So if you’ve read any of my previous trip blogs you’ll know that there’s always a plan. A very detailed plan. There might even be a spreadsheet for that plan… It might be colour coded… Don’t judge… We’d love to be the kind of travellers who just “wing it” and let things unfold as they will with nothing pre-planned at all… But we travel at the three busiest times of the year – Christmas, Spring Break and Summer – and winging it at those times generally means no vacancies, higher prices and full trains. Which usually makes for a very cranky Kirk… And it’s not like we plan out the hour by hour details of what we’ll be doing in every city… usually… But we definitely pre-book hotel rooms (thank you Booking.com!) and any travel legs between cities that we are able to book in advance. We’ve found on previous trips that pre-booking hotels and trains especially saves us a quite a bit of money – and gives us many more accommodation choices – especially in the highly coveted “five star service for one star price” budget hotel category we look for. Thankfully we’re usually able to choose hotels with free cancellation (often up to a day or two before arrival) so if anything were ever to go seriously off-the-rails we wouldn’t be out the cost of pre-paid hotel rooms. Train tickets are definitely less flexible (especially with the lowest fare tickets we take) but we usually plan enough flex time into our travel plans that we haven’t had any issues so far… So for now, we’ll stick with the detailed plans… But when we’re retired and able to travel at off-peak times, watch out… no more colour-coded spreadsheets for us!!!
For this trip we wanted to strike a balance between visiting enough places, doing enough stuff and seeing enough new things to keep it all interesting and spending enough time doing little to nothing at all to make it feel like we’ve actually had a vacation. We also wanted to try to work in some time near the beach along with a cooking course and a couple of tours and other assorted tourist-type things… It turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.
We first thought of heading to Malaga thinking we could enjoy some sun and sand… Sun yes… but the weather isn’t really beach weather at this time of year and there seemed to be much more interesting places to visit. So that was a no to Malaga. Then we heard some great things about Granada but that turned out to be a) a very popular – and expensive – destination between Christmas and New Years and b) a little bit awkward to get to via train so that was also a no… I’d been to Seville a couple of years ago and thought it might be fun to do a cooking course there with Caitlin and to see the sights with her and Marie… But accommodation in Seville turned out to be surprisingly expensive so that ended up being a no as well… This continued for a couple of weeks. I’d pull up a map of Spain, think “that looks like a place that might be easy to get to” only to find out that it was not serviced by trains, or was quite expensive or there wasn’t much to do or that it would be cold… Or there was something better an hour’s travel farther… I’d like to pretend it was all very frustrating and annoying but it’s actually kind of enjoyable. It’s sort of like virtual traveling to explore all the places we could travel to and try to sort out what works best for this trip and to make all the pieces come together.
In the end, we (namely me because Caitlin and Marie have been too busy to spend much time on it and have given me “permission” to put it all together) decided on a plan that will see us spend a couple of days in Madrid over Christmas, then we’ll hop on a train and head south to Cadiz where we’ll spend a few days mostly just relaxing (which is Doherty family code for sleeping in late then spending most of the day eating and drinking) in what seems to be a very cool old city. From Cadiz we’ll hop a train for the short trip to Jerez (less than an hour away) where we’ll spend our days doing Sherry bodega tours, eating and checking out the sights. We’re still looking for something cool to do on New Year’s Eve but it looks like there will be plenty of things to choose from and from what we’ve gathered, won’t have to contend with hordes of tourists. We may try to squeeze in a day trip by train to Seville to see the sights there but that’s kind of iffy at the moment. From Jerez we’ll train to Córdoba for a couple of nights. Córdoba is a place I’ve been once before and it’s where we’ll probably do some of our most active exploring/touring – especially if we decide to do the half day trip out to the ruins of Medina Azahara. I visited Córdoba in the middle of summer and genuinely thought the heat might kill me so I’m looking forward to being able to explore Córdoba in more bearable conditions. I also recall it being a great place for crafts and souvenir shopping so we’ll probably do some of that while we’re there as well. From Córdoba we’re back to Madrid for one night before it’s time to board the plane for Vancouver. Our flight lands in Vancouver fairly late on Saturday so we’re planning to crash in a hotel somewhere near the airport (or downtown near a transit link). On Sunday, Caitlin will make her way home to her apartment in Burnaby and get herself ready for school and work starting up again the next day while Marie and I will make our way back to Victoria to get ourselves ready to go back to work as well the next day.