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Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:47 PM

Summer holiday in Spain and France
We have just returned from a wonderful summer holiday in Spain and France. We spent 21 days in Spain and 9 days in France. Thanks to all the contributors on this forum for their help and input into my itinerary when I was planning this holiday. The destinations we visited are as follows:

Madrid - 2 nights

Seville - 5 nights with a day trip to Córdoba

Granada - 3 nights

Malaga - 4 nights

Zaragoza - 3 nights

San Sebastian - 3 nights

Bordeaux - 4 nights with day trip to Saint Emilion

Paris - 5 nights with day trip to Luxembourg City

We travelled by train or bus between all destinations in Spain and France, which was easy and convienient. We travelled from Canberra, Australia to Madrid and returned Paris to Canberra with Qatar Airways.

I will post each destination separately to split up the trip report.

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:51 PM


We arrived in Madrid at 8.30am and took a taxi from the airport to our hotel. We had previously stayed in Madrid in 2016 for 6 nights, so decided just to spend a couple of nights to recover from flights and see a few things we missed last time. We stayed at the Aparthotel Jardines de Sabatinis. We had stayed there on our previous trip and found the room to be clean and spacious and the location very convenient. On our first day we enjoyed walking around Madrid and exploring some areas we had not visited before. We came across the Museo de Historia de Madrid. The building has a stunning facade, so we wandered in to have a look around. The museum has been recently renovated and provides a tour about the history of Madrid. The museum includes some beautiful artworks, objects, maps and models, and is definitely worth a visit for those who want to learn more about Madrid and its history.

We visited the Royal Palace, I had booked tickets at home before we left for a 3pm time slot. We enjoyed our visit to this lovely Palace, the rooms are stunning, with ornate decorated ceilings, and walls in some cases. We were not able to photograph them, but some of the detail in the rooms was amazing.

On the the next day we visited the Thyssen museum which has free entry on a Monday between 12 and 4pm. It was one of the art galleries we didn’t get to when we last visited. It has some interesting art, including some Impressionists, which is a favourite of mine. It also has an extensive selection of religious art from the 14th and 15th centuries. There is plenty to see and it is worth a visit.

Overall, we enjoyed our second visit to vibrant Madrid, and were pleased to have seen a few more of the sights this visit.

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:53 PM


In Seville we stayed at the Puerta Catedral Apartments. The location is very centrally located opposite the Cathedral. We had a lovely view of the Cathedral and street below. The apartment was spacious and beautifully decorated. I highly recommend this apartment if you are looking for a place to stay in Seville.

A highlight in this trip was the visit to the Real Alcazar. I had pre-booked tickets for the 9.30am time slot, and I am so glad we did. When we arrived there at about 9.15am there was a long queue for those without tickets, and a growing queue for those with tickets. The ticket holders were given entry first at 9.30,and after getting in we found that we had a lot of the spaces all to ourselves. I got lots of great photos. It is a gorgeous Alcazar and gardens, the detail in the interior is stunning, and the gardens were fragrant and interesting, with lots of different garden rooms and spaces to enjoy.

I had purchased train tickets to Córdoba before we left Australia. We went to Córdoba for the day, arriving there at 9.30 am and departing again at 8.30pm. We enjoyed wandering around the old streets and making our way to the historic centre. We visited the Alcazar, and found the age and details of the buildings very interesting. We also enjoyed walking around the pretty gardens. We then visited the Mezquita, a wonderful experience, with so much interesting architecture to take in. After the Mezquita we wandered down to the Roman bridge and walked across and took some great photos of both the bridge and Mezquita.
We were both struck by the difference in number of tourists. Córdoba was much quieter than Seville, and we both agreed this would be a nice place to spend a few nights.

Other highlights in Seville included, a visit to Triana to purchase some ceramics, a walk around the the Plaza de Espana and Maria Luisa Park. We also visited the Metropol Parasol and paid the entry to go to the viewing point. It has wonderful views of Seville and is an interesting structure. We also walked to Macarena, we had hoped to see inside the Basilica but it was closed. On our last day we visited the inside of the Seville Cathedral. We had to stand in a long line to purchase tickets to enter in the hot sun, so pre-purchased tickets would be a good option. It is an impressive cathedral, and reminded me a little of the Toledo Cathedral . The art works are very interesting, however they did appear to need cleaning.

Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Seville, it is a very pretty city in the old town, and there is plenty to see. It was hot during our stay, so having a centrally located apartment that we could retreat to for a rest was very helpful.

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:54 PM


We took the bus from Seville to Granada, as the direct high speed train line is not yet operational. We were seated up the front of the bus, so had great views of the villages and towns, olive tree orchards and fields of yellow sunflowers. On arrival in Granada we took a taxi to our hotel. We stayed at the Marquis Isabel’s Hotel, we had a room on the 2nd floor, and it was a comfortable stay for 3 nights, it also had a great view of the Isabel and Fernando fountain and adjoining streets.

The highlight in Granada was a visit to the Alhambra. We left the hotel at 7.30am to walk to the Alhambra. It was a much more straight forward walk than we expected and we were there by 7.50am. There was already a small queue of ticket holders - we had purchased our tickets in advance at home. The gates opened on time at 8.30, and we then spent the next 4 hours exploring. There is a lot to see, and the Nasrid Palace was a highlight, however, it was very crowded so difficult to see things and to be able to linger, which was disappointing. In contrast, our visit to the Real Alcazar in Seville was a much better experience. However, regardless of the crowds we enjoyed our time at the Alhambra, exploring the Alcazaba and wandering the Generalife gardens is a great way to complete the visit.

Other highlights in Granada included a visit to the Cathedral, exploring the area near the Genil river, including walking through the shady walkways. We also explored some of the Albaicin. As it has been very hot, 40 degrees every day, we decided to walk to the Albaicin and up to San Nicholas Mirador before it got too hot in the morning. We enjoyed a walk along the Darro river, and the paced ourselves climbing the hill. We joined a few other tourists and trinket sellers taking in the view of the Alhambra. Overall, we really enjoyed Granada and thought a 3 night stay was a good amount of time to spend there.

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:55 PM


We then bused from Granada to Malaga. We stayed in a one bedroom apartment on Calle Nueva. It was booked through Holidays2malaga and although it did not have any views, and we knew that before we booked, it was spacious and comfortable and in a very convenient location. Our time in Malaga was a lot slower paced than other destinations. We spent most of our time walking exploring the old town and going to the beach.

We walked up to the Gibralfaro, a very steep uphill climb, but it is worth it for the views. We paid for access to the the old castle, and walked around the grounds and ramparts. We then stopped at the bar/cafe for a drink of freshly squeezed orange juice, before heading back down the hill to the city. Some of the other highlights of our time here included a visit to the Cathedral, walking in the public gardens, and spending time at the port and beach. We also went the Picasso Museum, it is a small art gallery, but has some interesting Picasso art works I had not seen before.

Overall, we enjoyed our time in Malaga, it has a lovely old town, and the port area and beach is a great place to spend time and relax

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:55 PM


We had another comfortable train trip, which took just under 4 hours on the AVE. We then taxied from the station to our hotel NH Ciudad Zaragoza, which is on the edge of the old town. We had a nice room with a small balcony overlooking the river on the 7th floor. The room was comfortable, but not overly spacious. We found the location to be good though, and were able to walk to everything we wanted to see.

We visited the Palacio Aljaferia. We thought the concierge had said it was a 50 minute walk, however it turns out to be a 15minute walk! It is a well preserved and looked after Palace and museum. Although I did think it was a shame they have added glass windows. I understand they have done this to help preserve the Palace/Museum, however it makes the experience a little less authentic. That said, there are some beautiful Moorish features, and some stunning detailed ceilings, and we enjoyed our visit.

We also visited the Basilica of our Lady the Pilar, what a beautiful building, the interior is stunning, with high domes, and ornate features. The chapel is beautiful, with an ornately decorated dome under a large ceiling dome. My descriptions do not do it justice, and unfortunately no photography was allowed. It is definitely worth a visit, it is one of the loveliest churches I have been into in Spain.

