Spain Where to go in 2-3 weeks

Jan 12th, 2010, 02:24 PM
  #1  
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Spain Where to go in 2-3 weeks

Starting to plan for a trip to Spain next October possibly early November. We will have approx. 15-18 days on the ground in Spain. I am having trouble narrowing things down. We are independent travelers in our early 50's. Healthy and prefer public transportation to renting a car to get from area to area. We would like like a mix of city/cultural sights, small walled cities and a agritourism type destination. Preferring luxe boutique style hotels and staying put 3-4 days to fully explore the town or surrounding area. Food and wine are very important we usually see the sights going to and from eating destinations. We have no desire to go to a beach destination as we live on the Pacific ocean. We are always on the look out for the smaller less traveled destination. For example we prefer the walled towns of Umbria to the ones in Tuscany, or Verona, Treviso, and Vicenza to Venice, just because they are a little less impacted by tour buses etc. I know, I am a tourist too. I just don't like to go someplace where I am surrounded by tour guides waving little flags. I would like to narrow things down to 4 distinctly different areas. The only must would probably be Barcelona. I am unsure whether we should stay in the north or take a full travel day to go to Seville, Cordoba, Granada areas. I am searching the posts but would like to get some feedback from Spain "experts" about their favorites that might meet our needs.
scfphoto is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 03:28 PM
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Two walled cities to consider are Avila and Lugo. The wall at Avila is more majestic. Avila is easy to vsit from Madrid and Lugo is a few hours from Santiago de Compostela.

To visit four distinct areas I would chose however Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebatian, and the south with Granada Seville.

When not in Barcelona, Madrid, and Sevilla proper, consider staying in paradores. Many of the older ones are in monasteries, castles, and palaces. The one in Avila will lead you onto the wall and the one in Granada is within the confines of the ALhambra.

http://www.paradores-spain.com
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 03:55 PM
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Scfphoto, we travel the same way. Spain we have been there many times, Spain has so many different regions, that it is possible to circumscribe your trip to one or two.
On top of the usual trilogy of Sevilla Cordoba and Granada, you have in the same area outstanding Ubeda and Baeza and many more. In the region called Extremadura you have the jewels of Caceres and Trujillo too. Much smaller Guadalupe with an outstanding Monasterio is not far and it is very, very nice. And many more. The Paradores are a good option. They are not super super luxury but awfully nice places often in old buildings like old castles, monasteries etc. and sometimes in new places. The site is very informative www.parador.es, there are properties more luxurious of course and less luxurious but usually they are fine, with veery good breakfast. Usually there is the option of Superior rooms. They constantly offer promotions one is for Seniors I do not remember what is the qualifying age, but one one of the couple that meets the Años Dorados age is enough. The plan is called Años Dorados, but they have many other promotional plans one called Pasaporte calls for several nights in a row in different paradores.
They are also good because they have parking in 99% of the Paradores , either in garages or open parking . In case you are driving.
Cuenca is a very nice city to visit too, East of Madrid. Of course some destinations near Madrid are very popular, like Toledo, Avila and Segovia. You should pay attention to Monasterios in Spain some are really extraordinary and worth a visit. Whatever your religion some have georgian masses sang by several priests that are very special.
Castilla has the most fascinating destinations like Burgos, Salamanca, Tordesilla, Toro and so forth.
Well it is not easy to describe things in general, once you determine which areas you are going to visit I guess it will be easier. Do not think of covering all of Spain because it is so big and so different in my opinion several trips are needed. Good luck Buena suerte.
Usually we drive around but lately have opted to take a train from Madrid to one destination and then rent a car returning by train to Madrid from another city.
Graziella5b is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 04:06 PM
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Go to Bilbao. The Guggenheim architecture alone is worth the trip and the state museum (right down the street) is also remarkable (and often empty). You can make it a day trip via air from Barcelona. You can take the train, too, but it's 6 hours and unless you sleep on it (and save the hotel cost) it's more expensive than most flight.
There is a new high-speed train system in Spain that is amazing. When I was there last year the link to Barcelona was nearly done and may be completed by now. Barcelona is so quirky and interesting, you could spend the entire time there. Stay a little away from Las Ramblas but you won't run into that many tourists in October, I don't think.
Don't miss Madrid. I find it one of the most enjoyable and accessible cities in Europe. The metro is fantastic and cheap, and there are museums of every variety. There is a wonderful mix of architecture, art, and culture in Spain: the ancient and modern mix effortlessly. Madrid is also a great city for walking. I kept finding hidden treasures in alleys or side streets. Like the CaixaForum Madrid, a wonderful new museum built in an ancient building.
BuffCrone is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 07:00 PM
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I would limit myself to 2 areas for a trip of this length and your traveling style.

