andalusia - travel notes

    media/architecture.gif    food and wine    golf and tennis    history    sun and sea   
    This itinerary originates in Madrid. We recommend that you spend three nights there before beginning this itinerary. Those who can only stay for two weeks should fly from Granada back to Madrid for the return home. If you have more time, we recommend that you fly from Granada to Barcelona, spend several days, and then fly home from there. If you have less time, we recommend one less day on the Costa del Sol.

    Day 1
    The Spanish State Railroad, (RENFE), offers high-speed rail service between Madrid and Seville. The AVE trains ? the fastest and most luxurious ? leave approximately ever half hour during the early morning and hourly after 10:00AM. The two-and-one-half-hour trip costs between 61 EUR and 110 EUR one way, depending on the class of service and the time of departure. Tourist, preferred, and club class are available. Schedules, fares, and reservations are available at

    Even those for whom money is no object will be hard pressed to beat the Hotel de Taberna del Alabardero. This ten-room delight offers every modern convenience ? including in-room fax machines ? in a beautifully restored 19th-century mansion. Service is impeccable; the hotel also serves as a hospitality and cooking school. And the restaurant ? which has hosted the King and Queen of Spain, as well as the President ? is one of Seville?s finest.

    For those seeking unbridled splendor, the Alfonso XIII is just the ticket. Built to accommodate royals visiting the 1929 World?s Fair, the Alfonso is superb in every way.

    The Hotel Dona Maria is very conveniently located steps from the Cathedral. A private villa built in 1840, the hotel offers a rooftop terrace and swimming pool with marvelous views of the city.

    For a list of our recommended hotels in Seville, click here.

    Day 4
    Rental Cars: The best deal we found for rental cars in Spain was through Auto Europe. They work with all the rental companies to find the best deals, so their rates are very attractive. Contact them at

    For very specific information about driving in Europe, including translations and road signs, visit You'll find detailed driving directions for Spain at

    We encourage your to get an International Driver?s License before you leave home. They are available at most AAA offices for $10.

    The Parador de Arcos de la Frontera (formerly The Parador Casa del Corregidor) is probably the best address in town, though we found the service there lacking. The hotel has a terrace with spectacular views overlooking the surrounding plains. Be sure to request a room with a balcony overlooking the valley.

    We preferred the charming Hotel El Convento, about a block away from the Parador. Spotless and family owned, the hotel occupies a 17th-century convent. It?s a much better value than the Parador. And its restaurant down the street is the best in Arcos.

    For a list of our recommended hotels in Arcos, click here.

    The first choice here, by a wide margin, is the Parador da Ronda. Opened in 1994, the Parador sits perched above a 500-foot gorge, next to the Puente Nuevo bridge. The setting is spectacular. There?s a lovely pool and corner rooms have not one, but two balconies for unbelievable views. And the Parador has a large parking garage.

    Before the Parador opened, the Hotel Reina Victoria was the place to stay, and it still has much to commend it. As the name suggests, it?s rather British in flavor. The Reina Victoria also has a wonderful setting atop the precipice and a lovely outdoor pool. The grounds are well-groomed and the hotel has quite a history; Rainer Maria Rilke wrote The Spanish Trilogy here.

    Those preferring to spend a little less will enjoy the Hotel Don Miguel. Smaller ? just 19 rooms ? and more modest, it?s just about a block from the Parador. Many of the rooms have terrific views and the restaurant is one of the best in town.

    For a list of our recommended hotels in Ronda, click here.

    Day 6 - Costa del Sol
    For charm, history, and understated luxury, it?s hard to beat the Marbella Club. Over the years, the property has hosted Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, the Duke of Windsor and other luminaries. There are two swimming pools, and a very nice beach. Tennis is available next door and golf can be arranged nearby

    The Marbella Club?s sister property next door is a fine and somewhat less expensive choice. Puente Romano offers three swimming pools, a beach club, and a tennis center.

    Our third recommendation in Marbella is Los Monteros. It has several swimming pools, a beach club, tennis, a riding club, and a fully equipped gym.

    For a list of our recommended hotels in Marbella, click here.

    Malaga has the good fortune of having not one, but two lovely paradors. Located adjacent to a ruined Moorish castle, the Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro is the nicer of the two. The city and sea views from its perch atop Mount Gibralfaro are stunning and the rustic stone house has been completely renovated. Each room comes with a terrace and there is a rooftop swimming pool.

    It?s not hard to figure out who would prefer the Parador de Malaga de Golf. Seven miles from town, the property is bordered on one side by the golf course, built in 1925, and on the other by the Mediterrean. There?s a large pool and all the rooms have a terrace or balcony. This hotel is not far from the airport, so you will hear some noise.

    For a list of our recommended hotels in Malaga, click here.

    Day 9 - Granada
    Our favorite hotel in Granada is also the best value. It?s not for the pickiest ? we did have to jiggle the handle of our toilet. But for those who are willing to overlook an imperfection or two, the Hotel America is a wonderful destination.

    Right on the Alhambra grounds, the hotel is in a former private villa. Bougainvillea cascades from its wrought iron balconies. And the lush plantings and fountains of the inner courtyard make it one of Granada?s loveliest dining rooms.

    Since the hotel only has 13 rooms, book as far in advance as possible.

    Fussier clients may be happier next door at the Parador de Granada (formerly the Parador National de San Francisco). We find the décor here a little sterile. But there?s hardly a nicer place in the world for cocktails than from their terrace overlooking the Generalife gardens. The Parador inhabits a 15th-century convent. This is the most popular parador in Spain, so you?ll need to book early to avoid disappointment.

    Another good choice right on the Alhambra grounds is the Alhambra Palace Hotel. Built in 1910 in the Moorish style, the Palace has a lot of panache, though some areas need to be refurbished. Their terrace bar, with its 180 degree view of the city below, rivals the Parador?s. The dining rooms and public areas are pretty formal and meals are priced accordingly.

    For a list of our recommended hotels in Granada, click here.

    Tickets for the Alhambra can be obtained ahead of time for an additional fee. Visit

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