Archive for ‘Spain’

June 22, 2018

The Real Jardines Botanico de Madrid!

My continuing saga to show the beauty of my beloved Madrid continuos. This is something you come as a child and sticks with you. My dear late mom Rosa Gladys brought me here first, and then my dear late wife Martine, and then with my boys and then again. It is very nice, educational and family fun for all.

I am talking about the Real Jardin Botanico of Madrid or the Royal Botanic garden of Madrid. A treasure chest of history and fun knowledge right in the famous triangle of museums of Madrid. I have posts that talks about it , but this is the first time alone and well worth it.

The current site of the botanical garden or the Real Jardin Botanico is not accidental and responds to the interest of the enlightened monarch, Carlos III, to create a complex dedicated to the natural sciences in Madrid. That is why it was located next to what today is the Prado Museum, which at the end of the 18C was the Museum of Natural Sciences. The scientific spirit is currently preserved as the space is managed by the Higher Council for Scientific Research, which organizes a multitude of activities of an informative nature, such as conferences and exhibitions. Its collections include a herbarium with more than a million spreads, the library and archive, with about 10,000 drawings, as well as the sample of 5,000 species of living plants. Located officially at Plaza de Murillo, 2,and best going there on Metro Atocha line 1, Atocha Renfe train station metro stop and line 2 Banco de Espana.

Madrid

Madrid

Founded by Royal Order of 17 October 1755 by King Fernando VI in the spot of Soto de Migas Calientes, near the Manzanares River, king Carlos III ordered the transfer to his current situation in 1781,at Paseo del Prado, next to the Museum of Natural Sciences that was being built (current Prado Museum). King Felipe II created the botanical garden at the behest of the Doctor Andrés Laguna, next to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. Later, king Fernando VI installed in 1755 by the orchard of Migas Calientes (currently Iron gate=Puerta del Hierro, on the banks of the Manzanares river) creating the Royal Botanical Garden. The continuous extension of the garden led king Carlos III to give instructions in 1774 to move it to its current location in the Paseo del Prado , within the program of management of the Prado and Atocha construction.

That between 1774 and 1781 year of the inauguration with a distribution in three levels, and part of the enclosure, which highlights the Royal gate (Paseo del Prado). On this basis, between 1785 and 1789 a second and definitive project was carried out, more rational and according to the scientific and educational function that the garden should have. It occupied an area of 10 hectares distributed in three terraced levels that adapted to the orography of the terrain, arranged in the form of Square barracks, following an octagonal layout and topped in the corners with circular fountains. The two lower ones (Terreza de los Cuadros and Terreza de las Escuelas Botanicas) remain today as they were built, while the superior one ( Terraza del Plano de la Flor) was remodeled in the 19C with landscaped features. The enclosure was closed by an elegant iron gate, seated on granite stone and had two access doors: the aforementioned Real Puerta de Sabatini, Classic style with doric columns and pediment, and another secondary, In front of the Prado Museum, which currently accesses the enclosure (current Plaza de Murillo).

The garden became the recipient of the recipient of the scientific expeditions that sponsored the Crown in this period. Between the 18C and 19C it participated in the development of at least five scientific expeditions, including the Royal Botanical Expedition of the New Kingdom of Granada (current Colombia), the botanical expedition to the Viceroyalty of Peru, the Royal Botanical Expedition to New Spain (present-day Mexico), the expedition around the world, and the Scientific commission of the Pacific (Philippines). It contains approximately 5,000 different species of trees and plants around the world.

In 1857, important reforms were carried out that still persist, such as the cold stove that bears its name and the renovation of the upper terrace. Also at that time a zoo was installed, which twelve years later moved to the Retiro park (where it would be known as a zoo Casa de Fieras) in 1893, opens the calle de los libreros (street of booksellers and popularly known as Cuesta de Claudio Moyano) and cutting one end of the main body of the garden, so its surface is reduced to the current eight hectares.

The before mentioned terraces are:

Terraza de los Cuadros (or portraits) is the terrace located below and the most spacious of all. It includes the collections of ornamental plants, medicinal, antique rose, aromatic and orchard and fruit trees, within the geometric tables formed with hedges of boxwood that surround small sources (fontanels) in the central axis of the tables. At the end of the central promenade of this first terrace you will find the coral rock spot.

Terraza de las Escuelas Botanicas ( botanical schools) ;this second terrace is a little smaller than the previous one. This terrace shows the taxonomic collection of plants. Ordered phylogenetically by families, around twelve sources are located. You can take a tour of the plant kingdom from the most primitive plants to the most evolved.

Terraza del Plano de la Flor (map of the flower) this is the highest terrace and a little more reduced, with a romantic style. It is divided into twenty-five figures or bedding curvilinear, limited by hedges of Durillo, four roundabouts and a central roundabout with a pond and a bust of Carlos Linnaeus. On the north flank of this terrace are the greenhouse Graells, a structure of the 19C, where we find tropical plants, aquatic and bryophytes. Next to the former is the largest and most modern greenhouse, the Exhibicion or exhibition, which is divided into three environments with different requirements of temperature and humidity (tropical, temperate and desert).

