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Mar 2nd, 2011, 12:17 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 71

My wife and I are finalizing our plan for a 24 day trip to Northern Spain & have a few open questions we could use some input on. We have been to Spain on a previous trip seeing Madrid area, Andalucía and Barcelona area. In planning this trip we have spent a great deal of time reviewing Maribel’s guides, Trip Advisor, Karen Brown’s guide/site, other web info & this forum. We have considered various itineraries, areas to visit and the number of bases. While our original idea was to include Galicia and Portugal we decided on a slower, more relaxed trip covering a smaller area and to cover each area from a small number of bases.
Current Plan:
Day1-2: Fly to Madrid, Pickup Rental Car & drive to La Rioja, (Lerma for lunch).
Day2-5: La Rioja: Marques de Riscal, Elciego (2Nights) & Castillo el Collado, Laguardia (2Nights). Staying in 2 hotels in area because we wanted to experience the Marques & then liked the central location of Laguardia & the sound of the Castillo.
Day6-11: San Sabastian: Maria Christina. Base for day trips east to French Basque, south to Basque countryside & coastal cities nearby, plus enjoy San Sabastian.
Day12: Bilbao: Silken Gran Hotel Domine, Mostly for the Guggenheim but will also sample city and its restaurants for one day/night. Staying overnight so as not to be too rushed by trying to cover it in a day trip.
Day13-16: Santander: Hotel Bahia. Base for exploring coast nearby & enjoy Santander.
Day17-20 Ribadesella: Villa Rosaro, Explore, Picos de Europa & coastal towns nearby.
Day21 Open. Thinking of stopping in Leon to break up trip to Madrid.
Day22-23: Madrid, ME Madrid Reina Victoria, Drop of car on the way in Madrid. Spend time with cousin living there & enjoy Old Madrid scene & restaurants.
Day24 Return home.
Any info or suggestions that might help us address the following would be appreciated.
Should we modify our Days 17-21 to stay 2 nights in Picos & then 3 nights west of Gijon and then drive directly to Madrid Day 21 (perhaps stopping for lunch in Leon).? We picked Ribadesella to be able to explore both the mountains and coast in that area from one base. We have read good things about the coast west of Gijon but feel we won’t be able to see much of it in a day trip from Ribadesella. This enables us to see more of the western coast but requires and extra hotel change and probably less exploration of the coast around Ribadesella.
Should we not stay in Bilbao overnight and just spend the day there between San Sabastian & Santander, opening another night for more exploration to the west?
Any recent experiences with Villa Rosaro? We like to stay in great hotels with good reviews. Most of the hotels in that area that seem to be in a good location, have few Trip Advisor reviews and they seem to be quite mixed. Villa Rosaro was spoken of very positively by a couple of reviewers on this forum but they were several years old & trip advisor reviews are mixed.
rlm346 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2011, 02:01 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,157
It's been a while since we've stayed at the Villa Rosario but we did enjoy it. Here's Julie's report:

She's a big fan of Villa Rosario (and Julie knows how to travel!).
Marija is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2011, 05:14 PM
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Thanks Marija. I did read Julie's comprehensive report...it is very helpful for this trip and one of the reasons why I considered the hotel in spite of the mixed reviews. Her visit was in 2008 so that is why I am looking for recent visits.
rlm346 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2011, 12:42 PM
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I'm a big fan of staying overnight in Bilbao - in fact I'd probably take a day from Santander or Ribadasella and have 2 nights in Bilbao. It's a great city for strolling in the evenings and a vibrant city to visit during the day.

Have you already purchased your airfare? If not you may be able to fly open jaw into Bilbao which is much closer to Elciego than Madrid.
CathyM is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2011, 05:02 PM
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Thanks for the advice on Bilbao. We thought we would try to get to Bilbao by late morning and be flexible with when we leave the next day (we could leave late in the day). That means we could have 1 1/2 days including one night there. Is that enough?
rlm346 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2011, 05:46 PM
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We used Maribel's private service to work out distance, driving time, routes, and then hotels, restaurants, etc. Worth every penny and more!
Elainee is offline  
Mar 4th, 2011, 04:13 AM
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CathyM, we did purchase our airfare at an excellent price. Both legs are non-stops whereas to fly into Bilbao and out of Madrid would require stops or a significantly higher fare. We could fly from Madrid to Bilbao via another airline if we wanted to. It seems like it is only a 4 hour drive and if we stop for lunch it will break it up. Is it a tough drive?
rlm346 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2011, 08:04 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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When is your trip? I'm a fan of Santander but not so much if youre going during winter/cold months. I would highly recommend stoping at least for one night In Leon to visit gorgeous Cathedral. Stay at Parador, if possible.
cruiseluv is offline  
Mar 4th, 2011, 09:54 AM
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We are traveling in May. We are scheduled in Santander the middle of May. Thanks for the advice on Leon that is in our current plans on the way to Madrid. I was wondering if I am missing too much by not being able to get much quality time on the coast beyond Gijon. We plan to try to see some of it on a day trip from Ribadesella but there is a limit to how far we can go and still have time to enjoy what we see. That led me to wonder if I should perhaps cut a day out of somewhere else and skip Leon and spend a couple of nights somewhere west of Gijon and then drive straight to Madrid, perhaps stopping in Leon for lunch. What are your thoughts.
rlm346 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2011, 02:31 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Hello rlm364. Your trip sounds fabulous. We are going to be staying at the Maria Christina in September and are really looking forward to it. I was wondering if had any hotel recommendations for Barcelona.

Happy Travels!
abbondanza is offline  
Mar 13th, 2011, 01:13 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
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Looks like a great plan!

I would also suggest to add an extra day to vibrant Bilbao, something completely different than San Sebastián and Santander which, apart from obvious differences, have got more of the same air.

In Bilbao, you should go for pintxos in some of the many great places in the Casco viejo/Old town.

La Mina restaurante, at the river and close to the Ribera food market, comes highly recommended by locals and the local press. http://restaurantemina.es/

I also suggest you visit the oldest café in town, Café Boulevard. It was closed down to great public protests in 2006 after 135 years of history, but it reopened last spring. I've always used to start every visit to Bilbao with a glass at this atmospheric café: http://www.eitb.com/news/entertainme...ens-its-doors/
kimhe is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2011, 06:12 PM
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Posts: 71
kimhe-thanks for the restaurant suggestions; we will be making our lists of restaurants and sites in each area soon so your info is very helpful.

abbondanza: We stayed at the Majestic Hotel which was in a great location and we had a great view looking down on the Paseo de Gracia. However, the hotel and service was adequate but not great. Have you looked at trip advisor (www.tripadvisor.com)? I find them helpful.
rlm346 is offline  
Mar 26th, 2011, 12:14 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 18
Hello rlm, you must be getting excited. May will be here before you know it. Thanks for the advice on your hotel in Barcelona. I just booked the Hotel Roger De Lluria in Barcelona. The Trip Advisory reports were quite favorable. I hope it's a winner. Any other recommendations are welcome.

Thanks and have a wonderful trip. Anxious to read your trip report!
abbondanza is offline  
Mar 26th, 2011, 12:28 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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I agree that you should stay overnight in Leon at the Parador. The cathedral and it's stained glass windows are magnificent. Looks like a great trip.
HappyTrvlr is offline  

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