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Finding the impossible: preliminary thoughts about a parador based trip to Spain

Finding the impossible: preliminary thoughts about a parador based trip to Spain

Jan 9th, 2008, 02:41 PM
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Finding the impossible: preliminary thoughts about a parador based trip to Spain

I'm afraid this is going to be a hopeless quest (and I'm positive it will make me sound completely clueless; tbh I feel it on this mission).

My parents have asked me to plan out a trip for them, with some specific and I suspect irreconcilable parameters. Any advice would be helpful - I accept it may be the whole thing is impossible, think again!

They would like to spend three or four nights each in perhaps two or three paradors, so each place would need to have a reasonable number of places to see or things to do in the area; they do however have a more relaxed approach to filling the days with things to do than many posters here, so would be happy with a fair amount of down time. It would be nice if one of the places was in the mountains. The most difficult aspect is that they would prefer not to drive, and my impression is that this would be a lot easier with a car. They said they would consider an organised tour, but everything I can find is basically one night stays, which is completely out.

I don't have a very clear idea whereabouts in Spain would be most suitable. I had been thinking Santiago de Copmpostela would be a good choice for one stop, because the parador is right in the town and there looks to be a fair amount to see, but I understand it's not a particularly recommended parador. They've been to Granada/Nerja, so probably wouldn't want to go back there.

Time of year: flexible. They prefer not to travel during August. I think September or May would be a good time for Spain.

The more I think about it the more difficult this looks to organise, but before giving up entirely, I thought I would see if anyone had any ideas/suggestions.
Nonconformist is offline  
Jan 9th, 2008, 03:17 PM
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The no driving thing is a deal breaker.

We stayed in the Parador in Ronda and it was truly amazing. Spend the extra few bucks for the upgraded room.

We also stayed in the one in Jaen. Again, really hard to do without a car.

Click on my name and read my trip report. Good luck!
kelliebellie is offline  
Jan 9th, 2008, 03:34 PM
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Hi, Nonconformist -

I don't know much about the paradors, but the one in Ronda can be reached by public transportation (bus or train, depending on where they would be coming from or going to). And Ronda is delightful!

Hope that helps. . . .
kja is offline  
Jan 9th, 2008, 06:32 PM
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Difficult, and much easier by car, yes, but not entirely impossible.
The parameters of 3-4 nights at each Parador is challenging. But since you say your parents enjoy down time...

I see 2 possibilities:

Option A: the highlights of Old Castile
Your parents could fly into Madrid; take the high speed, 30 min. AVE train to Segovia upon arrival.

1) Spend 3 nights at the Segovia
Parador, which is slightly outside the city, but taxis abound.

Here do day trips by La Sepulvedana bus:

to the "Spanish Versailles", the Royal Palace at La Granja (where there's another brand new parador for a lunch stop).
to Avila to walk the medieval walls and lunch at Avila's Parador, one of my favorites.

Move on to Salamanca by bus (bus goes through Avila).

2) Stay 3 nights in at Parador in Salamanca (across the river, not so handy but still doable).
Possible day bus trips:
to Ciudad Rodrigo (with Parador),
to medieval La Alberca de Salamanca
(charming, quaint)
to monument-church filled Zamora (another Parador).

On to León by Alsa bus.

3) Stay for 3 nights at the spectacular Parador Hostal de San Marcos (one of my top 10). Stunning Gothic cathedral, illuminated at night.
Lively tapas scene in the Barrio Húmedo.
Do a day bus trip to Astorga

From León back to Madrid on the Alvia train, a 3 1/2 hr. ride.

Option B:
A spin through Andalucía:

Upon arrival in Madrid, take the high speed AVE to Córdoba.

1) stay 3 nights at the Parador (again, outside of town, but taxis plentiful).
See the Mosque, Jewish Quarter, Alcázar gardens.
Day trip to the ruins of Medina Azahara.

From Córdoba take the AVE to Sevilla.

Have they been to Sevilla? If not...

Here stay IN the city, as the Parador in Carmona is 1/2 hr. outside the city. I feel there isn't that much to see in Carmona to merit a 3 night stay (I once did a 3 night stay here but went back & forth to Seville every day by car).

Then move on by bus (Los Amarillos) to Ronda.

2) Spend 3 nights at the dramatically perched Parador right at the gorge.
Day bus trip (Comes) to Arcos or other white towns. You'd be in the Serranía de Ronda, which would fulfill your mountain qualification.

From Ronda, move on by train or bus (Portillos) to Málaga.