Terraza Alta o de los Laureles (High Terrace or laurels) , this terrace added as an extension of the garden in 2005, is of much smaller dimensions than the previous ones and is behind the Villanueva pavilion. Destined to host special collections, here is the Bonsai collection donated by the Spanish former President Felipe González.

You find as well the most important herbarium in Spain, bringing together nearly a million spreads, some from the 18C. It is composed of: the Fanerogamia Herbarium, the Cryptogamia herbarium and the historical collections. The latter gather the plants collected in the scientific expeditions carried out during the 18C and 19C.

The Library of the Royal Botanical Garden was formed at the same time as the garden grew. In 1781 it had some 151 works of which 83 were of botany, 19 of Natural history and 49 of Chemistry. Currently at last count, the library consists of some 30 000 books of everything related to botany, 2075 titles of periodic publications, some 26 000 leaflets or separate chucks , 3000 titles in microfiche, 2500 maps. It has facilities and equipment suitable for Internet consultation, reading and reproduction, on paper, microfiche and microfilm, photocopying of books and magazines and scanning zenith.

The Germplasm Bank since its foundation, the Botanical Garden maintains a seed exchange with other institutions around the world. The relationship of the seeds that can be exchanged is published annually in a publication called Index Seminum, which is distributed to more than 500 gardens and research centers. From 1987, with the construction of a refrigeration chamber where they can be stored at low temperature, dried and hermetically sealed, the conditions of conservation of the seeds were improved. This improvement allowed to extend the viability period of the seeds, so it was decided to carry out collection campaigns throughout the state.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Tourism Madrid on the Real Jardin Botanico

Official webpage Real Jardin Botanico

Consejo Superior of Scientific Investigation site

Digital Library of Real Jardin Botanico

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

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June 22, 2018

Jardines Sabatini and a Moro, wonderful Madrid!

Going back to my beloved Madrid again. Many places of youth still revisited every year. Now let me tell you about a wonderful garden not far from the Royal Palace.

The Jardines Sabatini are a great place to be not only for the location but also, the silhouette of the slopes in it giving you a wonderful view of the Royal Palace and Madrid afar.

A bit on it. The Sabatini Gardens in the classicist style were created in 1933 in the spot that occupied the stables built by Sabatini for the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) , hence the name. Located in front of the Royal Palace’s northern façade, the gardens were completed in 1978. It was king Juan Carlos I who opened the park to the public. Located officially at Calle Bailén, 2 , and the best way other than walking to it is by metro Opera lines 2,5 and Radial and Sol lines 1 ,2 and 3.

Today, a large, round fountain with tritons is at the intersection of the two major axes that are surrounded on all sides by quadrants and conifers, with trees arranged along the perimeter. The quiet secluded atmosphere of the Jardines Sabatini is in part due to the lowered elevation of the gardens, the gardens are approximately 10 meters (about 33 feet) lower than the main Plaza de Oriente. The gardens are connected to Plaza Oriente by a grand stone staircase, an appropriate entrance to the royal gardens .The Jardines Sabatini are named after the Italian architect Francesco Sabatini who during the 18C designed much of the Palacio Real (Royal Palace), this included royal stables which were demolished to create the gardens named after him.

Madrid Madrid Madrid Madrid Madrid

Another gem nearby and less visited is the Campo del Moro, and also can’t find photos!. The least known and least visited, perhaps because its entrance is on the farthest part of the palace, a bit far from the tourist itinerary. The adjacent gardens of the Campo del Moro lies behind the palace. You will find beautiful shady paths, fountains and peacocks strolling. It is both romantic style with some English garden features. As for its name, the Campo del Moro (the Land of the moor), it comes from the fact that it was the place where the Moorish army camped before their unsuccessful attempt, at the beginning of the 12C to take over the Alcazar (castle). King Felipe IV was the first to develop this space but the Campo del Moro began to take its form as it is known today that in the 1890’s under regent queen Doña María Cristina of Habsburg.

Some webpages to help plan your trip are

Jardines Sabatini

Campo del Moro

I have several entries on them in blog but always link with something else or in my Some News from Spain entries. I believe this is the first time write on them apart, and well worth it. You will be please to visit them

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

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June 21, 2018

Parque del Oeste and more of Madrid!

And now back to the parks; my lovely park another memory that cannot resist visit every year, lucky now that I can do that. My beloved Madrid and my wonderful Parque del Oeste.

So many things here to do other than basic stuff you can do in a park. There monuments such as the magnificent Temple of Debod ,and the cable car to Casa de Campo, just fantastic. This is another park you should visit wholly while in Madrid. I have several posts on different parts of the park like the temple of Debod ,all can be found in search front of my blog.

Parque del Oeste or Park of west has 8 hectares, located in the area of Princesa, where the temple of Debod shine in all its splendor. It was installed on the remains of the barracks of the mountain (Cuartel de la Montana) according to the same solar orientation that had in its place of origin. The garden enjoys magnificent views of the country house, the park, and the Sierra. It is officially at Calle Ferraz, 1 and the best to get there by metro Plaza de Espana line 2,3 and 10, Principe Pio lines 6,10,and Radial, as well as Moncloa lines 3 and 6, and Ventura Rodríguez on line 3. It is specifically located between the Carretera de Coruna or expressway , Ciudad Universitaria (university city) and the district of Moncloa, between the avenue of the Arco de la Victoria and the Paseo de Pintor Rosales, to the east; linea del ferrocarril or railroad line, west and Avenida de Seneca, north. They cross it inside, the Paseo de Roberto Chapi, Paseo de Camoens and Calle Francisco and Calle Jacinto Alcántara.

