My mother-in-law (Mrs. S, in her early-80's) is planning a trip to Spain that would be from mid-March to mid-April, 2015 (dates have some flexibility, but that is the general time). She would travel with a friend (early 60's), and then at some point during the 30 days, some of her children (with spouses and their children (youngest will be 9)) would visit, either staying where she is the entire time of their visit, or stopping through on to other destinations. Mrs. S is generally in good health and loves to walk, but can no longer handle steep hills or lots of steps. She is looking for a smaller town to stay in for the whole 30 days (approximately up to 10,000 in population (ideally she'd like something around 3,000 - 5,000, but I don't know how feasible that is)) that has an outdoor farmer's market, good restaurants, local shops and some things to do (maybe a castle, church, theater, museum, bird watching). She understands that by staying in a smaller town, there will be less to do, but for her, it is really about connecting with people, and getting to know some of the locals (however, it should be noted that she does not speak Spanish). On a train line is preferred so that day trips can be taken (neither her nor her friend are planning to drive). She did a similar trip in 2013 in Italy, and stayed in Orvieto (on the rock), and LOVED it (yes, Orvieto has some steep hills, but her ability to handle that was a little better then; however, even then she did avoid some outings if it would involve a lot of steps or steep climbs). So, something comparable, if you are familiar with Orvieto. She is willing to fly into Barcelona or Madrid, and so it makes sense to look in those areas, but is also interested in ideas for outside of Seville. Honestly, where is wide open, and can be inland or by the sea. Thanks!
If she has one of Rick's guidebooks, she'll find all the recommendations we can give on small towns in Spain. We haven't researched them all however. A couple options for towns are Toledo, Ronda, Cadiz, Salamanca, or Granada. Based on the criteria, it looks like a small to mid level city would fit this bill. All of these towns listed have good train connections as well.
I hope this helps.
Ronda, Toledo, and many others (including Segovia, a personal favorite) are hilly. Sevilla, while a huge city (arriving by car was challenging, and we hired a taxi so we could follow it to our hotel, then stashed the car in a parking garage for the duration of our time there), has an intimate old town center. That neighborhood is outstanding, and flat. It is, however, really hot in the summer, so March/April might be an ideal time to visit Sevilla (unless your M-I-L likes it hot). Stick to the old town, and you're in a "small" town. Calamari accomanied by sangria is a classic meal combination-- but then, sangria is suited to the summer heat.
Sevilla has the advantages of being a big city, so she'd have those conveniences (including hospitals & doctors) nearby, if she was sequestered in the old town.
Thank you both for your suggestions. It is hard to determine whether an area is hilly or not, not necessarily mountainous (guide books don't always address this issue), and so we have been trying to use maps to help secure that information. So, I appreciate the feedback about the terrain.
Any suggestions regarding a place to stay in the old town center of Sevilla (2 people would be staying (or using it as a home base) for 30 days; but it needs to be able to accommodate 6-8 people total at any given time)? Prefer an apartment/condo type situation (over a hotel) where laundry can be done (preferably in the unit), refrigerator, stove, walk to farmer's market.
Thanks very much.
I agree that Seville is a great place for her to stay. I think it is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and it is not hilly. We stayed at a nice apartment, with elevator about 5 minutes from the Cathedral, but it is 2 bedrooms and sleeps 4, which might not be big enough. Food is excellent and inexpensive compaired to other parts of Spain.
If she really wants to spend 30 days in Spain, and particularly if she wants to connect with locals, she should start learning Spanish NOW. Of all the countries I've been to, Spain is the one where I found the least English (I know others have different experiences, but mine was very vivid on both of my trips there).