Author Topic: NoIdea Spain TR July 2018  (Read 3755 times)

Offline NoIdea

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NoIdea Spain TR July 2018
« on: March 14, 2019, 03:34:12 PM »
Spain trip from July 2018. Overdue but here it goes. First TR. Just me and the Mrs. This trip report will not give you any insight as to how to utilize points or miles in a way that hotels and airlines end up paying you to travel. Overall, I did use BA and AA miles for the flights and UR for some hotels. In general, I try staying just out of the citiesí central (read: expensive) location. As far as food goes, we arenít very picky and had plenty of Rx bars, coffee, granola, tuna, snacks, fruits etc. Planning began 4 weeks before and I used Rick Steeves book... and DDF for some direction.

Day 1

Landed in Madrid early am and was picked up by Asher Bentolila from He took us straight to Toledo. He offered to bring food and to stop for lunch but being as we had a red eye and no appetite, we just wanted to tour. Asher is great! Funny and informative but not in a way where you feel heís lecturing from a script. He is very flexible too and can go at whatever pace or to wherever youíd like. The tour of Toledo was thoroughÖ. and exhausting. We saw the shuls- Shmuel Halevi and Santa Maria la Blanca. It was stunning. There is an audio tour of the Shmuel Halevi shul which, I imagine, might be sufficient for those not interested in hiring a guide. The Santa Maria la Blanca is underwhelming without a guide to give you background. We also saw the Jewish quarter and the town plaza where an auto de fe occurred and got a better understanding as to what Jewish life was like 5+centuries ago, and the current Spanish sentiment toward Jews, Israel, and their own history. There is ziplining across the river which we did not do but for anyone doing this trip with kids, it looks like a fun activity for them.




From Toledo, Asher took us back to Madrid to our hotel- URSO hotel. Rooms are nice, updated, small, and not Ďcentrally located' but not too far.
We walked to Retiro Park and spent some time there. Itís a park. A very big park. There is a small lake?pond? to rent some boats but it was crowded and we werenít interested. The glass palace looks nice. The grounds are well kept and there were some street performers as well as many pushy Ďsalesmení selling knock off jerseys, handbags, shoes etc. Just stick with Ďno, graciasí. They are all over Madrid and Barcelona in heavily toured areas. Overall, it was a nice walk but we hadnít slept for 36 hours so we headed to Pinati for dinner. It was pretty good, and they were very friendly and accommodating. Walked back to our hotel and turned in.

BTW, if you canít tell yet, we walked A LOT! We enjoy walking but it caught up to us in Barcelona.

Day 2

Took an early free walking tour. Itís a great way to get acclimated to the more popular areas of Madrid. Our guide was a born and raised Madrilenian (had to google that one) which was great. It was a lot of fun but one thing she said confirmed what we heard Asher say when describing the current attitude of the Spanish regarding their history. In reference to the expulsion of the Jews and the inquisition, the general attitude is Ďit was bad but not as bad as others have done and not as bad as people thinkí.  :-\ She didnít say this verbatim but the sentiment was clear.
I had wanted to see the Royal Palace as it is supposedly spectacular, but they were closed for an official state function. We walked (again) to Paseo de Prado seeing various sights and headed to the Prado. The museum can take a whole day if you want and we spent 2 hours which was plenty. The collection is, of course, impressive. But it is not necessarily tznios so donít be shocked. Not every painting has a tuchus but every tuchus has a painting. Whatever. From there we walked up to Plaza Cibeles. City hall building is supposed to have nice views from the top but... it was closed for renovations. The Cibeles Fountain is nice as are the dozens of other structures around Madrid. We walked down Gran Via which is the main street consisting of shopping (from low to high end) and thousands of tourists. FYI- If anyone is a ďwatch loverĒ thereís something called the Grassy clock and watch Museum at the beginning of the eastern side of Gran Via . I thought it was just a watch store but only after they closed did I find out the owner has an impressive collection of old clocks and watches. Not that Iím so into it but it wouldíve been interesting to see.
We stopped into some of the cooler shops. At this point in the day (many hours of walking) I felt that we had a pretty good feel for the city. Architecture is awesome and Madrid gives off more of a refined and cultured impression. We went to la escudilla. It wasn't as good as Pinati but when in Madrid... Then off to Temple of Debod. Itís an ancient Egyptian temple donated to Spain by Egypt for some reason like the Spanish let Egypt use their cell phone when they had a flat tire. The site isn't so impressive, but it has a nice park with a great view of the city and is a beautiful place to see sunset. There was music and flamenco dancing which I did not watch so stop judging me. Then walked around and got a real feel for Spain. The people are so laid back. The night begins around 9 and they come out in droves. Very lively nightlife.

