Archive for March 21st, 2020

March 21, 2020

The roads of my Spain!!

Ok this is a daunting task but always wanted to write something about it. As you have been reading my blog , you know I  love the road, the car is my second home! Road warrior all the way or we used to say in my good old Daytona Beach, put your pedal to the metal and rock!!!

Wait a minute! I have moved about the globetrotter in me and been around to so many countries, regions, and cities I lost count lol! Well in my beloved Spain I started out not driving at all , too young! but then did do it back in 1982 and it has never stop afterward!

Therefore, let me tell you a bit about the roads of Spain and my favorites and some photos to show. Hope you enjoy the freedom of the ride and Spain!

A generation or so ago, travelling around Spain was a time-consuming business; while the main roads radiating out from Madrid; numbered in Roman numerals from N I to N VI, were well surfaced, they were both dangerous and cluttered with slow-moving trucks/Lorries.  I remember driving into France on dirt roads, and the folks guiding me to follow the snow capped mountain to reach the border lol!!! and the EU came and the rest well even the younger Spaniards won’t know. All that is history, and today Spain has perhaps the best domestic transport infrastructure of any country in Europe… and thanks to Europe. Since Spain joined the European Union, it has benefited from major  development funds to help transform its isolated and impoverished regions into part of the modern Europe. The Spanish highway/motorway network is the third largest in the world, by length. Yes indeed!! A long way !!!

Highways in Spain come into two categores; the busy to very busy ones, hehehe! often toll roads , most of them radiating from Madrid, and along the Mediterranean coast: and the others, most of them carrying only light traffic. Nearly all of these are free. Spain’s toll highways  known officially as Autopistas are designated by the letters AP, as in AP8. Spain’s free highways, usually known as Autovias, are generally designated by the letter A, as in A66.

However, around the capital city of my Madrid, the system is different, and complex. Madrid is a maze of highways, yes not well managed at first and can be confusing to the many visitor counts I received…  with in addition to the A designated highway, the M highways for Madrid and R Radial highways (tolls). The highways  M30 (first finished in 1974 my sentimental as it passes near where I used to lived in Madrid!), M40, M45 and M50 , and even a short M55 nowdays are the main orbital routes round Madrid.  M50, the outermost, runs 80% of the way round Madrid, and connects all the main national A highways, from A1 to A6. The missing section is the northwest, from the A1 to the A6 – for which the A40 should be used. Orbital M highways are free, the radial R highways are toll roads (which i always avoid).

Madrid

The traffic moving southwest from the French border on the Atlantic coast at Irun can both avoid most of the tolls and take a shorter route between San Sebastian and Vitoria, by using the N1 and A1 autovia, rather than the AP8 and AP1 autopistas.  The same goes for traffic heading for Zaragoza and Madrid, from Barcelona. Leave the AP7 (which is free round Barcelona) at exit 26, and follow the free A2 as far as Fraga, after Lleida. For examples.

The ranking if you will of highways or motorways in Spain runs as follows

Highways or dual carriageway: Spain is full of this type of road. Highways are the roads that can be identified by the letter “A” followed by the corresponding number of the motorway / highway. The letters and numbers are white on a blue background. Within this type of roads we can make a subdivision:

Nationals: are those identified with the “A” followed by the number.

Toll: they are identified with the letters «AP» and as their own name indicates, they include tolls.

Autonomous: when the road belongs to the community.

Local: when they are under local jurisdiction and belong to a municipality.

Roads of General Interest of the State: the roads of General Interest of the State, also known as national highways, are the roads that are marked with the letter «N» and with the corresponding number after the letter. Letters and numbers appear in white on a red background. These roads are single carriageways and are one of the roads that have the most kilometers.

First-level autonomous: these are the roads identified with the letters «CL» and behind the corresponding road number. The letters are black on an orange background. Second level autonomous: its letters are «CM» followed by the numbers that correspond to the road. Both letters and numbers are white on a brown background. And they are now even CU roads in a similar manner. Third-level autonomous: third-level autonomous roads are those identified with the following letters: «CR» followed by the numbers that correspond to the road itself. The letters are black on a yellow background.

Roads of General Interest of the State in European Itinerary: they are the roads that belong to European itineraries and are identified because they carry a prefix with the letter “E”, followed by numbers. The signage has a green background.

The normal speed limits are as follows:   Motorways (autovias and autopistas) : 120 km/h;  Main roads : 80 km/h,  90 km/h or 100 km/h as indicated; and  Built-up areas : 50 km/h or 70 km/h as indicated. There are now plenty of speed traps, or radars, on main roads in Spain, and police can and do issue on-the-spot fines. Advance warning of speed traps tends to be given,  However, the boxes are hard to tell so you must be alert if do not know the road or first time by it.

