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Spain itinerary feedback - 2 weeks Sept/Oct

Hello everyone!

I was hoping to get some feedback about my plan for visiting Spain for about 2 weeks at the end of September/start of October.

First, let me get all the disclaimers out of the way. I understand there is a possibility this trip may not happen and everything will depend on the evolution of the sanitary situation, but I am planning as if there will be some normalcy by the time of my trip. If not, I can cancel the plane tickets with no penalty and the hotels are fully refundable too.

Now some background about me and interests: I'm 35 and traveling solo. First trip to Spain. I'm trying to avoid a breakneck pace and hoping to put together an itinerary that allows me time in each stop just to wander around a bit and soak up the atmosphere while also trying to balance making efficient use of my time to see the "major" sites. I like visiting historical sites, architecture, arts/museums (up to a point anyway), great views of landscapes or cityscapes, and can enjoy quiet moments just for reflection. I am not a big foodie, however, I want to push myself a little bit and try new things, so I will probably be doing some food tours, however, things like wine tastings or beer crawls don't interest me as I don't drink alcohol. I hope this does not make things too difficult food wise as a lot of itineraries I read for Spain (and Europe in general) always seem to emphasize alcohol.

With all that out of the way, I am currently planning to fly from the east coast of the US on Tues. Sept 28 and arrive in Madrid at 8:45am Wed. I return to the states from Madrid on Tues. Oct 12. Here is what I have planned so far:

WED 9/29
Arrive Madrid, take train to Sevilla arriving in the early afternoon

THU 9/30
Sevilla

FRI 10/1
Sevilla

SAT 10/2
Sevilla

SUN 10/3
Day trip to Córdoba

MON 10/4
Take morning train to Granada from Sevilla

TUE 10/5
Granada (Alahambra day)

WED 10/6
Granada

THU 10/7
Take morning train to Madrid from Granada

FRI 10/8
Madrid

SAT 10/9
Madrid

SUN 10/10
I am currently thinking about spending the morning in Madrid and then heading to Toledo on an afternoon train to spend the night. This would probably allow me to see a sight or two before closing and then have all day the next day to finish seeing things. I've heard so many people recommend to spend the night in Toledo. Thoughts? I probably would not bother checking out of my Madrid hotel and just burn the night which is annoying, but would save check out and re-check in the next day. What do you all think? Or should I just do it as a day trip all on one day on Monday?

MON 10/11
If I headed to Toledo Sunday afternoon, I would finish touring the sights here and then head back to Madrid on an afternoon train. If I have not gone the previous night, I would head there today as an all day trip.

TUE 10/12
Flight home to US departs 11:15AM. I know this is a national holiday. Would I have any trouble getting to the airport that morning?

Does it look like I am allocating an appropriate amount of time for each place?

Thank you all for any feedback!

Posted by
2168 posts

Hi James, welcome to the RS forums!

I would say generally you have a pretty solid itinerary, it does not feel rushed and you get a good taste of Andalucia + Madrid. I would say that Andalucia may still be quite warm late September into October, but should be much more comfortable than if you went mid summer.

There are many smaller historic cities and towns in Spain that are popular day trip locations, Girona, Cordoba, and Toledo come to mind. However the true magic of these towns really comes out in the golden hours of late afternoon/evening when all the daytripers have left and you have the historic town for yourself to explore. I would say definitely spend the night either in Cordoba or Toledo or both! Cordoba is on the train line from Sevilla to Granada and one can easily spend the night there connecting between the two cities.

As for our National Day in Spain (Oct 12th), in years past we would have a huge military parade attended by the King, cutting through the centre of Madrid. This year it will probably much more small if it is to be done at all, depending on where your hotel is you may have to reroute to go around the military parade.

PS: Alcohol is not a perquisite for fun in Spain, we have many non-alcoholic beverages like churros con chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid, one can try.

Posted by
3789 posts

Have you priced a multi city flight plan that would get you to Granada or Sevilla via Madrid? I flew from Canada, arriving Madrid at a similar time and took the noon flight connection to Granada. It cost me about $100. CDN extra, but saved me the train fare and the hassle of having to get to the train station, hoping the flight wasn't delayed meaning missing the train or buying a ticket full fare in the station.
It was all on one ticket as Iberia and Air Canada code share.
That meant I went Ottawa, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, Toledo, Madrid.

