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Getting around

Barcelona, Valencia, Cartagena, Malaga, Baeza, Cuenca, Zaragoza

22.12: Frankfurt -> Munich -> Barcelona
23.12: Barcelona
24.12: Barcelona -> Valencia
25.12: Valencia
26.12: Valencia -> Albufera -> Denia -> Valencia
27.12: Valencia -> Murcia -> Cartagena
28.12: Cartagena
29.12: Cartagena -> Cabo de Gata -> Almeria -> Malaga
30.12: Malaga -> Antequera dolmen site -> Malaga
31.12: Malaga
1.1: Malaga -> Jaen -> Baeza, Ubeda
2.1: Baeza -> Cuenca
3.1: Cuenca -> Zaragoza
4.1: Zaragoza
5.1: Zaragoza -> Tarragona -> Villadecans (near Barcelona airport)
6.1: Villadecans -> Munich

Planning and overall impression

This trip to Spain is the "shortened" version of a planned longer trip to Spain and Morocco which involved car ferry transfers and two long drives Munich-Genoa-Munich. In the end we booked flights from Munich to Barcelona and rented a car in Barcelona for two weeks.
Then we planned a trip along the coast from Barcelona to Andalusia (to avoid the colder inland areas), followed by a return trip inland to avoid backtracking on the same itinerary.
Personally I didn't like a lot this trip, simply because winter is not the best time to travel across mainland Spain, but my daughters very much enjoyed the trip because they had only once been in Spain when they were very small and couldn't remember anything (and they focused mainly on shopping...).
On the way back to Barcelona, the mountains between Cuenca and Zaragoza looked interesting, probably offering good hiking opportunities.


Being a major tourist hotspot offering lots of things to see and do, Barcelona is quite an expensive place, especially for what concerns hotels and restaurants. Elsewhere in Spain costs are significantly lower


Food in Spain probably is not bad, although in this trip we mainly ate in fast food restaurants and Chinese restaurants. The latter, because it was easier to explain to the staff what kind of food we wanted to eat. I haven't used Spanish for so many years, that by now I'm more fluent in Chinese than Spanish.


At the beginning of this trip we happened to book not so good places, the most uncomfortable one being the Unite hostel in Barcelona, followed by that freezing cold apartment near Valencia. The fact is that many apartments in Spain have no heating and often also inadequate shower facilities.
After the first few days however, accommodation became a lot better, because we figured out what kind of places you have to book in winter in Spain. In case of apartments for instance, look for places with individual A/C units in every room - these can be used to heat rooms and if they are in every room, it's unlikely the landlord is significantly limiting the available A/C power in the flat. Then in Zaragoza and for the last night in Barcelona we booked better hotels.

Money  / Exchange rate (December 2023)

Euro used as a currency in Spain.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards

We relied on EU roaming, using our German SIM cards

Internet access

WLAN was available in most hotels and apartments, while outside we relied on mobile Internet access.


A bit cold, especially in the inland areas and in general at night. Warmest was Malaga, where daytime temperature peaked above 20°C. Luckily it rained very little.

Health / Vaccinations

No  vaccinations needed for Spain.

VISA / Entry requirements

No passport controls for this intra-EU trip.


We didn't experience any problems. The local pickpockets probably were taking a leave, because this was not peak tourist season.

Getting around

We rented a car from Hertz and getting around was easy (many motorways and otherwise good roads). Not so much traffic in the cities.
We won't be using Hertz again, because they charged us 90 Euro for a tank refill, even if we returned the car with a full tank (and then later they refused to return the money).

22.12: Frankfurt -> Munich -> Barcelona
Unite hostel, Barcelona. 116 Euro for a room for four people, attached bathroom with shower. This room actually sucks, given the price. No furniture at all: no place where to put the clothes (we have to put them on the ground). The water basins are like from a public toilet: you have to push a button to get water, then a huge amount of water comes out, spraying everywhere, and it finishes after a few seconds. No way to adjust the water to a specific, steady flow. No place where to put toiletries. This room is designed to be "cool", but in reality it's not functional and very uncomfortable. Given the price we pay, this room is a bad joke.
The shower has the same problems as the water basin: you have to keep pressing one knob, otherwise the water flow will stop within a few seconds.
Weather: around 6°C in the early morning in the Frankfurt area. Mild at night in Barcelona

I wake up early (before 4am) due to the jet lag, then slowly get ready and take the 6am train to the airport, arriving before 7am. Since I already have the boarding pass, I proceed to the gate.

