Tag Archive: spain


Plaza de Espana, Seville

Plaza de Espana, Seville

We had a wonderful eleven-day vacation in Spain last month.  We visited Seville, Cordoba and Granada.  Usually we use public transport when traveling, but discovered going by train within Spain is very expensive.  We stayed with friends in Seville and Granada, but the location in Granada was outside the city, so we needed to rent a car.

Since I am the family travel agent, I went online to research car costs, and was delighted to find a compact car that cost about $34 a day with insurance included.

The Alcazar gardens in Seville.

The Alcazar gardens in Seville.

When it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t good or true!  Here are our lessons learned:

Tip #1: Go with a well-known, proven agency and read the fine print in the offer.

I didn’t.  I LOATHE reading fine print! We booked with Marbesol. Marbesol?? When we arrived to pick up our car, we discovered that we had a “meet and greet: pick up with a full tank and bring it back empty”.  Sounded good to me when I booked, but I didn’t read that “the company may charge you for gas”.  We were told that we would have to pay 108 Euros for the privilege of bringing the car back empty (no refund for a partially full tank) AND we’d have to pay an 800 Euro deposit because the insurance didn’t cover everything. The car was tiny, and we knew a tank of gas would be much less than 108 Euros. Our other choice was to pay 129 Euros, which included full coverage, but we had to bring the car back with a full tank.  So, we chose the second plan. Our good deal was now a not-so-good deal.

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The Albayzin in Granada

Tip #2: Read the contract carefully before you purchase.

Full coverage may not be full coverage!  When we returned our car, the couple ahead of us had the misfortune to have a fender bender.  Nothing serious, but they were relieved that they had purchased full insurance. The agent congratulated them on having full coverage and said they only had to pay 245 Euros for the time the car would be out of commission for repair work.  They argued that they had full coverage; but the agent said it didn’t cover the days the car would be out of commission.  ARRRGGHHH!

The Albayzin; the Moorish quarter of Granada.  Notice the Alhambra in the background!

The Albayzin; the Moorish quarter of Granada. Notice the Alhambra in the background!

Tip 3: Don’t pay for insurance with a third party company when you book the car online.

The few times that we have done this, the “independent party insurance” never covers enough, so you end up purchasing additional insurance from the car rental company.

We got to see an authentic flamenco concert. We were the only tourists there!

We got to see an authentic flamenco concert. We were the only tourists there!

Tip #4: If you are going to a major European city, don’t rent a car!!

Even if you park it and use public transport, parking fees are 15+ Euros a day. Public transport is usually much more efficient and cost effective.

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The amazing Mezquita Mosque-Church in Cordoba.

Tip #5: If you do rent a car, rent the smallest possible car that will fit you and your baggage.

Our car was tiny, but driving in Granada was very stressful because there were dozens of tiny one-way streets that would be more aptly called alleys.  They had treacherous two foot metal posts about six inches on either side of the car that lined the alleys (to prevent parking).  The street/alleys were so narrow that Andy sometimes had to do a three or four point turn just to make a right or left turn!

Parking garages often have insanely small parking spaces, with only about eight-foot aisle between the front of your car and the car opposite.  We spent almost thirty minutes trying to get our tiny car into a tiny parking space!

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That’s how close another car parked to ours!

Tip #6:Update your GPS!

Our Garmin is two years old, and as we were driving to the airport there was a split in the road in real life, but only one road on our Garmin.  Then our Garmin told us we were driving on unpaved roads and wanted us to turn around, when in reality we were on a newly built highway.  Fortunately we eventually found our way to the rental agency, but there were a few stressful moments!

We will do another car rental for a Germany-Italy-France trip in the summer, and we will hopefully learn from our own mistakes.  We hope you can learn from our mistakes as well!  Do you have any tips for us?

The Alhambra!

The Alhambra!