3) Stay 3 nights at the lovely Parador Gibralfaro, perched above and overlooking the city.
Visit the Picasso Museum.
Plenty of organized tour bus excursions from Málaga.

Then back to Málaga to fly home, or new high speed AVE back to Madrid.

Regarding Galicia, I don't know much about the local bus service between Santiago de Compostela, Cambados and Baiona. And the enjoyment of the Santiago Parador really depends on the quality of your room. If you can afford to do so, book a superior, renovated room (or suite). But it's quite pricey, very busy, a bit impersonal-not my favorite Parador, but some have had nice experiences here.

But this coastal loop would be another possibility, although these 3 Galician Paradors are quite close together. Fly into Santiago, depart from Vigo or vice versa.

A few ideas for you...
Maribel is offline  
Jan 9th, 2008, 06:46 PM
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About the Galician loop-I would substitute Pontevedra for Cambados, as larger Pontevedra offers more to see and is better communicated with Santiago and Baiona.
Maribel is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 02:10 AM
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Thank you, this is really helpful. I think I'll investigate these destinations a bit, and then pass it on to my parents - I knew it would be trickier without a car, but it looks as though something possible could be arranged.
Nonconformist is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 04:06 AM
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OK, one question about option 1, the Old Castille and Leon. I'd rather like to do thais one myself, actually! The parador in Avila looks rather lovely (and fairly central?) and I wonder if they might prefer that to the more modern one in Salamanca - was the recommendation to stay in Salamanca based on more sightseeing opportunities? I don't see them stopping off en route from one parador to another - too much angsting over their luggage (g), and Avila itself looks to have a lot to see there, but perhaps it's not as well located for other places of interest? I could suggest one shorter stay (one or possibly two nights)within the trip, at Avila - that might be acceptable to my mother.
Nonconformist is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 04:26 AM
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>>>The most difficult aspect is that they would prefer not to drive, and my impression is that this would be a lot easier with a car.<<<

The Paradores were specially created for automobile tourists by King Alfons XIII. This means, most of them are at places which are only accessible by car.

If you parents do not want to drive, a regular hotel within a city may be the better option. Why don't they stay in Madrid, with an occasional daytrip by bus from there?
traveller1959 is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 08:02 AM
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The Parador in Avila is very nice and located right at the walls that surround the city. My main problem with the Salamanca parador is that it's a modern structure.
Between the two cities, I prefer Salamanca, there is more to see.

I hope you can do a loop that includes the León parador. I agree with Maribel, IMO it's one of the jewels of the Paradores. My other favorite one is the one at Cangas de Onís , which I visited during my same trip as León. But I got there through bus from Oviedo.

The loop Maribel designed through Galicia is also very nice. Like she says, if money is no object and you can get a superior room at the Parador in Santiago they'll probably be pleased.
cruiseluv is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 08:09 AM
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There are much better located hotels in Salamanca than the Parador, IMHO, and charming, if they don't like the modern ones . And sure it has a lot more to see and enjoy than Avila, which is perfect for a day trip.
kenderina is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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Salamanca's Parador, as kenderina says, it's quite modern and not central. However, it's just received a stem-to-stern makeover, and the interior decor is now quite pleasant. My recommendation of Salamanca over Avila (whose Parador I love) was indeed based on my sightseeing opportunities plus those easy bus excursions.

Segovia's modern brick Parador reminds me of a purpose-built French ski lodge. But others see it in a different light.

I didn't mean to imply your parents should stop in Avila on route to Salamanca, simply to state that the Segovia-Salamanca bus goes through there. I would see them making a day trip from Segovia to Avila by bus with lunch at the Parador. You could add 1 night at Avila's Parador between Segovia and Salamanca, but I don't like to promote 1 night stays, and Avila just doesn't have that much to see to warrant 2 nights sans car.

I agree with traveller1959 that Paradors were created for automobile guests (the first, Gredos, was created in 1928 as a mountain hunting, fishing retreat).

It certainly would be easier for your parents to do these as day trips from Madrid or by staying in Segovia and Salamanca at more central, less modern hotels. But...I sensed that they really had their heart set on a Parador loop; thus, the suggestions of how to make it possible.

Maribel is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 10:58 AM
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Thank you, Maribel. Yes, the whole trip is based on the parador idea. They don't tend to do daytrips much - if they were staying in Madrid I think they'd want to spend all their time there, although I've read your wonderful guides, and I noticed in the Madrid one that you warned rather strongly aginst pickpockets in the old part of the city, and if I told my mother that she would panic and never want to go to Madrid - she tends to get nervous in anticipation, and was dreadful before they went to South Africa. I shold add that she never actually has been pickpocketed/mugged, but the fear of it would spoil her enjoyment.

