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Spain/Portugal trip report (more to follow) - Gracias Maribel and others!

Spain/Portugal trip report (more to follow) - Gracias Maribel and others!

Nov 16th, 2003, 07:51 PM
  #1  
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Spain/Portugal trip report (more to follow) - Gracias Maribel and others!

Well, we returned recently from a nearly three week trip through Spain and Portugal. We had a great time, and the advice of everyone here was extremely helpful - especially Maribel, whose guides helped us through three of our cities!

Barcelona was by far our favorite Spanish city, although the Alhambra was the probably the single best "tourist attraction" we saw.

Brief hotel review:

Catalonia Moratin (Madrid) - great location, nice new rooms, couldn't beat the promotional price. We'd definitely stay there again.

YH Giralda (Sevilla) - Great location but the rooms were small and the bathroom was tiny. Definitely a no-frills kind of place, but it would have been fine except you could hear EVERYTHING when people walked up the stairs or in the halls (from all three floors). That coupled with the fact that the bells were quite loud from the Cathedral meant poor sleeping conditions overall.

Melia Granada: good location, "chain atmosphere", but wonderful full buffet breakfast. Good place overall.

Hotel America (Barcelona): Loved the location, rooms were beautiful, breakfast was good. On the pricey side, but worth it.

Residencial Dos Aliados (Oporto): great staff, plenty of history, but a fair amount of street noise secondary to construction. Can't beat the price!

Monte da Serralheira (Evora): quiet, charming apartment. Easy drive to Evora (5 min.), and a unique place overall. Friendly owners & very helpful!

Casa De Pergola (Cascais): Great staff here also: arranged for an early breakfast when we had to leave at 6 AM. Incredible location, charming room. Highly recommended.

I will try and post a complete trip report in the next few days, but again thanks to everyone here!
drsneeze is offline  
Dec 8th, 2003, 12:00 PM
  #2  
hax
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Hi drsneese-- I enjoyed your trip report.
I'm interested in the America Hotel for our stay in Barcelona. Would love to hear more. Would need a suite or two rooms for two adults/two teens. Would you recommend this hotel for a family? Were the rooms tiny or large? Was breakfast included? Did you feel safe? Was the staff friendly and helpful?
Sorry to pepper you with questions. When you travel with kids you have to be more careful! Thanks for your help.
hax is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2004, 11:27 AM
  #3  
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Hax:

Sorry for the late reply (haven't checked back in awhile). I've been meaning to post the rest of my report but with the holidays things got too busy!

The Hotel America should be fine for kids - it's in a nice, fairly quiet area and it is very modern. They also have a computer with free internet access in the lobby. The staff was friendly and very helpful. We certainly felt safe there, even walking back late at night.
I don't know if they have suites, but our double room was probably average size for a US hotel, but for Europe that is fairly large. Our room included breakfast and we booked through Orbitz (which I believe partnered with Utell).

Hope this helps - I'll try and check back more here often, and my full report will eventually come!
drsneeze is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2004, 02:50 PM
  #4  
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Trip Report - Part "2" - Sights:

Well, I should know by now that if I don't do something right away, it doesn't get done!

Here is a a brief summary of what we saw and how we got around:

Madrid:

1) Spent parts of two days at the Prado. While we are not "museum people" overall, we loved this museum and it was definitely our favorite. We also went to the other two museums in the "Art Triangle" (Thyssen and Reina Sofia). The Thyssen was our least favorite of the three and would be the one I would miss if I only had time for two.
2) Other sights: Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor etc. were nice as well

- we walked this city, and only took a cab from the airport to our hotel. We also walked to the train station which has a nice garden inside; took AVE to Sevilla...

Sevilla:

1) Saw the cathedral, and climbed the Giralda Tower. We also visited the Plaza de Toros, walked along the river, and explored the Barrio Santa Cruz. Fun city to wander around!

- We took a cab to and from the train station; took a regional train to Granada...

Granada:

1) Went to the Alhambra twice - the first on the night we got there, and the second during the next day. We felt it was worth it to see it twice, and we spent about 5 hours there on the second day exploring areas that are not open at night. Also went to the Moorish quarter, but we didn't like that area as much.

Side note: we actually walked from the train station (dragging our luggage) all the way to our hotel - it looked closer on the map than it was. It wasn't that bad since it was a nice day, but my wife complained a little

We flew from Granada to Barcelona on Iberia - no problems.