Posted by
18702 posts

I agree with Carlos; I think your pacing is good and you've allocated your time well. I, too, would suggest spending a night (and a full day) in Cordoba if the train schedule makes that a decent option and you can locate a convenient lodging option so you don't have too far to walk with your luggage (or just take a taxi if you prefer).

If your interest in Madrid's fine art museums wanes more quickly than expected, Segovia makes a fine day-trip; its specialty is suckling pig. I also like the historic university town of Alcala de Henares, which has frequent rail service. Another excellent option is the other (but larger) university town of Salamanca. All three have interesting historic architecture. I'd recommend the hilltop town of Cuenca, but it's not an affordable day-trip unless you buy promo tickets for the Madrid-to-Valencia AVE train way ahead of time, so it's not a good last-minute option; regular trains take far too long.

I remember an earlier suggestion from the forum concerning Toledo: There's one of those little tourist "trains" that runs along the street. You don't really need it to get up to the town, because there are buses (I presume also taxis) or you can walk with the assistance of escalators--though the walk from the train station would be rather long. But the little train reportedly makes a stop at the classic viewpoint outside of town this give a great view of the historic center on the hilltop.

I didn't visit Toledo the same year I went to Andalucia, so I especially enjoyed seeing the Mudejar architecture in Toledo. As of 2015 the tourist office sold a little bracelet that allowed entry to 6 or 7 secondary sights in the city (not including the cathedral or the El Greco Museum). They were lovely, and most of them offered a brief bilingual tour twice a day. Some of the tours were just 30 minutes apart, and it was a bit tricky to get to those places on time, Toledo being something of a maze; I strongly urge use of Google Maps or another mapping app on your cellphone that has a "You Are Here" dot.

Toledo is known for marzipan sweets.

There are several sights in the cities you plan to visit for which you need a ticket strategy: Alhambra tickets go on sale early (and are probably available now); pre-pandemic they sometimes sold out a month or more in advance. They aren't horribly expensive, so that's one thing I'd gamble on early; if you end up eating the 14-euro ticket cost, that's a small price to pay for assuring you'll have a ticket if you need it. The Alcazar and Cathedral in Seville typically have very long ticket lines. I was able to purchase my Alcazar ticket just a day or two in advance for my 2019 visit. For the Cathedral I used Rick's tip of buying a combo ticket at the Iglesia de El Salvador and thereby bypassing the line at the Cathedral; I bought that ticket in person with no delay.

Having to buy a same-day long-distance train ticket from the grossly overworked staffed counters at Madrid's Atocha Station is to be avoided at all costs. You should be able to use a ticket-vending machine, but you never know how those will react to a US credit card. If the ticket cost exceeds some critical threshold, it might not work. So that is a tricky aspect of planning to land in Madrid and head straight to Seville by train. Maria's idea is definitely worth exploring. Its viability varies by origin airport; I found Seville priced at about $500 more than Madrid, each way, from Washington DC in 2019. You may be a lot luckier. If not, one option you have would be to reverse your itinerary, starting in Toledo (cheapest because there's no price penalty for buying last-minute train tickets to that destination) or Cordoba (considerably cheaper than tickets to Seville or Granada if bought on day of travel). Non-changeable promo tickets bought well in advance are much, much cheaper than last-minute purchases.

Posted by
935 posts

Hi James, five nights in Sevilla? I was not impressed with Sevilla but it is a convenient stop between Granada and Madrid, and Cordoba is a convenient day trip from Sevilla. I would spend no more than three nights in Sevilla (maybe four if you arrive in the evening). I suggest purchasing Rick Steves’ ES 17th edition guidebook and taking his self-guided walking tours so you don’t miss anything.
In Sevilla I would sleep in the Santa Cruz neighborhood and if you go to Barcelona sleep in the old town. I have also been to Toledo twice and the first time it was a day trip and the second time I spent the night thinking it would be better and I was bored.

Posted by
4809 posts

Eight years ago, we actually arrived in Madrid on Oct. 12, and the terminal was eerily empty, but no problem getting into the city in late afternoon. I’d be surprised if your departure on that date had any difficulties.

Since Toledo lies between Granada and Madrid, what if you made a stopover one night there, before finishing your trip in Madrid?

While it’s actually a restaurant with several locations around Madrid, and not really a museum, make a food journey to Museo del Jamón. The display of meats and cheeses, and the opportunity to immerse yourself in same, will be both educational and delicious! I know they have some sampler package deals that include a pitcher of beer or wine, but perhaps that can be negotiated, or the pitcher just declined.

