Thursday, November 03, 2005

Be My Fodor's

Dearest PeaceBangers who are acquainted with the beautiful country of Spain, I ask you to advise.

I am going to fly to Madrid in January and head immediately to Seville for a 3-day cooking class (local friends, start salivating now!). I will head back to Madrid for two days where my #1 goal is to see the Hieronymous Bosch paintings at the Prado.

Then I intend to fly to Barcelona for five nights, and to take a one-day cooking class there. Tapas! Tapas! Tapas!

My question is this: should I spend another day or two in Madrid? Or is Madrid as loud and busy as they say, and not nearly as charming and vacation-friendly as they say Barcelona is?

As much as I'd love to run around both these great cities (and I debated for a long time whether to skip Barcelona on this trip and go to Lisbon instead) -- I am going to try not to run myself ragged.

If you have hotel recommendations in Madrid or Barcelona, I'm happy to get them, too (and especially recommendations for QUIET places).

Muchas gracias.

7 Comments:

Blogger Jaume said...

Yes, Madrid is noisy and busy, and with lots of works that make traffic even worse. But you may want to visit the Escorial royal palace outside the city, and old imperial capital Toledo with beautiful El Greco paintings is very close using the high-speed train AVE. Barcelona (where I live) is quieter but also busy, main areas are the Ramblas and the Gaudi Tour that includes the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia church (still under construction after 100 years) and other amazing buildings.

There are many hotels both in Madrid and Barcelona. Hotels are rather expensive and a regular place may be over $80 a night. This is only one suggestion for Barcelona:
HOTEL BALMES
Mallorca, 216 (corner with Balmes)
Tel. (34) 93 451 1914
(Take AEROBUS from airport to last stop, Plaza Catalunya - then short taxi ride to hotel.)

10:53  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Jaume! How wonderful! Let's meet for tapas when I'm there!

And I will make my reservation for the Hotel Balmes at your recommendation. Thank you so much.

10:59  
Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Two days in Madrid is enough to see the main things.

For accommodations, I would recommend a place called Hostal Gonzalo off of Calle Cervantes (www.hostalgonzalo.com). It is inexpensive (well was, back when there were only pesetas), quiet, clean and in very good repair. It was centrally located and family-owned (the manager, the son of the elder, was nice and spoke English really well). It is not a hotel or a hostel – you get your own room and probably your own bathroom, but it is not a hotel with lots of servants or a bar/restaurant. It is VERY close to the Prado – just a five minute walk away.

I went to the Prado, but apart from the Bosch paintings and a few other Dutch ones (I am quite fond of Dutch art), and also some Velasquez works, I was not impressed. Maybe it was too big or there were too many people, I don’t know. I got out of there pretty fast. I much preferred the Thyssen Bournemizsa (sp?) Museum, which is right across the street. The layout of the TB is much simpler, it’s not as overwhelming, and there was a greater variety of art styles represented there. The collection was much smaller, and the environment was relaxing, not overwhelming.

Every guide book seems to say that the Palacio Real is a must-see, but I was horribly disappointed when I went. It’s an old palace with roped off rooms that you can peek into. Nothing but old dark furniture and lots of silver tea sets. You can’t even go into the rooms! The wallpaper was all-around hideous, as well.

If the weather’s nice, try to visit Retiro Park (I think it’s just down the street from the Prado), and see the Cristal Palace. It’s pretty, and sometimes there are art exhibitions in there. But I am kind of a park fanatic and always visit the central parks of any city I visit. It’s not a must-see for most, but it’s nice and you get to see Spanish people in their leisure time.

Seville is great. Lots to see there – possibly the most whimsical city I’ve ever been to, with its colorful, oddly shaped buildings (Barcelona may beat it, however). It’s also the hottest city in Spain (in March it was 90 degrees), and that’s always a plus in my book.

14:31  
Blogger RevThom said...

Peacebang-

I spent four days in Barcelona in 1997 and 2 weeks in Madrid, Sevilla, Malaga, and Nerja in 2004.

I found Madrid to be the least lovely and charming of all the places I visited. It hardly feels like a European city. There are some wonderful things to do, but you can do them in two or three days easily. I enjoyed the El Greco paintings at the Prado, but the other museum nearby, the Reina Sofia Maria (?) is better.

Barcelona has a lot more going for it. Besides being close to the coast, it has more Picasso stuff, all the fantastic Gaudi architecture, and Qattro Gats - a really fantastic restaurant that was the hang out place of Picasso's art friends.

15:36  
Blogger Jaume said...

Peacebang, I hope you read this in this old entry. A quieter place where several UUs have stayed lately (for the ICUU meeting here in Barcelona) is Hotel Catalonia Princesa, Rec Comtal 16. Phone number: (+34) 93 268 86 00 At the entrance of the old quarter (but not quite) and near the Ciutadella park. I think you will like it more.

11:58  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Jaume, thank you. I tried to e-mail you directly but there is no contact e-mail listed on your own blogs.

I've enjoyed reading about the arrival of the Unitarians in Barcelona.

19:20  
Blogger Jaume said...

Write to

d e m a r c o s j AT y a h o o DOT e s

03:03  

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