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Trip Report - Malaga, Granada and Sevilla

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Trip Report - Malaga, Granada and Sevilla

Old Oct 6th, 2017, 04:12 PM
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Trip Report - Malaga, Granada and Sevilla

Continuation of the trip report that I started on the Lisbon board .........

In summary, we flew from Toronto into Lisbon for 4 nights, then flew to Malaga for a night. From there, we took a bus to Granada and then Sevilla. Last year, we celebrated my birthday in Iceland, this year we were celebrating my husband’s birthday in Lisbon and Spain.

We had an early morning flight to Malaga from Lisbon. Arriving in Malaga, we headed out of the airport and immediately found the bus that would take us into the city. The bus driver was really helpful – we told him where we needed to go, he looked it up on his phone, and told us how to get there from his last stop. We could take a #3 bus, but we decided to walk since it didn’t seem to be that far. .

First impressions were really positive. I had heard some negative comments about Malaga, but we figured since we were going to be in the area, it might be fun to spend the day there. We found it surprisingly beautiful. The Paseo del Parque is lovely and we walked through there a few times. There also seems to be a lot to see and do there, and of course a lot of history.

In Malaga, we stayed at Casa Azul, a B&B close to the sea. The staff (I think they are the owners) are very helpful and breakfast is really good. It’s served buffet style and there is lots of choice. Location is great. We got in before our room was ready and we headed down to the water to have a drink and wait for our room.

Since we only had 1 day, I had booked a bike tour with Malaga Bike Tours by Kay Farrell. We met up with the group at 3 PM and spent a fun and informative 4 hours riding around Malaga. We again covered a lot of territory (but also had a couple of breaks for people to have a drink or 2), so now not only my knees were sore but my calves as well! (At least we didn’t go up to the Alcazar. That was my original idea before I booked the bike tour.) The bike tour was 25 euros a person. The guide was a young Dutchman. They offered helmets, which we wore – I know that a lot of people don’t like to wear them, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. The tour had a manageable number of people. It was a little odd maneuvering through the city with all the pedestrians, but no issues.

For dinner, I had made a reservation at Gastro Bar Terral. The food is superb, and we definitely recommend it. I had a couple of glasses of cava and John had sparkling water. The food is tapas style. We started with tuna tartare, then moved on to shrimp, then blood pudding and finally pork with potatoes. Dessert was a crepe with pine nuts and dulce de leche. It all sounds so simple but it was anything but! The chefs are a young couple and we were so impressed. Loved it! The cost was 59 euros. I was glad that we had a reservation – it’s a popular place.

So that was it for Malaga - we had a lovely day - and now it was time to head to Granada!

General Impressions:

Granada is a lovely city, and I’m so glad that we had 3 days there. It’s easy to wander around and get lost in the old part of the city. The views are beautiful – the buildings all seem to be white or tan coloured, but there are lovely flowers everywhere and narrow winding streets. Granada is another hilly city. So many hills! My knees aren’t happy.

Accommodation:

We stayed in a lovely small inn called Posada de Quijada. It’s on Calle Quijada, which is a pedestrian only street (more like a narrow alley) and it’s charming. Rooms are small but comfortable, and the shower is fabulous. (My husband said that it was the best shower ever.) The staff are very friendly and there’s a quiet dog (I don’t know dogs, but maybe a Golden retriever?) called Alan, at least that’s what I think the owner said. We really liked this place. Breakfast was very good. While we had a drink and a tapa when we arrived, the staff gave us an excellent overview of where to go and what to see. There are 6 rooms, and breakfast is served in the central courtyard. We also had a small shared balcony off our room. Unfortunately it got a lot of sun during the afternoon, but it was very nice in the morning.

Activities:

We did a lot of wandering, but also took a lot of breaks. One of our first breaks was to have iced coffee and piononno. Our Malaga cabdriver had told us about Granada’s local dessert – he said we had to have it and he was right - delicious! For drinks and tapas, we liked Filigrana, which had been recommended by the NY Times, and we stopped there a couple of times. In between, we walked a whole lot of steps up and down. Did I mention there are hills?

Saturday was reserved for the Alhambra. In one word - wow! After having walked almost all the way up there the previous day, we knew we didn’t want to do it again, so we took the bus up to the site. We saw the gardens in the Generalife first, and then saw the other areas. The Generalife was actually very busy – it’s not a timed admission, but maybe it should be. We then saw the Palacio Nasrid (which is a timed admission – we went to that at noon), then the Alhambra itself. It was all stunningly beautiful, and well worth seeing. I had booked our tickets as soon as they became available, and in both Malaga and Granada, we were asked if we already had our tickets since we likely wouldn’t be able to get them at short notice.