Day 3

 Madrid train station is as others described. Yes, there are turtles. The train was great and we hopped into a cab once in Seville (canít walk everywhere!) Stayed at an awesome hotel - palacio de villapanes. Ate a quick lunch and headed to Real alcazar. We had tickets purchased but entry is timed and we were 2 hours late (my mistake. Stupid fat fingers!) but I played the dumb American bit and they let us go no problem. The palace is AMAZING! You can google pics and wiki the history so I wonít bore you but it a must see.

From there we met up with Moises Hassan of He is literally a professor and comes armed with an ipad pro. There aren't many vestiges left of Jewish life in Seville but he does a phenomenal job and is truly passionate. He took us to the parking structure where they had excavated a Jewish burial site...but still built the parking garage. The politics involved are complicated.


The tour went from about 6pm to 9pm. We then walked all around Seville- plaza de espania (horsedrawn carriage rides) Canal de Alfonso, Puerta de jerez ( very happening street with shops and flaminco dancing performers). Couldnít do much more and cabbed back at midnight. Have to say Seville was one of my favorite cities as far as character.

Day 4

So, its Friday morning and Moises had hooked us up with a driver to take us to the border of Gibraltar. We arrive with about a million others and... wait for the plane to take off so they can open up the border. Took 20 minutes but we then walked to the Sunborn. Quickly unpacked, made the room shabbosdik (unplugged automatic shades, fridge light, set lights/ac) and headed out at about noon. Hit up JJ Amars for pizza and some food for shalosh seudas. Met and chatted some locals, one of which turned out to be our shabbos day meal host! We'll get to that.

Now to the Rock. Wanted to cable car up the rock and walk down. The line to buy tickets at the cable car- probably 45 mins. Bought tickets online while on line and went straight to the entry for pre-purchased tickets. We get to the top and take the required pics. Of course, the view is incredible and awesome. And yes, monkeys (Barbary macaque, whatever). Even saw a monkey bite a 10 yr old kid because the kid tried to shoo another monkey away while it tried prying open his motherís backpack. No blood, no foul but the kids mother went nuts and I expect she is suing the entire macaque population as well as the Rock of Gibraltar itself. Walk down and go to st michaels cave. Lots of stalactites and stalagmites (that 4th grade social studies report on Carslbad Caverns finally paid off!) with a really nice light show display. Apes den, WW2 tunnels etc. Only problem is we somehow walked down the wrong way. I donít mean we accidentally fell off the rock into the Straits. We ended up going down too far the south. At that location you canít get a cab and buses were sparse. what I did not know at the time was that I was at the Pillars of Hercules which is 30 seconds from the Jewish cemetery which has kvarim hundreds of yrs old. Wouldíve been nice to daven there a bit.

We walked... by now it was getting to be too much! , about an hour back toward our hotel. Stopped by Morrisons supermarket on way for drinks and few snacks. Had 40 minutes to get ready for shabbos and to shul.

As I'm sure you've read, there are 4 shuls. I davened at Avudarham Friday night and we ate by locals (my sister in law made the connection). In the summer, much of the community vacations in southern Spain and UK. The community is SO inviting, warm, and generous. Everyone says hi, introduces themselves and offers whatever you might need. The best part is that they do not even realize how amazing they are.  This is just how yidden treat eachother.... right??? The meal was incredible- they had many other guests which I am sure they always do but especially because those who stayed in Gib had to make up for those who vacationed. Very quiet and pleasant walk back the Sunborn.

Day 5

Shabbos morning I davened at Avudarham again (was running late and its closer) and we headed to our hosts. They live a bit further south. We waited for the other tourist guests but they were a no show. The seuda was unreal. Again, the locals are so nice and genuine. I cant say enough about the Gib community. Walked up and down Main street which is packed on Shabbos because of cruise lines that stop in.  Mincha at Nefutsot Yehuda- beautiful. shalosh seudas at hotel.
Its pretty cool how Gib is so small, steps from Spain, and has a fiercely English identity.

