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Trip Report OUR 2-WEEK SPANISH JOURNEY: MADRID, TOLEDO, AND ANDALUCIA!

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My husband and I just returned from a spectacular 15-night journey through Madrid, Toledo, and Andalucia. I could not have planned such a wonderful trip without the advice from this forum. I always enjoy reading trip reports and find them very helpful in planning my trips, in addition to using guidebooks. What is always a dilemma to me is how many nights to spend in each destination, where to stay, and where to eat. And if we have to eliminate a destination because of time constraints, what should we eliminate. So I hope my trip report will help others as well.

First, a little bit about ourselves. I am 67 and my husband (Ed) is 70. We are in pretty good health, except that I do have some mobility issues caused by arthritis. I might have a slipped disc as well, and will hopefully find out exactly what my problem is next week after some testing. This means I am in pain every day, and I walk slowly. I had to take 3 Aleve each day in order to do all the necessary walking on this trip. I had to rest each day, usually late afternoon, before going out again, which is unusual for me while on vacation. (Our age might have something to do with this, too! :-) There were a few things we didn’t have time to do because of my slower pace, but that’s ok with me. We saw many beautiful sites, visited many beautiful places, so I have no regrets.

We also invited two close friends (Roger and Joanne) to join us on our trip. We don’t usually travel with other people (except our children), but when we found out our friends were going to be in Madrid the same time as us, we invited them to join us. We have spent weekends with them, and they are fun-loving and easy-going people to be with.

By the time we reached Madrid, all of us had been traveling for 2 weeks, so we were all away from home for a month by the end of our journey. We spent the first 2 weeks in France visiting our daughter, son-in-law, and two beautiful grandchildren. We took a mini vacation with them, and then generally spent the 2 weeks bonding with our grandchildren, chasing after a toddler, and changing diapers! Our friends had just finished a week in Barcelona and a river cruise on the Douro River before joining us in Madrid. So being on the go for the previous 2 weeks impacted our pace, too.

This is our itinerary:
Madrid – 4 nights
Toledo – 1 night
Cordoba – 2 nights
Granada – 2 nights
Malaga – 2 nights
Seville – 4 nights

DAY ONE – SEPTEMBER 18 - ARRIVAL IN MADRID

We flew from Marseille to Madrid via Ryan Air. This was our first time using Ryan Air, and we have no complaints. Everything went smoothly. The price was 35 euros per person for the ticket. After we added the seat selection and checked luggage, the price was 70 euros per person. Not a bad deal!

We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel. Taxis are inexpensive in Spain, so we used them whenever necessary.

Hotel:
Mercure Madrid Centro
Calle Lope de Vega 49

I want to thank KJA on this forum for recommending the Mercure. It is an excellent choice! The location is perfect, just a short walk from the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen Museums. Also it’s within walking distance of Retiro Park, and a block away from Calle de Jesus with all its tapas restaurants. It’s a modern hotel; our room size was adequate; the bathroom is quite spacious. The room has hardwood floors, which I prefer to wall to wall carpeting. In fact, I don’t think any of our hotels had wall-to-wall carpeting.

We chose to have breakfast at the hotel every morning because we didn’t want to waste time looking for a breakfast place. There didn’t seem to be many nearby. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet, which consisted of different types of ham, chorizo, cheese, bread, pastries, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, and fresh fruit. You could also ask to have your eggs cooked to order, such as omelets, fried eggs, etc. The price is 12 euros.

Our first night in Madrid we had dinner at TABERNA DE LA DANIELA MEDINACELI, Pl. de Jesus 7. We shared tapas, but I didn’t write down what we had, but I do remember enjoying our meal.

DAY TWO – SEPTEMBER 19 – ENJOYING THE PRADO MUSEUM & RETIRO PARK

After our delicious and filling breakfast, we walked over to the PRADO MUSEUM. We arrived at 10AM, and there was a short line that moved quickly. It took us about 15 minutes to wait in line, get our tickets, walk up the stairs, store my husband’s small backpack, and purchase our audioguides. Not bad at all!

HINT #1: I strongly recommend getting to each site when they open or even a half hour early, depending on the site. We hardly ever had to wait in line, and when we did, it was usually a short wait.

HINT #2: ATTENTION TO ALL SENIOR CITIZENS: Spain is kind to senior citizens. Many places give discounts or freebies to seniors. You just have to show an ID proving you are 65 and over. We paid half price at the Prado – 7.5 euros! Not a bad deal!

The Prado is huge and can be intimidating at first. You should have some kind of a plan as to how to visit the Prado. We generally like to use audioguides, so that is what we used, along with the floor plan of the museum. I know that we missed some of the masterpieces that are listed on the back of the brochure. Another plan of attack would be to use the list of masterpieces as a guide.

We spent 4.5 hours in the Prado, including a quick bite to eat in the cafeteria. Visiting the Prado was a wonderful learning experience for me. I never took an art history class, but I enjoy looking at art, and I am familiar with the American and French painters. However, I didn’t know anything about the Spanish painters or some of the other artists displayed in the museum.

Some of my favorites are Velazquez’s Feast of Bacchus, where the drinkers are ordinary-looking men, and Vulcan’s Forge, when Vulcan finds out his wife has been cheating on him. I love the realistic facial expressions on both paintings.

I had heard of Goya, but I admit I knew nothing about the Black Paintings until I started research for this trip. The bizarre Black Paintings are memorable, especially for being so creepy and frightening. I think the most frightening one is of Saturn devouring his offspring! I wouldn’t want to hang these paintings on my walls!

Interesting note: Goya painted the black paintings on the walls of his home in Madrid. These paintings were transferred to canvas. My husband and I wondered how this could possibly be done. We googled, and found out the paintings were painted on wallpaper, and had to be carefully removed from the walls.

The very strange Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch was another surprise for me. WOW!!! There is so much detail in this triptych. I listened to the commentary on the audioguide twice, and spent a lot of time viewing it. There is so much detail, so much going on, that it is impossible to see everything. Many people were standing very close to the painting and obviously studying it for a long time. For those of you who may not know about this painting, it consists of 3 panels: the left panel depicts Paradise; the larger middle panel depicts humans frolicking and enjoying their sins; and the right panel depicts hell.

Another favorite is the sculpture called “Isabel II, veiled” by Torreggiani. Another WOW!!! This is done in marble, and the veil is so thin that you can see her facial features behind the veil. The veil looks like cloth, but it’s marble. Remarkable!!!

As you can tell, I loved the Prado! I think I enjoyed it more than the Louvre because the Louvre is just too big and too crowded.

After spending so much time indoors on such a lovely, sunny day, we decided to walk to Retiro Park after we left the Prado. This is a 300 acre park, with flowers, shady walking paths, and a lake where you can rent rowboats. We needed to rest so we stopped at a café by the lake and spent an hour here drinking Sangria!! We had a lot of Sangria in Spain!! I notice that some of the Sangria is made with a spice, such as cinnamon or cardamom. Delicious!!! Then we walked some more, and stopped by the Crystal Palace, which was closed to the public because of a photo shoot. There was a lot of activity at the small pond by the palace, with people feeding the ducks. This was a very enjoyable afternoon. We continued walking to the other side of the park (opposite from where we entered), and made our way back to our hotel.

So, tonight my husband and I decided to go tapas bar hopping! Ha! Ha! For us old folks, this meant we went to two tapas bars and were ready for bed. First, we stopped at CERVECERIA CERVANTES on Calle de Jesus. This place is always busy, but we were fortunate to get a table. We enjoyed drinks and tapas, but I didn’t write down what we had, but I remember liking everything. Then we moved on to TABERNA MACIERAS, a small Galician restaurant just around the corner from Cerveceria Cervantes. It was very busy and obviously popular. I wasn’t too hungry at this point, but I was craving a salad, so that’s all I had, and my husband had a seafood soup. We sat on small wooden stools without backs, which wasn’t very comfortable. All in all, we enjoyed our experience here.

NOTE: Speaking of Sangria and drinks in general, we drank a lot of Sangria, white wine, Rose, and GIN TONICS!!! Thanks to MaiTaiTom, this is the first time I have had GT’s since the 1970’s. They are very refreshing!!!


DAY THREE – SEPTEMBER 20 – THE REINA SOFIA AND A WALK AROUND MADRID

After breakfast, our first stop of the day was the REINA SOFIA MUSEUM. We arrived when it opens at 10AM, and there wasn’t a line! YEAH!!! So far we have managed to avoid long lines. And it was FREE because we are 65 and over! I guess getting old isn’t so bad after all, right?

