help. I gotta take a vacation

Old Mar 18th, 2023, 03:09 PM
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help. I gotta take a vacation

I have had a lousy three months: my dad passed away, my job turned upside down, our beloved dog is quite ill, and I have had an illness to deal with and it's only March. I want a vacation.

I love Italy and spent a month there in September/Oct (some may have read my endless trip report on going to Siena to study and then Calabria). Love the Osa peninsula for animal/bird watching -- but too late to book something for Belize before the rainy season it seems. Not a fan of the south of France (felt like rich ex-pats and bad galleries)

So thinking Barcelona - Mardrid. I am an artist and have never gone. Can I do both in a week? Do I want to do both in a week? I love art of course, good food, just walking around, sitting in a cafe, and hiking.
Portugal? LOVED Greece... wondering is there enough to do in Crete?

Thanks for any help. Want to go before the crazy high season so the end of April or the beginning of May before my sons return from college (sorry boys... you need to work this summer).

Last edited by RubyTwins; Mar 18th, 2023 at 03:12 PM. Reason: mistake
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Old Mar 18th, 2023, 03:21 PM
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I am sorry you have been struggling with so many problems.
Wither Barcelona or Madrid would be ideal or split them.
Portugal is a wonderful country to visit. Most helpful locals I ever have met. If you only have a week, choose Lisbon or Porto. You will want to return.
Crete is large. We based in.Chania in western Crete for two weeks and barely scratched the surface. We also spent two nights on the southern coast in Loutro.
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Old Mar 18th, 2023, 05:01 PM
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I agree with the comment regarding most helpful, and caring, locals in Portugal!
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Old Mar 18th, 2023, 11:27 PM
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I might look at southern Portugal or the area around Barcelona, especially north of the city along the coast.

Both areas are good good for wildlife, hiking and have opportunities to visit a little good art.

Madrid can still be cold at this time
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 12:22 AM
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That's a lot to handle.
I've been on a three month trip in Portugal and posted some photos about it.
If you want to check it out, scroll past the practical info into the touristy photos, it might give you some ideas.

Extended trip to Portugal

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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 06:39 AM
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So sorry for all you've been through, Ruby Twins.

I'm also an artist. I believe Gaudi in Barcelona would be of interest. But the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza, and Reina Sofia in Madrid are amazing. Can you visit both cities in a week though? It depends on your stamina. I'll vote for Madrid only:

Madrid and London

Now, if you want to hike, Perugia!

Perugia and Rome by train and bus

Hang in there.
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 07:46 AM
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Thanks, everyone. Sorry to be a complainer as I know things will get better and people have much worse. Just need a vacation to reset my head. And lucky to be able to even have that option.

OK let me start to poke around I have a TON of stamina and usually need a vacation after a vacation...

I always like to combine my trips with some urban, some art, some archeology and just some sitting and watching birds or hiking. Not into shopping unless I stumble across a local artisan... happy to support people. Love to happen to go off the beaten trail and not "live like a local" but experience a snippet of life like a local.

I live in NYC and frankly am a little tired of the hustle and bustle right now... despite wanting to see the Prado... is Madrid as crazy as here?
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by aulop
That's a lot to handle.
I've been on a three month trip in Portugal and posted some photos about it.
If you want to check it out, scroll past the practical info into the touristy photos, it might give you some ideas.

Extended trip to Portugal
WOW... looks amazing and your trip report is so helpful. I am looking forward to reading more.
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 08:38 AM
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Couple of questions: First, are you willing to rent a car and explore some countryside areas? And second, how important is sun and warmth?

So my own opinions, worth every cent you've paid for them ...

The Algarve in Portugal. This is the vast area east of Lisbon over to the Spanish border. Rolling countryside, cork trees and storks, whitewashed hill villages, Roman ruins, gorgeous country inns. Not a lot on the art/museum front, but plenty of architecture and folk arts.

