Archive for ‘Spain’

April 9, 2021

Oh Toledo, the essence of Spain!!!

Oh yes a wonderful city visiting since teen years ; happy to have brought my wife and boys to it and continue to visit again when possible, never tired of Toledo, the essence of Spain!!! This is an introductory older post I like to update for you and me, on a black and white series with pictures on individual sights. Hope you enjoy it as I.

When I lived in Madrid in the 1970’s, my trip to Toledo were often as family living nearby took me there for long afternoon walks.  The trips were done by car on the old N401 road (now A42). On each trip to Madrid , a stop at Toledo was a must. When in 1990 I took my girlfriend (later wife) to Madrid , a stop in Toledo was a must. We have come back many times with the boys, my dear late wife Martine, love the city, especially the good prices she found on decoration on swords and the lunches ! It will stay in our memories forever. Toledo is a forever memory !!!

Toledo is about 71 km from Madrid. From Toledo part the N-400, which connects this city with Cuenca by Ocaña and Tarancón.  There is now an excellent  A-40 highway of Castilla-La Mancha, that unites Avila with Maqueda (where it links with the Extremadura highway), Toledo, Ocaña (where it joins the highway of Andalusia), Tarancón (where it connects with the highway of Valencia), Cuenca and Teruel. A former national road 401 Madrid-Toledo-Ciudad Real was transformed at the end of the decade of 1980 in the current A-42 .  The mid 19C Toledo was one of the first Spanish cities to have a railway, being joined to Madrid by Aranjuez and inaugurated the line by Queen Isabel II on June 12, 1858. The current Toledo train station, in the Neomudejar style, was inaugurated on the 24th of April of 1919 and is a building of remarkable beauty, especially the coffered ceilings of the main room. (see post)

Toledo is a municipality and city of Spain, capital of the homonymous province and the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha. It is known as “the Imperial City” because it was the main seat of the Court of  Carlos V and also as “the city of the three cultures”, for having been populated for centuries by Christians, Jews and Muslims. The old town is located on the right bank of the Tagus river, on a hill hundred meters high above the river, which surrounds it by its base, forming a pronounced meander known as “Torna del Tajo”.

I would tell you a bit about the history of Toledo and some things to see of my favorites.

 The history of the city dates back to the Bronze Age. It was an important center Carpetania until its Roman conquest in 193 BC and there are several remains of the Roman activity in the city, like the aqueduct or the circus. After the Germanic invasions, the city would become with Leovigildo in capital and, later, in the principal ecclesiastical seat of the Visigoth kingdom. In the year 711, after a moderate resistance, Toledo was conquered by the Moors led by Tariq ibn Ziyad. During the Moslem domination, the old Visigoth capital was characterized by its opposition and individualism, concretised in the Taifa of Toledo. king Alfonso VI reconquered the city in 1085. During the modern age the city stood out as the seat of the Catholic monarchs and for their participation in the war of the communities of Castile. When the court moved to Madrid in 1561 the city went into decline, accentuated by the economic crisis of the moment. Already in contemporary times, its Alcazar (see post) became a symbol of the Spanish Civil War because of its siege and defense. In 1983 it became the capital of Castilla-La Mancha, maintaining the capital of the province in Toledo.

In 1162 the city was conquered by King Fernando II of León, during the convulsed period of the age minority of Alfonso VIII of Castilla. King Leonese named Fernando Rodríguez de Castro “El Castellano “, a member of the House of Castro, governor of the city. The city of Toledo remained in the power of the Leon until the year 1166, when it was recovered by the Castilians.  Queen  Isabel (I) the Catholic commanded to build in Toledo the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes to commemorate the Battle of Toro and be buried there with her husband, but after the reconquest of Granada the Kings decided to be bury in this last city, where their remained today .

After the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the city remained in the Republican zone. However, in the Alcazar of the city, seat of the Academy of Infantry, a group of loyalists to the Rebels (Nationalists) took refuge, in command by the Colonel Moscardó, who resisted the government since July 21, 1936 until the arrival of the troops of the General Varela on September 27  1936. The Alcazar, almost completely destroyed in the siege, was rebuilt in its entirety later.

The manufacture of swords in the city of Toledo goes back to Roman times, more specifically at the time of the Republic, when they were famous their swords and knives, but it was under Arab/Moors domination and during the Reconquista when Toledo and its guilds of swords played a key role. Between the 15C and 17C the industry related to the manufacture of swords had a great boom in Toledo to the point that the industry of swords became considered the best in Europe in late 16C. In early 18C began the decline of production, which motivated the creation of one of the royal factories, the arms factory of Toledo, in 1761 by the command of King Carlos III. In the Royal Factory all the swordmakers guilds of the city were gathered and it was located in the old house of the Coins. During the 20C, the production of white weapons for the troop was reduced exclusively to the arms of cavalry and, after the Spanish Civil War, to the supply of Sabres to officers and noncommissioners of the different bodies. After the closing of the factory, in 1996, this place was rehabilitated to house the school of Architecture of the Campus of Toledo.

Things to see in a general view as more in my blog postings:

The Puerta del Sol (Mudejar), the new Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, the old Puerta de Bisagra, the Puerta del Vado and the Puerta del Cambron. The wall has the so-called Torre de la Alsneera. Among the various bridges that cross the waters of the Tagus are the Alcantara and San Martín. The Cathedral of Santa Maria (Gothic), the Church of San Ildefonso (Baroque), the Church of San Román (Mozarabic), the Church of Santiago del Arrabal (Mudejar), the Church of Santo Tomé (Mudejar). Other Catholic buildings are the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, a prominent representative of the Gothic Elizabethan; The convents of the Mother of God, Santo Domingo el Antiguo and San Pedro the Martyr, the Hermitage of Cristo de la Vega (Mudejar), or the Church San Sebastián (Mudejar), built on a mosque.

Properties associated with other creeds are the synagogues of Santa Maria La Blanca (in synagogue origin, although later it was transformed into a Church) and the Synagogue of the Transit (present Sephardic Museum), in addition to the mosques of Bab al-Mardum, or of the Christ of the light (Cristo de la Luz), in origin a Muslim temple and enlarged for conversion into Church, and the ancient Mosque. Others like the Palace of Galiana, the Palace of Fuensalida, the Palace of Amusco, the House of the Temple, the House of the Nuncio, and the archiepiscopal Palace of Toledo, as well as the Posada de la Hermandad. One of the nerve points of the city is the square of Zocodover. In the streets of Toledo there are other buildings such as the museum-Hospital of Santa Cruz (Renaissance), the Hospital de Tavera (Renaissance), the Teatro Rojas and a Roman circus.

The castle of San Servando, a medieval castle next to the banks of the Tagus River and the Infantry Academy, as well as the Alcázar de Toledo, a fortification on rocks located in the highest part of the city. It’s from the 16C-20C. From 2010 It houses the Army Museum.   Among the finished works are the escalator of the farm (or «of Recaredo»); Museum of Santa Cruz and the so-called Museum of El Greco, a house-museum conceived as recreation of the home of the artist, as this was lost centuries ago. This House contains several relevant paintings, although the famous painting of the burial of the Count of Orgaz is located in the Church of Santo Tomé, also in Toledo.

The Museum of the Councils and the Visigoth culture, located in the Church of San Román, has Romanesque paintings from the 13C and an important collection, original and replicas, of Goldsmith Visigoth, along with other archaeological finds dated between the 6C to 8C. The Sephardic Museum is located in the Transit synagogue, located in the Jewish quarter. In the hermitage of Cristo de la Vega, the image that presides the altar was popularized in the work to good judge, better witness of Jose Zorrilla.

