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Spain small group tour or go on our own

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Nov 20th, 2012, 09:03 AM
  #1
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Spain small group tour or go on our own

My Wife and I have travelled quite a bit and have driven inTurkey, England and Ireland. Did the tour thing (Odessey) in Russia, Eastern Europe and Egypt . Now wonder how easy it is to get around by auto in Spain. Would like to see Barcelona, Sevilla, Cordoba, Madrid (Just a day or two here to see the Prada) Would also like to get into Portugal.
Is this Itinerary too ambitous?
Would travel by train be easier?
Tour or On our own?
Guess I should mention that I am 73 and my wife is 70.
Howell is offline  
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Nov 20th, 2012, 09:10 AM
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How long do you have for this trip? If you want to cover all this ground you really need 3 weeks
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Nov 20th, 2012, 09:51 AM
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Tour on your own

Time as noted is a factor

Cars are a pain in every city.

Portugal, what do you want to see?
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Nov 20th, 2012, 09:55 AM
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Train would be much easier, if you have the time then Portugal may be visited after Seville. Why not mix and match, car hire after Seville to get into Portugal?
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Nov 20th, 2012, 09:59 AM
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I think travel by train would definitely be easier to see a few of those cities, which have high-speed rail--Barcelona, Madrid and Seville. And of course Cordoba is on that line and can be done on the way or from Seville. I just don't get the idea of renting a car to drive around Spain to see very large cities. What would you do with the car in them.

You don't need a tour for Spain, unlike some other countries such as in Asia, and you want to see some of the major cities. I'd take the train myself it will definitely be easier. I don't know about fitting Portugal in, though. You can take a train from somewhere in Spain to Portugal, sure. I suggest you use trains for the major cities and if you want to drive around a little and see some countryside, maybe rent a car for a few days down in Andalucia or something like that.
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Nov 20th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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Train from Spain to Portugal is not frequent - I know of one line from Madrid to Lisbon that runs once a day and is a night train. Bus between Spain and Portugal is easier. Renting a car in Spain and returning in Portugal can be very costly.

Depending on how long the OP has for the trip it may be better to drop Portugal as it would certainly be easier to use public transportation and visit the cities specifically mentioned. It would probably work well to have base cities and then do daytrips to smaller towns and villages.
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Nov 20th, 2012, 10:45 AM
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Of course you can do this trip on your own if you are adventurous and have some understanding of the language (s). As CathyM mentions, you need at least three weeks to cover this much ground and have the time to relax at each of your destinations.

Taking the train is a good option between your major destinations.

You don't mention how long ago you drove in Turkey, England and Ireland, but renting a car might present some problems because of the age of the driver. Some rental agencies will restrict the type of car you can rent depending on age. It's also recommended that you get a IDP from AAA to drive in Spain unless you are fluent in Castilian.

Since you are not familiar with Spain or Portugal, I highly recommend you talk to a professional trip planner, someone with the knowledge to plan your itinerary properly.
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Nov 20th, 2012, 11:16 AM
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Howell, we spent four weeks between Spain & Portugal with a combo of car rentals and train. While it is easy to train between the larger cities, driving gave us a good feel for the in-between spaces. After flying into Lisbon, we returned our car at the border of Portugal and picked up another in Galecia.

We spent the next few weeks driving to Segovia,Toledo,Granada & Ronda and returned the car in Seville before visiting Cordoba & Madrid by train. It takes a bit of planning and time, but we definitely prefer this type of travel for Spain. Do check though on age requirements...that could be the tricky part.

--Annie
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Nov 20th, 2012, 05:09 PM
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Barcelona is so far from your other sites, that high speed AVE train between it and Madrid rail is probably a good thing to fit into your itinerary. From Madrid, Seville and Cordoba are also on an AVE route so they can easily be seen via that mode of transport.

