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To Madrid/Barcelona on Sunday! 8 Qs to help make the trip amazing

To Madrid/Barcelona on Sunday! 8 Qs to help make the trip amazing

Old May 16th, 2013, 11:45 PM
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To Madrid/Barcelona on Sunday! 8 Qs to help make the trip amazing

Hello! I am headed to Madrid & Barcelona this Sunday! So incredibly excited but because of crazy work loads, I haven't been able to put in the hours of research that I normally obsess about prior to a trip. But this is also a different kind of trip - rather than try to see absolutely everything, I really want to focus on having a (somewhat) relaxing and incredibly romantic trip with my husband (13 yrs together, married 7 yrs, + a 3yo daughter at home with her grandparents!), with the focus on great food/wine and memorable experiences.

Here's a brief rundown of our itinerary:

Madrid. Arrive at 10am on Monday at the airport. Will head directly to Hotel Europa (http://www.hoteleuropa.eu/en/), located at Puerta del Sol. Spend all of Monday and Tuesday in Madrid and then sometime on Wednesday head to Barcelona via train.

Barcelona. Upon arrival will head directly to Hotel Inglaterra (http://www.hotel-inglaterra.com/en/) in the old town of the City, between Catalonia Square and University Square. Spend the the second half of Wednesday, then all Thursday, Friday and Saturday there, before heading back home on a 10:30am flight on Sunday.

Here are my questions:

1. Barcelona Hotel. I accidentally booked a second Madrid hotel for our nights in Barcelona (!! so unlike me, did I mention I've been slammed at work?) but luckily realized it last night. Had a frantic online session trying to find the *perfect hotel before giving up (everywhere i checked was booked up!) and booking at Hotel Inglaterra. It looks great - just more than we wanted to spend. They only had premium rooms available, at just under 200eu/night. Ouch. I'd really like to be paying closer to 150eu, or less! Any recommendations? We generally like to be close to where the action is, but not right on top of it.

2. Any advice on traveling by train between Madrid and Barcelona? Especially different types of tickets available? Can/should I order them online prior or is it fine to book at the station?

3. What are the must-see (romantic-ish) sights of Madrid and Barcelona to be included? I've listed the ones I'd like to hit below. Please comment!

Madrid: Are there any MUST-sees besides the Royal Palace and Puerta del Sol ? Likely we will hit up maybe one museum, but envision strolling the streets late into the day, and just enjoying.

Barcelona: Ramblas, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, La Boqueria, Casa Mila/Palau Guell (which one to go inside?), Magic Fountain.

4. Is Barcelona's beach worth a visit? Do people go into the water?

5. Flamenco show suggestion? Better in Madrid or Barcelona? It had been mentioned previously that there was a big Flamenco festival (?) happening in Barcelona during our time there. Will that make it easier or harder to get tickets? And how?

6. Food. As I mentioned before, we LOVE good food. I will visit any recommendations! We'd love to try the local cuisine, and generally just love good food of ANY kind. But I've learned the only way to have a good food experience is to get current recommendations from real people. Please help here! Or direct me to good sources?

7. Nightlife.

In Madrid, I imagine it's all about the Paseo - strolling late into the night, pit stopping at tapas bars for little bites and wine along the way. Is that about right? Are there any night time destinations/sights not to miss?

In Barcelona - I hear there is a very big party/clubbing scene. We are in our early 30s and still like to have a party night - though we've never done it while traveling in a foreign country. But apparently it's not to be missed in Barcelona. Any recs?

THANK YOU FODORITES!!! I LOVE YOU ALL!

knemo
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Old May 17th, 2013, 12:19 AM
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2. Train
check renfe.es if discounts are still available.. probably not

4. Beaches/ swimming
Probably not. Spain is currently hit by quite unseasonable cold weather.
Bring something warm for Madrid, and a light rain jacket - both for MAD and BCN
Check eltiempo.es for detailed weather forecasts for the peninsula.
The beaches of BCN are not only for swimming.. the promenade between Barceloneta and Port Olimpic is also good for people watching, and having dinner or drinks (if weather permits)
Also one club is located at the Port Olimipic end of the promenade. Unfortunately, I forgot the name.

BCN has indeed a huge party/club scene.
While the actual hotspots change over the years, you could start with one of the classics like Razzmatazz and check their agenda what's on.
Or just ask any barkeeper for current "in" places. The mixed bars in the Gaixample/ University part of Eixample or those in Born (like Cafe Baroc) where also younger folks hang out could be a good place for local inquiries
The small pocket book travel guides for Barcelona by TimeOut are also a good resource for clubs (it's that version of TimeOut guides, half size of a paperback, with the current year in the title)
In general, you don't have to bother too much about going to a club until it's at least 1 or 2 am.
Big parties usually get advertised heavily.. you will spot billboards etc.
Most clubs are not that lively in shoulder season except for the weekend nights. So, in your case, I would suggest you focus on the Friday night you'll be in town.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 01:02 AM
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5.
I strongly recommend you to see spectacular flamenco dancer Rocío Molina in Mercat de les Flors in Barcelona on Thursday May 23 at 9.30. Opening performance of the Ciutat Flamenco festival. Still tickets left:
http://mercatflors.cat/en/ciclesifes...nco-city-2013/

Youngets flamenco dancer ever to win the Premio Nacional de Danza, the most prestigious dance award in Spain. She's making history at the age of 28.

"one of the finest soloists in the world today", New York Times 2009

"Molina has genius: irresistible, all-consuming, all-powerful", Financial Times 2011

"as if she were sharing the stage with the ghosts of all the dancers whose art she has absorbed – and reinvented", The Telegraph 2013

Seen her ten times since 2007, and had a unforgettable night seeing her dance up here at wonderful Mercat de les Flors (the same theater) last October.

4. Very nice in its own vibrant but easygoing way. All kinds of people and activities along the Barceloneta beach and lots of restaurants and cafés/bars along the Passeig de Joan de Borbó out towards the sothern end of the beach. Just a few blocks inside the Barceloneta neighbourhood there are several very local atmosphere and good spirited tapas bars and restaurants, many along Carrer de Sant Carles and in Carrer Ginebra.

7. Madrid: Lots of nice places in the central Huertas district. I like the flamenco inspired bars/clubs along Calle Echegaray.

Barcelona, vibrant and medieval El Born:
http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.c...s/el-born.html

2. Take the high speed AVE traing, excellent. You can save much money if you buy online in advance at renfe.com.

6. Just a couple of tips.

Barcelona: La Perla is genuine, local and close to Mercat de les Flors. Only open for lunch: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...Catalonia.html

Try to get a table at Tickets. The basic concept is traditional tapas prepared and presented as you never would imagine and with tastes to the maximum. Iberian ham, Spanish cheeses, olives, croquetas, tomatoes, anchoas, shellfish, Iberian pork etc etc plus some surprises from out of this world. Fabulous deserts. Given what you get, very reasonable prices. You are too late to make a reservation, but they keep a few tables/seats open for drop-in customers:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...Catalonia.html

I love Barcelona classic 7 Portes from 1836. Popular with tourists, but still a favourite also with locals: http://www.7portes.com/angles/index.php

Madrid:
I never leave Madrid without having had the squid in its own ink and the famous Bacalao at Revuelta, just off majestic Plaza Mayor: http://11870.com/pro/revuelta
http://www.tripadvisor.es/Restaurant...ta-Madrid.html
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHu8zGsFuy8
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Old May 17th, 2013, 01:26 AM
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... and I very much recommend you to take a english spoken guided tour at Sagrada Familia. I knew much of both Gaudí and the church before visiting a couple of weeks ago, but the guide provided new information and impressions at every stop, making it a surprisingly strong experience.

Buy tickets on-line in advance, then you enter directly and avoid waiting in line for a very long time (the same goes for most of the other most obvious attractions in Barcelona).
http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/?lang=0
Tickets: http://visit.sagradafamilia.cat/?lang=en#tickets
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Old May 17th, 2013, 01:44 AM
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In Barcelona I have stayed at Hotel Continental and Hotel Cortes and both were fine. Çontinental is on Las Ramblas but it was quiet and the people watching from their main terrace (and free day long breakfast bar) was great. Çortes is around the corner.

Old town of Barcelona is wonderfully atmospheric and the harbor area is also great. Seeing the Gaudi sites in the 'new' town is certainly a 'must do' but don't miss out spending time in the old quarter. And a walk down through Barcelonetta and the beach area is worthwhile.

Madrid's old town is no where near as good as Barcelona's but still worth seeing - the area around Plaza Major and Plaza de Santa Ana - which is way more 'atmospheric' than Puerta de Sol. museo thyssen bornemisza is a wonderful small museum but covers a large portion of art history. Across the street from the Prado.