Then I wait. The 8:15am Lufthansa flight is delayed today. We take off around 8:50am, but manage to land in Munich at 9:30am. Then things proceed smoothly and I am home shortly after 11am.

The day will be quite busy. I was thinking I could take a rest at home before the flight to Spain, but in reality I'm busy until 6pm doing a number of things. Between 5 and 6pm I'm even rushing to get ready.

We leave home at 6pm and drive to the train station. There we park the car and get into a train to the airport, arriving at 7:20pm.

Then we check in. To my surprise, there is very little queue at the checkin counter (and the checkin process is also quite fast).

There is even enough time to eat something at a McDonald's restaurant.

Around 8pm we start walking through the security check. Again, there is very little queue. We are right before Xmas, but few people are travelling today.

We quickly reach the gate and wait there. Then, they announce a 25 minutes delay for our Vueling flight to Barcelona.

The aeroplane is full. Lots of Spanish speaking people in the plane.

We take off at 10:26pm with over an hour of delay. I have prebooked a taxi in Barcelona to bring us to the hotel, and now I'm worried a bit. What happens if we arrive with a huge delay.

We land in Barcelona at 12:15am. Surprise at the baggage retrieval: no luggage is there. The Vueling airline managed not to deliver the luggage of any passenger.

We declare the missing luggage, then proceed to the exit where we meet the driver. We sleep at 2am.

23.12: Barcelona
Unite hostel, Barcelona.
Weather: sunny, blue sky. Not so cold (top temperatures of 15-16°C according to the forecast, but lots of wind and this makes the air feel cold.

In the morning the ladies take forever to get ready. We only leave the hostel at 12pm.

Near the hostel there is a taxi stand where three taxis are parked. We walk there, but there is no driver. We wait until the driver finally arrives. Then we drive to the cathedral of Barcelona.

Along the way I spot the nice arch of Barcelona. So I decide to get here out of the taxi (8.45 Euro for this short drive of 2km).

The arch is on a big square, full of people and with a good light. We spend some time there taking some pictures, then slowly walk towards the cathedral across the narrow alleys of the old town.

Lots of stops in the various shops to buy food and other stuff. We have some pizza in a pizzeria/bakery. Then we continue.

We'll basically spend the whole day walking in central Barcelona, going to Placa de Catalunya, then to the Maremagnum mall, then back to Placa de Catalunya. Stops here and there for food and shopping.

Overall the price level in Barcelona is quite high. You have to double-check prices to see how much things cost.

In the evening, Vueling Airlines deliver our luggage to the hotel at 10:30pm.

24.12: Barcelona -> Valencia
Apartment of Stl Apartments, Puebla de Farnals (about 14km from Valencia). Small apartment with two bedrooms (very small queen size bed in one bedroom), living room and kitchen row. Some furniture. Fast Internet (100 Mbit/s both in downlink and uplink). It's possible to park the car in one of the side streets. The biggest problem of this place is that it is freezing cold. Even if we switch on the small portable heater, we only get 15°C in the apartment.
If we in addition switch on the A/C power unit in heat generation mode, the electric power in the whole apartment is cut off (seems there is an A/C power limiter).
Small water boiler unit in the toilet: the hot water finishes quickly and there is not enough of it for a complete shower.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, top temperatures of 17°C. It's actually not cold, but there is some light wind and to be out the whole day you need to wear a jacket.

We check out and at 10:30am call an Uber car to the Saints train station. There we will pick up the rental car at the Hertz office.

Shortly after 11am we arrive at the Hertz office and process the formalities. The car is a Peugeot 3008, but the guy suggests to upgrade to a larger car for an additional 15 Euro/night. But the additional boot space is only 50 litres and the car cost would go up by 38%, so I decline. Then the guy suggests to get an additional insurance which brings down the collision waiver payment to 0, but this costs 360 Euro and I already have bought such an insurance for 56€, so I decline again.

Then we fetch the car and start driving towards Valencia (actually Puebla de Farnals, where the car is).