Southern Andalusia and Gibraltar. Fly into Gibraltar (change in London) or Malaga or Cadiz. It will be warm and sunny. Visit perfect white villages, Roman ruins, beaches. See the Rock and Barbary apes in Gibraltar, or take the ferry over to Morocco for a couple of days. It's a wonderful and compact area. Some photos to illustrate:

Jebel Musa, the southern Pillar of Hercules, seen from Gibraltar



Barbary apes, Gibraltar



Baelo Claudia ruins near Tarifa



Vejer da la Frontera, Andalusia



If sunshine is not mandatory and a car is not desired, Holland. Amsterdam is the quietest big city in Europe (all the bikes, few cars) and obviously lots of museums etc. But you might also look at Delft or Utrecht, both charming beyond words. Or even smaller towns like Edam have their cheesy appeal. Everyone speaks English, impeccable cleanliness and convenient transportation. Tulips, too, if you want.

Edam



Delft







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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 08:52 AM
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This looks great. my husband loves to drive. He grew up in Tokyo and learned to drive there. So driving and exploring is a yes. He is NOT a beach person but it would be great to have some nice spring warmish weather.
Ameia

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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 10:46 AM
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is Madrid as crazy as here?

Not sure about NYC, but I found Madrid a lot less crowded and frenetic than Barcelona. And this from a person who doesn't like cities in general. I think I'd go mad in NYC.
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 11:18 AM
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Valencia is amazing. It's my favourite city in Spain. You've got incredible architecture, green parks, bike paths, an old town, festivals, the beach, food, wine and reasonable prices. I've been to Valencia at least three times and loved every day of it. Check it out.
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 12:34 PM
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Has anyone done any of the hiking outside of Madrid and stayed for part of their time there? https://www.lonelyplanet.com/article...ikes-in-madrid
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 02:53 PM
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I went to the Prado and then Thyssun-Bornemisza art museums in Madrid, both in one day. The second was even better than the first, possibly because the second had less Catholic-themed art, which wouldn't be spiritualy meaningful to me because I wasn't raised Catholic. I spent 5 nights in Madrid, 4 whole days, but one of those days was a day trip to Toledo. With an extra day I could have seen the navy museum and/or other stuff I didn't make time for. I skipped Barcelona, which probably would have been worthwhile but there wasn't time to go everywhere. If you carefully and pick which sites and museums you want to see and which you are willing to skip you probably could see both Barcelona and Madrid in a week. My whole trip to Spain was 14 nights, 13 on the ground. The Sorolla museum is a small art museum I saw.
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 03:19 PM
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We stayed in Rascafria at Monasterio de Santa María de El Paular, a former monastery located just northwest of Madrid.
The Costa Brava north of Barcelona is interesting with seaside villages. We stayed in Begur at Parador Aiguablava.
These are both outside the major cities but close enough to split your time with Madrid or Barcelona.

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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 04:58 PM
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I also thought Barcelona was much busier than Madrid, but do like the architecture in Barcelona.
Of course, Madrid has great museums, the Prado being one of my all time favorites.

That being said, no one mentioned Granada.
IMHO, for everything you are seeking and for when you want to go, Granada would be absolutely, 100% perfect.
First, the Alhambra is one of the loveliest collection of structures you can find. It is a combination of history, romance, architecture, poetry.
Second, the gardens of the Alhambra peak in late April through May, so you would see them at their most glorious. It is not just plants. The water features were amazing for their time. Perhaps you could do some drawing or painting, at least photography.
Third, areas in and around Granada are filled with ancient olive groves and are beautiful for walking and hiking.
Fourth, there is the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Fifth, you are not far from beaches.
Sixth, fabulous food and music in some of the cave venues.
I loved the old center of Granada at night.
I did not do it when we were there, but It seems to be a place for major bird watching, tours, trips, bird sanctuaries and coastal wetlands. There are lots of articles about it.
Granada is the place I would like most to return to in Spain.

You could split time between Seville and Granada or between Cordoba and Granada. Both were busier than Granada when we were there. Sure, people race in and see the Alhambra, but I thought the whole area was beautiful, the plants, mountains, views, etc.
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Old Mar 19th, 2023, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Sassafrass
I also thought Barcelona was much busier than Madrid, but do like the architecture in Barcelona.
Of course, Madrid has great museums, the Prado being one of my all time favorites.