Being a cat lover, one of my favourite parts of the Alhambra were los gatos y las gatas. They aren’t afraid of people, but they don’t want to be petted. It’s like they are all saying “si no comida, no tocar”. (If no food, don't touch).

One shop that I really liked is called Reez Studio. The owner works with glass and I bought a pair of earrings and a small decorative plate. She has beautiful products and the shop is really nice to visit.

Food:

As mentioned, we took lots of breaks for a cold drink and a tapa. Such a nice custom!

I had made a dinner reservation at El Mercader for John’s birthday dinner, based on a recommendation I had been given here on the forum. It is a small restaurant, with no more than 8 or 10 tables. We totally enjoyed our dinner there. We started with the crispy chickpea salad with pumpkin seeds and paprika vinaigrette – I love garbanzos – and their mushroom risotto. The salad is really really good. I had the tuna tataki and John the duck breast. Both were really good choices. Dessert was a shared goat cheese cake with nuts, caramel and ice cream. I had a couple of glasses of wine. The bill came to 66 euros. I was glad that I had made a reservation – we saw several people turned away during the evening.

On our last night, we wanted to go to a Moroccan restaurant that was recommended, but unfortunately it wasn`t open. We ended up going to El Trillo instead. The setting is lovely – it’s in a garden, quite secluded and the food was quite good. Service was a bit erratic and our meal came to 63 euros.

In summary, Granada is a lovely city. We definitely could have spent more time wandering around the city. Even just sitting and reading in a comfy chair with a cold drink at the Posada was perfect!

But Sevilla was calling ............

From Granada, we took the bus to Sevilla. The bus was really cold – I couldn’t control the cold air that was blasting out on me and the WIFI didn’t seem to work well, but it was a quick 3 hours or so. Disappointingly my husband forgot his wonderful Panama hat on the bus. He had bought that hat in Ecuador a few years ago and it looked so good on him. I filed a lost & found report with the bus company, but didn’t hear anything.

We had booked another AirBnB in Sevilla and that was our home for the week. It’s a cool space – very modern, gorgeous vaulted 14 foot tiled ceiling, exposed bricks and looks like a loft. It’s well equipped and the location is perfect. One nice feature – it has a washing machine, so we were able to do a couple of loads of laundry. We hung them on the lines up on the roof and they quickly dried. The apartment is on Plaza de los Maldonados, and it’s on the main floor of the building. There are shutters on the windows – once those are closed, it’s very dark and private – perfect for sleeping in late.

Activities:

I had booked a bike tour with a company called See by Bike. I have mixed feelings about my experience. Our guide Antonio was terrific – very engaging, funny guy, but my bike left something to be desired. I’m 5’1”, and they gave me a bike that wasn’t part of their normal fleet because their regular bikes were a little too high for me. Unfortunately the brakes weren’t working properly and I had 3 collisions. I wasn’t seriously hurt (although my tailbone is still tender) and probably my ego was more bruised than anything else. The guide did offer to change bikes with me, but then I would have had a problem with the size of the bike. We covered a lot of territory – Plaza de Espana, Triana, Santa Cruz, and so on. It was supposed to be a 3 hour tour but ended up being more like 4 hours. Apart from my accidents, the tour was a lot of fun.

That night, we went to a flamenco show at the Casa de la Memoria. I’m not an expert, but I thought that the performers were fabulous and it's a small venue so you can appreciate them. Tickets to the show were 20 euros each. On the way over, we passed Las Setas (The Mushrooms), which is also known as Metropole Parasol, designed by a German architect and completed in 2011. Later in the week, we took an elevator up to the top of Las Setas and had a drink up there and admired the view. We then looked at the Roman ruins underneath Las Setas. Interesting place.

One activity that was a highpoint for us was an olive oil tasting and market tour. We booked that with Alexis, an American who has lived in Seville for 16 years. We started at Otto’s, a cafe just across the square from our AirBnB where we had coffee, toast, tomato and tried 4 different oils. Also some yogurt with olive oil drizzled over it. We then walked through the neighborhood where she pointed out sites of interest and then through a market where she bought some of the fabulous iberico ham. Finally we ended up on the edge of the market where we had our tasting. Wow, huge differences! I had no idea! We also had smoked mackerel with tomato jam, dried tuna and the rest of our ham, washed down with white wine. Fabulous tour and highly recommended! So glad we did this! Alexis's company is called The Olive Oil Workshop.

