Just back from Spain,attn.Maribel, et.al

Oct 7th, 2002, 12:42 PM
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Just back from Spain,attn.Maribel, et.al

Just got back from 3 weeks in Spain and wanted to send special thanks to Maribel, Cova, Jean Valjean and all for their wonderful suggestions on hotels, restaurants and driving directions in Madrid and Barcelona. We stayed at the Posada Regia in León and dined in their Bodega. The accomodations and cuisine were fabulous and the staff could not have been more friendly and helpful. We drove the Desfiladeros on the west and east sides of the Picos de Europa and were thrilled by the vistas. We were virtually all alone, traffic-wise, so we could go the curvy roads slowly enough to see some scenery. The Hotel del Oso was another delight--rooms and dinner! We loved Mayor de Migueloa in Laguardia and were sorry we stayed in Haro, a mistake we will not repeat in the future!
Oct 7th, 2002, 12:56 PM
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Message: Girona has grown so much since our last trip there! One of the best
dinners on our visit this time was at L'Argarda, across from the Correos, just off Jaume I. We had the most memorable wood-roasted duck breast we ever tasted. The mental palate still salivates thinking of it!

Cova, you have every reason to be proud of Bilbao. How different it is these days from the '70's! So clean, vital and full of creativity! Driving downtown at noon is a challenge,
but we managed.

The Bus Turistic in Barcelona was well worth the price and we heartily recommend it. "My Fair Lady" in Madrid was a terrific production which my non-Spanish-speaking husband loved too. Get tickets through Corte Inglés online.

Many thanks to all for the help you gave beforehand! It wouldn't have been as successful a trip without your advice.
(just keeping it as a single thread....)
Oct 7th, 2002, 01:17 PM
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Hi Carolyn,
I´m glad you enjoyed "My fair lady". We are heading there in two weeks time (mum´s birthday ). Friends of mine who have been to "The phantom of the opera" say it´s not so good, specially if you have been to the London one.

And I am glad you like the "Hostal del Oso". Our dinner there last June was memorable.

Rgds, Cova
Oct 7th, 2002, 01:24 PM
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Hi Carolyn,
I wondered about your trip, and I'm really glad you had a wonderful time, that you enjoyed the Posada Regia (no problem with the parking?) and the Hotel del Oso, got to drive both Desfiladeros ( 2 in one trip-wow!), got to see Laguardia (I'm headed there in a month!) and enjoyed "My Fair Lady". That was a fine rec. from cova (and her lively and friendly Bilbao has so much going for it), and I learned too thru her help how to buy tickets at eci.com online.
Sounds like a fine itinerary, and you certainly saw a lot. I've taken note of L'Aguarda and tucked it away in my Girona file. Thanks for the rec. When you have time and the energy, I'd love to hear more about your adventures.
Welcome home!

Oct 7th, 2002, 01:32 PM
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I just got back from Madrid myself, saw my Fair Lady (did buy the tickets at Corte Ingles, but then again, what can you NOT buy at Corte Ingles, really?). Paloma San Basilio (leading lady) was amazing, still is after all these years. I thought that was one of the highlights of the trip, I'm glad you thought so as well!

Happy trails,
Oct 7th, 2002, 06:48 PM
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Carolyn, Maribel & Sandra:
Read your posts with great interest. We're off to Spain on Wednesday, 5 nights Madrid, 4 nights Barcelona & one week on Mallorca. Can you recommend a wine tour in Madrid or Barcelona? We're in our early sixties but interact with all age groups. Also, if you had a choice of Avila, Segovia or Salamanca, which would you recommend as first choice?

Thanks so much.
Oct 7th, 2002, 07:42 PM
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Hi Tess,
Of your 3 choices, I'd choose lovely Segovia. It's quite easy to make a day trip by La Sepulvedana bus, only takes 1 hr. 15 min. Busses run every 30 min. weekdays from the Sepulvedana station at Paseo de la Florida #11 in Madrid. You could take the 9 or 9:30 a.m. departure. Just buy tickets at the station. You'll be given an assigned seat.
Salamanca is a 2 1/2 hr. bus ride away, so I wouldn't do it on a day trip. Avila is nice as well (fun to walk the walls), but I've heard there is considerable construction going on there now. It's a 1 1/2 hr. Talgo train trip from Chamartin station, other trains take longer. Train is best. You could combine Segovia and Avila on an organized coach tour, departures every day at 9:45 a.m. (your hotel will have the brochures), but it takes 9 hrs. and costs 53 euros without lunch (but entree fees included). Whichever pleases you.

About wine tours:
No tours to wineries in or around Madrid, so your best bet is from Barcelona.
We've enjoyed taking the "cercanias" train from Barcelona's Sants station, or better still, Placa de Catalunya station (trains run every 30 min) to the nearby "cava" (Spain's bubbly) capital of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia in the Penedes wine region, just 44 km away. When you arrive at the station in this small town, just cross the street, and there you'll find the huge Freixenet cellars (Spain's largest "cava" producers). There are morning tours at 10, 11:30. First you'll watch a video, then you'll ride a little tram through the huge production area with explanation in Sp./English, then end up at the tasting room where you can sample their cava at your leisure. It's quite fun. Admission is free. Then take the train back to Bcn. About a 45 min. ride.