We recently went to Spain for our Easter holidays.  After visiting Sevilla we went to Granada. The Alhambra is amazing!  Enjoy the photo essay:)

Tip #1:  Book your tickets to the Alhambra as soon as possible; it gets booked up well in advance. You will be given a morning or afternoon or evening time, with a specific time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

Tip #2:  Try to see all of the rest of the Alhambra complex before your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

You enter and can stroll through the Alhambra complex until it's your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

You enter here and can stroll through the Alhambra complex until it’s your time to enter the Nasrid Palace.

Granada is the capital of the province of Granada, in the region of Andalusia, Spain.

Looking out over the Albayzin, the Moorish Quarter.

Did you know…….?

The view from the Alhambra, looking over the Albaicin, the old Moorish Quarter.

Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains by the Darro and Genil rivers.

This is the palace of Charles V, Grandson of Isabelle and Ferdinand.

This is the palace of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand.

You can read more about Charles V here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_V,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

Now we are in the Nasrid Palace.

This was the view from the Nasrid palace for the sultans of Granada, and later for Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, and their descendants.

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The rooms, courtyards, and gardens inside the Nasrid palace are stunning!

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The city has been inhabited since the dawn of history; first by Ibero-Celts, then by Greeks, followed by Romans and Visigoths.

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Moorish forces under Tariq ibn-Ziyad first took the city in 711.

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Granada was a Muslim kingdom for almost 800 years.

It became the capital of a province of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

It became the capital of a province of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

The ambitious Ibn al-Ahmar established the longest lasting Muslim dynasty in Spain : the Nasrids.

The ambitious Ibn al-Ahmar established the longest lasting Muslim dynasty in Spain : the Nasrids.

The Nasrids aligned themselves with Ferdinand III of Castile in 1238, and became a vassal state of the Christian kingdom of Castile for 250 years.

The Nasrids aligned themselves with Ferdinand III of Castile in 1238, and became a vassal state of the Christian kingdom of Castile for 250 years.

The Nasrid sultans were responsible for building most of the palaces in the Alhambra.

The Nasrid sultans were responsible for building most of the palaces in the Alhambra.

In 1492 Muhammad XII (known as Boabdil to the Spanish) surrendered Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Católicos, after a long siege.

In 1492  Boabdil  surrendered Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Católicos, after a long siege.

The 1492 Alhambra decree forced the predominantly Muslim population to convert to Roman Catholicism or face death.

The 1492 Alhambra decree forced the predominantly Muslim population to convert to Roman Catholicism or face death.

Many fled the inquisition to their ancestral lands in North Africa.

Note the intricacy of the work behind Andy.

The gardens were lovely!

Many Muslims fled the inquisition to their ancestral lands in North Africa. The Jews were also expelled after the Alhambra decree.

The fall of Granada ended the eight hundred year long Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

The fall of Granada ended the eight hundred year long Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula.

Isabella's prodigy Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, leading to the Spanish Empire, one of the largest world empires for hundreds of years to come.

Isabella’s prodigy Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas, leading to the Spanish Empire, one of the largest world empires for hundreds of years to come.

Tip #3:  Get the following historical novels  to learn more about these fascinating people and the amazing Alhambra:

I read an excellent book, The Queen’s Vow , by C. Gortner.  It was a historical novel about Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.  It made the Alhambra, Granada, and Seville come alive for me. Gortner’s second book, The The Last Queen: A Novel, was about Isabella and Ferdinand’s daughter, known as Juana the Mad, was also excellent.

Did you know that Isabella and Ferdinand’s youngest daughter, know to history as Katherine of Aragorn, was the first wife of Henry VII?  Phillipa Gregory’s The Constant Princess  is a great book about Katherine’s(born Catalina) life, including her early years spent in the Alhambra, after the conquest.

We also got the Kindle Edition of Rick Steve’s Spain 2013 and really liked it.  I usually prefer Lonely Planet guide books, but I had read bad reviews about how their ebook functions.

So, that’s the Alhambra! What do you think of it?