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Laura's Trip Report: Two Weeks in Andalucia (Feb. 2003)

Laura's Trip Report: Two Weeks in Andalucia (Feb. 2003)

Feb 22nd, 2003, 07:47 AM
  #1  
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Laura's Trip Report: Two Weeks in Andalucia (Feb. 2003)

My husband and I just returned from a wonderful 2-week trip to Andalucia and I’d like to share our experience. For background, we’re in our late 40s and it was our first trip to Spain. We fly into Malaga on February 4 and picked up the car we had reserved through Carjet.com, which turned out to be from Europa Rental Car. The price was good (about E27/day) for a newish automatic Ford Focus, which had more than enough space for the two of us and our luggage. There were no problems with the car throughout the trip and the driving was enjoyable, especially outside the cities. The weather was clear and crisp most days, with only two evenings of drizzle/rain.

Our first stop was Nerja, where we easily found the Parador (we discovered that a big advantage to staying at Paradors is the large number of signs to guide you to them). We stayed in the new wing for two nights, which was modern and comfortable and our room had a beautiful sea view. The location is very convenient and the breakfast quite good. On the second morning, we had breakfast at the Paraiso del Mar and looked at a couple of their rooms; they were in the midst of expanding their hotel to the house next door. I think it would also be an excellent place to stay, and not just because of their superb croissants! As for sightseeing, we walked around town a lot and visited the local caves, which were very worthwhile. The food was unremarkable, although we had a pretty good seafood lunch on the beach.

Next we took a very scenic drove to Granada and stayed two nights at the Parador, which again wasn’t hard to find. We found it slightly ragged around the edges, but with great atmosphere and of course a first-rate location, and we have no regrets about splurging on this hotel. We looked at the Alhambra Palace while we were there and the decor didn’t appeal to us as much, although it was very nice. We had excellent food at the Parador restaurant. In the evenings, we played cards in a quiet common room (too bad they didn’t have a pianist). It was a little too cold for us to want to walk around at night. Of course the Alhambra was fantastic and well worth the trip to Granada. We took the bus to the St. Nicolas church to see the famous view from the other side, which also a good people-watching area.

Our next stop, after driving through miles and miles of olive groves, was Ubeda. We had a little trouble finding the Parador (we didn’t follow the signs correctly), so stopped for some churros and chocolate and asked people for directions. We upgraded to a superior room at this hotel and it was our favorite room of the trip. We had a great view, a 2-story high ceiling with a carpet hanging on the upper half, and canopy beds – all for only E12 extra! Plus the bathroom was nice and warm. However we weren’t terribly impressed with the food there. We had a good long walk around town to see the old buildings and do some people-watching in the shopping area. It was nice to see families out and about, mingling and shopping. At about 9pm a group of drummers went by the hotel and stopped about a block away, drumming away for about an hour. It was fairly loud and not very musical, but luckily they stopped before we went to bed. The hotel said this would happen every night until Easter (or was it spring festival, I can’t remember which). We thought that one night in Ubeda was enough, although it was a very pleasant little town.

[Trip report to be continued as a reply to this message.]
Laura_A is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2003, 07:49 AM
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Trip report continued:
The next morning we stopped in Baeza on the way to Cordoba, which was worthwhile although we didn’t stay very long (it was cold and very quiet). In Cordoba, I thought that I might be able to navigate us close to the Hotel Lola, which I knew was near the cathedral, but it was difficult driving and we finally parked and walked a number of blocks until we found some taxis. One of them agreed to drive to the hotel with me in the taxi and my husband followed in our car. That worked fine until we got to the hotel and there was no parking! The receptionist couldn’t leave her desk, but the restaurant manager from next door agreed (after some cajoling) to accompany my husband to the nearest parking lot. We then had a great meal at his restaurant (Pepe’s) and gave him a generous tip. Our hotel room was small but clean and nicely decorated. The beds were a bit too firm for us and I imagine it could be a noisy room in the summer; however it was raining and quiet the night we were there. The stand-up shower was tiny but effective, and they had turndown service and great chocolates. Not much English was spoken (nor Spanish on our part, since we only knew a few words). We did some sight-seeing (top-notch!), then had an excellent dinner at Churasscos just down the street. Breakfast was included and was very good.

