Madrid to Malaga, Spain 2006

You’ve got less than a month to submit 2006 summer vacation plans for the $1,000.00 travel writing contest. Here is entry #14 by Bob Trinder.

Saturday 29th July – Day 1.

Our flight into Madrid’s Barajas airport arrives at 11.20 am, early enough to give us time to get settled and find our feet. We’re travelling light on this trip, just one suitcase each, so we’ll catch the metro into the city centre (1.15 each).

There are hundreds of hotels to choose from; we’ve opted for a basic/good hotel – the luxury comes later in the trip.

There was nothing to choose between:Hotel VIP Preciados (198 for 2 nights), Hotel Petit Palace Londres (179), or the one we choose – Hotel Petit Palace Tres Cruces (180), are all in the tourist district, and all to be found on the website.

Our first excursion is to find our bearings and more importantly find a bar nearby for a drink and some tapas for lunch: perhaps a few olives, some calamari (squid) and a portion of tortilla (spanish omelette) – (10-15).

Madrid is extremely well provided for in terms of museums: the Museo Del Prado (3) being internationally famous for it’s collection of Spanish art, particularly by Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. A more comprehensive collection can be found in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (4.80) opposite the Prado, but we’re going to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (3) in order to see Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, a huge work showing the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and one of the most famous images of the 20th century.

Serious tourism earns some serious relaxation, so it’s time for that most Spanish of activities – the siesta.

The evening brings cooler temperatures and the opportunity to stroll the streets around Puerta del Sol and have a pre dinner drink or two.

The idea of the oldest restaurant in the world is irresistible, particularly as the speciality of Sobrino de Botin, Plaza de Oriente, (25-40) is roast suckling pig – definitely not for the vegetarians!

After dinner there’s plenty of nightlife to experience, the Madrelenos won’t be going to bed for hours. Personally, after a cafe carajillo – espresso coffee topped up with brandy- we’ll be ready for bed.

Sunday 30th July, Day 2

Breakfast of churros (long doughnuts) dipped in delicious hot chocolate (4-6), will set us up for a walk around El Rastro (start from La Latina Metro stop), Madrid’s most colourful Sunday market, although I’m told you have to be on the lookout for pickpockets!

After lunch at the Muse del Jamon (The Ham Museum) Calle Mayor 7, (7-15) and a refreshing siesta comes a tough choice. Should we take a walking tour organized by the tourist office in Plaza Mayor (3.50 to 6.10), or an even more tiring cycling tour with Madrid Bike Tours (55)?

Instead we’ll catch one of Madrid Vision’s orange double-decker buses and have a hop on/hop off tour of the city (10.60) – this was never meant to be an energetic holiday!

We’ll put the energy we’ve saved into finding a restaurant for dinner. It may take a while as there are so many to choose from, but we really should go to El Corral de la Moreria to have dinner and see the flamenco show (72 -129).

Monday 31st July, Day 3

Check out from the hotel and collect our hire car, a Renault Megane (Europcar – 146 for 9 days hire – one of a small number of companies that do one way hire), and plunge head first into the fray that is driving in Madrid. As we are making our way out of the city the driving should soon become less nerve wracking as we hit the open countryside.

We’ve booked rooms at a series of Parador Hotels, over the next few days. Paradors are a chain of state run hotels, often in stunning location, and situated in a variety of converted buildings such as monasteries, palaces and castles.

Today we’re booked into the Parador Nacional Conde de Orgaz (232 per night for two half board) in Toledo which sits high above the river Tajo, giving spectacular views over the city.

We’ve decided to go for the half board option in the Paradors as one of the features is the focus on local regional food in their restaurants – I definitely like the sound of Perdiz a la Toledana, partridge stewed in a casserole.

Tuesday 1st August, Day 4

A mixture of tourism & shopping today. The mercadillo or market is on today – perhaps the chance to buy some of the steel products that Toledo is famous for. We have to visit the cathedral, which apparently has a gold monstrance/ cup made from the first gold brought back from the Americas. We also have to see the Alcazar, originally a Muslim fortress built in the 10th century, rebuilt and added to following the Christian re-conquest.