A WOW for this museum, too!!! The Reina focuses on 20th century Spanish artists, along with some others. We spent 3 hours here. I am not a huge fan of modern art, but I enjoy some Dali and some Picasso, and I’m always willing to broaden my knowledge. Now I have a better understanding (I think) of what cubism is.

Picasso’s Guernica is the highlight of the museum. WOW again!!! What a moving piece of art, especially the mother grieving for her dead child. This very large canvas captures the horror of war. According to my research, Guernica was touring internationally when Franco gained power, so Picasso chose New York City’s MOMA as the temporary home of his painting.

I enjoyed the Dali paintings, too, especially “The Great Masturbator”. This is Dali’s self-portrait, and I had to listen to the description on the audioguide before I was able to make out his facial features.

I should note that the curator has combined his passion for art with his passion for cinema. There are short films throughout the museum paired with the paintings. There is so much history in these paintings and short films, and gives the viewer some insight into what inspired these artists.

After we left the Reina, we met up with our friends (who had arrived in the morning from Barcelona) who were joining us for the rest of the trip. Someone had recommended LA DOLORES AT PLAZA DE JESUS 4, for lunch, so that’s where we ate. We shared a mixture of small canapes; some with tuna, cod, duck, ham, etc. We have noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of vegetable dishes in Spain, so we were happy to see tomatoes on the menu. We had delicious thick beefsteak tomatoes with a tasty dressing. Believe it or not, this was a highlight for us!!!!

After lunch the 4 of us took a nice long and slow walk; we walked through Plaza del Angel, and stopped at Plaza Santa Ana for guess what???? SANGRIA!!! We just love the Sangria!!! We then continued on to Puerta del Sol, which is very crowded and very noisy. We almost booked a hotel here, so I am so glad KJA told me about the Mercure. It was a much nicer location and more suited to us. We then continued on to the beautiful Plaza Mayor, and then to the MERCADO SAN MIGUEL.

My husband loves markets, so we decided to have dinner at San Miguel. This market is an upscale glass and iron structure, so it is filled with light. It is also filled with people! We were fortunate to find 4 stools next to a counter, so we plopped ourselves here for 1.5 hours and enjoyed lots of food, albeit pricey food. We sampled many dishes, such as cuttlefish with black ink, roasted green peppers, spicy shrimp, pork empanadas, and many more. It was a delicious meal, but as I said, it was not cheap.

After our dinner, we walked back to our hotel via Carr. De San Jeronimo. We were ready for bed after all this walking!

DAY FOUR – SEPTEMBER 21 – THE PALACIO REAL AND AN EGYPTIAN TEMPLE IN MADRID

After breakfast, we took a taxi to the PALACIO REAL (ROYAL PALACE). We arrived at 9:30AM for a 10:00AM opening. The line was already forming, and by 10AM it was very long!! We purchased audioguides for the tour of the Palace. The Palace is Europe’s 3rd largest palace, after Versailles and Vienna’s Schonbrunn. It is huge, with 2,800 rooms!!! When you enter the Palace, there is an imposing grand staircase that makes a big first impression. You will pass through many lavish rooms, such as the Porcelain Room and the Silver Room and the huge Gala Dining Hall, where the king entertains his guests. The current Royal Family doesn’t live here, but the Palace is used for ceremonies, state receptions, and royal weddings.

My husband LOVES military and weapons museums, but I am not that interested. Much to his delight, there is an armory attached to the Palace. When we finished the Palace tour, my husband and our friend Roger visited the Armory while Joanne and I sat in the park across the street from the Palace. They were gone for about an hour, and they loved the Armory!

Our next mission is to find a place for lunch since our stomachs are growling with hunger! We walked around the area, and my husband suggested a small cute restaurant named CERVECERIA CRUZ BLANCA AT CALLE MAYOR 68 IN PLAZA DE LA VILLA. This was a great find! It’s a cozy restaurant with a warm ambiance. We all ordered the Menu del Dia for 11 euros per person. This price includes not only the starter and main course, but a drink, bread, and dessert or coffee. How can you go wrong with this price??? For starters, Roger and I ordered the Salmorejo (tomato, bread and garlic cold soup with chopped egg and ham); my husband had the paella, and Joanne ordered the salad with egg and tuna. For the main course, I ordered the fried eggs with potatoes and smoked salmon; my husband had swordfish; Joanne had grilled pork; and Roger had roasted chicken. We all loved our dishes. Dessert was more simple; I had fruit and everyone else had ice cream.

After lunch, my husband suggested going to the TEMPLE OF DEBOD. He was in Madrid in the 1970’s for a few days, and he remembers visiting this Temple and the gorgeous views of Madrid from here. In 1968, the Egyptian government gave this temple to Spain as a gift because the Spanish government helped Egypt rescue monuments from the rising Nile River. The temple is situated in a lovely park with lots of shade, walkways and benches. You can also have a quick tour of the temple, which I didn’t think was all that interesting. The location is nice, though, and it was a hot afternoon, so it was pleasant sitting in the shade for awhile.

By this time, my legs were hurting, so we returned to our hotel for our siesta before going out for supper. I considered making a quick trip to see the Thyssen but decided against it. My husband was tired of museums at this point, and I didn’t want to push myself too much since we had 5 more destinations to go at this point.

We had dinner at La Fragua De Vulcano on Calle Alvarez Gato, 9 near Plaza Santa Ana. The tile work on the outside wall is of Velazquez’s painting, Vulcan’s Forge. The meal was average; some dishes were tasty, and some were a disappointment.

We now have to say farewell to Madrid! Tomorrow morning we have to catch an early morning train to Toledo!!

SOME IMPRESSIONS: I really enjoyed Madrid!! I love the museums, Retiro Park, and the Royal Palace. For the most part, I really liked the food we had. However, my husband and I (we were in Barcelona in 2010), and our friends who just returned from Barcelona, all agree the food in Barcelona was better. There seemed to be a larger variety of tapas. While the tapas we had at the restaurants on Calle de Jesus were delicious and good quality, and there was nothing bad about them, we thought the majority of the restaurants had almost the same menu.

MADRID VERSUS BARCELONA: I know there are often debates about which city is nicer/better. If a person only has time to visit one city, which one should it be? It is really a matter of taste and what your interests are. My husband and our friends prefer Barcelona over Madrid. I am on the fence. I feel I didn’t have quite enough time in Madrid to see everything, so it is the city I would return to. We saw everything we wanted to see in Barcelona, but we were there for a longer time. The museums in Barcelona didn’t interest me, but we spent our time visiting the Gaudi sites. I love the Madrid museums! I think Madrid is more elegant than Barcelona, but Barcelona has a more funky vibe because of the Gaudi architecture. You can’t go wrong with either city, IMO.

To be continued . . .

  • Report Abuse

    Sounds like your time in Spain got off to a great start! I'm very glad to know that the Mercure worked well for you -- I thought the location perfect for my needs, but was initially hesitant to recommend it because of the change in management since I was there. Nice to know it's still worth considering! Thanks for letting me know. :-)

  • Report Abuse

    oh Karen, I just happened to sign on and saw your first installment, I remember when we were planning our trips together last spring. So glad you got off to a great start. Can't wait to hear what you thought of Cordoba and Granada. I'm curious whether there was a lot of talk about the Catalunyan Independence vote. I suspect it was a "hot" topic.

  • Report Abuse

    lauramsgarden,
    I can't believe I forgot to mention this in my report. When we walked back to our hotel after having dinner at the Mercado San Miguel, there was a peaceful demonstration in Puerta del Sol. There were lots of police and emergency personnel around, which made us nervous. We walked towards the back of the crowd to get to San Geronimo. As far as I know, there wasn't any violence. This was on September 21.

  • Report Abuse

    I am reading your impressions of Madrid with interest.
    We will be in Madrid next week - my thenth visit . Needless to say Madrid is one of my favourite cities in Europe.
    It is a pity many travellers never venture north of Retiro into the most elegant
    part of Madrid - a non touristy Salamanca .
    Salamanca is often referred to as " barrio de lujo" because ot its well off inhabitants,
    many art galleries, upscale restaurant, designer stores and beautiful buildings .

  • Report Abuse

    Great start to your trip report KarenWoo, I am looking forward to hearing more. We have a similar trip planned next year and it is always to read about others experiences.

    We visited both Barcelona and Madrid last year, and enjoyed both destinations, but for me our 6 night stay in Madrid was more enjoyable. We also visited the wonderful Toledo from Madrid as a day trip and it was definitely a highlight of the whole trip.