Another highlight was the Museo Goya. This is a lovely museum with interesting Goya paintings and prints, and other artists such as Velasquez. It was very quiet, we largely had the galleries to ourselves, which was very pleasant. We also walked along the Erbo river to the Parque de Agua, the 2008 Expo site, it has some interesting modern buildings and structures and we enjoyed the contrast between the old town and these more recent additions.

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Zaragoza, we were glad to have chosen to stay here to break up the train trip from Malaga to San Sebastián. We thought 3 nights was a good amount of time to explore Zaragoza, and found it much quieter with regards to tourist numbers than other destinations we visited.

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:56 PM

San Sebastián

We had tickets on the Alvia train from Zaragoza to SS, which took 3.5 hours. It was a very scenic trip especially from Pamplona to SS, mountains, forests and very green. We then walked from the train station to our hotel in the old town - Sansebay Hotel. The hotel is only a few years old, and is clean and modern. The staff were very friendly and helpful. Our only issue was the noise from other rooms, it didn’t seem very sound proof, and the walls vibrated when doors were closed. However, it is in an excellent central location in the old town, so we are happy to overlook this inconvenience.

As with Malaga, we opted to slow down a little and relax a bit more rather than rushing about to do lots of sightseeing. We enjoyed walking around San Sebastián. We walked up the steps and the path on Mount Urgull to Castile Mota and the statue of Christ. There are lovely views of SS from here, and after the steep walk we enjoyed a rest in the museum.
On another day we went out for a walk to Zurriola beach. We wanted to see if we could find the coastal walk from there, but unfortunately the pass has been closed due to slips.

We spent quite a bit of time at La Concha beach. La Concha beach is very pretty and we were amazed at how many people were swimming in temperatures we thought were quite cool, 22 and 23 degrees. However, we did find that when the sun was shining it was quite warm. While the water was too cold for me to swim, DH went swimming twice during our 3 day stay. I enjoyed a paddle in the water and sitting on the beach reading.

Another highlight of our stay here, was the fresh seafood, we enjoyed some of our best meals on the trip here. We really enjoyed our time in SS, and would consider returning for a longer stay another time.

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:57 PM


We left SS for Bordeaux via the Euskotren train at the Amara station. We had stopped by to get some information at the station a few days before about purchasing tickets, and the person had been very helpful, and told us there would be someone at the station to assist with the ticket purchasing from the machine ( you cannot buy tickets any other way). However, when we arrived there was no one by the machines to assist, and there was not option for selecting English to purchase the ticket. The instructions were in Basque so we could not understand them. Determined to purchase them, we guessed we might need to enter cash first, so we’re attempting to put money in the machine, when finally an employee who had been sitting at the coffee bar came over and asked if we needed tickets. He was not very polite about it, but entered the information in the ticket machine and then told us to enter the money. Let me just say this experience was not as simple and easy as expected.

After arriving in Hendaye, we waited for the TGV to Bordeaux. We had booked a first class seat, so it was a comfortable trip to Bordeaux. On arrival at Gare St Jean we walked to our apartment - L’Apparments Bordelais, near Place de Victoire. The apartment was spacious, clean, well equipped and had a nice outdoor courtyard terrace.

On Sunday morning we went to the Market Capuchin, which had been recommended by the apartment contact. We enjoyed a coffee and croissant there, and wandering around looking at the fresh produce. We then walked to the flea market at St Michel. There were some interesting objects for sale, and some of the furniture was just gorgeous...shame about the freight costs to Australia, as it was very tempting to purchase some items. Later that morning we also visited the Market at Chartons. We enjoyed a refreshing lemonade and then purchased some bread before heading back towards the centre of town. We walked back though the streets away from the river to take advantage of the shade.

We enjoyed some nice walks around Bordeaux. We walked along the Garonne river, which was looking a bit dirty if you looked closely, however it still a nice area to visit, and provides some nice views of the buildings that run along the river. We saw the Place de Bourse, and Le Mirroir D’eau, and stopped by the Theatre. We found that we often discovered a number of the sights accidentally while walking around the old town, including the Gross Cloche and Porte Calihau. The old town is quite compact, and walking distances are not far.