Inside there is an artificial estuary of about 600 meters in length. A cedar tree call “El Abuelo ” or grandfather (Cedrus Atlantica), catalogued as a singular tree, two specimens of Sophora “Pendulum “, a majestic Ginko, the Choperas of Populus nigra and the plantations on the edge of the estuary of Corylus, Cornus, etc. At the end of the Paseo de Platanos (bananas), which runs along this area, you can contemplate various species of birds in the center of AviFauna, such as different birds etc., providing information panels.

Before the 20C, the land currently occupied by the park was the city’s main garbage dump . The work began in 1893 and the first phase was inaugurated in 1905. This phase comprised an approximate area of 87 hectares between the current streets of Moret, and Seneca,and Paseo de Camoens, today Paseo de Camos. In 1906 continued the works of the second phase, reaching the mountain barracks (present location of the Temple of Debod). It was spread parallel to the Paseo del Pintor Rosales, on old dumps. During the Civil War the Parque del Oeste became battlefield of the Battle of the University city, opening trenches and building bunkers that still today can be seen in its far north. Once the war was over, Cecilio Rodríguez, responsible for the municipal parks, took care of his reconstruction, which lasted until the end of the 1940s. During the years 1956 and 1973 it was extended, occupying the grounds of the Cuartel de la Montana, building the Rosaleda and the Parque de la Montana , placing it at the current Temple of Debod.

Madrid

Madrid

You have several monuments ,statues, busts in the park such as .
Monumento al Maestro or the master, Bust of Jaime I, bust of Paul Harris,. Monument to José de San Martín in the north end of the park. Monument to the Infanta Isabel . Statue of General José Gervasio de Artigas (Argentina). A statue of a Nymphe , statue to the poet Miguel Hernández, the statue of the Blessed Virgin, the equestrian sculpture of Simón Bolívar, the monument to the fallen of the Cuartel de la Montana.

The Téléferico or cable car connects from 1967 the Parque del Oeste with that of Casa del Campo. The three gun bunkers of the Republican side that are retained of the twenty that were installed during the Spanish Civil War. Its magnificent Rosaleda with more than 15,000 m2 and 20,000 roses from all corners of the planet. The Fountain of Juan de Villanueva, the Temple of Debod, a gift from the Egyptian people to Madrid for having helped them avoid the floods that would have caused the Aswan dam. It is from the 2C BC and is dedicated to the Egyptian gods Isis and Amon; A lookout or viewpoint next to the Temple of Debod have a splendid views and the light in this place is amazing.

Madrid Madrid

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are
City of Madrid on Parque del Oeste

Tourist office of Madrid on Parque del Oeste

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

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June 21, 2018

The Retiro park, my Retiro, my Madrid!!

Ok so on a semi cloudy  Thursday waiting for the World Cup football/soccer games, I have become nostalgic again. And that means coming back to my beloved Madrid. I lost count of the entries on Madrid or Spain in my blog, but they should be plenty just do search. Madrid is special because not only is my Spain ,but lived there in beautiful moments of my life.

I had to come back to the Retiro park, yes it was practically my backyard, not far from my house a couple metro stops and many times running,chasing,and eating playing you name it in it. The park of my first loves, my youth, my adolescent my early days of free life in my beloved dear Madrid. Even here, my journey with what later become my wife started, my dear late wife Martine (our first trip out of France with her I had to take her to Madrid and the Retiro was grand )still loved to come here each year with me and then with the boys. I can say my life can be resume with one word Retiro. This is Madrid at its best, yes I know ,there are many wonderful monuments and great museums people go to, but for me this is it. If can only have time for one thing would be to come to the Retiro park.

What’s in the name, well , it is known as the Parque del Retiro or Parque del Buen Retiro,and popularly call simply El Retiro. In its historique life ,it was also known as the Parque de Madrid, as you can still see written in some gates or Puertas coming to the park. . This was used when it was made part of the municipality of Madrid in the last third of the 19C. It is, also,known as the Jardines del Retiro or Jardines del Buen Retiro, even if this name has a restriction covering only the area created in the end of the 20C where today you have the Palacio de Cibeles on lands that belonged to the Royal Palace.

Anyway I have written several posts on it and would like to remind my readers about them here

https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2010/12/18/parque-del-buen-retiro-or-retiro-park/

https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2016/05/30/a-new-look-at-my-best-souvenir-of-madrid-retiro-park/

https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2017/05/01/one-more-time-retiro-park-madrid/

And, will give you a run down for things to see and do in it. Of course, not exhaustive, heck you can get almost anything there now…  Let me briefly tells you about some of the wonders inside the Parque del Retiro.

The gates or Puertas:

Puerta de Felipe IV (or Mariana de Neoburgo) is the oldest gate today in Madrid done in 1680.

