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Old 18th February 2010, 07:01 AM   #1
csoowon
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Talking 1st time traveller - Spain Must-Dos and Tips?

Hi there!

First of all let me say that stumbling upon this blog and forum has already been more helpful than all of the other web sites and books I've looked at (which can just leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed!).

I'm going to Spain with a friend for the first time in April. We are flying into Barcelona and out of Madrid. As we are making plans, are there any other places we should make sure to hit? We will be in the country for about 9 days. I've heard Segovia is quite nice, so we plan on hitting that in our Madrid leg. But is there another area we should consider? And/or things we should do while in the Bcn and Mdr areas?

I totally appreciate the help! Any advice on affordable places to stay are also welcome.

THANK YOU!!
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Old 18th February 2010, 09:00 AM   #2
csoowon
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Default ps - car rental advice

also...my friend and i are considering renting a car one-way if we decide to hit san sebastian in the middle. is there anything i should be aware of if we go this route? or are there other recommended ways to get from barcelona to san sebastian?

thanks!!
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Old 18th February 2010, 11:02 AM   #3
annabwashere
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In Segovia you must try cochinillo of course. It's just a day trip and only about an 1.5 hours from Madrid.

I haven't been to SS, but 9 days is quite short to squeeze in San Sebastian. I believe that place deserves at least 2-3 days.

Another city that's about 1.5-2 hours away is Salamanca. It's doable in a day or day and a half. I recommend starting your tapas in Teveré on Van Dyck. Sophisticated and delicious tapas for about 2-3 euros. Order anything. They are all fantastic. Ask the waiter for a recommendation where to go next.
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Old 18th February 2010, 11:03 AM   #4
gary
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I have spent many weeks in Barcelona and somewhat fewer in Madrid over the last five years and still go back for more. My view is that, you would probably be best splitting your time between the two with a day to travel between - maybe forget the car and take the AVE?

Yup, you could do a great deal more of spain if you visit everywhere for 1/000th of a second at f8 but all youll finish up with is a load of snaps to show the folks back home. Maybe better to kick back, relax and get a real flavour of the best of spain - good food, good wine, good company... and download the pics from the web!!

Here are a few tips about BCN...

And Richard writes at length about MAD
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Old 18th February 2010, 07:25 PM   #5
annabwashere
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Originally Posted by gary View Post
Maybe better to kick back, relax and get a real flavour of the best of spain - good food, good wine, good company...
Agreed 100%.

But I can also see how many people (like Americans, Asians, etc) with significantly shorter vacation days than most Europeans tend to pack as many cities or activities into their itineraries as possible.

Other Europeans also enjoy the luxury of cheap, frequent and SHORT flights and can basically come to Spain on a whim.
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Old 18th February 2010, 08:55 PM   #6
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Even before the days of the AVE, people generally missed out Aragon when travelling from Barcelona to Madrid. Don't get me wrong, those are great cities, and there are historic places you can visit from both. But if you were to stay in somewhere like Teruel or Cuenca (ok not Aragon, it's Castilla-La Mancha) for a couple of nights you'd get a different angle on the country. It's going to be impossible to visit everywhere so my advice is to have two or three different bases at most, and then explore from there.
Personally I could spend 9 days just in the Madrid area, with trips out to places like segovia, Chincon, Avila, Toledo, El Escorial, but I can understand why you want to see as much as possible. Just don't miss out on some great night life - which unfortunately may impinge on your day-time energy.
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Old 18th February 2010, 10:28 PM   #7
csoowon
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Thanks so much for the advice so far...and please keep it coming!

If we do end up trying to fit in San Sebastian or Granada in between, we'll probably try and fly since it will save on time and I know there are some decent fares out there. But we may also just do as suggested: stick to the two areas and do them a bit more thoroughly. I'm a little torn, but I know it will be wonderful no matter what we decide.

And yes -- I sure wish I had a few weeks to spend instead of 9 days! That would be wonderful...
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Old 19th February 2010, 07:35 AM   #8
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Okay... So we decided to heed the advice and stick to Barcelona and Madrid areas. Now step 2: What to hit there??

