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Which trip route would you choose out of my choices?

I am in the primary planning for a trip to Spain (possibly to include Portugal) for Easter 2022. I have put together some routes and was wondering which you would choose/recommend:

Route A: Seville --> Cordoba --> Malaga.
Route B: Bilboa --> Donostia-San Sebastian.
Route C: Barcelona --> Girona.
Route D: Porto -->Vigo.
Route E: Madrid --> Zaragoza-->Barcelona.

Background Info: I have to fly TAP Portugal because I have a flight credit I need to use up.
I don't really want to go to Barcelona but my travel partner (Dad) has never been. If we go to Barcelona I would like to stay at least a few days in a place that I have never been. I know you could easily stay week just in Barcelona!
Dad is no spring chicken so I am trying to minimize travel time between cities. I think I chose places that there is only an hour to two train time.

Thanks in advance for any input or suggestions!

Posted by
6513 posts

Route A: Seville --> Cordoba --> Malaga is the best route but you have to include Granada after Seville or Cordoba.

Posted by
111 posts

(A very common spelling mistake, Bilboa for Bilbao...I believe it´s got to do with the US pronunciation of "o" and "a" :))

I´d recommend either Route A or B, totally different one from the other in almost everything. The Basque Country (north) offers beautiful landscapes, rugged sea, forests, off the beaten path routes and towns, as well as fantastic food and a different culture and language. a. Córdoba and Malaga are the former moorish past of Spain (unexistant in the north), warm weather, white villages, great food also...more the prototypical idea of Spain.

Posted by
2919 posts

Another vote for A or B. If one has never been to Spain, then most people’s’ preference would be A. For me, I’d choose B since I haven’t spent nearly enough time in the north and have been to Sevilla and Cordoba more times than I can count.

Posted by
37 posts

Pick one that includes Barcelona. You will never regret taking your Dad somewhere he has never been and wants to go. How many chances will you have to do that? Personally I would pick Route E. I love Madrid and go every chance I get...but I seem to be one of very few who feels that way!

Posted by
17861 posts

How many nights will you be spending in Europe, not counting the night on the plane going over? That would definitely affect my decision. (I'm guessing it may be only a week.)

How fragile is your father? My first thought was total agreement with jazz+travels, but Holy Week (Semana Santa) is a zoo in many of the cities of southern Spain. The streets in Seville are massively crowded, for example. It often takes a lot longer than usual to walk from place to place, and substantial detours can be required. I get a sense from your post that these might not be good conditions for your father. After two years of no processions, etc., I assume Semana Santa will be an even bigger deal than usual in 2022. If your trip will primarily fall after Easter rather than before, this issue would evaporate. In that case, I'd again agree with jazz+travels and suggest substituting Granada for Malaga if your father can be on his feet long enough (hours) to enjoy the Alhambra in conditions that will almost certainly be quite crowded. If the Alhambra is a no-go for physical reasons, Malaga is probably a better idea. Granada is also hilly, which might be a second negative factor.

I would not do the Basque Country in April. It is a great area to visit in the summer, when it is usually considerable cooler than the rest of Spain. In April, cooler isn't necessarily a good thing, given that the area is also wet (rain about 1 out of every 2 days). If you're good with inclement weather (maybe upper-40s/low-50s and rain), this could be a good choice, though. One thing: The trip between Bilbao and San Sebastian is a lot faster by bus than by train, and I remember the train as having unpadded plastic seats (I could be mis-remembering). The train runs through some very pretty scenery, though.

Vigo is a big NO from me in that it ranks about last of the many dozens of Spanish cities and towns I've been to. It is not bad; it is just dull. There are too many fabulous places in Spain (and Portugal) to settle for dull. In addition, Galicia's weather is rather like that of the Basque Country--cool and wet, and thus not great in April.

If you decide your father may not be physically up to dealing with Semana Santa conditions and think my conditions about the other two options discussed above are valid, that leaves Route C and Route E. Unless you guys are big art fans (that would certainly make Madrid a top choice), I'd choose Barcelona and Girona. I love both and think you can spend two days wandering around Girona at a measured pace. And of course there's no problem filling a lot of time in Barcelona.

