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Trip to/involving Spain/Provence - preliminary ideas?

Trip to/involving Spain/Provence - preliminary ideas?

Old Feb 25th, 2014, 10:55 AM
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Trip to/involving Spain/Provence - preliminary ideas?

I thought I had a big trip planned for this year already, but it looks like it's going to get postponed, so as of the last 24 hours I'm looking for a quick replacement! My intrepid traveling companion, M, is most able to travel in May due to her job, so this is leaving us less time to plan than I usually have. I will of course be researching options further, but would love a little direction about the logistics and relative expense of these options to get me started.

We'll have about two weeks to travel (currently looking at leaving the US either on a Sunday or Monday in May, arriving in London the following day, and leaving Barcelona Sunday two weeks later). The trip will most likely start in London because M and I both have a deep and abiding love for it and haven't been in several years, plus we found decent airfares into London and out of Barcelona. So we'll have roughly a week and a half after London, depending on how exactly we decide to split our time. Spain (in general, but Barcelona and Andalucia specifically) and Provence have been on my list to see for quite awhile, so I'm thinking one of the following:

1) fly from London to Marseille, see Provence, most likely fly from there to Barcelona or San Sebastian
2) fly from London to Andalucia (Malaga or Seville?) and then make our way to Barcelona (+San Sebastian if we have time - a long shot, I'm guessing)
3) fly directly to Bilbao/San Sebastian and just focus on the Basque country before flying home from Barcelona - no Provence or Andalucia

We've both been to Madrid as college students, and I don't feel the need to include it on this trip. I have a rusty Spanish minor, spent a couple of days in Seville in college, and have wanted to see both the Alhambra and Provence for awhile, but I know that combining everything into one trip is probably not going to work! We have good friends who have been to the north of Spain several times and prefer it to the south, hence the leaning toward Barcelona/San Sebastian, but I'd love to see it all eventually.

We'll spend money as needed to have a great trip, but we are pretty low maintenance and into maximizing value. We spent about €120/night on hotels on our trip to Italy a few years ago, if that helps. I know that moving locations adds up. We're not opposed to renting a car (did it in Ireland) but we do like public transit.

We're both in our early 30s and travel relatively quickly compared to many here. As an example, on that Italy trip, we spent 4.5 days in Rome, 2.5 in Venice, and 2.5 in Bellagio plus an overnight in Milan. That worked well for us. Another day in Bellagio and I would have felt like we were wasting precious sightseeing time, based on our preferences. We don't make it overseas very often, so try to see as much as possible while not making ourselves crazy.

Long post, but hopefully that gives enough information to get started! Thanks in advance for any help.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 11:28 AM
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As you are relatively fast travelers AND want to see Provence, Barcelona and Andalusia, I don't see why you couldn't do your first plan. A week in each of Provence and Spain, flying from Marseilles to Barcelona to Sevilla. We spent about a week in Provence and believe we saw enough for a first trip, and spent around a week in Andalusia and saw enough.

One problem is that you probably need a car to see the best of Provence and Andalusia (outside Sevilla, anyway). If it were my trip, I'd probably pick up a car on my way out of Marseilles and either drive down the coast through Barcelona to Sevilla. But I love to drive. You could do two separate rentals: one in Provence and one when leaving Sevilla.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 11:54 AM
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Both San Sebastián and Andalucía in May are very good ideas. In San Sebastián - my favourite place on the planet - the spring temperatures are here and the tourist hordes are some weeks away, and in Andalucía it's full spring blossom and the summer heat is normally some weeks away.

May is serious festival time in Andalucía. Great opportunity to get under the skin of things and experience the history, culture, food, wine and fiesta spirit. In May, all Andalucian towns - but especially Granada and Córdoba - celebrate the "Cruces de Mayo": http://www.spanish-fiestas.com/spani...es-de-mayo.htm

Córdoba in May is something special, the "cruces" celebration is followed by the patio competition leading on to the flamenco inspired Feria by the end of the month.
Córdoba patio exposition and competition: http://www.andalucia.com/cities/cordoba/patios.htm
The Feria in late May: http://www.andalucia.com/festival/co...pring-fair.htm

In Jerez, you have the horse fair Feria de Caballo de Jerez: http://www.andalucia.com/festival/jerez-horse-fair.htm

And food paradise San Sebastián was recently voted #5 detsination in the world by Condé Nast Traveler: http://www.sansebastianturismo.com/en/

And you must of course spend at least a couple of days in modernistic and medieval adventure of a big city Barcelona before you leave. http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 11:59 AM
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Oh, you give me hope, dwdvagamundo! Thank you! We won't really have two full weeks for either if we do start in London and save enough time for Barcelona. But if it's reasonable to see some "highlights" in, say, three full days for Provence and two or three full days for Andalucia, well, that is definitely a possibility. I'm not 100% sure how long M can be gone; if we can leave on a Saturday and come back on a Sunday, obviously we'll have more flexibility.

Renting a car isn't our preferred method of travel, but we're happy to if needed. I figured it would be basically necessary in Provence at minimum.

Would 3 full days (4 nights) in Barcelona be good for a first-time visit? That's what I've been thinking and think it's what I've seen recommended here pretty often.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 12:04 PM
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kimhe, we were posting at the same time - that is such great information! Thank you!! Oh, these are tough choices. But good "problems" to have.

I know Semana Santa in Andalucia is very busy and the hotels are very expensive - are hotels similarly priced for the Cruces de Mayo?
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 12:36 PM
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If you only have eight days total, I'd cut the time in Barca to three nites and add a day in Andalusia. Three days for Provence and three for Andalusia is cutting it short, even for fast travelers.

