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Just back from Southern Spain and Portugal

Just back from Southern Spain and Portugal

Oct 6th, 1999, 01:34 PM
Monica Richards
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Just back from Southern Spain and Portugal

Got back a week ago from a three week trip to Portugal and Spain. We started in Lisbon (great city), then went to Marvao (teeny tiny village perched on a mountain--we were just about the only tourists there in September!), then to Cordoba, Granada, the hill towns (we stayed in Arcos), Sevilla, Evora and back to Lisbon and home. Whereas there's way way too much to put here, here are some thoughts and questions we had:

-Loved all of the cities. Probably the only disappointment we had was in Cordoba getting to the Hotel Amistad considering the streets were all ripped up, including the little one leading to the hotel. Once we got to the hotel (finally) they were no help at all about helping us park considering their lot was closed off. In general we found this hotel impersonal in both service and ambience, although the location was good. Cold marble floors and orange decor. Ick.

-There are 20,000 year old cave paintings in Benoajan in Andalucia Spain that are open to the public. These are the last caves of this type open to the public. I really never heard mention of this and our guidebooks only mentioned them as an afterthought. For us, it was the highlight of our trip. I never thought I would actually be able to see anything manmade that was that old. It was really incredible.

-the cats of Spain are like nothing in the US--especially the feral cats in Cordoba. Beautiful colors and shapes, and the eyes! Clear blue and green, like a marble. Too bad you can't import a few--they make our cats look downright plain.

Here are a couple of questions:

Why do they plant eucalyptus in Portugal? There were thickets of trees in orderly rows, clearly planted. But eucalyptus can't be used as lumber (it warps when it drys) nor can it be burned as firewood (too much sap--it burns really hot and fast and is a hazard). So what do they do with it?

In Spain, they have these old steamroller things on pedestals on the sides of the roads. Is this the equipment that originally built the road? What is it doing there?

If anyone has answers, or any questions for me, I'd be happy to answer.
Oct 6th, 1999, 02:33 PM
Posts: n/a
Monica, Glad you had a great trip. Your
itinerary is one of my favorites but I
have always done Iberia in the spring.
I have some spectacular photos from
Marvao in some thunderstorms, and also
a procession of the locals on Palm Sunday. Tell us more about your highlights and lowlights.
Oct 6th, 1999, 03:20 PM
Posts: n/a
Monica: Please keep posting those highlights/disappointments! Just booked a friend into the Amistad in Cordoba for Nov., and now I will unbook! Thanks for the tip about the construction. Any more tips will be greated appreciated!
Oct 6th, 1999, 03:20 PM
Posts: n/a
Monica: Please keep posting those highlights/disappointments! Just booked a friend into the Amistad in Cordoba for Nov., and now I will unbook! Thanks for the tip about the construction. Any more tips will be greated appreciated!
Oct 6th, 1999, 03:52 PM
Posts: n/a
Monica, thanks for describing what sounds like a great trip. Could you give some more specifics on where the caves are located?
Oct 6th, 1999, 03:53 PM
Monica Richards
Posts: n/a
The construction right in front of the Amistad in Cordoba is probably completed--it was just a little job. What really got me was the cavalier attitude of the check in person that it was no big deal that I go back and repark my car then lug my luggage after I'd already been driving around. And it's a four star! Every other place we stayed was friendlier and more helpful than that.

More highlights/ lowlights:

I got really really sick of the food. You have to understand, I'm a big pasta/ veggie/ mexican food eater, so this cutlet of fish or meat and potatoes got old pretty darn quick. Where we could get tapas it was fine (liked those!) but in Portugal especially all the restaurants serve the same thing and I actually went without eating rather than face the same meal again. That's saying a lot for me, I love to eat! In the bigger cities they had italian restaurants or chinese, so we got variety but in the smaller towns we were pretty much sunk. A big exception to this was the Paradors. Anyone going to Spain absolutely must eat in a Parador for lunch at least once. A total top quality meal and lovely ambience--doesn't matter how you dress, they treat you nicely anyhow (we unexpectedly decided to go to one on a travel day when we were wearing shorts, and although we got seated in the back out of sight we still received excellent service). An all out meal (and I mean all out--good wine, appetizers, desert, the works) costs $60-80. Try to do that in the US!

Another highlight was playing foosball with two local kids in Marvao. I totally suck at foosball (well, it was the first time I ever played) but my husband is an expert 'cause they have the game at his office. After the first game I turned around to find my partner, the portugese boy, had bailed on me and stuck his sister with me. Poor girl. So I lost the next game and the next game for her too. I felt so bad for them (my being so lame) that I gave them a 50 escudo coin so they could play just the two of them. As my husband and I were leaving the whooping and hollering that followed us made me certain it was the best money I had ever spent!
Oct 6th, 1999, 04:00 PM
Monica Richards
Posts: n/a

The exit for the caves is right near Ronda. From the main road leading to Ronda, right before (or after depending on what direction you're coming from) there will be a sign for "las caves pilleta", on the road to Benoajan (spelling might be a little off, but it's close). Take that road and drive through one small town and right before you get to to Benoajan there is a fork that leads off the right, with a sign that says "las pilletas". Drive to the end of that road, park, and walk up the stairs to the entrance to the caves. Tours are on the hour, from 11-1 and then again from 4-6 if memory serves. It only costs 700 pesetas, which is about $5.00, a real bargain. The floor of the cave is smooth rock, very very slippery, so wear shoes with good traction (little suction cups would be good). No pictures in the caves, so be sure to buy a postcard or two after the tour.
Oct 7th, 1999, 05:55 AM
Brian in Atlanta
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Monica, welcome back.

Did it seem to you that there would be a way to visit the caves from Ronda if one didn't have a car? I guess one could always take a taxi, but did you see any buses?

We're planning a trip next year and would very much prefer not to rent a car.

Oct 7th, 1999, 08:04 AM
Monica Ricards
Posts: n/a

Aside from a taxi, there wouldn't be a way to get to the caves from Ronda except maybe by taking a local bus to Benoajan and walking. I didn't see any local buses though, although I'm sure there are some.

Why don't you want to get a car? I was really dreading it too, because I like to take the train when possible and avoid the hassle, but driving in Spain and Portugal is pretty easy, and there really is no other alternative if you want to get to some of the smaller places (like Zahara, another hill town). The cost isn't very high either if you book from here.
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