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Forums » Spain & Andorra » Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

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tdenten

Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by tdenten »

Hello fellow travelers,

Planning our first trip to Spain in September! We have three weeks, but realizing what an enormous country it is has been overwhelming. I know we can’t see it all, and trying my best to narrow down our itinerary (we have cut the North out entirely, to save for another trip). Below is an early draft – we do not yet have our flights or hotels booked, so this is 100% flexible.

Some background on us... early 30s, avid travelers. Like a good mix of culture, food, activity. Prefer to minimize 1 and 2 night stays where possible, but can keep a quick pace when worth it. Like a good mix of big destinations and off-the-beaten-trail. Comfortable with train and car travel. Our budget is moderate – not staying in hostels, or 5-stay hotels.

 

Rough Itinerary:

Depart Chicago Friday, Sept 1 – arrive Barcelona Saturday, Sept 2

Barcelona – 3 nights

Valencia – 2 nights

Madrid – 4 nights (with day trip to Sergovia)

Toledo-- 2 nights

Seville – 3 nights

Costa del Sol – 7 nights (can’t miss: day trip to Tangier, Cordoba (La Mezquita), Granada (Alhambra), some beach time)

Looking to fly home out of Malaga or Granada (Malaga flights are looking a bit cheaper...)

 

Would love some honest, constructive feedback on this itinerary and where to adjust for maximum impact. Thank you in advance!

 

Tera

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mushroom

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by mushroom »

I haven't been everywhere on your wish list, but I've been to the majority and will say that the Alhambra is one of the most extraordinary sights in all of Europe that I have seen.  If possible, look to at least overnight there -- and I would suggest 2 nights there  -- so that you can visit the Alhambra at night as well as during the day.  If you are going in September, the midday is likely to still be quite hot, plus you are still in peak tourist/cruise ship season, so giving yourselves a chance to appreciate the Alhambra at moments without the heat and crowds would be my sugggestion.

Since it is likely to be hot during the midday, and you can't check into hotels until after noon in most places, something you might consider, although it sounds counter-intuitive, is to take the train from Valencia to Toledo, and see Madrid after you see Toledo.  I realize you'd need to pass through Madrid to do this, and then "back track", but it might make for a smoother trip.

Bear in mind that once you are out of Barcelona, the dinner hour in Spain is VERY late, and so are the useful hours of daylight.  If you arrived in Toledo around the lunch hour, dropped your bags at the hotel, had lunch -- you would still have time that day to see a great deal of tiny Toledo before the late dinner hour arrives.  The next day, if you stayed in Toledo until 5pm, you would still have time to get to Madrid well before dark or the dinner hour.  I know you said you don't like 1 night hotel stays, but pointing out this as an option. Toledo is an extremely quiet place at nights since so few people actually live there any more.

I'm a bit of shoulder shurgger about both Sevilla & Barcelona -- huge favorites with other people   Were it me, I would stay in Cordoba and visit Sevilla as a day trip. But others would be horrified at that plan. If you stick with the idea of spending multiple days in Sevilla, consider seeing Cordoba on your way down (I believe you can stow your luggage in the train station. while you sightsee)

I'm not much of a Gaudi or Picasso fan, so Barcelona is skippable to me but if you have things you want to see and do there, my opinion is just my opinion, like preferring orange marmelade to raspberry jam. 

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tdenten

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by tdenten »

Thank you mushroom! I will take this into consideration as I revise my itinerary. Thank you for taking the time to respond! 

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billiv

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by billiv »

More or less agree about Barcelona, not our favorite stop on our last trip to Spain.  Though we did find the Gaudi sights interesting. Other than that, we didn't enjoy Barcelona as a city much.

We were in Seville, but that was during Semana Santa on our first trip to Spain.  We were focusing more on the Semana Santa activities more than on the city itself.  However, we did enjoy exploring the Alcazar.

We had a good time in Madrid, and we did a bus tour day trip (this was at the end of our trip and we were tired and quite happy to be guided around by then) to Toledo--we enjoyed it very much.  We didn't join the majority of the bus group who went to the bus company selected restaurant for a pre-fab late lunch/early dinner at some big restaurant.   Instead we had a nice hour in a tapas bar that we found below the old city, and stumbled upon the excavation site of some old Roman ruins that were interesting. Three other couples also went out on their own, though we all went in different directions and ate in different places.

It was nice of the bus company to give you the choice--they gave us a place and time to rejoin the bus for the return to Madrid.

The Alhambra in Granda is amazing--we spent pretty much an entire day there.

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tdenten

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by tdenten »

Hi everyone!

 

Thank you for the wonderful feedback. I think I am on the right track now... below is a second attempt at the itinerary. The biggest changes are that we cut out Valencia (another time) to give more time to Barcelona and Madrid, cut Tangiers (will include in a separate Morocco trip vs day trip...definitely don’t want to get caught up in a tourist trap), and will focus the end of the trip on Costa del Luz for our beach time (Cadiz / La Caleta beach), white hill towns, and Granada instead of the Costa del Sol. This revision would also mean that we fly out of Granada instead of Malaga. A little more expensive, but then we can spend more time in Granada... and since the Alhambra is a key reason for the trip, it seemed like a good decision. We also added a day to the trip on either side... leaving Chicago on Friday instead of Saturday and returning Sunday instead of Saturday.

 

Sept 1 – Travel from Chicago to Spain (arriving Saturday)

Sept 2 – Barcelona for 4 nights

(train to Madrid)

Sept 6 – Madrid for 5 nights (includes side trip to Segovia)

(train to Toledo)

Sept 11 – Toledo for 1 night

(train to Seville)

September 12 – Seville for 4 nights (includes side trip to Cordoba)

(pick up rental car... explore Arcos de la Frontera and/or Jerez on way to Cadiz)

Sept 16 – Cadiz for 3 nights (would stay in an AirBnB with parking, preferably near the beach)

Sept 19 – Ronda for 2 nights (explore some additional white hill towns on way... perhaps Grazalema? Or Zahara? Both?)

(drive to Granada and return rental car)

Sept 21 – Granada for 3 nights

Sept 24 – Travel from Granada to Chicago

 

Please let me know your thoughts!

 

 

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mushroom

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by mushroom »

Although I can see spending a night in Toledo if you go there ahead of Madrid, it might make more sense to visit Toledo as a day trip from Madrid if you are going to Madrid first (extending your stay in Madrid by a night).  That might also make it easy to see Cordoba en route to Sevilla.  That in turn might open up the possibility of spending 3 nights in Sevilla and applying the leftover night to touring the Ronda/white towns area (where I've never been, so can't offer suggestions).

But that's just off the top of my head without looking at actual train schedules, and of course pacing the trip your own way is really very important.

Nice you will be enjoying extra time in Granada. It is an extraordinary place.  I enjoyed visiting the gardens in the morning, when it was cool and relatively uncrowded (most everyone heads to the main buildings first) and visiting the building interiors at night, when so few people go. 

Spain is a remarkably varied place and your itinerary will show you different angles of it.  Since you will have extended time in Madrid, even with a side trip or two, you might find it rewarding to dig around on the internet to see what "off-the-beaten track" parts of Madrid might interest you.  The metro system in Madrid is top-notch so it is easy to get beyond the museum-tourist core (which is quite compact) and see the gracious residential parts of Madrid which has a variety of fascinating attractions tucked within them -- an Egyptian temple, Goya frescoes, lovely gardens, libraries, cafes... 

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billiv

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by billiv »

It's been a few years since we were in Madrid, but when we were there, the pickpocketing activity was rampant around the more popular tourist areas.  We spoke to some local people who said the pickpockets were even getting bolder with them!  We did have a pick pocket team (3 young women) target us when we left the subway to walk to the Prado and  Reina Sofia museums.  Fortunately, we were able to catch onto their nefarious scheme before we lost anything of value. Hopefully, the authorities have cracked down on it.

So far, in almost 50 years of travel, Madrid and Amsterdam are the only 2 cities where we have encountered pickpockets.  I think the one in Amsterdam was trainee--he was laughably incompetent.

By the way, Chicago is a great city to visit (if it isn't winter). I angle for as many business trips to the Windy City as possible.