Some of the activities of great interest here and worth to be here at the time are the Easter celebration declared a festival of international tourist interest since March 14, 2014, is celebrated in spring with various processions, highlighting those that take place on Good Friday, and religious and cultural events. Due to the Spanish Civil War, most of the steps were burned or destroyed, so they have had to create new steps or use other images from churches and convents of Toledo. As Toledo is a Castilian city, its Holy Week is characterized by being austere and introspective, as well as great beauty, due in part to the beautiful frame in which it takes place: Toledo. Many people take advantage of Easter to visit the Conventual churches that are only open to the general public at this time of year.  Also, the Corpus Christi ,a festival declared of international tourist interest, the origins of which date back to the 13C. The procession goes through 2 km of  decorated streets. In recent years, after the transfer of the festivity of the traditional Thursday to the current Sunday, has chosen to make two processions, one each of those days, there are certain differences in terms of members and protocol between them.

The Toledo tourist office : https://turismo.toledo.es/

The city of Toledo on public transports: https://www.toledo.es/servicios-municipales/policia-local-y-movilidad/

The Castilla La Mancha tourist office on Toledo:  http://www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/lugares-por-descubrir/toledo/

There ,hope it helps your next visit here as I believe history is part of travel and makes it more full.  A wonderful town to spent dayss… really in every little croony street on every temple, history and sharing is evident. Hope you enjoy the introduction to Toledo the essence of Spain.

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

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April 8, 2021

Jaca in the heart of Aragon!

Another wonderful experience in my beloved Spain. Driven by it so many times eventually several years back decided to come in and it has been a stop ever since. Jaca in the heart of Aragon! This is an update and on my black and white series as plenty written and pictures abound on it in my blog. Hope you enjoy this introduction to Jaca!

I like to shift gear into my beloved Spain, and especially the wonderful old kingdom of Aragon now an autonomous region of the kingdom of Spain!  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 was wonderful , and we also took advantage to see the wonderful Monastery of San Juan de la Peña nearby.

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 in 1990  just pushing 2nd gear over the mountain trails with a VW Golf of my dear late wife Martine!). It is in 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.   We later tested 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 (France) , winners the king Felipe V (born at Versailles) 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.

I like to mentioned briefly on the Monasterio San Juan de la Peña very near Jaca (see post). 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.

All I can say see it , its a must and a wonderful jewel of my beloved Spain. Do come to Jaca and why not the Monastery!

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

The city of Jaca on things to see: https://www.jaca.es/turismo/monumentosymuseos.html

A good unofficial tourist site on Jaca and else: http://www.jaca.com/turismo.htm

The metro area Jacetania of Jaca on history/heritage: https://www.turismojacetania.com/lugares.php?idio=en&Id=120

The Aragon region tourist board on Jaca: https://www.turismodearagon.com/ficha/jaca/#.WxzbWu6FPIV

The official monastery of San Juan de la Peñahttp://www.monasteriosanjuan.com/real-monasterio.php

The metro area Jacetania on the Monastery San Juan de la Peñahttps://www.turismojacetania.com/lugares.php?idio=en&Id=139

A wonderful, terrific, no words combination to see something real of  Jaca, and the Monasterio San Juan de la Peña are unreal.  And remember, happy travels, good health and many cheers to all!!!

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April 8, 2021

The land of discoveries, Trujillo!

And I am going back to a wonderful far away land in my beloved Spain. This is going to the autonomous region of Extremadura and the historical town of Trujillo! I have written on it before and this was my introductory post on it; and will be on my black and white series as pictures elsewhere in other posts. Hope you enjoy as I.

A few years back, I had gone to many not all places of my beloved Spain, and someone was to meet me for business. I was open to suggestions and as the person was from the area ,I was taken to Trujillo; and what a find it was. I have already know the city from my Spanish history, but never been to the town.  Trujillo  is in the Province of Caceres on the west of Spain. The town contains many medieval and renaissance buildings and on many of them were built or enriched by conquerors of the new world. These include, Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru as well as his brothers Francisco de Orellana, and Hernando de Alarcon.

A bit of history I like

Since Roman times the town was known as Turgalium  and became a prefecture stipendiary of the Lusitanian capital, Emerita Augusta (today Mérida).  With the Muslim invasion and conquest in 711, it became one of the main towns in the region renamed Turjalah, governed by the Taifa based in Madrid. This taifa was subject to the Umayyad Emirate and the subsequent Caliphate ruled until the middle of the 11C. Five centuries of Muslim occupation and control finally ended when an army formed by forces of the Military orders and the Bishop of Plasencia laid siege to the city of Trujillo with the support and blessing of King and Saint Fernando III.

The town was finally captured in 1232. During the final assault, according to the local legend, the Christian forces were faltering just short of victory when many reported seeing the Virgin Mary (known as Virgen de la Victoria or the Virgin Mary of Victory) between the two towers, or Arco del Triunfo, in the castle. Sufficiently inspired, Christian troops pressed on and achieved victory defeating the Muslims who were inside.  King Juan II of Castile gave the town the title of city in 1430.  During the War of Independence (from Napoleon’s France), one of the first authorities that responded to the call of the Junta of Mostoles in May 1808 was the mayor of Trujillo, Antonio Martin Rivas who prepared enlistments of volunteers, with food and arms, plus the mobilization of troops, to go to the aid of the Junta. Trujillo was captured by the French in 1811 and held until 1812.

Some things to see in Trujillo are

The Castle (Alcazaba), the Church of Santiago, the Church of Santa María la Mayor, the Church of San Francisco, the Church of San Martín, the Plaza Mayor, and renaissance palaces such as the palace of the Marquis of the Conquest, the palace of the Orellana-Pizarro family, the palace of the Duques de San Carlos, Marquesado de Piedras Albas, the house of the  Palace Chaves , and of course the walled old town. The Palacio de Piedras Albas was built circa 1530 ,formely owned by the Marquis de Orellana and later by the Marquis de San Juan de Piedras Albas. It has several museums: Museum of Coria (Javier Salas Foundation), Pizzaro’s House, Enrique Elías Museum (local designer), Museum of Cheese and Wine. Overall, all is around the Plaza Mayor, and very nice indeed, as main squares in Spain goes it can rank up there, and the historical building around it are just worth at least a day here. The nice parador is the former convent of Santa Clara at Calle Santa Beatriz de Silva, 1

Some webpages to help you trip planning are:

The Trujillo tourist officehttps://trujilloturismo.org/planea-tu-visita/qu%C3%A9-ver

The city of Trujillo on heritage: http://www.trujillo.es/patrimonio

The Extremadura region tourist board on Trujillohttps://www.turismoextremadura.com/es/explora/Trujillo/

There you go not bad after all, and the needs as usual to come back to these beautiful places of my beloved Spain. Trujillo is on the list to return again when possible. Hope you enjoy the post and give you something to come for a visit. It is worth it.

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

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April 8, 2021

And if going to Calatayud!!

This is a very memorable post going way back, that I did came back to the city for the pictures and the rememberance. First, the title is an old song very popular in Spain , a copla written in 1891 by José Feliú y Codina, and since in many plays, cinema, songs etc. Remember, Si vas a Calatayud you ask for Dolores…

It was sang by my mother to me when a young boy! Always memories of my Spain. As the years went by was lucky enough to lived in Madrid and finally visited Calatayud. Many years later took my girlfriend and eventually wife to it too. My dear late wife Martine love it. We arrive once when there was a wedding going on in the hotel, the hotel is no longer there as we passed by to see what was left of it. We did put gas/petrol in the station next to it on the NII road.  Things change, but the memories lingered forever. We ,ourselves ,need to come back again ,when possible.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Calatayud

Calatayud is in the province of Zaragoza in the autonomous community of Aragon on the banks of the Jalon river. There are many roads crossing here such as the A2 and the N234 and old N II (which we still preferred to take more in town) ;  The regional roads or autonomous A 1504 to Cariñena , the A202  to Nuévalos and the local road CV 601 to Embid de la Ribera; there is the now wonderful A23 and still away the A24.

