|Subject: Andalucia and Madrid plus Amsterdam|
We returned yesterday from two weeks in Andalucia and Madrid.
It was delightful to visit for the first time Ubeda, Baeza, Osuna and Carmona and to be again in Jaen, Cordoba, Seville and Madrid.
These are some useful considerations regarding this trip which might in turn be useful to Ziners planning to visit the above mentioned destinations.
1) It is not worth it to pay for Preferente Class in the AVE express train. In "T" Class seats are comfortable, there is room for luggage at the end of each car, bathrooms are ample and well provided. ( For the two of us we saved aprox. euro 70 on a one way trip Seville to Madrid). See http://horarios.renfe.es/hir/ingles.html
2) Paradors were again a great choice for us. We stayed in the Paradors at Jaen, Ubeda and Carmona. Before booking a Parador check carefully their website http://tinyurl.com/7yjnp On this occasion we found better offers both in Jaen and Ubeda than the Aņos Dorados (Seniors'rates) we usually request. It was a small difference but worth it.
3)The Paradores of Jaen and Carmona are set on top of
similar hills and the views from our rooms were fantastic.
The Parador at Ubeda is a XVI Century Renaissance town palace, thus some rooms have really small windows, some facing indoor patios, so be sure you get a room with a decent window. I saw at least one room I would not wish to stay in. ( A bit of advice, in Jaen, if you choose to drive into town, ask in the Parador for instructions to find the Parking at the Mercado (Market) area, close to the Cathedral, it is a little tricky to find. The town is an easy 4 km drive from the Parador.
4) The Hotel Marques de Pombal in Osuna is the best hotel in town. It is set in an old city palace on beautiful San Pedro street. The hotel has an elevator, but several of its 20 rooms have additional stairs or steps to climb. All the rooms are different. THe website is at http://tinyurl.com/mqh3s
5) When taking a walking tour of either Baeza or Ubeda ask for the Bono which covers cities at a discount.This was a good buy since the guides are well informed and took us around several hours in each city.( we were told that the tour would last two hours , but I guess they were carried away See http://tinyurl.com/guowq for Ubeda and www.populo.es for Baeza
(Note from Moderator - Michael - Both these sites are in Spanish only and some parts of the Baeza site are still being developed.)
If we go again to Ubeda and Baeza (they are 6 kms apart) I would stay in Baeza rather than Ubeda. Baeza town is much more lively. There is no parador there, but several small hotel possibilities.
6) The Junta de Andalucia publishes excellent maps of each city called Guia Practica de Ciudades. I found them very useful and I highly recommend getting one in the local tourist office. Also they have a separate list of opening hours, entrance fees, and much more. They do an outstanding job. There are several tourist offices even in small towns, and they really go out of their way to help. While in Amsterdam (see 10 below) the Tourist Office charges for the tiniest thing in Spain the information was free .
7) In Seville and in Madrid on our way back from Andalucia we stayed in two High Tech hotels. Rooms were very similar in both hotels, they use the same custom functional furniture with many high tech details. The door and the wall dividing the bathroom from the room are made of opaque material, like treated glass and the wooden floor is the same both for the bathroom and the bedroom. Shower is high tech, with a spa shower, lighting in the room is particularly good for reading in bed, TV is flat, Mini bar has a glass door, and there is free internet connection in every room. There is also a gym and some outdoor patios. Down stairs there are several computers with free internet. In the lobby they have many newspapers in different languages.
Buffet breakfast was excellent. Similar to those in the Paradors which is a lot to say.
Both hotels we stayed in were tastefully remodeled old buildings. The Petit Palace Marques de Santa Ana in Seville ( 4 stars), had a top location for my point of view. The building retained its inner courtyard with a double gallery. A third floor was added and the courtyard covered by a glass roof.
8) In Madrid at the beginning of our trip we also stayed at the H10 Villa de la Reina Hotel, a hotel we had been before. Again rooms vary here a lot.
9) Entrance fees to museums and monuments. In Spain each place seems to have a different rule....the Prado was free the day we happened to be there which was a Sunday, and the Alcazares Reales in Seville was free to any person over 65 from any country showing a valid ID. Some were simply free to all like the Arab Baths in Jaen, while others offered discounts only to citizens of European Community countries. Some were very reasonable like the outstanding Museo de Bellas Artes in Seville, a mere Euro 1.50.
10) We also visited Amsterdam. We loved our hotel choice in Amsterdam, the Radisson SAS http://tinyurl.com/jbe3h it is a five stars that offers a lot of different rates on its website http://tinyurl.com/jbe3h Great location for us, in old Amsterdam. A dazzling atrium built around old buildings that had to be preserved by law. The bar is absolutely charming located inside an old merchant's house incorporated in the atrium. A big fireplace, lots of dark wood. Very cozy, we enjoyed having a drink there before dinner. The same old story: while rates were good for such a nice hotel, extras were in my opinion a little too much, like calling a celular phone in Amsterdam was euro.3.80 per minute!!! Internet was not free either, the charge was 5 euro for 15 minutes, not that bad, but calling Buenos Aires, was Euro.7.50 per minute!
Graziella, back in Sunny Miami Beach.