  • Report Abuse

    Danon, I understand what you are saying. I read about Salamanca, and would have liked to visit it and also the Thyssen. 4 nights was not enough; 5 or 6 nights would have been better.

    Andee01, what month is your trip next year? Weather and temperature is an important factor. We had temps in the low 80's in Madrid and Toledo, but it got much hotter as we traveled south.

  • Report Abuse

    Karen, I understand....a few days in Madrid is not enough time for exploring many
    areas of a huge city..
    We visited the other cities on your list...looking forward to reading more of your
    report.

  • Report Abuse

    Wonderful start, Karen, and thanks for the tips around opening times. I'm currently in our hotel room in Granada, after having twisted my ankle at the Alhambra, and hoping it feels better before we head to Madrid tomorrow.

  • Report Abuse

    DAY FIVE – SEPTEMBER 22 – TERRIFIC TOLEDO

    We had reservations for the 9:20AM train to Toledo. Before we left for our trip, I had posted questions about the train station because I wasn’t sure how early we should be there, and I was a little nervous about navigating a big city train station. I appreciate everyone’s advice and reassurances that we would be fine, and we were! I worried too much. We made sure we were at Atocha about 45 minutes before departure. We took the escalator downstairs. As someone had mentioned, the escalator does not have stairs; it is flat, so I had to brace my suitcase with my leg so it wouldn’t roll away. No problem! We got in line for security, and the person checking tickets informed us we were on the wrong level! So we took another escalator downstairs to the bottom level, then got in line for security, and we were all set. We only had to wait about 10 minutes before our platform was announced. This gave us time to use restrooms, so the whole process was not rushed or stressful. We really enjoyed the train ride. It was comfortable and so easy. No hassles with trying to park cars and navigate the narrow streets. I am sold on train travel!

    HINT #3: I strongly recommend using trains and/or buses in this part of Spain instead of renting cars. I can’t imagine trying to drive a car through the narrow streets, finding parking, and most likely paying to park. Take a train or bus, and then a taxi to your hotel. Much easier!

    We arrived in Toledo around 10AM and took a taxi to our hotel.

    Hotel:
    Abad Toledo
    Real del Arrabal 1

    This is a small hotel at the bottom of the old town’s hill located a block inside the Bisagra Gate. Our rooms were not available, but they were able to store our luggage in a locked room while we went sightseeing. We walked up the hill towards Plaza Zocodover. The walk afforded us great views of the city, and I knew I would love Toledo. However, we were all dismayed as we got closer to Plaza Zocodover (the main square) and saw all the crowds! There were hordes of people exiting from the top of the escalator and tour buses pouring into the Plaza. I then knew we made the right decision to stay overnight in Toledo!

    We made our way to the Cathedral, our first Cathedral of 4 on this trip! The cathedral is primarily Gothic and took 250 years to build, and was built on the spot where a mosque once stood. We purchased audioguides to visit the Cathedral, which we always find very helpful, in addition to getting information from our guidebooks. What I remember the most is the stunning High Altar with real gold on wood, and the choir for its rich carvings. Because we visited 4 cathedrals, I admit I am getting them a little confused, so I have to refer to my photos & notes, which are not always detailed. I think we spent 1.5 to 2 hours here.

    Off to find a place for lunch! We found a nice restaurant near the cathedral, but I didn’t write down the name or what we had, but I do remember enjoying our food.

    Then we slowly wandered around the old city, admiring the architecture and taking photos. We made our way to the Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca, which was originally a synagogue and is now a church. It is a small structure, very simple, with Moorish arches. I really enjoyed this place because it is small, simple, and not crowded. It felt very peaceful here. What a contrast to the Cathedral. There are so many layers of history in Toledo and all of Andalucia. What I find amazing (because of modern wars and turmoil) is that for hundreds of years Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived together in peace in Toledo until the Reconquista when Muslims and Jews were expelled. So sad.

    One of the things I really wanted to do in Toledo is take the tourist train from Zocodover Plaza. My husband at first balked at this suggestion, calling it a Disney Train! However, I convinced him it would be a fun and relaxing way to see Toledo and the Tajo River Gorge. The train is inexpensive, about $6, I think. It is a 45 minute ride, and departs every 30 minutes from the Plaza. It was a beautiful ride along the river, and the train stops at a photo viewpoint, where you can get out and take photos of the gorgeous view of Toledo sitting on the hill across the river! I think it’s well worth it especially if you aren’t driving because this is the only way you will see this magnificent view!

    After the train ride, we returned to our hotel to check in. The style is contemporary rustic. One wall of our room was made of brick, and the other 3 walls were painted a light color. There are wooden rafters on the ceiling, and contemporary furniture. We had a front room with a gorgeous view overlooking the city (downhill) which was nice, but we did hear noise from the street. People were out late! My only other complaint is that we didn’t have any counter space in the bathroom for toiletries, which was common in many of our hotels on this trip.

    We had dinner at EL TREBOL located on a side street about a block away from Plaza de Zocodover. We ate outside; the food was delicious and reasonably priced. Then we walked to Zocodover, where we stopped for gelato! (We had a lot of gelato on this trip!) The plaza is so much nicer at night than during the day time. It wasn’t as crowded and most of the people hanging out in the plaza were families with their little children riding their bikes. Sitting there watching everyone was such a pleasant experience!

    IMPRESSIONS/ADVICE: If at all possible, I strongly recommend that people should spend at least one night in Toledo. It really does make a difference. At night it was beautiful all lit up and less crowded. If we had only come for the day, I really don’t think I would have appreciated and liked Toledo as much. For us, one night was sufficient. I know some people have spent 2 or 3 nights in Toledo, but we don’t feel the need to see every church and museum. We like to balance our time with indoor historical and cultural sights and exploring the streets and neighborhoods. Also, after awhile, if I see too many churches and museums, they become a blur.


    DAY SIX – SEPTEMBER 23 – LEAVING TOLEDO AND WE ARE ON OUR WAY TO CORDOBA

    We ate breakfast at our hotel because the price was right! 7 euros for a nice breakfast buffet that included a variety of meats, cheese, fresh fruit, pastries, hard boiled eggs, coffee and juices. The desk clerk called a cab for us, and we waited outside. After 10 minutes, when the cab didn’t appear, we asked the desk clerk to call again. About 10 minutes later, the cab finally appeared. This means we arrived at the train station later than planned. There were 2 trains waiting at the station, so we had to walk very, very fast to get to our train and then to our coach. Once we boarded, the train left about 2 minutes later. A little too close for me! We had ½ hour at Atocha before our train to Cordoba departed, which was enough time. The train stopped at Cordoba for 2 minutes. We were waiting at the door with our luggage in hand, as instructed by Fodorites, and had no difficulty getting off the train as there weren’t any people getting on. Thanks to everyone for giving me advice on how to manage the train stations and trains in Spain! Everything was easy.

    We took a taxi to our hotel for the next two nights:

    Las Casas de la Juderia
    Tomas Conde, 10-12

    Candace on this forum recommended this hotel to me. It consists of 5 homes attached together with courtyards. There is a pool, which we did not use but I did see guests using the pool. Our room was spacious, and we had a good-sized marble bathroom. This was our favorite hotel! On the street level, there is a lovely courtyard where the hotel provided an honor bar. We met our friends there for drinks each night before we went out to dinner. The courtyard is lovely, and it was nice to have a pleasant place to socialize before heading out for the evening. The hotel is also in a very convenient location, in Juderia (old Jewish quarter), and a few minutes’ walk from the Mezquita and the Alcazar.

    We had lunch at a nearby café, sitting in its lovely patio. After lunch, we decided to visit the MEZQUITA. We were there about 3:30PM on a Saturday, and there weren’t any lines!! I can’t believe I am here! For years I have wanted to visit the Mezquita and the Alhambra, and I am finally doing it. The Mezquita surpassed our expectations. Again, we rented the audioguides, and were on our way exploring this magnificent building. The Mezquita was first built as a Mosque; following the Reconquest, Christians built a Gothic cathedral in the center of the mosque. I always wondered how this could be done and what it would look like. While this must be a controversial piece of history, I think the architect did a wonderful job incorporating the church into the mosque. The mosque is stunning in its simplicity, with hundreds of beautiful arches and pillars, while the high altar and choir of the church are very ornate and rich with detail. It’s interesting to see these two very different places of worship side by side. When you are finished, you exit the side door into the Patio of Orange Trees, a nice shady spot.