Hope this helps.
Oct 8th, 2002, 07:17 AM
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Segovia/Avila/Salamanca is a tough call, but I agree with Maribel that Segovia makes the most sense as a day trip. Combining it with a vist to the palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso is another possibility, if you like Baroque palaces. Segovia on its own certainly has plenty to offer between the aqueduct, alacazar, and Cathedral, not to mention simply wandering around the city.

Salamanca is definetely the most exciting and, to me, interesting city of the three, but the distances are difficult for one day only. For an overnight trip, or if you had a car, I would recommend it.

I was in Avila two weeks ago, and did not notice an inordinate amount of construction. Then again, we only stopped for lunch and a quick walk around on our way further north. A meal at the Parador there, btw, is definetely worthwhile as both the setting and the food are excellent.
Oct 8th, 2002, 07:29 AM
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Tess, I have never been to Salamanca, but have been to both Avila and Segovia. Cooter mentions the Parador Nacional, where my husband and I, along with his parents stayed for 3 nights several years agon, and it was a memorable experience, such an amazing place, and it was truly like stepping back in time! (I don't expect it has changed much since). I also beleive the Paradores Nacionales have a website that you can go to to make reservations/seek information, but i warn you that most Paradores are so sought after that there's usually a long waiting list to get a room.

I am a culinary tourist myself, so I would recommend Segovia for its cuisine--and the impressive Roman acueduct that runs straight through the heart of town.

If you are going to be in Madrid anyway, may I suggest another daytrip alternative? Sevilla is an amazing city, and taking the AVE (the high speed train) from Atocha station, it is only a 2.5 hour trip. Granted, one could spend a week in Sevilla but if you are looking to go somewhere truly impressive then that would be my choice.IN addition, you shouldn't run into as many tourists now that the summer season is over.

I hope this information helped. I hope you enjoy Spain!

Oct 8th, 2002, 09:06 AM
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I forgot to mention that if you choose to travel to Segovia by bus and would like to add a visit to the stunning 18th c Bourbon Palace of la Granja and its gardens (the tapestries have been recently cleaned and are most impressive-some were on display at the Met this winter), there are La Sepulvedana busses that run between Segovia and San Ildefonso. You can pick up the schedule at the bus station in Madrid. (thanks for reminding me, cooter) At the palace, you can view the Flemish tapestries in the annex on your own but must take the 40 min. bilingual (quite good) guided tour to visit the royal quarters of the palace. Then you can stroll the gardens at your leisure. Unfortunately all the lovely fountains are only on full display certain days of the yr. I believe 4 of them are turned on Sat./Sun. if enough water is available, but perhaps not in the winter. But the palace is closed on MON., as are most of the Reales Sitios (except for Madrid's Royal Palace).
See the schedule at
(English page)
You'll be tempted by the pictures!

As cooter and Sandra mention, Avila's Parador, tucked into a corner of the walls, with storks' nests on the towers around it, is really lovely. Some of the rooms have canopy beds and are stylishly decorated.
Last yr. we used it as a base for 3 days to tour the area. Although I enjoy the town of Segovia more than Avila, as I find it livelier and prettier, the Avila Parador is really a delight, restful and has fine dining too.
If you decide to combine Segovia and Avila (a car & driver might not be too much more exp. than 2 spots on an organized tour, and these tours don't include La Granja), I suggest you have lunch or coffee at the Parador at least. I'm a culinary tourist like Sandra, so must say there's also wonderful roast lamb to be enjoyed at places like Jose Maria, Duque and the legendary, atmospheric Candido right at the foot of the acueduct in Segovia.
If you go to Segovia by public transp.
make sure to grab a taxi to take you down to the very bottom of town, to the confluence of the two rivers at the picnic area (merendero) where the young people play soccer, so that you can snap that quintessential picture of the story book Alcazar. A visit to Segovia isn't complete unless you can gaze at the fairytale Alcazar looming above you from that angle. It's magical at sunset.
Too many wonderful choices!
Hope you have a great trip!
Oct 8th, 2002, 10:55 AM
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Tess: I don't know if this will reach you in time, but there is a walking wine tasting tour of Madrid. You can reach it thru www.walksofspain.com
Oct 8th, 2002, 04:13 PM
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Tess, I've been away from the board all day, but Maribel(and others)have the right idea of suggesting Segovia to you, of the three places you mentioned. The autumn has been lovely in Castilla-León in the last couple of weeks and walks around the town should be comfortable and rewarding. Have a great time! By the way, a great restaurant in Barcelona for tapas or a full meal is La Tramoia, a short walk on the Rambla de Catalunya up from the Placa de Catalunya. Great food, service and quite reasonable, we thought.
Oct 8th, 2002, 06:41 PM
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Thank you, thank you all for your replies. Leaving in less than 10 hours. Very excited. Hope it does not rain too much as we were hoping to do some hiking. Bless you all for your kindness.

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