Trip Report: 10 Days in Spain

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May 18th, 2012, 07:48 AM
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Trip Report: 10 Days in Spain

SPAIN 2012 TRIP REPORT

For photos, go to www.sanderhome.com in a few days ( hopefully – I have over 800 to cull, sort, crop and upload!)

DAY 00 – SUN APR 29

This is our second trip to Spain. In 2006 we spent a week in Madrid (with side trips to El Escoreal, Segovia, and Toledo).

Our flight from Philadelphia took off on time – and luckily, there were two empty seats next to me, so I was able to lie down and sleep a bit. My wife, Linda, has less trouble sleeping sitting up (with the help of Nyquil)…so she took the seat with someone next to her…wonderful woman!!


DAY 01 – MON APR 30

Very quick exit through control and customs in T1. (We never check bags – just a couple of 21” overhead rollers and two pocketbook-size underseat bags.)

We decided to try the Express Bus rather than Metro (which, though it drops us closer to our hotel, involves walking to T2 and changing trains twice). It was really fast and only cost 2€ - - since we beat the price increase by 1 day. It dropped us at Plaza Cibeles. The walk to Hostal Acapulco in Plaza Carmen was mostly uphill, perhaps 1 km.

This was our second stay at Hostal Acapulco, and I highly recommend it. Wonderful folks, beautiful rooms, great location (3 blocks from Sol), and super price.

First stop: The Orange Store in Sol to buy a SIM card for our phone. This was new territory for me – I had a phone I borrowed from a friend – and I was not sure how to do this. The people there were super-helpful. Got one for 9€ that had 9€ of time on it – a special promotion. Later in the trip we added 5€, so the whole deal only cost 14€. We called restaurants a few times and called our parents in the US nearly every day for short calls…a very good deal.

Lunch at Caffe Y Te – nothing fancy – just sandwiches – a quick and easy.

Now came the scary part… Our son and his wife flew to Madrid two days earlier and spent those days in Barcelona. We were to meet their train back to Madrid at Atocha and take the Metro back. Unfortunately, we could not find them (Did they miss their train??), and ,despite our suggestion, had not brought a phone. So we went back to our hotel. They arrived (by taxi) about 15 minutes later.

[METRO NOTE: I first bought a 10-ride ticket from the machine, thinking it was a pack of 10 tickets, like it is in Paris. When I realized my mistake, I bought several singles for my wife, thinking we wouldn’t use very many and that I had wasted some money. Then I decided otherwise and bought a second 10-ride ticket. It turned out that we used almost all the rides by the time we were done – with 1 remaining on each which I have saved for our next trip. The 10-ride ticket is really cheap…9.60€.]

The four of us walked to the Reina Sofia museum (which was better than I had remember it), took the Metro back, and had dinner at La Nuva Galicia, a very simple restaurant. The menu del día cost (starter, main, and drink) was 9€. Most dishes were a little bland, but the albondigas (meatballs) were excellent and the caldo gallego was a huge bowl of amazing soup with lots of beans and big chunks of potatoes and cabbage – almost a meal in itself.

[to be continued...]
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May 18th, 2012, 07:50 AM
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DAY 02 – TUE MAY 1

Churros y chocolate at Chocolateria San Gines!!

Then off for a walk in Parque Retiro. Throngs of families were there enjoying the lake and puppet shows. We followed a Frommer’s guided walk from north to south – loved the Palacio de Cristal – then took the Metro back had a quick bite for lunch.

Next was another guided walk – this one west to the Palacio Real, then south to Plaza de Humilladero. (I know this is a Fodor’s site, and I love the Fodor’s books…but I think Frommer’s generally has great walks, which I Xerox before I leave the US).

After a nap, we set out for dinner. I had learned about a bar called El Tigre in Chueca , so the four of us walked the five blocks to try it out. Ordered four large beers (5€ each) that came with four heaping plates of raciones/tapas. Not exactly gourmet…but tasty and very filling. I don’t really recommend it for dinner, since it was mostly stools and counters – more of a later-night hang-out for “younger” people (like our son & daughter-in-law who are in their 30s).

