Some news from Spain CVIII

And here I am again on my latest rants from my series of Some news from Spain! Thank you for your loyal reading over the years and you know some of you are from 2011!!! Well enough of bad news with the pandemic we must go on or as the Spanish song says Resisteré or resist against all odds. Its August is Madrid and is Spain everything under the sun.

One of the nicest places to spent a summer or more is at the town of  El Puerto de Santa María, with its hundred palaces and a lot of art. Historic enough to show off Phoenician, Roman and medieval legacies, but also current, since the poet Rafael Alberti was born here and today it is a pole of contemporary art .  A 13C castle of San Marcos and under the watchful eye of the bust of King Alfonso X the Wise. Alfonso X built it as a fortress church on an old mosque of which remains are still preserved.

To get to know the nearby Phoenician site of Doña Blanca, it is necessary to travel by car or taxi to the foothills of the San Cristóbal mountain range, about  7 km from the city center. The Rafael Alberti Foundation, located in his old house (Calle Santo Domingo, 25), treasures valuable works by the Porto poet, grouped together in its exhibition rooms and the library. A few steps away, the youth home of the playwright Pedro Muñoz Seca is today Casa de Indias, a hotel and contemporary art center with a permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.  Bodegas Osborne , one of the most visited monuments in the city (Calle Los Moros, 7). The beautiful architectural ensemble allows you to dive into the production of its famous wines , tasting included  among centuries-old barrels. The facilities also house the Toro Gallery, an interpretation center on the origin and cultural imbrications of its famous bull of the roads. By the way, of the 94 fences that exist, El Puerto is the town that has the most: almost a dozen (not counting those of the museum). The Port area has 15 km of fine white sand beaches, many of them safe from the furious east wind..

You can discover the patrimonial legacy left by the shippers of the Indies who traded with America; in this case, with sherry wines. The Casa de los Leones and its baroque façade from the 17C (Calle La Placilla,  stand out; the Palace of Purullena (Calle de las Cruces) , with its beautiful 18C patio, or that of the Marquesa de Candia (today Municipal Museum; Calle Pagador, 1). A stop on this way is the Greater Priory Church, whose Plateresque façade, its Mexican silver altarpiece, the choral stalls or the neoclassical baldachin give a good account of the commercial splendor that El Puerto enjoyed. For the nights the life  in El Puerto de Santa Maria revolves around the Guadalete River. Wonderful Andalucia and Spain. A place to visit and plan ahead.

The Puerto de Santa Maria tourist office in English:

The Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Jaraba (Our Lady of Jaraba sanctuary), in the Hoz Seca ravine, a kind of dry and dry Mount Athos, the same color and texture as the cliffs from which it hangs. It is one of many sanctuaries of Visigothic legends prior to the Muslim era, with its timely appearance of the Virgin just in time to prop up the Christian reconquest. The beautiful waterfalls of the Monastery of Piedra  such as Vista de La Caprichosa, one of the waterfalls of the Monasterio de la Piedra, a natural space that has just reopened its doors in Nuévalos (Zaragoza province) the Iris cave, ,without not forgetting the inside cloister of the Monasterio de la Piedra. You can make a road warrior wonderful trip continuing towards Embid de Ariza and the stately and melancholic Casa de la Vega, a very noble work house with a chapel, farmhouse, neglected garden, superb avenues of plane trees and wheat fields. There you have to see the famous cathedral gall that was already old in the days of the Catholic Monarchs: they call it the Tree of the Encounter because, according to legend, Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragón would have seen each other for the first time in its shadow. It seems more documented that it was the Royal Site of her daughter Juana la Loca, and there she would have been punished as a widow with her inconsolable mourning before ending up locked up in Tordesillas  Monasterio de la Piedra webpage:

The Jaraba sanctuary tourist office webpage in Spanish:

And why not bring you out into the roads of my dear Spain. I have written several posts on transports and even on road driving in my blog. Now here is a sentimental old road now a bit disfigured, the old Carretera N II or National Two.

The N-II, the road that linked Madrid with France passing through Barcelona,a fundamental artery until the motorways and highways were built…A wonderful memorable trip even if it has been a while by there now. In the 1939 Highway Plan, with dictator Franco already in power, the six main roads were named with the N for national and it was determined that their mileage be marked in an increasing direction from Madrid. Of the 790 km that the N-II had, less than 300 remain, as a large part disappeared when the highways were built on top. The section from Girona to Barcelona remains quite complete. Even so, sometimes you have to leave the A-2 by force and you feel frustrated.  Along the N-II we will see roundabouts embellished with a locomotive, with a John Deere tractor, with three prancing horses or, you will see, with an airborne reconnaissance and attack fighter-bomber. You name it many memorable passages of it with my then French girlfriend (later wife and mother of my 3 boys Martine RIP).