Within the first 30km there are motorway tolls of 7.79 and 4.65 Euro, which makes me wonder whether I'll end up paying a lot for motorway tolls. But after these initial tolls the motorway is free.

We are at the apartment (that is the place where we pick up the keys) at 3:14pm. It's an ice cream parlour, and according to the instructions we can pick up the keys until 3:30pm. But today nobody is there, because apparently the staff left early.

After some searching/checking and waiting, we contact Airbnb (that is, the company managing the flat). They promise somebody will show up by 4:10pm with the keys, but nobody shows up.

In the end they give us the address of the person who owns the flat (an oldish lady who can't speak English). We drive there and pick up the keys. Then we drive into Valencia, arriving at 5pm.

It's already almost sunset. We park the car along the street and walk towards the cathedral. We find a pretty old town with lots of interesting old buildings and many cafes, shops, lots of people.

We'll spend the next few hours sightseeing and walking around. Around 7pm we have a dinner in a Chinese restaurant (big portions). After 9pm we drive back to the apartment. There we discover that the apartment is quite cold and can't be properly heated.

25.12: Valencia
Apartment of Stl Apartments, Puebla de Farnals. In the morning we have 15°C in the flat (the next day just 13°C in the flat). The kids complain that they could not sleep well because the room was so cold. After removing all curtains and letting the sun come in, the living room warms up to 20°C (glasshouse effect).
Weather: sunny, blue sky, top temperatures of about 18°C.

We spend the entire morning in the flat, due to the cold and other issues. The kids would like to take showers, but have to wait until the water heats up in the water boiler (small, underpowered hot water unit which takes a long time to heat the water.

We leave the apartment after 1pm and drive to a nearby supermarket. There we buy some food and drinks, then drive to Valencia to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.

It takes some searching to find a parking. After that, at 2pm, we start having a look at the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias complex.

This has some interesting architecture. White structures, some resembling a fish skeleton, all here in this complex. Lots of very photogenic buildings in a park area.

There are also some places (sort of stalls) selling food. Actually looking quite delicious (Spanish ham sandwiches, German grilled sausage, local delicacies), but not very healthy and quite pricey.

After visiting this place we walk out of the compound, cross the street and have some food in a Popeyes fast food (mainly fried/grilled chicken, fries etc. but they also have salads).

Shortly before 4pm we are in the car again and drive a bit closer to the old town, parking outside the city walls.

We'll slowly walk into the old town, having a bubble tea first, then continuing to walk. It's sunset time / blue hour. While the ladies have a haircut in a Chinese hairdresser (in sort of a Chinatown, i.e. an area with lots of Chinese restaurants, shops and businesses), I'll take some blue hour pictures.

Around 7pm we have a dinner in the same Chinese restaurant where we had dinner yesterday. It's basically good food, which comes in big portions and is moderately priced.

Around 8:30pm we drive back to the apartment.

26.12: Valencia -> Albufera -> Denia -> Valencia
Apartment of Stl Apartments, Puebla de Farnals. The electric power in this flat is limited to less than 2000W. The tiny electric heating unit has two modes: 750W and 2000W power. If you set it to 2000W of power, the electric power in the flat is cut off within a minute or two. This is probably set up this way by the stingy owner of this place to limit the amount of electricity consumed. But 750W is totally insufficient to heat up a place like this (and I guess 2000W also).
Weather: sunny, blue sky, top temperatures of 17°C. At night only 4°C.

We get out after 11am and buy some food in a supermarket. Then we drive towards the Albufera natural park, an area with a large lake where I'm hoping to do some birdwatching.

Albufera is not far from Valencia, but it takes some time to figure out where the place to go and the parking are. We park the car and walk to the lake.

There, while we wonder how to explore the area, we notice people getting into a boat. Short discussion with the boatsman. It's 5 Euro per person and he'll shows us around a bit for about 45 minutes.

So we get in and at 1pm start the boat trip. The boat will move in a circle, not too far from the coast. We are lucky and spot a huge flock of pink flamingoes which are circling above us. I take tons of pictures. We also see plenty of ducks and some other birds.

At 1:45pm the boat trip ends and we get back to the car. We start driving towards Denia, which is listed as a must see destination in the Lonely Planet guidebook.

