Archive for June 10th, 2018

June 10, 2018

Jaca in the heart of Aragon! Monasterio San Juan de la Peña!!!

Well, our rains continue in my neck of the woods but we advance with errands all over. France is also on a rainy period with some flooding’s especially in the east of Paris, Seine-et-Marne 77. I like to shift gear into my beloved Spain, and especially the wonderful old kingdom of Aragon.

We came actually from France when we were base in Pau, the trip by car is easy over the mountains and Jaca is just there after  Somport. Jaca is Aragon at its best, and we also took advantage to see the wonderful Monastery of San Juan de la Peña. I will give you  a bit more update here.

First, as usual for me, will give you my previous blog posts on these unique wonderful spots in my beloved Spain. Jaca city and the Monastery of San Juan de la Peña.

Jaca is in the province of Huesca in the autonomous region of Aragon, On the axe Pau Zaragoza passing by the Somport tunnel (or as when I started coming here just pushing 2nd gear over the mountain trails!). It is in the heart of the heart of the Pyrénées in the valley of Aragon, parallel valley to the axis of the Pyrenees, at the foot of Mount Oroel. The city is on a depression of the Canal of Berdùn 818 meters below sea level. It is part of the metro area of the north of Aragon in the Jacetania.

By road as we do, we take it from France under Somport tunnel with the N134 France and then come out with the N330 Spain to direction Huesca, Zaragoza taken the panels for Jaca. (future expressway under construction as we passed last year with the new A21 linking all the major towns in Aragon, Navarra, and beyond. There is bus service between main towns such as Castiello, Villanûa , Canfranc, and the ski resorts towns of Candanchu and Astun. The train takes you to Huesca, Zaragoza, and Madrid, as well as the closest airport is Huesca at 80 km, Pau in France at 130 km.

A bit of history I like

Jaca was inhabited by the Jacetani people from pre Roman times, the Roman consul Caton the old conquered it in 196 BC. It was the first capital of the kingdom of Aragon and a point of departure for the Conquering of the New World. The city was from early 11C a fortified military camp as it had an strategic location by the foot of the peak of Somport and on the Aragonese road to St James (Santiago de Compostela). Ramiro I of Aragon , son of king Sancho III the Great of Navarra inherited the county of Jaca and later the counties of Sobrarbe and Ribagorce and takes the title of king of Aragon in 1038. He obtained from the Pope to name Jaca the seat of the bishops of Aragon and gives the city title or fuero of Jaca in 1077 , as well as ordered built the Cathedral of St Peter. Once Huesca is taken from the Moors in 1096 ,Jaca loses its role as capital but stayed a strong commercial center and controlling the road from Zaragoza to France as well as holding resting place of pilgrims on the road to St James.

During the war of successions of Spain ,Jaca takes side with the Bourbons , winners the king Felipe V puts a flower of lily on the coat of arms of the city. . During the Napoleonic period in the war of independence of Spain ,Jaca falls to the French in 1809 and will stayed French until 1814. The 1868 revolution (aka La Gloriosa the glorious) against the queen Isabel II the seminary was cancelled, volunteers of Liberty were formed ,civilians organized to protect the public order against the followers of Isabel and against the absolutists in favor of a constitution of 1856, the non nata as it was never put into law.

In December 1930, the Jaca uprising, a mutiny whose leaders demanded abolition of the monarchy, was suppressed with some difficulty. It was an early event that preceded the  Spanish Civil War. At the start of the Spanish Civil War, in August 1936 many of the protagonists in the uprising were executed by firing squad.

Things to see in Jaca

The wonderful St Peter’s Cathedral (Catedral de San Pedro), the superb Citadel aka St Peter’s castle or Castillo de San Pedro until the 19C , ordered built in 1592 by king Felipe II; the San Miguel de Jaca bridge, the museum of military miniatures, Done with lead the material used to make the 32,000 figures, each under 20 mm , in 32 glass enclosures. Recreating periods such as the first great armies”, “From the Crusades to the 18th century” “Towards Great War (WW1)”, “The Spanish Civil War and Second World War” and “Towards peace”. The final scale model rises directly from the floor and is the biggest and most attractive of the museum. It recreates the range of tanks and vehicles in the First Brunete Armored Division. The display is made up of nearly 5,500 pieces which commemorate the greatest combat unit in the Spanish army. the Clock tower of Jaca ,gothic style built in 1445 on the same spot as the palace of the Aragonese kings, that was destroyed by fire in 1395. Later uses as king’s representative in the city , prison and since 1986, the HQ of the European Council Pyrenean Work Community.   A cultural heritage kept at the Municipal Archives building, the Libro de la Cadena or the book of chains, a manuscript containing the statues , rights , privileges of the city fuero of Jaca, a copy from the 13C with 101 parchment pages covering the period from 931 to 1324.

