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Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

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Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

Hello from London. I'd be grateful for some help from a few people who, like me, enjoy telling people what to do on their holidays!

I have booked very cheap flights into Bilbao on 14 August and back from Barcelona on 30 August - so 16 nights - and would like to plan a trip with 4 (maybe 5) stays in different towns or cities.

Here's the challenge though. We're helping my 14-year-old daughter to learn Spanish and, since she's not hugely confident - you know what we British are like - I'm keen to spend most of our time in areas where all the street signs, menus, bus timetables and indeed local chatter is in Castilian Spanish. (Is it just as simple as ANYWHERE outside Catalonia and the Basque Country?)

(I know this sounds disrespectful; but I am from Wales (like Gareth Bale) and we too have two languages, confusing bilingual signs and indeed speak English in a fairly 'different' accent. I just want to make it as easy as possible for my girl to get using and learning her Spanish. (We will, I promise, switch to 'si us plau' and so on, when we finally reach Barcelona.)

Anyway, so once we've spent a few days seeing Bilbao on arrival, where should we go by bus or train (not car) to enjoy a nice mix of both lively and peaceful places where ALL the signs and the local chat is ALL in Spanish? (Again, sorry for the lack of respect to Basque and Catalan speakers and their signs.)

I love cities so - even though August isn't great - Zaragoza should be on the list. And it's all Spanish speaking and Spanish signs in Zaragoza, right?

Thanks in advance for any help. Gracias / Gràcies / Eskerrik asko

Best wishes

Alan

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1. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

Yes, all the signs in Zaragoza are in Spanish. Yes, it is only in Catalonia and the Basque area where the signs may not be in Spanish.

For trains:

https:/…Buying.Renfe.Tickets.Online.html

My suggestion:

1. Bilbao - 2 days.

2. Madrid - 4 days.

3. Cordoba - 1 day.

4. Seville- 3 days.

5. Granada - 2 days - Fly to Barcelona with Vueling.

6. Barcelona - 4 days.

For Bilbao:

Downtown Bilbao is the Plaza Moyua. Use Booking.com (in English) to look for hotels near this plaza. For district, choose The Real Heart of Bilbao.

Best sights:

1. Gugenheim Museum - For modern art created after 1900.

2. Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) - For figurative art created before 1950.

3. Doña Casilda Park - A beautiful park walkable from downtown.

4. Santiago Cathedral - A Gothic church built in 1379.

5. Basilica of Begoña - Contains the image of the Virgen de Begoña, the patron saint of Vizcaya.

6. Plaza Nuevo - A beautiful Neoclassic style square in the old town.

7. Mercado de la Ribera in the old town - The largest indoor market in Europe in the Art Deco style.

8. Zubiarte is a large shopping mall at Leizaola Lehendakariaren Kalea, 2.

The main shopping streets are the Plaza Moyua and the Gran Via. El Corte Ingles is a large department store with two locations, one at Gran Via, 7, and the other at Gran Via, 20.

Dress code for churches: Shorts or bare shoulders are not allowed for either women or men.

For Madrid:

Downtown Madrid is the Gran Via, which has many hotels, restaurants and stores. Most of the biggest attractions are all within a 2 km radius of each other. You can use Booking.com to screen hotels or apartments in this area (Madrid City Center). The most upscale area is the Barrio Salamanca (the safest barrio) and Calle Serrano is the 5th Avenue of Madrid. It is suggested to stay in Madrid for at least 4 days. One can do day trips to Toledo, Segovia and El Escorial. Read about these day trips in the top questions of the Madrid forum.

Must see places are the Royal Palace, Prado Museum, Thyssen Museum, Reina Sofia Museum, National Archaeological Museum, Sorolla Museum, Cerralbo Museum, Plaza Mayor, El Retiro Park, Basilica of San Francisco El Grande.

Restaurant hours: Lunch is between 1 and 4 pm. Dinner is between 8 pm and midnight.

Botin (Calle Cuchilleros 17-19; Tel. 913-664-217) is the oldest restaurant in the world, since 1725 and has good Castilian food. Roast suckling pig is the specialty. There are many other traditional dishes such as lamb. This was Hemingway’s favorite restaurant.

Casa Lucio (Calle Cava Baja, 35; Tel. 913-653-252) is famous for its "huevos rotos" (broken eggs).

Restaurante Jose Luis (Calle Serrano, 89; Tel. 913-630-958 ) is famous for its tapas. Barrio Salamanca.

Malacatin (Calle de la Ruda, 5; Tel. 913-655-241) is famous for its cocido. Established in 1895.

L’Albufera (Calle del Capitan Haya, 43; Tel. 915-675-000) has good paella.

Casa Hortensia (Calle Farmacia, 2; Tel. 915-390-090) is famous for its fabada.