One of those trip looks like this and I still remember vividly. We approach Barcelona and at the height of Mataró the landscape becomes more industrial, although some farmhouses remain among factories, large surfaces and abominable office buildings. Through Barcelona we limited ourselves to following the city’s coastline, where the national road passed.  Arriving in Lleida, we see the first stork’s nest, that aristocrat of the bell towers and the utility poles that we will continue to enjoy from now on. We entered Aragon through the province of Huesca and opted to close the day in Fraga. After Candasnos we see the first of the 10 Osborne bulls located along the N-II. At the exit we take the N-II on the outskirts between urbanizations, shopping centers, gas stations. Already in the region of Calatayud, winding through the Sierra de Vicor through an oak forest.  About 30 km later we make another pause in Ateca. The church has a splendid Mudejar tower whose lower body, according to scholars, could have been the minaret of an old mosque. In addition, we discover that the town has been home to the Hueso factory since 1862, where the Huesitos, a reference chocolate bar, have been made since 1975.

We entered Castilla y León through the province of Soria. The N-II takes us to Santa María de Huerta, where there is a Cistercian monastery that has a refectory that is a summit of the European proto-Gothic. We pass through Somaén, a beautiful town nestled in a meander of ravines and crowned by a castle that has been restored and functions as a hotel. It was ordered to be done in the 14C by the first count of Medinaceli.  Later we enter Castilla-La Mancha , and from Guadalajara to Madrid the panorama loses its singularity. We submit to the A-2 and head towards Madrid between polygons with signs. We will arrive at Puerta del Sol and go to see the happy kilometer zero plaque. But in reality the trip symbolically ended some 30 km before, in Torrejón de Ardoz at the entrance roundabout we stopped to take a picture of the fighter bomb we had previously announced (17 meters high). I had seen in the median a landmark of the N -II, in perfect condition and installed as a tribute to the old road: surrounded by palm trees and on a stone podium with artificial grass. There was a US air base here and now Spanish and I visited back in 1971!!! The ride is awesome going thru several regions of the Kingdom of Spain. And here are now their speed radars watch out!! The transports directory of Spain webpage:

Yes, August arrives and it seems that everyone disappears from Madrid, but it is not like that. Not only does the city not remain empty, but it is a top national tourist destination, even for its own inhabitants, who enjoy a semi-empty city. This month is the best time to discover a city that never sleeps. Yes of course lived there and visited many times in August hot and good love it!! Now just outside Madrid you can climb dive and surf in X-Madrid Xiringuito Calle Oslo 53 Alcorcon!. And a wonderful exhibition call  Fight For Your Rights: Tribute to Marvin Gayne on August 8, Patio de Conde Duque. 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of one of the albums that changed the course of popular music history: Marvin Gaye’s Whats Going On, voted the greatest album in history by Rolling Stone magazine. Veranos de la Villa or Summers of the Villa Centro de Cultura Contemporánea Conde Duque. Calle del Conde Duque, 11 webpage :

Not everything is a beach in Cádiz in summer. wine tourism, a more than valid option both for wine lovers and for those interested in discovering beautiful corners and historical enclaves of the Andalusian province. The Marco de Jerez region, which includes the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María, has become in recent years one of the most visited in Spain and Europe, in terms of oenological tourism is concerned. You have between Finca Alcantara Ecuestre and Finca Salto al Cielo (about 15 km outside Jerez) you can enjoy a guided ride on the back of a Carthusian horse. The four-hour excursion begins at Alcantara Ecuestre and travels through lands that have seen the best Jerez wines born. Later, in the emblematic Finca Salto al Cielo you can see a historic chapel with a circular structure and an old bullring, walking among cattle. The excursion ends with a visit to the Conde de Peraleja winery, with a tasting of Sherry wines accompanied by typical tapas from the region. Price: 300 euros / person. Reservations Routes of Jerez and Brandy webpage:

The experience continues with a guided visit to the Bodegas Tradicion (Tradition Winery), which houses an art gallery with a collection of Spanish painting from the 14C to the 10C. In it, you can taste some of their very old wines, V.O.R.S. (Very Old Rare Sherry), over 30 years old, taste some tapas and, with the help of a guide, observe paintings by Goya, Velázquez, El Greco, Zurbarán … and the collection of etchings Suite Vollard, by Pablo Picasso. Reservations Routes of Jerez and Brandy webpage:

