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10 Days, Andalucia in March

Thanks to everyone who posts on the forum, answers questions, and shares experience! Maybe someone in the future can benefit from my report. :)

We divided our trip into the following: 1 night Cordoba; 4 nights Seville; 3 nights Granada; 1 night Madrid before a morning return flight.

We arrived via a connecting Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt in Terminal 2 at 3:30. I had pre-purchased Ave tickets from Atocha to Cordoba for 7:30, so we used the airport shuttle bus to T4 to use our free Cercanius ticket from the airport. It was a bit of a “winding route” to the shuttle but it was well-signed and an easy process to find both the bus and the Renfe line. At the ticket machines, there was an agent helping everyone retrieve their free ticket. For those new to the process, you insert your ticket into the slot and it pops up on the top of the turnstile just in front of where you put it in but before you go through. Then the turnstile opens for you. Keep your ticket - you repeat the process to exit once you get to Atocha. We ended up with a long wait - could have easily caught the 6:30 train but I wanted to be sure we had a “sure thing” in hand.

Once in Cordoba, we caught a taxi (€7) to our Airbnb a stone’s throw from the Mezquita. After getting settled, we wandered the perimeter of the Mezquita and by the river. Truly beautiful at night! Our host had provided coffee making supplies, so the next morning after feeding our addiction, we headed to the Mezquita when it opened at 9:30 (a Sunday - this meant it wasn't free during the morning hours but didn't have a choice on that). We were some of the first people in and we really didn't encounter any crowds. An hour and a half was sufficient for us. We then spent some time walking through the Jewish quarter (spent a few minutes in the synagogue) and the old city walls. We ended up back by the river and walked across the Roman bridge and down by the water on both sides. By then we were ready for lunch so we enjoyed a long leisurely “menu del dia” at**. Then it was time to grab our luggage and taxi (€6) back to the station for our 5:44 train to Seville. (Our host had graciously allowed us the extra few hours).

Seville was just lovely. Again we stayed 4 nights in an apartment a stone's throw from the Cathedral. Here, more than anywhere, we followed the wisdom of someone on the board who said “You can't do it all, so enjoy what you see and do, with no regrets.” Toured the Palace and gardens and the Cathedral, did not manage to climb the Bell Tower, explored the Santa Cruz neighborhood, wandered through Triana and the market, walked and sat by the river, visited Plaza de Espana twice, and ate lots of tapas. My daughter also rented a bike for an hour in the gardens near Plaza de Espana and experienced some grassroots flamenco (not the kind where you attend a show), and climbed the Torre del Oro (free on Monday). Seville was a marvelous place to “be”.

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We used one of our days here for a day in Jerez. This was our only rainy day and it was also chilly. We took the 8:30ish train from San Bernardo (not Santa Justa) since it was closer. Easy 45 min ride. Took a €5 taxi to the Real Escuela de Artes Ecuestre and picked up our pre-purchased tickets by 9:45. We walked around near the school for about 30 minutes, then returned and walked through the gardens. There were several horses being exercised in this area and also one horse at a time in the practice arena. You could also wander in the saddle-making/repair workshop. We still had about an hour wait. The show was over about 1 and we had planned an afternoon trip to see the Mediterranean in Cadiz, but changed our minds with the rain and cold. Instead we wandered around the block to Sandeman’s sherry-making tour (€8 for 3 samples) (walk out the main gates and turn right). We waited about 20 min for a tour in English and the guide was an excellent teacher. While we didn't see any of the actual machinery like we did in Scotland with a whisky distillery tour, the processes were well explained and the samples of the 3 main kinds were ample. After this, we walked back to the station - not a bad walk, with the help of our friend offline Google maps.

We ate mostly tapas in Seville. Usually we would get 3 to share. Most of the places we went had small seating and the same menu seemed available whenever and wherever, with only one exception. However we didn’t go to “fine dining”. :)

From Seville to Granada, I opted for a “normal” Alsa bus - basically just because of the timing. Most of these buses leave Plaza de Armas, but we left from San Sebastián at 2:40 on a non-stop bus. Not only had I not purchased it before leaving the U.S., but I tried to buy it the day before leaving Seville and they told me to just come back and get it the day we were leaving. Got there about 45 min early which was tons of time. It was perfectly fine but the seats were slightly narrower than train seats.

Everywhere was wonderful but I particularly fell in love with Granada. We stayed in a restored first floor apartment right on the Carrera del Darro, with the sound of the Darro right outside our small balcony. With an evening arrival, we wandered the streets a bit and visited a couple of tapas bars for dinner.