    After our cocktail hour at the hotel, we had dinner at REGADERA, located at Ronda de Isada 10, on the river bank. I had made reservations about a week before. People on this forum recommended Regadera, and it was one of the best meals of our trip. My dessert was violet ice cream with lime crumble, lemon foam and strawberries! My husband had lemon foam, lemon ice cream, sponge cake and leaves. DELICIOUS AND UNIQUE!!! Our friends shared a rich brownie with peanut butter ice cream. I didn’t record our meals, but we loved everything!

    After dinner, we had one of the most memorable moments of our trip, and it was completely free! We walked across the Roman Bridge, all lit up, and then turned to see the Mezquita lit up as well. A stunning view!!! It was Saturday night, and there were many Spanish families strolling along the bridge with their children riding their bikes. A family event – the Saturday evening stroll on the Roman Bridge.


    DAY SEVEN – SEPTEMBER 24 – THE ALCAZAR AND THE PALACIO DE VIANA

    The breakfast offered at the hotel was expensive, so we decided to eat at a nearby café, having coffee, juice and pastry. Cordoba was so quiet this Sunday morning; we assume everyone was at church or sleeping. It was so nice to be out and about with nearly empty streets.

    Because it was going to be a warm day, near 90F, I think, we decided to visit the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos first while it was still somewhat comfortable. The Alcazar surpassed our expectations because it doesn’t get a lot of recognition in the guidebooks. There are some interesting exhibits in the building, and a room with nice mosaics. We walked up to the top of the tower for lovely views of the gardens. The highlight of the Alcazar is the beautiful extensive gardens, with pools, fountains, lush greenery, and beautiful flowers.

    After the Alcazar, we took a taxi to visit the Palacio de Viana. This is a small palace with 12 wonderful patios, and each one is different. We took a guided tour of the upstairs, and visited the patios using the audioguides. Then we had lunch at a restaurant next door, and then took a taxi back to our hotel. I think we took a siesta at this point!

    After an early cocktail hour in our hotel’s courtyard, we took our time walking through the Juderia, stopping in stores and artisan galleries to shop and take photos. We walked through the Almodovar Gate out of the Juderia. The area along the outside of the walls is very pretty with terraced pools, lush greenery, and pretty flowers. We really like the newer part of Cordoba. The main road has a wide stretch of greenery running down its middle, with fountains and pretty lampposts. We followed this route to MERCADO VICTORIA, where we stopped for dinner. Did I tell you my husband likes markets? We really enjoyed this market because it is much quieter and less crowded than San Miguel in Madrid. The food was delicious and reasonably priced. We purchased some Arabian food from a stall operated by a Syrian refugee who told us the Spanish people have been very nice to him. I had the best tabouli I’ve ever had (very fresh), and we shared lamb tagine with apricots and almonds, and a chicken pastrela with cinnamon sprinkled on top. We also tried some Japanese food as well and some meat skewers. On our way home, we treated ourselves to gelato, of course.

    IMPRESSIONS: We love, love, love Cordoba!!! The 4 of us agree Cordoba is our favorite city for overall experience. We loved our hotel with its lovely courtyard for having some drinks. Cordoba was the least crowded of all the cities we visited, and the smallest, so we felt very comfortable and relaxed here. I love the city! I love the white-washed buildings which give off a sunny and happy ambiance; I love the narrow lanes, pretty stores, artisan galleries, and flower pots attached to the walls. I have a SIL who didn’t like Cordoba, and I wonder if she only came for a day trip. If you have the time, I recommend staying 1 or 2 nights. If you cannot stay overnight, definitely come to see the Mezquita, one of the highlights of our trip. But you might not understand why we like Cordoba so much. People really need to stay a night or two to fully appreciate this charming city.

    Tomorrow we leave by bus for Granada!!!

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    PegS, I am so sorry to hear that you twisted your ankle at the Alhambra. I was afraid of the very same thing because I have fallen 3 times in the last 10 years and have fractured my ankles. I hope you will be able to walk tomorrow. How are you getting to Madrid? Are you traveling with someone?

    Where else have you been on your trip?
    Karen

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    Another great instalment, and now you have me thinking maybe a planned day trip to Córdoba from Seville, should be turned into a 2 night stay!

    We will be travelling in June/July, I know it will be very hot, so not as pleasant in Seville/Granada etc. It is the only time we can get away next year, and it is my 50th birthday present to myself.

    Looking forward to more.

    Andee

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    Isn’t Cordoba special? I adored the Mezquita, and the Viana is very dear to my heart. I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed this delightful city! And I hope you saw my message upthread….

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    Great report Karen

    We also enjoyed our 3 night stay in Cordoba but actually preferred Granada and Seville. We had some cloudy days in Cordoba so maybe that is why. We were also there during the day where all the monuments were open free to the public so Alcazar was horrendously busy and we did not enjoy it at all!

    Keep the report coming!

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    Thank you everyone for your nice comments.
    Kja, yes I did see your comment about the Mercure. we really liked the hotel and the location was perfect for us.

    Jamikins,
    I agree that weather and crowds affects a person's enjoyment of a place. We didn't have to wait in line for anything in Córdoba. Seville is probably the most beautiful of all the cities we visited, but it took us a few days to fall in love with it because of the crowds. It was the most crowded city on our trip.

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    KarenWoo - it sounds like such an ideal trip. So glad you have enjoyed it. I can imagine you with a smile on your face as you type this and relive some of your moments.
    I leave late October and do the trip in reverse (at least from Granada onwards). I have an apartment near your Madrid hotel, so glad I made that choice for proximity of what I wanted to see most - the Museums!!The last 4 days after Madrid are up in the air right now, but time will tell.
    I have enjoyed the details on your report. Thanks so much for taking the time and making the effort.

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    Karen - So glad you enjoyed Cordoba so much. A couple of things you may have missed at the Mezquita:- in the Patio of Orange Trees there is an ancient, ancient olive tree. It may have been there since the time of the Moors. Also, in the outer walls of the edifice there are some absolutely fabulous doors. Whenever I'm there, I always make yet more photos of both. If you haven't seen these, now you have a good reason to return !!

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    Nice continuation, Karen. I'd type more but I just can't do it that well on a tablet! My foot and opposite knee are all sorts of pretty colors, but after sending my husband out for some ibuprofen and ice packs I was able to carefully hobble to dinner. Today was mostly a travel day to Madrid. Luckily I can walk without limping, but I'm being careful not to overdo it!

    Regardera was great, huh? I could have wandered around the Mezquita for a much longer time. We were there about 4pm and it was just quiet enough (even after another tour group came in) that we didn't feel the need to come back during that free morning as originally planned, I'm afraid I didn't like Cordoba as much as you did. I found the Juderia area hopelessly touristy! I actually wished we'd stayed a bit closer to the Roman columns area--which seemed much less so--so I regret not venturing more outside the old wall the way you did.

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    DAY EIGHT – SEPTEMBER 25 – WE SAY GOOD-BYE TO CORDOBA AND HOLA! TO GRANADA

    We had breakfast at the same café as yesterday, probably around 8:30AM, and were surprised to see the streets were quiet again. I guess people sleep later because they stay up later at night!

    We had tickets for the 11:00AM ALSA bus to Granada. I chose to travel by bus to Granada since the train tracks are not completed. It didn’t make sense to me to take the train from Cordoba to Antequera, and then transfer to the bus to Granada. The bus trip worked out perfectly for us. The bus is modern, has comfortable seats, and is air-conditioned. It does not have a bathroom so we made sure to use the bathroom at our hotel before we checked out. We arrived in Granada about 1:30PM.

    Along the way, we passed miles and miles and miles of olive groves! I have never seen so many olive trees. We rode through some towns that did not look that interesting. We have rented cars on previous trips because we like to stop when we see something interesting, but on this route, I never felt like we were missing anything by not having a car.

    We took a taxi to our hotel, our home for the next 2 nights:

    El Ladron D’Agua
    Carrera del Darro, 13

    Progol from this forum recommened this hotel. It is in a perfect location, at the bottom of the Albayzin. Carrera del Darro is a very narrow one-way street that parallels the narrow Rio Darro. It is just a few minutes’ walk from Plaza Nueva. The reception area and center room/courtyard is contemporary in design. There is a fountain made out of a rock in the indoor courtyard. This courtyard/room has a marble floor and a retractable roof over it, so it looks more like a room. Our room was comfortable with white walls and a dark wood ceiling. The staff were very helpful and accommodated us by opening up breakfast 30 minutes early due to our schedule both mornings.


    The first order of business after we checked in was to find a place for lunch! We were starving! The desk clerk recommended a nearby restaurant attached to a hotel. I don’t remember the name but we had a delicious lunch and a nice introduction to Granada.