Posted by
25 posts

Hey everyone, thanks for the replies! I will try to answer or respond to some of the suggestions

MariaF:
Have you priced a multi city flight plan that would get you to Granada or Sevilla via Madrid?

I did take a look at those cities, but everything was much more expensive. And to tell the truth, I was originally sure I was going to start in Madrid. I figured I would work my way south: Madrid > Toledo > Sevilla > Granada and then back to Madrid the night before departure. However, trying to think about how to make an overnight in Toledo work really seemed to complicate things as I learned you can't go directly from Toledo to Granada, you have to go back to Madrid. So I figured, maybe it would be more efficient to start in Sevilla first, lump my Madrid days at the end, and either do a day trip to Toledo or spend the night. Then I just have a short train trip back to Madrid instead of the 4hrs or whatever it is to Sevilla from Toledo.

acraven: There are several sights in the cities you plan to visit for which you need a ticket strategy:

I was thinking about this as I've read the Alahambra specifically should be booked well ahead. I see I can already purchase tickets for October on the website and was wondering when I should do that. It looks like they have TONS of tickets available right now (obviously given that there aren't a lot of tourists there right now), but I wonder as news of reopenings happen if that number is going to shrink quickly. Also, question re: timing of Nazaries Palace: should I pick a time later in my visit? For example, if I am planning to spend a few hours there, starting at 10am, should I pick a time for the Nazaries towards when I think the end of my visit will be? Or should it be my first stop at the Alahambra?

Thank you for the tip about the Sevilla cathedral!

acraven: Having to buy a same-day long-distance train ticket from the grossly overworked staffed counters at Madrid's Atocha Station is to be avoided at all costs

Speaking of tickets, how far in advance should I book Ave tickets? I've been checking The Train Line for an idea of pricing and schedules, but it looks like tickets more than a month or so out are not available. I was also somewhat surprised by the seeming lack of frequency between locations. I wonder if this is pandemic-related and the schedules have been cut back?

MaryPat: Hi James, five nights in Sevilla?...I have also been to Toledo twice and the first time it was a day trip and the second time I spent the night thinking it would be better and I was bored.

Mary thanks for the counter-opinion. My reasoning for the 5 nights in Sevilla is one is probably going to be a jetlagged day arriving from the States. The other will probably be a day trip to Cordoba. So it's only 3 full days and I wanted a more relaxed pace, but maybe I will think about this some more. It seems Cordoba is getting a lot of votes to overnight at. Maybe I will look at doing that. To be honest, Cordoba is the one city I have not had a chance to thoroughly look through and plan the sites I wish to visit yet.

Cyn: Since Toledo lies between Granada and Madrid, what if you made a stopover one night there, before finishing your trip in Madrid?

I looked at this too, but from what I am seeing, the journey from Granada to Toledo seems quite long? I'm looking at the Train Line and it is showing the shortest train trip is a little over 6h leaving at 7:14am. If I wanted to leave a little later all the trips seem to be 8, 9, 10 hours?

Posted by
18702 posts

The fastest way from Granada to Toledo will be through Madrid. Sometimes the Renfe website (don't know about trainline) doesn't like to show connections like that. There are limited trains from Granada to Madrid, but trains from Madrid back down to Toledo are very frequent, so adding on that last short leg to Toledo doesn't really complicate your planning.

I think there's a major schedule change early in June every year; that may be the reason you don't see tickets available very far into the future.

I'm reluctant to give guidelines about how early Alhambra tickets and AVE tickets need to be purchased because 1) I'm no expert; and 2) I'd feel terrible if I underestimated the lead time and caused you a problem. This year we have an extra complication: There may be capacity controls at the Alhambra (typically crowded because just about every time slot sells out in the end) because of the pandemic, which means fewer tickets than usual might be available. In the past I'd have said one month ahead of time would be too risky but two months would probably be OK. Now, who knows?

As for the AVE tickets, I have often seen trains on the Madrid-Seville line marked as sold out in the last few days before departure. No doubt it can happen farther in advancer at special times like holiday weekends. Rick himself warms about sellouts on the Toledo-Madrid run (especially in that direction late in the day, as all the day-trippers try to get back to their hotels in the capital). You wouldn't want to be marooned in Toledo with a paid-up hotel room in Madrid, but there is bus service (slower) in addition to the train service, so there is a second option if something unusual happens.

