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RLM346 UPDATED SPAIN TRIP PLAN + SOME ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS AND HELP NEEDED + SOME THINGS WE LEARNED IN THE PLANNING PROCESS.

RLM346 UPDATED SPAIN TRIP PLAN + SOME ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS AND HELP NEEDED + SOME THINGS WE LEARNED IN THE PLANNING PROCESS.

Jul 22nd, 2007, 12:37 PM
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RLM346 UPDATED SPAIN TRIP PLAN + SOME ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS AND HELP NEEDED + SOME THINGS WE LEARNED IN THE PLANNING PROCESS.

This is a follow-up to: http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...50&keyword=153

My purpose is threefold: to provide feedback of where we currently stand for those who assisted us; to get some additional assistance and to supply information and ideas for future planners as a partial payback for the help we received. Eventually, we will do a trip report.

Current Plan: Trip from mid-September to Early October: Based on the advice of many of you on Foder’s, other acquaintances of ours and a variety of sources we have settled on this plan.
Day1 Flight to Madrid
Day2 Madrid- Westin Palace
Arrive AM; Explore Madrid
Day3-6 Sevilla-Westin Alfonso XIII
Train to Sevilla; Explore Sevilla, Cordoba(train) & Jerez/Cadiz area(car)
Day7-9 Granada-NH Victoria
Drive to Granada explore Arcos & white villages; explore Granada; Alhambra:
Day9 Ronda-Parador
Drive to Ronda along coastal route; possible Nerja Caves; Explore Ronda
Day 10 Costa Brava-Parador Aigua Blava(may change)
Drive Malaga & fly to Barcelona; rent car & drive to Costa Brava
Next day visit Figureres & explore coast.
Day 11-14 Barcelona-Pulitzer
Return to Barcelona late on day 11; Explore Barcelona
Day 15-16 San Sebastian- Maria Cristina
Fly to San Sebastian; explore San Sebastian & nearby Basque area (car)
Day 17-18 Elciego-Marqués De Riscal
Explore La Rioja
Day 19 Segovia-Hotel Los Linajes
Drive to Segovia; Explore Segovia
Next morning drive to Toledo; Explore Toledo; Drive to Madrid
Day 20-23 Madrid-Westin Palace
Drive to Madrid late on day 20; explore Madrid
Day 24(10/9) Return Home

We have reserve all the hotels, cars & planes. We have not reserved the trains.

QUESTIONS:
• Train Bookings: Can we just purchase Madrid-Seville, Seville-Cordoba & Cordoba-Seville tickets at the station to give us greater flexibility or do we need to book in advance? If so, how far in advance?
• Costa Brava/Segovia Hotel: We have mixed emotions about Parador Aigua Blava on Costa Brava and Hotel Los Linajes in Segovia. Do you have any experience with either of these hotels; or have any recommendations for better accommodations (Note: Infanta Isabell was not available).
• Planning Our Activities, Eating & Drinking: Our next step is to make a short list of key activities, restaurants,bodegas, tapa bars and other night life. We have collected a great deal of information from a wide range of sources and have to organize it over the next month or so. If you have any favorites that you want to make sure we don’t overlook, please let us know.
• Major Mistakes With Our Plan: If you see anything in our plan that you believe is a big mistake please let us know.

SUGGESTIONS FOR TRIP PLANNERS: We are far from experts about Spain but perhaps some of our experiences in putting our plan together might be helpful to other trip planners.

SEARCH FODER’S FOR YOUR QUESTIONS BEFORE ASKING THEM: We found many of our questions had been answered many times before and found a wealth of information by performing a variety of searches. Then when we did ask some questions they were for areas we were not able to find. It makes it more efficient for everyone.

BEWARE OF FESTIVALS: Initially in the planning process, quickly check for festivals & holidays in target areas or availability of key hotels. You may have to plan around these time periods because of the lack of adequate accommodations. We had to make major changes to our original trip plan because of September festivals in San Sebastian and La Rioja and had a slight problem in Barcelona (arriving the day after a holiday).

ALHAMBRA CONSIDERATIONS & BOOKING: Many posters recommend visiting Alhambra at night as well as in the daytime. Be aware that it is not open on Sunday and Monday nights. We had to revamp our Seville-Ronda-Granada plan to arrive a day earlier in Granada to be able to go on a Saturday night.

Most Alhambra info sources point you to the BBVA for reserving tickets. It appears they will no longer be booking tickets for dates after August 1, 2007. To book tickets go to the Alhambra main site (below) for info and links for reserving: http://www.alhambradegranada.org/gui...ntradas_en.asp

GREAT INFO SOURCES: Besides the various discussions and trip reports here at Fodor’s, we found (as many have reported here) Maribels guides, http://maribelsguides.com, one of the best sources for many areas in Spain. We also found comparing her suggested hotels plus those found on Fodor’s and other travel guides and services with trip advisor http://www.tripadvisor.com ratings and comments very helpful. The ratings are good but the comments are also very helpful. We all have different priorities.

5* HOTEL DISCOUNTS: If you are interested in some of the 5* historically elegant hotels as we were, a careful review of pricing for different time periods plus AAA and Senior discounts (okay I am showing my age) can produce more affordable rates. In one case we had to commit to a senior discount with a non-refundable payment but it was about a 50% discount. In other cases, the AAA was better than the Senior discount. I only was able to do this for Starwood hotels but perhaps there are other chains we did not check that also do this.

PARADOR DISCOUNTS: While Paradors in general, https://www.parador.es, advertise that they also have discount plans for seniors, young travelers and 5-night stays at one or more locations in a given time period, I found these are not always available. So plan these way ahead of time to get the best prices. I also experienced periods of time where you could not get through to their site so keep trying.

GOOGLE WORLD: This free program was very helpful in planning the trip. Every time a name of a city came up I would plug it in to Google World and it would “fly” me there. When I was considering driving between points I would plug those in to see the distance and time estimates. I am sure they are not always correct but they give you a feel.
rlm346 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 01:15 PM
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A couple of things.

The AVE can be sold out.

I have not driven to Ronda in many years, but if they have not improved the road, it will take at least 50% longer than you beileive. Additionally, the roads in the Costa del Sol may also be slow due to congestion.

See if the parador in Granada is avilable. It is the most difficult to secure a reservation.

Aduchamp1 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 01:29 PM
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Rich, No comments except to say it is a fantastic itinerary.
 
Jul 22nd, 2007, 01:49 PM
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I don't have any comments except I've done Cordoba as a day trip by train from Seville, and there is absolutely no reason at all to buy those tickets in advance. There are many runs to/from all day long. I just took a local regional train, although it is a stop on some AVE runs, also. The time difference between those two isn't that great, and the regional train tickets are pretty cheap.
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Jul 22nd, 2007, 03:09 PM
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Aduchamp1 & Christina: Thanks for the info on the AVE trains and Granada trains.

Question: If you have a ticket on a an AVE train, can you get on an earlier one if there is room OR are you required to take the one your reserved?

Also,we tried to get into the Parador in Granada but it was full. We also considered the Alhambra Palace but did not get a great impression about it from the reviews we read. So, we opted for one more in town. Is that a good decision?
rlm346 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 04:49 PM
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No idea on changing AVE's.

RENFE has an English translation but I am not sure it has a disclaimer section.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 05:32 PM
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AVE trains require reservations, so you can't just get on a train. If you are really there that early that you think you can make another one, you'd have to go to a ticket clerk and make a reservation change. If you paid a full-price ticket, I suppose the cost would be minimal, but fares can differ depending on time of day, as I recall.
Christina is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 03:34 AM
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Great info on tapas in San Sebastian:
www.todopintxos.com
Restaurants to dine in Getaria (a coastal village): "Elkano" or "Kaia".
Ask "cogote de merluza" (grilled hake) and "txakoli" (local white wine).
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Jul 23rd, 2007, 06:06 AM
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Exactly what date will you be in Segovia?
amsdon is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 06:48 AM
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If possible, do not skip the parador at Aiguablava.The scenery is breathtaking and the staff very helpful.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 10:45 AM
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Amsdon-We will be in Segovia on October 4th.

rlm346 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 02:05 PM
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You are zig-zagging going Seville to Granada (Arcos and Pueblos Blancos are off the way), then Ronda then Nerja. I’ll figure out something tomorrow.
On occasions of great AVE demand, they usually add new trains. You better book in advance, but no need to worry much. And the Ronda roads have indeed improved.
You can take an AVE earlier than your scheduled, if seats are available. I usually do it. No extra fares.
The Granada Hotel, there are some choices with good reviews in other posts. If you are down in the town, there is a 1eur (more or less) bus that goes up and down the Alhambra. It wont be an inconvenience.
josele is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 10:19 PM
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Revulgo: Thanks for the tapas in San Sebastian link. I can't wait to experience them first hand!
rlm346 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 04:00 AM
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Lovely trip rim, one tiny , little thing, you can take advante of the Años Dorados not paying the ticket to visit the Alcazar. This is not c0mmon because many times discounts and free passes are limitid to citizens from the Common European Market.
Just in case always ask and if you find another place with free entrance for seniors, please, let us know.
Josele as always has very good advice try not to zig zag in your itinerary.
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Jul 24th, 2007, 04:01 AM
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I mean the Alcazar in Seville.
Graziella5b is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 06:12 AM
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RLM:

Re Segovia:

Yes the Infanta Isabel is totally booked at this time for the 4th but not the 3rd. (I e mailed them) Looks like your schedule is pretty set for those specific days. You can always check for last minute availablility.