I second the idea that rail travel between Spain and Portugal is spotty - the lack of fast or even frequent connections really surprised me when I was investigating the prospect of it. If you want to drive some of your trip, then renting a car after finishing up in Seville and driving to and through Portugal makes the most sense. Having a car anywhere but to visit Andalucia around Seville and/or to get to Portugal is an absolute liability

So, if you are interested in an open jaw itinerary suggestion;

Fly into Barcelona
Train to Madrid
Train to Cordoba (or go straight to Seville and visit Cordoba as a day trip)
Train to Seville
Drive to Portugal and then back to Seville to drop car
Train back to Madrid to fly out

There are lost of other options. You could;

- Take a bus to Portugal/Lisbon from Seville and fly out from there
- Fly from Barcelona to Seville (or to Lisbon then bus to Seville), then visit Cordoba and Madrid by train - fly from Madrid
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Nov 21st, 2012, 07:36 AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. Drove in Turkey 2002 and England before that.
Had not thought of the age problem renting a car-appreciate the tip. Guess Train travel might be the best way to go but would we be able to see the major sights in each city without having a car?

We are retired and tend to spend 17 to 19 days on our trips. Haven't really looked into Portugal yet but based on your responses we may save it for another trip. Also just beginning to research which cities would be best for us and what to see in each. Looks like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Valencia get good reviews - how about Cordoba and Toledo? Is it realistic to attempt all of these? We move pretty fast but don't want to make this a marathon, have to take time to really enjoy the trip. We enjoy art, museums and especially historical sights and buildings. Given our likes and the time we will have, which cities would you recommend. The open jaw itinerary suggested by Aramis looks promising - will check into this further.

We are thinking that weather wise mid May might be a good time to start our trip.
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Nov 21st, 2012, 08:43 AM
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With 19 days you could do something like Barcelona (4-5), Madrid (4-5), Sevilla (4), Valencia (3). I'd also add in Granada for 2 nights. You could visit Toledo as a daytrip from Madrid and Cordoba as a daytrip from Sevilla. This is covering alot of ground in 19 days but it's at a moderate pace and you'd have an overview. Personally I'd prefer to focus on a smaller area and do it more in depth. Madrid & Andalucia would be an excellent combination in early May. Andalucia has many festivals in the Spring and the weather should not be too hot. If you devoted more time to Andalucia you could even spend a couple of nights in Cordoba, Malaga and rent a car to explore the white villages. But if there's a chance you'd never return to Spain then I understand the other approach. Logistically this could be done many ways. One approach would be to fly into Barcelona, then train to Valencia, fly to Granada, train or bus to Sevilla, train to Madrid and fly home from Madrid.
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Nov 21st, 2012, 09:14 AM
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Don't let your age hold you back from driving part of the trip if that's what you want to do. I'm 76 now, but last year I drove from Sevilla to Zafra, Mérida, and finally to Madrid. We had done the earlier part of the trip by high-speed train with one leg by bus.

Bus travel in Spain is very comfortable, by the way, and driving is easy. Roads are excellent, and there isn't a lot of traffic, except in the cities.

In 2004, when I was 68, my sister and I drove to Cuenca, Segovia, Avila, Caceres, Ronda, Córdoba, Sevilla, Madrid, Granada, etc., in a three-week trip. We're both interested in geology and found the countryside in Spain to be quite interesting.

I can't recall how we managed to drive everywhere except in the big cities like Madrid and Sevilla, but my guess is that we picked the car up on the way out of Madrid, then dropped it off at Sevilla, followed a few days later by a plane to Barcelona.
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Nov 21st, 2012, 09:24 AM
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I'd agree that driving is a great idea when the areas you want to visit are not as well serviced by public transport - like Extremadura, La Rioja, the white villages in Andalucia. But if the main interest is in Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla and Valencia then I believe that a car would not only take more time but also be a hinderance and costly with parking. With 19 days if the focus is on a smaller geography it may be a good idea to rent a car for part of the trip and do some exploring.
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Nov 21st, 2012, 10:51 AM
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I would take cathys advice. All of the cities you mentioned are great. Cars are a major hassle in all of those cities. Public transport is so good, especially the high speed trains. There are a lot of long boring drives in Spain and I wouldn't waste time I could be exploring the great cities you want to visit. And save Portugal for another trip.
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Nov 21st, 2012, 12:38 PM
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A car from Valencia to Granada and then dropping in Sevilla would be an easy way to get to Andalucia from Valencia if you do not want to fly ( VLC-Sevilla).