Day 6

Davened at Shaíar hashamayim in Gib. Heard someone here say itís the oldest active shul in Europe. Then picked up some food at bakery. Gib is daed on a Sunday as most shops are closed. A local Gibraltarian (didn't have to google that 1! Finally, that 4th grade social studies report on Carlsbad Caverns paid off.  ;D) had given me a Spanish drivers contact who picked us up and took us to Granada. We stayed at the NH victoria. Room was just okay, no street noise despite it being on a busy intersection, but location was great... didn't break my rule, it wasn't too expensive. It was sunday so most stores were closed but we walked around. Alcaiceria area (souk) is something to do but itís a fraction of the size and inauthentic compared to arab shuk in Old City Yerushalayim. Very touristy, kitschy. We also walked the area where the jewish quarter once was but saw nothing indicating its history. But there was a random wooden doorway to a home with a big magen david molding attached. House was quiet and no answer at the door so I have no back story here.

 Then we were off to the Alhambra. When we decided to make a Spain trip the first thing I did was.. make flights. THEN I bought these tickets. They are timed entry and VERY strict. Itís confusing getting into the Alhambra (as far as which part to enter ) but once inside the staff is very helpful. We really enjoyed this and used the audio guide. The structures details are incredible but the color wasn't as vibrant as Real Alcazar in Seville but that's because this is a few hundred years older. Spent a few hours there and then walked to Albayzin area to see sunset over Alhambra. Can't remember the exact place we went to but apparently itís THE place to be at sunset as per Rick Steeves. Crowded, street musician, beautiful view. Stayed a while in Albayzin. Walked back to hotel. By now I'm guessing I've walked a marathon worth.




Day 7

Flew vueling from GRX to BCN. I anticipated from the planning stages that by now we'd be tired and want to slow down so I gave us 3 days in Barcelona. Get to BCN to find out all cabs are on strike. I got to taxi stand and the cab driver tells me he wonít take me because Uber is the root of all evil and they eat babies etc. Tells me which buses to take to my hotel. So, I pay attention closely, say thank you, and get an Uber. Took a while but he finally showed up and took us to our hotel. El Palace. I chose this one for room size and location. Now I broke my rule. This was my splurge- used UR. Very nice, clean, and elegant hotel. Can see La Sagrada Familia from the room but had no plans to visit. Problem was, the Gran via was blocked by the striking cabs. Hundreds on them... for a couple miles. They were parked on the main street for days, 24 hrs a day. Quite a sight.

The Uber was afraid to get too close to Gran Via (where our hotel was) because the cab drivers will get violent with Uber drivers and eat his babies etc. and dropped us 2 blocks away. We check in and soon booked out for a walk to La Rambla. Ate at shaq shuk. I really enjoyed this place. Maybe because I was starving at this point, but it was good.

Disclaimer: I am not a kashrus expert and do not know who or what to trust. In all restaurants in Spain we ate fish and vegetables. I figure meat and chicken would be more problematic but salmon is easier. Yes: keilim , bliyos, sharks whatever. This was my approach and it works for me because my wife and I like fish and are not very picky. You do you and I do me.

Walked down La rambla to Port Vell. Barcelona is PACKED with tourists. Walked all around the port where they had local artisans selling jewelery, scarves, shirts etc Very nice and friendly. The also had TONS of those 'salesmen' with the knockoffs. There were street performers, a large mall, and rides. Very pleasant. Headed back up La Rambla to Plaza catalonia and just sat for a while. Then back to hotel/ cab parking lot. The cabbies seemed to be making the best of it, families came out, bbq's , card playing. And of course, arguing. Barcelona has a very different vibe than Madrid. Now, you need to understand that Barcelona is not in Spain, itís in Catalonia- a region of Spain. I knew about this but when you're there you really feel it. The flags, language etc. Some get offended if you call them Spanish. Madrid is the capital city and as I said- is more refined. Barcelona does not like Madrid because theyíre the bossy big brother and Ďwe donít need you to tell me when to go to bedí. And this rivalry is most pronounced when it comes to soccer. If you can show an ID saying your last name is Messi, youíll have your own statue up an hour. Itís more of a working class feel, down to earth mentality.

Day 8

Had a 9am tour with Dominique of urbancultours. I have nothing to add beyond what others have reported except that being that we had already taken tours with Asher and Moises, this seemed redundant. We knew the history alreadyand there is very little to see. If I hadn't done the other tours, this one would have been more meaningful.

Then we walked all around the Gothic Quarter. There are tons of shops with homemade goods- leather, crafts, art etc. We got lost intentionally and I am pretty sure we saw every square inch at least twice. Then headed to the other side of La Rambla to the El Raval neighborhood. This is a gritty, counterculture atmosphere. Think punk rock/stoner. Not much there so we headed to Maccabi for early dinner. Its fine. Guess what- salmon. Then we walked up to Passeig de Gracia. This is a large street with luxury shopping for about 8 long blocks. Prada ,gucci ,tom ford, charles tyrwhitt, you get the idea. Did some window shopping. There are also Gaudi designed buildings on this street. Whos Gaudi? Only the most influential and creative architect/ artist everÖ if you ask a local. Otherwise, google him. Itís cool to see but I wasnít going in. $$.

Day 9

Hit up a free walking tour. The walking tour made the ĎBarcelona is not in Spainí attitude abundantly clear and gave us a different perspective. Was a great tour (and free other than the tip). We then did another walk down La Rambla (people watching ) and to Mercado de La Boqueria market. Very cool but it aint machane yehuda.
Then headed to back to Passeig de Gracia as shops were open now!  BH my wife isnít the shopping type. Then Uber for lunch at BenBen. No fish here. Just had eggs. Hit the spot. Then walked (long walk, couldnít get uber) to Park Guell. Happy I went but meh. I expected more structures, statues, and info. If I had to leave something off the to do list, this would be it.


Then back to Shaqshuk for dinner. After that we walked...this was brutal for our swollen feet at this point but the cabs were still striking, I didnít think the train times would work, and couldnít get Uber, to the Magic fountain. Itís a straight walk down Gran Via.  Itís a music and light show at a large fountain in front of the Museum. Beautiful, lively, and crowded. Thousands of people standing around videoing water. But it was fun and then watched some breakdancing and saw impressive buildings in that area. Then headed back to pack up.

At around 1130 pm the firecrackers and cheering began. The strike was over as the govt. caved and agreed to limit uber licenses. Was a fun atmosphere but most cabbies left quickly. Was good news for us as now we can get a cab back to the airport and not have to leave earlier to take the train.

Day 10

Left hotel at 10 for a flight around 1pm iirc. Donít know what took so long but check in took forever. I sent my wife ahead after checking her in separately online with no bags. I waited and got to the plane toward the end of boarding process. So much for my priority pass lounge. Smooth flight back. Amazing trip. Could use a break from salmon though.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2019, 10:59:17 PM by NoIdea »

Offline Moshe26

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Re: NoIdea Spain TR July 2018
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2019, 01:03:36 PM »
cool pics! thank you for taking the time to post TR.

Offline sam28

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Re: NoIdea Spain TR July 2018
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2019, 10:23:25 PM »
Amazing TR and pictures looks like u did allot in just 10 days .

Offline ludmila

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Re: NoIdea Spain TR July 2018
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2019, 01:47:04 AM »
Thanks for the TR and pictures, really enjoyed reading.
I was the Best,still the Best, and will always be the Best.
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Offline zow

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Re: NoIdea Spain TR July 2018
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2019, 06:37:52 AM »
Thanks for the TR and pictures, really enjoyed reading.

Offline saw50st8

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Re: NoIdea Spain TR July 2018
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2019, 07:12:41 AM »
Thanks for the TR!

Offline jes

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Re: NoIdea Spain TR July 2018
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2019, 07:20:01 AM »
cool pics! thank you for taking the time to post TR.

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: NoIdea Spain TR July 2018
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2019, 04:36:37 PM »
You really did it right with all the Jewish tours in every city! Must not have been cheap, but hey - do it right!
Thanks for writing it up. Brings back so many fond memories.