On the Monday we went to Saint Emilion. We walked to Gare St Jean, and purchased our tickets from the machine.We then found the platform and got on the train for the 40 minute trip to St Emilion. When we got off the train we followed the signs to the village, it took about 20 minutes to walk there. St Emilion is a beautiful village, with cobbled streets. Some of the streets are very steep, but the majority are easy to walk on. We stopped at the Tourism office first to pick up a map, and then set off to explore.

We visited Les Cordiliers at the old Cloister, and enjoyed trying two different varieties of their sparkling wine in the garden. We then carried on along the road, and entered some caves, to see how the wine is stored. Following the map we carried along the road and saw the Great Wall, we then headed into the village, stopping briefly at the Eglise Collegiate Cathedral. We then went off in search of lunch. After passing by a few restaurants we found a large outdoor restaurant in Place de Eglise with a view of the Monolithic church. After enjoying a glass of wine with a lovely lunch we went off for a walk before our tour of the Monolithic church.

We had pre-purchased our underground Monolithic church tour tickets at home a few weeks before we left. The tour took us to St Emilion’s home, the chapel, catcombes and Monolithic church. It is a very interesting building that is carved from one limestone rock. The tour provided information about the history and significance of these buildings, and we enjoyed it. After the tour we went to see some of the remaining highlights of the village, such as the old convent wall in the vineyard, and the Kings Keep before heading back to the train station.

We highly recommend a day trip to St Emilion. Although we were there in peak tourist time, we found it to not be very busy at all (maybe because it was a Monday?). Except for the area around the Monolithic church and tourist office, we found the streets largely to be free of people, and we were often alone walking around.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay in Bordeaux, we found the people to be very friendly, the food good, and as already noted, it is quite compact and easy to walk around.

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 02:58 PM


We took the TGV from Bordeaux to Paris. We arrived at Gare Montparnasse and had a short downhill walk to our hotel - Hotel Le Littre. It is a nice hotel, and the room was very spacious with both a bath and shower in the bathroom, and a walk in robe. The best part was the terrace and view of the Eiffel Tower...just priceless.

We had previously spent 9 days in Paris in 2016 visiting a lot of the major sights, so we didn’t have too much planned for this visit. Two places we hadn’t visited previously included the Luxembourg gardens and the Rodin Museum, so we included those in our plans. The Jardin de Luxembourg was not too far from our hotel in the 6th arrondisment, so we walked there one of the days, and enjoyed a wander around the gardens. It was quite busy with tourists either seated or walking around the gardens. On another day we walked to the Rodin Museum and opted to visit the sculpture garden. This visit used to be free, but entry to the gardens is now 2 Euro. We enjoyed our time exploring the gardens and looking at the beautiful sculptures.

We also had pre-purchased tickets for the Ateliers des Lumeries exhibition (thanks to Kerouac’s trip report). It is an immersive art exhibition featuring Gustav Kilmit art works to music. It also included some other emerging artists work as well. It was a fantastic exhibition, with the art works displayed on the warehouse walls to music. My descriptions are not doing it justice, but we highly recommend it, we were very pleased to have experienced it.

We walk everywhere when we travel, so we clocked up a lot of miles during our stay wandering around this lovely and very interesting city. We walked along the Seine, to Champ de Mars to see the Eiffel Tower, to the Bastille area to the art exhibition and while there explored the markets. We wandered around the Marais, and got lost at one point, wandering around in one big circle. We walked past the Notre Dame, and up Boulevard St Michel to the Pantheon, we even enjoyed a wander around the Montparnasse cemetery.

We also were fortunate to have been in Paris for both the Fete Nationale celebrations and the wonderful World Cup win. We enjoyed the festive atmosphere, and extremely passionate and excited Parisians celebrating winning the World Cup football. The celebrations on the street were pretty amazing, with people everywhere on the street, a street party, lots of tooting, people hanging out of cars etc in what was normally a very busy intersection in Montparnasse. We felt lucky to have been there to have witnessed it.