On the way from Cordoba to Sevilla, we stopped at the Carmona Parador for a few minutes to look around. What a pretty place! We then tried to find Casa de Carmona, which was a big mistake because we ended up in a dead-end and had to back down a very narrow street. So straight onwards to Sevilla, where we decided to park at the train station instead of attempting to find Las Casas de la Juderia. My husband really liked this idea and I also thought it worked well. At Las Casas, we had a large room in the main annex. The color scheme wasn’t my favorite (pink/red), but it was clean, comfortable and warm. The only drawback was squeaky wooden floors and fairly thin walls (which were an advantage when the pianist started playing!). We quite enjoyed this hotel, but I think it would be much nicer in warmer weather since the open courtyards were chilly. The staff were very helpful and spoke good English. We looked at Casas de Los Mercaderes while we were in town (thanks Olga!) and it was also very nice … and warmer since their courtyard was covered.

We had booked 4 nights in Seville, but ended up leaving after 3, mainly because we were getting a bit tired of sight-seeing and city stuff. It was all excellent of course, but by the third day my husband actually wanted to go shopping instead of sight-seeing! So we looked at the beautiful tile stores in Triana and went to the big department store where he could put his hands on some golf clubs. As for breakfasts at the hotel, they were huge but expensive (E14), so we only ate there one day. We had a wonderful meal at La Albahaca one night, and enjoyed a flamenco show at Casa de la Memoria (which is quite close to the hotel) another night. The third night we didn’t feel well enough to go out (we may have had a bit of food poisoning that morning at a local caf&eacute.

[Last part of trip report is on next reply]
Laura_A is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2003, 07:50 AM
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End of trip report:
Next we drove to Ronda, stopping at Arcos along the way (we parked at the bottom and walked up). We had directions to the Hotel San Gabriel and were able to find it without much trouble. We unloaded in front of the hotel, then one of the staff parked the car a few blocks away. The hotel is in a beautiful well-located mansion home, very clean, comfortable and beautifully decorated. The bar, library, game room and cinema were wonderful – we watched 3 DVD movies while we were there. We had booked two nights but decided to spend the extra night we had saved from Seville. The staff were the best of our trip. The only thing I didn’t like about the hotel was the poor quality towels and toiletries; also the breakfast (not included) was minimal and there was no laundry service. While walking around town we bought some cereal, milk and fruit for the next few days, which worked out great. The strawberries were huge and delicious. The Parador would also be a good choice for Ronda, with its spectacular location, but I still think I might prefer the San Gabriel. Ronda was a very scenic town and we enjoyed walking down the gorge and around the old city walls. The pedestrian shopping street came alive at night with families shopping and mingling as they did in Ubeda. One day we drove to the nearby caves (worthwhile), then down to Gaucin for the Mediterranean views and lunch (but nothing was open), finally had a very memorable meal at La Molienda in Benalauria, which had been recommended by the hotel. Another day we had an excellent outdoor lunch at Don Miguel near the bridge. By the time we hit Ronda, we had also hit upon our preferred eating schedule in Spain – medium size breakfasts about 8-9 am, large lunches about 2-3 pm, and little to no dinners. It worked well for us since we’re early-to-bed type folks.

Our final night was scheduled in Ojen so that we’d be close to the airport. La Posada del Angel was pretty easy to find thanks to the posted signs, and we were able to park right in front of it. The staff was very nice and the room basic but colorful. The town was much smaller than we expected and we didn’t see anything to do there that afternoon, so we drove to Marbella for lunch. The hotel recommended La Pesquera but didn’t give us directions to it; strangely we stumbled right across it after parking in an underground garage. It was one of our best meals of the trip and the restaurant manager was friendly and generous (he even cranked up the heat for me). Then we walked around Marbella for a while, stopping at an internet café and numerous leather stores; but I never did find a belt and purse I couldn’t live without. It was raining and cool, so we headed back to the hotel around dusk and were delighted to find that the fireplace was going strong. We brought down some leftover wine and played cards for awhile, then hit the sack. Unfortunately we didn’t sleep well because of the nearby church bells rang every hour, but we would recommend this hotel nonetheless. The drive to the airport the next morning was very easy (about 45 minutes).