A bit of history I like, really started with Augusto, the Roman emperor that raise it to city as Municipium Augusta Bilbilis  and once Tiberio arrived the construction to the temple or forum began , the city even printed money and at this time was born Marcial. Next came the Arabs/Moors and the fortified castle complex is built that eventually gave the name to the town. The town was called Qal’at Ayyub which means Qal’a fortified town or citadel and Ayubb a common Arab name. In the 12C the Moors here were defeated by the king of Aragon, Alfonso I the Battler in 1120 the feast of St John the Baptist. And in the 15C the infante Fernando II is proclaimed heir to the throne of Aragon in the town in 1461. Here too, it is signed in 1481 the charter of Calatayud between the Catholic Kings (Fernando and Isabel) and Fernando de Guanarteme, the king (local name mencey)  of Gran Canarias (in the Canary islands) that will be incorporated into the kingdom of Castile.

Wonderful things to see in Calatayud are:

The fortified castle complex from the Arabs period (castles, ramparts wall and gates). It is from the 9C and the oldest in Spain of Arab/moors time. It has five points or castles, all connected by walls and ramparts that comes up and down canyons. At the highest elevation is the Mayor castle or Castillo Mayor and the Castle of the  Torre Mocha (shortened tower).  In the inferior plateau you have the castles or Castillo de Doña Martina, Castillo del Reloj, and  Castillo de la Peña (the most damaged).

The Castillo de Doña Martina is the oldest. The Castillo Mayor or of Ayyub  is the highest. It has two buildings one lower to the north side and other high on the south side. It also has two towers in a octagonal shape where there is still the tank well. There is a complex of  Recinto de la Longía  there are trees that makes it difficult the view and from the Castillo Mayor rampart walls go on towards the south and east, some remaining towers can be seen.  The Castillo Real or del Reloj (Royal or clock castle), you have a wall in the interior of the rampart towards the south that reaches this castle, there is just a section visible today.  There was a wall that connected it to the Castle of  Doña Martina by the canyon of the Barranco de la Rúa,and here it was open to the gate or Puerta de Valencia. The Torre Albarrana came from the Castillo Mayor to the orient with a rampart section with four towers in square shape. At about 150 meters there was the torre albarrana tower separated by a 7 meters but link to the complex, and it is the oldest section of the tower Albarrana. Another complex call the Recinto de la Torre Mocha or shortened tower, is closed, there was a cord chain reaching the castle of Doña Martina. At the center there is an octagonal tower that was used for water tank and the complex as storage.  The Castillo de la Peña, is today in ruins. The gate or Puerta with a horseshoe arc is the only part that has been restored following the model of the Mezquita of Cordoba.

Other wonderful monuments to see are  the collegiale Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, Royal collegiale Church of  Santo Sepulcro, Church of San Pedro de los Francos; Sanctuary or Santuario de la Virgen de la Peña; Church of San Andrés,  and Church of San Juan el Real. Also, the Museum of Calatayud (archeological museum on findings in the area) in the former convent of Carmelites, and the Museum of La Dolores, located in the tavern Meson de la Dolores ( the history of movies, songs of this famous personage of Calatayud) .

Wonderful Calatayud, full of nice memories needed to post in my blog stand alone, for the souvenirs of always. You too will love if like visiting Spain, and we will wait to be back when possible.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are:

The city of Calatayud on things to see: https://www.calatayud.es/turismo/visitar

The region of Calatayud tourist office on the city: http://comarcacalatayud.com/index.php/zonas-de-la-comarca/calatayud/

The province of Zaragoza on Calatayudhttps://www.turismodezaragoza.es/provincia/pueblos/calatayud.html

The region of Aragon tourist board on Calatayudhttps://www.turismodearagon.com/en/ficha/calatayud/

There you go another jewel in Zaragoza province, region of Aragon; the famous Calatayud, yes indeed. We shall meet again if you are going by Calatayud ,si vas por Calatayud!!

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

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April 7, 2021

The Basques have San Sebastian!!!

And so much for my beloved Spain, all over is everything under the Sun! I like to update this post dear to the family and just one older personal picture as plenty on the wonderful San Sebastian in my blog. Hope you enjoy the tour and thanks for reading me over the years! This is like a bit of introduction to the city.

We always went around Somport or Portalet and come more central, but one trip we did it down the ocean from Lacanau in the Médoc of Bordeaux and we went to San Sebastian/Donostia, what a pleasant surprise and plenty of memories for the whole family.  Another wonderful place in my world map and lucky to have been able to visit with the family, my dear late wife Martine love it; my father came looking for chorizo, and we got a mouthful of Basque cuisine, with the beach this is it, la vida es chula en San Sebastian.

San Sebastian, also Donostia in basque, the capital of the province of Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Autonomous community of Spain. Bathed by the waters of the Cantabrian Sea, at the mouth of the Urumea River, it owes much of its fame to its harbour, the Bay of La Concha, framed by two rocky isles, the Igeldo and Urgull mountains, true natural balconies from which one can marvel at a large part of the city, the ocean and the hilly landscapes of the surrounding area.

How to get around San Sebastian other than on foot once in town!

City buses are the main means of municipal public transport in San Sebastian. This service is in place, since 1886, the Compañía du Tranvía de San Sebastian,it has 21 lines that include the whole city. Very well connected town with wonderful autovias or highways such as the A-1 Autovia from the North: Madrid-San Sebastian de los Reyes-Burgos-//-Miranda de Ebro-Armiñón-Vitoria-Gasteiz-San Sebastian; A-8 Autovia of Cantabria: Irun-San Sebastian – Bilbao; N-I Carretera del Norte taken too Madrid-Aranda de Duero-Burgos-Miranda de Ebro-Vitoria-Gasteiz-San Sebastian-Irun-French border; N-634 Carretera del Noroeste Santiago de Compostela-Oviedo-Torrelavega-Bilbao-San Sebastian. The San Sebastian Airport is located in the border town of Hondarribia.

A bit of history I like

The origins of San Sebastian are unknown. The oldest document mentions it in the year 1014. On the other hand, it is more certain that in the 12C, Sancho VI of Navarre, aka the Wise, would have put the monastery of San Sebastian in the hands of the abbot of Leyre and the bishop of Pamplona. This document will be confirmed, in 1201, by King Pedro I. The first written news of San Sebastian refers to a monastery, located in the neighborhood that still today is called San Sebastian el Antiguo (old). This place was primitively known, according to some historians, as Izurum. San Sebastian appears etymologically of the evolution of the word Donebastian (Done (Santo), and Sebastian). This king granted the rights of San Sebastian (a set of laws peculiar to the province), which will mark the chronological beginning of the history of the city.

After two centuries of heroically completing his war mission, king Felipe IV of Spain, in 1662, granted the title of City. Until its foundation there were only small residential areas in the district of the Antiguo (old Quarter), in the old part and in the valley of the Urumea, by undertaking until the 15C a slow process of growth.  In 1719, the city was taken by a strong French army and marshal of Berwick. The citadel is taken on August. The city was occupied by a garrison of two thousand French soldiers, until 25 August 1721, when it was evacuated following the Hague peace. 

During the War of Independence (from France), San Sebastian was occupied in 1808 by the Napoleonic troops. Joseph Bonaparte,(brother of Napoleon I)  ruler of Spain, entered San Sebastian on 9 June, running through Calle Narrica, in which all the windows had remained closed. In June 1813 the Allies, the Anglo-Portuguese troops, under the direct command of Sir Thomas Graham and the General Duke of Wellington, besieged the city. After several days of intense bombardment provoking a widening of the rift (French troops were entered by the latter in 1719), the assault operation formed by a column of volunteers, called the Desperados (outlaws), was started. A fortuitous fire and the explosion of a stockpile of ammunition caused a panic among the French, this event was to take advantage by the assailants obligating the French troops to withdraw to the castle, where they will capitulate on 8 September 1813.

