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Itinerary Help Needed - Spain in September

Itinerary Help Needed - Spain in September

Jul 24th, 2009, 08:31 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2009
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Itinerary Help Needed - Spain in September

I will be in Barcelona for work September 14-20, then my husband and I are planning on staying on through September 26 (flying home from BCN). Need some suggestions on where we should visit & stay. I'm leaning towards San Sebastian for a day or 2, but need some help with the rest. We're okay driving or taking trains. My days in Barcelona will be hectic, so would like to relax and enjoy our time together... so would like busy but not jam-packed days. Love wine, food, art & architecture. Any ideas?
clevedreamer is offline  
Jul 26th, 2009, 03:53 PM
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My advice is to ditch the car out of BCN- long way to anywhere. I'd fly Vueling to Sevilla or Madrid or Granada, etc. Vueling is way cheap like Easy Jet/Ryan Air, but feels less like a cattle car. Not sure about service to San Sebastion, but Alvia now has a 6 hour high speed train to SB/Bilbao from BCN. AVE speed train really convenient and very easy between Sevilla and Madrid, and I think now Granada. Not crowded-could just buy ticket walk up no problem. Last year flew from BCN to Sevilla, rented a car and drove through hill country (stayed at Arcos) to Costa del Sol. (stayed at Nerja). Then to Granada for two days then back to Sevilla. Really easy. Drive from Granada to Sevilla about 2 hours. Hill country doesn't compare to Tuscany, but Rondo is cool - but a bit touristy. Nothing good to say about the coast, unless you speak Brit. Just crowded and lacks culture. Loved Sevilla and Granada. Will try to make Toledo next time. Of course Madrid is a must do just because. Loved it. Barric Gotic was awesome, as was all of BCN. Enjoy!!!
slbuz is offline  
Jul 26th, 2009, 08:36 PM
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slbuz - thank you for the tip on Vueling - I just checked and the prices are really reasonable into Bilbao. Still want to see San Sebastian, but might reconsider adding some other areas of Spain since the flights aren't too expensive and will save time if we're not driving. Thanks for the response!
clevedreamer is offline  
Jul 26th, 2009, 08:50 PM
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I don't think it's so long to get to San Sebastian by car. You can do it about 5 hours if you go through France -- once you're free of Barcelona traffic.

San Sebastian is a marvelous, fun destination, and at the time of year, other kinds of touristing might be too hot.

But if you want to fly or train to Bilbao and take the hour-long bus to San Sebastian, that works too. (Don't feel a huge obligation to visit the Guggenheim.)

How to fill in the rest of the time? Do you want to keep moving or stick to one spot? Were it me, I might be very tempted to meander to San Sebastian, stopping first off near Girona and Vic (with its fabulous art and architecture), then maybe slipping down to Calella da Palufrugell for a night or two, maybe seeing the greek ruins in Empurias nearby, and then winging up to San Sebastian, and flying back out of Bilbao.

Otherwise, I'd head up to San Sebastian for the immediate r&r, but then head back to Madrid for architectural day trips but also the great museums in Madrid and glamorous nights on the town eating more tapas. Madrid has some of the very best food and wine outside of San Sebastian to my tastebuds.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 26th, 2009, 08:56 PM
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PS: I've never done this route, so it may be problematic, but I'd also be tempted to go to San Sebastian via France, then visit Burgos, then visit Segovia, then head to Madrid, fly home. And I wouldn't book hotels in advance in case I liked San Sebastian so much I didn't want to leave.
zeppole is offline  
Jul 29th, 2009, 07:03 AM
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Thanks for the advice, zeppole. I'm running a big international meeting for my company in Barcelona, so I'm thinking I'll need the immediate R&R to re-charge my batteries. Will start doing some research on the other cities you've mentioned - Burgos, Segovia, Vic, Calella da Palafrugell. Don't know that we'll have enough time on this trip to fully appreciate Madrid, and we've already booked our flights home from BCN. Again - thanks for suggestions!
clevedreamer is offline  
Jul 29th, 2009, 07:11 AM
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Have you perused the Maribel's city guides re Barcelona? She is tops &I am sure makes great suggestions for areas nearer to BCN. Her site alsw highlights soem great places for R&R

amsdon is offline  
Jul 29th, 2009, 09:52 AM
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Taking Vueling from Barcelona to San Sebastian, you're looking to fly into Bilbao - after that, it's a short-ish bus ride into San Sebastian and it costs just a few euro.

EddieSuarez is offline  
Jul 29th, 2009, 11:11 AM
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My wife and I were also just recently in BCN for a business meeting. We took AVE to Madrid, then the train to Granada, drove to Sevilla, and then flew Spanair back to BCN. Spanair was fine, and the price was VERY reasonable.

I second the idea of flying to Seville and then grabbing a car to look around. We stayed at the Parador in Arcos de la Frontera (loved it), and the Parador at the Alhambra (loved it too).

We have trip reports on this site that might help. And I also second the suggestion on Maribel's guides. We found them to be invaluable!

