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pittsburgh Nov 4th, 2005 02:29 PM

Spain/Portugal Trip Report
Thought it is worthwhile to post a brief trip report since I found all the reports previously posted quite helpful in my planning (you'll recognize where many of the hotel ideas came from). Trip was a 15 day trip wandering around major cities on the Iberian Peninsula. All travel reservations made in the US before leaving with the exception of the final hotel stay:

Day 1: Flight from US to Spain (Madrid)

Day 2: Madrid (Hotel Galiano): Galiano wsa pretty much as advertised. Nice small hotel on a very very quiet street. Even though it was right near Plaza Colon, you could hear almost zero noise. Being a 2 minute walk from the Metro station was a plus. And walking distance to all 3 museums also a plus. Staff was nice and very handy to have a computer available for quick emails in the lobby for only 1 euro.
- Prado - Very large. But, personally, I got numbed by all the religious art pretty quickly. I liked the two other museums slightly more.
- Thyssen - Very nice collection in a very nice space

Day 3: Madrid
- Palacio Real - Worth a quick visit. Did not take the guided tour. General trend in Spain seems to be not to label anything which makes it hard to figure out what is going on without a guided tour or audioguide (but listening to the audioguide takes too much patience...)
- Reina Sofia - Very much enjoyed the Picasso and Dali works in this museum. Located on a very nice plaza.
- Real Jardin Botanico - Would not have gone except noticed a poster for an Einstein exhibition, which caught my eye. Was pleasntly surprised by the size and scope of the gardens. In particular, the cacti collection and the greenhouses. The Einstein exhibit was interesting although completely in Spanish with no English and still not clear to me what that had to do with the gardens.

Day 4: Madrid - Basically spent exploring on foot the side of town opposite my hotel. Not looking at any attractiions in particular.
- Plaza Mayor
- Sol

Day 5: Madrid-Barcelona (Iberia for 43 euros)
Barcelona (Hilton Barcelona) - Located at the upper end of the Diagonal right by the El Corte Ingles. Not really good if you want to be in the heart of the city but a nice hotel and location suited me fine since it was a 5 minute walk to the metro which covers pretty much everything I needed to reach in town.
- Montserrat - Took the cable car ride up to the monestary, which looks to be the most convenient way to do it and does provide nice views. Weather was too foggy/rainy for any hiking although other people highly recommended that in good weather. Was pleantly surprised by the quality of their museum.
- Mount Tibidabo - Nice views of the city at night plus an interesting church up there as well

Day 6: Barcelona
- Casa Batilo - Really enjoyed this Gaudi work quite a bit.
- La Pedera - Was not as excited by this. The apartment is very bland in my mind. Only the rooftop chimneys are interesting and are still nothing in my mind compared to Casa Batilo.

Day 7: Barcelona
- Sagrada Familia - Climbed the steps, did not take the elevator. Have done that both times there. I think the stairs are a great way to experience it. Did not take a guided tour as I have had that before but probably is good for those who have not been there before.
- Parc Guell - Very nice park to walk around. Did the entire circumferance basically at lunchtime.
- Ramblas/Market - Always worth a good stroll, especially wandering through the food market. Was mushroom season.

Day 8: Barcelona-Seville (Vueling for 10 euros)
Seville (Casa De La Maestro) - Basically struck me as the equivalent of a spanish B&B. Breakfast was ok but nothing spectacular. Location was a good starting part for heading out each day. Seville was great fun to walk around but I have never been so lost initially in a city due to the complete maze of alleyways. Best food on the trip. Had good iberian ham (black hooved pigs) at almost every meal.
- Cathedral
- Alcazar
Day 9: Seville
- Random wandering around town
- Archive of the Indians - Only had a minimal exhibition, almost all in spanish. I would have liked much more stuff from the explorers but the majority of the exhibition at the moment was devoted to the history of the building it seemed.

