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20 replies
Madrid, Valencia, Bordeaux or Tours???
ccc333
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Hi, I’m backpacking solo. As part of my trip I’m visiting Valencia, Bordeaux and Tours. I have the option of staying at two of the places for 1 full day and 2 nights but the other place I’ll get to stay 3 days and 4 nights (bus rules not mine!). I’m stopping only over night in Madrid – get in late, leave early. So should I stay longer at V, B or T or should I give Madrid more of a go? Which is your favourite place out of these four?
Thanks heaps in advance!

positiveman
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I’ve not been to Tours or Bordeaux.. But I am a huge fan of Spain..

My first time, I backpacke all over for six weeks. I was initially coming from the east, and everybody I met in Turkey, Greece, Italy, and France all said to focus on Bercelona, and just do a quick stopover in Madrid to see the Prado. So that’s the advice I’d been given.

So I got to Barcelona, hung out, saw the sights, and after five days was like OK time to move on. Got to Madrid, found an outlying hostel, went to the Prado the next day, but after wandering around the center afterwards, saw some really cool looking little areas with cheap pensions, so decided to try a day or two more. A day or two more turned into a week, then ten days, then two weeks. I absolutely loved Madrid. That’s just me though – but it is one of my top three world cities. Why? Because it’s not(or at least wasn’t ten years ago when I was there..) totally Disneyfied like the major Italian cities I’d been to previously, the Prado is great and affordable, there’s a lot to see and do(yeah OK, that’s true everywhere, but somehow in Madrid it didn’t feel so “touristy” like most other major European cities..), stupendous nightlife(there are clubs that open at 8 in the morning..), etc etc.. Two lasting impressions of my four-month backpacking trip illustrate my point – dressed-up gladiator guys selling overpriced gladiator dolls in the center of Rome after a day which had included having to put in earplugs to try to get some semblance of peace amidst the THRONGS of tourists in the Sistine Chapel………………., and going down to the Museo del Jamon on Plaza del Sol in Madrid, and having a Tortilla Boccadillo and Cafe con Leche next to an old local woman as she nodded slightly and smiled before sipping her morning beer.

A few years ago I went to Valencia, it being one of the main Spanish cities I hadn’t been to. I quite disliked it. I never found any little squares with cafes for sitting and watching people, cool bars or parks in the center like in Madrid. It was traficky and hectic, and is all around just a more “modern” city than I really care for. The ENTIRE Spanish coast as far as I can tell too is totally overdeveloped and ruined.. (Yeah OK, I know, there are unspoiled pockets here and there, but they are rare…)

All of that is just me though. I don’t expect others to agree. Lots of people like Valencia, and there are probably some who don’t like Madrid..

And don’t forget either – the higher your expectations, the less you’re likely to like a place.. If five people happen to be as enthusiastic about Madrid as I am and that’s all the advice you hear, chances are your expectations will be too high. And yeah, same with Valencia, if you go there expecting it to suck you’ll probably love it….

ccc333
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Thanks so much for all of that. Especially the woman drinking beer in the morning! It might be worth checking out Madrid rather than bypassing. I was trying not to have too much of a rushed feel to the trip, but who knows when I’ll make it back.

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positiveman wrote:
… All of that is just me though. I don’t expect others to agree. Lots of people like Valencia, and there are probably some who don’t like Madrid..

… If five people happen to be as enthusiastic about Madrid as I am and that’s all the advice you hear, chances are your expectations will be too high. And yeah, same with Valencia, if you go there expecting it to suck you’ll probably love it….

I agree in part with Positiveman, being a Spain-o-phile myself; but in any case, much depends on when you will be visiting each place. If you can be in Valencia for San José, for example (19 mar) you can see las Fallas de Valencia and the Tourist Crowd (and those who cater to them) extend that Fiesta to the entire Comunitat de Valencia and for several weeks after San José.
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The ENTIRE Spanish coast as far as I can tell too is totally overdeveloped and ruined..(Yeah OK, I know, there are unspoiled pockets here and there, but they are rare…)
a pretty strong statement. My favorites are Vigo (Pontevedra, Galicia), Santander (Cantabria), Llanes (Principality of Asturias), both the latter on el Mar Cantabrico.