Posada de la Villa (Calle Cava Baja, 9; Tel. 913-661-860) has very good cordero asado (roasted lamb).

Tse-Yang (Hotel Villa Magna, Paseo de la Castellano, 22; Tel. 914-311-888) is the most luxurious Chinese restaurant in Madrid and is frequented by high society. Barrio Salamanca.

Restaurante Thong (Calle de Lopez de Hoyos, 14; Tel. 915-631-172) is one of the best Chinese restaurants. Barrio Salamanca.

Restaurante Reset (Calle Lopez de Hoyos, 13; Tel. 911-389-033) is a very elegant restaurant serving gourmet food. Barrio Salamanca.

Restaurante Amayra (Calle Alcala, 19; Tel. 915-234-657) is a downtown restaurant that is elegant and has a very good menu of the day.

VIPS Serrano (Calle Serrano, 41; Tel. 912-752-143) is an American style restaurant open from 8 am to 1 am and one can eat there at any time.

There are many good tapas bars at Calle Cava Baja.

Platea (Calle Goya, 5-7) is a new gastronomic site with about 20 restaurants that are open every day, where one can eat tapas and different types of food in the food courts. Mama Framboise there is a great pastry shop.

Moulin Chocolat (Calle Alcala, 77) has the best macarons.

At restaurants, a tip of 5% is considered generous.

Shopping in the Barrio Salamanca: Calle Serrano, Claudio Coello, Ortega y Gassett, Calle Goya.

Shopping downtown: Gran Via, Calle Preciados, Calle Fuencarral.

For Cordoba:

Use Booking.com to look for hotels and apartments in The Real Heart of Cordoba. For those making a day trip to Cordoba, the train station does not have luggage lockers but the bus station beside it has luggage lockers. A taxi to the Mezquita will cost only about 5 euros.

The best sights in Cordoba:

1. Mezquita/Cathedral - The most important architectural feature of the Mezquita are the double horseshoe arches, made of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite. There are 856 columns in the church and they seem to be a sea of arches and columns to the visitor.

2. Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos - Has beautiful gardens.

3. Palacio de Viana - The palace has important artwork and there are 12 different patios, all beautiful.

Restaurant hours: Lunch is between 1 and 4 pm. Dinner is between 8 pm and midnight.

Good restaurants near the Mezquita:

1. Casa Pepe de la Juderia (Calle Romero, 3; Tel: 957-200-744).

2. El Caballo Rojo (Calle del Cardenal Herrero, 28; Tel: 957-475-375).

Shopping streets are the area around the Mezquita, Calle Jose Cruz Conde, Ronda de los Tejares, Conde de Gondomar and Avenida de Gran Capitan.

For Seville:

Seville is one of the cities in Spain with the most charm. A very good hotel in Seville is the Hotel Becquer (which has a garage), walkable to most sights. Use Booking.com to look at other hotels.

Must see places in Seville:

1. Cathedral/Giralda Tower - The Cathedral is the third biggest church in Europe.

2. Alcazar - The palace rivals the Alhambra.

3. Plaza de España - The most beautiful plaza in Spain.

4. Palacio de las Dueñas - This palace is beautiful and has just opened up for the public. This is the residence of the Duke of Alba. A wonderful place to see.

5. Casa de Pilatos - Beautiful palace with wonderful gardens. See the upstairs apartment.

6. Museo de Bellas Artes - One of the most important art museums in Spain.

7. Church of El Salvador - One of the most beautiful Baroque churches. The ticket from the Cathedral allows one to see this church for free.

8. Museum-Palace of the Countess of Lebrija - Has some of the best Roman mosaics in Spain. See the upstairs apartment.

A good flamenco place is Los Gallos (Plaza de Santa Cruz, 11). The main shopping streets are Calle Tetuan and Calle Sierpes.

Restaurant hours: Lunch is between 1 and 4 pm. Dinner is between 8 pm and midnight.

Good restaurants:

1. Cuna 2 (Calle Cuna, 2;Tel 954-211-107) is a large, elegant restaurant with traditional Andalusian decoration and with beautiful ceramic tiles lining the walls of the dining rooms. There is a beautiful bar at the top of the building.

2. El Gallinero de Sandra (Pasaje Esperanza Elena Caro, 2;Tel 954-909-931) is a small restaurant with very tasty food.

3. Casa Robles (Calle Alvarez Quintero, 58; Tel: 954-213-150) is an elegant restaurant near the Cathedral.

4. Taberna del Labrador (Calle Zaragoza, 20; Tel: 954-502-721) - This restaurant looks like the dining room of a very elegant house.

5. Restaurante Manolo Leon (Calle Guadalquivir, 12; Tel. 954-373-735) - Located in a remodeled house, with very nice patio.

6. El Cairo (Calle Reyes Catolicos, 13) - An elegant restaurant.

7. For tapas, go to Mercado Lonja del Baranco (Calle Arjona, 24; Tel. 917-582-420).

At restaurants, a tip of 5% is considered generous.