On the death of King Alfonso XII of Spain, in 1885, his widow the Regent Queen Maria-Christina took the court to San Sebastian every summer, residing in the Miramar Palace. The remarkable buildings of the city are all of that timen apart from those of the old town , such as the Cathedral of Buen Pastor or Artzain Ona of San Sebastian, the Escuela de Artes and Oficios (current post Office) and the Instituto Peñaflorida ( then occupied by the Escuela Ingenieros Industriales and nowadays by the Cultural Centre Koldo Mitxelena), the Miramar Palace, the Victoria Eugenia Theater, the María Cristina Hotel, the villas of Paseo de Francia or Frantziako Pasealekua or the North station, as well as the rest of the buildings of the romantic area , all with a French style marked, which gave charm to San Sebastian and its nickname “Little Paris” or “Paris of the South”.

WWI made San Sebastian one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. In its Casino there were all the personalities of the European highlife: Mata Hari, Léon Trotsky, Maurice Ravel, Romanones, Pastora Imperio, renowned bullfighters, bankers, etc. In the Belle Epoque, San Sebastian received the French operetta company, the Ballets Russes, opera singers and many other famous artists.  In 1930, the city hosted a meeting of Republicans, which was called the San Sebastian Agreement, which will have a significant impact in the later advent of the 2nd Republic in 1931. In fact, the first Republican government will be formed, to a great extent, by the core of politicians participating in the “Agreement”. The election of the capital Donostiarra was due on the one hand to the proximity of the city with the French Republic and to the fact that San Sebastian was the summer capital of the court.  Shortly after the start of the Spanish Civil War, on September 13, 1936, San Sebastian fell, without serious combat, into the hands of the Nationalists. The resort city was residence of Gen Franco in the month of August from 1940 to 1975 in the Palace of Aiete, bought by the City/Town Hall and offered to the head of state. During this period the councils of Ministers are held in this building. In the same building, the full Declaration on peace in the Basque Country will be pronounced on 17 October 2011 at the International Peace Conference in Aiete.

Things to see and do in pretty San Sebastian in my opinion are

The beaches , oh yes indeed, glorious right in town , these are the Ondarreta, La Concha ,and Zurriola, the first two located in the Bay of La Concha and the third on the other side of the Urumea River , which we usually park our car.  La Concha , It is one of the most famous urban beaches of Spain. It has a length of 1 350 meters  and an average width of 40 meters. ,its sand is fine white. It has 38 showers, shelters and beach chairs as well as showers and changing rooms. Close to this beach there is a parking lot (parking Kontxa). On the shores of the beach you will find the spa of La Perla, the former royal house of the Thermal baths (Casa Real de Baños) and the Royal Nautical Club (Real club Náutico), buildings which, with the famous grid along the beach, the elegant streetlights, two large clocks of the beginning of the century and the Palace of Miramar (Palacio de Miramar), which closes by the west, form an elegant and singular beach.  Ondarreta , Situated between the Palace of Miramar (Palacio de Miramar) and Mount Igeldo, it is the smallest of the three beaches. More informal than the Concha, in the promenade that touches it there are gardens in which one can find a statue in honour of Queen María Cristina. It has a length of 600 meters.  Zuriola , with a length of 800 meters , it is the beach most open to the sea and with higher surge, so that it is transformed by the attendance of  the young and the surfers. In 1994, a restructuring of the beach  was carried out with the construction of a dike which reduced the danger of water and with the general improvement of the quality of sand and water. The practice of naturism has been authorised since 2004.  There is a small beach that forms in the island of Santa Clara, to which can be access by boat in the Summer months or swimming, because it is 500 meters from Ondarreta beach at low tide.

Some great activities at the proper time in San Sebastian are

San Sebastian International Film Festival every year in mid-September, one of the world’s most important film festivals. Created in 1953, this festival has been taking place for a few years at the Kursaal, The Festival of Jazz of San Sebastian called also Jazzaldia, this festival created in 1965 is today one of the most important jazz festivals in Europe. This event usually takes place in mid-July. The Tamborrada is one of the city’s major traditional events. From January 19 (+ or-2 days) to midnight, and for 24 hours, marching bands parade through the city streets, in all quarters. The opening and closing of the festivities takes place in the Plaza de la Constitucion, which is, especially for the opening, crowded to such an extent that it is not possible to move there. It’s really something to live for. The characters in these bands are either cooks or soldiers. In parallel with these fanfares, the population participates in the din with the help of small drums.

And of course, the food is glorious, one of the best cuisine of Spain and I will say Europe. We love our eating out at Juanito Kojua, highly recommended.(see post).

Other things to see are

The City/town hall of San Sebastian dependencies are located in the old casino of the city, with the Bay of La Concha. The building was built in 1887 in the gardens of Alderdi-Eder of San Sebastian. Teatro Victoria Eugenia inaugurated in 1912. Here have played some of the most important interpreters of classical or theater music. It was reopened in March 2007. Teatro Principal ,it is the oldest of the theaters of Donostia/San Sebastian. Inaugurated in 1843, it adopted its present appearance at the end of the 19C. In addition to the usual theater works and some of those presented in the Teatro Feria, there are screenings of the Semana de cine Fantástico y de Terror (week of horror and unusual films) ,and Derechos Humanos Festival (Human Rights Festival) and some films from the film Festival.

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Aquarium-Museum of the Sea ,located on the Paseo Nuevo/Paseo Berria near the harbor, it has a significant historical maritime collection, as well as a modern extension with giant aquariums and an underwater passage that exposes a large amount of species of fish and other marine animals; Whaling Museum , not far from the Aquarium-Museum of the Sea, this small museum reminds of this traditional and dangerous activity of the Basques, now extinct, but which, before the era of coal and hydrocarbons, has supplied oil to cities and made the fortunes of ship owners;  Museum of Science, on the heights of the city, adapted to children and young people of school age, a complete, interactive, experimental and playful panorama of the main physical, chemical and biological phenomena; A statue of Albert Einstein sitting on a bench welcomes visitors, while the park presents models of the main monuments of the Guipuscoa region;  San Telmo Museum, a municipal property and located in a former convent of the 16C. 

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (Catedral del Buen Pastor) was formerly a parish church, built from 1889 to 1897. The former Arena of Atocha  (bullfight arena). They dated from 1876 in demolishing this arena, its materials were used in the construction of the first houses of the district of Egia, the Castle of La Mota (Castillo de la Mota) and the fortifications are a defensive complex located on Mount Urgull.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip , and you must go are:

The San Sebastian tourist office: https://www.sansebastianturismoa.eus/en/

the city of San Sebastian on moving about and tourist info: https://www.donostia.eus/ataria/es/web/info/hasiera

The Euskadi Basque tourist board on San Sebastian/Donostia: https://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/top10/towns/donostia-san-sebastian/aa30-12376/en/

An unofficial tourism guide ,euskoguide on San Sebastian I found very informative , useful for all in English: https://www.euskoguide.com/places-basque-country/spain/san-sebastian-tourism/

There you have it another jewel in my beloved Spain, you should come to San Sebastian too. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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April 6, 2021

The amazing aqueduct of Segovia!!!!

So I need to update/revise links on this older post of a magnificent monument of my beloved Spain. This is another of my favorite cities of my beloved Spain, or is one of many I think. From an early age , I think first time was when I was 10 years old with my mother; I keep coming back over the years, then with my wife, and then with the family and boys and parents and and ….lost count but each time is like the first time. The  Aqueduct of Segovia is awesome, a must to see. Hope you enjoy the tour.

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Well I admit only once took the bus as always came here taken or on my own by car from Madrid. The roads are good if hilly and curvy even if now they have expressways such as the AP 6 and AP 61 but my all time favorite was/is the N603; from Madrid you can come on the A1.  I drive around to find a parking either at 14 Paseo Ezequiel Gonzalez next to the tribunal , you walk past the statue to famous restaurantor Candido and onwards to the Cathedral and Aqueduct nice walk and car is very safe or the Alcazar or by the Aqueduct and then walk all over the city. By intercity bus you come from the bus depot at Moncloa and the Avanzabus line ,there are suburbian trains such as cercanias by changing trains in Cercedilla. The fast trains or AVE can be taken at the station Segovia-Guiomar and for cheaper slower trains you can do the Avant trains.