What I'd do is keep watching Renfe.com for your planned travel days so you know when the promo-fare tickets go on sale, how much more expensive the regular tickets are and when the promo tickets begin to sell out. You can make a decision then about whether you want to go ahead and buy at that point. I think the promo tickets will always sell out considerably before the entire train fills up, but you won't want to pay full fare if you don't have to; it's quite a price difference.

There are plenty of sights to see in Granada, Cordoba, Toledo and Seville--enough to justify multi-night stays in each one. Seville of course is by far the the largest. I just looked back at the notes I prepared for my 2019 trip and found 29 sights listed for Cordoba, 76 for Seville and 31 for Granada. Toledo was an earlier trip, and I don't have a compiled list of sightseeing targets for that city, but I'd say it's roughly comparable to Cordoba and Granada. I admit to being uncommonly fond of Mudejar architecture; I try to track down and see the exteriors of all the Mudejar buildings. I realize other visitors are not so obsessed.

Toledo is noticeably quiet after the day-trippers leave; if bustling sidewalks are important for you, that will be a negative feature. I love being able to explore a medieval neighborhood without ticky-tacky tourist knick-knacks spilling out of shops on the ground floor of every building, so it was great for me.

Posted by
644 posts

My trip to Spain is in October. We are going to the same cities but my itinerary is different:

Arrive in Madrid on a Sunday morning. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday nights in Madrid.

Train to Madrid Wednesday morning. That night in Toledo. Train or bus to Córdoba, arriving by late Afternoon to evening. Toledo looks like it has a lot to do. Hopefully I won't fe see l like i am spending too much time there.

Thursday and Friday nights in Cordoba.

Train or bus to Granada, hopefully in the late afternoon-evening. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights in Granada. I already bought my ticket to the Alhambra, with the Nazarine- palace at 2pm. Hopefully I won't feel like the extra day in Granada is a mistake.

Tuesday night, wed, thu, and Friday nights in Seville.

Flights back to Detroit leaving from Seville Saturday morning.

I will need to buy tickets for 5 long-distance train and/or bus trips.

Posted by
3126 posts

I agree with Carlos and acraven. The itinerary look solid for the time you have. Even though technically you have 5 nights in Sevilla, your time there is broken up by the day trip and travel, so the time you have to see Sevilla proper is about right. Hope you’ll be able to travel this year since Spain is a fascinating country. Also, Toledo is not between Madrid and Granada.

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks everyone for the feedback!

I have another general question about traveling in Spain. Since I am going to be going solo, one thing that always gives me anxiety is dining alone. I've read other people's experiences who traveled solo and mentioned they had a hard time finding restaurants who would seat them. Anyone can speak to this if this is common? Also, would you have any general advice for eating cheaply in general? Hoping outside of any food tours to save in this part of my budget for other activities.

Mike L: My trip to Spain is in October.

Mike, sounds like a great trip. When in October are you going? I hope we both get to go!

Posted by
3126 posts

I’ve never had a problem getting a seat for dinner unless I tried to go really early, since some restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7:30 and later. Eating inexpensively is easy and places are easy to find. Restaurants with fixed prices options are all over. Of course there are bars selling tapas with restaurants in the back, eating in markets, or going to the grocery store and buying pre made dinners or ingredients. When I was in northern Spain a few years ago, a few of the 3 course fixed price meals (10-12€) came with a bottle of local wine. Can’t beat that.

Posted by
2168 posts

Hi James, in Spain know that we eat a little differently than in the States, we eat a smallish breakfast, larger lunch (main meal of the day), and then a medium dinner. The best advice for eating well, solo, and cheap in Spain is "eat like the locals!". I think its quite easy to eat well in Spain for under €40 for a typical day I would do:

Breakfast (€2-3): at a neighborhood bar or cafe with a combo deal, either a pastry and coffee or mini-baguette and coffee.

Lunch (€10-11): look for 'Bar-Restaurante', these are establishments frequented by local workers "on the go" during the weekdays. They serve a 'Menú del día', these are by far the best value in Spain and not many foreigners know about them; a seasonal three course lunch including drinks for under €12, as jaimeelsabio says you can't beat it. Menus change daily so you can visit the same Bar-Restaurante and eat a different menu every day of the week!

Snack (€2-3): gelato on the go or a quick tapa.

Dinner (€18-22): dinner is a tricky one as a lot of places are more expensive then, most locals just eat at home. You can probably hit the local pizzeria for cheap eats. Tapas are a good choice if dining solo and wanting a lot of variety. However if you go out for Tapas at night, it's very easy for the cost to start adding up, especially if you visit multiple bars on a Tapas crawl. It is a popular misconception that tapas=cheap eats.