On our final full day, we went to the Real Alcazar. Again it’s another mind blowing site - one room after another of gorgeous tiles and carvings, and then there are the amazing gardens. I didn't think it was as well organized as the Alhambra which has signs guiding you through the buildings, but it is incredible. It seems a popular place for wedding photos and we saw at least 4 bridal couples getting their photos done there. We had bought our tickets online which enabled us to bypass the long lineup to buy tickets onsite.

Another day we went to Seville's famous cathedral. That is mind blowingly over the top. At the start, John was more interested in climbing to the top of the Torre Giralda but we both agreed that the cathedral itself is worth the visit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before. We appreciated that we could get seniors tickets there – I think they came to 4 euros each.

We had also read about Sevilla’s convent sweets. That was an adventure. We planned to go for coffee, then go to Santa Ines convent. Well, we took a wrong turn and got totally lost. The city was not built on a grid and our 5 minute walk to the coffee shop became an hour walk where we found the convent first. Cloistered nuns sell cookies and sweets through a kind of lazy Susan thing. You say what you want and they spin it around to you. You put your money down and then turn it. They do the same with your change. You never see the nun - the whole transaction is completed with this lazy Susan thing. This is done in several convents in the city and it’s the same all over but with different pastries. We bought a box of mixed cookies from the convent of Saint Ines. Coincidentally we then ended up at Virgin Coffee (no relation to Ines).

We also visited the Palacio Marqueses de la Algaba, a historic building near the market where we did some of our olive oil tasting tour. It is a free museum of Mudejar construction and would be a fabulous event space.

One day we headed off to the Barrio Santa Cruz, which is supposedly the original Jewish area although that is debatable. Lots of walking and stopping to sit and enjoy the area. I had wanted to go back to Triana, but we ran out of time.

We looked for a replacement hat for John but when he saw the prices of Panama hats from Ecuador, he said he could use sunscreen until he gets home. We did a bit of shopping – can’t buy too much when you’re going carryon – but we somehow we managed to find a few things to buy. I found some pretty earrings (they don’t take up any space in a suitcase), as well as a gorgeous necklace that I passed by several times and finally succumbed. I also bought a Turkish peshtamal in black & cream – that was a gift for my cats and us. (We keep one on the bed because our cats like to sleep on the bed – so much easier to wash the towel than our bedspread or duvet.) It was so much cheaper than what I would pay in Toronto.

We had thought that we’d go to Cordoba for a day trip, but decided that there was plenty to see in Sevilla. (Plus we didn’t want to have to catch an early bus!) I actually booked tickets on the train through something called Go Euro. I got the email, but wasn’t able to view the PDF – I have no idea why it was corrupted – so I was a little worried that I might have trouble cancelling, but the credit (minus the service fee) quickly showed up in my Visa..

Food

Food in Seville is wonderful. There are a lot of good restaurants.

I think my favourite restaurant is ConTenedor. It’s definitely a place where you should make a reservation as it’s very popular. We ate there twice. First time was for lunch. We had a 3 PM reservation after our bike tour, and had to rush to get there. John ordered their famous rice & duck while I ordered something I almost never order – a hamburger. It was delicious comfort food, perfect for when I was licking my wounds. We shared a chocolate tart for dessert. Bill came to 32 euros. As we were leaving, the waitress told us that they have music on Tuesday evenings, as well as a larger menu, so we thought we might try to come back.

Well, we weren’t able to get a reservation for the Tuesday night (I tried Tuesday afternoon), but we made a reservation for the Thursday. Such a fabulous experience! Their menu is very good and our waitress recognized us from the other day and we got wonderful service, including complimentary cava after dessert. The restaurant was packed and I was glad we had reservations. I was also glad that our waitress told us not to order the pate (too much food!) and that John always cleans his plate and mine. We started with a seafood tabla with 2 of the biggest oysters I’ve ever seen, as well as that lovely dried tuna and bonito. Also some of the hottest peppers I’ve ever experienced! We were warned! I ordered the rice with duck and mushrooms (couldn’t resist it after John had it the other day) and John ordered their boar, which came on pureed sweet potatoes. Both dishes were excellent. Dessert was also wonderful. It all came to 63 euros. It was an excellent evening for both of us.

