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Isabel's spring break to Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada - photos and trip report

Isabel's spring break to Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada - photos and trip report

Apr 6th, 2007, 07:27 AM
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Isabel's spring break to Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada - photos and trip report

Just finished editing my photos of my recent (mid March) trip to Andalucia - Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada. They are at: www.pbase.com/annforcier Warning - there's a LOT of them.

I do photos better than I do trip reports, so the report is kind of a summary, rather than a real blow by blow report. But since I find other people's reports so valuable to me I do try to write something. Here goes:

I went on the trip with my sister-in-law Allison who lives in South Carolina. She flew up to Massachusetts the day before so we could do the whole trip together. We left New England/New York in 5 degree snowy weather. We landed in New York at the tail end of a Nor’easter – a foot of yucky icy crap in NYC and 2 feet of snow in New England. But in between we had 9 glorious days of sunny 75 degree ecstasy.

The Flights: We flew Iberia JFK to Sevilla, changing in Madrid, and Granada back to JFK, changing in Madrid – for $639. Iberia is in no way as bad as everyone says it is. It’s at least as good as any other airline. They did change the time of the outbound flight by almost 4 hours, but they did it over a month ahead of time, contacted us by email and gave a phone number to talk to a customer service rep and were very agreeable about changing the connecting flight from Madrid to Sevilla (so we wouldn’t have to wait around the airport as long). Three of the four flights left right on time, the last leg (Madrid back to JFK) was delayed one hour – and we even landed on time – we then had to sit in the damn plane for an hour waiting for a gate, but that wasn’t Iberia’s fault – perhaps JFK hadn’t plowed us a parking space yet). The planes were all new, everything worked except for a problem with water on the last flight meaning no coffee/tea. The food was probably the best airline food I’ve ever had. Flight attendants were perfectly friendly on all flights, as were check in people. All announcements were made in English as well as Spanish. I would definitely fly them again, and in fact I was all set to book my summer tickets (back to Spain) for an amazing $665 price they had available from Boston to Madrid in July – but now I can’t find it so I guess it was a promotion of some sort for the new route and it only lasted a few weeks.

Gotta run, I'll post the rest in a little while.
isabel is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 08:30 AM
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isabel -Beautiful photos. Some really nice angles. I had to go back and take another look shots from Florence too.

TRSW is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 08:33 AM
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Fantastic Photos!
laartista is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 12:16 PM
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Thanks Isabel for the virtual trip to Spain. And planning another visit in the summer too; you're becoming quite the Iberian specialist, aren't you?
Nikki is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 02:53 PM
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hi isabel,
I can't wait to read more of your trip report! I'm going to Seville, Cordoba & Madrid in a couple weeks. Looking at your pictures definitely got me excited. I sure hope I have such beautiful weather too!

I'll definitely be interested to hear your tips on what not to miss in Seville & Cordoba.

One question - I saw from a picture you took the AVE train to Cordoba. I'm doing this too - but a little apprehensive. Not used to train travel! I plan on buying my tickets on the internet & then picking up at the train station since I'll be there during Feria, which I hear a very busy time. Was the train comfortable? Can I just put my suitcase in the back? Also, when you were at the Cordoba station, did you see lockers for luggage storage?

I'd really appreciate any advice you could offer! Thanks!
Lolly100 is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 03:00 AM
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Hi Nikki - I'm not an Iberian specialist yet but I am working on it. Now that you mention it, I have gone (will have gone) to Iberia on all four of my trips for 2006 and 2007. Just can't fit it all into one or two trips. There's so much to see.

Lolly - I'll continute with the trip report after breakfast but to answer your question - we bought the train tickets on the Renfe website from home weeks before we went. When you get to the Sevilla train station go through the main ticket office area to an area, kind of seperate, to the right.Don't wait on the long lines of people waiting to buy tickets. There are guys at desks and that's where you pick up your tickets. You have to show your credit card and passport. We got there an hour early which turned out to be a good thing since their computers were down and they said they couldn't do anything till they came back up. Fortunately it didn't take too long. Then you just wait till a few minutes before the train is scheduled to see which gate/track it leaves from (Big sign). You have to go through a simple security screening. We had 21" bags and they fit in the overhead bins on the train. In Cordoba there is a left luggage area, it's right as you come up the escalator from the tracks. We didn't use it, but I did notice it as I walked by. The train is very comfortable, and it only takes about 40 minutes anyway.
isabel is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 08:38 AM
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Thanks for the great info, isabel - I really appreciate it! Looking forward to the rest of your report...

