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Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba, Granada Trip Report - Oct 2014

Lots of back and forth on here with advice when planning this trip....turned out great but what we like may not be for everyone.
2 adults mid 50s so we do get tired after a long day of walking...also we only bring carry-on (first time for my wife) and it worked out fine (the carry on's had to be checked on Vueling cause the rules are different)

Bottom line: 1 night in Barcelona at the start, fly to Seville, 2 nights in Seville, pick up a car, drive to Carmona for a few hours then to Cordoba for 1 night, drive to Ronda for few hours then to Granada for 2 nights, fly back to Barcelona, stay another night, fly home to the US. So it was 7 nights, 5 hotels, 3 days of intense but fun driving and using google maps on my iphone to get around but we had a I said this may not be for everyone but we don't like to be bored and like adventure and this was awesome....I can't stand a 3rd night in a hotel and risk being bored..too much to see in Europe. We only stayed 7 nights cause this was free airfare and its tough to get 10 or 11 day intervals for flights when booking your Avios.

Flew into Barcelona from the US for 1 night (we have been in B before), had a great time revisiting the Sagrada Familia, and the Palace de Musica, plus used their great metro system. We stayed (for the second time) at the hotel torre de catalunya which is conveniently close to the Sants train station and the metro. Next day we took a cab back to the airport to fly via Vueling to Seville.
Vueling planes can be tight but its only a 90 minute flight so not that big a deal. In Seville we stayed at the AT apartamentos & VTV Conde de Torrejón 10, found on this site and on trip advisor, great service, big rooms, full kitchen and washer dryer.....we only stayed 2 nights but were able to wash our clothes. The managers are exceptionally nice here..small negative is too long of a walk to the historic area (Cathedral and Alcazar) so its a 6 euro cab ride if you don't like walking constantly.

Day 2 (Thu) Barcelona, Seville
Arrived in Seville - our apt was near the Square of need to remember that after your GPS can't find your apt.

That afternoon we walked around and got tickets to the hop on/ hop off bus….went thru the entire loop and got off at a shopping bazaar 1 stop past our apt.

That night we took a cab to the historic area and ate at La Bulla – very good tapas place near the river and saw the flamenco show at El Arenal….read that its a bit touristy but we found it high energy and totally enjoyable.

Day 3 (Fri) Seville
Work up around 7:30 and hustled to get ready because we had a walking tour of the historical area of Seville at 10:00am. Grabbed a quick coffee and sweet roll and took a taxi down to the torre de oro (tower of gold). We were early so we walked by the river and then went up to the meeting place between the Alcazar and the National Cathedral.
Tour was just ok..the guide was a bit difficult to understand and not very informative also stopped for 10 minutes for his own coffee break. (I think you do just as well with a rick steves book self guided tour)
Afterwards we walked around a bit, got lost then had lunch near the Alcazar...then went into the Alcazar, huge complex of palaces and gardens – still used today by the royal family when they visit Seville.
Had an audio guide that you had to hold to your head like a phone….lame compared to headphones. Otherwise the Alcazar was awesome, huge levels of garden after garden and elaborately designed room after room. High 80s that day so very warm.
For dinner we decided to stay in the apt area near the square of Hercules. Went to have tapas at Eslava – highly rated, great place very crowded so we ate at the including a couple beers around 25 euros (southern Spain is so inexpensive)
Walked around a bit before getting desert and then back to the apt