Puerta de la Independencia, done in 1817 as entry gate to the Casino de la Reina located in the Ronda de Toledo. In 1885 it was transferred to the Retiro park by the Cibeles fountain and square.

Puerta de España done in 1893 located at Calle Alfonso XII connecting to the Calle Antonio Maura and the big lake or Estanque Grande by the Paseo de la Argentina (before name paseo de las Estatuas or statues)

Puerta de Madrid at the corner of Calle de Alcalà and Calle O’Donnell, it is open to the Paseo de Fernán Núñez (or Paseo de Coches/ carriages),the longest in the Retiro (the Promenade).

Puerta de Hernani, first built in 1888 in metal, replaced in 1943 for a bigger one, located in the Calle de Alcalà in front is my family Church Iglesia de San Manuel y San Benito.

The monument/buildings:

The Ermita de San Pelayo y San Isidoro, built in the 11C outside the gates of Avila and brought to the Retiro park in 1896; now only the abside and a lateral door remains.

Real Observatorio Astronomico, built in 1790 on the height of the hill or cerro de San Blas in the Retiro that today are next to the Prado museum and the Royal Botanical Gardens part of the idea to give Madrid a district of Natural Sciences!

Palacio de Velàzquez while holding events in the Retiro park one of them was done here built between 1881-1883 for the national exposition of mining, metarulogical, ceramics, glass and mineral waters.

Palacio de Cristal (Crystal palace) an architecture of glass and metal to house different species of vegetables coming from the Philippines due to the exposition of 1887 on the country. As well as the Palacio de Velazquez ,the Palacio de Cristal is used for exposition center of the Reina Sofia Museum.

And it has many fountains , such as:

They  have from the 18C, two fountains in the parterre garden that are twin representations . there is also , the Fuente de la Alcachofa built in 1871. From the 19C , we have the Fuente Egipcia located next to the big lake or Estanque Grande as well as smaller fountains such as the Fuente de la Salud y Fuente de la Gruta decorated with corals simulating caves, and the Fuente de los Galapagos with a pedestal like a palm with children figures mount on dolphins on the base; this one was first set up at the street Red de San Luis in the Gran Via in 1831. In 1879 it was transferred to the Retiro park at the Plaza de Nicaragua, near the big lake. The popular Fuente del Angel Caido built in 1885 and some said the only fountain of a devil in Spain . From the 20C we have the Fuente de Cuba done in 1929 as a monument to the nation of Cuba as well as the Fuente de la Gaviota 1962 located in the gardens or Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (inside Retiro park of course) surrounded by a sculpture group.

Madrid

There are walks, trails, promenades inside Retiro park , my favorites are:

The Parterre of course. One of the first gardens on the French style done in Spain; work began in 1716 and finished in 1722.

Paseo de la Argentina (or de las Estatuas (Statues) ) there are parallel to the Parterre. Takes its name because of the statues on its sides belonging to a series of Spanish kings created by the middle of the 18C to decorate the corners and niches of the Royal Palace on orders of king Carlos III ,however,he later figure they were too much and removed them. After several decades in storage, by 1843, they were rescue and put in several spots around Madrid and elsewhere in Spain. In Madrid, you can see them at the Plaza de Oriente and the gardens of Sabatini or Jardines de Sabatini, both near the Royal Palace.

Jardín madrileño. Came from reforms pushed by queen Isabel II from 1841 and this garden is located to the south of the Parterre.

Paseo de Fernán Núñez (or de Coches (carriages)).Done in 1874 and vehicules were still permitted on it until 1981. It is a big promenade all along the park.

La Rosaleda, done in 1915 by famous Spanish gardener Cecilio Rodriguez (1865-1953) similar to the one at the jardin de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris from which the gardener brought 12000 roses of more than 350 species, and created a greenhouse of steel and glass very near the Paseo de Fernàn Nûnez. Upon the Spanish Civil war it was badly damaged and was rebuilt it in 1941.

Jardines del Arquitecto Herrero Palacios (former Casa de Fieras or zoo) ; this was the old zoo of Casa de Fieras created in 1774 by king Carlos III in the street Cuesta de Moyano (where today you have a book stalls fairs each year) In 1830 it was transferred to the Retiro park upon instructions of king Fernando VII. Eventually, transferred to the Casa de Campo in 1972 (where the zoo still is) the place was name after the architect that was the gardener at the time. The place is very nice and it is preserved many parts of the simple old zoo like the pavilions, cages, and sculptures from the original zoo. Some were decorated and the pavilion called La Leonera o( the lioness from the first third of the 19C now it is a library on site!

Jardines de Cecilio Rodriguez, the pioneer gardener of Retiro park who built one of his original gardens here as an extention of the Casa de Fieras (old zoo) done in 1918. When the Spanish Civil War destroyed it and the same gardener rebuilt it in 1941. On the rebuilding he change the decoration and laidout of the garden with a rectangular floor flank on three sides by pavilions that are now used for official events. IT houses several elements of gardening, fountains, pergolas, basins, ornamental columns, chess floors and sculptures groups from Hispanic Arabesque look.