This is my first trip to Spain & I'm so excited. From your photos, it looks amazing!
Lolly100 is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 01:05 PM
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Here's the info on the hotels we stayed in. They were all booked on-line, a couple of months before we went, then I just emailed the hotels the week before we left to re-confirm.

Sevilla – Hotel Maestranza, Gamazo,12. www.hotel-maestranza.com, email: [email protected]
€65 night for a double, ensuite, TV, AC/heat, lift, newly remodeled, spotlessly clean small hotel on a side street a five minute walk to the Cathedral. About 2 minute walk to Plaza Nueva. Fairly quiet area. No breakfast but several cafes (including 2 Starbucks) are 5 minutes away. Free internet access in lobby. It’s a 15-20 minute walk from where the airport bus (€2) drops you off (if you don’t get lost: if you do get lost it’s 1½ hr walk – but you get to see much of Sevilla!). It’s a €9 taxi to the train station.

Cordoba – Hotel Maestre, c/Romero Barros 4. www.hotelmaestre.com €69 night including breakfast for a double, ensuite, TV, AC/heat, newly remodeled, spotlessly clean. We had a room on an inside courtyard and it was completely silent at night. Room and bathroom were among the largest I’ve stayed in in Europe. There is also a hostal/apartments owned by the same management two doors down that looked nice, that’s where the breakfast was, didn’t see the rooms there. It’s about 5-10 minute walk to the Mezquita, About €5-7 taxi to bus/train station.

Granada – Hotel Plaza Nueva, Plaza Nueva, 2. www.hotelplazanueva.com/ €85 night double, ensuite, TV, AC/heat, lift, newly remodeled, spotlessly clean. Also one of the largest rooms, definitely the largest bathroom I’ve ever had in Europe. Basically loved the location on right on Plaza Nueva – walking distance to everything, the red mini buses that take you up to the Alhambra (if you don’t want to walk the 20 minute walk) stop right on the plaza. €7 taxi from bus station, €24 taxi to airport. The airport bus stops about a five minute walk away. Two of the three nights we were aware of some noise on the square at night, but the heavy glass windows and wooden shutters kept it quiet enough. But on Friday night it was really loud till 4am. Breakfast was €9 extra but there were several places right on Plaza Nueva where we got breakfast for €2.
isabel is offline  
Apr 7th, 2007, 03:57 PM
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It's always a pleasure to see your photos, Isabel - this latest gallery is no exception!

JJBhoy is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 04:57 AM
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Isabel, the pictures are so beautiful and as I've just begun planning a trip to Seville and Granada, incredibly fun for me to see. I would be curious to know how many nights you spent in each place. We have about 6 nights and I'm trying to decide how to divide them between Seville, Granada and, now that I've seen your pictures, Cordoba. Any input would be very appreciated. thanks.
brooklyn132 is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 05:26 AM
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Isabel...beautiful pictures and so many of them! We are going to Venice and Rome in May and so I am curious about when YOU went weather wise? Thanks,
travelbug05 is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 09:01 AM
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Thanks Jim

Brooklyn - I did 4 nights Sevilla, 2 Cordoba and 3 Granada. If I only had a total of 6 I'd probably do 3 each in Sevilla nd Granada with a day trip, or stop over in Cordoba. Not that I didn't like Cordoba, just that I loved the other two more.

travelbug - all my trips to Italy have been in July (2002, 2004, 2005). Weather then has been warm to hot but only a few days (out of a total of 6-7 weeks over the three years) were what I'd call uncomfortable.