Jaca Jaca

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here, it is a must in the north old Spain.

City of Jaca on tourism in Spanish ;

Good site Unofficial Jaca on tourism in Spanish :

Tourist site on the metro area Jacetania in English:

Region of Aragon tourism on Jaca:

I like to mentioned briefly on the Monasterio San Juan de la Peña very near Jaca. Only 23 km in the village of Santa Cruz de la Séros, in the Sierra de la Peña mountain at about 1200 meters altitude and a spectacular view up to it.  From Jaca take the road N240 direction Pamplona, you follow the signs for Santa Cruz de la Seros and a mountain road A1603 takes you to the old monastery and from there 1,5 km to the new monastery. Better as they said park in the new monastery and take the navette bus to the old; the road is really narrow and steep and hard to park along it if impossible.

It was founded in the year 920 in a very secluded site that was previously occupied by the monks that came here hiding from the Moors invasion in 720. In the 11C it took the Clunician reform against the vices that suffered the Church.  In the 16C another monastery was build in the baroque style a bit further up, the road been very narrow and steep parking was very difficult and still is;;;; the cars were park near the newer monastery and a navette bus takes you to the old included in the admission price.

 Monasterio San Juan de la Pena  Monasterio San Juan de la Pena  Monasterio San Juan de la Pena  Monasterio San Juan de la Pena  Monasterio San Juan de la Pena

All I can say see it , its a must and a wonderful jewel of my beloved Spain. Some official webpages to help you get there.

A wonderful, terrific, no words combination to see something real of Spain Jaca and the Monastery de la Peña are unreal. Enjoy it

And remember, happy travels, good health and many cheers to all!!!

Tags: ,
June 10, 2018

Hanging houses or Casas Colgadas of Cuenca!

And here we are again, to tell you something wonderful in my beloved Spain. I have my roots in Tenerife but had traveled extensively there over the years, and no where as  a region is more into the traditional history of Spain than at Castilla La Mancha. My favorite town is the one I always used the mountains of the Serrania as base, the wonderful Cuenca.

Cuenca is a town and a province of same name in the autonomous region of  Castilla La Mancha. I have many memories here with my dear late wife Martine and the boys. We love, and each year thinking of going someplace else for our summer vacation, we end up deciding to come here lately. Until we meet again Cuenca, now sadder as Martine is not physically with us.

My previous blog post on the Casas Colgadas and Cuence in general here: My previous blog post on Cuenca

HuLet me tell you a bit about the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses), also known as Casas del Rey, (houses of the king) ; they are a group of civil construction in the ladders of the Huécar river, and are name as such because they had huge balconies over size on the cliff given to the canyon of the Huécar river.

Cuenca Cuenca Cuenca Cuenca Cuenca Cuenca

The denomination of Colgadas or Hanging was a late title and only came to be known as such by 1920.  The graphic story of these houses begain in 1565, the year that the Flemish painter Anton van den Wyngaerde included them together with the curve along the cliff of San Martin in a wonderful panorama of his work ” Cuenca desde el este” or Cuenca from the East.  The oldest photos of the place are from the last third of the 19C showing a group of houses that remained intact for several centuries even if unfortunately there are only one remaining of the architecture marval of old Cuenca.

From that early period in the 15C along its history they have undergone several renovations and some as recent as 1920 and 1960. They were used as living quarters by individuals, city hall and now a museum Spanish abstract arts by the Foundation Juan March. More on the museum here: Museum of Spanish Abstract Arts Cuenca

In addition to Cuenca, there are still hanging houses in Spain at Albarracin, Cantavieja, Castellfullit de la Roca, Frias, Gerona, Ronda, Zafra de Zàncara, and Tarazona. Some of these houses only the balconies are left and some interiors next to the windows.

In addition to my previous blog posts, some webpages to help you plan your trip to this wonderful city and hanging houses are

Tourist office Castilla y La Mancha ; .

City hall of Cuenca on the casas ;

A beautiful unofficial site on the Casas and a nice video in Spanish:

There you have it , another jewel of my beloved Spain. Hope you enjoy it.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers!!!


Tags: , ,
June 10, 2018

Magical Porto, of course, Portugal!

On a rainy cloudy and now calm day, I come to you again. Travel is such as wonderful feelings that I cannot describe it , sorry not a writer nor a poet, but just feeling good. Finding good places will make you always attach to these places. The good life is always important to enjoy it now, because regardless of what the medical profession tells you, it is very short.

Let me bring you up to speed on Porto, of Portugal. A very nice city with a even better reputation for one of the World’s best wines.  I have written before in my blog first on Porto itself and then on the wines of Porto and Portugal in general.  These posts are here.

Porto and combination

The wines of Portugal and Porto!


Porto is in the north of Portugal facing the Atlantic ocean on the Douro river. The capital of the North region , sub region of Grand Porto ,district of Grande Aire Metropolaine de Porto or GAM.