That being said, no one mentioned Granada.
IMHO, for everything you are seeking and for when you want to go, Granada would be absolutely, 100% perfect.
First, the Alhambra is one of the loveliest collection of structures you can find. It is a combination of history, romance, architecture, poetry.
Second, the gardens of the Alhambra peak in late April through May, so you would see them at their most glorious. It is not just plants. The water features were amazing for their time. Perhaps you could do some drawing or painting, at least photography.
Third, areas in and around Granada are filled with ancient olive groves and are beautiful for walking and hiking.
Fourth, there is the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Fifth, you are not far from beaches.
Sixth, fabulous food and music in some of the cave venues.
I loved the old center of Granada at night.
I did not do it when we were there, but It seems to be a place for major bird watching, tours, trips, bird sanctuaries and coastal wetlands. There are lots of articles about it.
Granada is the place I would like most to return to in Spain.

You could split time between Seville and Granada or between Cordoba and Granada. Both were busier than Granada when we were there. Sure, people race in and see the Alhambra, but I thought the whole area was beautiful, the plants, mountains, views, etc.



OH, are these wonderful ideas, ones I want to realize myself! I am in Madrid now, where I wore a t-shirt and light linen jacket all day, walking around (mid March). This city is a dream and each time I visit, the more I want to LIVE here! Yes, yes, I think is would suit your requests at this time. The architrectural beauty, the kindness of the people, the sheer joy of the city, is something that does not get translated too much. Yes to the great museums, but even after seeing those, the joy of just walking around, discovering the smaller gems. And from here the possible daytrips into the area around Segovia, and Sepulveda (look up the National Park of the HOCES DEL RIO DURATON and the protected griffon vulture breeding areas)

<<<About the Hoces del Rio Duratón Natural Park

Along some 27 kilometres of its course, the Duratón River cuts through the limestone rock, reaching a depth of over one hundred metres in some places. The cliffs hosts huge population of cliff-nesting birds. An area of over 5000 hectares was declared Natural Park in 1989 to protect these birds. It is a Special Protection Area under the European Birds Directive, and is included in the Natura 2000 network.

Hoces del Río Duratón Natural Park lies about an hour’s drive to the north of Segovia, or two hours north of Madrid.>>>>

For me this area is sacred ground for food...I wrote a trip report about my visit to Sepulveda and the tiny village of Pedraza...will answer any and all questions and try to link my report but it deals mostly with food.

You could do this easily after spending time in Madrid.

Gardyloo's photos are enchanting and do justice to the area he suggests. I've just come from my second week-or-so-long visit to the province of Cadiz, and hope to return next year at this same time. I'm happy to share more if any of the places I mention pique your interest.

And Happy Travelers suggestion mimics my future plan to spend time in the area near Begur in Catalunya. I need to get a trip together to go there..soon. Happy: Did you write a report on Aiguablava, etc??? I just now had the idea to perhaps combine that with a return to the Cadiz area next spring.

My last suggestion since you can drive: Look into CABO DEL GATA area in Andalucia. I imagine the scenery, hiking, everything, are enchanting but have not yet been myself.

Fellow New Yorker here by the way.

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Old Mar 22nd, 2023, 04:43 PM
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So I am thinking Madrid and Granada. But first, since our dog is ill and needs medication -- i have to find a dog sitter I trust... then I can start booking a trip.
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Old Mar 22nd, 2023, 05:06 PM
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I am so sorry about your dog. That has always been the biggest hurdle to travel for us. Check with vets for a vet tech. Do you have Nextdoor? Sometimes posting there will get a good response.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2023, 05:42 AM
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It seems to me you don't mind staying in one place for a while. Barcelona is a great city for artists, and you can introduce yourself to what contemporary Catalans are doing. It is also very close to natural areas if you want to hike, like Parc Natural de la Mutanya de Montserrat which has a lot of great features.

If you are considering Madrid and Granada, thern I recommend Cordoba over Granada. It is the Siena of Spain....

Last edited by shelemm; Mar 23rd, 2023 at 05:58 AM.
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