Here's more of my "report"

Overall Impressions: Absolutely LOVED southern Spain. The three cities: Sevilla, Cordoba, and Granada are all beautiful. Our favorite though was probably Sevilla, with Granada a close second. Sevilla is absolutely stunning – the fact that it was low 70s and not a cloud in the sky the whole time probably didn’t hurt. There is a lot of construction going on – mostly in streets surrounding the historic district (so not terribly noticeable to tourists), but a main street past the cathedral, Ave de la Constitucion, was also under construction, although this looked like it was almost done. A major square, Plaza de San Francisco had belchers being set up (perhaps in preparation for spring festivals). But otherwise everything was perfect. The cathedral is beautiful, the Giralda absolutely gorgeous, the Alcazar stunning and it’s gardens heavenly. The plazas are also beautiful – lively and relaxing at the same time, with plenty of benches to sun yourself on, and watch atmospheric horse and buggies ride by. I also really loved Plaza Nueva, a more “modern” square, 19th C which is between the Cathedral area and the pedestrian shopping area. The Barrio Santa Cruz was full of tangled, mostly pedestrian only streets, flowered and tile covered patios, tiny plazas, outdoor cafes. Just beautiful. I just kept walking around over and over again, it was so lovely. And scattered throughout the whole city are numerous lovely churches. Parque Maria Lusia, and especially Plaza de Espana is gorgeous. Everywhere you turned, another stunning building, lovely vista, beautiful plaza. Just look at the photos, they really don’t lie, I just couldn’t get enough of it. I guess the summers must be brutal, but from what I saw in March I’d move there in a heartbeat (if someone would be kind enough to give me enough money so I don’t have to work).

Cordoba, compared to Sevilla and Granada was just “OK”. The Mezquita is definitely something you should see before you die – there is nothing to compare it to. But as for the town, although certainly nice enough, it wasn’t as beautiful as Sevilla, or as interesting as Granada. I had wondered why so many people (including Rick Steves) only suggest doing it as a stopover or day trip from Sevilla. I am glad I stayed two nights and saw the Alcazar, walked the Juderia and saw some of the beautiful churches. Unfortunately, one of the major attractions that I was interested in, the Roman Bridge, is totally under construction so that did detract from the experience. There also just weren’t as many plazas, etc to relax in , people watch and just gawk at the beauty of the surroundings like there were in Sevilla.

Granada – almost as wonderful as Sevilla, which considering how much I loved Sevilla, is saying a lot. Not as beautiful – it’s got a bit more “gritty” feel to it. But beautiful in it’s own way. I really liked the city of Granada – the Albaycin is a lot more “gritty” than the Barrio Santa Cruz but because it’s a hill there are some fabulous views (of the Alhambra, the cathedral, the rest of the city). There are also lots of lovely plazas, churches, old town walls and gates, pedestrian shopping streets, etc. There are about a thousand stores selling Moroccan stuff – if you need to decorate a dorm room this is the place to go. I don’t know how many universities there are in Granada but they seemed to be everywhere and some were really lovely, great courtyards. One of my favorite places is the San Juan de Dios Basilica, about a 10 minute walk from the cathedral, it’s in use as a working hospital and it has the most lovely patios with old slightly faded frescoes on the walls, and views of the basilicas dome and towers framed in the arches. I would have loved it even if it wasn’t a hospital but it was so cool to see signs for “electrocardiogramas” and “laboratorio” in such a beautiful setting. I went there right after walking through a beautiful university courtyard (right next to Iglesia Santos Justo y Pastor). Being as I teach nursing in a college all I could think about was how awesome it would be to go to work every day in those settings. The Carrea del Darro – the road that runs off from Plaza Nueva was another of my favorite areas. The River Darro – really just a small creek – runs down below street level and there’s a stone wall and several stone bridges crossing the river. The whole area has a very peaceful feel, and of course, more beautiful old stone buildings. The only area we didn’t like was Calle Elvira- which leads off Plaza Nueva in another direction – described by some guidebooks as “colorful” – “a taste of Morocco” etc – it was the most run down area, lots of graffiti, and swarming with dreadlocked hippies. Now, being just a tad younger than the original hippy generation, I know what stoned people look like, and these guys were very stoned. People were openly smoking pot, even selling it right out in the open. So if that’s not your thing, that would be an area to avoid. The “modern” city - Calle Reyes Catolicos andAcera de Darro (the opposite direction from Plaza Nueva of the Albaycin and Alhambra) was also unexpectedly pleasant – beautiful 19th C buildings, wide plazas with fountains, etc.
The Alhambra is as wonderful as everyone says it is. It’s because the whole is more than the sum of it’s parts. It’s the setting, the buildings, the grounds – the way they all work together, and of course the history. The actual buildings are only slightly more incredible than the Alcazar in Sevilla, but the fact that they are older and have more history does make it more awesome. The reflecting pools and patios were amazing. (The patio of the lions, the scene that’s in every guidebook, it’s even on the Alhambra ticket – was under construction. Sensing a theme here – everything I really wanted to see was seemed to be under construction). The gardens were beautiful, but the Alcazar Gardens in Sevilla were just as great. I think in another month or two they’ll be more amazing, it was a bit cooler in Granada and not much was blooming yet, it wasn’t quite as lush and tropical feeling as Sevilla.
isabel is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 09:32 AM
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degas is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 10:57 AM
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Certainly Granada has not a tropical feeling..with a big ski resort at 30 km..it 's not easy !!
It has only one university, but their faculties are scattered through the whole town, it's one of the biggest universities in Spain.
I love your pictures, Isabel !!
kenderina is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 02:17 PM
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Isabel, your pictures are inspirational. I'll be going to Seville soon, my second visit. Last time I did all the 'major' sights. I wonder if you have any 'hidden gems' you can recommend that I might have missed first time round?
gertie3751 is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 02:20 PM
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wonderful as always, Isabel.