    Then the next order of business was to pick up our Alhambra tickets at Corral del Carbon!!! Coming from our hotel, we walked through Plaza Nueva, past Gran Via which was on the right, (the street now changes name to Calle Reyes Catolicos) and the Corral del Carbon is shortly after the Gran Via on the left. There is a sign for it. There is a tourist office in the Corral del Carbon, and a nice young man working there inserted my credit card into the ticket machine, and out came our tickets for both the day visit and the night visit!!! YEAH!!! I am so excited about seeing the Alhambra!!! It was so easy getting the tickets. I had read one report where someone’s ticket got stuck in the machine, but we didn’t have any problems at all. As most people probably know, you must use the credit card that you used to reserve and pay for the tickets.

    We then explored the area a little bit, and then decided to visit the CATHEDRAL OF GRANADA. We rented our audioguides and took our time wandering around. The cathedral is impressive; construction began in 1518 and it took 200 years to build!

    When we returned to our hotel, we asked the desk clerk for suggestions for dinner. She recommended EL TRILLO RESTAURANTE at Calleon Aljibe de Trillo.

    http://www.restaurante-eltrillo.com/el-restaurante/

    It is located in the Albayzin, above and behind our hotel. It was quite a walk, steadily climbing uphill, with views of the Alhambra along the way, and it was worth it. The El Trillo is one of our favorite restaurants of our trip. We sat outside in a very pretty garden with glimpses of the Alhambra. They made one of the best Gin Tonics!!! I had pork roll with ham and my husband had pig knuckles. I forgot what our friends had but everything was delicious!!

    DAY NINE – SEPTEMBER 26 – THE MAGNIFICENT AND AMAZING ALHAMBRA!!!

    We had timed tickets for the NASRID PALACES for 9:30AM, and when I purchased the tickets I was told we should be there an hour before. So right after breakfast, we hailed a taxi going past our hotel. Carrera del Darro is a one-way street, so this meant the driver had to take us on a longer route to get to the Alhambra. So we saw more of the Albaycin quarter, and the ride cost a little more, but we didn’t mind because I considered it a short tour! The desk clerk confirmed this is the best route if we get a cab out front, so we are confident the cab driver didn’t cheat us.

    I told the cab driver to drop us off at the Puerta de la Justicia, and he did. Because we had our tickets in hand, we did not want to be dropped off at the main gate near the Generalife Gardens. So it was an easy and short walk to the entrance to the Nasrid Palaces. We rented audioguides from the vendor who is in front of the Charles V Palace, and very close to the walkway to the Nasrid Palaces. So you can’t miss him! Getting here was so easy.

    YEAH!!! I can’t believe I am finally here at the Alhambra!!! I have wanted to visit the Alhambra for years, and I made it!!! The Nasrid Palaces are stunning, with gorgeous tile work, Arabic script, and elaborate carvings on the ceilings and walls that look like lace from a distance. The Palace is very rich with ornamentation and decorative elements! There are beautiful views of Granada throughout. There are columns and arches, and something beautiful wherever you look. I especially love the Patio of the Lions with its center fountain surrounded by 12 stone lions, and the Myrtle Courtyard with its long, narrow pool. When we exited the Nasrid Palaces, we were in the terraced Partal Gardens, which are gorgeous with a pool and a lot of greenery. We noticed benches, so we decided this would be the perfect spot for lunch!! The night before we purchased meat pies, sweet pastry, and bottled water, and had a picnic lunch surrounded by beauty.

    After our quick lunch, we took the long path that goes through some gardens and past the towers to the Generalife Gardens (about a 15-minute walk). These terraced gardens are beautiful with running water and a very long pool lined with water jets. A lot of flowers were still in bloom. I saw the largest red salvia I’ve ever seen! They looked like bushes! We took our time, admiring the gardens, and taking photos.

    After the gardens, we took a different path back (passed the Medina), heading towards the Alcazaba, and when we saw Hotel America, we decided we were thirsty, tired, and a bit hungry, so we stopped in to have a drink and share some tapas.

    Then we continued on to the Alcazaba, which was my least favorite part of the Alhambra. It was hot and sunny, and there isn’t any shade in the Alcazaba, except for a shady garden near the exit. We probably spent about 30-45 minutes at the Alcazaba. I really enjoyed the views of Granada and the mountains.

    When we were finished, it was almost 4:30PM!!! WOW!!! We spent the whole day at the Alhambra, and enjoyed every minute!

    We also had tickets for the night tour, which starts at 10PM, and we had to be there around 9:30PM. We had dinner at a restaurant in Plaza Nueva, and then hailed a cab from there, which was a shorter and cheaper ride to the Alhambra. I am very happy we decided to do the night tour. There are fewer people; it is quiet and you can hear the running water. The focus is not only on the water, but also on the ornate ceilings because of the uplighting, which makes the ceilings stand out and gives them a soft glow. It really is magical, as other people have said.

    IMPRESSIONS: We really like Granada! It is very different from Cordoba visually and architecturally, and it is larger than Cordoba. The buildings in our area are painted with earth tones, tans, ochres, etc. Granada is very hilly, whereas Cordoba is flat. I remember reading somewhere that some people consider Granada “gritty” but I didn’t see that at all. Maybe I would call Granada “serious” and Cordoba “happy” or “lighthearted”. I do wish we had another day to explore the Albaycin more thoroughly and visit the Royal Chapel, which we missed.

    The next day we leave for Malaga!

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    Glad to hear your experience in Granada was so positive and you enjoyed the Alhambra. I am really looking forward to our visit next year.

    I do have one question, did you book the ALSA bus before arriving in Spain, and did you book direct with ALSA or through another booking agent?. Thanks

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    Hi Andee01,
    Yes, I did purchase the ALSA bus tickets before we arrived in Spain. We also took the ALSA bus from Granada to Malaga. And I purchased the tickets directly with ALSA. It was easy.
    Karen

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    Bedar,
    I didn't see the ancient olive tree. That's too bad. Is it labeled? And I don't remember the doors, but we were absorbing so much at once that it's hard to notice everything.
    Thanks!

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    Karen, I am really enjoying your report. We leave for Spain in a week following much of your same itinerary. Your report will be a big help and I am looking forward to reading more. Thank you for posting.

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    KTravel, thank you for your compliments. I have 2 installments left: Malaga and Seville. I hope to finish in the next day or two. You will love this part of Spain. It's one of my favorite trips. And hopefully you will have cooler weather than we had.

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    DAY TEN – SEPTEMBER 27 – MALAGA – FROM PICASSO TO THE PORT

    After an early breakfast, we check out of our hotel, and we hail a cab at Plaza Nueva. There is a taxi stand at Plaza Nueva with lots of taxis, so it’s always easy to get a cab when you need one. We had tickets for the 9AM bus to Malaga. This time the bus driver distributed white paper bags to all passengers with a bottle of water and 2 cookies! How nice! I also notice that on ALSA bus, in addition to carefully checking passengers’ tickets, the bus driver also had a passenger list and checked off names.

    We arrive in Malaga at 10:30AM, and immediately get a cab to bring us to our hotel for the next 2 nights:

    Soho Malaga
    Cordoba 5

    This hotel is very convenient to sightseeing, located in the Barrio Soho, next to the city center, and very close to the pedestrianized calle Marques de Larios. It’s a small boutique hotel (28 rooms). We arrived early so we weren’t able to check in yet, but they have a safe place to store luggage.

    The vibrant city center is beautiful with gorgeous architecture, nice stores, and lots of cafes and restaurants. We decide to visit the Cathedral first. BTW, for some reason, today the Cathedral and museums are free! A nice bonus! We all agreed we had overdosed on audioguides at this point in our trip, so we wandered around the cathedral, admiring the chapels, etc. without a guide. The use of audioguides takes longer, and this was the 3rd cathedral of our trip, and we just didn’t feel like spending a huge amount of time in the cathedral. It’s a beautiful cathedral with a mix of styles: Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque. My husband (Ed) and our friend (Roger) decided to buy tickets to go up the tower, but Joanne and I decided to relax in the Cathedral, admiring its beauty. I didn’t feel like walking up all those stairs. A note about this Cathedral: It is the first Cathedral we visited that is surrounded by gardens on the outside! Very pretty!