You could also try gastronomic food markets, these are where local restaurants have food stalls located in the main market, that sell street food to eat on site. These types of food markets have become quite popular in Spain in recent years, especially for those looking for a quick drink and a bite to eat. One I would look into is the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid.

Posted by
4809 posts

Also, Toledo is not between Madrid and Granada.

Looking at a map, There’s an almost straight line north, from Granada, almost straight through Toledo, and on to Madrid. Toledo’s a lot closer to Madrid than it is to Granada, so they’re not equidistant, but, Toledo does sit between the others. A driver would follow the A-4 highway north from Granada, then bear left at Madridejos.

Posted by
18702 posts

I'm a solo traveler and have spent 4-1/2 months in Spain over the last few years. The only time I had trouble getting seated was in the touristy historic center of San Sebastian at lunchtime. All the tapas (pintxo) places were elbow-to-elbow; it wouldn't have been any easier if I'd been part of a group. I just gave up.

You'll definitely do best to take advantage of those menu del dia offerings. One thing to be careful of if you are a vegetarian or have food allergies: Those mid-day special menus are usually scrawled on a blackboard or something like that. Most of the time they don't have all the ingredient details you'd find on a printed menu. So a bit of advance preparation is a good idea: write down, in Spanish, the names of things you cannot eat.

Posted by
4809 posts

James, travel times can eat time, especially in Spain, a country as big as Texas. On our last trip, after beginning in Madrid, we took a train to Bilbao on the northern coast, at least 5 hours. Granada appears to be about the same distance from Madrid. The previous trip, which included Granada, was just to southern Spain, so Toledo wasn’t on the itinerary, and other than arriving and departing Madrid, the capital wasn’t a big part of the itinerary, either.

Regarding food options, a single person can sometimes squeeze into a space at the bar, choice of beverage not requiring something alcoholic. In many countries in Europe, one strategy was to find a market with fresh, mostly local items. Pick up olives and keep them in a ziploc bag for snacking or picnicking over the next several days. Same with cheese, and Spain’s fabulous ham, sausage, and other cured meats. A couple of rolls from a bakery and you’re set, especially for breakfast or lunch.

Not certain what’s available on the places you’re considering, but in many European locations, especially in big cities, the cheapest meals have been at Middle Eastern restaurants. Sure, not necessarily local cuisine, but a doner kebab, hummus, pita bread, are filling and cheap. Then you can splurge occasionally at a Spanish place. And don’t forget Madrid’s Museo del Jamón - delicious, affordable sandwiches, or meat and cheese platters.

Posted by
3789 posts

Have you figured out lodgings yet? I travel solo on a Canadian dollar and manage to find well priced short let apartments for my lodgings. Yes, a dorm bed in a hoatel is cheaper, and a single room in a 'hostal' (Spanish name for 1 or 2 star hotel) is a few bucks cheaper, but it allows me to deal with breakfast and dinner in house....particularly since I have some food sensitivities. I ate out mid day with the menu del dias. Dinner was often something cold and light....fresh vegetables, their thin rice crackers (wheat issues), and their famous jamon and sometimes cheese...with fruit. This also got me fresh food so I didn't feel bogged down with daily restaurant meals. Also, I was tired by 6 and didn't want to wait around until 8 or later for a meal.
Every place you go has accessible Carrefour convenience stores, and produce markets or bakeries for more picnic type meals. You can take some back to your hotel room as well. Pack some camp cutlery if you have this in mind.
Besides tapas, Spanish fast food is the Spanish Tortilla (more like an omelet), but sometimes served cold. A stack of thinly sliced potatoes held together with cooked egg. Sometimes some onion, chorizo (smoke sausage), tomato or cheese added. 1 or 2 Euro for a big thick slice.
Cordoba has a food market in the park between old town and the train station. I want to say Park Victoria? No problem eating there alone. Had a great Peruvian meal from one of the vendors there.
In Toledo, I ate at a bar because it was open earlier than restaurants. A small place with maybe 6 tables that catered mostly to local working guys (I was certainly out of place as a 60 year old solo woman) but the guys would walk in, their drink of choice was placed on the bar and a couple of minutes later a plate of dinner was put in front of them. They were clearly regulars.

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks for the wonderful information, again, everybody!