The Six radial toll roads which connect Madrid with its coasts and its borders divide the Spanish continental territory into 6 radial sectors. These radial roads are enumerated in clockwise fashion as follows

A 1 from Madrid to France as Madrid, Aranda de Duero, Burgos, Vitoria, San Sebastiàn, Irùn to the French French border.

A 2 from Madrid to France  as Madrid, Zaragoza, Lleida, Barcelona, Girona and French border.

Zaragoza

Calatayud

A 3 from Madrid to Valencia or Carretera de Castilla La Mancha. I must say never pay toll on this road

Valencia

A 4 from Madrid to Cadiz or Carretera de Andalucia as Madrid, Cordoba,Sevilla, and Càdiz

A 5 from Madrid to Mérida, Badajoz, and Portugal or Carretera de Extremadura

A 6 from Madrid to A Coruña or Carretera de A Coruña as Madrid, Medina del Campo, Benavente, Ponferrada, Lugo, and A Coruña.

La Granja

Some other roads that I count as my favorites over the years and the list is not inclusive are

N110 Soria San Esteban de Gormaz , Segovia, Avila, Plasencia.

N240 Tarragona, Lleida, Huesca, Jaca, Pamplona, Altsasu.

N310 Manzanares, Villanueva de la Jara.

N320 La Gineta, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Venturada.

N330 Alicante, Almansa, Requena, Utiel, Teruel, Zaragoza, Huesca, Jaca, French border at Somport tunnel.

jaca

Canfranc

N400 Toledo, Aranjuez, Ocaña, Tarancon, Cuenca. My all time favorite a pleasure to drive on it!

Toledo

paredes

A402 Madrid, Toledo, Ciudad Real, After about 78 km of the A42 it splits into two roads the N401 and Autovia de los Viñedos

N420 Montoro, Ciudad Real, Puerto Làpice, Alcàzar de San Juan, Cuenca, Ademuz, Teruel, Montalbàn Valdealgorta, Reus, Tarragona.

Belmonte

N521 Trujillo, Càceres, Valencia de Alcàntara, to Portugal

N550 A Coruña, Santiago de Compostela, Pontevedra, Vigo, Tui

N634 Santiago de Compostela, Oviedo, Torrelavega, Bilbao, San Sebastiàn

There is now  beltways or rocade or periphérique roads  full or partial, and they have originated from the upgrading of one or several roads reaching the town to the autovía level, as the several  variant choices looping around the town were joined in a single beltway that received a new naming such as TO-20 or Z-40 (the Zaragoza beltway coming from France!). Other very popular ones around Madrid takes you to the international airport such as the M11 and M12 . My always nostalgic M30 first beltway finished in 1974. And the all the new ones making the area around Madrid messy to drive for the uninitiated such as the newer ones M40, M45, M50, and M55!

Huesca

madrid

And some mountain roads in Castilla La Mancha;enjoy them as I do

Tragacete

Albarracin

Las Majadas

Some webpages to help you drive in my beloved Spain are

The General Directoire of Traffic information in Spain: Official DGT on traffic in Spain

Highway maps, handy from the Royal Automobile Club of SpainOfficial RACE on highways

Repsol guides on itineraries and route maps, the Spanish Michelin: Official Guia Repsol of Spain

And the weather in Spain from official agency AEMET! AEMET official weather reports on Spain

Just enough info for the smart road warrior, and then off you and enjoy it as we do. The roads of my Spain!

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

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March 21, 2020

The Serranias of my Spain!

So here I am making you read me 360 degrees back to my beloved Spain, the one of dreams and stories, architecture and history, and food and wines! This is another story, the mountains of the Serrania of Cuenca and its smallist towns done several times by yours truly in my road warrior mode!

This is my story on Tragacete, Cañete and Tarancon, follow me if you dare! The towns are so small but quant that will put them in one post ok, enjoy it.

We were driving all over Castilla La Mancha as our road warrior habits are known! And we realized were running short on gas/petrol so we were on the back roads of the Serrania de Cuenca and headed for Tragacete, another small mountain town pop of less than 500 folks but has a Repsol gas station !! yupeee! and the old Church of San Miguel, passing by was nice. This is real countryside and we love it!!!

Tragacete

Tragacete is of course in the Province of Cuenca and the already mentioned region on the high plateau of the mountains or Serrania Alta. It is part of the Natural Park of the Serrania de Cuenca. And we rented a house around here for several years which was memorable, great souvenirs with the family see my posts on Las Majadas especially.