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I have written quite a bit on Segovia and all its attractions before, but this one is the Aqueduct, needs a stand alone post. To me , the Aqueduct is in essence my third choice here after the Alcazar and the Cathedral of the tops things to see in Segovia.  According to experts, the Aqueduct of Segovia was built in the second half of the 1C AD or early 2C AD  during the reign of Adrian of Trajan. It is  813 meters long, with about 728 meters visible in the city. It has a maximum height of 28.5 meters and a minimum of 0.5 meters out of the city. The water transported, is on a slope of 1%, to make runs freely into town from the source in the Frio River , 17 km from Segovia ,bringing it to the area of Acebeda 15 km further. The exact location according to experts is from the Aceveda river , a small stream of the Frio river in a pine and oak forest in the northern slopes of the sierra de Guadarrama at 1255 meters altitude.

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It has in all 20400  granite stone taken from the Guadarrama area , 120 pillars or columns and 167 arcs of which 75 are simple arcs , 44 double arcs all in the main area to see and some beyond the city.  The granite stone bound only by their own weight, without any mortar ,thanks to a perfect balance of forces. The stones have small cavities necessary for the use of the self tightening pliers for lifting the blocks The most beautiful part is when crossing the Plaza de Azoguejo square.  To see the best is to position yourself on either side of it , either on the  Plaza de Azoguejo square on the left or the Plaza de Artilleria or Artillery square on the right, as you notice that the aqueduct seems to divide the city in two.

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At the time of the Catholic monarchs the first great work of reconstruction of the aqueduct was carried out. Later, in the 16C, it was when the statues of the Virgin of Carmen and San Sebastián were placed in the central niches. The Aqueduct of Segovia is special in that it has been used almost without interruption since Roman times to the present day.  If you are daring and would like to follow the path from outside the city you can. I have gone by car as much as possible and some walk but not done it completely. You have to be in good shape as it is hilly.

Not far from the source (locally call the Azud) , the aqueduct channel had to cross the small brook of Valdeconejos (valley of rabbits). Here is an interesting structure in the form of a small bridge of 5 granite plates that still serve their original purpose of leading the water of the small creek of Valdeconejos over the top of the aqueduct channel.  Both the Azud (the source) and the Valdeconejos bridge can be reached on foot in about 1 hour (3km) from the village of Revenga.  We parked here in Revenga or you can too at the entrance of the road that runs along the north side of the Embalse the Puenta Alta Lake. However, we stop here, you can continue on the road  from the parking beyond the end of the lake and then follow the yellow aqueduct signs up the hill. There is a track that goes up steeply and passes through the fence, follow this to above the creek on the north side until the track reaches some meadows; cross the creek here, and follow the yellow signs steeply up the hill until reaching the aqueduct channel this can be recognised by the box-shaped maintenance shafts that have been installed on the water pipe in the early 20C. Follow the track now along the contour lines towards the captions upstream (to the right, sign to “azud”).  On the way back, the aqueduct can be followed past Valdeconejos until reaching the track that descends again to Revenga. It is even possible to follow the aqueduct all the way to the city. The tourist information in Segovia can organise trips to the aqueduct source, and has a brochure (saw in Spanish) describing three walks along the course of the conduit, from the mountains to the city.

Once in Segovia, at the junction of the Calle del Coronel Rexach and the Avenida del Padre Claret (this later takes you right into the aqueduct in your car !) is a small monument that marks the start of the most spectacular section of the Segovia aqueduct. The cylindrical stone ( Roman lettering are on it)  is a monument from the 17C, found close to Segovia. It has been placed on the wall that originally supported the Roman aqueduct channel, and  which now carries its narrower successor, the channel from the 15C. This wall, 141 meters  long and 1,4 meters wide, runs up to a building that covers the second and final cleaning basin before the aqueduct bridge. This building, is known locally as the Casa de Aqua. Inside is a basin with an entry and exit of the aqueduct channel. Contrary to the Casa de Piedra, there is no channel at the base of the basin, so that any sediment that accumulated had to be removed by hand, and could not be flushed out. Any dirt would be extremely difficult to remove. The building is at least partly Roman. Once entering the city the aqueduct bridge of Segovia starts at the Casa del Aqua.

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There you have a brief to the point story on one of the most emblematic buildings of Spain, the Aqueduct of Segovia. Some webpages to help you plan your trip ,which is a must, and ask me if need further guidance.

The Segovia tourist office on the aqueduct: http://visitsegovia.turismodesegovia.com/es/monuments/aqueduct

The Segovia provence tourist office on the aqueduct: http://acueducto.turismodesegovia.com/

The Castilla Y Léon region tourist board on Segoviahttp://www.patrimoniocastillayleon.com/en/segovia

And there you go folks a wonderful monument to mankind this aqueduct of Segovia. Again, is a must to see and hope this post will get you going towards it when possible.

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

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April 2, 2021

Some news from Spain C

And here I am back to my lovely Spain, never too far! I have great sunny weather with temps going to 26C or about 79F. In my beloved Madrid it is now 55F and cloudy and we have 56F and some clouds. The times still sad with more complication of confinement. More info on this tirinig and repeated news can be found in the Foreign Relations Ministry of the Kingdom of Spain or in Spanish Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores , Union Europea, y Cooperacion.(the official news and rules).

Now things are going on of course. Let me tell you my favorite news from Spain; and hope you enjoy the reading as this is my 100 posts on the series. Thanks for reading me over these years!!!

The ‘Moroccan Trilogy 1950-2020’ brings together 250 works from the time of independence to the present. It can be seen until September 27 2021 at the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid. It is limited to three temporal stages: until the seventies, the lead years until 1999 and finally Generation 00 from 2000 to the present. And it sticks to the three cities with the greatest cultural effervescence at this time: Tangier, Tetouan and Casablanca. This exhibition, on the other hand, has been possible thanks to the National Foundation of Museums of Morocco, the Mohammed VI Museum, from which some paintings have emerged, the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art – Qatar Museums in Doha, from which they have Checked out others and the Qatar Foundation.

The Italian architect Francesco Sabatini (Palermo, 1721-Madrid, 1797), who spent most of his professional career in Spain at the service of the Crown and which this year marks the tricentennial of his birth, planned in 1771 the extension of the Royal Palace of Aranjuez with two wings attached to the towers of the main facade, due to the large family of Carlos III. At the western end of the south wing the new chapel would be built. On the main floor of the north wing, the new theater or coliseum was arranged. The National Heritage of Spain shows until April 4,2021 the campaign ‘Extraordinary National Heritage’: an opportunity to visit the Carlos III theater in the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. It has a tempera painted vault, which Mengs left unfinished!!

It was the first opera known in the Spanish language. The libretto was written by Lope de Vega. And the play papers burned forever among the embers of the fire that struck down the Real Alcázar of Madrid in 1732. But the opera has just been resurrected at the initiative of the singing and composition students of the Madrid Conservatory to bring back to life ‘La selva sin amor’ the jungle without love. Lope de Vega theatrical proposal explored all the possibilities of machinery and special effects. The cannon salutes and the fireworks shook the aristocracy as much as did the simulation of the waves, the beehives of the castles, the lighting devices and the liturgical apparatus that transported Venus aboard a carriage drawn by a pair of swans (fictitious). We know all these details from the documents that survived the fire and even from specific references to which Lope de Vega alludes. The play was reborn last March 24 and 25 at the Theater of the Higher School of Singing in Madrid. Now looking to expand it to other mediums and countries when possible.

The King Felipe VI and Queen Leticia have visited Fuendetodos (province of Zaragoza, region of Aragon), Goya’s hometown, on the occasion of the 275th anniversary of the painter’s birth, which was celebrated , March 30. Goya represents a precursor icon for modern art in many of its expressions and disciplines, from painting itself to the most contemporary creations in the cinematographic field, through literature, theater, the performing arts or sculpture itself. Well said by the Monarchs.