Carlos: Breakfast (€2-3)...Lunch (€10-11)...Snack (€2-3)...Dinner (€18-22):

Carlos, thanks for breaking this down for me. This is quite helpful for me!

acraven: write down, in Spanish, the names of things you cannot eat.

Thanks for sharing your experience acraven, makes me feel a lot more confident. Luckily I have no food allergies or things I can't eat, I just don't drink alcohol, so that's my only "dietary restriction" so to speak.

MariaF: Have you figured out lodgings yet?

Maria, I have not, I am currently in the process of doing that. I was looking at hotels (or hostals) to be honest, but I will check to see if an apartment may make more sense. Thanks for the info about Carrefour and ideas for easy meals for breakfast and dinner!

I liked the info about your experience in Toledo. I'm curious, do you speak Spanish?

Posted by
3789 posts

Hi James. Glad I could be of some assistance. Yes, I have some Spanish but it is often rusty between travel. There is a good amount of English available and I only got stuck at the Atocha train station when I wanted to ask question and they sent me to the only English speaking person. Customer service was not high on their priority list.
If you don't have Spanish, investigate the various visual translate apps. Check their need for data so you aren't running up roaming charges.

Posted by
3126 posts

With the Google translate app, you can download the dictionaries so you won’t need to use any data.

Cyn - if traveling by train, one needs to go through Madrid to get to Toledo. If driving, Toledo is 40 minutes or so (36 miles) west of Consuegra and the A-4/E-5. Since hasn’t mentioned driving I am assuming he is traveling by train. If he does decide to drive, hopefully he’ll stop at Campo de Criptana which is also along the CM-42, a few miles east of the A-4, as well as Consuegra.

Posted by
25 posts

jaimeelsabio: Since hasn’t mentioned driving I am assuming he is traveling by train.

Correct, I will be doing this whole trip via public transport (trains) and walking to sites when in my destination city.

Also, after thinking about it, I think I will spend the night in Cordoba. So, instead of a day trip to Cordoba on Sunday 10/3, I will check out of Sevilla and head to Cordoba to spend the night. I hadn't realized it is directly on the way to Granada. I don't like moving hotels a lot, but I figure the trade off with checking into a hotel for the night in Cordoba is that I am not backtracking to Sevilla only to leave for Granada the next day anyway.

Posted by
2168 posts

Great decision staying the night in Cordoba, you won't be disappointed! I recommend Hotel Eurostars Maimonides, literally 5 feet away from the entrance to the Mezquita, the best location in Cordoba bar non! And currently going for around €50 a night, so it is very cost effective too.

I may be in the minority, but I found Cordoba with its Mezquita more enjoyable than Granada with its Alhambra. I think this quote from the novel After Goya, perfectly sums up my reasoning:

"Hunched around a meander of the Guadalquivir river, a hundred miles or so upstream from its cousin Sevilla, Córdoba is refreshingly free of overbaked Andalusian brag and swagger. Córdoba is a quietly confident, and a confidently quiet city which welcomes its visitors with a warm handshake rather than a self-regarding fanfare.

Often overlooked by the international coach brigades, Córdoba only reveals its undeniable charms at walking pace. Once the third holiest pilgrimage site in the Islamic world, and before that the capital of Roman Hispania Ulterior, Córdoba wears its age and multi-layered antiquity well. Against the background of a sluggardly dark Europe Córdoba was once the very epicentre of all understanding and learning. At the close of the first millennium Córdoba was an illumined, pre-Enlightenment, full-tilt laboratory of trade, science and culture, a Silicon Valley cum Alexandria cum Victorian London without the fog and rickets. And now? As a university city the air of learning lingers.

Unlike Granada and its Alhambra, magnificently aloof in its eyrie overlooking the modern city, Córdoba´s main attraction sits plum squat in the midst of the city like a slumbering overfed pet. And, in contrast to the Alhambra’s fiercely steeped approaches, the Mezquita is connected with the modern centre via a web of gently graded lanes and alleys which trickle down towards the river through the JuderÌa, or medieval Jewish quarter."

Posted by
935 posts

It seems Cordoba is getting a lot of votes to overnight at. Maybe I will look at doing that. To be honest, Cordoba is the one city I have not had a chance to thoroughly look through and plan the sites I wish to visit yet.