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Day 4 (Sat) Seville, Carmona, Cordoba
Woke up around 8:20 and quickly got packed up and ready to leave Seville. Took a taxi to the Seville Justa train station and had a hard time finding Hertz but finally found it outside after asking 3 or 4 people.
Car wasn’t a Beamer as promised but was a red mini cooper convertible that was fine.
We had no problem driving it out of Seville and quickly drove to a small town on the way to Cordoba named Carmona.
On a hill top with lots of old houses and narrow roads, we stopped at a local flea market just to check it out.
Had lunch of 2 tapas (meatballs with cheese, stew with potatoes) and 1 half ration of cured ham…..very tasty
Drove the rest of the way to Cordoba in about an hour but then had a major hassle trying to park. Combination of the GPS not working exactly right plus the road to the hotel being closed plus the parking lot they sent us to as backup was full. I finally parked in a restricted area and used GPS to find the hotel, once there I asked that a bellman come with me to the car and help me park it…which turned out to be a great idea...he was able to navigate for me.
After we checked in and got situated it was a 5 minute walk to the Mesquita, a huge mosque that had a church built in the middle of it hundreds of years ago. We spent about 3 or 4 hours in the Mesquita.
We enjoyed the Mesquita and used the Rick Steves self guided tour in our book instead of renting and carrying around an audio device and it worked out fine plus we remember everything more vividly.
Then walked around for a couple hours checking out shops and stores, went to dinner at bodega mesquita – good dinner of tapas with , bread, tomato puree with onions and egg, hot spicy potatoes, fried calamari, stewed beef and a few other things plus drinks and desert.
Day 5 (Sun) Cordoba, Ronda, Granada
Slept pretty good, the room was really comfortable and upscale, with a huge bathroom, hotel was the NH Amistad reminded me of the 4 seasons a bit.
This room was a good deal because it included breakfast buffet which was pretty good. After breakfast we walked around a bit more in the old city and shopped a bit then checked out and got the car and headed to Ronda before going to Granada.
Took about 2 hours plus to get to Ronda and fairly easy to find using my iPhone GPS programs, we parked and went walking where we saw a bunch of people.
Ronda is right next to or built on top of a huge gorge which is a great photo opp. Then we walked up to the middle of town and had some lunch.
Hoped back in the car and headed toward Granada, which was another 2 ½ hours (we added and extra 90 minutes travel time by going to Ronda)
Getting to Granada was pretty easy however once there inside the old city area was a bit challenging.
Luckily we switched to google maps on the iphone and that program was able to find the Gavinet public parking area (actually in the modern section of the city). Once parked (which again was a tight underground lot) we took a 5 minute taxi ride into the old city and our hotel – El Ladron de Aqua
Hotel was right next to the small Darro river and was a boutique hotel with everything restored and nicely equipped.
We were a bit fried from all the driving plus all the searching for hotel and parking so we checked in and then tried to walk around a bit to get oriented to Granada.
Have to remember this was our 4th city in 5 days and so was our 4th city map to learn.
We didn’t have any luck getting our Alhambra tix printed so decided to go up the hill (20 minute steep climb) to get them the next morning.

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Day 6 (Mon) Granada
Woke up early and grabbed a coffee and pastry and headed up the hill to the Alhambra – it was a tough steep climb and it may have been better to just take a cab to the ticket office since we ended up taking a cab to the ticket office anyway.
Lots of walking and had to push ourselves and get all the stuff done…..we walked up the hill, then back and forth trying to find out where to go, then took a cab to the ticket office, then waited in line 2x – 1 for ticket admission and 1 for the audio devices –
Then walked 15 minutes slightly downhill towards the Nasaries Palace which is the main portion of the Alhambra…walking thru General life section and lined up again for our 9:30 timeslot into the Nasaries.
Got into the Nasaries after another annoying wait governed by overly zealous workers and were able to see the rooms and intricate details. The Nasaries is worth seeing, I thought the Alcazar in Seville was better but could have been because this was our 5th historic Spanish town in 4 days. Pretty crowed with lots of groups. After spending about 90 minutes in the Nasaries we came out and grabbed a coffee and ham & cheese and went into old fort area. This was in pretty good shape and is always being restored to original specs using original materials. From the old fort area you have spectacular views....we could see our hotel down at the bottom of the hill.
We worked our way back to the ticket office (because you have to leave a debit card as a deposit on the antiquated audio guide) slightly uphill and went to Charles V palace – a perfectly round building with open roof and columns that was never finished.
We got back our debit card (again waiting a few minutes for another unnecessarily tedious process) and had to walk back toward the exit (another 15 minutes) but found on the way we had missed a large part of the General Life sections, lots of terraces, gardens, fountains.
By now we were really feeling exhausted but still had a 20 minute walk down the hill to the hotel.
We needed a quick bite and then a brief siesta to recharge...(remember we are over 55 and you feel it on these historic walking vacations). Afterwards we purchased tix to the on/off mini bus. turned out to be a great way to see everything.
We took the complete loop and then went back to the room to change and decided to go to San Nicholas Square in the Albazin district – since we could take the on-off bus there again. This square is a well known viewing area opposite the Alhambra and it is a cool place to see the to go via the bus and stay with a group due to warnings of pickpockets and crime in this old 'gypsy' section of the city.
Went up and had a drink or 2 and watched the sunset and then followed a group down to the main area thru a crisscross of steep narrow streets with lots of hidden steps that can easily cause you to stumble.
Once down at the bottom we used Rick Steves suggestion to eat at Bodegas Castenada which was a good tapas place very close to Plaza Nuevo – good food, pork with bacon, potato tortilla, free ham and cheese croquets, a big glass of gazpacho..definitely different – ...with a couple of beers the bill was around 22 euros....
Very tired by this time it was around 11:00pm so we headed back to the hotel.