Barcelona:

1) We saw the Sagrada Familia church, Park Guell, Block of Discord, Aquarium, Picasso Museum and walked down the Ramblas. We also took a side trip to the Dali museum which is a very interesting experience - it was much, much different from the Dali museum in Florida! In addition, we took another train over to the Frexenet Cava Winery for a tour.

2) We spent four days there and felt like we could have stayed another week. Loved this city! We used the Metro to get to most places. Also, as an FYI, there is an FGC train that takes you from the Placa Catalunya and drops you very close to the Hotel America. It's worth it because it is a somewhat taxing walk even with rolling luggage (we walked up the first day, but took the train back down when we left). Without luggage, the walk is no big deal.

- We used the Aerobus to/from the Airport; flew from Barcelona to Oporto...

Oporto:

1) We probably spent one day too many here - loved the Port Wine lodges, and spent some time down by the beach (Foz). We also took a short river cruise.

- We took an Aerobus to our hotel, but rented a car and drove to Evora...

Evora:
1) We loved this small city - great place to wander, and it was remarkably clean. We did the Rick Steves walking tour in his guide and saw the old Roman ruins. We also visited the Cappella de los Ossos (Chapel of Bones), which wasn't as gruesome or oppressive as we thought it would be.

2) Drove to Monsaraz - beautiful small town on a hill with great views.

- We drove from Evora to Cascais where we returned our rental car.

Cascais:
1) Nice, quiet resort town outside of Lisbon. Somewhat confusing to get around and navigate (via car) but we got there. Not a lot of sights in Cascais, but we took a bus tour to Sintra and saw the Palacio da Pena and the Castelo dos Mouros ruins (both well worth the ride). The "scenic route" on the bus may not have been worth the extra time - we took the more direct bus back.


More to come in part 3 - food!
drsneeze is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 09:40 AM
  #5  
hax
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 262
Thanks for your reply, drsneeze! I have ruled out the America (even tho I loved how it looked) because they do not have connecting rooms or suites, and my kids are not comfortable staying in a separate room that doesn't connect.

Currently have four reservations-- a one bedroom suite at at the Apsis on Gran Via, a two bedroom suite at the Hispanos Siete Suiza near the Sagrada Famiglia, and two connecting rooms each at the Condes and the Balmes. Although the best deal is for the Siete Suiza, and their rooms look the nicest, I may rule this out as well because of its remote location. It is near a metro stop, but Maribel suggests taking the tourist bus everywhere instead of the metro as you did. Did you take it late at night? Was it just more convenient for you at the America than the bus? Thanks for your help! I'm looking forward to the food portion of your report!
Hax
hax is offline  
Jan 5th, 2004, 11:56 AM
  #6  
 
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Thank you for your excellent report. Have saved it for future reference.
My husband and I keep feeling the "pull" to travel to Spain but have read many negative comments about safety isues (particularly Las Ramblas - and now even Seville). (And have had friends - well-traveled - who were robbed in Spain
Were there times in which you felt unsafe?
We have not felt unsafe in other cities & countries in which we've
traveled (like Portugal, Paris, & Rome).
but Spain certainly has come in for a lot of criticism on safety issues.
suzy is offline  
Jan 7th, 2004, 01:54 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2003
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Thanks for the report. We are going to Spain in April and your information has helped me in planning our itinerary. We are staying near the Royal Palace and intend on taking the train to Seville. How far is the train station and could we walk or do we need to take a cab? I too am questioning the safety in Spain. We are well-traveled and I cannot remember so much talk about these issues as I have read on these threads.
sylviam is offline  
Jan 7th, 2004, 10:24 PM
  #8  
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suzy and sylviam:

We were also concerned about safety in Spain before we went because of all the stories we had read. While I wouldn't say we are "veteran" travellers in Europe, we had wandered through Switzerland, Italy and France last year in a similar fashion. We felt safe pretty much the whole time while we were in Spain and Portugal. The only area I remember feeling slightly uneasy was in the Albaicin - Moorish quarter of Granada. In some areas, it was narrow, dark, and didn't have a lot of people around. Otherwise, as long as you use a neck pouch or moneybelt to keep your valuables out of your pockets (or just use the hotel safe), you should be OK.
I also think that the time we went (slightly off-season in the late fall) may have helped because there weren't as many American tourists around. We also look fairly young, and didn't dress overly nice (posed as students unintentionally I guess)
We never had any hands in our pockets...but then we also didn't carry anything in our pockets.