Hi James, I also spent one night in Cordoba but wish I had made it a day trip instead. Don't get me wrong, I believe your experience may be better if you spend the night in most places, but I did not feel that way about Toledo or Cordoba. Much of Cordoba's old town has diminished and is quite small.
It's nice being able to unpack your suitcase and have a home base. You'll get to know Sevilla and one of the things I did experience was eating dinner outside on the other side of the river in the newer section of town with locals watching a soccer match. That experience was a reminder on why I keep returning to Europe.

Posted by
644 posts

This is my experience eating in other cou tries as another man-solo traveler:
I have not been to Spain yet.

In Quebec and England, I didn't eat any restaurant food. I bought combination of fruit and a few item I could eat without heating or cooking them, from grocery stores.

Then in Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, and Belgium, I relaxed my diet and ate under 10% of my food from restaurants, because I was craving energy-dense foods or cooked foods. Maybe in Spain I will try worrying less about what foods are healthy and unhealthy. Yes I probably am being too obsessive-compulsive about food. Foods I bought on past trips in grocery stores included dates, dried figs, a bar made of figs or dates and nuts, packaged pre-washed and cut lettuce or salad, rice cakes, peanuts, some kind of puffed cereal without salt in the Netherlands, sardines; a few times I experimented with some cooked recipes from deli counters where I had to point out what I wanted to an employee behind the counter, in grocery stores that were higher class than other stores; at least once I bought a cold container from a grocery store's refrigerated case that had a piece of cooked salmon and some other stuff; the few times I ate in restaurants with table service were a 3/4 empty Argentine restaurant in Amsterdam, a 3/4 empty chinese place in Antwerp, a mostly empty Greek place in Delphi, and an empty low-end place in Naples where I had to walk up to a deli counter, point out what I wanted to the owner, who heated it in his microwave and brought it to me while I was sitting at a table, and carry-out food from a Chinese place in Athens - I ate it on a bench in a city square. I still prefer buying my food from grocery stores. The vast majority of restaurant food is made with sugar or possibly other sweetners, salt, and oils. I am afraid restaurant food is too high in fat, sodium, or otherwise unhealthy.

If you are going to eat in restaurants with table service, look for places that have a lot of empty seats and few or no people waiting to get in, likely to be certain ethnic restaurants in touristy crowded neighborhoods, or in Spainish or other restaurants in non-touristy neighborhoods. See about asking for carry-out and eating on a bench or other out-of-the-way spot. And/or see what fruit and prepared foods you can buy in grocery stores or markets, especially the o es that are hi-class enough to have a deli counter or a good selection including prepared recipes.

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644 posts

Regarding language barriers: my plan is to teach myself words and phrases in Spainsh, go around with a miniature phrasebook and dictionary, but to keep quiet the vast majority of the time. I intuitively feel like it is an embarrassment to try talking English to employees in other countries. I don't want somebody to think I am so naive that i expect everybody in the world to speak English...

I took a phonology class in college. I have a talent for learning the phonology (sound patterns and articulation or pronunciation) of languages.

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4818 posts

Great plan, however, consider a visit on a day trip to Segovia from Madrid. You probably don't have time to do it on this trip, unless you cut a day somewhere.

Toledo (we did it on a day trip from Madrid) and Seville are my favorite cities in Spain, but it is all good.

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25 posts

Mike L: This is my experience eating in other cou tries as another man-solo traveler:

Mike, thanks for sharing your experience. I feel we may bit a bit similar when it comes to food. When not traveling I tend to eat very healthy - cook all meals at home, rarely go out to eat (even pre-pandemic) etc. I do relax a little bit my nutritional standards when I am traveling as I figure it's short-term and I also tend to do a lot of walking so I figure that helps :)

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3789 posts

James and Mike L, if you are used to, and concerned about, American processed food, perhaps learning about how Europeans treat their food may help you feel a little better about eating in Spain.

I will admit, that when I read MikeL say he picks up chopped lettuce in the grocery store, I thought how that might be counterproductive - as so much prepped lettuce is treated with sulphites and other preservatives....just saying, not judging.
Europe has a love affair with food - real food. As a person with food sensitivities, things that make me ill in North America, are fine for me to eat in many other parts of the world because there is less processing, additives or pesticide use on fruit and veg. So many things are less processed, they aren't injected with hormones or antibiotics and they don't add sugar for the sake of doing so. Consider the benefits - often touted and recommended - of a Mediterranean diet. Yes, there is oil in it, but it is the simple pressed olive oil without all the gunk we add here...and our body still needs a little oil in our diet.
I hope you both will trust that many restaurants .....local, not empty 'ethnic' ones, are going to cook better, healthier and more authentic food than in your home town. They also cook seasonally - not what tourists want. Farm to table is nothing new in Europe...it is still their way of life that wasn't curtailed in the 1960s with the advent of TV dinners and 'convenience' food. It is very difficult in the Carrefour to find something premade and frozen to heat up in the microwave for dinner. People don't eat that way there. Also, food portions are much smaller than the US, and just because there may be several courses as the norm in Spain, you don't have to order it. As a solo person, though I am comfortable eating on my own, a 3 hour multi course meal would be agony.