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Day 7 (Tue) Granada, Barcelona
Got up around 9am with the plan to go get the car – another super clear day with zero clouds in the sky – we walked and found the parking lot very easily in 10 minutes – prepaid the parking ticket then go the car out of the garage (not easy and $40 euros for 2 days) and then we had to find the Hertz rental place in Granada – not going to be easy because its not in the train station or airport but in the Center hotel.
So based on asking the hotel staff plus using Google maps we had an idea of how to get there – in order to drive there you have to go all the way around the city and then once you get there its almost impossible to see…we called Hertz asking about it and all the Spanish guy would say is that is right in the hotel and you can see it from the street…however he did not say which street and because there are all one-ways and confusing loops we could not see it until we tracked back and forth 3 times – After going into the office and returning the car (the whole deal since leaving the hotel had taken 2 hours) we grabbed a quick coffee and tostada and walked back to the hotel to finish packing and made it in 20 minutes due to GPS. Finished packing and checked out..we had a flight to Barcelona scheduled for 7pm.
Spent some time in the Alhambra bookstore and strolling around – had drinks and Tirimisu (very good) at a nice outside café alongside the river.
Spent about an hour at the hotel library room – good wifi – nice and comfortable so we could relax and check our emails, etc.
Grabbed a taxi to Granada airport around 4:15 and go there around 4:45 – couldn’t check in for the flight till 5:30 and flight was full …but…bigger seats than first Vueling flight and no crying kids….awesome….got into Barcelona by 8:40pm and after getting our luggage grabbed a taxi to AC Hotel Gava Mar – a Marriott property we got for free as part of his Marriott card. Its right on the beach in Barcelona but you can’t see the waves you can hear them though.
The taxi driver needed our GPS to find the hotel and still charged us $20 euro minimum. We checked and went down the street to Torreodor to get dinner around 10pm
Nice restaurant but much more expensive than southern Spain..we got sautéed shrimp, tomatoe bread, eggs/potatoe/ham dish and finally got some paella. After dinner both our stomachs were feeling the effects of 7 days of local food so we didn't get much sleep and needless to say we never made it to the beach.
Day 8 (Wed)
Set our wake up calls for 7:15 and cab pickup for 8:15 and were out the door and in the airport by 8:45. Got our boarding passes..had to check one of our bags (full of purchases) but were able to get into the business lounge which is always nice.
On the plane – again seems to be a roomier plane than the way over – we able to spilt up since there was nobody sitting in multiple bulkhead seats in economy so we both had lots of room.
Already planning our next trip...

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Hi John, thanks for posting your trip review, it is very interesting to me as I am looking at planning a trip for myself and husband for fall of October 2015, similar but longer time-frame than yours. Sounds like you had a good time! If we go, it will be a first time trip for both of us to Spain. I am curious -- how easy was it to catch the Vueling flights? Did you much prefer that to using trains for the long stretch from Barcelona to southern Spain? I looked at prices and they seemed very reasonable. My only frame of reference for that kind of flight is my Ryanair flights back in college about 10 years ago. Thanks!

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hi just saw your question, yes Vueling was very easy to deal with, I prefer air travel to train travel now...I have done both but Vueling is actually cheaper than the train and less confusing to fly than trying to find someone that speaks English at Spanish train stations....I have taken trains in Germany and the Netherlands with no issues but they all speak English there...not so in Spain.....