There is an art fair every Sunday at the Plaza del Museo between 10 am and 2:30 pm. About 50 artists from Seville display their art for sale at very inexpensive prices.

For Granada:

Read Buying Alhambra Tickets Online and BOOK EARLY (at least 2 months in advance). Downtown Granada is the Realejo Barrio. Use Booking.com to screen hotels and apartments in the Granada City Center. A good hotel downtown with parking is the Vincci Albayzin. The Plaza Bib-Rambla has many restaurants.

Best sights besides the Alhambra:

1. Cathedral and Royal Chapel

2. La Cartuja Monastery

3. Alcaiceria (shopping)

Shopping streets are Calle Reyes Catolicos, Calle Gran Via de Colon, Calle Mesones, Calle San Anton, Calle Recogidas, and Calle Alhondiga.

For Barcelona:

Downtown Barcelona is the Plaza de Catalunya. Use Booking.com to screen hotels or apartments in Downtown Barcelona. A good place to stay is the Eixample, the modern barrio of the city built in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a square grid of streets. The Passeig de Gracia is the most elegant avenue, with upscale stores. Good shopping streets downtown are Portal de l’Angel, Portaferrisa and Pelayo. Maremagnum is located by the port and is a mall that is open also on Sunday, when most shops are closed.

The most important sights are the Modernist sites, which are the Gaudi sites and the Lluis Domenech sites. Prebook the Sagrada Familia Basilica, the Palau de la Musica Catalana, Park Guell and the Picasso Museum. A day trip to Montserrat is suggested.

Other must see sights: La Pedrera (Casa Mila), Casa Batllo, Palau Guell, Torre Bellesguard, Cathedral.

Important Museums:

1. National Museum of Catalan Art (Palau Nacional, Parc de Montjuic)

2. Joan Miro Foundation (Parc de Montjuic)

3. Museu del Modernismo Catalan (Calle Balmes, 48)

4. Frederic Mares Museum (Plaza de Sant Iu, 5)

5. Museu d’Historia de Catalunya (Plaza de Pau Vila, 3)

New Modernist sites that opened since 2014 that are terrific:

1. Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site

2. Casa Lleo Morera

3. Casa Museu Amatller

Restaurant hours: Lunch is between 1 and 4 pm. Dinner is between 8 pm and midnight.

Good restaurants in the Eixample:

1. El Nacional (Passeig de Gracia, 24) - A big building with a very beautiful and original interior design, with 5 restaurants and one long bar. Moderately priced.

2. Palmera (Enric Granados, 57) - A small family run restaurant with a very good tasting menu.

3. Tenorio (Passeig de Gracia, 37) - A large attractive restaurant that is moderately priced.

4. La Rita (Arago, 279) - An attractive restaurant with an inexpensive menu of the day. Great food.

5. Cerveseria Catalana (Mallorca, 236) - Very good tapas place.

6. Hotel Fuster (Passeig de Gracia, 132) - Has a rooftop bar/terrace with wonderful views. This hotel is a beautiful Modernist masterpiece created by Architect Lluis Domenech I Montaner.

7. Shanghai 1930 (Carrer de Buenos Aires, 11) - A good Chinese restaurant.

*Enric Rosich Macarons (Passeig de Gracia, 53) has the best macarons.

At restaurants, a tip of 5% is considered generous.

Have a great trip!

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2. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

"Yes, it is only in Catalonia and the Basque area where the signs may not be in Spanish."

Well, I think this is, at least, innacurate. Basque is also spoken in Navarre, and different dialects of Catalan are spoken in Valencia -the region, not just the city- and the Balearic Islands. I would expect to find bilingual signs and people in this areas.

Edited: 29 September 2016, 05:08
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3. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

By the way, I'll take advantage of the thread to correct a little mistake many people make in this forum. 'Barça' is just a nickname for the football team. The city is always referred to as 'Barcelona' or, in very colloquial contexts, sometimes, 'Barna' :)

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4. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

I recently did a very similar trip (much shorter timeline though, under a week) in the same region and Zaragoza is the only city out of Barcelona, San Sebastián and Bilbao that I have seen signage in only Spanish. Very friendly people and manageable size. Employees in the hotel and in tapas bars only spoke with me in Spanish too, whereas in the other cities people would try English more frequently.

Edited: 03 October 2016, 16:50
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5. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

Thanks everyone for the responses. Sorry for the delay in getting back - Trip Adv seems to hate my mobile phone!

I've got to say, the distances suggested in the first reply - via Madrid, Seville, etc - are way further than I had in mind. Thanks for the suggestions though.

I was thinking maybe Bilbao for three nights then the scenic train to a beach near Santander for four nights, even though that's taking me away from the end point of Barcelona.