Bosque del Recuerdo ( rememberance forest) was done in 2004 at the Plaza del Emperador Carlos V in honor of the victims of the terrorist act of March 11, by 2005 was place at the southwest side of Retiro park very near the Atocha train station. It is an artificial mountain surrounded by a basin on which are planted 170 cypress trees, 22 olive trees in honor of the 192 fallen on the terrorist act.

Madrid

The Retiro park also has as we call it Caprichos or whims usually of a king or queen. Two of them ,I have already discussed it above such as the Fuente Egipcia (Egyptian style fountain) and Casa de Fieras (the zoo). Those now still there are

Casita del Pescador. Fisherman’s house is a small house of square shape and two levels with roof in zinc and water spouts.

Montaña Artificial. Also known as the Montaña Rusa de los Gatos (rollercoaster mountain of the cats) because of cat sculptures on it. It is a hill on steps with lots of vegetation and corals on which you see several cascades that falls into a basin . There is a trail on the sides crossing several bridges with towers like a fortress in miniature and inside there is a funerary space from which you can come by three doors .However, check because it was closed for deterioration and do not know if re open

Casa de Vacas. Or house of cows here it used to milked cows and provide milk. Right now it has been rebuilt due to the storm of 1886 and the fire of 1982, Today it is a cultural center of the city of Madrid.

Casa del Contrabandista. The contraband house, as the previous one it has been rebuilt due to its use as a hostal lodging during the 20C and 21C. It was designed as a water wheel that is why circular and covered like a dome. At the roots of it had a collection of automates with Andalucian motifs such as a priest, and a bandid contraband that is why the name of the house.

Castillete medieval. A small medieval castle originally called the Torre del Retiro or the tower of Retiro with a middle ages aspect with four angle towers, three levels and a flat cover. At the end of the 20C was given to the Meteorological service currently it is without use and in bad shape.

Some of the lakes or estanques in the Retiro park you can see today are

Estanque Ochavado (or de las Campanillas (small bells)) The date of construction is not known but it has to be before the big lake or Estanque Grande. It is done with eight sides and a small isle in the center with a coral decoration today

Estanque Grande or big lake, was ordered built in 1634 done to extract water for the Royal Palace and use for fishing and boating as well as theatrical shows . In 1817 it was built a pavillon with oriental designs and later destroyed tobuilt what you see today the Monument to Alfonso XII. In 1917,it was done a new one located on the north side that caught fire and again was rebuilt in 1926 as the one that has reach our days. Just a must ,gorgeous spot many memories crying just to write on it.

Madrid

Ría de Patinar. An skating stream done in 1876 to replace a previous one that is now at the Rosaleda. It was chosen an area shady to keep the water colder frozen even so that the ice skating could be done, it has an oval shape around a garden isle.

Estanque del Palacio de Cristal ; small lake right in front of the palace built in 1887. Done in a rocky cave and a nice water basin.

Rias del Estanque Grande y Ria de La Chopera; on each side of the monument to Alfonso XII the two merge.160 for the Estanque and 200 for Chopera meters long , not known when they were created but probably end of the 19C, shown in maps until 1900. The Ria de La Chopera is from the same time and has 200 meters running.

Estanque Rustico, the gardener Cecilio Rodriguez did this one to provide water to his gardens from 1918 , the lake has a bridge and a masonry factory with brick lines.

There are the statues still left in the Retiro park from the times of king Carlos III, these are kings done in the 18C along the Paseo de la Argentina or de las Estatuas along the paseo from west to east are Fernando IV of Leon and Castilla, Sancho IV of Leon and Castilla, Enrique II of Castilla, Garcia I de Leon, Urraca of Leon and Castilla, Berenguela of Castilla, an empty pedestal follows then, Gundemaro, Visigoth king, Carlos I of Spain, Carlos II of Spain, Ramon Berenguer IV count of Barcelona and prince of Aragon, Chintila, Visigoth king , Alfonso I of Aragon, and Sancho IV el Bravo of Castilla.

There are ornamental monuments such as these:

Monumento General Martinez Campos, done in 1907 at the Plaza de Guatemala behind the monument to Alfonso XII, is an equestrian statue in bronze. He was sent to Cuba to try to pacified the independence rebellion in vain

Monument Benito Pérez Galdos done in a square of the same name next to the Paseo de Fernàn Nùnez. It is made of white stone of Lérida, and with 2,10 meters high ,1,3 meters wide and 2,2 meters deep opened in 1919 with the presence of the actor himself invalid and blind.

Monument Alfonso XII, it was called a national contest to built it upon the request of the regent queen Maria Cristina, the winner finally did it inspired on the monument of William I of Berlin, built this one in 1922 . It is at the west side of the lake or Estanque Grande and has 30 meters high, 86 meters long, and 58 meters wide. Around the king you have statues of representation of peace, progress and liberty . Around the hemicycle you have other statues representing The army and marine, the sciences, agriculture, Arts, industry, and two lions.

Madrid

Monument Santiago Ramon y Cajal, in the Paseo de Venezuela done in granite stone and bronze. In the center of a basin with Etruscan figures and fountains representing the life and death, done in 1926.