Day 10: Seville-Granada (Train for 19 euros)
Granada (Vincci Granada) - Smallest room on the trip. Not at all impressed by the hotel. Only redeeming factor was located right on Constitution so was easy to find and no issues walking late at night. But somewhat far from the Alhambra (hotel said too far to walk. I didn't listen and found the walk quite nice but some may not like how uphill it is).
- Capilla Real
- Cathedral
Day 11: Granada - Got both Alhambra tix online before leaving for Spain
- Alhambra (afternoon ticket) - Can't really add much to what most have written
- Alhambra (night ticket) - Best part is getting there before the night session starts (i got there around 9:15 for the 10pm session). There is almost no one around so you have basically the whole complex to yourself, which is somewhat amazing to just stare at even though nothing is open except the grounds. The portions of the palace that are open for the tour are ok but not overly spectacular except, again, that it is much less crowded than during the daytime visit, so you can take in things better. But they could probably use a professional lighting expert to spruce it up a bit i think.

Day 12: Granada-Mardid-Lisbon
Lisbon (Sheraton Lisboa) - Located downtown. I consider it walking distance to everything but others may not (20 minutes to get to the main plazas). I found the Lisbon metro system to be fairly useless (especially compared to Madrid or Barcelona) but the trams to be useful.

Day 13: Lisbon
- Se
- Saint George's Castle and the other sights on the hills in that general area

Day 14: Lisbon - Belem area
- Tower of Belem - Really liked the views from climbing this but the lack of any safety standards is kind of astounding. Very narrow stairs with two-way traffic and no railing. Amazing that no one slips and gets injured.
- Monument to the Discoverers - Also climbed the stairs here but did take the elevator back down. Views were even better than from the Tower. Also liked the historical exhibit on the explorers. Wished spain/portugal had more historical museums to go through their history.
- Monastery of Jerónimos
Day 15: Lisbon-Madrid
Madrid (Hotel Plaza Mayor) - Liked this location to end the trip. Opposite end of the city from Galiano where I started off. Good place to end when the goal is really relax, do some shopping, and have some final good food.
- Plaza Mayor/Sol wandering
- Lunch @ Botin - I found this to be quite reasonably priced and food very good. Yes, it is touristy, but i like this much better than the true tourist trap food place inside the plaza.
Day 16: Fly home!

Best resource I found for a lot of the trip (as many of you already know) was maribel's guides. Guidebook for spain was the Rough Guide which was quite good. For Portugal, I had the Lonely Planet guide, which was ok, but I ended up finding the Rough Guide to be more useful when in the midst of travelling.

jkc Nov 10th, 2005 09:30 AM

Hi pittsburgh
My friends and I are doing a 10 day trip to Barcelona, Seville, and Lisbon in May 2006. We know we'll be spending most of our time in Barcelona but can't decide on whether to stay 2 or 3 days in Seville or Lisbon. Any suggestion as to which one would require more time.
Also, I've been researching on hotels/apartments in each town. Is it doable to see all the sites on foot or would we need to use some sort of transportation. For example in Barcelona, is the distance from Las Ramblas to Sagrada Familia walkable?

pittsburgh Nov 10th, 2005 11:28 AM

Seville vs. Lisbon:
- I really really liked Seville. Two days was enough to capture the main sights in town. Not enough time to enjoy all the good food/wine :) and just wander aimlessly through the maze of alleys, which was quite fun to do. If I had an additional day there, my Spanish friends were recommending that I take a day trip to Cordoba. There is a high speed train between Seville and Cordoba so that is easy. I had just over 2 days in Lisbon and found that to also be fairly sufficient as well. Again, if I had an extra day, I would probably do a day trip out of the city. In this case to Sintra.

-- Transportation
- I had no car at any of my stops and the only taxis I ever took were to/from the airport to my hotels. But...I also like walking a lot. Barcelona is no problem because the metro is very good, as is the bus. Getting from the Ramblas to Sagrada Familia I took the metro and that is a very quick (< 5 minute) ride. Walkable as well. (metro/bus in Madrid/Barcelona, trams in Lisbon).

jkc Nov 11th, 2005 08:23 AM

Thanks, that's really helpful. I'm just excited about going now, but first we have to book flights, hotels, etc. Thanks again.

pittsburgh Nov 12th, 2005 10:04 AM

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