Tragacete

Tragacete is a mountain town hahaha really! that starts at the valley formed by the Jucar riverbed. In its outskirts you will be on hills of considerable height, like Mogorrita with 1,866 meters and San Felipe with 1,840 meters (yes and we rented at 1400 meters). Tragacete’s natural environment is quite diverse, including valleys and canyons. Numerous trails marked as “Pequeño Recorrido” or short trails will let you get to know this gorgeous setting ,especially for the walkers in us. The historic quarter exhibits the main characteristics of the local architecture, namely balconies with grilles and wooden beams. One of the most beautiful examples is the Church of San Miguel Arcángel, built in masonry, with ashlar stones in its corners. Its marble ornamental screen on the wall at the back of the altar built after the Spanish Civil War of 1936.

Tragacete

City hall of Tragacete on its history in Spanish here : City Hall of Tragacete

Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on Tragacete: Tourist office Castilla La Mancha on Tragacete

Cañete  is another small mountain town in the same area province of Cuenca in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha, located about 70 km east of Cuenca, the provincial capital. We went to visit it a really old town on the CM 2106 road with lots of canyon, ramparts and old castle ruins way up town. The best here is the El Postigo canyon with old world laundries by the river , a water fall and escalation to the castle ruins but we did not went all the way, this is for the real outdoorsman aficionado!!! High up!

Cañete

The town was the birthplace of Álvaro de Luna, a Castilian nobleman of the Luna family at the end of the 14C. He was Constable of Castilla, Grand Master of Santiago and worthy servant of King Juan II of Castilla. He is buried in the Santiago chapel, in the ambulatory of the Toledo Cathedral.

During the Spanish Civil War of 1936, the Republican militias who arrived from the Levantine region devastated the parish church, the Chapel of San Julián and the Sanctuary of Our Lady or Nuestra Señora de la Zarza, destroying   the images that the Christian piety   safeguarded and as far as worship existed in its sacred precincts , and which later they dedicated to warehouses or garages ; likewise, in the last moments of the war they destroyed the two beautiful bells of the parish Church.

Cañete

The town of Cañete has areas such as the Hoz del Postigo, recovered as a tourist recreation area, with a picturesque landscape of waterfall, river, view of the hanging houses of the town, hermitage of the Patron Saint Virgen de la Zarza, vestiges of the walled compound, etc. The Cañete castle is accessible on foot and is of Andalusian origin, it had several extensions, especially after the Castilian conquest. The last reforms are from the 19C, from the Carlist Wars. It stands on top of a steep, narrow and long hill, dominating the town, next to the Mayor del Molinillo river. Yes way up long march. There is a nice Puerta de las Eras gate, in a bend, domed, with a horseshoe arch, and of Andalusian origin. Among the temples of Cañete are the Church of Santiago, the Chapel of San Julián and the hermitage of the Virgen de la Zarza.

Cañete

Cañete

The city of Cañete with a map showing its things to see here in pdf file format: city of Canete pdf file on things to see

Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on Cañete things to see : TOurist office Castilla La Mancha on things to see in Canete

We came down on the N420 to take the A40 expressway to see a far away town of Tarancon on the intersection with the A3 that goes into Madrid. At Tarancon , you see the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion , (12C), but really nice was the Santuario de Riansares. Bombed in the Spanish Civil War and rebuilt in the 1950’s ; it had been in the family of the Duque of Riansares as well as built a castle next to it. The Duke and his family are buried inside.

Tarancón is another town from the area but lesser levels and a lot more accessable in the same province of Cuenca, in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha. It is located between La Mancha and La Alcarria moutain areas in a valley. Tarancón is the second most populous town in the province, after Cuenca, so that it borders the provinces of Toledo, Guadalajara and the Community of Madrid, all of which are just a few kilometers from the town. For this reason, Tarancón is equipped with a network of state highways and roads, as well as rail and AVE routes, which connect it to the main cities in Spain. The A-3 or Autovía del Este (yes we know it very well) is one of the six radial highways in Spain and is the natural union between Madrid and the Mediterranean coast of the Valencian Community, more specifically with Valencia. It has three round-trip lanes respectively, on the Tarancón-La Almarcha section.  The A-40 or the Autovia Castilla-La Mancha (yes we do it !!), which starts in Ávila, passes through Toledo, Tarancón, Cuenca and ends in Teruel. The N-400 that connects Tarancón with Ocaña and Toledo. Tarancón has had a train station in its urban core since 1885, where regional trains on the Madrid-Cuenca-Valencia line stop. Tarancón has a bus station, with four docks, night lighting, café / bar, ticket office with ticket sales and information, etc a couple of lines does the run to Madrid but never use it.