The next day we visited both the Royal Chapel and the Cathedral. The scale of these seemed more intimate and I really enjoyed them more than the cathedral in Seville. The cathedral was light and beautiful, but not overwhelming. We did a lot of wandering in Granada and in the afternoon took the little minibus up to the Mirador de San Nicholas, ate lunch, then walked back downhill through the Albaycin. We had evening tickets to the Alhambra, so took the minibus to the Justice Gate and enjoyed the views till time to enter. We were a little nervous because everyone else got off at the main entrance and we two were the only ones to continue on - but it was perfect.
We also had tickets for the following morning (palace entrance at 10). Because it had been a late night, we didn't hurry. We arrived about 9:00 and wandered through the Alcazaba before entering the Palace. From there we went on to the Generalife. Because of my knee, we did a little less than we could have but enjoyed everything we saw and went through the ticketed areas. We did skip the King Charles Palace but thought that was a trade-off for a more relaxed morning. We thought that the evening visit was almost better than the daytime for the Palace itself - but we were glad we did both. Although I had considered taking snacks, we ended up not even being hungry till after we finished and went back into town for a Spanish-timed lunch.

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Our last day was a Saturday and the street by us was FULL. We saw lots of what appeared to be bachelor parties, school trips of high school age, and tourists from other parts of Spain. Only at the Alhambra did we encounter the “normal” tour groups from other countries. In the late afternoon my daughter took an extended walk up through the Albaycin and I enjoyed people watching in Plaza Nueve. I had intended to take the C2 minibus on a roundtrip, just for the sights I couldn't walk - but they were absolutely crammed with people so that will be something I can enjoy another time.

Leaving Granada on a Sunday morning for Madrid, we arrived at Atocha and walked to our hotel about 15 min away, the Ibis Prado, which was relatively inexpensive, comfortable, bland, and an easy place to stay for a last night. Once settled, we found an interesting tapas bar not too far - with all you could eat tapas and a drink for €6. No tables, drop your napkins on the floor when done. Ha! However it was really good and we had all we could eat with our first serving. Then we walked to the Puerta del Sol - lots of interesting street wandering through pedestrian zones. With it being Sunday afternoon, lots of families were out shopping, eating, visiting. Then about 5:00 we headed to the Prado for free 5:00-7:00 night. Actually my daughter arrived about 5 and it took her 20 min till in the door. I arrived at 5:25 and it took me 30 min. While I would go back (I really liked the layout and I know we only saw a fraction), it was totally worthwhile. It did not feel at all crowded inside (I was even able to just sit and enjoy in numerous galleries). I headed straight for the Spanish galleries since that was what I have seen the least of and fed my fascination with El Greco (which I am sure I contracted in elementary school with a historical biography). Is an hour and a half optimal? No, but it was totally worthwhile and a great finish to our trip!

For our return, we taxied to Atocha, took the C1 back to the airport, and airport shuttle bus back to T2 (Air Canada home). All of that was easy and the airport was not a problem but I had allotted less time for the C1 than I should have, so we were a little nervous and had to wait for coffee till the gate. :) (where we had to get our cafe con leche at Burger King).

General notes: we took more taxis, trams, & busses than normal but I injured my knee about 5 weeks before the trip and knew I would need to save my walking for when it was essential. I averaged about 5-8 miles/day and my daughter a couple of miles more daily. We used the tram quite a bit and could have saved a few euros had we purchased the Tarjeta MultiViaje in Seville. We did buy the Credibus card in Granada - used about €10. I came away with the card itself, so if anyone is headed there soon and wants to save themselves €2, PM me and I will mail it to you. Edit* card now sent on to a new home. :)

We used Ave Madrid - Cordoba; Ave Cordoba - Seville; MD train Seville - Jerez - Seville; bus Seville - Granada; train Granada - Madrid. MD train included seat reservations, as of course did the Ave. The bus was fine and I chose it for our scheduling, but I would not say it was as comfy as the train (think narrower and less room- more like an airplane seat than the train). Seville - Granada also did not make a stop (3 ½ hrs). The bus leg of Granada - Madrid was about 1hr 40 min, with about 20 min between bus and train.

Everywhere, we encountered both Spanish locals and other tourists ready and interested in conversation and willing to piece together shared information with a combination of Spanish, English, and sign language (my daughter is a people-magnet).

Per another recent topic, we were asked about Trump twice, in different contexts. Once in Seville and once in Granada. Both very interesting, easy, and constructive.

I knew I would enjoy Spain and my trip, but did so much more than I expected!

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103 posts

This is great information. Thank you for sharing! I am planning a similar trip in September, and trip summaries with this kind of detail are so helpful. Glad you enjoyed yourself. It sounds like a fantastic experience!

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Travelmom

I really enjoyed your trip report. It brought back wonderful memories from my own trip to Spain and Portugal in Sept 2016. Granada was fabulous and I loved the Algarve and Lisbon. Happy travels!

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Thanks for the trip report, Travelmom. I'm so glad you enjoyed Granada as much as we did.

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626 posts

Thank you, Jane! Indeed we did!

Linda, Portugal is on my list of places to go - maybe next year on spring break!

morganm, I know you will have a great time! Let me know if I can help. :)