Very well connected city and plenty of public transports. You have six metro lines in where the lines A B and C runs from west to east; the line D from north to south towards Vila Nova de Gaia, the line E goes to the airport Francisco Sá Carneiro and other points and the line F or Gondomar line connects the towns of the GAM to city center. The metro webpage in   English is here:

There is a tramway line call Electrico I running the side of the Douro river to the city center as well there is cable car. The transport there is managed by the SCTP here:

The airport Francisco Sà Carniero is about 11 km from the city and have taken it many times on business trips. The webpage is here:

The road is intense but well done. Very nice to drive here, which I have done on my runs from Lisbon several times. Coming into the city is easy on the A1 , and there are two beltways one call the interne or via de cintura interna or VCI takes from city center Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia for about 21 km and it is connected to the A20 on the north, and the IC23 in the south as well as the auto estradas roads A1 and A28 to the west. The A41 or the exterior beltway or CREP goes around the north ,east and south for about 62 km; to the west the A41 is completed with sections of the A1, A28 and A29 For more info on the main highways or Estradas see here:

The train station is very nice for a visit although never taken trains there, it is call the Estacao Porto-Sao Bento and it has very nice ceramic tile walls in the main hall dating from the 19C. More here:

A bit of history I like

The Romans name it Portus because of the port in the 1C BC. The city took in many invasions afterward such as from the Suaves, Visigoths, Normans, Moors and in 858 was pillage by the Vikings under their leader Hasting.

Porto was part of the kingdom of Castile (Spain) from the early 11C. IN 1096 king Alfonso VI of Castile gives it to his daughter Teresa, married with Henri of Burdungy. Their son Alfonso Henri is the first Portuguese monarch

From the 14C the city is fitted with a fortified wall and ramparts in massive stones, the historic center was also protected from these walls called Fernandinas in honor of Dom Fernando under which reign they were finished in 1376 . In 1580 the Spanish army led by Sancho of Avila takes the city from Antonio de Crato   a pretender to the throne of Portugal during the crisis of the Portuguese succession that ended with the coming to the throne of Felipe II of Spain.

The invasion of the Napoleonic troops in Portugal under Marshal Soult also brought war to the city of Porto. In 1809, as the population fled from the advancing French troops and tried to cross the river Douro over the pontoon bridge the bridge collapsed under the weight. This event is still remembered by a plate at the  Dom Luis Bridge.. The French arlmy was rooted out of Porto by the Anglo Portuguese troops crossing the Douro river from the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar (a former convent) in a brilliant daylight charge using wine barges to transport the troops, so outflanking the French Army.

In 1820, a Liberal revolution occurred, quickly spreading without resistance to the rest of the country.  In 1822, a liberal constitution was accepted, partly through the efforts of the liberal assembly of Porto . When  Miguel I of Portugal took the Portuguese throne in 1828, he rejected this constitution and reigned as an absolutist monarch. A Civil War was then fought from 1828 to 1834 between those supporting Constitutionalism, and those opposed to this change, keen on near-absolutism and led by Dom Miguel. Porto rebelled again and had to undergo a siege of 18 months between 1832 and 1833 by the Absolutis army. Porto is also called “Cidade Invicta” (Unvanquished City) after successfully resisting the Miguelist siege. After the abdication of King Miguel, the liberal constitution was re-established.

In 1919, forces favorable to the restoration of the Monarchy launched in Porto a  counter revolution known as the Monarchy of the North.  During this time, Porto was the capital of the restored kingdom, as the movement was contained to the north. The monarchy was deposed less than a month later and no other monarchist revolution in Portugal happened again.

Things to see, well more my favorites because they are many

The Arràbida bridge , the Dom Luis Bridge, , the stock exchange of Porto., the Clerigos tower , the contemporary Art museum of the Foundation Serralves, the house of music or Casa de la Musica, the Cathedral a fortress Church from the 12C with renovations in the 17C and 18C; Maria Pia bridge built in 1877 by Gustave Eiffel ! The wonderful old town in the historic center;, the Ribeira the banks of the Douro river , the Palacio de Cristal or Crystal palace,, Palace of Queijo along the ocean, The Bolhao Market, and the biggest square the Praça Mouzinho de Alburquerque, the streets of Rua Santa Catarina and Rua do Almada very nice shops and restos here, the Norte Shopping center mall , the Bom Sucesso market , the Dragao Stadium home of Porto FC and Bessa XXI stadium home of Boavista FC , Sao Francisco Church and Santa Clara Church.

Porto Porto Porto Porto

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and you must come are here

A very good guide on Porto and Portugal ;

Tourist office of Portugal on Porto:

Tourist office of Porto ;

There you go , i hope you like it and encourage you to visit this very nice city of Porto in Portugal.  And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

Tags: , ,
%d bloggers like this: