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Advice on family trip to Spain

Advice on family trip to Spain

Old Aug 26, 08, 3:16 pm
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Advice on family trip to Spain

I'm planning a FF award trip to Germany for summer 2009 and am planning on taking advantage of a free stopover in Spain. We'll be flying in and out of MAD and will have about a week (dates not firm yet) in Spain. There's a tiny chance I'll be able to make BCN the stopover city, but award availability does not look good.

I've never been to Spain and I'm looking for advice on which areas to research for our trip. I'm travelling with my wife and 2 kids (ages 6 and 8). Ideally we'd spend most of our overnights in one or maybe two places so we're not always moving around. I can speak English and German, but no Spanish.

Interests (not in any particular order):

- walking/hiking
- biking (easy)
- beaches/swimming (not overly touristy)
- natural scenery
- some museums (history, natural history)
- historical sites (Roman ruins?)
- hotels at < $200 night

Not interested in:

- art museums
- beaches (ala Waikiki)
- theme parks
- rainy weather

If anyone can suggest cities/towns/regions to research I'd appreciate it. I have Rick Steve's 2007 Spain Guide and am thinking of also getting the Moon Travel Guide on Spain. Thanks!

Last edited by mangoMan; Aug 28, 08 at 3:38 pm Reason: added rainy weather to non-interests
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Old Aug 27, 08, 5:40 am
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I'd suggest you visit the North - Asturias/Cantabria, La Coruña...

Here's a webpage for the Paradores with a map.
http://www.parador.es/en/cargarAplic...orParadores.do

A tour of the area basing youselves at one or two Paradors sounds ideal for you.

I'm particularly fond of Ordesa National Park - http://www.ordesa.net/mapa/index.php
Which is more to the East in another stunning area - Huesca, Aragón. (Nearest Parador is the one in Bielsa)

I'd also recommend the monasterio de piedra http://www.monasteriopiedra.com/defa...px?info=0000D2 in Zaragoza, which is also in Aragón.

But the North coast in the areas I initially mentioned is beautiful.

Focusing on Asturias, there is the National Park of Muniellos. Also of note is the Natural Park of Somiedo.

In Villayon there's the Oneta waterfall route
http://www.occidente.com/villayon/rutas.htm.

For beaches I'd suggest Navia, Castropol, Llanes and Caravia.

There's this museum in Grandas de Salime: http://www.museodegrandas.com/ which may interest you.
And the Celtic ruins at Coaña, next to Navia, http://www.asturiassalada.com/14ocio...uladcoania.htm (Aula Didáctica del Castro de Coaña).
Asturias Jurassic Museum in Colunga http://www.museojurasico.com/
and, a museum for Asturias' celebrated speciality, cider http://www.museodelasidra.com/index2.htm (also in Nava)

Or just travel along the North of the Cantabrian coast (specifically this area: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...7,0.42469&z=12 ) the route between Bustio and Pendules involves travelling on the Camino Real - here's a glimpse of the scenery involved: http://www.fortunecity.com/greenfiel...4/1cbustio.htm

The thing is, I've hardly done this region justice. And I have no doubt I could come up with similar activities and attractions for the other regions I mentioned. The North of Spain really is a treasure house.

Last edited by LapLap; Aug 27, 08 at 1:34 pm
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Old Aug 27, 08, 3:37 pm
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Thanks LapLap - I'll look into all the north coast stuff you mentioned.

I realized that with a slight adjustment, I can arrange my FF award ticket to get me to any destination Iberia flies. So for the north coast, maybe Santander would be a good place?

But also, since I can go anywhere IB flies, I can also consider the Canary Islands. Any suggestions which island might be worth considering? Or is the whole place a tourist trap?
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Old Aug 27, 08, 4:40 pm
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Originally Posted by mangoMan View Post
But also, since I can go anywhere IB flies, I can also consider the Canary Islands. Any suggestions which island might be worth considering? Or is the whole place a tourist trap?
I've not been (never felt the draw - too much on the mainland I haven't seen yet). My husband lived there for a few years when he was a child, but he was pretty young, and this was quite a while ago.

The train journey from Madrid to Oviedo takes about 4.5 hours, so a flight to Santander (or Bilbao or Asturias) would probably save time. La Coruña also has a few airports - La Coruña, Santiago de Compostela and Vigo. If you're hiring a car you may want to start at one airport and return via a different one along the coast.
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Old Aug 28, 08, 3:43 pm
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Rainy weather

Well, I took a look at some of the descriptions in the Moon travel guide for Spain for the north coast areas and saw that they tend to have a rainy climate. This is something I'm probably not going to want after spending 3 weeks in Germany, where it tends to rain a lot.
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Old Aug 28, 08, 5:16 pm
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His site's splattered with advertising but there are good nuggets of info on http://www.madridman.com/. He's an American that moved to Spain.

It might be a bit too budget for the OP but maybe check out http://www.eurocheapo.com/ as a starting point for inexpensive accommodations.
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Old Aug 28, 08, 7:00 pm
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Just got back from first time in MAD. It is a really remarkable city. While OP mentions not interested in art museums, suggest making an exception for the Prado. I was awed by the El Grecos. And, it is not too big. Free after 5pm (to 8pm), closed Mondays.

We stayed at the Westin Palace which is very central. Used cash and starwood points deal for $90/night. A good deal.

Also visited the Sheraton Santa María de El Paular which is in the mountains about an hour North of Madrid. Really out in the country with lots of hiking trails around. And, it is in half of a 15th century historic monument/palace the other half of which is occupied by real live monks. A nature preserve is right over the road. The building is amazing. Nice pool, too, but kept too cold for real lap swimming. I'd go back in a second. About an hour drive from historic Segovia which is well worth a visit. A day going up and down the hills there will be an excellent hike. Also visit the Spanish Summer Palace gardens which are also a great place for walking--it is on the road to Segovia. This hotel is also on the cash and Starpoints program for $45/night which is quite a deal, if you have 2800 Starpoints.
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Old Aug 29, 08, 2:24 am
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Originally Posted by mangoMan View Post
Well, I took a look at some of the descriptions in the Moon travel guide for Spain for the north coast areas and saw that they tend to have a rainy climate. This is something I'm probably not going to want after spending 3 weeks in Germany, where it tends to rain a lot.
Those areas aren't particularly wet in the summer, only in comparison to the rest of Spain. When I walked along the Camino de Santiago (took a few weeks) I hardly encountered any rain.

Nevertheless, if this is a problem for you, just explore the North towards the East. The province of Aragón (which features Ordesa and the monasterio de piedra) is not known as a rainy part of Spain (in fact it's considered a very dry part of the country). My concern is that you have two very young children, are planning a very active holiday, yet want to go to particularly warm parts of Spain in the height of the summer. And you want to avoid the bulk of the tourists.

I suggest you take the trouble to research the climate more thoroughly for all the Northern regions, and think hard before committing yourselves to sunnier provinces such as Almeria or Andalucia. The only areas I can think of in Andalucia that are cool enough for (easy) cycling at this time of the year are also too mountainous for this endeavour. If you decide to go for Valencia, I'll be happy to provide more throrough advice as this is 'my' region of Spain. I haven't mentioned it so far as it doesn't really seem to fulfill your remit.
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Old Aug 30, 08, 1:44 pm
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Originally Posted by LapLap View Post
If you decide to go for Valencia, I'll be happy to provide more throrough advice as this is 'my' region of Spain. I haven't mentioned it so far as it doesn't really seem to fulfill your remit.
Thanks LapLap. After reading up a bit more and discussing with my wife I think we'd definitely like to include a stay at a Mediterranean beach, something neither of us have done. And the kids certainly won't complain about spending time at a beach

With that in mind I checked my guide book on the Valencia region, and it seems to offer quite a bit of interesting things:

beaches: Valencia or near Murcia (skip Costa Blanca); also Isla De Tabarca is recommended. Others?

biking: my book mentions Valencia offers paths along the beach and through Turia park

Roman ruins: Cartagena

I haven't researched the area thoroughly by any means, but it's looking pretty good. There may not be too many hiking opportunities, but that's maybe something we can give up as we figure out our priorities. And I figure we can deal with the heat by staying at places near the beach and/or with swimming pools.

Unfortunately I have to make up my mind in the next few days as I need to get my award flights ticketed. Maybe flying into Valencia and returning from Alicante (or the other way round) is the way to go.
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Old Aug 30, 08, 8:42 pm
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Originally Posted by mangoMan View Post
Thanks LapLap. After reading up a bit more and discussing with my wife I think we'd definitely like to include a stay at a Mediterranean beach, something neither of us have done. And the kids certainly won't complain about spending time at a beach

With that in mind I checked my guide book on the Valencia region, and it seems to offer quite a bit of interesting things:

beaches: Valencia or near Murcia (skip Costa Blanca); also Isla De Tabarca is recommended. Others?

biking: my book mentions Valencia offers paths along the beach and through Turia park

Roman ruins: Cartagena

I haven't researched the area thoroughly by any means, but it's looking pretty good. There may not be too many hiking opportunities, but that's maybe something we can give up as we figure out our priorities. And I figure we can deal with the heat by staying at places near the beach and/or with swimming pools.

Unfortunately I have to make up my mind in the next few days as I need to get my award flights ticketed. Maybe flying into Valencia and returning from Alicante (or the other way round) is the way to go.
There are actually some nice beaches on the Costa Blanca, but you need to get to them by car. One of the best Spanish beaches I've been to, admittedly some time ago, was near Aguilas on the Casta Calida in the Murcian region. (It's still looking good, here's a slide show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjHUm-pWyVo)

I can't really recommend Tabarca, not unless you like the boat ride (an ugly modern ship - probably KonTiki 3, KonTiki 4 or whatever KonTiki they're using nowadays from Alicante port) and particularly like sardines. The sorkelling/scuba diving isn't bad. You can zoom in using google maps and look at arial photos of the island for yourself - there really isn't all that much to do there. I've preferred outings to Perdiguera Island in the middle of Murcia's Mar Menor instead - you can get there by sailing boat, speed boat even kayak and the BBQd sardines are just as good. Here's a glimpse of the island on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w8WlkH-qqs (turn the volume down!)
Tabarca is pretty much summed up in this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRsEDxjyGl8
How about a day exploring Altea instead? (Sooner the better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmLtpjXsp5g)

The casco antiguo in Alicante itself has been given a remarkable face lift in the past few years. This area was in danger of rotting away completely but has clawed its way back from the brink... just. White washed houses, narrow alleys and winding streets with occasional breathtaking views over the city below and the port and sea beyond. And the castle of Santa Barbara (with Moorish and Roman history) is also well worth a visit. In the evenings, the area becomes a vibrant nightlife scene thronged with bars with new restaurants opening all the time.

Valencia itself is gorgeous and much better preserved than Alicante. I'd certainly recommend cycling along Turia Park, which is a dry river bed that snakes around the city, there are wonderful things to see along the entire route (the Calatrava CAC buildings are stuning).

The restoration work on the Roman Theatre in Cartagena has only just been completed so I can't comment. I'm sure it will make a fascinating visit.

Without knowing the dates of your visit I can't suggest any in particular, but I would urge you to work a local fiesta into your itinerary. It could very well become the highlight of your trip.

Last edited by LapLap; Aug 31, 08 at 6:33 am
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Old Aug 30, 08, 10:16 pm
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Talking

sorry for going off topic... but the title of this thread totally reminds me of the AT&T wireless commercial...


some Spanish beaches are more nacked than others, lol

--Russ


PS. I couldn't find it on YouTube, but this one is hilarious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loB-3Tzll14
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Old Aug 31, 08, 4:14 am
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But you brought up a valid point.

One of the loveliest beaches within easy reach of Alicante (city) is Cabo de las Huertas. Which just happens to be a nudist beach. Or I should say,
One of the loveliest beaches within easy reach of Alicante was Cabo de las Huertas.

It's being systematically destroyed by the local Authorities, in the interest of attracting more affluent residents, who are 'beautifying' this delightful natural beach with the help of construction work to their own sordid vision.
With the coast in this province having already been decimated by decades of short sighted development, wrecking one of the city's few surviving easily accessible havens is just pure vandalism
Here's a montage showing what's going on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNvknKbLNY4

Even though it's a nudist beach, I've been a visitor throughout my life. It was a favourite haunt of a beloved aunt who regularly took me there since I was a child. Nudism wasn't compulsory BTW

EDIT TO ADD: Just realised this excellent mini documentary on the fate of the Cabo was written and directed by the cousin of one of my best friends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyTX9ffSOkE&NR=1

----
And do please look at this thread on paellas, a speciality of the Valencia/Alicante, and even Murcian region
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=840353
You will see paella offered everywhere - please note that, despite your being in Spain and, possibly, Valencia, most of them will be sub-standard.

Last edited by LapLap; Aug 31, 08 at 6:37 am
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Old Sep 7, 08, 7:46 pm
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Too aggresssive?

Well, I'm now thinking of extending our stay in Spain to 9 nights in order to give us more time. I'm thinking of the following general itinerary:

1) Arrive by air in Granada. Stay 2 nights. Visit the Alhambra; we've been told by friends that this is not to be missed.

2) Rent a car and drive to Alicante region and/or further up the coast to Denia and spend 4 nights. Details of exactly where we stay and what we see during this phase are to be figured out later. According to Google, driving time from Granada to Alicante is a little over 3 hours.

3) Continue on to Valencia and return car; Google driving time is around 2 hours from Alicante region to Valencia. Stay 3 nights and use mass transit to get around. Fly out of Valencia.