IMHO spending more time in the bigger cities than in the smaller cities and towns in France and Spain is a misallocation of time.

We've planned to Barcelona and northern Spain ever since our first trip to Madrid and Andalusia, but haven't done so yet. However, I don't see how any place in Spain could beat southern Spain, particularly in May.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 12:47 PM
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Thanks, dwdvagamundo - that's really helpful. It's so tempting to want to cram things in "since we'll be over there" - but I don't want to run ourselves ragged or spend lots of money getting to places we can't do justice to.

I sent M a list of options and we'll see what she goes for. Really, the only bad choice would be trying to do too much.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 01:07 PM
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Even though you may like to move around a lot and not spend too long in any one area, there is the consideration of ratio of travel time to time 'being' someplace. I like to move around as well (though with each trip I am tending to like to stay a bit longer in places) but don't like to be in a train or plane every other day.

'Provence' can actually mean two or three different areas - Cote d'Azure (the area around Nice and the coastal towns and hilltowns near it) and 'traditional' Provence - around Avignon, St Remy, the Luberon hill towns. And then there's Marseille and Aix and that area. So you have to define what you mean by 'Provence'.

But one suggestion that would still cover a lot of ground but maybe be geographically more sensible would be London - fly to Nice and spend 3 or 4 days - train to Aix for a couple days - train to Barcelona for the remainder. Barcelona really 'deserves' 3 or 4 days at least (and if you get bored there are numerous day trips).
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 01:14 PM
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Thanks, isabel! I didn't realize that about Provence - when I think of it, I definitely think more along the lines of Avignon/St Remy, but am very open to suggestions. I know there are several trip reports here that I'll check out if we start leaning that direction. I just picked Marseille's airport because it seemed like it was fairly accessible to both London and, say, Avignon.

Moving every other day is definitely a bit much for us. I'm trying to keep it to three-night stays at minimum, unless, for example, it makes sense to "road trip" through an area rather than have a base and day trip (driving from Granada to Barcelona or something along those lines).
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 02:23 PM
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The Alhambra/Granada and Mezquita/Cordoba are a MUST. We spent 1.5 weeks in Andalusia. Since you've visited Seville, focus on those cities! You could stay in Granada and make a(n intense) day trip to Mezquita so you don't have to move hotels too often.

For Granada you would want to fly into Malaga.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 02:29 PM
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Or, you can fly into Granada (via Malaga) and do a "stop-over" in Cordoba to see Mezquita (only need a good 3-4 hours) on the way to Madrid. We did a stop-over and left our luggage in the bus station lockers to see Mezquita.

I say on the way to Madrid because from there is an easy high speed train to Barcelona. You can stay the night there or take a high speed train from there to Barcelona late that night.

I also travel very quickly throughout cities like you!
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 03:11 PM
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Thanks so much, pempem! This is all great info. Just out of curiosity - did you use buses for your entire trip, or just use the bus station lockers?

There's also a direct flight on Vueling from Malaga to Bilbao, which might be good if we decide we have time to visit San Sebastian. So many great options! It's like the best Sophie's Choice ever.
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Old Feb 25th, 2014, 03:22 PM
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We only used trains, as they seem the most reliable.

There are no luggage lockers in Cordoba train station. But the bus station across the street does have them.

Would love to visit Bilbao/San Sebastian sometime! Having many options is indeed a good problem to have
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Old Feb 26th, 2014, 07:16 AM
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Thanks, pempem! I'm waiting on my friend to see how she feels about different options. Meanwhile, our friends have a reservation at Arzak (in San Sebastian) tonight and I'm a touch jealous.
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Old Feb 26th, 2014, 07:37 AM
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The May festivals in Andalucía will not affect hotel prizes very much, nothing like the rise during Semana Santa in Sevilla.
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Old Feb 26th, 2014, 09:15 AM
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Thanks, kimhe! That's great to know.
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Old Mar 11th, 2014, 12:01 PM
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Hi all! We've officially booked our transatlantic flights (hooray!) and are trying to nail down this middle piece. At the moment we're leaning toward the following:

- start in London - 4.5 days for me, 2.5 for friend
- fly out of London May 13 - current thinking is Andalucia
- get to Barcelona May 17
- fly out of Barcelona May 21 (set in stone)

So we'll have 3.5 days or so in Barcelona and 3.5 days in Andalucia (not long, I know). One of the main attractions of Andalucia as opposed to Provence is the relative ease of train travel/no strong need for a car. Is it good and reasonable to spend all four of our nights in one town in Andalucia and base from there for day trips? It seems like not, but I'd love to be wrong! Or should we, say, fly into Malaga and stay in a couple of different places before taking the train or flying to Barcelona?

This may be too much, but my first stab -

Day 1: fly from London to Malaga, stay...? If we get in early enough, I'd love to go on to Granada or Cordoba, unless Malaga is worth a night given our circumstances
Days 2-3: some combination of Cordoba and Granada, seeing Mezquita and Alhambra and exploring the towns a bit
Day 4: go to Seville early, one night in Seville, OR stay in Granada
Day 5: fly or train from Seville or Granada to Barcelona

Is that completely crazy? Seville isn't a necessity; I've been before, but it was 15 years ago as a college sophomore and I would love to go back. But I don't want to spend the time and money doing it if we won't be able to really experience much there. Doing one night in Malaga, splitting the other three between Cordoba and Granada and flying to Barcelona from there is probably more sane, unless Seville is worth prioritizing over Cordoba and/or Granada in which case the above is entirely blown. Clearly, any thoughts are more than welcome!
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