Wednesday 2nd August, Day 5

On to our second Parador, the Ronda de San Francisco (213 per night for two half board), a former convent not far from the centre of Almagro , a smaller town 130Km/80 miles south Of Toledo. The bedrooms were previously the monastic cells and this Parador’s restaurant features traditional food from La Mancha such as Berenjenas made with aubergines.

Thursday 3rd August, Day 6

Almagro is a delightful medieval town with a great deal of 16th century architecture, particularly around the Plaza Mayor. However, it isn’t such a large town, so after exploring we’ll be doing some serious sitting outside a cafe or two on the Plaza Mayor, perhaps Bar les Nieves or El Corrigidor, and watching the world go by.

Friday 4th August, Day 7

South again to the Parador Nacional Arruzafa (213 per night for two half board) just outside Cordoba Once the heart of Muslim Spain, Cordoba has a wealth of Islamic sights; even the Parador is on the site of the Caliph’s summer palace, where the first palm trees in Europe were planted.

For me, the main attraction is its pool, situated amongst lush gardens. Once the midday heat has passed we will visit the nearby ruins of the Medin-Azahara, a city built in the tenth century and destroyed 100 years later by the Barbers. (I really should do some more research on the Barbers, if only to get away from the vision in my head of hordes of white smocked men brandishing combs and scissors, ransacking the city, while at the same time asking if the inhabitants if they need anything for the weekend).

Saturday 5th August, Day 8

A must see is the Mezquita, one of the great examples of Islamic architecture, started in the 9th century and which grew to cover six acres. Right in the middle of the site is the 16th century cathedral, which even Carlos I described as “destroying something that was unique in the world”. I can’t wait to see it!

Cordoba has a reputation for being a hot city, so we’re looking forward to trying a traditional cold soup called Salmorejo Cordobes made with vegetables, garlic and olive oil, which we’ll follow with some Rabo de Toro a la Cordobesa, or oxtail stew.

Sunday 6th August, Day 9

Drive the 120km/75 miles south to the Parador de Antequra (188 per night for two half board); this one in a modern building, but which the website describes as being “for those who want to experience total relaxation, this is the perfect retreat”. Now that we couldn’t resist.

One of Andalucia’s most attractive old towns, Antequera is another place where sitting with a coffee or a cerveza, while watching the Antequranos go about their business, seems a really good idea. If we’re feeling energetic we’ll make our way to the northern edge of town, where there are some of Europe’s largest megalithic tombs. Built between 2500 & 2,000 BC, these burial mounds were constructed by the locals with huge rocks transported from the nearby hills.

Here the cold soup is Gazpacho, which comes in variety of styles and is a speciality of Andalucia, while a more local dish is Porra Antequera, made with codfish.

Monday 7th August, Day 10

As a contrast to any laziness yesterday, we’ll make a visit to El Torca, some 16Km/10 miles from Antequera. A 12 square kilometre area of weird and wonderful rock formations, this 1336m high mountain of gnarled and fissured limestone originated as part of the sea bed about 150 million years ago. We’ll be sticking to the 1.5Km marked walking trail.

On our return to the town we’ll be sure to see the Arco de los Giganta or Arch of the giants, which sounds promising, but may prove to not be as impressive as the name implies.

Tuesday 8th August, Day 11

An afternoon flight gives us time to drive the 50km/30 miles to Malaga, where we’ll squeeze in a visit to the Casa Natal de Picasso, Plaza de la Merced 15, (1 admission), where the artist’s birthplace has been converted to a museum dedicated to his work.

All before reluctantly returning the car to Europcar at Malaga airport and catching our plane home.

Costs (for two):

Madrid – Hotel Petit Palace Tres Cruces (2 nights) 180

Toledo – Parador Nacional Conde de Orgaz (2 nights) 464 (half board)

Almagro – Ronda de San Francisco (2 nights) 426 (half board)

Cordoba – Parador Nacional Arruzafa (2 nights) 426 (half board)

Antequera – Parador de Antequra (2 nights) 376 (half board)

Car Hire 146

Petrol/ Gas 100

Food and drinks 300

Entrance fees 100

Total Cost Excluding Flights: $3,110

Filed Under: 2006 Summer vacation plan writing contest entries

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