Have fun!
pacman57 is offline  
Jul 29th, 2009, 11:21 AM
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"I don't think it's so long to get to San Sebastian by car. You can do it about 5 hours if you go through France -- once you're free of Barcelona traffic."

The quickest way would be through Lleida and Zaragoza. Going through France would take much longer.
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Jul 30th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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Have you ever visited Barcelona? Do you expect to be able to do much the week you are there working?

If you've never visited Barcelona why not stay a few days to relax? With only a week after the business I'd focus on Barcelona and Catalunya. There's plenty to do and the biggest festival of the year is in Barcelona at the time, La Merce (Sept 23-27). Tarragona has a festival generally a week before Barcelona which is a smaller scale and quite nice. Also Besalu, which is a wonderful little village, has a smaller festival around the same time and is a great spot for some R&R.

I agree with zeppole's advise on Girona, Vic and Calella da Palafrugell. These are all beautiful cities.

While I love San Sebastian (the food is incredible) unless you can get an open jaw flight out of Bilbao or fly between BCN and San Sebastian I don't know if it would be worth the travel time with such a short visit when there are many options closer. If you do decide to visit SS you'll need to book your hotel ASAP as the film festival is around this same time. I had trouble finding a room in April for the end of September.
CathyM is offline  
Aug 1st, 2009, 12:11 PM
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Just back from Barcelona and San Sebastian. If I could do it over I would have spent all of my time in San Sebastian and the Basque country. The one recommendation is that we flew in and out of Barcelona so we had to travel all the way back. I don't recommend this as the open jaw (fly out of Bilbao)is a more relaxed way of traveling. The train was 5 hrs. and was nice. You can fly into Bilbao for about $30 per person, it takes one hour then a quick bus ride into SS. If you like beautiful beaches, scenery and amazing food San Sebastian is amazing. I would not rent a car to get there, relax on the train or plane, there's not that much to see on the way. Once you're there you don't need a car but if you want to do a daytrip to La Rioja you need a car. If you get tired of the beach in San Sebastian a quick train or bus trip will take you to Zarautz, Getaria and Zumaia. I can't wait to return even though my favorite places in Spain are Seville and Granada.
Egbert is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2009, 07:52 AM
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I agree with Pvoyageuse, with driving you want to avoid traipsing through the Pyrenees. Going through Lleida and Zaragoza will save you much more time.

EddieSuarez is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2009, 09:25 AM
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You can do it about 5 hours if you go through France -- once you're free of Barcelona traffic.

Add 2.5 hours according to viaMichelin. The highway through Spain is much faster. Unless the RT is set in stone, I would try to do open jaw and spend two days driving to San Sebastian. Some things to see: the two churches in Taüll, the older monastery in San Juan de la Peña.
Michael is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2009, 08:35 AM
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Thanks, everyone, for your input! The program that I'm planning will allow us some tours of Barcelona & surrounding areas (Sitges/Montserrat), so we'll have time to enjoy what BCN offers. I think we'll take the train to Bilbao on Tuesday and then take the bus to San Sebastian. I'm running into problems trying to find accommodations because that's the week of the Film Festival (thanks, CathyM for the heads up!). Any suggestions on nearby places to San Sebastian to use as a home base for Tuesday & Wednesday? We'll work our way back by car on Thursday - staying somewhere possibly along the coast - and spend our final night back in BCN (flights were already booked and on the company, so can't change them).

Should we rent a car in San Sebastian for our 2 days? Is going into France's Basque Country worth the trip (St. Jean-de-Luz, Biarritz, etc.)?
clevedreamer is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2009, 02:24 PM
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Ditto to what posters have told you regarding the quickest routing from San Sebastián to Barcelona. It's quickest on the Spanish side, not the French side, and certainly not through the French Pyrenees. Quickest to go through Zaragoza and Lleida, as Eddie, Michael and Pvoyageuse have correctly told you. (to Cadaqués it may be a different story but not to Barcelona).
www.viamichelin.com will give you the best driving route and correct estimated time.

We just came home from San Sebastián (with hotel visits for business), and the hotels are quickly getting booked for the film festival. At the new and stylish 4 star Astoria 7 (a complete and clever remake of a venerable cinema), the manager, Ander, told us last week that there were only 20 available rooms for the film festival dates. You might give them a try if it's not too late.

If there is no room at an inn in S.S., try....

the very nice 4 star Hotel Jaizkibel in Hondarribia

the charming 3 star Hotel Obispo (in the town's Old Quarter)

another option...
There's also a beautiful new-ish B&B, the Haritzpe, with lovely decorated rooms, including a huge suite for a great price (no English spoken, though). See it at www.haritzpe.net/

Lots of reviews at http://www.toprural.com/casa-rural-h...s-20-17963.htm

I wouldn't bother with a car in S.S. for just two days-if you can find a room, that is...

Just stay put and enjoy the lively buzz of the city and the incredible food and pintxos bar hopping in the Old Quarter and Gros quarter in the evening.
(Zeruko and Narru are our recent discoveries-fabulous miniature haute cuisine)

You can even take a 4-5 hour pintxos-making class with one of the city's most respected chefs if you're so inclined (we just toured their new facilities)...

