Granada, Spain 2012

As many of you know from reading other posts, we always travel during our kid’s spring break, the last two weeks in March.  However,  since Lauren went off to college the kid’s spring breaks do not coincide any longer.  For this year’s spring break, Michael asked if he could go on the school Italy trip.  While we have been to Italy three times, we have never made it south of Rome and the trip included Pompei, Naples, Amalfi, Positano and Sicily so we decided to let him go.  That meant we could travel with Lauren during her spring break.  She only has a week off so she came with us to Andalucia, Spain and then Stephen and I continued on for our first international adventure alone to Provence.

Now, I am usually a super advance planner – generally planning six to nine months in advance.  However, I also planned a trip to Vietnam in December as that was the best time for us to travel all together (read about it here).  The Spain trip was in early March, and I did not get around to start planning Spain until we returned from Vietnam on Dec. 31.  That gave me just a little over two months before we were set to leave to book airfare, hotels, etc– but I am happy to say that I did it!!  While I did not always get my first choice of hotel/B&B, overall we were very happy with where we stayed.

Our trip was two nights in Granada, two nights in Cordoba, four nights in Seville, then we flew to Marseille and spent six nights in St. Remy-de-Provence and then spent our last night in a hotel near Marseilles airport before flying home early the next morning.  We had been to Barcelona and Paris before but were looking forward to exploring these other parts of Spain and France.

We live in Oregon and flew down Thursday morning to Los Angeles, picked up Lauren at school, spent the night near the airport and then flew out early the next morning.  We flew American Airlines; LAX-JFK-Madrid-Granada.  We chose to fly American because it was the only airline that flew all the way to Granada (on Iberia) so I could book one ticket all the way through. We loved the colorful Madrid airport!

Day 1

We arrived in Granada in the early afternoon.  I had booked, through our hotel, a driver to come pick us up.  I had heard so much about the narrow, windy streets in Granada, and since this was a very small Carmen(Inn), I wanted to be sure the person picking us up knew how to get there.  Our driver was absolutely delightful, though he spoke limited English he was so excited and proud to show us things as we drove to the city.

We arrived at our place, Carmen de la Alcubilla del Caracol (, where the owner, Manuel was there to greet us.

He is an extremely kind man and does a fabulous job of running this small hotel.  Everything was absolutely spotless, and he is also helpful with restaurant plus site seeing recommendations and information. Stephen and I had a nice large room with a terrace and Lauren had her own single room.

I would have been fine with the three of us sharing one room, but Manuel does not have any roll away beds, so we needed to book two rooms.  Manuel kept apologizing for the size of the bathroom, but in all honesty I have stayed in places with MUCH smaller bathrooms, and we thought it a pretty good size.  The common spaces are very nice.  There is a nice living room with lots of windows and sunshine.  The terraces have incredible views of the city and Sierra Nevada.

The hotel is located about halfway up the hill between the city center and the Alhambra.  An easy 5-10 minute walk down to the city center, a bit of a hike back up, but we did it all but one time, when we took the bus.  If you do not want to walk up you can easily catch the Alhambra bus, which stops at the Alhambra Palace hotel, just a bit up from the Carmen – so then you only have to walk down.

Manuel recommended we have lunch at Carmen de Miguel a beautiful restaurant just up the street.  We had a fabulous lunch out on their terrace with a spectacular view.  We enjoyed octopus carpaccio, venison carpaccio, veal hamburger with foie gras and anchovies on bread with a tomato and olive pate.

Stephen was ready to hit the room and take a nap, but Lauren and I wanted to start to explore so we walked to the city center.  An easy walk down, but streets are made with smaller size stones so helpful to have a heavier soled shoe.  We just enjoyed getting our bearings and doing some shopping.  We also picked up our Alhambra tickets at the Alhambra bookstore.  It is simple, I put in the same credit card I used to purchase the tickets online into the machine, it pulls up your record and prints the tickets.

For dinner we had decided to try to go to two or three tapas bars.  Our first choice was Cumino, a seafood place that was highly recommended by Manuel and others.  We arrived around 8:45pm, busy but not too crowded yet, though we could not find a spot right up at the bar so stood at a smaller table.  Not sure if we just ordered wrong, but we did not care for this place.  We had fried calamari and and a shrimp dish.  The seafood was all good, but we did not care for the heavy sauce on the shrimp dish.  We had planned to try another bar, but the plates were bigger than we had expected so we really were not that hungry after Cumino.  We walked down Calle Navas, where there are tons of tapas bars but they were all so crowded, and frankly we had been up for over 24 hrs. so decided to head back to our Carmen.


After our trip to Vietnam at Christmas time, where everything was go-go-go and a lot of early morning starts, we had agreed that this trip would be a lot slower paced.  As a result, I had booked our entrance to the Alhambra for the afternoon 2pm slot.

We slept in and had breakfast at the Carmen.  Breakfast is simple with ham, cheese, toast, yogurt, fruit and cereal and there was a delightful lady serving. A bit of a disappointment that the breakfast is an additional charge considering how basic it is.

We walked down to the city center and went into the Capilla de Real (Royal Chapel), where in addition to seeing the chapel, there are also displays of clothing, crowns, jewelry, etc. of Ferdinand and Isabella.

We also went through  the Cathedral.  Keep in mind that the entrance is at more what I would consider the back of the church rather than the front.

From there we walked down along the Gran Via exploring the city.  Came upon the Botanical Gardens but they were closed.