If Barcelona is a must you really need at least 4 nights in Barcelona and could easily spend an entire week in the area. Either basing yourself in Barcelona the entire time or spending a couple of nights in Girona and/or Tarragona.

That leaves the second area. If you're set on Barcelona as a must and have never visited Spain before, I'd head to Andalucia. As Graziella mentions there is the usual (but not at all over-rated) Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba. However there are many other small cities/villages in this area that seem to suit your style (Cadiz, Sanlucar, Osuna, Antequera, Osuna, Priego de Cordoba, etc...). You could easily spend the other 1/2 of your vacation (or your entire vacation) exploring this area.

Of course with your interest in food and wine I'm tempted to steer you towards the Basque area. However, if this is your first trip I think it would be good to experience the moorish architecture and influence in the South.

Personally, I'd consider the Basque area and Andalucia (but I'm also probably biased as these are my two favorite regions)
CathyM is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 07:19 PM
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I generally agree w/ Cathy although I do not agree that Barcelona, Cataluña is a must.
I believe it is a personal choice.
I see it as another interesting area. Barcelona is an impressive city I agree but also Madrid is a wonderful city to be visited, the Basque country , the zone of Santiago de Compostela with Galicia, wow!!, there is so much. The Pirineos Mountains , etc etc,also the wine zone in la RIoja, and along the the River Duero, Spain was not destroyed as other countries,being out of World War II and in spite of the Civil War so much has remained. Of course greed and ignorance have deprived little towns of treasures notably
when XX Centuries mercenaries bought them for nothing or exchanged retablos for purple velvet....
Graziella5b is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 08:33 PM
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Graziella-
I actually didn't think Barcelona for a first trip is a must - the OP mentioned that their must was probably Barcelona.

Personally for a first trip to Spain I'd visit Madrid and environs (Toledo/Segovia/Salamanca) versus Catalunya if I had to choose. But, yes, it is a personal choice. It would be doubtful anyone could get total agreement from everyone on a forum.
CathyM is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 11:04 PM
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If you are going to Barcelona (which I highly suggest) I would definitely visit the beaches nearby while you are there. The city beaches in Barcelona are nice, but only 20 minutes by train are beaches that feel like proper Spanish holiday beaches. These are popular with the locals, whereas the tourists tend to stick to Barceloneta and the other beaches on that strip.

Go to the Platja de Garraf- it is a little cove, with a kitsch feel due to the one hotel and beach houses that all look very 1950's.

Also, an ultra charming place in Catalunya is Cadaques, a small fishing town, where Salvador Dali spent most of his days. You can take day tours of his house. It is incredibly picturesque. http://www.cadaques.org

Lastly, while in Barcelona, visit the "Poble Espanyol" http://www.poble-espanyol.com
It is a fortressed-type mini-city on the top of the mountain in Barcelona. It is like a village constructed with all the different architectures of each region of Spain. Charming to say the least...
ehong8295 is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 11:53 PM
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Cathy, then we agree in everything. Not an easy task as you say.
I also agree that all opinions are valid and that it is totally personal which area is more enjoyable , actually the only thing I wished to convey to scfphoto was : Do not limit your visit to the most
popular areas, there are many more.
Graziella5b is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 12:13 AM
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Lastly, while in Barcelona, visit the "Poble Espanyol" http://www.poble-espanyol.com
It is a fortressed-type mini-city on the top of the mountain in Barcelona. It is like a village constructed with all the different architectures of each region of Spain. Charming to say the least...

Least is an appropriate word for Poble Espanyol. It is a cheesy 1929 recreation of various architecture throughout Spain. If you are in Spain why would you want to see a reproduction of it?

It predates Disney but like EPCOT, it gives a distorted Reader's Digest version of the world or Spain in this case.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 12:51 AM
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“I am having trouble narrowing things down.”
I can understand that when you give your choices of places you like to stay in….
“We would like like a mix of city/cultural sights, small walled cities and a agritourism type destination. Preferring luxe boutique style hotels and staying put 3-4 days to fully explore the town or surrounding area.”
Well that covers everything.
To stay in what you call agritourism you normally have to have your own transport. We in Spain call these establishments Casa Rurals. In the past the best website for find locations of these was Toprural. However they have decided to change the layout and now it is hard to find anything because the maps are badly designed. I am looking for a good alternative that covers all of Spain.
If you want to go to Barcelona then for the days you should stay in the area i.e. the North West of Spain. Travelling would cut down on sight seeing time. I concur with aduchamp’s posting giving details of walled cities. Lugo is in fact about an hour away from SdC by car. But Galicia is something like an overnight train journey away from BCN is a full 10 hours, without stops, by car. So maybe these suggestions are off your list?
I think you will bump into a few flag waving tour guides when in BCN. There are a great number of wine growing areas. Again a car would be best used to visit Bodegas.
If you read the responses so far, you can see that you will get better and a concerted help from other posters if you narrow your choices down a bit. I appreciate you having difficulty in doing that but you need to sit down and reflect and what you really want.
ribeirasacra is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 03:33 AM
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If you're into trains, then I'd do something like this:
* direct flight into Barcelona 23 Oct am
* take train direct from Barcelona to Girona (fiestas Sant Narcís 23/24 Oct)
* Barcelona
* Tarragona - like Girona, but more relaxed and warmer
* Valencia - more charming, less cosmopolitan than Barcelona
* Cuenca - better food but less sun in lower town. Antonio Pérez museum is a cracker
* bus Cuenca-Alcázar, then train Alcázar-Córdoba (there aren't many of either of these daily, so check)
* Cádiz - like Tarragona but better fish
* Sevilla
* take AVE Sevilla - Madrid (get tickets in advance)
* you can do Segovia for the day by train from Madrid. Avila is a bit longer but also doable.
* fly back from Madrid
Leave out stuff like Barcelona/Valencia/Sevilla if you prefer smaller places and and less pickpockets. The national train planner http://renfe.es is crap; the German train company is often easier: http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/
Trevor_BCN is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 03:39 AM
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The North is quite unexplored by massive tourism and offers excellent food and drink (Rioja and Ribera wine regions are there), while you can admire its rich arquitecture and beautiful off the beaten track landscapes (this is not sunny Spain...). I obviously recommend the Basque Country. You may want to take a look at www.maribelsguides.com for full info on Spain, paying special attention to the North, or at my blog, http://mugalari.wordpress.com, the Basque Country from a local´s point of view.

For rural, cozy and excellent accommodation at unbeatable prices, try www.nekatur.net (BAsque area) or www.toprural.com, for all of Spain.
mikelg is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 09:17 AM
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Barcelona is a great city. I would go there some other time. Seville and Granada are my first choices of course. Second, San Sebastian, The Basque country and the entire North coast all the way to Galicia if you had time. Most of spain resembles Southern California. The North coast is completely different, lush and green and looks like nowhere else. This is a special part of the world not yet overrun by tourists. They have the world's best food (accordng to Anthony Bourdain and others), Medieval towns, Rioja wine country, agritourism destinations, and beautiful rural places to stay listed on nekatur.net. Third choice is Madrid, Toledo and Segovia.
Egbert is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 09:44 AM
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A couple of suggestions:

San Sebastián in the Basque Country. I've returned almost every year since the late 80's. The article "A different kind of Spain" gives you an idea: http://marshlands.blogstream.com/
If food and wine is important, read the article "Is San Sebastián the best place to eat in Europe?" from The Observer:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandsty...rink.shopping2

In the South you can combine a trip to Sevilla with some days in Antequera, the so called "heart of Andalucía" (placed in the middle between Málaga, Sevilla, Córdoba and Granada and easy to access by both bus, train and car.): 5000 years old dolmens, Roman baths, a Moorish Castle, Gothic churches, Renaissance fountains and baroque bell towers just outside the spectacular Torcal nature reserve.

Be sure to visit the Museo Municipal and see what is arguably the finest piece of Roman sculpture found in Spain, the boy Efebo. Also a very interesting first floor that bear witness of the towns history on the border between Christian and Moslem Spain before the final takeover of Granada in 1492. Antequera was the first town of the Granada Emirate to fall to the Christians in 1410.

Taste the town speciality "Porra Antequerana", a kind of creamy gazpacho with toppings of cured ham, tuna and eggs. Why not have it at the excellent and traditional Restaurante La Espuela Plaza in the bullring?

"Guidebooks to Andalucia tend to focus on the justifiably world-famous cities of Seville, Granada, and Cordoba. However, the historic but far less well known town of Antequera is equally worth a visit and its relative lack of fame means that its essential Andalucian charm remains undimmed by coach parties and souvenir shops".
http://www.andaluciacoastandcountry.com/antequera.html

Read the inspired "A Tapas Tour of Antequera": http://www.andaluciacoastandcountry.com/tapaspain.html
kimhe is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 12:13 PM
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Thanks for all the info. Lots to think about now.

To narrow things down a bit. How would Barcelona, Rioja/Basque country, then on to Andulcia or Castille regions work? I am using broad regions here for discussion and would then pick the exact towns after more research.

We would probably fly to Barcelona from London since we have Virgin Atlantic points for award tickets from USA. 5 nights.

Train to Rioja rent car stay in a small town such as Hara or Laguardia use it as a base for further explorations in that area. 3-4 nights. Rural stay suggestions welcome.

On to San Sebastion by train if possible. 3 nights. Eat, eat, eat.

Now here is where I can't make up my mind. We might have 7 nights left. Do I go on to Castille Leon/La Mancha to do some castle cities Salamanca, Toledo etc. then to Madrid and home. Or go down to Andulucia for Seville and some of the smaller towns in the South. I don't want to do both as that would be too much. Would seeing the small walled towns near Rioja make the Castille/La Mancha towns somewhat redundant? It seems the south would be a more distinctly different area with the Moorish influences. It also seems to be a more complicated travel route for SS.

Can one go from San Sebastion to Seville by train without major detours? Fly? The Renfre web site does not work on my Mac so will have to get on Windows to check out. Other posts mention it is not working at all recently.
scfphoto is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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You can fly low cost to Seville from Bilbao on Vueling or Quantum Air.
mikelg is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 01:08 PM
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Two direct flights daily from Bilbao to Sevilla with Vueling:
http://www.vueling.com/?language=EN

Bus from San Sebastián to Bilbao airport every hour (1h 15mins).

About going for pintxos (basque tapas) in San Sebastián:
http://www.todopintxos.com/home/home.php?lang=en
kimhe is offline  
Jan 16th, 2010, 11:08 AM
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Your idea of spending 5 nights in Barcelona, 3 in the Rioja, 3 in San Sebastian and 7 in either Madrid (and area) or Andalucia is doable. Personally, I'd choose Andalucia over Madrid for the contrast and Moorish influence. 4 nights in Sevilla (with a daytrip to Cordoba), 2 nights in Granada and 1 night TBD.

For the Rioja I would not base myself in Haro, instead in Laguardia or one of the other smaller wine villages.

As mikelg mentioned, Maribel's guides are excellent - particularly with your interest in food and boutique hotels.

This trip is a good "taste" of several areas without being too rushed. However, if you want to really experience an area in depth there just isn't enough time in 18 days to cover 3 regions. 3 nights in San Sebastian is enough time for SS and one daytrip (Bilbao, Getaria, Hondarribia, etc...). You could easily spend 18 days in the Basque region & the Rioja, Catalunya, Andalcua or the Madrid area by itself. It all depends on your personal pros and cons of seeing more geography versus more in depth (and slower) travel. Probably also on if you plan on a return trip.
CathyM is offline  
Jan 16th, 2010, 01:43 PM
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"I believe it is a personal choice."

Everything in travel is a personal choice.
My first trip to Spain, I did not visit Barcelona. Yes, I loved Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Granada, but when I visited Barcelona for the first time , I could not believe what I missed. Since then, we visited Barcelona 4 times.
Needles to say, I hardly recommend it.( going again in April)
Norther Spain could be rainy in late Oct./ November!
danon is offline  

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