During our Paris stay, we also took a day trip to Luxembourg City. We purchased train tickets in advance from home. The TGV takes 2 hours from Gare L’Est to Luxembourg. It was then about a 20 minute walk from the station to the city centre. Luxembourg City has a lovely old town, with pretty pastel coloured buildings, the river, trees and park land, and of course the stunning Adolphe bridge. We did the Wenzel walk around the casements and old town. The walk was challenging in parts, as it was quite steep and it was a warm day, but it was well worth it. We spent about 2 hours doing the walk, and then headed back to the city centre to wander around a bit more. We enjoyed a yummy gelato cone at a Glace cafe in a pretty square, before wandering off to check out the shops. After window shopping for a while, and stopping in a few other pretty squares/places we stopped at a bar for a glass of wine before heading back to the station. It was an enjoyable day out, and we were glad to have made the effort to go.

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Paris. There is always plenty to see and do, and the people are friendly and the food is good. We enjoyed staying in the 6th, however, it definitely felt more touristy than our previous stay in the 3rd. Our hotel cost us quite a lot, but we really enjoyed the view of the Eiffel Tower, and it was perfect for watching the fireworks display for the Fete Nationale.

millie2112 Jul 20th, 2018 03:13 PM

enjoyed your trip report.... i am off in 3 weeks to spain and portugal and looking forward to it.. although worried how hot it is going to be.

KarenWoo Jul 20th, 2018 04:05 PM

Andee01, I enjoyed your trip report! I remember your planning thread from last year, and I remember you commented on my trip report. I think you were concerned your were spending too much time in Malaga. So glad to hear you enjoyed Malaga. There is plenty of sightseeing, but it's also the perfect place to relax, with the port and beach. We stayed 2 nights in Malaga, and we would have enjoyed an extra night.

Also happy to hear you really like Cordoba. It was one of our favorites places, and we also noticed it was the least crowded. Seville is gorgeous, but it was the most crowded of all the places we visited, and the hottest, even in late September/early October.

We visited Paris on a separate trip in 2012, and we stayed in the 6th arrondisement, just a 5-minute walk from Luxembourg Gardens. We love this neighborhood because it is so convenient, but it was crowded with tourists.

Just curious, what was your favorite destination in Spain?

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 04:46 PM

Thanks KarenWoo, your help in planning this trip was most appreciated.

4 nights in Malaga was a good amount of time for us, it gave us time to relax a bit more after a busy time in Seville and Granada, also the temperatures were a bit cooler which was a relief.

Our favourite destination in Spain is a bit trickier to answer. We enjoyed all of the places we visited and they all had appealing features. If I was going to pick one it would probably be Seville. It is a very pretty city, with plenty of things to do and see. However, we were also surprised by Zaragoza, we really enjoyed our stay there, so much quieter with regards to tourists, and an interesting city with plenty to keep us occupied for 3 days.

We we will definitely be returning to Spain, it is a wonderful country to visit, with great food, friendly people, and so much to see and do. We are thinking of planning to see Northern Spain next time - hopefully in the not too distant future.

Andee01 Jul 20th, 2018 04:50 PM

Thanks Millie2112, we found it quite hot although we are used to hot summers. My advice is to seek shade when you can when out walking. Look for parks and tree lined walkways, and walk on the shady side of the street. Also, it gives you an excuse to stop in a cafe/bar to enjoy a cold drink and rest a while!

KarenWoo Jul 21st, 2018 07:37 PM

It was cooler in Malaga when we were there last September, which was a nice respite from the heat in our other destinations. it was still hot in Andalucia in September, especially in Seville.

KarenWoo Jul 21st, 2018 07:38 PM

Originally Posted by millie2112 (Post 16765515)
enjoyed your trip report.... i am off in 3 weeks to spain and portugal and looking forward to it.. although worried how hot it is going to be.

Do you have plans to visit the coast? It should be a bit cooler there.

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