Degas, great to see you posting again.
cigalechanta is online now  
Apr 10th, 2007, 02:18 PM
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Isabel - great pictures!! I'm wondering if you (or anyone else) can give me some advice re: transportation in Andalusia. My fiance and I are spending 1 week in Malaga in the first week of June, and we'd like to use Malaga as a base to travel to Seville, Corboba and Granada.

Our hotel stay in Malaga is a wedding gift, so we're open to staying the night at any or all of these three cities.

Do you think it would be better to rent a car and drive from place to place, or take a train or bus back and forth from each city to Malaga?

From what I've read, it seems like driving within each city is not feasible, but the distances between cities seems to make renting a car a better option than two roundtrip tickets every time.

What do you think?
sunnyt is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 02:46 PM
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Thanks for the brief report & photos. Too bad about the construction - there always seems to be at least one major attraction undergoing renos.


It's not hard to drive around Andalusia. We drove in & out of Granada & Sevilla with little problem. But 1 week is pushing it if you have to keep returning to Malaga every night.

Ian is offline  
Apr 11th, 2007, 05:38 PM
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gertie - I'm starting to post more details about what we did, maybe you can find something we did that you haven't done yet that you would consider a hidden gem. It was all gems as far as I'm concerned.

sunny - I really can't answer your questions. I didn't drive although the roads between the towns looked fine.I drove in Portugal last year and it was no problem, Spain looked similiar. I wouldn't have wanted to try to do too much driving within the centers of the cities, but things did looked relatively well marked. But buses and trains were great (and cheap).

The trip: Day 1, Thursday. We landed in Madrid around 8 am after a very smooth flight. Extremely impressive airport – Terminal 4 is anyway. Looks like a space station, and very well marked and all. We had almost three hours to kill till our flight to Sevila and there isn’t much shopping, at least not in the part of the airport we were in. Flight to Sevila was also fine, nice modern plane, rather larger than I had expected for such a short flight. Sevila airport is quite tiny. We got some coffee and went outside to wait for the airport to city center bus. The sign says it runs every half hour, but it must have skipped one because it was almost an hour. Once on the bus it was a short ride. Palm trees, sun, blue sky, more palm trees – and plenty of construction. It dropped us at Puerta de Jerez but somehow I couldn’t figure out the direction we needed to walk and we ended up walking in the wrong direction – despite my having seriously studied a map so I would know where I was going. This has always worked for me in the past, but not this time. We ended up walking all through the Barrio Santa Cruz - it was almost funny, we kept passing all these hotels I had decided not to stay in because I thought they’d be too hard to find. Sevilla is beautiful, and the weather was great, but an hour plus walk dragging your suitcase, even if it is just a 21” roller isn’t how I would have voluntarily started my vacation. I must say Allison was a good sport about it, although we did decided it would be a taxi for the return trip to the train station. When we eventually found the hotel it was in a really nice location, only 5 minutes from the cathedral. It was really only about a 10 minute walk from where we got off the bus, if only we hadn’t gotten lost. But the hotel I picked was really pretty nice so I think Allison will continue to let me be the travel planner. She did want a siesta by this time, so I left her to nap and I went out to explore a little. After I went back to get her we just wandered around and gawked at the cathedral and all the gorgeous buildings, wandered into the Barrio Santa Cruz and looked for someplace that would feed us dinner at the totally un-Spanish hour of 7pm (hey, we were jetlagged and very hungry). Most of the other people in the restaurant were just having drinks but they did give us dinner, let’s just say it was unremarkable but not horrible. After dinner we wandered down the pedestrian shopping street and eventually ended up at El Cortes Ingles. Great, lively atmosphere on the streets and plazas and warm early evening air. It was great.