    Now we are hungry, so we decide to walk to the Atarazanas Market, a 19th century iron building on the site of the old Moorish dockyards. Did I tell you that it was raining when we arrived in Malaga? And the weather is still overcast and drizzly. So the market, unfortunately, is very crowded. This is a huge market with tons of stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat, spices, etc. It was difficult to enjoy the market because of the crowds. We found the tapas bar. Inside you have to stand at the counter and eat, which we don’t enjoy doing, but they had tables with umbrellas set up outside, so we were able to snag a covered table outside. We shared tapas, lots of seafood tapas, and had drinks. The seafood was fresh and delicious! No complaints! It would have been nice to re-visit the market when it would be less crowded, but we didn’t have the time.

    We then returned to our hotel to check in. Our rooms are on the 4th floor. The ceilings are slanted, so we had a skylight instead of windows. The slanted ceiling made the room look and feel small, but it was certainly adequate for 2 nights.

    After settling in, we wandered over to the Picasso Museum (free entry today)! The museum is housed in a 16th century Renaissance Palace with a lovely courtyard. I enjoyed looking at the Picasso artwork, and I used the brochure as a guide. We saw Three Graces, Woman With Raised Arms, Still Life With Rooster And Knife, and Jacqueline Seated, to name a few. The Prado Museum is my favorite museum on this trip, but I also enjoy smaller museums that feature one artist because I don’t always want to spend 4 or 5 hours in a museum. We were here for about an hour, which was a nice amount of time for us, because we wanted time to see other areas of the city.

    So we then wandered over to the port, via the Paseo Del Parque, which is very lush with greenery and exotic flowers. Definitely has a tropical feel! We walked along the promenade by the port, with nice views of the Mediterranean and boats and yachts, getting the coastal ambiance we were looking for in Malaga. We took a side street to get to La Malaqueta Beach. We did not walk up to the lighthouse, which was a mistake. I will explain tomorrow! We did not initially enjoy this part of the beach. Even though the sun had recently appeared, because it was a rainy day, there was no one on the beach (around 6PM). The area was deserted and the nearby buildings and restaurants appeared to be closed or not inviting at all. So we walked back to the port, and decided to have drinks at a bar overlooking the port. This was a wonderful experience, and we stayed here watching the sunset. Then we made our way back to the old city center, where we had dinner at Strachan. The food was good, but not one of our favorites.

    DAY ELEVEN – SEPTEMBER 28 – THE AMAZING ALCAZABA!!!

    Roger and Joanne had breakfast before us, in the restaurant attached to the hotel. They weren’t impressed with the food, so my husband and I ate at a nearby café.

    Ed and I definitely wanted to visit the Alcazaba and Castillo de Gibralfaro today, but Roger and Joanne decided to do something different. They had a ride on the ferris wheel by the port, and had great views of the Mediterranean! Then they walked along the port and walked up to the lighthouse, which is what we should have done yesterday instead of taking that side street. A restaurant worker where we had breakfast this morning recommended a restaurant, Mami Beach, for lunch. It’s near the lighthouse. Our friends had one of the best meals of the trip here! They had lots of fresh seafood, including grilled prawns that were grilled in a boat! Even though we loved the Alcazaba, I am disappointed that we didn’t have lunch here. It was a much nicer day than yesterday, so Roger and Joanne hung out at the beach for awhile. They told us there were many people on the beach and in the water, so it was a much livelier scene than yesterday.

    So Ed and I spent almost the whole day at the Alcazaba and the Castillo de Gibralfaro, and we loved it! We got off to a late start, though, because Ed had left his day pack at the Picasso Museum the night before, we so had to stop there first to get his day pack. Surprisingly, the Alcazaba and Castillo are one of the highlights of Malaga for us and of our trip. I say “surprisingly” because I think Malaga is underrated. The Alcazaba is a Moorish fortress on a hilltop. There are towers, pathways, gateways, Roman columns, arches, and patios with fountains, and a small Nasrid Palace. There are beautiful gardens with lush greenery and exotic flowers, such as bougainvillea and hibiscus. Everywhere you turn, there is something beautiful to look at. And the views!!! As we went higher and higher, we had stunning views of the city, the port and the Mediterranean!!! I think Malaga’s Alcazaba is more interesting than the Alhambra’s Alcazaba.

    There is a path from the Alcazaba to the Castillo de Gibralfaro, but it is closed to the public. Perhaps it is unsafe to walk on? To access the Castillo, we had to take an elevator to street level, walk a short ways on the street, and turn left to enter the Castillo. This castle was built to protect the Alcazaba, and it provides even more magnificent views of the city, port, and sea because it is higher than the Alcazaba. You have to walk up switchback pathways to access the top. I had to stop periodically to rest, but the views are worth it. There is a lot of greenery, but no flowers, so it isn’t as pretty as the Alcazaba. We had lunch at the top at a bar/café (beer and pizza). Then we entered the castle proper and walked part way along the ramparts. There isn’t a lot of shade here, and the temperature had risen; it was very humid, so we didn’t stay too long. We took a taxi back to our hotel. The route was along the beach, so it was nice to get some close up views of the beach, and we also passed the gorgeous looking Gran Miramar Hotel that Kimhe on this forum mentions. I’m sure it’s out of our price range!

    For dinner, we decided to take a taxi to the Pedregalejo area to eat fresh seafood at one of the beachfront restaurants (chiringuitos). Kimhe has included the link to these restaurants many times, which I printed and brought with us. We ate at El Tintero II, right on the beach. The location is perfect, but unfortunately, we were disappointed in the food. I think the problem is that this is the end of the season. They were out of quite a few seafood dishes and salads we wanted. We all agree the food was mediocre. Perhaps coming during the summer, the height of beach season, would be better. Roger and Joanne told us the lunch they had earlier in the day at Mami Beach was much better.

    One mistake we made was not having a plan in place for getting a taxi back. I assumed there would be plenty of taxis around, but there weren’t. With the help of some locals, we found a taxi stand. My husband called the number listed on the post, but the person didn’t speak any English, and we all have very limited Spanish. My husband was able to communicate enough to a passerby and ask him if he could talk to the taxi employee. So this stranger got on the phone and told the person where we were waiting. In about 10 minutes, a taxi appeared, much to our relief. It would have been too far to walk back because we were about 3 kilometers from our hotel. And it was dark!

    I would also like to add that throughout our trip we found the Spanish people to be very warm, friendly, and helpful, from the hotel staff, to the restaurant staff, and strangers on the street. I don’t think we would have found the taxi stand without help because we were walking on a different street than where the taxi stand was located, and we never saw one single taxi or taxi stand where we were initially walking.

    GENERAL IMPRESSIONS OF MALAGA:
    We really, really like Malaga!!! It was so much more beautiful and interesting than we expected. When I told people we were going to Malaga, they were surprised and wanted to know why! I think many people have this idea that Malaga is sleazy and a college spring break, wild party place with nothing interesting to see. They are so wrong!!! I want to thank Kimhe for encouraging people to come to Malaga. We actually would have liked to have an extra day here to do what our friends did, (the ferris wheel, the lunch at Mami Beach, hang out at the beach, try more seafood restaurants). We would not want to give up our day at the Alcazaba, either, so another day would have been nice.

    Next: our last destination on this awesome trip – Stunning Seville!!!

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    Another detailed and helpful instalment, thanks Karen. I am glad you liked Malaga, we are planning for 4 nights there, do you think there is enough to do or would 3 nights be enough?

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    Karen, yes, we are still in Madrid until the end of the week! We are doing a Segovia day trip in the morning. I'm so happy that all your careful planning seems to paid off!

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    MaiTaiTom,
    We loved the gin tonics! So refreshing, especially in hot weather!

    Andee,
    Are you planning on spending time at the beach when you are in Malaga? If you are, I think 4 nights will be fine. If you are not a beach person, then maybe 3 nights will be sufficient. You are going in the summer,right? Because it will be hot, I would think that cooling off and relaxing at the beach might be a necessity (and fun). Malaga had the coolest temperatures when we were there, although it was humid on our second day.

    Hope this helps.

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    Thanks for this enjoyable and enthusiastic read! Glad you had such a good time.

    Makes me wish we had spent time in Malaga on our trip, but we can add that to the (large) list of reasons to return some day.

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    DAY TWELVE – SEPTEMBER 29 – STUNNING SEVILLE AND THE BEAUTIFUL PLAZA DE ESPANA

    We take the 9:15AM train to Seville and arrive in Seville at 11:10AM. We easily get a cab to bring us to our hotel/apartment for the next 4 nights, which was recommended by Candace on this forum:

    Apartamentos Suites Santa Cruz
    Calle Pimienta 4

    The hotel’s main office and reception desk is located in Plaza de Dona Elvira. Our apartment is located in a different building at Calle Pimienta 4, about a block away. This is a pedestrian only area, so the taxi dropped us off at Plaza de Alianza, and we had to walk with our luggage to Plaza Dona Elvira. It is a little confusing at first, but we find our way! We are very happy with our accommodations. We have a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen. Even though we didn’t use the kitchen facilities, we wanted a spacious place to spread out for the next 4 nights. And the location is perfect in Barrio Santa Cruz, just a few minutes’ walk from the Cathedral and Alcazar!

    We had a delicious lunch at the restaurant that is attached to the main building, Vinela Tapas and Wine. The Plaza was extremely crowded with tour groups and actors who were obviously hired to entertain the tour groups with a song and skit. It’s a very pretty plaza, but very crowded. Of all the cities we visited on this trip, Seville is the most crowded.

    After lunch we walked through the Jardines de Murillo and slowly made our way to PLAZA DE ESPANA. This plaza is jaw-dropping gorgeous, much grander and much larger than I expected. It was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition. It is semi-circular with Mudejar-style buildings. In front of the semi-circular buildings are exquisite scenes made of tile that show the history of different Spanish provinces. There is a canal where you can rent rowboats, and about 8 bridges that span the canal, and their railings are made of blue and white tile. There is a good-size fountain in the middle, and the lovely horses and carriages trotting around the plaza add to the ambiance. We stayed here for awhile taking tons of photos, but it was very hot! There isn’t any shade here, unless you are under the pavilion/porch of the buildings, and it was in the 90’s!!

    So, after taking numerous photos, we stopped at an outdoor café in the nearby park. I think this is Parque de San Sebastian. It’s a shady park, and we needed some respite from the sun and heat, so we had the most delicious and refreshing Gin Tonics!!!

    While walking back to our hotel, we saw the enormous lines at the Alcazar. So we ordered tickets online for the next day for the 9:30AM time slot.

    For dinner, we ate at LA AZOTEA in Barrio Santa Cruz, at Calle Mateos Gago, 8. This restaurant has been recommended many times by people on Fodors. It is excellent, and one of our favorite restaurants on our trip. In fact, we ate dinner here twice. Some of the dishes we ordered tonight are: Rice paper rolls stuffed with cheese, prawns & leeks; a salad of tomato, burrata cheese, homemade basil gummies topped with a scoop of lemon sorbet (DELICIOUS!). (My husband is not a fan of salads, but he loved this one, and we ordered it again on our second night here.) Some of our main dishes are: Hake en papillote with vegetables & infused lemon, and Oxtail meatballs served over mushroom sauce, with cauliflower and carrot cream!! The meatballs melted in our mouths!!! We are off to a great start dining in Seville!!

    http://laazoteasevilla.com/en/restaurant-santa-cruz/


    DAY THIRTEEN – SEPTEMBER 30 – ALCAZAR, TRIANA AND MARKETS

    We ate breakfast every morning at the Vinela Tapas and Wine Restaurant, next door to the hotel’s Reception Desk. They offer a breakfast buffet for 8 euros (I think) that consists of different kinds of meat, cheeses, breads, pastries, fresh fruit (including a delicious white melon we had in many restaurants), coffee, juices, etc. Eggs were the only item not offered. We ate outside in Plaza de Dona Elvira.

    We arrived at the REAL ALCAZAR around 9AM for our 9:30AM admission. Lines for people with tickets, and lines for people without tickets, were already quite long. So be here early, and order your tickets in advance if you can; otherwise, you will be waiting a long time in the sun. We rented the audioguides for the Alcazar. The Alcazar is a palace with exquisite tile work, columns, arches, carvings, and extensive gardens with pools, fountains, and even peacocks!! It’s very ornate, much like the Alhambra. One room we saw that is memorable to us is the room where Isabel and Ferdinand met with Christopher Columbus to discuss his journeys to discover the New World!! We spent about 3 hours at the Alcazar; it’s a beautiful place, one of the highlights of our trip!

    My memory is a little fuzzy here, probably because we’ve been away from home for almost a month at this point. We had lunch at one of the restaurants in Plaza de Dona Elvira, but I don’t remember the name. Then we took a short siesta!

    After our siesta, we took a cab to the Triana Bridge. We walked across the bridge to the Mercado on the Triana side, but it was almost closing time, so we decided to return on Sunday for lunch. We had drinks at a café in Triana. This seems to be a family-oriented neighborhood, and not very touristy. We saw many families of several generations just strolling along the street and talking to everyone they met. It was fun people watching. Then we walked back across the Triana Bridge and decided to have dinner at Mercado Barranca. The renovated market is housed in a building that was originally built as a fish market around 1900. It’s located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River. They have outdoor seating, so we sat outside, and tried different kinds of tapas and drinks. It was fun!

    DAY FOURTEEN – OCTOBER 1 – TRIANA AGAIN, CASA DE PILATOS, AND A GREAT FLAMENCO SHOW!!!

    We had a much needed lazy morning, and then took our time walking to Triana. It was fun walking through some neighborhoods we had not seen yet. We planned on having lunch at the Mercado de Triana. The building is about 150 years old, and was built over some palace ruins. The market opens at noon on Sunday, but we noticed that many vendors had not opened yet when we arrived. I guess they either open later on Sundays or not at all. There were some restaurants open, so we decided to stay for lunch as planned. We ordered a lot of seafood and some mushroom dishes. We liked what we ordered. Except my husband ordered a plate of conch, which came in their shells. We were given strange-looking forks, with short tines and one very long tine to dig the conch out of their shells. My friends and I did not like the taste, very strange, but my husband will eat just about anything, so he finished the plate! YUCK! These definitely did not appeal to us. And there was a surprise in one of them, a hermit crab!!!

    After wandering around the market, we walked along the riverfront. When we came to the San Telmo Bridge, our friends decided to slowly walk back to our hotel. I really wanted to visit the CASA DE PILATOS, so my husband and I took a cab there. It was much too hot for me to walk. The Casa de Pilatos is a small palace, and it was not crowded at all. It was very refreshing to be here, to be away from the crowds. We had a guided tour of the rooms on the second floor. This is the only way you can see these rooms. They are very opulent! Then we went back down to the first floor and used audioguides for this floor. The courtyard is done in a very elegant Moorish style. Just beautiful! I agree with other Fodorites who have been here. Casa de Pilatos is a hidden gem, a wonderful travel secret! Not crowded at all, which was a relief to us!

    We took a cab back to our hotel, met up with our friends, and decided to have a horse and carriage ride before dinner. It was so much fun, and a very relaxing way to see more of Seville! The ride lasts for about 45 minutes; it cost 45 euros for 4 people. The route takes us to Plaza de Espana, so it was nice to see this beautiful plaza again, and then slowly back to the Cathedral.

    For dinner, we decided to eat at La Azotea again. We shared 2 salads: the tomato, burrata cheese salad with lemon sorbet that we had the first night, and a salad with avocado, tomatoes, & pancetta with miso vinaigrette! This salad was delicious, too, and reminded us of a BLT minus the bread! For the main dishes, we usually order the racione size so that we can share. We had the cod confit with mushrooms & potatoes & spicy sausage, and the Iberian pork cheeks in a red wine sauce topped with a goat cheese gratin. Superb! Another excellent meal at La Azotea!!

    After dinner, we walked to LA CASA DEL FLAMENCO for a one-hour flamenco show. The theater is small, and there are 3 rows of chairs in a semi-circle. We were in the first row, right next to the stage! It’s a great venue! I don’t know anything about flamenco, but this show was excellent. There are 4 performers: a female dancer, a male dancer, a male singer, and a male guitarist. It was obvious the audience loved the show. Our hotel recommended this venue, and it was a great choice.



    DAY FIFTEEN – OCTOBER 2 – THE SEVILLE CATHEDRAL AND A LAZY AFTERNOON

    My husband decided he had overdosed on cathedrals, so he went shopping instead (he is not usually a shopper). But he went to a small supermarket where he bought food items as gifts for family and close friends.

    Roger, Joanne, and I wanted to visit the Seville Cathedral. It opens at 11AM, so we were there by 10:30AM, and the line was already getting very long. We decided not to rent audioguides, because at this point in our trip, we just wanted to wander and look at what interested us. This cathedral is HUGE!!! It is considered the 3rd largest cathedral after St. Peter’s in the Vatican and St. Paul’s in London. The exterior is impressive, especially the roof with tons of spires and gargoyles. The highlight of the cathedral for us was the tomb of Christopher Columbus, which is very impressive, with 4 pallbearers holding the tomb.

    The other highlight is climbing the Giralda to the belfry. You climb up on a ramp that has 34 sections (switchbacks). If there were stairs, I don’t think I could have done it. But the ramp was not too difficult, and we stopped at the many balconies on the way up to admire views of the gargoyles, pinnacles, and the city. This is well worth the effort. At the top there is a magnificent panoramic view of the city. But it is narrow at the top, and was becoming very crowded.

    After our visit, we met up with my husband, who suggested having lunch at the Mercado Barranca, where we had dinner the other night. So we taxied over there, and can you believe we spent about 3 hours there??? There is a very attractive bar (that is not part of the market) close to the river. It has large umbrellas and comfortable chairs with colorful cushions, and palm trees. We asked if we could bring food from the market to the bar if we purchased drinks, and of course they said yes. So we took turns going to the market, buying food, and just relaxing with a slow leisurely meal. We also had great Gin Tonics!! So refreshing on a hot day!!! We had great views of the river, and just chilled out for several hours. By this time, we had all been traveling for a month, so we needed a lazy afternoon.

    On our way back to our hotel, we did a little bit of shopping, and then we had to pack because we had a very early morning flight the next day (7AM). We took a siesta (I think those GT’s made us tired). Then we headed out to dinner. We wanted to go to Cerveceria Giralda, across from La Azotea, recommended by someone on this forum, but it was full. I didn’t want to wait because I needed to get to bed early since we had to get up at the ungodly hour of 3:30AM!!! So we went next door to BAR LA CATEDRAL. This restaurant gets good reviews on Trip Advisor, but we thought it was mediocre. The décor and ambience is very inviting, but we were disappointed in some of the meals. Maybe it’s the dishes we chose? We had Sirloin with whiskey, which sounded good, but had an odd taste. We also had lamb chops; they were tasty but thin. I forgot what else we ordered, but I guess La Azotea is a hard act to follow.

    http://www.barcatedral.com/

    DAY SIXTEEN – OCTOBER 3 – ADIOS TO STUNNING SPAIN!

    We had a 7AM flight from Seville to Lisbon where we connected to a flight home to Boston. In case someone is interested in booking the Apartamentos Suites Santa Cruz, I think it’s important to explain how the taxi situation works when you need to be picked up. As I said, our apartment is in a pedestrian zone. We had to be at the Reception Desk by 4:30AM so we had to walk about a block in the dark. The hotel called the taxi for us the night before. The taxi driver met us at the reception desk, and helped us with our luggage as we walked to the plaza where he parked his car. I was initially a little worried because I thought we might have to go looking for him in the dark. So this is a convenient arrangement that the hotel has.

    Luckily, we had an uneventful flight home!!!

    GENERAL IMPRESSIONS OF SEVILLE:

    Of all the cities we visited, Seville is the most beautiful with its exquisite architecture, many plazas, flowing fountains, lush parks, great monuments, cafes and restaurants, and delicious food! But we did not immediately fall in love with Seville, and I think it’s for the following reasons:

    1) THE CROWDS – Seville is the most crowded city we visited. There are throngs of people, and numerous, numerous tour groups. Some tour leaders carried signs saying “Oceanic”. I assume this is a cruise ship and perhaps small cruise ships come up the Guadalquivir River? The tour groups seem to take over the narrow lanes and plazas. At first we would wait for them to pass us, but they just kept on coming, so we eventually had to barge through them to get anywhere. I think we couldn’t see and appreciate the beauty of Seville through all the people. It took awhile.

    2) THE HEAT – It was also the hottest in Seville. The temperatures were consistently between 90 – 95F, and I find that as I get older it’s harder to tolerate this kind of heat when sightseeing.

    3) Seville was our last destination on our trip, so our energy levels were beginning to lag.

    If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. And many thanks to everyone who has been following along! It makes writing the report worthwhile, and now I have a memorable travel journal.

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    Hi Karen. I've enjoyed your trip report as we'll be taking a similar trip in March. I hope it's a little less crowded in Seville. I still haven't finalized our accommodations there yet and wanted to ask you a little more about the apartment you stayed in. I know it's a very busy plaza but how was the noise level in the apartment? Did you find the beds comfortable and was there a sofa to relax on? Couldn't tell from the pictures! Thanks for the enjoyable read!

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    Hi efarr99,
    Glad to hear you enjoyed my trip report.

    The hotel's office and reception desk is located in Plaza de Elvira, which is very busy. However, our apartment was not in Plaza De Elvira. It was on a side street off of the plaza. You walk down a short alley/narrow street, and then turn right to get to Calle Pimienta, where the apartment is located. Where you make the right turn, there is a smaller plaza called Plaza los Venerables. It's not as busy as Plaza de Elvira.

    One night I did hear some noise for about half an hour. It sounded like construction. But my husband and our friends did not hear the noise.

    The beds are comfortable but there isn't a sofa. Our bedroom had 2 end tables, a narrow table against the wall, and a coffee table.

    The kitchen had a small table with 2 chairs. I don't think there were 3. The kitchen is stocked with dishes, pots and pans, etc., but we didn't use the kitchen to cook or prepare meals. We basically used it to sit on the chairs, put stuff on the table, etc. It was nice to have the extra space and in particular, the extra tables to put things on.

    I hope this helps. The location is excellent, perfect for our needs. So close to major sites, and we enjoyed being in Barrio Santa Cruz.

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    Karen, Seville was that busy and that hot still huh? I’m tempted to try Seville in December-January. I think there may be some planning just that, would be nice to hear back when they return.

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    Sundriedtopepo,
    I am curious as to what temperatures & crowds are like in Seville in December/January, too. If it's too cold, perhaps November would be ideal. I know quilting mama will be in Seville in November. Hopefully, she will post a report when she returns.

    Kja, thank you for reading along. I appreciate your compliments, and I always find your advice very helpful.

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    Leely2, Thank you for following along and for your compliments! I hope you make it to Andalucía some day! It is a magical area; everything we saw was mind-blowing, and we weren't disappointed in anything, except perhaps the crowds in Seville. But we can't control that.

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    KarenWoo, my family actually lived in Madrid and Malaga for a year when I was 3-4. I scarcely remember any of it. Spain was my late father's passion, his dream, and I need to make a sentimental journey...soon.

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    Lauramsgarden,
    I remember reading your trip report from this past summer. You wrote it as you were traveling, if I remember correctly. I admire your strength and fortitude for sightseeing in the heat. I was surprised at how hot it was in late September/early October.
    Karen

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    Karen, I just came across your report and so enjoyed reading it. I'm glad to know you enjoyed your stay at Las Casas de la Juderia in Córdoba, which we thought was so lovely. And also that you stayed in the Suites Santa Cruz apartments with their great location in Seville. It seems that all the research and pre-travel planning you do pays off. This sounded like a wonderful trip! Where are you going next?
    Candace

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    KarenWoo:

    I have just started reading your trip report (up to Toledo), and it is a really good read.

    It is so enticing that you have made me reconsider my November long weekend trip to Paris, and visit Madrid instead.

    Loving it!

    Regards ... Ger

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    Hi Candace,
    So nice to hear from you! We loved Las Casas de la Juderia and the Suites Santa Cruz. Las Casas de la Juderia was our favorite hotel, and we really enjoyed the honor bar! The locations of both hotels were perfect!

    We are going to Florida for a week in February. Then in April, we are returning to France to visit our daughter and grandchildren, and then we will stop over in Lisbon for 5 nights on our way home. We are taking advantage of TAP's Stopover Program, where you can stay for up to 5 nights in Lisbon or Porto without paying extra for the flight to Lisbon or Porto. Have you been to Lisbon?

    Where is your next trip? Did you go to Rome in 2017? I seem to remember reading your trip report, unless it is someone else I am thinking of.
    Karen

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    Yes, Karen, we have been to Lisbon, and I think you will enjoy it. Lots of colorful tiled buildings, lovely viewpoints from different hilltops, and fun twisting streets to get lost in. If you can manage it, an overnight in Sintra, a short train ride away, was a high point for us.

    We went to Sicily for two weeks in April, then to the Amalfi Coast, Naples and Rome for another 10 days. It was wonderful, especially Sicily, and I'm trying to get around to writing a trip report.

    We would like our next trip to be to Greece. We saw so many Greek ruins in Sicily, it seems like the logical place to visit next.
    Candace

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    Candace,
    Sounds like your trip to Italy was wonderful! I would love to read your trip report when you post it.

    Ger,
    So glad to hear you are enjoying my trip report. Will this be your first trip to Madrid?

    Karen

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