I have also visited the Costa de la Luz: Cadiz, Rota, el Puerto de Santa Maria all the way up to Sanlucar de Barrameda; then on the west of the Donaña wildlife refuge, Mazagon (Huelva).

You can’t imply what you wrote from just visiting a few scattered beaches. Doing so, you might have to change your Eurotrip pseudonym to Negativeman.

As for the original Post: I suggest this Backpacker re-evaluate his whole itinerary. Don’t be a Slave to a Bus Company or Schedule. Consider Biarritz or San Sebastian in lieu of Bordeaux …

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Well if I was overstating the case, it’s because I had my Valenica trip primarily in mind. It was only a five day trip, and after two in Valenica we wanted to leave. So we rented a car, asked in some tourist offices and consulted our guidebook. We headed north, to places like Peniscola, and pretty much found that whole stretch of coast overdevelped and generally unappealing. But then …, we headed inland toward Morella, and HEAVEN.. After like ten minutes from turning away from the coast, there were almost no people, no industrial factories and port facilities(well, obviously..), no cheesy tourist shops like in Peniscola.. It was practically pure. And in addition to Morella we saw some great little towns.., with very few people.. Almost cowboy-like in their desolation. Was practically documentary-worthy…

Cadiz is also an example of my point IMO , rather than a refutaion of it.. Lots of poeple had told me how nice it was, but I found the extremely industrialized coastline on the way there just depressing. In the end I walked around for a few hours, and got on the next train out, instead of staying the night..

San Sebastian is of course fantastic, and a definite highlite of any trip to Spain.., Malaga is okay.., Cadaques way up north was nice, and I don’t know Galicia at all, so there are exceptions.. But I do feel confident saying you can pretty much forget the strip between Valencia and Barcelena, and of course the Costa del Sol… For me anyway – if you want a “full English breakfast!!” at the White Horse pub and to see the Newcastel match live, well, then the Costa del Sol might be OK… I have heard there are nice undevelped/”-ruined places south of Alicante on the southeast corner of Spain, but haven’t been down there either.. Spain’s a big country..

My point was more that, based on what I’ve seen, my inference is that you can pretty much forget most of the Spanish coast… On both of our last trips – to Valencia, and then to Catalonia, and based on what I’ve seen in Andalusia, the trips (scenery, atmosphere, sites, air, tourist density, etc..) got considerably more interesting once we left the coast…

I’m a big-time Spain-o-phile, and a year or two ago I had said this to a friend of mine flying to Barcelona, and wanting to travel around a bit.. “AVOID THE COAST” was my main advice. He didn’t take my advice, and came back griping – full of obnoxious English tourists, etc.. He didn’t want to admit it, out of pride I suppose.., but of course the lesson was clear – he should’ve avoided the coast… Wink

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ccc333,

I don’t undesand. The bus tour let’s you manipulate the itinerary? [confused] Can you provide us more info?

What time of year are you going? My initial recommendation is spend more time in Madrid, although if you’re going in March, checking out Las Fallas is cool.

Coast of Spain: Well it’s no secret that the eastern and southern coasts of Spain have been overdeveloped. In hindsight this is now considered both an environmental disaster, and an urban planning one. That said, there is stll a lot of unspoilt coastline still left, and even in resort towns on the Costa Blanca (like Alicante and Altea), the beaches are great, and the charming old town centers are a real treat. I still recommend checking these places out…they can be a great side-trip from Valencia (except winter months). Same goes with Cadaqués and other places in Catalunya.

Believe me, I know how annoying it is that Brits and Scandinavians have invaded and taken over the Mediterranean, but there’s ways (and places) to minimize this experience and maximize your authentic Med experience. Besides, the culture shock between North and South Euros is an interesting (and educational) one…booze culture versus wine-at-the-dinner-table culture.