We had to eat lunch earlier than usual in Spain due to our 2pm Alhambra entrance, and not a lot was open,  so we chose the Gran Caffe on Bibi Rambla as it was one of the few places that was open earlier.

We were not expecting much, but we really enjoyed a great lunch of gambas in garlic and butter, a charcuterie plate , ham and melon – we think the melon was cassava, not sure, but it was truly delicious.  Then we had our first order of churros and chocolate.   Now the last time we were in Spain we spent five days in Baracelona, and for some reason we never had churros until the day before we were leaving – STUPID!!  Well, we were not going to let that happen again.  So, we enjoyed every last bite of our churros – so light and airy, nothing like what you get here, and that rich, thick, dark chocolate to dip it in – yum!

Running a bit late, so we took a taxi up to the Alhambra, got some audioguides and waited for our 2:30pm entrance to the Nasrid Palace.



I will not go into very much detail about walking through the Palaces or the Alhambra as there are a lot of written guides that give you great information on the history and detailed description of the rooms.  I would like to say, however,  that we were not impressed at all with the audioguides.  They were narrated by “Washington Irving” and we felt there was a lack of historical detail and just not informative enough.  I would recommend getting a private guide if possible.  We had just enough time to wander through the Palace of Charles V before our entrance to Nasrid Palace.

From there we got in line for our 2:30 entrance to the Nasrid Palace and we enjoyed wandering through these spectacular spaces.

We stopped at the Hotel San Francisco which is in the Parador Granada for a drink on the beautiful terrace.  Then went over to the Alcazabar (fort), where there are some spectacular views, before heading back to our Carmen.


Tonight we had dinner at La Puerta de Carmen which is located in the  plaza of the same name right at the entrance to Calle Navas.  It is a beautiful restaurant with friendly service.  This was one of our favorite meals and we enjoyed grilled octopus, tuna tartare, a salad with buffalo mozzarella and the most delicious steak.  A chocolate ganache for dessert, which they called a brownie – but much denser and chocolately then we think of as a brownie.


Today we were taking an evening train to Cordoba, so our plan for the day was to explore El Albaczin.  We sort of followed Maribel’s “walking tour”, a walking tour written by somebody on the Fodor’s forum.  This whole area was much nicer that I was expecting.  There were many people on the Fodor’s forum who were expressing concerns about whether to stay in this area.  Other than all the hills, I would not hesitate to stay in this neighborhood.  We have been to Morocco  (read about our time in Morocco here), and explored the medinas of Marakkech and Fez. While this area did not feel as exotic as others have said, we did still enjoy it.  We started at the bottom and walked up to the Plaza Largo which is a neat plaza with small restaurants and lots of people out enjoying a drink or snack.

We started our way back down and stopped at the Mirador St. Nicolas for the spectacular view of the Alhambra, Sierra Nevada, city, etc.  – definitely the best view in all of Granada.

From there we continued the trek down to Restaurante Mirador Morayma, for an incredible lunch.  They have a beautiful garden terrace with a nice view of the Alhambra.  Our charming waiter spoke no English but was still able to help us navigate the menu.  We had a ham and cheese plate with ham from aljuparra and a delicious tomato jam, ajo blanco – the traditional cold almond soup with fried garlic (delicious!!) and lamb chops.

After lunch we headed back down to the city center and made a beeline to Gran Café to get more churros, unfortunately, while they were open, they said they did not start serving churros again until 5pm.  Just a block down was the Alhambra Café which was still serving churros so we stopped there – good, but not as good as Gran Café.

Back to the hotel to get ready for our 6:05pm train to Cordoba. I had pre-purchased the train tickets for Cordoba.  While I was successful in purchasing tickets on the Renfe  website,  I will say it was not without some frustration.  Manuel was so helpful in calling us a cab, and insisted that he and the taxi driver carry our bags to the car.

Next up two nights in Cordoba.  Read about it here.

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2 responses to “Rome 2006”

  1. Melanie says:

    Great blog that I discovered today from your link on the Fodors forum! My husband and I are planning a 2 week trip with my girls who will be 7 and 9 at the time and have options between early April, anytime in July or early October. We are planning to fly into Venice and out of Rome, spending time in Lombardy and Abruzzo in between. Do you have a recommendation for the best time of year weather and crowd wise to travel to Italy given our available options above? Thank you!!

    • Judy Gambee says:

      Melanie – glad you found the blog – the Fodors forum is an excellent source of information!! With respect to crowds and weather – I would skip July – it will be very hot and very crowded! We have been to Italy four times – twice in late March and twice in June. Our first trip in late March the weather was really great, the second time was pretty rainy – but that had been a rainy year (my daughter had been studying in Rome that semester and she said it rained a lot that year). Our first trip in June was unbearably hot – particularly in Rome. Our second trip in June was nice but then we also stayed in Northern Italy for that trip. I can only imagine that July would be very hot.

      According to historical weather info (I just looked at Rome) it appears that early Oct might be a little warmer than early April but the days are longer in April. I had always heard that Europe in early Oct was a great time to go so we did that for the first time this past Oct (Brussels, Berlin and Budapest) and I have to say it was unusually cold and rainy so I’m a little hesitant to recommend Oct (though apparently that was an anomaly). I think both early April and early Oct will be good for not super big crowds. I’m not sure if you are planning for 2016 or 2017 – just recommend you check when Easter is the year you are going if plan for April. Our first trip we specifically did not want to be there then but our other time in March we were actually in Sorrento on Easter and really enjoyed the festivities!!

      Sounds like you are planning a wonderful trip!!

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