Madrid-Zaragoza-Barcelona would work, too, with just enough time in Madrid to do what you want to do there.

If not for guessing your father may not do well walking up and down a lot of hills, I'd suggest Madrid-Toledo or Madrid-Toledo-one other place (Segovia, Cuenca, Salamanca). But Toledo is very hilly, as is Cuenca.

I'm wondering whether a concern about hills is behind the omission of Lisbon from your potential destinations.

Posted by
3549 posts

So, TAP? What's the impact on where they fly in Spain? I assume you have reviewed that and thus the cities you have chosen, but perhaps you can clarify it ----because to me, it is an outlier and I don't understand the relevance of that point.
Spain in the north may still be cool in April and can be warming up along the Med coast. Global warming has made some impact on even April temps in Andalucia.
Does Dad have any particular preference for any of these places (other than not having been to Barcelona before?) To be honest, I think his wishes would be my driving factor for planning. Any of them are reasonable time frames.
I agree that Granada would have to be a 'must' if you choose Route A. Keep in mind that Cordoba can be a day trip from Seville, though I like it for several nights. But if you only want 3 sleep stops, consider doing Cordoba as a day trip and make Granada the second sleep stop.

Posted by
6098 posts

Considering Route A-drop Malaga, add Granada.
If Route D:Porto- Vigo. Only use Vigo only as a transportation hub nothing more. . Visit Baiona, the Rias “s Baixas including O Grove and magnificent Santiago de Compostela. Easy to add beautiful Leon. Rent a car in Spain.
If you choose Barcelona, also stay in the Costa Brava to the north. We stayed in Begur.

Posted by
2985 posts

Here’s a vote for #E, because it includes such very different parts of Spain.

Starting with Barcelona:
Catalan culture and food, Modernista architecture, possible day trips to Girona or Dali sites. ( I’d do the former.)
Zaragoza:
Ancient Roman and Islamic sites, major cathedral, plus some interesting off the beaten track attractions
Madrid::
Vibrant capitol city, fabulous art museums, strong presence of past royal influence

Posted by
24 posts

@acraven: Thank you for the pointing out the issues with Holy Week. I generally don’t travel to Europe during Easter but with COVID I want to try to push out the date as far as possible before the vouchers expire (I teach summer school so summer isn’t an option to plan this far in advance).

My dad’s big health concern is his eyesight. He can walk fine for his age but unfortunately his eyesight is rapidly declining. He’s going blind in one eye so his depth perception is terrible. He has a really hard time walking on cobblestones (unavoidable in Europe, I know) and seeing steps/dips in floors/curbs. We went to France and he fell a lot, poor guy. He can (and wants to) do everything like normal but it takes more time and he’s fatigued faster. But hill or inclines (as long as they are paved) aren’t an issue for him.

I know TAP flies to other destinations, but they fly more directly to Spain from NYC. I also invited my brother who's more interested in Spain that another country at the moment.

Lisbon is not on the list because I had a wonderful trip there when I was living in Germany. Now that I’m back to living in the States, I’m trying to visit places I haven’t been during my time abroad since my trips are more expensive!

If I was by myself, I could take Route A or B. I think Route E would probably make everyone happy.

Anyone have any advice on Girona? I just basically heard it was cute, quiet and close to Barcelona.

Posted by
24 posts

I forgot to add...we will traveling on Good Friday and returning the following Saturday. I need Sunday to recuperate!

Unfortunately, my work contracts does not allow me to take off a day before or after a major holiday so the dates are pretty much set.

Posted by
3549 posts

Under the circumstances, perhaps route E and look into whether you can rent a wheelchair or walker? I know that Dad will be offended, but if you can sell him on some sort of walking aid for eyesight, then maybe it will work. Madrid and Barcelona are going to be easier assisted streets....though not all Metro lines have elevators - or functioning ones. If he has already been falling, a year from now may be much more unstable.

Posted by
2642 posts

With just one week, I would pick C. If your father wants Barcelona, he should see it. If you had more time I would pick E. You have plenty of time, in theory, to take trips to your desired destinations in the future so give him what he wants.