In the second week, then I could head down to Zaragoza by bus or train via a couple of interesting stopovers (a couple of nights in La Rioja maybe?) and finally on to the place that I won't call Barca! (Thanks for that tip).

I am really keen to hear some ideas and to chat about options; so I'd be grateful for any ideas. Remember public transport for a family of four is essential.

The challenge again was:

I have booked very cheap flights into Bilbao on 14 August and back from Barcelona on 30 August - so 16 nights - and would like to plan a trip with 4 (maybe 5) short stays in different towns or cities. But I don't want to travel TOO far (e.g. NOT down to Madrid).

But, we're helping my 14-year-old daughter to learn Spanish and, since she's not hugely confident, I'm keen to spend most of our time in areas where all the street signs, menus, bus timetables and indeed local chatter is in Castilian Spanish. (No offence intended to anyone!)

Many thanks

Alan

Barcelona, Spain
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6. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

as it is going to be really hot (zaragoza is hot as hell) better stay in the cantabric coast, santander, gijon, oviedo and the smaller towns in that area.

in Barcelona all street signals are in catalan, so 0 confussion, but everybody speaks spanish so that is not a problem. it is too early to know the festivities program, but your days in barcelona festes de sants will be going on, so closer to your travel date look for info about it and perhaps you could enjoy some traditional events as castellers or a correfoc that will be highlights of your trip.

ps: about Barca, there is a town in Asturias called Barca. you could go there and check what is going on there :p

Edited: 13 October 2016, 12:26
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7. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

Thanks so much for that.. We went to the Gracia festival on a previous visit - and still enjoy the pics of my wife and I looking ever so slightly drunk in charge of two small children!

The thing about my Spanish signs, timetables, etc, point is that's probably how my daughter will learn her Spanish on our trip. She only does two hours of Spanish per week and started when she was 11, so conversation is going to be pretty limited. I hope she'll order the drinks and buy oranges in Spanish, but it's the 'osmosis' of seeing and hearing words that will help most. And even I say 'si us plau' in Barcelona.

Plus.my wife and I have been a few times before, and there are always cheap flights there, so we don't think we'll spend more than one or two days in Barcelona this time.

Before the heat was mentioned, I was thinking maybe of something like this. We ARE good in the heat as a family. (Spend 5 months of the year freezing in Britain, so bring it on!)

Bilbao – 3 nights

A beach near Santander – 4 nights

Burgos or Logroño or other small city – 2 nights

Somewhere scenic up a mountain? – 2 or 3 nights

Zaragoza – 3 or 4 nights

And 1 night in Barcelona (we’ve been a few times) before flying home

Keep the ideas coming please...

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8. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

you could go to Huesca or smaller villages in the Pyrenees, nights should be fresh at least, but you will need a car.

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9. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

Hi Alan

I was wondering how your trip to Zaragoza went, what did your daughter particularly enjoy, and did she get to practice her Spanish?

I'm doing something similar this autumn half-term: taking my 15-year-old neighbour to Zaragoza so that we can practice our Spanish. We're also from Wales! Although I'm a frequent visitor to Catalunya and have many friends there, for this trip I also wanted somewhere where everything would be in castillano

We

- travel out Sat 28thOct and fly back on eve of Thurs 2nd Nov

- have 4.5 full days there

- are staying in a budget hotel in the very centre (will take earplugs as I think in busy street!)

- have a local family to visit (Spanish cousin of a Catalan friend, where the son wants to practise his English, but parents don't speak any, so we'll be using Spanish with them)

- are aware that Nov 1 is the All Saints Holiday

- are lucky to be there in a week when the tourism students are doing guided tours for 2 euros, providing great opportunities for listening and picking out the words we know, but without breaking the bank if my friend doesn't understand much

It's thanks to reading these forums last year that I was made aware of how much there is to see and do in Zaragoza, within a walkable area, and parked the info in the back of my mind as somewhere to visit in future. So when my friend mentioned the opportunity of meeting her relatives, we jumped at it. We will enjoy the cathedrals, the Aljaferia, the Roman remains, the parks, the shops, the chocolate, the cafes, bars and restaurants. There seem to be LOTS of museums, which will be great as our focus will be seeing how much of the labels we can understand, whatever the topic is ....!

So I think we will have plenty to occupy us in our 4.5 days, whatever the weather.

But I'm still interested to hear what your 14-year-old particularly enjoyed.

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10. Re: Help plan my trip - from Bilbao to Barca - in SPANISH!

Sonia - the whole Zaragoza area is really interesting, there's a lot within range.

The OP - although a year old - sort of baffled me somewhat because of the insistence on Castillian and then the ending in Catalonia (I don't think the Basque bit would be too much of a problem, having been there last year.)

OP could have flown into Bilbao and home from Zaragoza to London.

Edited: 28 September 2017, 07:34
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