Hax:
We were out fairly late in most cities, and did take the Metro or FGC trains in Barcelona at night and in the early AM without incident. We did stay in the Eixample area, which is nicer than the area around Las Ramblas thanks to Maribel. We decided against taking the tourist bus because we didn't end up targeting a lot of the destinations on their stop(s). However, in retrospect, it would have REALLY helped to get to specific areas like the Parc Guell which was a pretty long trek from the Metro stop. A combination of the two would proabably be wise.

sylviam: As for the train station in Madrid - you will probably want to take a cab if you are staying near the palace. The station was straight down Calle Atocha from our hotel (downhill thank goodness) and still took us 10-15 minutes to walk. The palace was 15 minutes or more from our hotel.
BTW, we bought our AVE tickets from Madrid to Sevilla in the Madrid airport (Renfe counter) once we arrived. Tourist class is fine.

Hope this helps everyone and let me know if there are other specific questions you may have. My food report should be ready soon - it's ironic that it is last because food comes first for us
drsneeze is offline  
Jan 8th, 2004, 03:58 AM
  #9  
 
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drsneeze - thanks for the report! I am going to Spain in February, so I can't wait to hear about the food as well.

Glad you had a great trip!

Karen
kaudrey is offline  
Jan 8th, 2004, 05:05 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
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My family of 3 are going to Madrid on March 17 (arriving 0n the 18th) then will proceed to Seville on March 21. Is it safe to buy the tickets at Barajas airport or should I buy them in advance? Thanks for any advice.
igpjazz is offline  
Jan 11th, 2004, 10:49 AM
  #11  
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igpjazz:

We bought our tickets from Madrid to Sevilla at the Renfe counter in the Madrid (Barajas) airport 3-4 days in advance. There were no problems, and the AVE trains run almost every hour during the day so there should be plenty of room unless you are travelling on a major holiday.
drsneeze is offline  
Jan 13th, 2004, 08:29 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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You mentioned that you stayed a day too many in Oporto. I was wondering... how many days DID you stay?

We were thinking about flying into Lisbon, going to Sintra then up to Oporto. Yet we were thinking of Andalusia afterwards... I noticed you too went to Granada and Sevilla; was it difficult to go up to Oporto and worthwhile? We do love ports...

Thanks! Cathy
chezcathy is offline  
Jan 15th, 2004, 07:37 PM
  #13  
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Cathy:

We spent three days and three nights in Oporto (we arrived in the early AM from Barcelona). While it is an interesting city, and I also love Port, I would have spent only two days there if I had to do it again. If you plan well, and are there during the week, you can hit most of the Port wine lodges in one day. The tours start to get slightly redundant, and it's the tasting that makes it worthwhile.

It should not be that difficult to drive into Oporto from Lisboa; we went the other way and drove from Oporto to Evora, and then to Cascais (near Lisboa). I also would have changed my trip to drive from Spain to Portugal or vice-versa. Now that I've driven once, I can see the advantages. You can see how we did our slightly disjointed trip in the travelling section of my report.

Sintra is definitely worthwhile, but if you decide to drive, I'd definitely check out Evora and Monsaraz.
drsneeze is offline  
May 16th, 2004, 11:16 PM
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Join Date: May 2004
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Just read your favorable comments on Monte da Serralheira farmhouse in Evora.

I am considering staying there with my husband for 2 nights first week of July, but haven't made a final decision, as judging from the hotel's website pictures, the apartments on the outside seem to be kind of impersonal and the place overall sprawling and not really quaint or attractive.

Could you describe in a little more detail the apartment you stayed in (relative size, level of noise, furnishings, amenities, overall cleanliness etc.)?

How pleasant are the apartments' immediate surroundings (I've read they all face some kind of a garden and/or a courtyard)?

Did you have breakfast provided by the hosts, and if so, how was it? Worth the money charged?

On the way to the farm from Evora, do you pass some kind of an industrial park (as indicated on the website's schematic drawing) or ugly neighborhoods? Is the hotel located close to that industrial area?

Your reply would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

Lena
Lena15 is offline  
May 16th, 2004, 11:24 PM
  #15  
 
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drsneeze,

the previous message from Lena is supposed to be addressed to you.
Lena15 is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 05:07 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
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How did you find your lodging in Oporto? Via the internet? Was it recommended to you? What was the price? I am trying to find a small hotel in the historic section of town.
vickidempsey is offline  
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