I'm going to make these suggestions to them, and give them printouts of the details on each parador from the www.parador.es website, and see what they fancy the most (and if they can be persuaded to do it by car instead because it would clearly be easier in many ways). I might think of doing some of these itineraries myself at some pont, but I can't afford to go on holiday as often as they can. I do love medieval towns, though, and Spain has so much to see that I'm sure I would love.
Nonconformist is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 11:11 AM
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Okay, IF they consider travelling by car:

One of the most beautiful paradores is Oropesa, southwest of Madrid. It is located within a medieval castle, the rooms are furnished in antique style with Spanish tiles. The bar is breathtaking - imagine sipping your brandy below an ancient 6-meter-oil painting.

From your room, you overlook a valley and see a distant mountain range, often sprinkeld with snow, even in April. In Spring, you can hear frogs barking in the plains. You watch the storks flying to their nests...

Besides, Oropesa is a charming old town and well located to reach Toledo and Avila.

The caveat: You need a car. But all the drives in the area are very relaxed and scenic.

The good thing: Oropesa is one the most attractive paradores and one of the least expensive ones.
traveller1959 is offline  
Jan 10th, 2008, 11:28 AM
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I've been lucky to have stayed in the largest and most grand room at the Oropesa Parador, and it's indeed a magical experience. We stayed on a Sunday night and had the grandiose public parlors to ourselves!!

I thought about including it and also the one in Toledo, but for Oropesa a car is a must, and the one in Toledo is undergoing renovatation. The pool wing has been finished, but the room with the THE view, room 14, has not (and last Jan. it was looking a bit shabby when we stayed in it-carless). The complete renovation is scheduled to be finished May 1, and I'm sure it will be a winner, as they've spent a great deal of time and money on it. In Toledo your parents would need to taxi back and forth (6 euros each way) for sightseeing.

I would stick with the Old Castile loop sans car. But if they'd consider driving, your possibilities open up to Castilla-La Mancha as well- stunning Oropesa and Toledo (after May 1 if the work there remains on schedule). And the drive from Avila is easy.

Yes, let them puruse the Parador web site to see which most appeal to their tastes.

Maribel is offline  
Jan 11th, 2008, 07:09 PM
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It's been a few years, but I stayed at the Hostal Del Cardinal in Toledo and it was historic, comfortable, convenient and the food at the restaurant was delicious. It is not a youth hostel, it is a fine hotel along the lines of a parador. It is listed in Fodors. Is it still as nice as I remember?
ORDgirl is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 07:57 AM
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I told my dad it would be Much Easier with a car. I'll give them the full details of these suggestions in a couple of weeks (I want to talk it over in person rather than doing it all by phone and e-mail).
Nonconformist is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 11:24 AM
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If you could get them into the Paradon in the Alhambra, it would be so worth it..One of the most spectacular places we have ever been, but very popular...I think you have to book a long time in advance. We have done most of the paradors in Spain and this one is tops. You can take at least two days exploring the Alhambra, then Granada, at the bottom of the hill, with a wonderful museum...all doeable by taxi, if walking in not an option. The Parador will arrange booking for the next parador if you are winging it...they call ahead. Also, train service is good and reliable.
clarasong is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 11:51 AM
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They have visited Granada and the Alhambra (with me), though, so would probably not want to repeat that this time. Definitely if theuy hadn't it would have been a strong candidate for inclusion.
Nonconformist is offline  
Jan 12th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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Hi Nonconformist, I haven't read yet all that Maribel and Cruiseluv have written, and I always love and agree with both of them ...and also learn from what they have to say.
I only wish to add my little grain of salt, we are a little like you parents, in each trip to Spain, we stay often at the very least in three Paradores per trip and in some places in hotels of course.
Years back we used to rent a car and drive all around. But lately,- wiser or older, or may be both things ,-
we do as follows:
Hotel in Madrid for a few days, or as long as you like
then train to some city in the general area we wish to visit, for instance this year it was Burgos. Stay in the city a few days in a nive hotel in the city, on the last day rent a car and drive to the easy nearby places staying in Paradores or hotels. For instance from Burgos we went directly to Lerma and stayed in the Parador.
Then we finally arrive to a city which will be the last one before returning to Madrid. Leave car. Stay in hotel. then taxi plus train to Madrid.
Anocher trip was train to Jaen, then car to Ubeda and Baeza, Parador in Baeza, then after a tour staying in hotels and Paradors we ended in Seville return car...
I hope this might help.

Graziella5b is offline  

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