We also had an amazing dinner at Eslava. We shared two of their famous tapas (slow cooked egg on mushroom cake and the cigar which is filled with cuttlefish) and both were amazing but I loved their tapa of artichoke with crispy garlic and bits of cod. For mains, John had their ribs and I had the beef tataki, both of which are excellent. We ordered their chocolate and orange cake (which is more like a fabulous chocolate and orange cream) and the manchego ice cream. So disappointing when our waiter came out of the kitchen and said they weren't able to make the ice cream for some reason! Anyway we had a lovely biscuit with caramel and cream instead. All in all, it was an excellent meal and we decided to come back to their tapas bar on our final night. This restaurant is more formal than I was expecting but the food is excellent. Dinner came to 86 euros.

The tapas bar was a lot less expensive (only 32 euros for the 2 of us), and obviously a lot less formal. It's a great way to eat everything from pork cheeks to vegetable strudel to mackarel to tenderloin in a cheese sauce. We also had to order that amazing artichoke dish again. All small plates which we love. Plus their pineapple "carpaccio" for dessert. That dish is wonderful and would be totally doable at home.

When we arrived on the Sunday, we stopped at a place called La Cacharreria which wasn’t too far from our apartment. We had a couple of cold drinks and an excellent table of cheese and meats – definitely more food than 2 people needed. It`s a popular place, and we ended up sharing a table with a German woman who was in Spain for a wedding. I can’t recall the price – we paid cash – but I think it was under 22 euros.

A place that was very close to our apartment is Otto’s, It’s a bakery café, with wonderful baked goods. Also wonderful olive oil – it’s where we met Alexis at the start of our tour. We stopped there a couple of times for coffee, and had breakfast there the day we flew home. Delicious toast, serrano ham, tomato and our choice of fabulous olive oil. I would be a regular if I lived there. It’s very popular and I can see why.

Early in our stay, we stumbled on Casa Ricardo, which had been recommended for tapas. We realized that it wasn't the recommended Casa Ricardo when we got our croquettas and they were not particularly noteworthy. Checked the map and found that we were not at the right place. Regrouped and found the right Casa Ricardo and it was excellent! We ordered 5 tapas and got croquettas (fabulous creamy croquettas), tuna, pork and something called a flamenquin (ham rolled in beef). I can’t remember what the last one was, but all 5 plus beer and mineral water came to about 20 euros. This is a popular place – it’s been around forever and I’d definitely recommend it.

We had more croquettas and a very good goat cheese and grilled veg salad for lunch (along with my usual copa de cava) at a restaurant right in the Barrio Santa Cruz. Later we shared a huge turron ice cream. Turron is an almond nougat that is traditional in Spain, totally delicious.

One night, we were both exhausted and decided to stay close to home with a pizza and sangria from El Gato Azul, about 10 meters from the apartment. Exactly what I wanted, and we brought home the left over pizza for breakfast the next morning. The restaurant was very lively – the tables are out on the square, and there was several families celebrating the birthday of one of the kids.

So after 7 nights and lots of walking, our stay in Sevilla came to a close. We had arranged with the AirBnB host to send a taxi for us to go to the airport. Unfortunately the street was closed, so the guy couldn't get too close to us. He ended up walking to the plaza, John asked him if he was the cabdriver, and the 3 of us walked to the cab which was parked a few blocks away. Thank goodness for carry on bags!

We flew back to Lisbon, had a few hours in the airport, then back to Toronto. Another successful holiday!
SusanInToronto is offline  
Old Oct 6th, 2017, 06:21 PM
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Susan, We just returned from a trip to Spain as well. We visited the 3 cities you visited, in addition to Madrid, Toledo, and Cordoba. I agree with you about Malaga. It is a beautiful city, and we enjoyed it more than we thought we would. We also had dinner at El Trillo in Granada and had a delicious meal. It was one of our favorite restaurants on the trip.

Thanks for a nice report!
KarenWoo is offline  
Old Oct 6th, 2017, 11:07 PM
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Great report. Glad you had a great time. Ah Seville my absolute favourite. We spent seven days in May when the jacaranda's are in full bloom. Would go back in a heartbeat.and one of the cheapest places to eat and very good quality food. I thought Granada was ok but seven days was way too long. We did get to walk a lot and walked right out to the suburban sprawl and it wasn't all that appealing.
But Seville is where I could spend three months a year.
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 11:18 PM
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Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed your detailed report. I am planning a trip next year to the same destinations, and am benefiting greatly from yours and other Fodor posters recent trip reports.
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