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mushroom

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by mushroom »

I also was targeted by a duo of scamsters near the Prado. The scam there was for a young man to approach us with an open tourist map, lookng lost, and asking us for help with directions, speaking some language unnown to us.  Naturally we tried to help him using his map, when we accosted by an intimidating middle-aged man, who flashed a badge at us, claiming he was a policeman and demanding to see our IDs.  The  young man immediately complied, but the "badge" I'd seen flashed at me was so much like a kid's toy (probably was), that I realized it was a scam, even as my husband began trying to explain to the "officer" that we keep at our passports at our hotel. I grabbed my husband by the arm and told him to run with me.  I spotted a crew of street-repairmen nearby -- burly guys with heavy tools -- and I thought that would be a good place to pause and catch our breath. 

It is my understanding that in Spain, during the long years of Franco's dictatorship, it was common practice for vicious neighbors, business rivals, jealous lovers, etc, to submit anonymous accusations to the police, calling someone they didn't like a "thief" or a "traitor", and that person was often arrested, put on trial, imprisoned, never able to confront his accusers, who remained anonymous.   When democracy finally was restored to Spain, one of the first "reforms" was abolishing "secret" and "anoymous" denunciations.  People making accusations of a crime must make it in open court, in person. 

The unintended side-effect of this law has to get pickpockets to focus on robbing foreign tourists since most tourists -- even if they bother to go to the police to report a theft, and even if the thief is then arrested -- most tourists will not go to the expense of returing to Spain to appear in court in person to make the charge.  

 

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billiv

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by billiv »

Our picketpockets in Madrid had some skills.  We were walking from the Banco de Espana subway stop to the Prado along Paseo del Prado when my wife looked down and saw that her purse was unzipped (note--she keeps nothing of value in there; money, passports; credit cards; keys and such are in secure pockets).  Didn't think much of it and she zipped it up.  Walked a little bit more and she whispered "those girls are walking very close behind us."  A bit odd as there were not many pedestrians.  She looks down and her purse is again unzipped. Well, we both turned around and the girls were so close to us they almost bumped into us.

I said something to the effect "What are you doing?"  Immediately they both turned around and started heading back towards the subway station. They didn't get anything, but whichever one was doing the unzipping certainly had a very deft touch.  She would have been disappointed with her haul if she'd been successful--kleenex; a handkerchief; an eyeglass repair kit; a couple of maps and some brochures. But, still, it did make us more alert the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, it did not protect us from the greedy, crooked cab driver who took us to the airport when we left the country.

The one in Amsterdam was so incompetent that I felt sorry for him. It was on a tram that was standing room ony. Wife and I are close together, and there's this very sweaty, nervous guy facing us. He has a newspaper wrapped around his right hand and forearm--don't we all?  Hah, Hah. Wife and I look at each other and both realize that we are suspicious. Sure enough, his hand snakes out from the newspaper "tube" and heads for my jacket pocket side pocket  (he would have scored some lint). Just as his hand gets close, I reach out and push his hand away. He got off at the next stop. I imagine he starved to death.

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mushroom

RE: Spain in the Fall - Itinerary Help Needed!

by mushroom »

I was set upon by an actual bag snatcher in Barcelona. I was carrying in one hand a cheap purse that I had bought at one of those "everything under $10" shops in NYC, when suddenly it felt to me like the purse had gotten caught on something.  I looked down to see a young man practically squatiing underneath me with both hands on my purse, trying to tug it away, like a basketball.  I was so startled, I screamed like Fay Wray in King Kong -- I had no idea I could scream like that -- and the frightened guy let go and beat a retreat.  I can still hear the sound of his sneakers pounding down the alleyway.  I was in a narrow side street, and ran the other way, and when I emerged into the main street, a couple of dozen people were frozen in their tracks staring at me.  

I tried to enjoy the rest of my stay in Barcelona (I had just gotten off the plane a few hours before) but I wasn't able to enjoy it. I later went back to Barcelona just to give it a "fair chance", and while I wasn't nervous about thieves (I went empty-handed!), I concluded I didn't care much for the city anyway.

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