We reach Denia at 3:20pm. The city is less interesting than I had thought. We visit the castle (nice views of the city), then walk around a bit.

Around 4:50pm we get back into the car and drive back to Valencia. There we'll have a dinner and then get back to the apartment.

27.12: Valencia -> Murcia -> Cartagena
"Buhardilla Nuria" apartment, Cartagena. 86 Euro for an apartment with two bedrooms, a toilet, a kitchen with table and chairs. First comfortable place on this trip to Spain. The A/C unit can be used as a heater and there is enough hot water in the toilet.
Weather: same as yesterday - sunny, blue sky, top temperatures of 17°C.

We leave the apartment in Valencia shortly after 10:30am and start driving towards Murcia. The motorway doesn't bypass Valencia. We have to cross the city to reach the motorway to Murcia.

The motorway is ok and free of charge, but the lanes are more narrow than in Germany, the curve radiuses are smaller and the tarmac is often not very smooth.

We reach Murcia shortly after 1:30pm, then spend some time looking for a parking outside the historic core. Then we walk into town.

Murcia has a few interesting buildings. The prettiest one is the cathedral, then there are a couple of palaces and a church or two. The river area with bridges is photogenic. Besides these there is not much in terms of tourist attractions.

However, Murcia has an attractive city centre, meaning that the mix of old and modern architecture is quite photogenic. The city centre is quite clean, modern and good looking. Salzillo street is a shopping street with plenty of shops selling branded, international items.

The ladies have some food in a Burger King fast food restaurant, then we walk around a bit and finally stop in a bubble tea place (Miomio) for some bubble tea.

After that, around 5:15pm we drive to Cartagena and leave the bags in the apartment. Then, after 6pm we drive into the city centre of Cartagena.

The city centre is actually quite interesting. Pedestrian area full of shops and cafes and people. We'll have a closer look tomorrow, but the initial impression is good. Probably during the day the city centre is even more photogenic.

After 7pm we have a dinner in a Chinese restaurant. Delicious food, but too much. I was thinking of having a small thing, but end up having a big, full meal. We are back in the apartment after 8:30pm.

28.12: Cartagena
Buhardilla Nuria apartment, Cartagena.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with a thin clouds layer. Less sunlight, a bit more fresh than yesterday (top temperatures of 16°C).

It's almost 12pm when we finally leave the apartment. We drive to a free parking near the waterfront and leave the car there. The we walk to the Punic wall museum, arriving there at 12:40pm.

This museum contains a small section of the ancient Punic wall, before the Romans conquered the city. We buy a combined ticket for 13 Euro/person, which includes this museum, the Roman Forum museum and the Roman theatre.

We initially watch a short video of the history of ancient Cartagena (Punic and Roman perdiods), then watch the wall section.

At 1:10pm we leave the museum and walk to the Roman Forum museum. This museum is bigger than Punic wall museum, but also less interesting.

Inside there are some artifacts from the Roman period and the ruins of the Roman forum of Cartagena. The museum is well built, but the exhibits and artifacts are not so impressive.

After this museum we walk to the Roman theatre. Actually we reach the exit of this place, and there the guard tells us to go to the entrance somewhere else.

It takes some effort to find the entrance. It's in a totally different place, quite far away. You first have to enter into a building opposite the town hall. Then, after walking through a museum (with artifacts of the Roman period, not terribly interesting) you walk up some escalators and finally reach the upper level of the Roman theatre.

This Roman threatre, well, is ok. It's just that I have seen countless other Roman theatres elsewhere, in a much betterr preservation status and without this complicated way of getting in.

When we get out of the Roman theatre it's almost 2:45pm and the ladies are hungry because we have skipped lunch.

So we walk to a yogurt ice cream parlour, where the ladies have some yogurt ice cream. Then we walk to the waterfront, where we have some additional (fast) food. Finally we walk to the car, refuel it, and drive to the Cala Cortina beach.

Cala Cortina is a beach (very small pebble stones) in a bay. There is a restaurant and the place is kind of cute, but not very special either.

Later we drive to the Espacio Mediterráneo mall. This is a big mall with a Carrefour hypermarket. We'll spend about an hour or so there, then drive to the hotel.

29.12: Cartagena -> Cabo de Gata -> Almeria -> Malaga
Apartment "Villa Musica", Torremolinos. 95 Euro for a beautiful villa with 90 m², big living room with kitchen, two bedrooms, bathroom + shower, lots of furniture, three A/C units. Marble floor, elegant interior. The hot water in the toilet is limited. After one person has taken a shower, there is no hot water anymore for an hour.
Weather: mostly overcast, no rain. Top temperatures of 16°C, no wind. In the evening in Malaga it's quite mild. Seems we finally reached a place warm enough for a December trip.

We leave the apartment around 10:20am and drive to a Consum supermarket. There we buy some food and drinks, because I don't know if and at what time we are going to have lunch today.

Then we drive to the Cabo de Gata natural park. I have chosen this because it is listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook as a highlight and is on the way to Malaga. I key in San Jose, a small city in the park, where we might have some lunch.

Getting to San Jose takes about two hours. But we give up the idea of having lunch here, because all restaurants here are overpriced and San Jose looks very much like a tourist trap.

So we drive to the first spot of the natural park in our list, the Playa de los Genoveses beach. The road to get there quickly turns into a dirt track, and it looks like the road to Cabo de Gata is a dirt track. On the one hand it's uncomfortable to drive on a road like this, on the other hand I'm concerned that the car might get damaged. So after visiting the Genoveses beach I decide to drive to Almeria.

The Genoveses beach is a large beach with soft, fine sand in a bay surrounded by promontories. Must be very full during the summer. Surprisingly, today there is absolutely no wind.

There is no shadow at all on this beach. I guess that if you come here in the summer you need to bring a lot of drinks and a sun umbrella or a sun shade.

From the Genoveses beach to Almeria it's less than 40 minutes by car. I have keyed in the address of a Chinese restaurant in Almeria, so that we can have a late lunch there. We arrive there at 2:40pm.

We eat in Chinese restaurants for two reasons: good, delicious food in large portions and reasonable prices and it's possible to order stuff speaking Chinese with the restaurant staff. Shirley speaks no Spanish at all, and my Spanish in the meantime is very poor (my Chinese is much better).

After lunch we drive to a "Molon Tea" bubble tea café in Almeria, but because we arrive at 3:50pm, the place is still closed (opens after 5pm). So we drive into the centre of Almeria.

The cathedral is nice and photogenic, but closed when we arrive. We can't find much else in terms of historic buildings in the centre of Almeria. But also in Almeria there is a pretty shopping street / area with many shops and cafes and overall the centre Almeria is clean and elegant.

After 5pm we get back to the Molon Tea café and order three bubble teas. Then we drive to Malaga, arriving at 8:10pm at the apartment.

After unloading the luggage in the apartment, we drive to the mall with the Carrefour hypermarket we spotted on the way to the apartment. This turns out to be a nice, flashy mall with many shops, a hypermarket and several cafes and food options.

30.12: Malaga -> Antequera dolmen site -> Malaga
Apartment "Villa Musica", Torremolinos.
Weather: perfect sunny weather with spotless blue sky, no wind, top temperature of 18°C. The temperature feels comfortable, people outdoors are wearing T-shirts.

We leave the apartment late after 12:30pm. After refueling the car we drive to the Antequera dolmen site in the mountains near Malaga. Most of the road is motorway, but with narrow lanes and narrow curves.

The dolmen site is a UNESCO world heritage site located near the small town of Antequera. There is a parking (free) and from there you first walk to the museum, where you get a free ticket. You have to show this ticket at various checkpoints of the compound.

The museum is relatively small and not terribly interesting. It shows the history of the site and some artifacts from the excavation.

After visiting the museum you walk on a short trail which leads you to two underground tombs.

The entire visit takes about 45 minutes, from 1:30pm to 2:15pm. After the visit, we drive to a Chinese restaurant where we have a late lunch until well after 3pm. Then we drive to the Gibralfaro castle in Malaga.

We park the car in a (free) parking adjacent to the castle, then walk in. Ticket of 3.50 Euro/person to get in.

The castle is on a hill overlooking Malaga and is quite big. It's in a good conservation status, perhaps a bit too good (has it been restored recently?).