If you like coastlines, Denia/Javea/Moraira is a nice stop.
Unusual mountain top village chapel at Guadalest is also on the way south.

The palm tree jungle at Elche , the cave houses at Guadix, plus a few scattered castles along the way can make for an interesting journey..

Baeza and Úbeda are a short detour but heavenly towns on your way towards Andalucía.

There is so much to see.. you will have to pick and choose as your time is somewhat limited to go investigating too much in depth. However, I find these smaller towns to be representative of the soul of Spain and interesting to the eye, each with its own charm.

The trains are excellent and remember, if you are over 60, if there are no webfares available, you can buy a 5 euro senior card ( Tarjeta dorada) and get aprox. 40% discounts on most trains across the country.

www.renfe.com
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Nov 21st, 2012, 03:54 PM
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I would spend a week in Madrid. They have three spectacular museums Prado, Thyssen, and Reina Sofia. I find museum walking tiring, so I would go to a museum every other day. Toledo is an easy and worthwhile day trip from Madrid bu bus or train.

To me nothing in Spain is more over rated than the white town tour. There are excpetional towns that are worth a visit, but as an excursion is simply not.

Spanish trains are modern and there are a some high speed trains between some of your destinations.

One thing people omit from their itinerary is sitting and watching the world pass. It is very Spanish and highly salubrious as is the paseo at dusk where people just walk and see what everyone else is doing.

And do not forget to go to see the Sardana being danced on Saturday night or Sunday noon at the Cathedral in Barcelona. Put your coat and bag in the middle of the circle and join in. The Catalans are gracious about it.

Enjoy Spain, we have for over 40 years.
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Nov 21st, 2012, 07:24 PM
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<>

Yes, especially if you like to stay in the centre of the city! Having a car in any of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, or Granada, will leave you frustrated, and poorer.

I am a big fan of driving in Europe, it is an integral part of virtually all my trips, but it is never worth it in major cities. Sometime creativity is required. Last year we flew in to Granada, rented a car only when leaving, drove through Andalucia, staying in Ronda (fine with a car), parked the car in an underground garage for 3 days after driving to Seville, before driving back to Granada. Flying in and out of Granada was the only cheap air option we had and it was cheaper to pay for the 3 days of parking in Seville than to drop the car on arrival and rent another when leaving to drive back to Granada.
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Dec 1st, 2012, 01:59 PM
  #18
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You all have really helped us firm up our plans re: which towns/cities to visit, what to see and how long to spend in each area.
We have used this forum for most of our trips and as usual the the advice and tips given are a great help.
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Dec 1st, 2012, 02:16 PM
  #19
 
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If you do decide to travel by train I can recommend using and pre-booking your Renfe travel on www.raileurope.com. I used this site for a Spain trip and was surprised at how easy it was to make the reservations and purchase and also accurate. It was much better than trying to work my way through the Spanish site and I could take my time to piece together a customized multi-city travel plan. The tickets were mailed and we had no problems with out tickets once in Spain.

Happy travels, Howell!
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Dec 5th, 2012, 07:56 AM
  #20
 
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Hello Howell!
I love the idea that you and your wife are wanting to explore Spain!
I always like traveling by car, because you can get to places fast and also leave your belonging in the car.
Driving around to see what each city offers is great as well.
Finding a parking space could be a problem though, since those areas are always rare in big cities.
If you already sort of know what you would like to see, than go on your own. That way you can do it on your own seep, stay longer if you really like something or skip things.
There are a lot of cross walks in Spain, and people are passing without looking, so watch out. But otherwise go for it!
I hope you have a great time!
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