Day 2, Friday. Woke up to more great weather – why can’t the sky be that blue at home, maybe it is, it just looks better in Sevila. Allison wanted to sleep in so I went in search of coffee (no breakfast at this hotel), and came almost immediately upon a Starbucks – so one must try out places like Starbucks in various countries I figure. Actually I liked the coffee better here, I’m not so much a Starbucks fan at home. They were very patient with my inability to decipher the menu in Spanish – turns out a brewed coffee is “café de la semana”. I ran around taking a few hundred photos for a hour or so and then went back to fetch Allison. After getting her some coffee we headed for the cathedral, but there were pretty long lines, mostly of Japanese tour groups, same for the Alcazar, so instead we headed for Parque Maria Luisa, past Torre del Oro. Wow is all I can say about Plaza de Espana. That is one beautiful place. The park itself was just OK, but the architecture of the buildings is awesome. Tile work unbelievable. On the way back we checked out the Hotel Alfonso XIII and the University/former cigar factory. Both were also incredible. We stopped along Avenida de la Constitucion at one of the many bakery type places and got baguette sandwiches and éclair type pastries to bring back to the hotel room for lunch. After a short siesta we headed out again to the cathedral. Yes it is large. As with most cathedrals/churches I prefer the exteriors, but definitely can appreciate the inside. Climbing the Giralda was most definitely the highlight. Not sure if it was the fact that it’s a series of ramps rather than steps, but it didn’t feel quite as bad as some belltowers (and I’ve climbed a lot of them). Each ramp, there are 36 each about the equivalent of a flight of stairs, is numbered so you know how far you still have to go. And you can stop for views out the windows. And of course the view from the top is wonderful, although the city really is prettier from ground level. After the cathedral Allison went back to the hotel and I went shopping for sandals. I had brought short sleeved tops but wasn’t really prepared for such great warm weather – high 70s - so needed some summer clothes. And one can always use a pair of Spanish leather flip-flops. We had dinner at a restaurant close to the cathedral – you could even see a corner of it from our outside table. I was afraid that close it would be lousy tourist food, but it was actually great. Can’t remember the name (can you tell I’m not a foodie) but they had very good paella and also good Italian dishes (pasta, pizza) and the wine was nice. We ended up eating there the next night as well. After dinner we did my absolute favorite thing to do in Europe – sit in a plaza, feeling warm breezes, listening to street musicians (in this case Spanish guitar), and people watch and gawk at the magnificent monuments – in this case we were on Plaza del Triunfo right between the Cathedral/Giralda and Alcazar. Heaven.
isabel is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 06:54 PM
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hello again isabel,
thanks so much for posting more details about your trip! Sevilla sounds magical... I leave in about a week for Sevilla/Cordoba/Madrid. I can't wait to enjoy those amazing plazas and just soak it all in!

I'm also flying Iberia - going to Madrid, then have a 3 hour layover like you did, then on to Sevilla. So it was good to read that it wasn't so bad.

Please let me know if there are any particular sights, or shops that I absolutely shouldn't miss. Thanks!
Lolly100 is offline  

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