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positiveman
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I never made it to Alicante, but over the years I’ve heard different things – great beach town with charming old-town center(and decent wine in the region..), or overdeveloped mass tourist-trap??….

Pictures like this make me skeptical…:

http://clemensalican…

ps When I talk about overdevelopment, I don’t just mean “tourist trap”, but industrial, residential, and infrustructure overdevelopment. Driving or taking the train into Cadiz for ex – it’s like the Jersey turnpike…. That pic of Alicante is similar.. The old town might be nice, but when the surrounding area is so…., well, yeah.., “overdeveloped”, it kind of taints the experience IMO

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I’ll have to agree with Positiveman…Madrid is a must see. I find it a little less touristy than Barcelona too. Plaza Mayor (one of the largest squares in europe) is a great place to hang out at night. Just sit at any table and within a few seconds awaiter from one of the neabry restaurants will take your order (sometimes they have concert in ther square too…it’s quite a lively place). I really love the restaurant casa mingo too (best roast chicken in the world) and their homemade cider is outstanding. I think this restaurant is in every trip guide, but it is still very much a place for locals. From Madrid you can also make side trips to Segovia, Toldeo and Avila (which few people ever get to…a shame)

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”

positiveman
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Avila and Segovia are at THE top of my next Spanish destination wish-list(along with Santiago de Campostela and Galicia in general…)

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Walking the pilgrim route (starting in Plamplona) to Santiago de Campostela is my dream trip. I know people who have done it and they talk about the great scenary, but also about the fellowship of the other travels and the friendly people along the way. One Day.

Edit: I hope to start my trip rom St. Jean Pieds de Port, which I’ve already posted as one of my favourite towns in Spain

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”

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I’d also recommend more time in Madrid.

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Sorry! More info:
I’m doing Busabout which means the bus follows a particular route with designated stops, but you can stay on the bus or get off at a place and stay for as long as you want. The bus comes through each place every two days. So I’m stopping at Nice (2) Barcelona (2) Valencia (1) Madrid (overnight) San Sebastian (2) Bordeaux (1) Tours (1) then Paris (6) and I’ll be there at the start of June. The places I’ll be at for one day means I get there the day before and have one full day then leave the following.
By the sounds of it I really should give more time to Madrid! Or maybe should I not go to Nice (I’ll have to at least stay overnight because the bus does) and put time into Madrid and more time into Bordeaux or Tours. This is so hard!
And the bus is all paid for so there’s no ‘just go do your own thing’. I figured for my first adventure solo I would have some security net, but next time I go back it will be for at least 3 months and I will just rock up and go wherever.
So I guess after all this I’m leaning towards a couple of days in Madrid…

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ccc333,

Given your constraints, I would say:

  1. Barcelona 2 days
  2. Valencia 0 (skip or overnight)
  3. Madrid 3 days, daytrip to Segovia or Toledo on 2nd day
  4. San Sebastián 2
  5. Nice 3, daytrip to Menton, Cannes, Grasse, or even Arles (Arles is 3 hours from Nice each way) on 2nd day
  6. Bordeaux 0 (skip or overnight, if you have to stay overnight, do go for a stroll in this UNESCO World Heritage city before bed)
  7. Tours 1
  8. Paris 4, possible daytrip: Reims

If you’d like, you can take a day away from Paris or Nice, and give it to Valencia or Bordeaux. I normally give people a suggested range of days to spend in a place (like Paris I would say 3-5). I hate giving people a definite amount of days for most places. You might feel you need more time in a place than planned, less in another. But hopefully I’ve given you a feel of how much time I would spend in each place (to see and do whatever there is to see and do) under your circumstances and why, and any daytrips I’d take. What time of the year are we talking about here? That might change some of mine (and other posters’) suggestions.