Here's my photos of both cities: http://www.pbase.com/annforcier/madrid
http://www.pbase.com/annforcier/barcelona
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Old May 17th, 2013, 03:53 AM
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Some eats not to miss in Madrid:

GAMBAS AL AJILLO (garlic shrimp). "La Casa del Abuelo" on Calle Victoria 12.
http://www.madbudget.com/wp-content/...-al-ajillo.jpg

BOQUERONES EN VINAGRE (anchovies marinated in vinegar). "Bodegas Ricla" on Calle de los Cuchilleros 6.
http://yumit.s3.amazonaws.com/photoy...jpg?1310822396

JAMÓN (Cured ham) & TABLA DE QUESOS (cheese platter). "Casa González". Calle León 13. Rec: red wine is the best to accompany them.
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-I...n%2520Nini.jpg

PATATAS BRAVAS (potato with spicy sauce). "Las Bravas" on Calle Alvarez Gato 3.
http://blogs.elpais.com/.a/6a00d8341...1373970d-550wi

OREJA DE CERDO (grilled pig's ear). "La Oreja de Oro" on Calle Victoria
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...eja_de_Oro.jpg

PIMIENTOS DE PADRÓN (green peppers, some are hot). "Casa Toni" on Calle de la Cruz 14.
http://www.madbudget.com/wp-content/...dro%CC%81n.jpg

BOCADILLO DE CALAMARES (Squid sandwich). "La Campana" on Calle Botoneras 6.
http://www.madriz.com/wp-content/upl.../lacampana.jpg

SALMOREJO (cold tomato soup). "Según Emma" on Calle Conde de Miranda 4.
http://www.eresmadrid.com/wp-content.../salmorejo.jpg

ASSORTED TAPAS. "Txirimiri" on Calle Humilladero 6.
http://www.txirimiri.es/nuestra-carta/

Beverage:
SHERRY TASTING. "Mercado de San Miguel".
http://www.sherrywinetaste.com/tasting-sherry-madrid/
VERMUT DE GRIFO (vermouth on tap). "La Perejila" on Cava Baja 25
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-lXWxf4pboN..._Cava_Baja.jpg

Traditional restaurant:
Casa Alberto on Calle de las Huertas 18. Specialty: rabo de buey (stewed oxtail).
http://www.casaalberto.es/
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Old May 17th, 2013, 05:35 AM
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bookmarking for all the great advice. You're so lucky to be catching the flamenco festival! Have a great trip.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 07:02 AM
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2. Check Vueling. Flights on it may be significantly less expensive than the AVE at this point.

3. Madrid: Stroll around the Palace and through the Opera section of town at night, then go to the Plaza Mayor. The Mercado San Miguel in Madrid is FAR SUPERIOR to the Bocqueria in Barcelona.

Barcelona: La Rambla is not romantic. Placa Reial is nice. You have to go inside Casa Mila to reach the roof, which is the #1 attraction of it.

4. European beaches are inferior to Caribbean and American beaches. Not worth a detour considering your short schedule. Of course people go in the water, it's a beach.

7. Madrid's club scene is lively. Your schedule makes clubbing in Barcelona more desirable because you'll be adjusted to a Spanish schedule by then.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 07:24 AM
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Puerta del Sol is hardly romantic...go for a stroll in Retiro park and upscale Serrano- Salamanca
The area around the Palace is very romantic at night...several outdoor cafes frequented by the well to do
locals.

In Barcelona, Ramblas is a touristy street I avoid....walk to Rambla de Catalunya
Beach clubs in Barcelona are usually filed with 20 something crowd.

As suggested, tickets on line for SF or a huge line up.
A concert at stunning Palau de la Musica Catalana and dinner at 7 Portes would make for a romantic evening, IMO.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 09:10 AM
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PS - where's question 8?
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Old May 17th, 2013, 09:41 AM
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Thank you all so much!!

5. Flamenco. So totally going to go buy tickets to see Rocio Molina. Is it better to be closer to the stage in the side sections or further back but in the middle section? The website also offers several different ticket types, in addition to the tarifa normal, but all in Spanish. Can i purchase any of them?

6. Tickets. I SO want to go there! I've been to Moto in Chicago a few times and love love love it. Any suggestions on how best to get in on a drop-in basis?