This seems reasonable to me, but I'm trusting in the Google driving time estimates. If they are off by, say a factor of 2, due to summertime traffic (we'll be there the last 10 days in July), then I may need to rethink this. Any feedback is appreciated.
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Old Sep 8, 08, 2:41 am
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Originally Posted by mangoMan View Post
2) Rent a car and drive to Alicante region and/or further up the coast to Denia and spend 4 nights. Details of exactly where we stay and what we see during this phase are to be figured out later. According to Google, driving time from Granada to Alicante is a little over 3 hours.
(Splurts!) And the rest!!!!

It's 353kms (about 217miles) between the two cities and Denia is a further 80kms from Alicante. It's impossible (and inadvisable) to drive at 70mph for the whole route. I can't see how, in the summer, you would be able to drive between Granada and Alicante in less than four hours, perhaps even 5 hours from Granada to Denia.

Denia is pretty much the sort of resort location you initially mentioned that you wanted to avoid. I personally don't see that much difference in this town and Benidorm - it's certainly seems intent on following its neighbour in overdevelopment.

Most of the photos you'll see of it are very selective in what they show - how I remember it is summed up in this photo: http://www.goldensunproperties.com/D...denia2.jpg.jpg
The old part of town is very small (you can see much of it in the photo)

And many of the born and bred locals in, let's say, 'elite positions' have taken to reverting to the local language as a way of segregating themselves from the influx of immigrants. Their tactic is to create a kind of language based 'apartheid' in the children's schools. The ghettos will just get worse here.

(As you can tell, I'm not at all enamoured of this place - Denia has found a way to legally institutionalise racism and by expoliting the system are even getting 'minority subsidies' for the richest and most privileged children. Some local towns and villages in the area legitimately speak Valencian, Denia isn't one of them, their motives for reverting to the language are deplorable.)

Google is right about the drive to Valencia. It's a journey I've undertaken many times.

There are plenty of things to see and do between Alicante and Valencia, so I don't want to put you off the idea. My only tip would be to stay an extra day in Granada, the Alhambra and Generalife will easily take up an entire day, but the town itself is well worth exploring and giving a couple of days to.

Last edited by LapLap; Sep 8, 08 at 7:30 am
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Old Sep 15, 08, 8:39 am
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Listen to LapLap

LapLap knows a lot more about Spain than I do and you would be well served to listen to his (her?) advice.

Originally Posted by mangoMan View Post
I'm thinking of the following general itinerary:
1) Arrive by air in Granada. Stay 2 nights. Visit the Alhambra; we've been told by friends that this is not to be missed. .
The Alhambra and Generalife are the ONE destination not-to-be-missed in a country full of not-to-be-missed attractions. If you possibly can, stay in the Parador de San Francisco, in the Alhambra itself. Not within your 200 USD / night budget, but very much worth it. For something cheaper and also within the Alhambra, the Hostal America. But book now for summer 2009. If you can't get into these, try the Alhambra Palace (also probably over 200 USD) or the Washington Irving. Ask for rooms facing the valley.

Originally Posted by mangoMan View Post
2) Rent a car and drive to Alicante region and/or further up the coast to Denia and spend 4 nights. Details of exactly where we stay and what we see during this phase are to be figured out later. According to Google, driving time from Granada to Alicante is a little over 3 hours.
As LapLap says, Alicante is ok. A major city and port. Accommodation in all price ranges. You might try for the Melia at the port. You can walk to the city's swimming beach. Also, you are right on the road to take the bus to Playa de San Juan, just up the coast and a less congested.

Originally Posted by mangoMan View Post
3) Continue on to Valencia and return car; Google driving time is around 2 hours from Alicante region to Valencia. Stay 3 nights and use mass transit to get around. Fly out of Valencia..
Between Alicante and Valencia I would follow LapLap's advice and skip Denia. It has a castle above the town, but no really good swimming beaches in the town, and you will be far from any hiking.

If you want quiet and a beach your children will enjoy, I would suggest the town of Oliva, halfway between Alicante and Valencia. The port area (Platja de Oliva) is nice and not too touristy with decent restaurants (PM me for recommendations), and there is a new development just to the south called Oliva Nova, with really good, uncrowded swimming beaches. You can rent bikes there. There is one large hotel, but you can rent an apartment by the week or possibly by the night. www.olivanova.com

You can drive to Valencia in just over an hour, and stop at the Ciutat de las Artes y las Ciencias (www.cac.es) on the way. Well worth the visit with children.

Last edited by spainflyer; Sep 15, 08 at 8:45 am
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