In 1537 the town was given the status of villa, although it continued under the jurisdiction of Uclés. In 1591 it was included in the province of Castilla of the Order of Santiago. The town belonged to the province of Toledo until the territorial reform of 1833, by which it was incorporated into that of Cuenca. In 1973 the singer Nino Bravo (sad one of my favorites!) received first aid in Tarancón after suffering the traffic auto accident that took his life.

A bit more story on the above sites:

Sanctuary of the Virgin of Riánsares: located approximately 5 km from Tarancón. It was founded in the 12C. The palace was initially acquired by D. Fernando Muñoz, Duque de Riánsares where he built his pantheon and, next to it, a summer Palace in which to spend summer seasons with his wife, Queen María Cristina de Borbón. Later it was transferred to the Catholic Church and today is the Sanctuary that gives its name to the Patron Saint of Tarancón. More on a special site of the brotherhood of the Virgin of riànsares: Brotherhood of the Virgin of Riansares

Tarancon

Palace of the Dukes of Riánsares. It is the current headquarters of the Tarancón City/Town Hall. Restored building from the 19C, with a rectangular floor plan of two heights and an attic, it has a central courtyard with Tuscan columns, around which the rooms of the building are located. Outside you can see the remains of the original grid. The palace also had some beautiful gardens that in the 20C were transformed into the current Plaza del Mercado or market square. The home of the Dukes of Riánsares was also modified and few original elements have been preserved.

Tarancon

Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (Nuestra Señora de la Asunción), from the 16C, with a magnificent Plateresque altarpiece that presides over the main altar.It is located in the neighborhood of El Castillejo, the oldest of the town, prior to its construction, since the 13C, there would be a temple of uncertain location, although probably in the same place where the current church is erected, and it would be in the Romanesque style or neo-gothic. The first church dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption must have been built in the 15C. It was a Gothic building with a single nave, with attached side chapels and a ribbed vault, which persisted until the end of the 19C.

Tarancon

Arco de la Malena or arch is the entrance door to what was once a walled enclosure, becoming the most evident proof of this, and as far as its origin is from the 11C. It is currently the arch that gives entrance and precedes the Parroquia de la Asunción or Parish of the Assumption.

Tarancon

The city of Tarancon on heritage: City of Tarancon on heritage

Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on Tarancon: Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on Tarancon

There you a nice quant beautiful scenary ride in the mountain towns and into the valleys of the Province of Cuenca in Castilla La Mancha autonomous region of my beloved Spain. Hope you enjoy the ride and do try it , its great!

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

 

 

 

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March 21, 2020

Quart Towers in Valencia!

So will tackle in this post a unique interesting monument that I would dare to say is off the beaten path in Valencia, Spain. We come to see the great monuments and we passed by these mostly unnoticed except by yours truly always looking for architecture and history. Let me tell you a bit more about the Quart towers of Valencia. or Torres de Quart.

The Torre de Quart towers are twin towers, which were part of the medieval wall that protected the old center of the city of Valencia. They are located at the intersection of Calle Guillén de Castro and Calle Quart. The Quart Towers were built by masters in the noble art of stones in the 15C, between the years 1441 and 1460.  The style of the towers belongs to the late military Valencian Gothic style.

Valencia

The Quart Towers, owes their name to the fact that they were located on the path that leads to the center of the city, from Plaza de La Virgen square where the Cathedral of Valencia is, to the village Quart de Poblet. The towers provided western access to traffic from Castilla. The Quart towers were also called Porta or Portal de Cuarte.

These towers have gone through the War of Succession, the War of Independence against the French, the Cantonal Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. You can still see in their thick walls the holes of the impacts caused by the cannonballs of the Revolutionary War. And they are still standing!

From 1626 until the 18C, they housed the women’s prison. Until 1874, they were called the Lime Towers because the Lime used to coat the houses of Valencia, had to enter through the door between the two towers.

The Quart towers are the remains of the old medieval rampart of Valencia. From the last decade of the 20C, parrots and other exotic birds escaped from their masters, nested and reproduced in the holes caused by the artillery in their exterior facade. Today, in the 21C, the Quart towers still stand; they have restore their exterior facade, blackened by the exhaust fumes from traffic passing through calle Quart and Calle Guillén de Castro.

The tourist office of Valencia on the torres de Quart in English: Tourist office of Valencia on the Quart Towers

And there you go we went by walking and then passed many times by car while in the city. We were there from Madrid by car and it was wonderful, it ought to be seen the Quart towers for the architecture and the history that they have cover.

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

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