Monument Jacinto Benavente, is in the parterre garden forming an axis with the Puerta de Felipe IV and Cason del Buen Retiro (now part of the Prado museum) . It has a female figure of Greek inspiration with arms rise showing a mask referring to the theatre one of the genre of Jacinto Benavente, it was done by popular donations and finished in 1962.

There is extensive flora and fauna here as well as great sports installations.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip in addition to my blog posts above are

tourist office of Madrid on Retiro park: https://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/parque-del-retiro

City of Madrid on Retiro (sorry long link):  http://www.madrid.es/portales/munimadrid/es/Inicio/El-Ayuntamiento/Parques-y-jardines/Patrimonio-Verde/Parques-en-Madrid/Jardines-de-El-Buen-Retiro/?vgnextfmt=default&vgnextoid=499561945d9ec210VgnVCM2000000c205a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=38bb1914e7d4e210VgnVCM1000000b205a0aRCRD

The Comunidad de Madrid region tourist office on Retiro: http://turismomadrid.es/es/descubre/madrid/de-inter%C3%A9s/5111-parque-del-retiro.html

Hope you get an idea, this is a must, a lingering must in Madrid. Cannot come to the city without visiting day and night. To me ,it is a pilgrimage each time. To Madrid to heaven and a hole in the sky to look down on it every day:yes, and the Retiro is a big spot looking down!

Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers!!!

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June 18, 2018

Remembering Curitiba, Paranà, Brazil!

Over the weekend you have time to think and remember wonderful places you/I/we have been ,and lucky enough to go back to the country, it has been a while without returning to Curitiba, Paranà State of Brazil. I was there back in 2008 ,and even thus go to Brazil now every year, luck has it, not been by Curitiba since. It is time to bring it alive ,these wonderful memories of forever.

Let me tell you about Curitiba where I spent 3 months back in 2008, of great lasting souvenirs, experiences ,and worth it going there for all. The city of Curitiba has a high level of education, the best in Brazil, according to MasterCard Emerging Markets Index in 2008 it rank 49th amongst the cities with a growing world influence. The magazine Forbes in 2009, rank Curitiba as the 3rd most educated/intelligent cities in the world considering  its outlook on the ecology, durable development, quality of life, and performing infrastructure’s as well as a dynamic economy.  The city is an example of urban planning especially with the invention of the above surface metro (sort like a big long bus) . It has been call the City model of Latin America by many experts. The city is divided today into 75 neighborhoods and into 10 administrative districts.

A bit of history I like. The city of Curitiba was founded in 1654 and raised to City status in 1693 under the name of Vila de Nossa Senhora da Luz dos Pinhais or City of Our Lady of Light of Pines. The current name was officially given by an act of Congress in 1721 and come from the Tupi Indian word Coré Etuba, that means many pines making reference to the many pines on the hills surrounding the city. In the 1700s, Curitiba possessed a favorable location between cattle-breeding country and marketplaces, leading to a successful cattle trade and the city’s first major expansion. Beginning in 1870, many immigrants started to arrive due to a government land expansion program to inhabits large tracks of lands in Brazil. The majority of these immigrants came from Germany, Poland, Italy, and also French, Japanese, English, and Swiss.  The Germans came in by 1872, and Polish by 1871, the Italians by 1872 founding the district of Santa Felicidade in 1878 (very good restos here !). You, also, have the Ukrainians coming in by 1895, and the Japanese by 1915 and many from 1924 onwards. The Syrians/Lebanese came in also around this time as well. The first federal University in Brazil was founded here in 1913 as well the year of the electrification of the trolley bus . The city has three language schools teaching English, German,and French (the alliance française) webpage here: Alliance Française Curitiba

The gateway to wild Brazil and the Iguazu Falls, plus Pantanal, Ile da Mielhe, and Morrete, Ruta  Gracioza  , Serra Verde train ride!, marvelous terrain and inland historical Lapa ,in Parana state.  What is there ,well a very nice cosmopolitan city.

My home the apart hotel the Mercure Curitiba Batel webpage here : http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-2127-mercure-curitiba-batel/index.shtml

Batel is a noble/chic neighborhood where you will be in good safe areas, full of everything around you. That is where the Mercure hotel is on, you come in from the airport on avenida vicomte de guarapauva and leave on ave sete de septembro. The corner of this later on you have a grocery store, mercadorama. Walking distace from here you can see the tower font de jerusalem, mercado central, rodoferraria bus and train, praça Japao (Japan Plaza), and the main downtown city center shopping mall like Batel novo shops webpage http://www.shoppingnovobatel.com.br/, and Shopping Crystal at  webpage http://www.shoppingcrystal.com.br/, as well as shopping Curitibahttp://www.shoppingcuritiba.com.br/, and Shopping Estaçao Central with a railroad museum inside!  http://www.espacoestacao.com.br/site/. You have your typical Wal-Mart store at http://www2.walmart.com.br/Site/StoreLocatorResultadoLoja.aspx?IdLoja=64. You have the Carrefour store too, at Pinhais just outside the city was my store, http://www.carrefour.com.br/stores/PR/Pinhais.  And Extra Hipermercado in Av. Mal Humberto A C Branco, 230 – Jardim Social, webpage http://www.extra.com.br/Atendimento/LocalizadorLojas.aspx

Other shopping pleasures are shopping Mueller, by jardim public at http://www.shoppingmueller.com.br/. The biggest just outside by the park Barigui is  Shopping Barigui at http://www.parkshoppingbarigui.com.br/home/ , and yet in city center you have shopping Italia at   http://www.shoppingcenteritalia.com.br/principal.php.  There are various restaurants/bars  in town in addition to those found in the shopping centers above that I like such as Emporio San Francisco with great beers and live music at http://emporiosaofrancisco.com.br/programacao.php?id_dias=5 ; Jokers Pub Cafe in centro, great ambiance at nights webpage http://www.jokerspubcafe.com.br/.

