Review: Classical Spain
Escorted Tour - Coach
Classical Spain with Riviera Travel
58 people found this review helpful
As we had a very early flight ( 5.15am check in) we decided to stay overnight at the Premier Inn at Newcastle Airport – we have stayed at a lot of Premier Inns and generally find they ok but were not impressed with this one. It was far too hot in the room to sleep and I had the worst pizza I have had for a long time in the restaurant. We also found the airport staff and the drivers etc on the transport from the car park to be somewhat surly and unhelpful so will try and avoid that airport in future although at least security was quick and efficient and it has a good terminal building with plenty of shops and cafes.
The Jet2 flight was extremely efficient – the boarding gate was up exactly when they said it would be and it arrived on time into a very hot and sunny Spain (Malaga). The first hotel, Hacienda Puerta del Sol, was a bit in the middle of nowhere but appeared very nice. A good pool, nice room etc, decent wi fi and good air conditioning. It let itself down badly however with the catering. We ordered a late lunch near the pool and the vegetarian salad had tuna on it and then when we went for the buffet in the evening there was no vegetarian option at all for the main course and I had to fight just to get an omelette! Also there was loud music until nearly midnight which could be heard in our downstairs room as though the lady singer was singing from our wardrobe. We did not have the window open and had been up from 3.30am so really need our sleep. Breakfast was also disappointing, tinned fruit salad, soggy bread and pastries, watered down orange juice and horrible instant coffee from a machine.
As we arrived early Riviera added in an extra trip to nearby Mijas, a small hill town which was very pleasant to wander around and had a festival that day with lots of people on very smart Andalucían horses. On the Sunday we moved onto Ronda about 1.5 hours away for a few hours wander and lunch, we managed to find a vegetarian lasagne but expensive and not very wonderful. Ronda itself is a lovely old town with a bridge across a dramatic gorge which splits the town in two and gorgeous buildings. It was unseasonably hot in Spain this September so it really limited how much walking we wanted to do but there were plenty of pleasant parks to sit around in the shade. We moved onto Seville to the Hotel Don Paco, our home for three nights. This was located very centrally and was very comfortable with even a kettle for making tea (not common in Spanish hotels). We went to a nearby tapas bar for our evening meal which had a reasonable veggie selection – Quinoa tortillas for me and falafels for Tom. We still found the breakfasts poor but better fruit juice and coffee at this hotel – cooked breakfast at all hotels was limited to egg and a strange extruded potato – very few of them had beans or tomatoes and they had obviously not heard of mushrooms so veggie options were few and far between.
The next morning we went on an included tour of Seville, a beautiful city with lots to see and some gorgeous building put up for the 1929 America exhibition including the fabulous “Plaza de Espania” with gorgeous tiles and a really impressive building now used for offices. The park surrounding the buildings is a tribute to all the effort put into its maintenance in this naturally dry area. We also went on a boat ride from “Golden Tower”, not a very exciting trip but a lovely pleasant temperature on the river. From there we walked up to the Cathedral area where we had a reasonably priced lunch at Gusto – a far better pizza than the one at the Premier! After lunch ( late) we went to the Cathedral – nearly all attractions in Spain offer very reduced entrance for over 65’s and sometimes free entrance for eu citizens ( will lose that one soon then!). It was very opulent but not to our taste and also the exhibition of so much solid silver, gold and ivory seemed in poor taste when there are so many people with problems in the world – should the church really hang onto such incredible wealth?
Later on we went to a Flamenco show after being royally ripped off at a local pavement cafe for a veggie paella – very few vegetables in it and a high price but it was not on the menu so we could not argue with the bill. The dancing was very dramatic but we were disappointed with the costumes, we had expected silk, satin and lace but the majority were made of cheap nylon fabric. The next day was a free day in Seville so we walked down to the Alcazar which was utterly fabulous. Amazing architecture and lovely gardens, even a nice little cafe with lovely almond polenta cake. We spent about three hours there, a definite must see if visiting Seville. In a real downpour we headed off to find La Habanita – a vegetarian restaurant recommended to us by our helpful tour guide Gwyneth. It was difficult to find but the food was much more to our taste – interesting filled corn tortilla cakes, black beans with rice and a tasty courgette baked dish http://habanita.es/home-2/ . Later we went onto the museum of fine arts but I felt the name was a misnomer as it was really only a museum or gallery of religious art. On the way back to the hotel we called in on the Roman Museum situated below Seville’s famous Mushrooms. This was very good, well displayed with some lovely mosaic floors and easy to walk around. It was also very interactive with menus in several languages. We stayed in hotel for our evening meal, a simple Spanish ( potato) omelette but fresh and reasonably priced.
On the Wednesday we moved onto Granada via Cordoba and visited the Mesquite or mosque cathedral. This was gorgeous and well worth a detour. We also had a walk around the old Jewish Quarter and Cordoba has an amazing 2000 year old bridge spanning its river which is home to Herons and Egrets – the first real wildlife we had seen on the holiday. We really liked it there; it was a pity we could not have stayed overnight. The lunch was also a hit, I had a tasty tagliatelle with mushrooms and Tom had decent vegetarian paella which actually had some vegetables in this time! Mid afternoon we moved onto Granada where the hotel Corona de Granada was centrally located but extremely noisy with thin walls so you could hear the TV in the next room and the rubbish people came round to empty the bins at 1.30am! The air conditioning was also not very efficient and we had to move rooms due to the noise of one unit. In its favour it had a decent bathroom and the breakfast had very good bread and more fresh fruit than the others had – same boring cooked options though. As Riviera got everyone a Granada Card we got some free bus trips so went off in the morning to the Albaicon area of town ( on a hill opposite the Alhambra) which was very nice and we walked back down into town for lunch following a visit to the Cathedral which we liked better than Seville’s. Fortuitously on route we stumbled on a health store who was able to advise use about a veggie restaurant, al – laurel so we went there for lunch. This was lovely and imaginative, Tom had a soya burger and I had courgette stuffed with tempeh, both very tasty ( and vegan) but seemed a bit pricey as neither came with side salad or veg. www.allaurelvegetariano.com.
Following a rest at the hotel it was off for a 3 hours included tour of the Alhambra which I had expected to be the high spot of our trip. It was very interesting and the gardens were pleasant but it was hard work and to be honest I found the architecture in Seville of more interest – I think it was probably and anti climax. Next morning it was an early start for the airport ( 8.15am) but everything went smoothly and all too soon we were back in the cold UK climate.
We thought Riviera did a very good job of the organisation – everything run like clockwork and none of the coach rides were more than 2 hours long so very well paced. I would not have considered the hotels to be four star but I think continental standards are often lower then UK ones. It was not a restful holiday but we did get to see some lovely places, now we need another holiday to recover!
58 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.