We spend some time visiting the castle. Lots of visitors today. The castle itself is not so special, but from the walls there are great views of Malaga and the surrounding area.

Around 5:30pm we leave the castle and walk down the trail / road to the centre of Malaga. Lots of people today in the pedestrian area. All shops are open. Impressive cathedral of Malaga.

After 8pm we are back in the car and drive to the mall in Torremolinos near our place. There we buy some food and the kids order some dinner in the Burger King outlet. After that we drive back to the apartment.

31.12: Malaga
Apartment "Villa Musica", Torremolinos.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with thin clouds layer in the morning (fewer clouds later in the day). Quite windy around noon, less wind in the afternoon. Quite mild - top temperatures of 21°C, warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt or thin jacket.

We leave the apartment after 11:30am and drive to the Deutsche Bank branch near the city centre. I'm hoping to get some cash without having to pay an ATM fee (as reported in an web page). Well no, also here there is a fee of 4 Euro also here to get cash.

After that we park the car next to the Deutsche Bank (we find a free parking) and walk towards the cathedral. Lots of people on the streets today.

At some point we briefly split - I'll head to the cathedral for some photos, while Shirley and the kids go to a Chinese restaurant. At the cathedral, if you want to visit it, you have to enter from the side (perhaps a ticket is needed?). Inside the cathedral is wildly photogenic.

After the cathedral I join the ladies in the restaurant (using Life360 to locate them). Not so great food today in this restaurant.

At 1:30pm we walk to the Alcazaba (which today happens to be free of charge). Quite impressive structure, extending over a hill overlooking Malaga. Pretty cool gardens and palace at the upper level. Sort of a mini-Alhambra.

Shortly before 5pm we are done with the Alcazaba and walk back towards the city centre. We'll then walk around the streets, having some food and shopping here and there.

Around 7pm we sneak into the Carrefour hypermarket in the mall near the flat to buy some food. Everything is already closed (the entire mall today closes at 7pm). Then we drive back to the flat.

1.1: Malaga -> Jaen -> Baeza, Ubeda
Nido Baeza Suites, Baeza. 69 Euro for a room with a double bed, sofa, table + chairs, A/C unit, bathroom with shower. Nice room in the historic core of Baeza. The only problem is that it is difficult to find it (it took us some effort to get there by car).
Weather: overcast in the morning, then sunny blue sky after 10am-11am. Quite fresh in Jaen and Baeza/Ubeda, probably because we are at altitude (700m) and far away from the sea.

We leave the apartment after 11am and initially drive to Jaen. Jaen is not a UNESCO heritage site and is not listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook, but Natasha wants to visit this place.

At 1:20pm we reach the centre of Jaen. Jaen is not that much of a tourist destination, but the cathedral is impressive. Great facade. Besides the cathedral there are a few more interesting buildings and a castle (which we do not visit).

Everything is closed today in Jaen. So we briefly stop in a McDonald's for some quick food around 2pm, then leave Jaen for Baeza, arriving there shortly before 3pm.

Baeza (together with neighbouring Ubeda) is a UNESCO world heritage site, because of its interesting architecture (mix of Moorish and Renaissance). And in fact, the historic core of Baeza is really pretty. There is a cathedral and some other churches, and other quite photogenic buildings.

The only problem is the sun, which today comes and goes, as clouds flow over the sky.

We spend a bit over an hour in Baeza (it's a small place and it's quite cold today), then get back to the car and drive to Ubeda.

Also in Ubeda we manage to find a free parking along the street (blue lined parking spots, but on Sundays and public holidays these parking spots are free). This is near a Chinese restaurant, which at 4pm is still open, but about to close (will reopen at 7:30pm).

So we spend some time having a look at Ubeda. Initially we can't find the historic core, so after some walking at 5:10pm we stop in a café for a drink and cake.

Around 6pm, while the ladies are still in the café, I get back to the old town area and this time find the historic core. It's indeed also impressive, although a bit less fascinating than the one of Baeza.

I'll be exploring the area until about 6:45pm (blue hour period), then walk towards the Burger King restaurant where the ladies right now are.

At 7:30pm we are at the Chinese restaurant, which now is open again, and have a dinner. Some chat with the restaurant owner in Chinese (he has been living in Spain for the past 35 years).

