Subject: Portugal and Spain Galicia
Hola Susana y Guillermo, I can give you a summary of what we did. In the first place, we had been several times in Lisboa, Madrid and Barcelona so we purposely left them out of our trip. What a great decision it was!!! Every thing was less crowded, people twice as nice, food excellent and everything less expensive too. Si, we stayed in several Paradores and one Pousada, the Paradores were excellent,the Pousada we went in Batalha was not as nice as the paradores. It was ok.

Paradores have several advantages, often they are located in old hospitals, monasteries, etc that in themselves are an attraction, have great location, parking and garage , good service, people are very nice there, and have superb breakfasts ( and I have seen a few) plus a full restaurant that at a reasonable price offers good food , also lunch and dinner are served a little earlier than most restaurants in Spain.. I requested by fax the card Amigo de Paradores, ( they send it free) with this card, they give you free parking and also a couple of drinks that can be anything you like, when you like it, where you like.... at the Parador Bar, terrace ...etc.This doesnt hurt. WE stayed during this trip in the following paradores: Arcos de la F,Ronda,Merida,Baiona,Leon and Vic in Cataluna.- Both Granada and Santiago were full which was a pity, because both are historic buildings,... we had lunch in Santiago and dinner at Granada, ( our hotel Hotel America, was next door to the Parador). Baiona is spectacular, they have the most fantastic view, the Parador is located in a small peninsula , water all around..., and also it was built inside kms. of murallas this case, as in Arcos we paid a little extra to have a room with a full view...which was worth it, should you go you might like to make a reservation ahead of time because everybody wishes a room with a view that is facing the Atlantic Ocean. So the answer is yes it is worth it, besides most paradores have beautiful pools should you be there in the Summer, .....most Paradores are ranked four or some five stars, so they are accordingly priced, ...naturally you can get a good hotel for less money. Paradores have all kinds of offers so check the rates in Buenos Aires or call directly Madrid atCentral de reservas. te; 34-91-516 66 66 fax 34 91 516 66 57 esta pagina es buenisima y muestra todo muy bien) and there you can find out who represents them in Bs As. Ellos tiene generalmente una oferta que se llama Libreta de 5 noches, you buy this Libreta and a cupon is good for each night . But you must check to be sure they are good where and when you wish to stay. This way your stays are much less than the regular price. For Instance we stayed in Santiago in a nice hotel Hotel San Carlos , rated 4 stars. it is a new hotel, a few blocks from the old center. The rate was 15.000 plus tax 7% and breakfast. fax 981 56 05 06, telefono 981 56 05 05 The parking is nearby and is not expensive is only 1.000 per day. It is located in front of the Parlamento de Galicia. In Leon , a city I highly recommend , we stayed at the Parador , which is 5 stars and it is in an extraordinary XVII century monasterio-hospital, ...where have you seen a hotel with its own church?...but we found out about a small hotel that is absolutely charming, it is called the Bodega Regia,tefono 987 21 31 73 fax 987 21 30 31 we went there to eat,because it has its own restaurant the best in Leon,.. this charming little hotel is recently renovated in a XIII century building and also have some roman walls from the year 50 AC. Each room is charming, different, and the rate with breakfast is aprox. 85 to 90 dollars. all year. !!!! un regalo. Of course here you have to add the parking ,in the Parador we did not pay parking. Parking in most cities was like 2000 pesetas per day. So we visit more the rias bajas desde Portugal hasta Baiona, and then Sanitiago, the weather was terrible in the Cantabrico that is why we did not go as planed tothe N.coast.WE went to Leon instead, and then to Bilbao, to visit the Guggenheim Museum which again is worth it. There we stayed at the hotel Cartlon which on week ends has a very good rate 15.000, again the garage is 2.000 but on week ends the car can be left in the street if you find a place and wish to take the trouble. This is a very elegant hotel, where the king Alfonso XIII stayed, Ava Gardner, Hemingway and others...we had a beautiful room, recently remodeled and hotel's location is great at walking distance from all kind of restaurants and 5 blocks from the Museum. Our itinerary was I believe very good, : Madrid - Andalucia, then came up North , stayed at the Parador of Merida which is very nice, Merida is one of the most interesting cities with Roman ruins and has the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia which is fantastic... then we got into Portugal: Evora, ( we stayed two days in a very nice hotel Hotel da Cartuxa, near the city walls , Phone 066 746528 fax 066 744284 , it had free parking, a great pool by the ancient walls, a garden full of flowers, it was hot and it was fantastic to swim there after a full day of walking and climbing) from Evora we came up to Batalha, from there visited Tomar which is beautiful ( we made the mistake to stay in the Pousada in Batalha but I believe is better to stay in Tomar,, stay there the Hotel de los Templarios fax 049 32 21 91 aprox. 85 dollars is cheaper than the pousada and better, in Tomar the Monastery of the Caballeros de Cristo is fascinating and the town itself is worth going. ( Fatima is between both sites) then we went to Coimbra, which is very , very nice. Only thing :you need good legs to go up and down. We stayed at the Tivoli Hotel ( fax 039 268 27) which parked our car free, this hotel is a non discript, confortable four stars. Coimbra is very very nice.