I have not stayed at the Linajes but the TA reviews a good, location a bit further (20 mins walk) from the aqueduct) but especially the views are nice so I assume you would ask for a room w/ view. The Infanta is good but the location is really the strong point of that hotel if you want to be 5 minutes from eveything. But the Linajes may prove even better for you the balconies are bigger and may be more relaxing ?
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Jul 24th, 2007, 10:37 AM
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Thanks Amsdon, I appreciate you double checking Infanta for me. Yes, that night will work out the best for us. I will keep trying to see if they get openings.

I did not realize that Linajes would be a 20 min walk. Looking back at Maribel's report it does say 300 meters (which I translate into about 3 US football fields)so that makes sense.

The other hotel that is in Maribel's Segovia report that seems to be close to the action is Hosteria Ayala Berganza. It also had good reviews in TA but there were only 4 total & only one from 2007 & one in 2006. Maribel didn't seem to be high on its surrounds and I have seen mixed reviews elsewhere. Do you or anyone else have any experience with this hotel.
Thanks, Rich
rlm346 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 03:07 PM
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ZIGZAGGING PROBLEM: I have been working on the zigzag around Andalusia that a few of you have identified. Here are my thoughts and questions:

I have one major constraint in making changes. The four nights in Alfonso are the only reservations I cannot change. I was able to get such a good deal on superior rooms through a “senior” discount that required a non-refundable reservation. Considering that I cannot leave Seville until Saturday, here are three potential plans:

·Current Plan: Stop in Madrid for one night before going to Seville for four nights. Leave Seville on Saturday and drive down to Arcos & white villages then back up and out to Granada for two nights (Saturday & Sunday); visiting Alhambra at night and during the day. Then driving via the coast to Ronda the next day, staying Monday night.. Finally leaving from Malaga to Barcelona on Tuesday.

· Revision #1: As above stop in Madrid for one night before going to Seville for four nights. Leave Seville on Saturday and drive down to Arcos & white villages as planned but now go to Ronda for Saturday night thus skipping seeing Alhambra at night. Then go onto Granada for two nights (Sunday and Monday); visiting Alhambra only during the day. Drive from Granada to Malaga to fly to Barcelona on Tuesday.

· Revision #2: Don’t stay in Madrid but go directly to Seville via train or plane the day we arrive. Stay five nights in Seville instead of four. Spend the extra day doing a day trip to Arcos and the white villages returning to Seville. Leave Seville early AM as planned on Saturday going directly to Ronda. Explore Ronda and leave mid PM to drive to Granada, visiting Alhambra at night. Spend two nights in Granada then drive to Nerja or Malaga for Monday night exploring the coast on the way. Leave from Malaga to Barcelona as planned on Tuesday.

We need to decide which is better:
· Current: Half day in Madrid, Zigzag around Andalusia, Alhambra at night and Ronda overnight.

· Revision #1: Half day in Madrid, no zigzag, skip Alhambra at night and stay in Ronda overnight.

· Revision #2: No Madrid at front end (3 days at end of trip). No zigzag, more time in white villages, Ronda only during day, Nerja/Malaga at end of trip.

We would love to have any insights that would help us make this decision.

rlm346 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2007, 06:11 PM
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Rich you should look at the Trip advisor hotel reviews for Segovia just in case. I only learned about the 20 minute walk from reading those.

ams
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Jul 25th, 2007, 03:51 AM
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Hi there.
First, you cannot miss the Alfonso XIII, it is a great classic hotel.
Upon departing from Seville on Saturday morning, the obvious drive for me would be to Arcos de la Frontera (Utrera-->El Coronil-->Puerto Serrano, and then west to Villamartín-->Bornos-->Arcos. Go up the hill to the sqare-turned-parking lot, and the mirador with the breathtaking view. Walk around the church in that square, and walk to San Pedro church (the one you see left from the mirador). Then continue to El Bosque and Grazalema, where you can have lunch. Continue to Zahara, this path has gotten a good post the other days; There is a Hotel up the hill in Zahara, to park and idle. Then continue to Algodonales and Ronda (hotel).
From Ronda you can drive to Teba-->Campillos-->(see Antequera in the distance at the right) and A92 to Granada.
From Granada you can drive south to Motril-->east to Salobreña and Nerja, and then motorway all the way to Malaga and airport.
Another choice is Ronda-->Marbella-->Coastal motorway to Nerja, and then Almuñecar, Salobreña and north to Granada. Back to Malaga via Motorway A92.
There is another possibility for going from Ronda to Malaga, but there is a very bad part, presently under repairs, and depending on the day you can find very heavy traffic upon reaching Malaga.
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