The Paseo de México, in the Retiro park, will open to the public tomorrow after a year and a half of works. The gate that gives access from the Plaza de la Independencia, next to the Puerta de Alcalá, reopens from 6h to 22h for those who want to walk and enjoy this restored space of more than 10,600 square meters of surface. Wonderful one of my entries living and visiting my Madrid! They have recovered historical, environmental, patrimonial and accessibility values. The restoration works of the great avenue that connects the city with the Estanque or big pond of the park have pursued the objective of returning the garden to its original characteristics, while at the same time providing it with the latest technical advances in environmental engineering. The fountains and flooring have been restored, new benches and furniture have been included so that the spaces can be enjoyed by citizens, evoking the image of the installation as it was in the first half of the 20C. Wow!! Can’t wait to be back!!

They find in Toledo a section of wall from the Umayyad Caliphate from the first third of the 10C. There is evidence that this set of structures, a total of three new towers and a section of wall of about 30 meters, are from Al-Hizan, that Abderramán III built.  The restoration works of a section of the medieval wall of Paseo de Cabestreros, which is being carried out by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, have allowed the discovery of an Umayyad wall from the 10C. From this first discovery and incorporating the studies of archeology of architecture and archeometric analysis, it has been possible to detect how, embedded in later phases, there are two more towers that were amortized by modern constructions, mainly by the construction of the Hospital de Santiago!

Something for everyone, the underground lovers! In the province of León is the Cueva de Valporquero, an underground cathedral that water erosion has created for thousands of years. It has impressive galleries that can be explored on foot to contemplate the various rock formations. An enclave located next to a privileged natural environment: the Valporquero beech forest, very close to the Hoces de Vegacervera, which has various hiking routes for lovers of active tourism. This Leonese enclave in the district of Valporquero de Torío opened its doors to the public in 1966. The cave has various galleries open to the public, such as the Great Rotunda, the largest room; speleothems such as the Tower of Pisa, the Twins and the famous Madonna and Child; or the Gallery of the Fairies in which, in the rainy season, the water rushes into a waterfall 15 meters high. Outside the cave you will find the Valporquero beech forest, one of the best shady forests in the Cantabrian Sea. Among its undergrowth, animal species such as roe deer and vegetables such as hawthorn and holly are sheltered. An unforgettable landscape located in the middle of the Los Argüellos Biosphere Reserve, which is perfectly complemented by the monumentality of the Hoces de Vegacervera. There you go get down under!

When was the last time you dropped by Alcalá de Henares? (me in august 2019 can’t wait to be back!) This UNESCO World Heritage gem often goes unnoticed, even by locals themselves, despite being a stone’s throw from Madrid, yes indeed. You can explore all the essential places, such as the university of 1499, the birthplace of Cervantes or the Jewish quarter. There is no lack of a walk through Calle Mayor and Calle del Imagen, always with a lot of atmosphere. You can go to the Roman city of Complutum, origin of the current Alcalá de Henares , you will discover one of the most important archaeological sites in the Community of Madrid. The imperial forum, the market, the hot springs, and the famous fish mosaic in the House of Hippolytuslos. That explains the enormous relevance that Alcalá had in the times of the Old Roman Empire thanks to its strategic location between Mérida and Zaragoza. Starting with the story of the legendary witches of the city accused of causing misfortunes and incomprehensible events. From the Plaza del Padre Lecanda to the Archbishop’s Palace to remember what the inquisitorial processes were like passing through the Jewish quarter and the Antezana Hospital, this route is full of disturbing moments. In addition to the Cervantes’ s birthplace or the Chapel of the Oidor, among other stops linked to the biography of the writer, you will also visit places of the time, such as the Old Prison or the Hospital de Santa María la Rica. In the Plaza de San Diego, in front of the beautiful Plateresque façade of the University in whose auditorium the Cervantes Prize is awarded each year. You will see /notice know how the coexistence between Muslims, Christians and Jews in the city of Alcala was centuries ago. The walk takes you to the old walls and the Puerta de Madrid, which in the 18C allowed access to the historic center. You also discover the courtyard of the Museum of the Society of Condueños, the old Hospedería de Pobres Estudiantes. A way to explore the old town in a surprising way. Lovely Alcalà de Henares , a must to visit while in Spain.

Much progress has been made in terms of conservation and awareness since the Casa de Fieras (zoo now closed) was founded in 1774 in the Retiro Park of Madrid. Animals are no longer considered a spectacle but a unique window to get closer to nature and learn from it. Some of the better zoos/parks now in my opinion are:

In Faunia of Madrid, a nature theme park which allows you to travel to Antarctica or feed the sea bears without leaving Madrid. Located in Vicálvaro, it has more than 3,000 animals of 300 different species distributed in thematic areas with their own habitat, temperature, light conditions and humidity. In its 16 hectares dotted with lakes and ponds, visitors can enjoy the largest polar ecosystem in Europe, the tropical heat of the Amazon rainforest or the elegance of the kingdom of butterflies, among other facilities. The park has several restaurant areas, a children’s play area and a route that shows reproductions of different dinosaurs. My fav wonderful!

In the Loro Parque of Tenerife, penguins, gorillas, otters, sharks and killer whales , and many other animals will delight visitors who come to this unique space, named by Unesco and the Canary Government «example for all zoos in the world » due to its projects for the protection and reproduction of gorillas and other endangered species. A Thai village; the largest in the world outside of Thailand, welcomes Loro Parque, which has set several hard-to-beat records: its collection of parrots is one of the most extensive on the planet with 4,000 birds and some 350 species and subspecies .

The Bioparc in Valencia recreates the equatorial forest, the habitats of Madagascar and the great wetlands of Africa. The great merit of this natural park, which is not a zoo, is that the animals, the vegetation and the landscape coexist faithfully recreating the original ecosystems.

Sharma Climbing Madrid, the largest center in Spain, measuring 4,000 square meters and a benchmark in the world. You have different paths with colors and levels of difficulties, so the challenges are increasing. on walls up to 19 meters high (with about 160 tracks and around 150 blocks). It is a large-scale climbing wall. Here the Spanish National Team trains, Olympic athletes because it is approved for international competitions. At the climbing wall they rent climbing shoes and harness, the necessary equipment for those who do not have it. You only have to bring liquid magnesium to avoid sweating from your hands . For the courageous a new fashion all over. See it at Sharma Climbing Madrid. Calle Julián Camarillo, 55. Open until 22h. Webpage: https://www.sharmaclimbingmadrid.com/es/inicio/

For the outdoor lover and daring, I have only done parts of the first one below for the historical value. The Sierra de Madrid has many challenges and one I know a bit this one. The route of the Spanish Civil War of the Frente del Agua or water front is an itinerary to discover the different fortifications used by the Republican side and the Nationalists side in the Sierra Norte. The old Paredes de Buitrago washhouse serves as the starting point of a path where milestones and explanatory panels allow a visitor who will need about four hours to travel its 12 km. From the beginning of the war, the defense of the El Villar and Puentes Viejas reservoirs was vital to control the water supply to Madrid. This caused this front to remain in permanent tension, which can be verified by making a route in which more than twenty elements of defensive architecture can be identified between trenches, bunkers, shelters and machine gun nests.

Another one that begins in the Las Lagunillas recreational area, located about 400 meters before reaching the port of Navafría, on the M-637 road that connects the Segovian town of the same name and the Madrid town of Lozoya. The objective is to crown the Nevero peak, one of the most important and highest mountains in the Sierra de Guadarrama, with a height of 2,209 meters. It is located on the border between both regions and, before reaching it, the path offers places of great beauty, such as the Peña Cuervo. This is an outstanding rocky tusk that rises in the middle of the slope with a beautiful viewpoint or the Hoyos de Pinilla lagoons; vestige of the glacial past of the Carpetanos Mountains.