We continued driving into Porto where we stayed three days and visit Braga and Guimares with side trips. Porto of course is also worth staying a few days.Here we had to chose between staying in downtown and drive there which is a little crazy and staying a little out of the center, center, and take a taxi. We opted for this solution whc\ich turned ou t very well, we got a good rate at the Hotel Tivoli, a small , boutique hotel, again with a garden and 02 609 49 41 fax 02 606 74 52 And again it was nice due to the hot weather to have a swim before dinner. You must think that we are crazy to go to Europe thinking of pools????...well we are not, it just did happened the pools where there located in beautiful gardens so we bought a bathing suit ... If I didn t had a car I would have stayed where Linda and Don stayed in the heart of town, but after driving so many days one feels like leaving the car and forget about it.Again the Tivoli had free parking, and the taxi was a few dollars to get you downtown, besides there was even a bus...which took you in a few minutes to downtown...

Then we went Nort and were extremely lucky to visit the fair that takes place since several centuries ago in Ponte de Lima ( Un lunes cada quince dias) we didnt sleep in there, but spent the whole morning , the fair has everthing you can imagine from cows, and pigs, women with enormous bundles in their heads with verduras or gooses, baskets, ceramics, name it !! we slept in Viana do Castelo in the hotel Viana Sol, telefono 058 82 89 95, fax 82 89 97, la habitacion era algo mas de 85 , sorry I am writing in Spanish,las habitaciones no tienen buena vista pero enfin nos quedamos una noche alli.
>From Viana we followed the coast into Spain and reached Baiona. We got across Tui but you can also take a ferry to A Guarda and A Guarda has the Monte Texcla with an extraordinary view and a village from the bronze age. The road to Baiona from O guarda is by the coast and is pleasant. Well I do not know if this summary interests you or not. If you or Susana have any question you can e mail me directly at ggcatta or atthe One list. Buena suerte, Graziella.

I have no words to thank the people of Spain for their hospitality, granted we speak Spanish, but we found lovely people everywhere, Spaniads have a certain dignity , and a certain flair ...and this was easy to appreciate in the smaller towns. The food was excellent, I had fish every single day, in many different ways, and all kinds of sea food, and fresh vegetables, delicious salads, ...and when dinner was too late for us, we tried tapas, medias raciones y raciones ....with vino, con cerveza, con sidra, ..con sangria, ...their hams ranked from the bellotas down were outstanding, .. granted it was the End of March and April , but there were so few tourists around ... so we are counting the days to come back and visit cities that we couldn t go like Salamanca and may be to see in more detail and with more time the Camino, coimng back though Cataluna because s\we changed the dates we were coming we missed our friends in Ripoll so instead we went as far as Vic, beautiful mountais and old romanesque monasteries, there again we stayed in a Parador for a such a low rate!!! and the scenery was breathtaking...