Interpretacion Juderia de Sevilla at 22A Ximenez de Enciso in the Santa Cruz district. Esther, who worked there, gave us some recommendations for restaurants to visit.
Tonight we tried one of those suggested by Esther, called Cuna 2. – the downstairs restaurant on the left. (this is just down the block from where the flamenco show is located). The food was delicious- my husband had bacala with tomato sauce and I had pork on skewers and risotto with mushrooms. I decided on a summer beverage that I had read about- tinto de verano- which is red wine with lemon soda. It was wonderful and became my nightly drink with dinner!

Seville is a beautiful city, full of flowers and beautiful buildings. Unlike some other trips and cities I have been to- I felt that there were not so many mandatory sights to see (such as museums ) Rather, there was more time to roam and explore, look in the little shops. I tried to make this trip more relaxing and less about seeing everything
Debbielynn is offline  
Sep 13th, 2013, 01:41 PM
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Today we are taking a trip to Cordoba. I had booked tickets on the AVE train from Seville to there and choose the lesser prices ones. The prices are based on the time of day you go. THe ride was a fast and smooth one- the cars traveling next to us looked like they were crawling!

Took a taxi to the Mezquita and bought tickets in the courtyard. THe Mezquita was magnificent- endless columns and arches that made you think you were seeing infinity in a mirror. Pictures that I took do not do it justice. The cathedral in the middle looks out of place in such a beautiful and unusual structure. I am so happy that the Christian conquerors appreciated the beauty of this place and did not destroy it so it is availabe to be enjoyed by all of us and those in the future. There is one wall that has the symbols of the various stone makers and it was fun to find their symbols on the individual columns!

We then walked around the Jewish quarters, had a bite to eat in a very local store, deli and then walked in the direction of the Alcazar- where there is a wealth of flowers and beatiful patios. One was more beautiful than the next. All in all, we were only in Cordoba for about 3 1/2 hours but time well spent.

Tonight we enjoyed the flamenco show at Casa de la Memoria. First time we had ever seen any- the dancing was very intense. We were only allowed to take pictures at the very end, when they danced a few steps and posed for us.

Nearby, we ate at another restaurant suggested by Esther, at the Jewish museum. It was called Taverna Coloniales- inexpensive food, salads, meats , tapas- just okay, not great. Last nights dinner was much better.
Debbielynn is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 01:35 PM
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Our third day in Seville was a relaxing one. We went to see the Alcazar- what a beautiful building and gardens. I will find out later in the trip that I liked it more than the Alhambra. ( I know, not everyone would agree) I liked finding all the castles and lions (Castile and Leon) that represented Queen Isabella. I would have liked very much to take a tour with Concepcion here but this was not the correct day for it. She alternates days here with the Cathedral.

After lunch, my husband and I took in the Arab baths at Aire de Seville. There was a steam room, massage bath, salt water bath, hot, warm and cold pools. My husband had his first massage and I enjoyed the delicious cool tea. A very pleasant experience.

We took a walk to the other side of the river, to the Triana neighborhood but found it to be a little quiet- maybe it wasn't late enought yet! Tomorrow- off to Ronda and Granada in our rental car.
Debbielynn is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 01:41 PM
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Enjoying your TR! Thanks!
joannyc is offline  
Sep 17th, 2013, 02:25 AM
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We went to see the Alcazar- what a beautiful building and gardens. I will find out later in the trip that I liked it more than the Alhambra. ( I know, not everyone would agree) >>

Debbie - you're right! but I suspect that a lot has to do with the circumstances in which one visits - we went to Granada in November when there were relatively few people at the Alhambra and the gardens were marvellous. Our visit to Seville and the alcazar was in September and though the Alcazar was beautiful, it could not compare with the Alhambra. Had we visited Granada when there were more people around, our reactions might have been very different.

anyway - looking forward to Ronda and Granada!
annhig is offline  
Sep 17th, 2013, 06:19 AM
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TDudette is offline  

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