So, I hope you will take a chance to try how locals eat and trust it will be healthier than you may think. Day 1, look at the people around you. Consider who seem to be local. Are they decrepit, obese or look healthy and fit? Trust me, they eat out.

Posted by
2168 posts

I always end up losing a few kilos when I am back in Spain visiting family, if only for few weeks! The same thing happens with one of my friends here in the USA (originally from Japan) visits her family back in Japan, better than going to the gym she says 😁

I think a lot of what Maria describes is very accurate and explains the phenomenon that I describe. There is a reason why Spanish people will overtake Japan for the world's highest life expectancy in 2040. https://www.businessinsider.com/why-spanish-people-will-overtake-japan-for-worlds-longest-lifespan-2018-11

Posted by
3789 posts

Actually, Carlos, that is true for me as well. It seems to be 7 pounds regardless of location and duration.

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14267 posts

Consider Sevilla > Granada > Cordoba > Toledo > Madrid. I love Cordoba and 2 nights there is not too many. 2N Toledo gives you one full day there.

Sevilla 3N
Granada 3N
Cordoba 2N

Toledo 2N
Madrid 3N

Look into ALSA buses to/from Granada. They are comfortable and the schedule may be more convenient for you. Allow at least 30 minutes to change trains in Madrid to get to Toledo. Due to the uncertainty of when you'll get through the airport to the train station, I wouldn't buy a no change/no refund ticket to Sevilla. You can't count on landing on time and not getting delayed at passport control, especially with Covid restrictions.

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360 posts

Thanks to Carlos for posting that full-blooded quote from the novel, After Goya. Córdoba is most certainly worth more than an overnight visit—and the novel is most certainly worth reading.

As well as Córdoba this little-known novel also sketches lively images of Madrid, Zaragoza and Barcelona, and places in-between, while entertaining readers with an intriguing account of goodies, not-so-good goodies, and baddies, all in pursuit of two, supposedly lost, miniature paintings by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes.

While unknown to the general fiction reading public there are rumours that After Goya is being lined up for production, with a very well-known Malagueño actor as the lead character, as a mini-series for streaming. And, the writer, Haarlson Phillipps, is soon to publish a sequel.

Reading After Goya is an entertaining way for visitors to begin to acquaint themselves with Spain, or las Españas. https://www.amazon.com/After-Goya-Haarlson-Phillipps-ebook/dp/B004XJCII6

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1628 posts

MariaF is right about the excellent quality of food in Europe. My husband always experienced indigestion in the U.S. but, starting with our very first trip to Europe (Italy) in 1999, he noticed that he had no hint of it. And we ate in cafes or restaurants for all our meals.

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644 posts

I am working on worrying less about what foods are healthy and unhealthy. This doesn't mean I have to eat stuff like cake and French fries to look "normal" and it doesn't mean we have to worry about exposure to detergents used to wash packaged pre-cut lettuce or salad mixes. At least i swore off salad dressings and eat lettuce plain now.

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129 posts

James, I love your itinerary! You have given yourself ample time to truly enjoy the sites and just settle in. I do hope that when you visit Granada, you'll eat at one of the "carmens." Aben Humeya Restaurant has a fantastic view of the Alhambra. Dining alone can be intimidating, but I find it less so if I am dining outdoors. Aben Humeya Restaurant has plenty of outdoor dining, and, oh that view! Try to time it when the sun is just setting as the rays light up the Alhambra and make it a golden color. We had tickets for the Alhambra at 10 p.m. in order to view it at night in April. It was pouring rain sideways and couldn't have been above 40 degrees F. We did not realize that in order to get a cab after our visit, we'd have needed to prearrange that or know how to use the outdoor telephone that is there, sooo, a long ice cold walk back to Granada. The next day, sunny and much warmer, we had Alhambra tickets to view it during the day. I recommend both for different experiences (hope it is warmer and doesn't rain.)