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I agree with Luv_the_B…you should spend more time in Madrid area..it’s a great city, plus there several good side trips in the area (Toledo, Segovia, Avila)…Valencia is okay if you like the beach but at that time of year it will be pretty crowded. Also Bordeaux is not that great (unless you’re a wine buff and want to visit lots of vineyards, etc.). Most people just go to the free tasting/wine museum in town.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”

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From luv_the_beach:

“Given your constraints, I would say:

1. Barcelona 2 days 2. Valencia 0 (skip or overnight) 3. Madrid 3 days, daytrip to Segovia or Toledo on 2nd day 4. San Sebastián 2 5. Nice 3, daytrip to Menton, Cannes, Grasse, or even Arles (Arles is 3 hours from Nice each way) on 2nd day 6. Bordeaux 0 (skip or overnight, if you have to stay overnight, do go for a stroll in this UNESCO World Heritage city before bed) 7. Tours 1 8. Paris 4, possible daytrip: Reims”

I think that’s a bang-on recommendation.. I’d love to do that route myself…

I wasn’t sssoooo impressed with Nice. I mean, it was_ nice_ and all… ( ) But France is just expensive.. But he’s right, there are some cool day trips. When I was there I did the afternoon in Monte Carlo like so many people, which is a must for any car nut who likes to see F50’s and Bugattis ,etc toodling by… I just sat on a bench in front of the casino for a couple hours, then wandered around, including into the local Ferrari garage.. Nice is OK too down at the boardwalk – nice to be at the sea…

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positiveman wrote:
Avila and Segovia are at THE top of my next Spanish destination wish-list(along with Santiago de Campostela and Galicia in general…)
It’s Compostela! Before making your Pilgrimage to Santiago, read a book called Off the Road by Jack Hitt (pronounced Height). And when you’re in Santiago, catch a Bus to VilaGarcia de Arousa (on the coast). I spent a couple of nights there (waiting for Santiago: 25 jul) my last Pilgrimage. The beach in VilaGarcia is black sand, but it’s clean and weel maintained. If you’re not into black sand beaches, you can try Playa Samil in Vigo or the beach in Baiona

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Thanks for the tip.. I’ll look into it.. A lot of totally non-religious Germans do the pilgramage as well.. There was some famous book about it that made it kind of popular.. Thanks again..

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Nice does have its gems, particularly from an architecture perspective: the old town is definitely worth a look, you’ll stumble on charming squares and hidden baroque churches, very pelasant and human part of the city. The “boardwalk” has many graceful early-20th century hotels and other buildings, harking back to the dawn of the tourism era. I highly recommend taking a daytrip or two from Nice, but the city itself is worth a look.


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Oh thanks so much guys, I’m getting so excited about this trip now! Even little gems like mentioning the old city in Nice and the cars in Monte Carlo… this info is the sort of stuff that makes adventures just that.
I’m definitely staying in Madrid now. But of course if there are any other pearls of wisdom on what to do in the places I’m visiting, it’s much appreciated!

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I would say skip Monaco, and check out one (or two, depending on time and distance) of the other suggested daytrips from Nice: Cannes and Antibes can be done as a single daytrip from Nice. Or Cannes and Grasse. Menton and Eze can be a single daytrip as well. Scratch Arles…I thought I’d find a direct train, but when I looked today on www.voyages-sncf.com I couldn’t find a direct train (you’ll have to transfer in Marseille, bringing a total commute time to 3-4 hours, which is too much hassle for a daytrip). But there’s plenty great daytrips from Nice.


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I agree with Luv…getting to rles may be a bit time consuming, which is why it’s sometimes worth spending an entire day (i.e, stay overnight).

Just a suggestion, but have you considered car rentals from time to time in order to go to places that area little off the beaten track? One day car rentals can be expensive, but if you split cost between 4 people it’s not too bad (ask around or post a message at the hostel/campsite you’re in to see if anyone is interested in joining you). It’s pretty impossible to book cheap one day care rentals online, best just to go to the local car rental place in the city you’re in.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”