And the one, also, known as the Bosque de Finlandia or the Finnish forest (its original name is El Potario), it receives its name from its great resemblance to the forests of the Nordic country. Located on the outskirts of Rascafría, the Monastery of Santa María de El Paular, the first Cartuja of Castile, serves as the gateway to this 13-km, four-hour route, which continues through the Puente del Perdón until entering an area rich in poplars, firs and birches. All this until reaching a beautiful jetty, next to which stands out a small wooden hut with red windows that, according to what is said, was used at the time as a sauna, thus increasing the Finnish reminiscences of the place. In addition, to get to this point you have to go through the Camino de Papel or paper road, baptized in this way because it leads to an old paper mill, today in ruins, from where it is said that the first printed edition of Don Quijote came out in 1605, thanks to the paper that the monks of the monastery produced.

The traditional recipe of Paco Pastel, a bakery in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, has won this year the title of best torrija (yummy love it! )in the region. The jury of the Association of Artisan Pastry and Bakery Entrepreneurs of the Community of Madrid, chose it from among 18 participants. Paco Pastel is at Calle Pozas, 181. San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Madrid).webpage : https://pacopastel.com/

At number 11 of the Plaza de la Cebada, Madrid ,venue for concerts in the early days of Alejandro Sanz; you have El Viajero here since 1995, the former Bar Musel founded in 1926, a meeting place and promotion of culture in La Latina where Alejandro Sanz, then a much less known young Alejandro Magno, gave one of his first concerts. Ignacio Ventosa, the current owner of this 19C palace with eclectic furnishings, steep stairs and a roof terrace with views will tell you stories of this bar the lung of La Latina neighborhood. Especially since Dolores Posadas and her husband, Uruguayan travelers, hence the name, rescued the place. It has been frequented by such relevant figures as Jean Paul Gaultier, Lindsay Kemp, James Hunt, Pedro Almodóvar, Javier Mariscal, Miquel Barceló, Santiago Segura, Ceesepe, Carlos and Jorge Berlenga or the Carmona, including King Felipe VI. It has hosted live shows by artists such as Paco and Pepe de Lucia, painting and photography exhibitions by Luis Asin, Ceesepe or Guillermo Fornes and film screenings, talks, literary gatherings, radio programs, interviews, communions and even a funeral. webpage : http://www.elviajeromadrid.com/index-en.html

How about those Spanish whites? Well they are up and coming along just fine thanks to Peynaud a pioneer French wine experts from Bordeaux. Long old history. Now you have CVNE ,the centenary bodega of Rioja presenting their newest Monopole Gran Reserva blanco 2014, a wine of limited production with grapes Viura and Palomino. A traditional house in Rioja for many years followed by yours truly. And if a less famous but equally good you like to try , I recommend this one. The Remelluri blanco 2013 Rioja with a bright lemon yellow, without hints of oxidation. It came from a cool area that reflects an equally fresh vintage, with flint above the white flowers on the nose. Very tasty on the palate, vertical, with elegance and silkiness. Very careful and delicate elaboration, it still denotes youth. The bodega of   Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri (Our Lady of Remelluri Farm) . Done with White Grenache, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Roussanne grapes. Go for it!!

And there you go folks, for now, some news from Spain is going strong thanks to you all. Looking forward to better times for travel and visiting again my beloved Spain. Hope you enjoy the post as I.

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

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March 31, 2021

Navacerrada , the mountain of Madrid!!

I was recently been watching the world alpine ski championship from Cortina, Italy and remind me of my try of skiing while living in my dear Madrid. The closest mountain was Navacerrada, the craddle of Spanish skiing that gave the country its Olympic medal. I like to update this memorable post for you and I. Hope you enjoy it as I do.

Ok another nostalgic moment that was able to see again last summer.  Well, this is the beginning of the end ; many years ago circa 1972, I was living in Madrid, and friends convince me to go skiing in the mountains. I am a beach bum boy and always been; so curiosity took me there. It was of course the fabled Navacerrada and I put my skis; well I never had so many summersaults in my life coming down the mountain, lucky was not hurt and therefore, ended my career as a skier….lol!  However, the memories still lingered and had gone up just to see an after ski day or just enjoying the natural beauty of the place, and of course driving around those mountain peaks.  Navacerrada will always remained close to my heart. My dear late wife Martine took a nostalgic trip with me in 2017 and really enjoyed it.

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Navacerrada  (the town) is in the Comunidad de Madrid at 1200 meters high on the shoulders of the Sierra de Guadarrama on the Navacerrada dam and the entrance to the Valley of Barranca. The town is located at 52 km from Madrid.  Every Sunday there is a market of antiques in the Avenida de Madrid. On the first Sunday of the month there is a expo of old collectible automobiles as well as a medieval market with a very festive ambiance. The peak is higher as you can see in the picture below

Navacerrada

You have an excellent time skiing here , the best in Madrid in my opinion. The closest station to Madrid at 1858 meters high.  It is well  divided in two zones; a high zone with average trails to advance and a lower zone with average trails and beginners. They are well protected along pine trees. The north ladder or ¡Segovian is part of the town of Real Sitio de San Ildefonso , and the south ladder or Madrilene belongs to the town of Cercedilla. . From here you can use as a base to visit La Granja de San Ildefonso (see post) , Segovia (see posts), San Lorenzo de El Escorial (see post), Rascafria , Fuenfria and others.

The project of the port was done in 1778 and opened to the public in 1788 under the reign of king Carlos IV. The port town is crossed by the road M 601 that connects Collado Villalba with Segovia. From the port town there is the road CL 604 that connects with the towns in the Valley of Lozoya passing by the Puerto de Cotos port.  The last segment from the south passes at the intersection of roads M 601 and M 607 at 1300 meters altitude and goes up 560 meters at a inclination of 8%.

Some good eating places in Puerto de Navacerrada and the town are Asador Espinosa, restaurante Casa Paco, and La Fonda Real, that I can recommend from the many in the area.

Ways to get to the town from Madrid. You can get on the expressway A6 to Collado Villalba (another nice town) and here take the M-601 direction Segovia until you reach Puerto de Navacerrada. Every day there are buses too from the bus depot at Moncloa in Madrid , take line 691 of Autobuses Larrea. You can ,also,come here from Madrid taking the road M-607 direction Colmenar Viejo follow signs for Puerto de Navacerrada . By train from Chamartin station in Madrid take the Cercanias C 8b to Cercedilla and here change on the C9 cotos train to Puerto de Navacerrada. The Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport is only 80 km. For info I always come here by car.

The town of Navacerrada on tourist info: https://www.aytonavacerrada.org/index.php/turismo-20

The Madrid tourist office on the Puerto de Navacerrada: https://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/puerto-navacerrada

Weather conditions especially snow by Infonieve in Navacerrada: https://www.infonieve.es/estacion-esqui/puerto-de-navacerrada/webcams/

The Puerto de Navacerrada webpage https://puertonavacerrada.com/en/the-resort/surroundings-and-patrimony/

Lately I read that due to the virus and less frequency two ski lanes will be closed, sadly, the space will be reduce so go as soon as you can before all changes.

Hope you enjoy it as I do; this short introductory post on Navacerrada. A spot of memories in my heart never to be forgotten and looking forward to be back when possible. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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March 31, 2021

Plaza de Colon of Madrid!!!

Another dandy full of memories for me and family, well as you can read, Madrid is all happy memories that will last all my life. Hope you get the idea, Madrid to heavens and a hole in the sky to look down on it every day! This is the nice Plaza de Colon of Madrid!!!

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Not a moment goes by not thinking of all the things done here, living and visiting; and both ways. One of the emblematic places in the city is the Plaza de Colon or Colon Square in the upper part away from centro Madrid.  The area is nice, modern ,and upscale. It was my passage when opened the Wax museum (see post)  around it that my Mom took me. It has been great going to the National Library (see post) as a youth, and then many times over visiting with the family. Always great souvenirs of my Madrid.