And a beach stroll (low tide) from the very top of La Concha to the end of Ondarreta, back and forth, to work off all that glorious food!

If you work your way back to Barcelona from S. S. on Thursday, the most direct and quickest route recommended above won't take you along the coast, but instead you'll go inland until you reach the wine town of Vilafranca del Penedès.
There you can take the short detour on the C 156, southeast, down to the lovely coastal resort of Sitges for your Thurs. night stay if you want a Med experience very close to Barcelona.

(warning: the direct all-autoroute drive from S.S. to the coast below Barcelona is quite a boring!! drive until you reach the Baix Penedès, where the scenery livens up a bit).

But again, in Sitges in Sept. I'd want to have reservations, just in case, since it's still quite busy in Sept. The 4 star Hotel San Sebastian Playa in Sitges would be my choice right on the beach. And La Fragata next to the church would be my choice for a great seafood feast.

Hope this helps a bit more...
Maribel is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 10:00 AM
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Thank you all for the fantastic advice. Maribel - I was able to get rooms for 2 nights at the Astoria 7... thanks for the tip! Here's how our itinerary is shaping up:

- September 15-21 - BCN (day trips planned to Sitges, Montserrat & Penedes wine country). Staying at the Hotel Arts (work function).
- September 22-23 - S.S. at the Astoria 7.
- September 24 - ???? [see below - need your suggestions]
- September 25 - back to BCN (H10 Raco del Pi)
- September 26 - fly home

Any suggestions on where to drive to/stay on the 24th? We need to work our way back towards BCN, and I'm leaning towards the Costa Brava area. We'll have one day/night there, then will drive back mid-morning on Friday to BCN and drop off the car or we can take the train in from Girona or wherever.
clevedreamer is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 10:42 AM
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September 24-of you're working your way back to Barcelona from San Sebastián on the most direct autoroute route through Pamplona, Zaragoza, Lleida, and just have one overnight, the Costa Brava isn't on that driving route. As I mentioned above, this route just isn't that scenic (save the part from S.S. to Pamplona).

To get up to the Costa Brava then, would require a detour northeast of about 90 min. or more.

From Sant Andreu de la Barca, where the A2 meets up with the A 7, you would skirt Barcelona and go northeast on the A7.
A 90 min. drive would get you to Tossa,
another 30. would move you up to the Begur area.

Because Sept. 24 is a Friday, you could encounter quite a bit of traffic going up in the afternoon as Barcelona residents head to their Costa Brava weekend retreats, since the weather should still be warm.

Is it worth it to you for just one night?

Another detour northeast would be to the fascinating city of Vic.
(I'm sitting here with my map of Catalunya in front of me).

To reach Vic, from the A2, you would take the detour at Cervera on the C 25 through Manresa to Vic.
The scenery doesn't become interesting until you pass Manresa.

It's a 6 hr. drive from San Sebastián to Vic
versus a 6 hr. 30 min. drive to the lower stretch (Tossa) of the Costa Brava.
Again, add another half hr. up to the Begur-Palafrugell area, for me, the most beautiful part.

But I don't know that I would make that long a detour for just one night, but then, that's me, and I've visited frequently.

(Incidentally, viamichelin.com does say that from San Sebastián to the UPPER Costa Brava, around Begur, it takes about 6 hrs. 20 min. on the French side.)

It really depends on how much extra driving you're willing to do on Sept. 24 and how far away you feel you can be from Barcelona for your trip in on Sept. 25.

An alternative to the Costa Brava would be Sitges, for a coastal resort, which would be a short detour southwest off the AP 7. Easy and a very short drive into Barcelona the next day (we did this last month).

or a short detour inland, to spend the night some nice wine resort hotel in the Alt Penedès, like the Can Bonastre.

Just some thoughts...
Maribel is offline  
Aug 5th, 2009, 11:45 AM
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Maribel - The only reason for returning to BCN on the 25th was because we have an 11am flight out on Saturday to JFK. We have several days in Barcelona prior, so it was completely driven by being close to the airport. I have no issues cancelling our hotel in Barcelona and spending another night somewhere outside of BCN, as long as we won'tneed to be up at 4am to make our flight. And since that's the weekend of La Merce, we may be in traffic for quite awhile trying to make it in on Friday.

Since we'll already have already visited Sitges, I'll look into maybe staying in the Rioja or Alt Penedès area for our last 2 nights, and save Costa Brava for another time. I'd rather be out in the fresh air and experience the culture vs. watching it go by while stuck in a car. Thanks so much for your advice. It's incredibly helpful!
clevedreamer is offline  
Aug 6th, 2009, 02:27 PM
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Hi clevedreamer,

The Rioja would be a 4 hr. 45 min. drive from the Barcelona airport, so that won't work.


I would consider somewhere in the Alt Penedès for the 24th, 25th.

The wine resort, Can Bonastre, that I mentioned above lies only 35 min. from the airport.

There's also the Can Ruget Bio Hotel that's conveniently located for wine touring.

More info regarding the Alt Penedès-
Maribel is offline  

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