3. Besides Sagrada Familia, what are the other sights that I should buy tickets online for?

2. I checked out the Renfe.com website for the train between Madrid and Barcelona. What is the difference between Turista, Turista Plus, Preferente & Club? For each there is also different prices at a M, P, P+ & F. Recs here? Am thinking that the train is still the best way to go as opposed to taking a flight, in terms of time & convenience?

I'm getting so excited! Thank you all so much!
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Old May 17th, 2013, 10:20 AM
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The train is center to center of both cities....not cheap but between 2:30 and 3:00 hours.
Sometimes the flight may cost less...but you have to get to and from the airport, security etc


AVE is very comfortable...I get tourist P+ (so I can chose a seat.)
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Old May 17th, 2013, 10:26 AM
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http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/tarifas/index.html

Should anwer your RENFE. question
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Old May 17th, 2013, 10:38 AM
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I found this great resource re: buying Renfe tickets!

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g1...ts.Online.html
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Old May 17th, 2013, 11:03 AM
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The best resource on how to book Spanish trains is:
http://www.seat61.com/Spain.htm
http://www.seat61.com/Spain-trains.h..._www.renfe.com
Loads of screen shots. And much better than that rambling one on Trip Advisor.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 05:37 PM
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Agree with whoever said Puerto del Sole is not so romantic. Plaza Mayor is very nice late at night. Sometimes dancers or musicians perform spontaneously. If you can fit in even an afternoon trip to Toledo, it would be worth it. It is a quick, short train ride.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 06:02 PM
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here's my small contribution:

3. If you wanna go where you'll find other couples kissing in the dark then check out the Templo de Debod. It's part of an ancient Egyptian temple that was brought to Spain. Anyway it's on a hill that overlooks part of the city. Go as it's starting to get dark

6. While in Madrid you have an opportunity to tell your friends you did something very unique by dining in the world's oldest restaurant: Botin. Delicious food with a menu that hasn't changed much in centuries. The sangria there is very good!

http://www.botin.es/?q=en/node/10

also, when in a restaurant try the Serrano ham as an appetizer with some fresh manchego cheese.
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Old May 17th, 2013, 07:57 PM
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Unless your credit card has been pre-aproved, you will not be able to purchase tickets on Renfe.com.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 12:47 AM
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5: Rocío Molina: I would go for the tickets closest to the stage, but anyhow this is a fairly intimate theater so all tickets should be good. Only option is Tarifa normal, the other are different small discounts for disabled, people living in the neighbourhood, large families, groups of ten or more etc. Just be sure to get tickets before they sell out!

6) Regarding Tickets: The best I think will be to show up a little before 7 when they open to see what's possible that night. Run by the Adrià brothers, the guys behind El Bulli, the best restaurant in the world the past decade, now closed for good.

3) Huge lines normally at places like Sagrada Famila, La Pedrera/Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Palau Guell etc. Online tickets could save you for hours of waiting in line. But I also suggest that you keep the visits to a minimum (no way more than one Gaudi masterpiece pr. day...) and just enjoy a fabulous city.
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Old May 18th, 2013, 01:36 AM
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...and some suggestions for Madrid (all close to Puerta del Sol):

Watch the sunset over the Guadarrama mountains from the terrace at El Ventorrillo restaurant in the Vistillas park.
http://11870.com/pro/restaurante-ventorrillo/media
videos: http://11870.com/pro/restaurante-ven...media?t=videos

Have lunch or some tapas at Casa Granada, on the 6th floor of an apartment building just off local feel Plaza Tirso de Molina. Hard to find and a great terrace. http://www.tripfilms.com/Travel_Vide...ada-Video.html

Have breakfast or lunch at Café del Círculo de Bellas Artes in down town Calle Alcalá, 42. One of the city's most emblematic cafés. Grab a window table and watch Madrid life on bustling Calle Alcalá. Take the lift up to the roof topp terrace (the azotea) for the most spectacular views of the city. http://www.esmadrid.com/en/cargarApl...ntificador=179
http://www.frommers.com/destinations/madrid/D51874.html

I often finish my nights in Madrid at Café Central, just off Plaza Santa Ana. A fabulous jazz venue with live performances from the best artists every night at 10pm. Entrance 15€. Good food also. http://www.cafecentralmadrid.com/

The coming week Veronica Ferreiro performs here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sU09xGa8rJE

According to Spanish weather forecasts temperatures are rising in Madrid from Tuesday (some 70F) and by Thursday you should have 70+ and mostly sunny in Barcelona:
http://www.aemet.es/es/eltiempo/pred...celona-id08019
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