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Madrid & Central Spain for 6 days in October...give me your advice!

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Aug 27th, 2003, 07:36 AM
  #1
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Madrid & Central Spain for 6 days in October...give me your advice!

Hello, Fodorites! I will be venturing to Spain in early-to-mid-October for a short week with the fabulous Mrs. Go and little Allie Go, the well-travelled fifth grader. Here's the skeleton of a plan so far:

* Flying into & out of Madrid.
* Probably stay at Carlos V (unless someone convinces me otherwise) for 6 nights (10/8-13).
* No car.
* Day trips to Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca via train.
* Focus on sight-seeing & enjoyment, not necessarily museum-hopping or fine dining.

OK...please let me know...what are the "don't-miss-it-for-the-world" places and experiences in those four destinations? (Bob the Nav, you can respond by e-mail if you like).

Thanks in advance for your feedback!
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Aug 27th, 2003, 07:42 AM
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We stayed at the Carlos V in late June and it was a good choice. Great location a block from Puerta del Sol and Plaza Callao right in the center of Madrid, big (if kinda bland) rooms with big bathrooms, a bright, cheerful breakfast room with good breakfast, and friendly employees.
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Aug 27th, 2003, 08:14 AM
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Sinking fast here...how 'bout a pity-click? Please?
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Aug 27th, 2003, 08:19 AM
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Although you aren't focussing on museum hopping, the Prado is one of the world's greatest art museums. I hope you don't pass it up. Also, Picasso's Guernica at the Reina museum is another "don't miss" thing. Although it speaks of the horrors of war, I think the well traveled fifth-grader might actually enjoy seeing it, as there's quite a lot going on in it.
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Aug 27th, 2003, 08:29 AM
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My boys loved the Prado--they have more Saint Sabastian paintings than anywhere else we have been. He is the guy with all the arrows in him, and my boys love ranking these paintings (the more gruesome the better, arrows in limbs not as good as arrows in actual body, etc). Don't know if a girl would appreciate this, but anyone would be interested in the Bosco (?sp) painings. They were painted in the middle ages, but they look like something you would see today--really interesting, almost like the guy could see the future.
My boys loved eating tapas. Kids are welcome in tapas bars. They also liked eating dinner really late (9:00 is early for Spain but late for us).
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Aug 27th, 2003, 12:19 PM
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Thanks, Rachel and AOE. Yes, the Prado is definitely part of the plan. And I'll see if we can work in the Reina to see Picasso's Guernica...easily one of the most important works of the 20th Century.

Anyone else care comment on Madrid, Segovia, Toledo and/or Salamanca?
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Aug 27th, 2003, 12:25 PM
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This isn't practical for everyone, but we took a day trip to Seville (early morning AVE down, early evening AVE back). We saw practically all of the historic center and took an open top bus tour of the city, plus had time for a great lunch.
You'll probably want to spend more than a day in Seville, tho. It's an amazing city.
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Aug 27th, 2003, 12:53 PM
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Should you be in Madrid the first Thurday of the month, don't miss the changing of the guard at the palace. Kids love it. One hour of horses music, etc.
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Aug 27th, 2003, 03:24 PM
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I was a fifth grade Cooter when I first went to Madrid and indeed central Spain, and, though it was sadly quite some time ago, I can maybe clear away some of the cobwebs and recollect. Of course, my interests were those of a male rather than female young'un, but my slightly younger sister was also on the trip and I think my parents, in their Solomon-like wisdom, tried to select activities to keep us both interested. I must note that we were, in point of fact, demon spawn, and must have driven them insane. Nevertheless, this trip remains as one of our fondest memories of childhood. I swear I can remember almost every day...

I did and still do enjoy the Prado in Madrid. Goyas's "Saturn consuming his Children" was suitably gory for my tastes at the time. Plenty of other stuff to like. Reina Sofia focuses on modern art, and the other great art museum in Madrid, the Thyssen, has a more eclectic collection.

I thoroughly enjoyed the army museum as well, but this may not be so gender-neutral. Hanging out in the parque del retiro was great, especially seeing the statue of Satan (how cool is that?), but it is a great park all around. Just walking the streets of Madrid, felling the rhythm and pulse of the city around you, remains one of its great charms. The royal palace is huge and lavish and well worth a visit. The archeological museum is somewhat out of date, but has a very impressive collection nontheless, including a reproduction of the famous Altamira caves.

Dining in Madrid runs the gamut like in any large city; I still enjoy gallego seafood restaurants with live seafood in the windows (you get to meet your meal, as it were...), and I became addicted to Spanish ham. My sister really enjoyed Spanish hot chocolate and churros, although I find the chocolate too thick for my taste. Churros are great, if heart attack inducing. I really ejoyed that whole suckling pigs were, in fact, served whole, and I still enjoy wolfing one down, but your mileage may vary on this.

Toledo, Salamaca and Segovia are all wonderful, atmospheric, historic cities with plenty for both the kid and the parents. In Toledo, of course, I bought a sword (and, yes, I bought it myself, having saved months of allowance and yard work money for this very opportunity...I would probably have sold my pesky little sister for such a sword, and would gladly have traded a kidney for it, had I only known what a kidney was and that there was such a market for these things) which was subsequently put to very good use fending off an aggresive mongrel that ambushed us in the medieval warren of the city...I felt like El Cid, if El Cid were a short, near-sighted fifth grader. After the dog was dispatched, though, the owner and apparently all his neighbors emerged, some advocating that young Cooter be run out of town for scaring the poor pup, others claiming that said creature was a pox on the whole neighborhood and would have devoured us all were in not for my quick thinking. At any rate, Pa Cooter came to the rescue, and we were off, leaving the dog's owner and twenty of his neighbors still arguing the matter...

I no longer love Toledo like I did on that trip, as it can be an over-touristed, over-priced place, but it still has a place in my heart. The traditional palces to visit are the Cathedral, the alcazar. A great place to have a drink or meal is the terrace of the Parador across the river, which has a great view of the whole city.

Segovia. Ahh, Segovia. Where I first saw the aforementioned whole roasted piglet. Segovia of the aqueduct and alcazar that caused me to exclaim, apparently loudly, that it was just like the one at Disney World (it's true, of course, except the other way around....). Segovia of the alcazar in which an indulgent guide allowed me to pose wearing a conquistador's helmet, a picture that still hangs in my dear ole dad's office. Things to do in Segovia are walk from the aqueduct past the cathedral (and into the cathedral) and to the alcazar (and into the alcazar). Take a stroll outside the city walls and downhill for the classic picture of the alcazar silhoutted against the sky like a ship rising out of the meseta.

Look for the frog in Salamanca. Keep looking. This kept me entertained for longer than was probably strictly necessary, but it doubtless gave my parents a much-needed break from my incessant questions...

Look into whether bus or train is a better choice (time and price-wise) for your destinations. See if a first-class bus is available, as these are quite nice. I've done Toledo by train recentlyand it was good, but I've had a car on most recent trips. Salamanca may be a little far afor a day trip, but it all depends on your tolerance for this. May be better as an overnight...Cordoba via the AVE is viable for a day trip as well, as are places like Aranjuez and Chinchon, but don't shortchange Madrid itself.

Above all, have fun. I hope your daughter treasures this trip and you all have a great time.
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