The Plaza de Colón is named after Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon). Located at the intersection of the districts of the Centro, Chamberí and Salamanca, the square has a large open space known as the Gardens of Discovery , delimited by the streets of Goya, Jorge Juan and Serrano. The west side of the square consists of a crossroads at the center of which rises the monument to Columbus, where the Paseo de la Castellana is to the north and the Paseo de Recoletos to the south. The square was originally called Plaza de Santiago, or St, James Square. In 1893 it was decided to rename the square to Plaza de Colón in honor of Christopher Columbus.

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Erected between 1881 and 1885, this neo-Gothic-style monument consists of a column surmounted by the statue of Columbus (Colon) . Originally placed on the square itself, it is installed from 2009 in the center of the crossroads, surrounded by a basin. This space occupies a surface of 18 700 m2. In quadrangular form, it is divided into two triangular zones. Under the first, to the west, is the Fernán Gómez Cultural Center, as well as underground parking. The second zone, to the east, is mainly occupied by the monument of the Discovery of America, inaugurated in 1977. The Spanish Royal Mint stood here previously until 1970. In the vicinity, has risen from 2001 a mast of 50 meters high which bears the largest Spanish flag in the world, measuring 14 meters by 21 meters or 294 m2. There are stairs at the end that take you down to the Oficina de Turismo Colón.(Tourist office at Colon).

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The wonderful architecture and historical here is the  Torres de Colon or Columbus Towers  office building completed in 1976, dubbed “the electrical outlet” due to the shape of its top. . In the crossing of the square or Plaza de Colon with Calle de Génova you will see the towers, at its bottom you will see an isle that crosses with Calle Génova, the sculpture with the Women and the Mirror is the work of Fernando Botero. Car parking Empark under the square entrance by Calle de la Armada Española,1 just parallel with Paseo de Recoletos. Also, metro Colon Line 4 and Serrano line 4 and many bus lines.

We, also, stayed in a nice hotel when I first took my girlfriend  in September 1990, later wife and now dear late wife Martine. It was a moment to impress the new girl and book the Fénix Tryp hotel at Calle Hermosilla just after the Plaza de Colon with windows looking over it. Now it is a Melia Hotels property. The hotel is an icon for us as well. We even have visited couple times afterward! Decorations inside are the same!

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Other memorable moment of this Plaza de Colon is that upon visiting with my girlfriend we needed to take money out, first time needed to do this in Spain for me!. Looking ,asking finally at the hotel there was a Barclays bank across from Colon Square or Plaza Colon, 2  and we did!  Well the Barclays left ,after 50 years at this location,, in July 2018 ; it now says my sources will have a mix office business stores at that location. Here just for the memories!

Just below the wax museum, you have the Casino de Madrid, yes a Casino!! At Paseo de Recoletos, 37-41 which is just south of the Plaza de Colon. And just a bit further down one my hunts with my mother and later wife, the Restaurante El Espejo, under new management ;  a glass deco resto very quaint and popular with Madrilenos. webpage: http://www.elespejonouveau.com/carta/

The Madrid tourist office on the Plaza de Colonhttps://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/plaza-colon

The Madrid tourist office on the Discovery America gardenhttps://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/jardines-descubrimiento

The Madrid tourist office on the Fernan Gomez Cultural Centerhttps://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/fernan-gomez-centro-cultural-de-la-villa

A nice place to walk , when you want to be away from the tourist centro areas and see the real working Madrid a bit. The Plaza de Colon is another must stop for me when in town, it brings lots of good memories for my soul. Hope you enjoy the post, and dare come over from centro.

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

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March 30, 2021

Plaza de Espana of Madrid!!!

And love to update for you and me this older post in my blog. This is a memorable square for me as came here first in 1970 looking for Don Quijote statue and even climb it as young teen in my crazy days!!! Love it; sadly too poor to have a camera then. Once back as a young adult was already more stable , had the camera but did not climb the statue … Anyway, came with the family and show them around, and then came back again, and again, always a must stop in Madrid for me. Hope you enjoy the update on the Plaza de España or Spain’s square of Madrid!

I like to bring up one that is very popular and better known for the literary history on it. I will talk about the Plaza de Espana. Many times came here with my dear late mother Gladys to seek history of our Spain, and play and get some refreshing afternoon splash on the fountain , and more… All again repeated bringing my girlfriend and the then dear late wife Martine, as well as the boys. The ladies always in our hearts.  The square is very central to many nice things to do and gorgeous parks , as well on the ending of the Gran Via and continuation into Calle de la Princesa all the way to the Faro de Moncloa and Arco de la Victoria, many times walk the beat , gorgeous just thinking about it.

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The Plaza de Espana was before inhabited by vegetable gardens irrigated by the stream of Leganitos, that started in the nearby fountain of Leganitos between the Gran Vía and Calle de la Princesa. The square  is located in the district of Moncloa-Aravaca and  Argüelles , at the western end of Gran Vía and north of the Royal Palace.  The Calles  de la Princesa, Leganitos, Bailen, Ferraz and La Cuesta de San Vicente can be found in this square, as well as the Gran Vía. And  with 36 900 square meters is among the largest squares in Spain.

It is best known for the statue at the center dedicated to the Spanish  writer Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra and for the skyscrapers that border it that are the Edificio Espana (built 1953 with 117 meters/ 384 feet)  and the Torre Madrid (built 1957 with 142 meters/ 466 feet).  In front of the statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, a pond of rectangular form is located that forms one of the most typical views of the Spanish capital, since just behind it see the buildings of Torre de Madrid and Edificio España. The constructive part of the monument is elaborated in granite, while the sculptural part was decided to be made in red stone from Sepúlveda ,and with some additions in bronze.This accomplishment was carried out on the occasion of the third centenary of the publication of the second part of Don Quijote, in 1915, and which continued with the centenary of the death of the writer (1616), in 1916.

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The sculptures that make up this emblematic monument have, on the one hand, a seated Cervantes and at the base of the monument, and under the feet of the writer, are the statues of Don Quijote and Sancho Panza. The set was finalized when the figures of Dulcinea and Aldonza Lorenzo were added, also characters of the Cervantes novel. Alluding to the universality of Don Quixote, the monument also contemplates the five continents, all of them reading the work of Cervantes. On the other side and above the fountains, is represented the Spanish Literature, dressed in period and holding a book with his right hand. The tree that predominates in the landscaping of the square is the olive tree, in homage to the Castilla La Mancha fields in the wanderings of Don Quijote and Sancho.

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There, you will also, find the House of Gallardo, built in 1911, considered one of the notable examples of the Art Nouveau style of architecture in the city. In the opposite corner is located, the Royal Asturian Mining Company Building, an architectural complex of great beauty; built between 1891 and 1899. Almost at the beginning of the Calle de la Princesa, is the Palace of Liria, an architectural ensemble that belongs to the House of Alba and has some notable gardens. Nearby, in Calle de Ferraz, you will find the Cerralbo museum (see post). A few meters from the museum, another of the obligatory visits is the temple of Debod,(see post) a funerary monument of Egyptian origin that moved to Madrid in 1970. The popular Gran Via, or the Senate building.

You get here by Metro station Plaza de España,  located on the eastern corner of the square service by line 3 and 10 and connection with the line 2 Noviciado ,as well as many bus lines. Parking by calle de San Bernardino, 4, between the metro stations Plaza de España and Noviciado good location behind the square.

The Madrid tourist office on the Plaza de Españahttps://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/plaza-de-espana

It is a memorable spot with many families even on weekend, sharing this beautiful spot with the world.  I remembered fondly and do stop by every chance of visiting the city which has been every year since 2003! I could not come to Spain without stopping in Madrid, if won’t feel the same…my family so kindly learned why and I thank them. They too became in love with the city, who wouldn’t! From Madrid to heaven and a hole in the sky to look down on it everyday!

Again, hope you have enjoy the post on the Plaza de España of Madrid, and thanks for reading me over these years, appreciated.

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

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