After dinner we buy some food in a supermarket, then drive to the apartment. It takes some time to find the apartment and get in, so we are only in after 10:20pm.

2.1: Baeza -> Cuenca
Apartment "El Mirador del Huecar", Cuenca. 104 Euro for a large, nice apartment with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom with shower and a large living room.
Weather: initially sunny with some clouds, later in the day overcast. Cold in Cuenca (8°C, mainly due to the altitude of 1000m), but no wind so it's quite bearable. No rain.

We start driving to Cuenca after 11am. The road is a mix of motorway and long distance roads. Most roads are reasonably good and there is little traffic. I drive almost non-stop for four hours (only a short 5 minutes stop after three hours).

At 3:50pm we park the car in the parking next to the castle, then have a look at Cuenca.

Cuenca is a UNESCO world heritage site and really deserves this nomination, because it is wildly photogenic. The old town is on a hill overlooking a canyon, interesting medieval architecture, houses on rocks with wooden balconies over the abyss.

I walk into the San Pedro church (2.50 Euro ticket). The interior is not terribly special, but it's possible to walk on top of the bell tower. Then I walk down to the Plaza Mayor square, where the ladies are waiting.

It's 4:30pm, so there is not enough time to visit the cathedral. We walk down to the San Pablo bridge and cross it. From there there are nice views of Cuenca.

We spend some more time exploring Cuenca, then get back to the car and drive to the Mirador de Cuenca mall. That is because we haven't had lunch today but normal restaurants open at 8pm. In the mall it's likely that we will find food, it should be possible to shop and chill a bit.

The Mirador de Cuenca turns out to be suitable for the purpose. There is a food court where we have some food. After eating something we shop around a bit. Before leaving the mall we buy some food and drinks in a Mercadona supermarket.

Around 8pm we drive to the apartment.

3.1: Cuenca -> Zaragoza
Sercotel Plaza Feria hotel, Zaragoza. 90 Euro for a suite consisting of two rooms: one living room with bed and sofa and a bedroom. Large bathroom with shower. Nice, good furniture (cupboard, table chair in the living room, sofa and table in the living room + a bed). Located near the Zaragoza airport. Good soft bed, quiet room. Lots of hot water in the shower.
Weather: overcast and light rain, 9°C in the morning in Cuenca. No wind. Overcast and 14°C in Zaragoza.

Shortly after 11am we leave the apartment and drive to the cathedral in Cuenca. There I drop off the ladies and park the car at the castle parking (free of charge). Then I walk down and together with the ladies after 11:30am we visit the cathedral.

The cathedral is very, very impressive. Wildly photogenic interior. Very complex church with plenty of rooms, decorations and religious art everywhere. Almost incredible that in a remote place in the mountains like Cuenca they build such a huge and impressive cathedral. Cuenca must have been an important place in the past.

At 12:10pm we end our visit of the church (we could have stayed longer, I think you could spend well over an hour visiting this church) and I take the car. Then we start driving to Zaragoza.

We stop at a petrol station outside of Cuenca where I refuel the car and we buy some food and drinks. It's because it will take four hours to reach Zaragoza and we are likely going to skip lunch.

The drive to Zaragoza is across the mountains. Only the last part is motorway. The road is not so good but crosses very scenic areas. It's a pity it's winter right now. In spring and with more time (a few days at least) it would be a good idea to visit this area and do some trekking.

With stops, we reach Zaragoza around 4:30pm and park the car in the parking below the cathedral (Plaza de Nuestra Senora del Pilar, around 2.50 Euro/hour). Then we have a look at the city.

The Nuestra Senora del Pilar is quite impressive. Great church with lots of towers, beautiful architecture. We could go in, but will likely to that tomorrow.

Instead we walk across the city towards the south, away from the river. It's an area with lots of shops, cafes, interesting buildings. Quite nice town.

We have a bubble tea in the Chikitta bubble tea café (mediocre bubble tea). Then we'll spend more time walking around here and there.

Around 7pm we are back in the car and drive to a Chinese restaurant outside the city centre where to have dinner. It's possible to drive into Zaragoza by car, but it's not such a good idea, because the traffic is bad and underground parkings are very narrow (and not cheap).