Restaurant Familia Fadanelli (wonderful place ) in neighborhood of Santa Felicidade, great Italian tradition and the farewell restaurant for me last time in the city with many friends, http://www.famigliafadanelli.com.br/?s=introChurrasqueria Batel Grill, the great Brazilian steak houses, cant beat it ,webpage http://batelgrill.com.br/inicio/ . Mustang Sally for the real Mexican in you ,right in Batel, webpage http://www.mustangsally.com.br/ . For an American in Brazil, and great burgers deluxe head for Peggy Sue (now call Sheridans) ,webpage http://www.peggysue.com.br/. For the Cuban mojito and some salsa then head for Guantanamera (this I know has closed) , no web ,but Rua Colonel Dulcidio, 540 in front of shopping Novo Batel. For the real Brazilian taste and home cooking head for Tropilha Grill, webpage here , http://www.chimarraochurrascaria.com.br/home.php?where=curt. For the Spanish in me go to Pata Negra, Rua Fernando Simas,23, in the area of Batel, Praça de Espanha, flamenco music live on Fridays. Spanish and great cooking, like I was at home. no web. If you want to bring home some Brazilian wines with an Italian twist then head for Durigans winery, a real wine store, winery in one; webpage here http://www.vinhosdurigan.com.br/index.php#inicio

And for things to see there are so many in and around the city and not far from it if with a car as I had, my Chevy Prisma lol!

For tourist attractions ,my favorites were/are Bosque Alemao (German black forest), Cathedral (Basílica Menor de Nossa Senhora da Luz de Curitiba) , Centro historico or city historical center walks, Jardim Botanico or botanical gardens where in 2007 in Brazil poll it was declared one of the seven wonders of Brazil! it houses a part of the University  ,Memorial Ucraniano(Ukranian memorial) at Parque Tingui, Opéra de Arame (Wire Opera House) at the Parque da Pedreiras , built in 1992 in a circular design of metal tubes covered with polycarbonate fiber given it a cage feel , Parque Barigui( with an antique automobile museum webpage auto museum in Portuguese) my best park , Parque Tangua (impressive!), Passeio Publico (first park n Curitiba 1886) , Praça do Japao (Japan plaza),Praça Tiradentes (center and birthplace of the city),Torre Panoramica (panoramic tower of 109.5 meters), Santa Felicidade neighborhood (Little North Italy),Castelo do Batel or castle inspired by the French castles owners saw in France, now a cultural center, webpage http://www.castelodobatel.com.br/. The Contemporary Arts museum of Oscar Niemeyer, webpage http://www.museuoscarniemeyer.org.br/. A great historical center of learning the Universidade Federal do Parana, oldest in Brazil. The Municipal Market is not a normal market, there are a lot of organic products, and vegan food. The food court has a lot of Asian food, vegan food and organic too. There you will find everything and more. It is located in downtown, next to the bus station of Curitiba. It is superb, webpage here: Mercado Municipal de Curitiba

Curitiba Curitiba Curitiba Curitiba Curitiba Curitiba

A modern city of our world, public transport is second to none in Brazil, even I tried it lol!

There is a linha Turismo bus service that take you to the 22  principal spots in the city coming out from Centro praça tiradentes from 9h to 17h30 every 30 minutes for 20R reales. Line 208 take you from the airport Alfonso Pena to the city center, schedules at the city govt webpage http://www.urbs.curitiba.pr.gov.br/PORTAL/tabelahorario/tabela.php.  The main bus terminal is at avenida Presidente Afonso Camargo,340 Centro right across from mercado central, praça rua Barosa, the central market of the city. http://www.rodoviariaonline.com.br/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=41:curitiba-pr&Itemid=67&layout=default

The airport for all arrivals and departures is the Afonso Pena international airport, just outside the city at Sao Jose des Pinhas,  as above bus 208 takes you into the city or hire a taxi, services webpage http://www.infraero.gov.br/index.php/br/aeroportos/parana/aeroporto-afonso-pena/facilidades.html.  One of the best ways to see the coastal areas from Curitiba is to take the Serra Verde train, a wonderful ride into time with magnificent views ,webpage http://www.serraverdeexpress.com.br/

Another nice areas to visit from Curitiba other than Foz de Iguaçu are Morretes ( the summer get away of folks in Curitiba), and Lapa (epic battle for the federal union of Brazil), they were weekends escapes for me while there by car.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip are