I haven’t said much about sight-seeing, but this message is long enough. If you have any questions, I’ll try to check in every few days for the next month or so. To conclude, I’d like to thank everyone on Fodor’s that helped me plan this trip, as all the planning definitely paid off!

Laura
Laura_A is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2003, 09:16 AM
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Laura--

We're leaving next week. is it spring in Spain yet, or is everything depressingly brown still. Anything will be better than the snowdrifts and cold where we live, but I'd still prefer a little green. We are still tweaking our plans and are thinking of spending a number of our days more in the country away from the big cities.

Baeza/Ubeda at this time of year--is this mainly just walking around looking at pretty historic architecture? Or, is there something more there? We are debating about whether to add them to our itinerary.

We have scheduled 3 nights in Seville which according to you will be just about right.

Granada--tell me about your impressions and sightseeing there. is it just the Alhambra and the Albaycin area tacked on to a typical large city?

Your report was just what I needed today.
Thanks.
julies is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2003, 10:42 AM
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Very nice report Laura.It should prove very helpful for many Spain novices.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2003, 07:20 PM
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Julie,
The scenery was beautiful, especially from the coast to Granada and the area around Ronda. Although Andalucia is quite a dry region, there was a good bit of greenery and there were lots of oranges on the trees. Granada was the only location where it was fairly brown and wintery looking, but hopefully some buds will be opening by the time you're there.

I didn't see much to do in Baeza/Ubeda besides walking around looking at buildings and people, but we were only there one night. The pottery made by Tito (which another Fodor's poster recommended) was quite nice, although I didn't buy any. The olive groves are interesting to see and we bought olive oil made in Ubeda (which came in cans, very handy for packing if you don't mind the weight). The nice thing is that they are small towns and you see families walking about ... for some reason I always enjoy seeing local kids.

As for Granada, yes it seems to be quite a large city and we only saw those two areas (well hardly anything of the Albaycin). There's also the area down the hill from the Alhambra, which has lots of shopping and restaurants. Many posters recommended getting tapas from the places behind Plaza Nuevo, and perhaps you could find some music there.

I'm sure that you'll have a great time no matter how you tweak your plans. I'm glad to help with any other questions.
Laura
Laura_A is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2003, 12:03 PM
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Laura - how did you find the hotels/paradors you used on your trip? I want to plan a similar trip for the spring of 2004, and would like a book or web site listing the paradors and hotels in the White Villages.
Thanks,
Paul
PaulH is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2003, 08:35 PM
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I found all of the hotels we used on this bulletin board, except La Posada del Angel in Ojen, which was recommended by i-escape.com. I booked everything on my own by e-mail and fax. The Parador website is www.parador.es.
Laura_A is offline  
Jun 27th, 2003, 01:23 PM
  #9  
Mic
 
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Laura,

Do you have any restaurant suggestions in Nerja?

Thanks!
Mic is offline  
Jun 27th, 2003, 02:31 PM
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Laura,
Really good trip report. I think I missed it when you first posted, but you had so much good information, I'm glad I caught it.

Mic,
I highly recommend Restaurante Dona Pepa in Ronda at Plaza del Socorro, 10.
artlover is offline  
Jun 27th, 2003, 02:59 PM
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Mic, our favorite restaurant in Nerja is Au Petite Paris; many people agree that it is the best in town.

I have a list of Nerja restaurants on Slowtrav.com; look under the Spain section. I have not updated it yet this year but plan to omit Gato Negro and add Carlos for good fish. It is very reasonable but has absolutely no ambience.
34 on Carabeo is also a very nice restaurant.

We spend at least two weeks each year in Nerja and I would be happy to answer questions. ([email protected])

Judi is offline  

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