After dinner we buy some food and drinks in supermarkets and drive to the hotel.

4.1: Zaragoza
Sercotel Plaza Feria hotel, Zaragoza.
Weather: initially overcast, then even some sunshine around 2pm. Later in the evening after 7pm it rains for about an hour.

We start the day quite late after 12:30pm and drive to the Aljaferia palace (5 Euro ticket), parking the car in an open air parking near it. It's 1:15pm when we finally walk in, and the palace is only open until 2pm (opens again later in the afternoon).

The Aljaferia palace is based on a Moorish palace/castle which was taken over by the Spaniards after the reconquista. It's in a good shape (probably has been restorated) and is set up as a museum. There is an app for the smartphone which acts as sort of a guide,

We spend about 40 minutes visiting this palace, then walk to the car and drive to the Plaza de Toros, the arena where the bullfights take place. It's closed after 2pm, so I just take a picture.

Then we drive into town, leaving the car in the parking across the river opposite the cathedral. From there we cross the bridge and walk into the old town.

We'll have some lunch around 3pm in a Chinese restaurant (we are adapting to the local customs - lunch after 2pm).

Then we spend the rest of the day in the city centre, strolling on the streets and shopping around.

After 7pm when it rains we get back to the car and drive to the shopping centre near the hotel. There we have some food in a KFC restaurant and then drive to the hotel.

5.1: Zaragoza -> Tarragona -> Villadecans (near Barcelona airport)
Hotel Ibis, Villadecans. 78 Euro for a small, but well designed room. Additional 7 Euro for the parking. The room has a small bathroom with shower, no table, but some furniture where to hang or place clothes and other stuff. Heating and A/C, free WLAN. The room is ok, but I wouldn't spend more than one night in such a small room.
Weather: mostly sunny, blue sky, fresh.

We leave Zaragoza after 11am and drive towards Tarragona. The idea would be to have a look at Tarragona, a UNESCO world heritage site, then drive to Villadecans, close to the BCN airport.

The road from Zaragoza to Tarragona is almost entirely motorway, so we are able to cover the 240 km distance relatively quickly. We reach the parking in Tarragona around 1:30pm.

Tarragona is less impressive than I had imagined, i.e. I was expecting a bit more given that it is a UNESCO site.

From the parking along the waterfront (1.32 Euro/hour) we walk to the city centre. There we head to an Asian restaurant, where we have lunch.

Then we split: Natasha will go her own way (most likely shopping tour), while the rest of us will explore the city.

The upper part of the city is the older one, containing all historic sights. The Roman arena is not terrible interesting.

At 4:10pm we reach the cathedral. To visit the interior you need a ticket, quite expensive at 11 Euro per person, especially considering that the ticket for the cathedral in Cuenca costs only 5 Euro per person. The interior of the cathedral has fewer decorations than the one of Cuenca cathedral. To a large extent, it consists of empty walls.

We also have a look at the adjacent museum. This contains mainly religious art.

Shortly before 5pm we are done with the cathedral and walk to the centre of Tarragona, where we meet Natasha.

There we have a bubble tea at the Bombholla bubble tea shop. My tea is quite watery and lacks taste.

Then we walk back to the car, refuel it and drive to the airport in Barcelona. There I confirm with the Hertz car rental staff that I indeed can return the car by dropping the key in the key box in the airport parking area of Hertz.

After that we drive to the hotel, check in and take an early rest.

6.1: Villadecans -> Munich
Home, sweet home.
Weather: fresh, but no rain in the early morning in Villadecans. 4°C, overcast and light rain in Munich in the morning.

We get up at 4:15am, get ready and at 5:40am drive to the airport. There we return the car and check in for the flight to Munich (fast check-in procedure with Vueling). Then we proceed to the gate.

The flight takes off at 7:22am with a slight delay of 12 minutes (completely full), but then lands in Munich on time at 9:10am. The luggage retrieval this time proceeds without problems or delays and we are home after 11am.

Later, when we receive the invoice of Hertz, we discover that Hertz has overcharged us by over 90 Euro. We have returned the car with a full tank, but Hertz still charge us over 90 Euro for a tank fill. Despite several emails and phone calls, Hertz refuse to return the money. We won't be using Hertz again.

Copyright 2024 Alfred Molon