I would suggest getting your father some trekking poles for the trip. They will help him with his balance, speed him up, and keep him from getting as tired as he might without them. Just make sure you have enough rubber tips for them and that he gets accustomed to them at home.

Posted by
17861 posts

I sympathize with the falling issue. I'm 69, and if I stumble--especially with a heavy purse hanging to one side--I am quite likely to hit the ground. Over the last 5 trips I have fallen in the Dolomites (doing something really stupid), Berlin, Isle de Porquerolles (giving myself a black eye), Leon and Budapest. I also have eyesight that isn't correctable to 20/20, though luckily not severe depth-perception problems. I really, really need not to walk so fast. I've seen folks using hiking poles even in flat cities. I believe that would be helpful and wouldn't be as constraining as wheel chair.

Girona has a large, atmospheric medieval district partially surrounded by a walkable wall. There are two historic churches, the Museum of Jewish History, and a very nice, not excessively large museum showing art and some archaeological bits and pieces. Girona is a popular destination, which is most evident in the northern half of the historic area (the church end): lots of restaurants, etc. I wouldn't call that area "quiet", but I was there in the summer and during the early-May flower festival. It may be less heavily visited in April, though I have no clue about the impact of spring break. You can do quite a lot of walking in the southern part of the historic area without encountering anyone else. To walk every street in the historic area (which I like to do) would take more than one day if you also wanted to see the churches and museums. It might even take a day without going inside those sights.

Personally, I think it's worth spending at least a couple of nights in Girona. You certainly wouldn't want to spend the time taking two day-trips there from Barcelona. However, on a one-week trip, it would be really nice not to have to change hotels.

Girona is also handy as a base for day-trips to these spots:

  • Figueres (really only for the Dali Theatre and Museum and the related jewelry collection); by train (if this interests you, let us know so we can explain about the two train stations in Figueres)
  • Cadaques [< corrected] (beautiful white former fishing village): by bus from Figueres Station, a very scenic ride.
  • Besalu (medieval town with fortified bridge): By bus.

All of the above could be seen from Barcelona (on separate trips unless you're a masochist and must combine Figueres and Caceres), but they all involve passing through Girona, so starting from the latter saves a lot of travel time.

Since hills are not an issue, I will super-highly recommend Toledo. It's a short ride from Madrid on a fast train that, atypically, has the same fare no matter how late you buy the ticket, so it can usually be a spur-of-the-moment destination. It isn't unheard of for trains to fill up, but that seems to be primarily an issue for the late trains back from Toledo to Madrid. There's also bus service that is slower and somewhat less convenient on the Madrid end, due to the location of the bus station.

Toledo has multiple days' worth of sights, some with mudejar interiors (the sort of thing you expect more in Andalucia). The upper part of the city is one monstrous historic district. I like Toledo even more than Girona; it's worth multiple nights. It pairs very well with Madrid, which isn't a particularly old city. A potential negative is that the stretch of town between Zocodover Square and the Cathedral is often a mass of day-tripping humanity. There's lots to see off that beaten path, though.

Posted by
4118 posts

We visited northern Spain in October 2013. Rained one m day, and we spent it indoors, in the excellent aquarium in San Sebastián/Donostia. Spring or fall, rain didn’t really dampen a great trip. And it was way less crowded than if we’d been there in the summer.

So I’d suggest Bilbao - -> Donostia. But we actually finished our trip in Barcelona, 3 days and 2 nights. Might you and your Dad do likewise, and keep heading east, ending in Barcelona?

Posted by
6098 posts

Girona is nearFigueres and the Dalí Museum, as eccentric as the artist., fun to visit.

Posted by
17861 posts

I'd suggest comparing hotel location to the locations of Seville-Santa Justa and the Plaza de Armas bus station. The bus station would have to be much closer to make up for the fact that many fast trains between the two cities take only 45 minutes. In Cordoba the bus and train stations are very close together, so there's no significant advantage either way on that end of the trip.

Posted by
4600 posts

I would go with Route A but change Malaga to Granada

If you go to Porto, then skip Vigo and do Santiago de Compostela