Hello friends! Many of you gave me advice prior to my trip and I thank you for it! We had a great time, despite some ups & downs, and overall it was life-changing. The weather was HOT - a solid 78-85 and sunny every day, for the most part.
- Flew into Madrid 4/3, arrived around noon. Went to hotel at Madrid City Rooms (great place, see my review in Spain hotel reviews area), had an hour or two to relax and get settled. Then we went out and wandered. Enjoyed Puerto del Sol and Plaza Mayor. Very touristy but enjoyed it.
- Day trip to Toledo - LOVED it. Short train ride, beautiful views. The city was super touristy, but we enjoyed the "magic" of the hilly streets, had a great meal at a RS recommended restaurant. Walked through a museum with some El Greco paintings. We took our time and enjoyed it.
- Sevilla - Stayed at an AirBnB located just outside the Alameda de Hercules, in an apartment which had a rooftop terrace. VERY nice, albeit there was some sewer gas issue with the street & apartment which kind of sucked. We had to keep the windows open at all times, which posed a problem for sleeping at night. These Sevilla people can PARTY literally until dawn. We stayed in Sevilla for 4 days, one of which was an extra/unplanned because we were initially supposed to go to Tarifa/Tangier but the port/ferry closed due to weather (wind). Thankfully our host had the extra night. We saw the Alcazar, which was absolutely MAGICAL, all the major churches, several of the floats for Semana Santa (SS), and had wonderful food.
- Ronda - we rented a car in Sevilla and I drove us to Ronda. About 2 hours. This was QUITE an adventure. We, of course, had a small, manual transmission car. I haven't driven stick in years, but did for several years way back when. However, the hills & mountains in Spain were an exercise in up & down-shifting to get the little car up the hills. The other drivers were actually pretty aggressive and I did my best to NOT get pulled over (and I didn't), and let them pass me when necessary. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. By the time we got to Ronda it was PACKED with people and it was in the middle of a procession. I managed to get us a parking spot and we walked to our AirBnB. The apartment was located in new town one street off the bridge to old town. We were so haggard from the drive and finding a parking spot, that we were almost burnt out. But the minute we walked to the bridge we were rejuvenated. The views are BREATHTAKING. As RS says, you see the backs of the birds. It's unreal. I had to pinch myself repeatedly to believe that we were actually there! We hiked through old town, over the new & old bridges alike, down through the mines to the bottom of the gorge. Ronda was a little one-note outside of the bridges and mines/hiking/scenery, but it's really worth a couple days.
- Granada - drove the rental car there and dropped it off. Again, another harrowing, mountain drive with spectacular views. We stayed at the Apartmentos la Lonja there and they were AMAZING. See my review in the Spain hotel reviews page. Granada was just so great - lots of people, tourists of all makes & models, a lot of excitement about SS. We saw the Alhambra, which was too cool. Our hotel/apartment was located RIGHT next to the cathedral, so we could see processions at any time from our windows! We had great food and not so great food. The city at night was jam packed with people and the best tapas places were totally locked-up with people. You really did have to be pretty aggressive to get in there to get food. The gypsies were kind of aggressive - one actually crammed a rosemary branch into my shirt pocket outside of the Alhambra, despite my repeated NO's, to which I took it out and forced it back on her. We stayed two nights/3 days and we could've stayed more.
SEE PART TWO IN SEPARATE POST!