Anyone have suggestions for near Barcelona? I've heard good things about Tarragona and Girona. Thoughts?
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Old 19th February 2010, 09:52 AM   #9
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I didn't think that much of Tarragona when I went there - it has decent roman ruins, but not much else. I expect Girona might have more to offer, but I've never been there. Barcelona also has Montserrat nearby. If you only have 4 or 5 days in Barcelona then I wouldn't do more than one day trip out of town, since you'll miss out on the city itself.

From Madrid the two most popular day trips are probably Toledo and Segovia (although there are many more options). If you have 4 days in Madrid then 2 days in Madrid and a day in each of those cities would probably suffice.
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Old 19th February 2010, 10:39 AM   #10
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I can't remember much about Girona, I went many years ago, but if you head north of Barcelona, there are villages like Pals and Peratallada that are worth visiting.
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Old 19th February 2010, 02:07 PM   #11
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The old quarter of Girona is great: historically and architecturally; and there are some nice restaurants as well: worth a visit for sure.
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Old 19th February 2010, 07:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legazpi View Post
I didn't think that much of Tarragona when I went there - it has decent roman ruins, but not much else. I expect Girona might have more to offer, but I've never been there. Barcelona also has Montserrat nearby. If you only have 4 or 5 days in Barcelona then I wouldn't do more than one day trip out of town, since you'll miss out on the city itself.

From Madrid the two most popular day trips are probably Toledo and Segovia (although there are many more options). If you have 4 days in Madrid then 2 days in Madrid and a day in each of those cities would probably suffice.
I think either Segovia or Toledo would be both worth their wild and as well accessable by the AVE from Madrid.

I did a day trip to Avila too.
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Old 21st February 2010, 07:42 AM   #13
csoowon
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Default Finalizing Madrid plans

Okay - I'm on the last leg of planning. Yay!! Many thanks to all of you for the advice. It has really been so helpful!

We will have 4 days in the Madrid area and for sure would like to hit Segovia. We were also intrigued by the strawberry train to Aranjuez, but wanted to run that by you all for thoughts on whether it's worth it to do that or to hit another nearby city instead?

Also, is it reasonable to do a day trip into Segovia, or worth a night's stay there?
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Old 21st February 2010, 10:55 AM   #14
Legazpi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csoowon View Post
Okay - I'm on the last leg of planning. Yay!! Many thanks to all of you for the advice. It has really been so helpful!

We will have 4 days in the Madrid area and for sure would like to hit Segovia. We were also intrigued by the strawberry train to Aranjuez, but wanted to run that by you all for thoughts on whether it's worth it to do that or to hit another nearby city instead?

Also, is it reasonable to do a day trip into Segovia, or worth a night's stay there?
I regularly see the strawberry train leave/return as it passes near my flat. It certainly looks popular but I've never got round to going on it myself. I can't imagine the route to be that interesting, however Aranjuez has a palace and gardens that are worth a visit. I think the train starts running in April so you'd have to check it's availability.
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Old 21st February 2010, 01:34 PM   #15
Juanjo
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Originally Posted by csoowon View Post
Also, is it reasonable to do a day trip into Segovia, or worth a night's stay there?
My preference would be a night's stay in Segovia (as long as you avoid the parador!). Not only is there a lot to see (including the famous poet's, Antonio Machado, house if you have a literary interest) but also you should take time to enjoy the local food- roast suckling pig so tender they cut it with the edge of a plate. The best (and most famous) place is Meson Cándido, right at the base of the Aqueduct, with its warren of small, intimate dining rooms, festooned with photos of famous people who have eaten there- including the Royal family, film stars, politicians etc.

The downside is that it is expensive. You can get equally good food at
Duque, c/Cervantes 12, better price, on the road up from the Aqueduct to the main square and centre of the city.

If you get a chance, take a look at Segovia at night from a couple of miles distance outside the city- it looks like a stately ship cruising across the plain. Magic!

Last edited by Juanjo; 21st February 2010 at 01:40 PM. Reason: More info
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