A wonderful story of an emblematic place that took me to be back older to Madrid to tried several years back. A bit touristic now but if you like flamenco than a visit is a must. The story is unique of El Corral de la Moreria! A music group arrives in Spain for the first time. They comes to the Corral de la Morería at night and one of its members, instead of returning to the hotel, stays until dawn learning chords with the flamenco guitarists all night. They stayed together owner son family and this men that finally went out  during the day. His name was John Lennon. This most famous flamenco tablao in the world, which reopens last May 20 2021 after 14 months of silence due to the pandemic. It does so coinciding with its 65th anniversary , which has caused a resurgence of the thousands of stories that have taken place in what was an animal pen owned by the Dukes of Alba, located in the heart of Madrid de los Austrias, on Calle de la Morería 17. El Corral de the Morería was such an avant-garde idea that it continues to be avant-garde today. Some of the other visitors were  Rock Hudson ,Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Ronald Reagan with his wife Nancy, George W. Bush, Ted Kennedy or Henry Kissinger ,Charlton Heston, Rita Hayworrth, Marlon Brando, Muhammad Ali, Sting, Sofia Loren, Pelé, Justin Bieber or Samuel L. Jackson, Isabel Pantoja, Claudia Cardinale, and Salvador Dalí.  Official webpage:

Now in the slow down due to the pandemic we all, many places are renovating, building, and arranging things around.This has not escape the Madrid museums. These are a couple major ones and what is coming; hope you enjoy them as I.

 After a few weeks of movement of works and painting of rooms, the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection reopens with a new organization, the first important one since its inauguration in 1992. The ground floor of the museum will be used for the exhibition of the Carmen Thyssen collection. The museum’s floor ,which will retain the classic salmon color of its walls will house the old masters, while modern painting will occupy the first floor now painted in white. The Dutch school of the 17-18C distribution for the Dutch continues the thematic scheme proposed in rooms 20 and 21. In this new order, the visitor will find three rooms dedicated to the landscape; in the first one, the great painting by Frans Hals has been installed. The urban and Italianate landscape will be the second stop on the tour in room 26, and Ruisdael and the painting of seascapes will occupy room 28. The interiors, one of the most striking chapters of the collection, are exhibited in room 25 and the portraits in room 27. Room 22 with examples of Italian artists, room 24 where French and British painting meet, and room 29, dedicated to romanticism and Goya have been set aside for 18C painting. The reinstallation of the modern painting collection follows a chronological sequence combined with a few thematic groupings. The tour begins with French Impressionism, Central European Expressionism, the first historical avant-gardes and the development of abstraction. The visit continues with Dadaism, Surrealism and European art from the middle years of the 20C. Rooms 37, 38 and 39 propose a thematic approach on the transformation of the portrait and the representation of the human being during the 20C. A selection of American art from the 19-20C is also featured, which is a provisional installation until the opening of the American Art exhibition at the Thyssen Collection on December 13, 2021. Official Thyssen Bornemisza museum webpage:

The Reina Sofía Museum reorders the artistic creation of the Spanish postwar period. In the new reorganization of its collection, it puts the production of exile into a dialogue with that of the ruling party. The episode ‘Lost Thought: Autarchy and Exile’, the third in the reorganization of its collection that the Museo Reina Sofía is carrying out and which it plans to culminate in November 2021 with the aim of offering a new reading of its collections, ends with the scene of ‘Red phone? We fly to Moscow ‘(1964), that nuclear bomb that Kubrick ends up detonating because the world will never stop being a stupid place, where no one seems to want to make the slightest effort to learn anything. ‘Lost thought: Autarchy and exile’, the product of the acquisitions policy undertaken in recent years by the Museum and field work in countries such as France, Mexico or the US, a “historical debt” is considered settled. In this artistic reinterpretation of the period between 1939 and the 1950s, you see an important part of this production, which here includes the exhibition of three hundred works, many of them exhibited for the first time, and abundant archive material and bibliographic documentation. The collection, which is spread over sixteen rooms on the fourth floor of the Sabatini building, brings together paintings by artists such as Picasso (‘Monument to the Spaniards who died for France’ 1946-47), Dalí (‘Atomic and melancholic uranic idyll’ , of 1945, product of his shock by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), Tàpies or Miró. There are also architectural projects, such as those donated by the José Antonio Coderch family, film fragments, books, magazines, prints, illustrations, mannequins, and photographs such as those taken by Robert Capa in Republican concentration camps. With this new approach, they aspire to recover that lost thought of exile, which goes beyond the specific time and the nation. Official Reina Sofia museum webpage:

