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Spain Trip Report Part 3; Granada and Barcelona ( with Figueres)

Spain Trip Report Part 3; Granada and Barcelona ( with Figueres)

Oct 1st, 2010, 09:33 PM
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Spain Trip Report Part 3; Granada and Barcelona ( with Figueres)

Our Spain itinerary in Sep 2010:

4 nights Madrid, include day trip to Toledo
3 nights Sevilla, include stop at Cordoba on the way from Madrid
2 nights Ronda
2 nights Nerja
2 nights Granada
5 nights Barcelona, include day trip to Figueres

Previously:
Spain Part 1: Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba
Spain Part 2: Sevilla, Ronda, Nerja

We drove east from Nerja looking for the A4050, an old road, very twisty narrow and scenic. The so called Trail of the Moor’s Sigh. When Boabdil, the last Muslim ruler in Spain, was thrown out of Granada by the reconquistadores in 1492, he traveled to the sea via this route. At one point he stopped, turned and gazed back at his beloved Granada and sighed.

His mother smacked him, so the story goes, and said “You cry like a woman for what you could not defend as a man!” I’d seen pictures of this road, and it is the kind of road I love to drive. Well paved, but in some places only one lane wide. However, about the time we got to Almunecar, and where the turnoff should be, we were detoured due to construction down into the town of Almunecar, and before I knew it, we were turning onto the Freeway north to Granada. So completely missed the turnoff, and will forever miss El Suspiro del Moro road. Sigh!

I considered spending some time to find it, but the Europcar office at the Granada train station closes at 14:00 for two hours. I wanted to get there before then. So I gave up and continued up the A44. This highway cut through some beautiful countryside, and over and around a large reservoir on some incredibly designed modern bridges.

A short distance out of Granada we stopped at a service station for some specific directions to the train station. My maps weren’t too good. I had received some instructions from our desk clerk, but wanted some confirmation. Two young ladies in the station advised a different route, which took me right to the station, but due to intense traffic, I was trapped in the wrong lane, and had to circle around. We made it to the office at 13:45. We gave ourselves an unanticipated several additional hours in Granada.

Our hotel was the Hotel Casa Capital de Nasarid, at the upper end of Plaza Nueva, under the Alhambra. We were in room 27, 2 flights up, no lift. The room was very small, and DW did not like, but no other rooms available, and she said ok. But this was the first bathroom with an enclosed shower and it drains well. A real double bed had a curious pillow that reached clear across the bed. This bed was the hardest bed we have ever slept on, period, and we did not sleep well either night. I’ve slept better on the floor at DFW between flights. DW’s hair dryer rating: “Outstanding.” Computer use was free.

Walked over to Pl. Nueva and had some food at one of the cafe’s. Then went to Capilla Real, 3,50€, for a short little tour. Isabella and Ferdinand are entombed here.

Wandered into active Pl. de Bib Rambla, found a terrific heladeria (ice cream place). We wandered back through the “Alcaiceria”, the old Moorish silk market, with it’s crowded streets and shops literally on top of one another. Reminded us of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Continuing on our evening saunter, we checked out the Pl. Isabel La Catolica, where we would catch the red bus #32 up to Alhambra tomorrow.

Strolling back to the hotel, we passed a bookstore, and I noticed the Servicaixa machine inside. And an attendant. Can I retrieve my Alhambra tickets that I pre-ordered on line from home? Si senor. You have to put in the exact same credit card you used on line, and wallah! I had our tickets for tomorrow.

Trying to get an early start, we used the hotel’s breakfast. More mueslic, yogurt and bread. Caught the bus and soon found ourselves up at the Alhambra, a magnificent place. We had a little time before our 10:00 time slot for the palace, so we started with the fort, which is empty. After walking around in it a bit, getting some pix, we joined the waiting crowd for the 10:00 admittance. We had bought the 4,10€ audio guide at the front gate which was terrific.

We spent an unrushed 1.5 hours in the palace. Once you are in, you can stay as long as you want. Several areas were undergoing renovation, and a little more scaffolding and barriers than I would have liked. But a thrilling peek into the lives of the Moorish royalty. a la Topkapi in Istanbul. We really enjoyed this place. It had begun to rain off and on.

After going through Chas V palace, it began to rain a little harder, so about 12:30 we ducked into the Parador cafe for a bite to eat, during which time, the rain turned into a downpour. We had a good lunch and talked for a while with some Brits at the next table. The rain let up about two, and we went to the entrance of the General Life gardens.

Whoops! Cannot enter. It’s 5 after 2, and they are sticklers for the time. We completely forgot about the 2 pm deadline for entering the General Life. We begged and pleaded, indicating the rain, etc. To no avail. All that was left to do was walk back up to the main gate, turn in our audio guides, and go back down the hill. We were bummed out.

But everything works out for the best, they say, and about 30 minutes later there was a long string of heavy thunderstorms, with heavy rain the rest of the afternoon. We would have been way out in the gardens and would have been soaked. So, what the heck.

Later in the afternoon, after the rains stopped, we caught a bus outside the hotel for St Nicolas Viewpoint. The square up there was crowded with locals and tourists alike. Tourists of course to take pictures of the Alhambra across the valley. These are the postcards you see, and we got a bunch of pictures.

What was interesting, is that right next door to this plaza, with it’s church, is a mosque. There is a very peaceful garden, with the same views of Alhambra as the crowded, jammed Pl St Nicolas, but without the crowds. I don’t remember seeing a minaret, and the call to prayers is done acoustically, without amplification in a accordance with the neighborhood demands.

It was beautiful up there. From both plazas. We were up there until dark, as the sun set, and the mountains behind the Alhambra darkened. From the storm that afternoon, there were patches of snow on the higher crests. Bus 32 down was one of the most exciting bus rides I have every been on. Winding through the tiniest of streets it was a real hoot.

That night we had a great dinner at Taberna Salinas, upon the recommendation of our hotel. Excellent. Just off Pl Nueva.

The next morning it was raining, cab to airport for flight to Barcelona. Rained hard and plane was delayed 2 hours. DW was hungry because the yogurt at the hotel’s breakfast appeared spoiled. There are limited services past security at the Granada airport. Our flight arrived Barcelona about 1.5 hours late. Weather good. Our luggage must have been out on the Granada tarmack for a bit as it was mostly damp. We took everything out and hung it around where ever we could to dry things out.

Barcelona; our last stop. Wow, we couldn’t believe the trip was getting close to being over. And now we’ve arrived at the long awaited Barcelona. We took a taxi into town to the Hotel Nouvel, just off the top of the Ramblas on a pedestrian only street. We were on the 3rd floor (two flights up) there was a lift. There was a very nice reading room just off the lobby. Staff was very helpful.

Our room, 378, had double doors that opened to a small balcony, looking at balconies just out of reach across this narrow tiny street. The double beds were not quite as hard as the previous place. There was enough room to spread out a little. The bathroom was large with a Jacuzzi which we didn’t use, and a shower head but no shower enclosure or curtain. Got pretty wet in the bathroom. The air conditioner leaked condensation making for a slippery floor. We got more towels and reported to the manager, but didn’t seem like there was much they could do. The bathroom was modern and clean. DW’s hair dryer rating: “wimpy.”

We walked a couple doors down to Restaurant Santa Ana, had excellent dinners of chicken and salmon, and really good sangria. We were in bed by 8, slept 12 hours.

Breakfast (included) the next morning, back to assorted breads, etc., mueslic and canned fruit. Runny eggs looked bad, as did the white beans. Being closer to France, I expected better croissants, but they were just ok. All in all, after seeing the boqueria (the market) with all the beautiful fruits, breads, and meats, it seems to me the hotel’s spread could have been a little more impressive.

It was raining, and the forecast was more rain during the day. So we decided to sit out the rain on the train to Figueres and see the Dali museum. With directions from the desk clerk, we took the L3 to Estancio Sant and got tickets to Figueres on the 10:47 train for the two hour ride. Not very interesting ride, stopped at several progressively smaller stations.

For a complete report on our train experiences in Spain, please see my recent post:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...t-positive.cfm

The weather was a bit better up there, almost to France. We walked up from the little station and found the Dali museum, but first, ate lunch at a nice hotel at the top of a short Rambla.

The Dali museum was terrific and we are glad we went. The man of course was mad, but he was a genius in several mediums of art. DW was most impressed by his work with jewelry. There are no guides or audio guides. Dali did not believe in trying to explain his work to folks. You either get it or you don’t, I guess. A lot of his stuff is more conventional and actually pretty good. This day was well worth the trip.

On the way back to Barcelona on the 17:47, we struck up a conversation with two Americans in the seats next to us. (We saw few Americans on the whole trip.) Among other things, they recommended a Restaurant “The Attic,” near us at the top of the Ramblas. When we got back, we checked it out, and sure enough, a great restaurant. I felt a little underdressed in my tour clothes. But they put us in the back (their last table). We had a great veal dinner and sangria and ended up eating there for 3 dinners. Got real friendly with the greeter at the door, a lovely young lady named Lorena.

It was Saturday night on Las Ramblas, great fun. Lots of crazy things, reminded me of Fisherman’s Wharf in SF. Found a Locotoria, caught up on emails, bed at 11.

After studying the brochure and the hotel discount, we bought the 2 day passes, 23€ vs. 29€ at the bus. But, the hotel fee was 4€. But you got this great booklet with all kinds of discount coupons. Turns out our age got us senior discounts better than the coupon book on several occasions, and we maybe didn’t need 2 days on the bus.

The blue line hits all the “must see’s” of Barcelona. You can get off whenever, and get back on at will. Hop-on, Hop-off, or HoHo bus. The line in the morning to get on the blue line bus at Placa Catalunya was insane, so we walked up Pas. de Gracias ooohing and aaahing at the expensive clothes in the windows. We got to the stop in front of Casa Batllo, a Gaudi house, then caught the Red line up to Casa Mila, the more popular Gaudi house, which we toured.

Casa Mila was our first exposure to Gaudi. What a brain. We spent more than an hour in there and up on the roof. I found the cutaway models of the Gaudi buildings very interesting. Able to get the scale of his work. Whether you go for his stuff or not, it is wildly captivating.

After a coke at a sidewalk cafe, we got on the blue line bus and made our way to the Sagrada Famalia. With the earphones you get, you can plug into a little audio machine on the back of the seat in front of you, and you get a bit of a running commentary about the neighborhoods you are going through. We got off at Famalia, and got in line for tickets, didn’t wait too long. The inside was crowded, and there was a lot of construction in progress, as has been the case for over 100 years now. Seems the Pope will be there in November. As we wandered around the floor, starring up mouth agape, I wondered if in a few hundred years this will have the same status as the several churches we had seen during our days in Spain, which also took hundreds of years to build.

The line to the elevator was long, about 50 minutes. Little signs in the line tell you how much time you have. The elevator ride was claustrophobic; I’m glad it was short. The views from up there were something else. In addition to the intricacies of the roof structure itself, you could see for miles around in all directions. As I found later at Casa Batllo, Gaudi’s use of those curvy designs had a purpose, and up here is was for wind management.

When we got back on the blue line bus, we decided to just take it all the way around on it’s route back to Pl Catalunya, instead of backtracking. We found seats on top, plugged in our earphones, and went on the circuit. It was about a 30 minute ride, late in the afternoon. We saw some parts of Barcelona that we would not have seen, and we were glad we did this.

When we reurned to our hotel, we cleaned up a bit, and returned to our new favorite, The Attic, and once again had excellent meals (beef, and cod with spinach). I have become a fan of sangria, and begging for recipe’s, our waiter claimed this stuff had gin and cognac in it. Uhmm! More research to do.

Monday we hiked back up Pas. de Gracias a few blocks, and went through Casa Batllo, probably more interesting architecturally than Casa Mila, though it costs more. (17,50€, but with our Sr. discounts, 14,25€) DW was more impressed with this building. His ideas for managing breezes, heat and cold were decades ahead of their time. It was truly fascinating.

Our blue line bus then took us up to Park Guell for our final Gaudi fix. The rain was becoming more than a nuisance now. Guell was very crowded around the main entrance, and under the market area. It was all curious and wonderful to be a part of this place. We watched street peddlers spread out their wares, than, with no visible or audible alarm system, scramble to bag them all up and run for cover as the policia made an appearance. Quite funny. In 5 minutes, they were all back.

We toured the house Gaudi lived in, and wandered around the park for a while. We exited the side entrance, and caught the city bus down to Pl Catalunya. Tonight, we dined at Quatre Gats.

Quatre Gats, recommended by our hotel, and several guidebooks, is somewhat of a landmark. Located off Portal de L’Angel, very near our hotel, supposedly the place where Picasso had his first showing. The menu cover is a Picasso. Good food in a 100+ year old building. Restaurant was very crowded, with several groups from the medical convention in town. As with the other nights, we strolled the Ramblas before turning in.

For our last day in Spain, and Barcelona, DW announces she wants to go to the Picasso museum. Previously we had agreed we didn’t need to see that (I sure didn’t.). So we compromised, and went to the Picasso museum.

Before that, we walked down to the boqueria (market) and were so impressed with the beautiful display of fruits, breads, and meats. Bot some munchies. We checked out the front of Palau Guell a few blocks down, then wandered over to the museum through Placa Reial, where supposedly Isabella received Columbus and his gold from the New World. It was now raining hard off and on. We lined up at the museum, and soon were inside.

The museum is very well organized and traces his works chronologically. Each room has a few paragrahps on the wall in Spanish and English. I have to say that Picasso’s early work was impressive, and I kind of liked it. But when he got weird, he lost me. I also feel a bit uneasy with his re-painting of some of the classics. Seems to me that on some of his stuff, our 8 year old granddaughter could do as well. So ok, I don’t get it. Don’t shoot me. DW enjoyed it, I got bored.

We got turned around trying to find our way back to Pl Reial, cause we wanted to eat at Taxidermista, recommended here in Fodor’s, located in the square. And it began to rain hard. When we finally found it, we were a bit wet, but the meal was way worth the trouble. Some vegetable soup and spaghetti and meatballs, just right for a rainy day. About 9€.

The rain let up as we walked around Barri Gotic and the Cathedral, draped in scaffolding for repairs. The old Roman towers were also hidden by scaffolding. Finally, we couldn’t put it off any longer. Back to the hotel and began packing for the trip home.

I would like to report that the trip home was uneventful, but, alas, not to be. We were held on the tarmack at JFK for the arrival of UN bigwigs. Then we had to stop for gas at Las Vegas (you can’t make that up), so arrival LAX 3 hours late everybody missed connections. We had to stay overnight in LA. Still arguing with American (not our fault) Airlines on that one.

Spain was a wonderful trip for us, but then most of our trips are. We loved Andalucia and the history there. Sevilla was enchanting and all everyone said it would be. Barcelona was fun. I hope DGD likes her Flamenco dancer Halloween costume. Thanks Fodor’s contributors for your assistance in putting it together.
BillJ is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2010, 02:56 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 478
Glad you guys had a great trip, you did some good planning and research! Very informative and interesting report!
Thanks!
Sara
sara_j is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2010, 05:27 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 6,507
Would you recommend the Casa de Capitel nasarid, or not? I'm looking at hotels and inns for Granada and I like the location.
enzian is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2010, 06:54 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2009
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Bill, you and I covered alot of the same ground. love reading your trip reports. that heladeria you liked in Granada, we ate there many times as our hotel was right next door. both ice cream (about 3 times) and for meals. they had a most delicious roast chicken plate, oh yum. our hotel was not a bad place but I didn't like their breakfast and it could use some updating. My daughter and I loved shopping all through the nearby streets of Bib-Rambla, hubby bought a white cotton shirt there too. ah, the memories....

great attitude about not being able to see the Generalife gardens. we didn't either but it was a real hot day the day we were there (probably about 90) and after we'd toured the alcazaba, Chas V's place (heh, stole that from you!) and the Nasrid palace, we were just too pooped from all that hiking in the heat that we had to call it a day! we too enjoyed that fun ride down the hill on the bus Would have loved to have stayed at the nice hotel near the Alhambra, it looked so beautiful.

sorry you're not a Picasso fan. I thought the Museu Picasso in Barcelona was absolutely fabulous!! both the building that housed the art and you're right, the art was nicely laid out chronologically. and I loved that barrio it was in too, La Ribera. ah, the memories....I need to go back to Barcelona and see other stuff we couldn't get to this trip.

okay, I'll stop rambling now. I'm so happy to read your nice, detailed reports. they bring back such fun memories for me
tobyo is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2010, 09:30 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 1,572
Thanks for a great report.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2010, 08:45 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
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Posts: 955
Thanks for the comments, folks. Yes, tobyo, I found Pl Bib Rambla inviting and fun. I think it would be nice being near there.

enzian: A conflicted yes to recommending the Nazarid hotel. They were very nice, the location is excellent. It is very quiet, and the room was clean, adequate towels, etc. Our room was very small, which is perhaps not unusual in Europe in general, and I would have preferred to be overlooking the main interior courtyard (the one showing in their website). Be sure to ask for one that does. We did not look into the other rooms to compare size. The hotel does not have exterior windows, so the courtyard is important. The breakfast was standard fare; breads, yogurt, mueslic, juices, etc. Pl Nueva steps away, and walking the other way about 50 yards was the bus stop to go to Pl St Nicolas. I think the biggest problem we had was the bed. It was so darn hard! On the other hand, DW says it was the best hair dryer of all the places we stayed in. All in all I'll probably give it a positive 3 star in Trip Advisor.
BillJ is offline  

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