We then walked down the Paseo del prado and back up C/Huertas, stopping for helado at Gelateria Ricci; then to the hotel via Plz/Santa Ana. Nice evening!

[to be continued...]
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May 18th, 2012, 07:51 AM
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DAY 03 – WED MAY 2

After pastry and coffe at La Mallorquina (west end of Sol), we checked out and took the Metro to Atocha for our 10:00 AVE train to Sevilla. What a great train!

[TRAIN TICKET NOTE: My epic unsuccessful struggle to buy tickets on the RENFE site is briefly chronicled on an earlier thread. The print-at-home tickets I bought on RailEurope worked perfectly.]

We planned to see a flamenco show at Casa de la Memoria. They did not sell tickets on their website, so we were worried they’d be sold out on this (it’s a VERY small venue – perhaps 200 seats), the only day that the kids could see it – they were returning to Madrid tomorrow.

We took a taxi from the station right to the theatre (or as close as we could get given the tiny, pedestrian-only streets in the Santa Cruz barrio). Fortunately, there were still tickets to the 7:30 show.

Our hotel was only two blocks from the theatre – an easy walk. Pensione Cordoba is a wonderful place on a tiny “street” (~4 feet wide) about 5-10-minutes’ walk from the Cathedral. The rooms were rather plain, but they all surround a brightly-lit gorgeous “indoor courtyard” and the folks running it were super-friendly.

First stop was the alcazar. We were going to the Alhambra and Cordoba later in our trip, but the kids were not, so this was their best look at Moorish Spain.

We then walked around looking for the Mercado del Arenal for lunch. We got within a block of it without realizing it and gave up. Casa Pepe Hillo turned out to be pretty good. Linda was itching for something a little healthier than we had been eating, so she had fish and roasted peppers. (Is it my imagination or do Spaniards not eat a lot of fresh-cooked veggies? Maybe I’m not reading the menus right.) Son David had squid. Daughter-in-law Mayookha and I went with the croquettes.

Nap time!!

The flamenco performance at La Casa de la Memoria was exceptional. A small square stage with only two rows of seats on three sides. There were four performers – Male singer, guitar player and dancer, and a female dancer. The show lasted one hour.

Dinner at Meson don Raimundo. Oxtail, Andalusian fish, pork in some really good sauce, among other things. This was our splurge meal. Very fancy and very good.

[IVA NOTE: The IVA tax is not included in menu prices in some restaurants and included in others. “IVA incluido” and “IVA no Incluido” are pretty self-evident. Don Raimundo had “IVA a Incluir” which is “IVA to include”. I did not expect this 8% surprise. So be aware.]

We had, once again, helado, on the walk back to the hotel.

[continued...]
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May 18th, 2012, 07:52 AM
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Thanks for posting,
Please continue
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May 18th, 2012, 07:52 AM
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DAY 04 – THU MAY 03

We realized that we had been really close to the Mercado del Arenal yesterday, so we decided to look for it again this morning. We found it, but practically none of the stalls were open. We bought some fruit at one of the stalls, then stopped at a coffee shop for pastry.

Rain!! Today was the first day we forgot to carry our umbrellas. We had rain coats, but the walk back to the Cathedral was pretty wet.

The Cathedral was really impressive. The kids climbed to the top of Giralda tower (by then the rain had pretty much stopped and the view was excellent). Columbus’ tomb was a highlight. Unfortunately the golden alter was undergoing restoration/cleaning, so we couldn’t see it.

Unfortunately, it was time for the kids to leave. Unlike us (retired), they had to be back at work Monday, so they had scheduled two more nights in Madrid before flying home on Saturday. We said our goodbyes at the nearby taxi stand.

Fast food for lunch! We walked to a Pans & Co, where we got some nice sandwiches. Then we took a really long walk, seeing the San Salvador church and walking around the Alcazar gardens.

NAP!

OK…I confess…I can only go more than a few days without Italian food. Al Solito Posto (Cuesta del Rosario 15) had great pizza.

We then walked to the Puente de San Telmo and enjoyed the night view of the river and city – then back to the hotel.

more...
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May 18th, 2012, 07:53 AM
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DAY 05 – FRI MAY 4

Picked up some pastry and oranges for a quick breakfast in our room.

Today will be a museum day. Took the bus to the southern end of Parque de Maria Luisa to see two museums.

First the Archaeology Museum, a small museum with a treasure trove of Roman and Visigothic artifacts.

Next was the Museum of Popular Arts & Costumes. This had displays on clothing, lace, crafts, trades, etc.

Both of these museums were well worth the visit. Then we took the bus back to…

Archive of the Indies. This is essentially a library of documents relating to the Spanish exploration and conquest of the Americas, but, like the British Library, it has a public display section with amazing documents, books, maps and illustrations. The descriptions were in Spanish, and mine isn’t very good, but we could figure out most of what was on display.

Quick lunch – sandwiches at Pans & Co.

Next stop: Casa de Pilatos, This mansion was built at the end of the 15th c. and over the two centuries or so of constant rennovation, served as a conduit through which new styles filtered into Sevilla. It has a blend of Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance and Romantic styles.

Nap!!

Last museum of the day: Museo de Bellas Artes. The highlight for us was a room with a number of really impressive Murillo paintings. I was not aware of how good he was.

Dinner: A really nice Italian restaurant. San Marco only a few blocks from our hotel. Linda had ravioli with a really good cream sauce, and I had pasta with a delicious meat sauce.

Back to the hotel to pack up. Tomorrow we go to Granada.

[...I'm tired...I'll try to get the last 5 days done by tomorrw...]
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May 18th, 2012, 08:24 AM
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Nice report. How lovely you were able to spend time with your children.

Re Atocha station. It is confusing where to meet AVE passengers. If anyone is going to meet someone there, the best pace would be to tell them UPSTAIRS across from the taxis.

If you are not familiar with the station you would definitely be in the wrong place as many other trains disembark downstairs ( on the same level as the indoor jungle garden).
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May 18th, 2012, 09:06 AM
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DAY 6 – SAT MAY 5

Walked around a little in the morning before checking out and taking a taxi to the train station. The trip was long – over three hours. And the rain did not stop. On arrival, there were no free taxis to be found. We walked the block-and-a-half to the bus - - but it was no fun. We got to our hotel a little before 4 pm.

Hotel Macia Plaza is a beautiful hotel, right on Plaza Nueva, and above our usual standards. (It also cost nearly twice as much as our usual standards.) But we were glad to be there. After unpacking, drying out, and resting, we decided to track down a restaurant that looked interesting and have an early dinner.

That restaurant was O Caño, a small neighborhood bar with some tables in the back. The place was deserted (7:30 pm is much too early for dinner in Spain.) But the owner was as nice as can be and the food (menu del dia) was very good. Linda and I both had a wonderful salad with lots of tomatoes, olives and tuna, a pork dish, beer, and dessert (flan and chocolate tart). All for 12.60€ each. We vowed to go back the next night.

Back to the hotel.


[more…]
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May 18th, 2012, 09:26 AM
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DAY 7 – SUN

Big day today – the Alhambra.

One of things we did yesterday was get our Ahambra tickets printed out. We had bought them online, but still had to get the actual tickets. The desk man at the hotel pointed toward the Alhambra Shop, just down the street from the hotel. There the woman showed me how to put my credit card (the one I bought the tickets with) into the machine…and out popped the tickets.

We decided to check out the breakfast buffet in the hotel (8€). It looked great, so we did it: juice, boiled eggs, cheese, ham, tortilla (quiche), yogurt, pastry, fresh fruit, etc. Well worth it, and we knew we needed a big breakfast, because we expected to be at the Alhambra almost all morning.

We took the bus to the Alhambra.

Sorry, words cannot describe it. I hope to have my photos up soon. I’ll just say that it is not to be missed if you’re in Spain…long train ride not-withstanding. Since parts of it were defaced/replaced by the Christian monarchs after the Reconquista, one can only imagine how this looked at its best.

Afterwards, we walked down to the town looking for a restaurant in the Albaicin that was recommended. When we go there, it was not yet open. We were dead tired, so we trudged back to Plaza Nueva and ate lunch at the nearby Cueva de 1900 – which turned out to have a really good meal of a “flamenquin” (croquette-like hame and cheese item) with potatoes and a peppers and zucchini side dish – giving us our coveted vegetables.

Then we took a self-guided walk around town which included a stop in the cathedral.

NAP!!

Dinner was back at O Caño – this time salad, oxtail, beer, and a yummy cake. A big soccer game was starting on the TV in the front (bar) section, and locals were streaming in. We watched for awhile with them – a great experience.

Then we headed back.

[more...]
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May 18th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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DAY 8 – MON MAY 7

Had breakfast in the hotel again. Then took the bus to the train station and caught the 9:10 train to Cordoba – another slow ride. It did appear that something – either a train bed or a road bed – was under construction along the way ending not far from Antequera where the slow track joins the high-speed track. Are they planning to add high-speed rail to Granada?

The bus dropped us off about two blocks from our hotel, Hostal Santa Ana. It’s a very pleasant hotel only a couple of blocks from the Mosque/Cathedral.

We first went to the Casa de Sapherad, a little museum dedicated to Sephardic Jewish history in Spain and North Africa – quite interesting.

After walking around at random, we stopped at Casa Rubio for a variety of raciones.

REST!!

Now for one of the main attractions: the Festival de Patios. Once a year, for a week, the city holds a contest in which private residences decorate their courtyards – mostly, but exclusively with flowers – and open them to the public. We picked up a map from the city kiosk, and proceeded to take one of the three suggested walking routes. There were about 20 on each route – some of them were breathtaking.

On the way back we stopped at an Islamic University that had a lovely courtyard as well.

We went back to Casa Rubio for dinner – this time ordering pork with truffle sauce that was really good.

A little town wandering afterwards let us back to our hotel for the night.

[more...]
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May 18th, 2012, 10:02 AM
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DAY 9 – TUE MAY 8

Our hotel had a similar, but not quite as well-stocked, buffet, which was still more than enough to satisfy.

This morning we visited the Mosque/Cathedral. We tried to imagine what this huge building must have been like with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of worshipers congregating here back in the day.

After a brief walk by the river and on the Roman bridge, we headed back to our hotel, packed up, and took the bus back to the train station for a high-speed AVE ride back to Madrid and the Hostal Acapulco.

After a quick bite at Pans & Co (I love their Mediterraneo – a tuna, olive & roasted red pepper sandwich on a baguette), we walked down Gran Via to Plaza Cibeles to find the place where the Aeropuerto Express bus would pick us up to return to the airport.

Then proceeded down Paseo de Prado to one of our favorite museums, the Thyssen-Bornemisza. This museum has a fascinating mix of old and new, from Italian 14th c. to Dutch masters to impressionsists to the 20th c, including a fine collection of Fauvists and Blue Riders (early 20th c.) which we love.

[NOTE: We skipped the Prado, because we only wanted to see one more art museum, and, in our humble opinion, the T-B beats the Prado every time.]

REST!!

Dinner at the Nuva Galicia – this time it was warmer and we ate outside. Beer, Albondigas, and Calda Gallega again.

The we took a stroll from Plaza Santa Ana to Plaza Calleo, along Gran Via, and back to the hotel.

[more...]
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May 18th, 2012, 10:16 AM
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DAY 10 – WED MAY 9

Our last day. We decided to walk, walk, walk!

We ate oranges to start, then took a Frommers walk in the Lavapies/La Latina area with a stop at a little place called El Rincon Guay, eating toast, yummy peach jam, and coffee outside. This walk went down to Puerta de Toledo, up through the Lavapies barrio, ending at Tirso de Molina.

After a short break, we did most of a second walk – this one starting at Plaza de España, with the wonderful Cervantes and Don Quizote & Sancho Panza statues.

One of the stops on the walk was the Museo Cerralbo, a 19th/20th c. home to the Marquis de Cerralbo, who decorated his lavish home with an incredible array of decorative and souvenir items from all over the world.

After stopping at a Caffe Y Te for smoked salmon sandwiches, we headed to the Municipal Museum…which was closed. Then we walk back to the hotel.

REST!!

For dinner we decided to go to a nice Italian place (!) We chose the Restaurante Sant Arcangelo, on a small street behind the Prado. The food was excellent, starting with an aperitif, and including artichokes in spices and oil and really good pasta dishes.

Then we walked back up Calle Huertas, stopping at Helateria Ricci one last time for ice cream. The soccer fans in the street were going crazy over an onging match – not sure what it was – singing and chanting. At Sol, we stopped to watch the people, including some spectacular in-line skaters, and to savor the moment, before going back to pack up.

[more...]
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May 18th, 2012, 10:25 AM
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DAY XX – THU MAY 10

Walked down Gran Via (much easier than walking up as we did when we arrived) to Plaza Cibeles and caught the Express bus to T1. Breezed through control and security with plenty of time to grab some breakfast.

Our plane took off on time and arrived in PHL on time as well.

Got lucky again seat-wise and both Linda and I were able to lie down for a while.

As a somewhat-frequent USAir domestic traveler (travel to west coast 4 times a year), I have to say that the trans-Atlantic service (food and entertainment) is much better than the pathetic “service” on coast-to-coast flights.

Took the shuttle to our parking lot and drove home.

Adios!
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May 18th, 2012, 01:31 PM
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Thanks so much for the great report on Spain! I am headed there in a few weeks, although to the north (Galicia) and you have made me very excited! I can't wait to see your pictures
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May 19th, 2012, 03:16 PM
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I read your report with much interest as I head to Madrid in just a few days
I would be interested to learn whether or not a pin number was necessary to retrieve our pre ordered tickets to the Alhambra. I read that a pin number would be needed along with the credit card you purchased the tickets with.

Hearing about how wonderful it was makes me so excited to see it.

Thanks for sharing.

Carol
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May 20th, 2012, 01:42 AM
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Carol27...

I, too, had heard that the PIN was needed...but at the machine in the Alhambra Shop, it was not. To be safe, you probably should have a PIN for your card.

The Alhambra Shop is on Calle Reyes Católicos in the two or three blocks between Plaza Nueva and where Calle Gran Vía Colón ends at Plaza Isalbel la Católica.

As of this morning, I could not find any website for it, nor could I see it on Google Streetview...but, trust me, it is there! (Maybe it just opened recently.) It's on the south side of the street, a little closer to Gran Vía than to Plaza Nueva.

If you are a bit nervous about using one of the Caixa machines to get your tickets (as I was...maybe they require a PIN...I think they are really ATMs located at banks), I strongly suggest doing it at the Alhambra Shop. The woman there showed me how to do it. Took about 2 minutes.

SS
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May 20th, 2012, 02:23 AM
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Hey ssander Thanks for all of the information as we will be heading to Spain in September. I have tried to locate the Frommeres walking tour of Parque Retiro and cannot seem to find it. Could you please provide a link or more info so I can find it.
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May 20th, 2012, 04:20 AM
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andtrev...

There is no link, as far as I tell. It's on pp 94-96 of Frommer's Madrid Day by Day.

ISBN: 9781119994145

It's looks like a pretty short walk in the book, but it can take quite awhile, since there are tons of things to stop and enjoy in the park.

We
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May 20th, 2012, 06:34 PM
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cool report! thanks for sharing... i'd go back to Madrid at the drop of a hat
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May 22nd, 2012, 01:28 PM
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Thanks for your reply. That is what I needed to know. The credit card company will only mail you a PIN and my request was returned to them undelivered for some reason. Now they are resending but this may not arrive in time.
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