And if you have read my blog, Unesco has come up with additional World Heritage sites and one of them was the Retiro park and Paseo del Prado area of Madrid. This has allow to revive all plans to reborn the Salon de Reinos or hall of thrones in the old Palace of Retiro in the Retiro park of Madrid. This is the story from the ABC newspaper and translated by yours truly. A bit long but you know I enjoy history; Hope you enjoy it as I. The entry of the artistic and natural complex of the El Prado-El Retiro axis on the Unesco World Heritage List pays off a debt with a city that is full of history, but above all it provides the definitive opportunity to promote a project that has been postponed too many years: the rehabilitation of the  Salon de Reinos or Hall of Kingdoms.

King Felipe IV lengthened the Habsburg idyll with Madrid by ordering the building of a large architectural complex to act as a retirement palace (Retiro). The Buen Retiro Palace began its construction in 1630 around a small royal quarter from the times of Felipe II. At the suggestion of his valid, the Count-Duke of Olivares, Felipe IV expanded the construction of his grandfather to also include a place of rooms for his wife and taking advantage of the transfer of a large amount of land from the politician to the Jerónimo convent. The new residence followed the model of the Alcázar, with a square plan with corner towers topped by spiers and a large central courtyard.

The epicenter of the project was in the Salon de Reinos , an elongated enclosure about 35 meters long by 10 meters wide and 8 meters high;  it was conceived as the great hall of ceremonies and parties, a symbol of past, present and future power of the dynasty. The interior was painted white, with gold arabesques on the walls. In the vault, preceded by numerous windows, were located the shields of the twenty-four kingdoms of the Spanish Monarchy, a declaration of intentions of the king, then immersed in his famous union of arms with which he sought to involve all the Hispanic territories In the defense of the empire.  There were 27 paintings commissioned for the occasion decorated the wide walls and, incidentally, sent a message to allies and enemies: Spain was still the hegemonic power. This collection, which forms the backbone of the Prado today, was made up of twelve great paintings of battles, among them ‘The Surrender of Breda’ and ‘The recovery of the Bay of All Saints’; ten scenes from the life of Hercules, considered the legendary founder of the dynasty, painted by Zurbarán; and five equestrian portraits by Velázquez’s brush around the figures of Felipe III and Felipe IV, their respective wives and Prince Baltasar Carlos, the ill-fated heir of the Rey Planeta or Planet King.

Upon his arrival in Madrid, Felipe V de Borbón settled in the solemn Real Alcázar, which in 1734 was destroyed after a fire. The medieval palace seemed old-fashioned and unsheltered, so even before starting the construction of the current Royal Palace the French family already began to spend long periods in the Buen Retiro, which with its less surly appearance and its closeness to nature he remembered the palaces of Versailles and Marly, where he had spent his childhood been born in Versailles and baptised at Notre Dame Collegiate Church (see posts) , and from where the current king Felipe VI descend.  More than 300 paintings saved from the fire were transferred to the Retiro, which added to the new Bourbon acquisitions placed the palace as one of the world’s epicenters of art. The palace was used as the official residence of the dynasty until, once the Royal Palace was completed in the times of Carlos III and Carlos IV, it was losing importance at the same time that the environment flourished for a more popular use within the illustrated program of these kings.

During the War of Independence (peninsula war by others)  it was employed by Napoleon as the headquarters of his armies. The gardens were excavated and dismantled, trees cut down and numerous buildings on the royal site were demolished or turned into arsenals. Over time, only the Casón (one of the buildings that today occupies the Prado Museum) and the wing where the Salón de Reinos was located (converted for many years into the Army Museum) remained standing. Awarded to the Norman Foster team and the Madrid studio Rubio Arquitectura, a project presented in 2016 seeks to restore the Salón de Reinos of the old Buen Retiro Palace and fit it into the environment of the museum campus formed by the Villanueva Building, the Jerónimos Building and the Casón del Buen Retiro, with the aim of recovering the spirit of the Palacio del Buen Retiro. In addition to the pedestrianization of several adjoining streets, the rehabilitation of the Salón de Reinos will add 5,700 square meters to the gallery, of which almost 2,600 are for exhibition space. They will house probably some two hundred works that the museum cannot exhibit due to lack of space. Well this is indeed as good a time as any to do this on the waves of Unesco!  The Madrid tourist office has more on it:

There you go folks, another wonderful tour of my dear Spain. Wonderful things to see awaits you, only patient will prevail in these periods. Stay safe ,and remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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