Seville/Granada Trip Report

Mar 27th, 2009, 08:09 PM
  #1  
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Seville/Granada Trip Report

The trip: 6 days total, 4 in Seville and 2 in Granada.

Us: Myself and DH, in our late 30s/40s. We’re moderately experienced travelers, but do not speak Spanish.

Why Spain: Enticed by the PBS Series “On the Road Again Spain”, we were also looking for someplace warm after enduring a very long Iowa winter.

Thanks to all of those who posted trip reports before me and to Maribel for her guides, all were helpful in my planning. Overall, this was an amazing trip. My wallet was stolen in Granada, which I detailed in a separate post, so I won’t dwell on that here.

If you’d like to see photos, a few of my favorites can be found at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

Rather than a daily recap, I thought I’d try a slightly different 1-5 stars approach on the major components of the trip (one being “IMHO don’t bother” and five being “we thought it was amazing!”). I’ll also include a few general observations at the end that might be helpful to others.

Transportation - 4 stars. Unbelievably, every flight was on time (three flights over and four flights on the way home). For the trans-atlantic flight over we flew Iberia from Chicago. I have to say that the older planes without the video screens in the seats are a bit of a disappointment these days and the flight attendants were inattentive at best. But they got us there safely and on time, so that’s what really counts. We used taxis to and from the airport. From the airport the cost was 23.80 € (posted rate on the card). However, I arranged for a taxi at 4:30 am to take us to the airport to depart and he charged me 35€. I challenged him and he said it was because I called. Is this right? I didn’t feel in a position to argue and so just paid it, but would appreciate any advice for future situations. In Seville, we walked everywhere, but there seemed to be plenty of busses one wanted to figure out how to use them. Seville is a very walkable city. And if you didn’t want to walk, they have these great bicycle rental setups at many of the plazas. There is an interactive kiosk where you enter your credit card info, you select a bike and away you go. We took the bus to Granada, which I detail later in the report.

Lodging/San Andres Apartments (rented though Sevilla5.com) – 3 ½ stars. We spent three nights here at a rate of 85 € per night including breakfast. The pictures and description of the apartment on the website are accurate. I liked the location, within walking distance to the major attractions, but yet it still had a neighborhood feel. The apartment was very clean and secure. My issues: it was a bit loud with the noise from the restaurant which didn’t die down til after midnight each night (and this was in a room at the back side of the building so I'm guessing the front side would be louder if you had your window open to the plaza), and barely enough hot water for two quick showers.

Food – 3 stars. I’m not sure I ever got the hang of when I was supposed to be eating, so we just ate when we were hungry. Let’s just say that we had our fill of pork. I didn’t research restaurants in advance, so we mostly landed at moderately priced places. It seemed that they all kind of had the same menu which was a mix of tapas and entrees. I did enjoy some of the tapas items, but never really found any entrees that I’d rate higher than a three. Some places we went had menus translated to English (one of our favorite descriptions was “kid with garlic” LOL) others did not, but with a phrase book it wasn’t too tough to figure out what you might be getting. My one regret is that I did not get any paella, as the place we ate the last night was out by the time I ordered. I thought the food was a bit less expensive than some other European cities – we could get three or four tapas items plus wine/sangria for about 25-30€. We stocked up on awesome clementines & mandarin oranges in the apartment as well. The sangria gets four stars in my book.

Seville Attractions:
Seville Cathedral – 4 stars – An architectural wonder! DH thought the tomb of Columbus was neat, I liked the view from the tower. Loved the contrast of the quirky modern art sculptures outside the Cathedral that are currently on display, although I couldn’t figure out who the artist was. If you know, please tell me!

Real Alcazar – 4 stars. Although we saw this after the Alhambra, it was still beautiful. The tile, the carving, the courtyards…amazing. If you’re a lover of gardens and are expecting much you might be a bit disappointed. Although I realize we were early in the season, with the exception of roses, I couldn’t see it getting much better. In general, the gardens in Spain weren’t much to write home about. Note, the Real Alcazar is closed on Mondays so plan appropriately.

La Maestranza Plaza de Toros (Bull Ring) – 3 ½ stars. We did the 30 minute guided tour, which is essentially 10 minutes in the stands of the bull ring and about 20 minutes in the museum. I felt like we were rushed in the museum as they move you along from section to section and then out the door. I’d never go to a bull fight, but it was neat to see the ring and understand it a bit more. I was a bit bummed because there was construction equipment working in the ring so no unobstructed photos.

Flamenco – 3 stars. We went to Casa de la Memoria, a one hour show for 15€ each. I wouldn’t know good flamenco from bad flamenco, so it’s hard for me to judge the quality of the performance. I liked the dancing, but wasn’t blown away by the singing. I’m glad we went for the experience, but also glad we didn’t pay any more than we did or attend a three hour show. Note, there are two shows a night at 9 and 11 pm. We had to get tickets the day before, as they were sold out for the current night.

Casa de Pilatos – 3 ½ stars. The 16th century mansion had some spectacular tile. It’s a bit hard to find, but was worth the walk to tour the lower level and gardens, which also had some Renaissance influence. I wouldn’t put it at the top of my list, especially if you’re going to the Real Alcazar and/or Alhambra as it does have some similarities with the tile/carvings, but certainly worth a visit if you have the time.

Maria de Luisa Park 3 stars– really quite a beautiful park. I loved the Plaza de Espana, which was built for an exposition, but I’m not sure what it is used for now. Amazing picture opportunities here photographers, so plan it around morning or evening for softer light if you can. We rented a quad cycle within the park and had a good time checking out the different areas. The Plaza de Americas was especially beautiful with the spring trees in bloom. If we had more time, I would have liked to visit the archeological museum.

Murillo Gardens – 1 star. Maybe I missed something, otherwise, enough said.

Shopping –4 stars. Ok, I’m normally not a shopper on vacation (and especially wasn’t on this one after my wallet was stolen), but if I were, this seemed to be the place! The window shopping alone was fabulous. I especially enjoyed a morning walking around Barrio Santa Cruz and looking at the wedding dresses, first communion dresses and flamenco dresses displayed in the windows. And I’m quite certain I have never seen so many shoe stores in my life.

People-watching – 5 stars. Seriously, I could sit in a plaza all day and just people watch. I loved seeing grandparents with their impeccably dressed grandchildren (I’m talking dresses, tights, tiny cardigans and hair bows on the little girls, on a Wednesday!) and the women strolling arm in arm. The plazas were busy all day long and well into the evenings, heavy with the smell of orange blossoms, they were just delightful.

Granada
We took the bus to Granada and stayed over for a night. While we could have returned the same day, it would have been a really long one and I'm glad we decided to spend the night. The bus was easy and worked great for us, I think it cost around 72€ for the two of us, also booked in advance online. It was a three hour ride. We took taxis (7-10 € each) to and from the bus station and used the Alhambra mini-bus to get to the Alhambra.

Hotel Hesperia Granada – 4 stars. Only one night here, but I thought this was a steal at 75 € including a nice breakfast buffet. I was expecting a really small room, but it wasn’t small at all and again, very clean. We even got a king size bed! Breakfast was a nice mix of cereals, hot items, pastries and juices. This was also in a great location just a few blocks from the Cathedral.

Alhambra – 5 stars. I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed the Alhambra. It was so different than anything we had ever seen! We went to the afternoon session (tickets purchased online about a month in advance), which started at 2 pm. The place was not crowded at all, which made it even more fabulous. The views of the snowy Sierra Madres and the city below from the Alcazaba towers were amazing. We stayed until shortly before 6 pm, which was closing time. If I could do it again, I’d love to go back and see the place at night.

Granada Cathedral – 4 stars. I loved this cathedral. The interior is white, rather than dark, like so many of them. And the morning light was streaming through the stained glass just right for good photographs. I wish the individual chapels for each of the patron saints were lighted, as you couldn’t really see much in them.

Other observations:
•Dress – I personally thought they dressed up more in Spain that I have seen in other western European countries. Also, although the weather was in the 70’s, which was incredibly warm to us Iowans, they were still wearing jackets and sweaters. I took skirts to wear with sandals and found that I felt very self conscious with bare legs and even a bit underdressed in jeans.

•Friendliness – Please don’t be mad at us, but my husband and I didn’t find the people of Spain terribly friendly. It’s not that they were unfriendly, just not friendly. Maybe this was the language barrier, as most people didn’t speak English, or maybe it was just because the majority of our interactions were with waiters, cab drivers, etc. Has anyone else had that experience?

•English – we didn’t expect much English and didn’t find much either, which was ok. We had a Spanish phrase book and so tried to do our best to communicate and it worked fine.

•Schedule – Seriously, I never really did figure this out. Shop seemed to open about 10 am, some closed for siesta around 2 and some did not. It would appear you could eat evening meals anywhere from 6-11 pm. Most shops were closed on Sunday.

•Beggars – there are a lot of them. The women pushing the rosemary seemed to be the most annoying, but they are everywhere, even coming up to you while you are dining outdoors. A firm no gracias seemed to work better than just trying to ignore them, but they will grab your arms and hands.

•Smoking – I’ve been spoiled by a smoking ban in all restaurants in Iowa. It was especially bad in the mornings when it was too cool to eat outside. Just be prepared if that is something that bothers you.

Overall, just a wonderful trip. I look forward to going back someday to see other parts of the country.
sferguso is offline  
Mar 27th, 2009, 08:38 PM
  #2  
 
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Thanks for a well-organized trip report. Your photos are just lovely, and a nice memory of Granada for me. I only spent one hour in Seville once, so can't really remember much.
You were very clear and frank about your trip, and you told us a lot. Many thanks for that.

I loved "On the Road Again in Spain" it was a fun series, and glad it inspired you to go to Spain. me too.
taconictraveler is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 12:32 AM
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Sounds like you had a wonderful well-planned trip!

Just for others, it is the SECOND floor of Casa de Pilatos that is so impressive.

Also, in touristy areas, some shops decide to stay open for business while others , as most are family employees, or do not want to pay extra staff hours, close up for the typical 2-4:30/5:00 pm closure.

Large stores stay open all day 10-9pm/10.

Good to know about that hotel as they often have great rates.Thank you.

Sorry about your wallet. How irritating but glad to see it didn't put a total damper on your attitude!Bravo!
lincasanova is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 04:12 AM
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"I’m not sure I ever got the hang of when I was supposed to be eating,..." ...welcome to my world. We never got the hang of it either but worked it out.

I, too, noticed that people tend to dress nicer (Madrid, Toledo)--I found it inspiring though I've since returned to my crummy ways.

Again, so sorry about the wallet but glad you enjoyed a nice trip. Thank you for the trip report, this is an area we look forward to visiting soon.
AnnMarie_C is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 04:23 AM
  #5  
 
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thanks for the trip report. Nice format and easy to get at the information that others might need.

WE loved granada too and have seville high on our "to do list". what time of year were you there and would you recommend it for a visit to SEville?

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 06:08 AM
  #6  
 
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I'm headed to both these places in May. I must say the smoking in restaurants is putting a damper on my enthusiasm for eating out there!
nysmom is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 06:20 AM
  #7  
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Hi annhig - we just returned last weekend, so were there March 14-21. I think it was an excellent time to visit as the weather was perfect. The cab driver told us that since we were a couple of weeks prior to Easter the city was "tranquil". At least that's what I think he was telling me.....
sferguso is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 06:36 AM
  #8  
yk
 
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Hi sferguso - thanks for posting your trip report. I like your honesty, and in fact, I had similar observations as you did on my trip to Spain last year. I didn't find the food that spectacular (maybe because I was traveling solo and couldn't sample as much), and I didn't find the locals overly friendly to me who don't speak Spanish. But seeing the Alhambra was one of the biggest highlight (even though the Lions in the Court of the Lions were not on view) and I was glad I went. I also didn't quite get the singing in the flamenco show but I guess I just don't know enough about flamenco singing style.

The only thing I'd say we differ in opinion though, is that I cannot stand On the Road Again Spain TV show. I've tried to watch it on several attempts but I just don't get it. Can't stand most of the hosts on the show and it seems more like an egocentric celebrity reality show than a show about travel/food. Just MHO.
yk is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 07:10 AM
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I think your points are important.

So much is based on expectation & comparisons on what we are familiar with, be it food or music or the way which people speak to tourists. It is hard not to have these in our minds I know. But expectations & comparisons to back home can sometimes dampen the actual experience while it is happening.
I got used to the matter of fact manner of those in the hotels quickly and now see it as more sincere & less conscending.

Don't expect to really "get" flamenco in one sitting. Think of it like opera or any other music that is foreign to you.
For other Fodorites I suggest reading up & listening first
But I must point out, it's the singing that the reports most critisize but the basis of flamenco is indeed the cante (song) not the dance or guitar and it cannot be judged on whether the voice is what we would consider "pretty".

For those going to Spain soon please take the time to read the many posts here explaining flamenco so that you may understand when you hear it.
amsdon is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 07:23 AM
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About your taxi ride--Often when you call for a taxi, you are charged from the moment the driver receives your request. In other words, you are charged for the time the driver spends going to get you as well as taking you to your destination. I know this is true in Italy--if you call for a taxi, the meter is already running because the driver activated it at the moment of receiving your call. It is an accepted part of the transaction.

This "friendly" issue is often discussed here. I don't think it's an issue of friendly, but rather an issue of Spaniards and other European cultures being more formal with strangers. We've found that if we return a second time to the same shop, restaurant, or cafe, we are remembered and greeted warmly.

Glad you had such a wonderful time. What a great idea to visit this area as an antidote to winter!
ellenem is online now  
Mar 28th, 2009, 12:16 PM
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Sferguso, nice report! You bring up that point about the dress being dressier than you expected. I'm going to be packing soon for a May trip to Spain, including Madrid, Seville and Granada. If you had it to do over, what would you take?
axelrod6 is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 02:59 PM
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Hi axelrod6 - I probably would have swapped out a pair of jeans and a skirt for a a couple of pairs of slacks. (The only pair of slacks I had were nice black capris and even they seemed out of place.) I had a couple of casual blazers with me, which worked well. I added a scarf on the cool mornings/evenings.

Shoes would have been the hard part...it's hard to find something stylish that you can walk in for 5-6 hours a day.
sferguso is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 05:05 PM
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sferguso : You have shared a great trip report with us. I am off to Seville and Granada end of May. Please let me know how you ordered the bus tickets to Granada online? I plan continuing to Algarve from Granada but may have to return first to Seville, but would appreciate any info on public transportation. I would also like to be able to book the ticket for Granada sightseeing at Alhambra online. I will be staying 2 nights in Granada and 3 in Seville so shohuld have plenty of time to see the highlights in both cities. Thank you for posting your trip report. Kate
Cavangal is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 05:15 PM
  #14  
yk
 
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Cavangal - Order bus ticket via: http://www.alsa.es/
yk is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 05:24 PM
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I'm revising my suitcase contents now - the light jackets stay, the cargo capris go.
axelrod6 is offline  
Mar 28th, 2009, 07:34 PM
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Good choice.
amsdon is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 10:41 AM
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Hi Sferguso:

Thank you for your trip report. I have been in Spain for the past two weeks and I too am totally impressed with how the Spaniards dress which is impeccable. Brilliant tailoring and thus far I have not seen anyone's jeans hanging off their bottoms with boxer shorts hanging out nor baseball caps. Family appears to be very important with children immaculately dressed and attended to. Cleanliness in Madrid hotels, restaurants, washrooms, get a 10 out of 10 for me. Seville, Jerez and can't comment on Granada at the moment.

The food in Seville, Jerez and Granada is quite excellent. People seem to take tapas during the late afternoon with a light supper and again it appears that the main meal is at siesta time.

We have seen excellent flamenco particularly in Seville where I saw only a cantor, palmas and guitar (Pansequito and Antonio Reyes) and two other shows (which I did not pay for) that were electric to put it mildly. I stopped by a "staged" show and unfortunately there was no passion. Initially I could not "get" it but when cantor, guitarist and dancer become one - I get it. Off to some more tonight.

Thanks again for your report.
Denise is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 10:45 AM
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Denise please report back again!
amsdon is offline  
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