This is the tourist office for Curitiba webpage http://www.turismo.curitiba.pr.gov.br/

City hall prefecture of Curitiba in Portuguese : http://www.curitiba.pr.gov.br/conteudo/perfil-da-cidade-de-curitiba/174

You need to check for updates but in my time there you had 8 buses daily lasting about 11 hours, and you can choose a conventional or convencional bus or a couch bed bus Leito. The line was Catarinense, their webpage here: Catarinense bus line  The Foz do Iguaçu official : Foz do Iguaçu

To Morretes you can go on the quaint Serra Verde train ride along the mountain and viaducs from Curitiba or by road as I did too. Info on the town from Brazil tourism here: Morretes

The train Serra Verde takes you there on  Sundays but I did it by car here, this is historical Lapa. Serra Verde on Lapa

Morretes

Hope it helps come to see something different in big and beautiful Brazil. And remember, happy travels , good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

 

 

 

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June 17, 2018

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History ,Brussels

Another trip to my favorite city in Northern Europe. This is Brussels at its best and we love the museums especially those dealing with history. Brussels has a beauty that should be seen by all history buffs.  I was there with the family and they love it, especially my boys!

This is my previous blog post on it: My previous blog post on the war museum

The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History or the Musée Royal de l’Armée et d’Histoire Militaire,is a military museum that occupies the two northernmost halls of the historic complex in Cinquantenaire park. And it is wonderful, highly recommended for the history and military buffs.

The idea came in the Brussels exhibition of 1910 when a section on military history was presented to the public and met with great success. The museum was originally installed on the site of the Abbaye de la Cambre and moved to the Cinquantenaire Park in 1923. The park is set on the continuation of the Rue de la Loi which starts at the end of the  Brussels Park before the Royal Palace.

The north wing, has been occupied by the aviation hall since 1972 when the Air and Space gallery was inaugurated.  The collection includes various types of aircraft, both military and civilian, some dating back to the early 20C.

Brussels Brussels Brussels Brussels Brussels Brussels Brussels Brussels

We actually got there on the tram 25 stop at montgomery and came into it from outside into the park on a glorious walk in town which we love to do once in a city. We got to Brussels by car from France on the N2 and in Belgium on the N6 coming in the RO or rocade(beltway) road to our hotel and then on foot all over, great I am telling you.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Brussels museums

Tourist office of Brussels

Official War Museum webpage

Hope you enjoy it, it is history of all phases of our events over the years. Very well set up , and good welcome.

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

 

 

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June 16, 2018

Towns of history and Castle in the Province of Cuenca!

And traveling along on my quest for the Quijote in me and visiting not only the province of Cuenca but also the region or autonomous community of Castilla La Mancha away from my beloved Madrid. I have come to realized the beauty of small towns away from the metropolis, and these have a remarkable impact on me and my family. Maybe one reason why we lived in a town of 7K now. Love it.

We were base in the mountains of the Serrania de Cuenca, especifically at Las Majadas, a place of many memories of family visits and good friends. We all love so much that we repeated coming here, and my dear late wife Martine fell in love with the area even thinking of retirement here. Sad could not be, life goes on, memories to take along the roads.

Let me tell you about Almodóvar del Pinar a town passing on the road N320 and only 47 km from Cuenca capital and Valencia 154 km , Madrid 234 km. The name comes from the Moors/Arabs that means Redondo or round going back to the 11C . Went thru many battles between Moors and Christians until king Alfonso VIII conquered in 1177 and again coming back to retake in 1184. By 1452, king Juan II of Castile bequest the town to Don Rodrigo Manrique, Count of  Paredes ,and Nava, Constable of Castile ,  Commander of  Segura de la Sierra, knight of the Order of Santiago and father of the famous poet  Jorge Manrique. In 1467 Manrique sells all his assets of the town to  Don Martín de Alarcón, Commander of Mérida , and Lord of  Solera.

In the 18C, the town had its biggest economic impact been of the most important towns in Spain for carriage transport (carreteros sort of the truckers of today) delivering goods all over Spain . The Royal Association of carriages of Almodovar was founded in the 16C_17C; having the town the biggest number of carriages per inhabitant in Spain. The goods were mostly transported to Madrid  but also to  Valencia, Cuenca, Linares, and Sevilla.

Another interesting historical anecdote here is on the Inquisition. There official members and collaborators calles family of the inquisition, and they were townspeople with the shield of the Inquisition on their front doors that gave them prestige, and they were not subject to laws but only to the Inquisitors. Here over 100 processes on the inquisition took place, a rather large number for a very small town not reaching 500 inhabitants at the time. Very repressive town in those days.

Things to see here are Cerro de los Cubos at a height of 994 meters with the remains of an Arab/moor fortification.  Wonderful Church of Our Lady of the Assomption or Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Asunción; the nerf is from the 15C, the tower from the 17C, and the main gate is from the 18C.  Inside there is a major altar and retable in baroque style done in 1957-1959 at  Santiago de Compostela. The nice ornate City Hall , Pósito (goods depot) , and the Chapels of Ermita Nuestra Senora de las Nieves (15C) ,  Ermita de San Antonio Abad (17C-18C),  Ermita de San Miguel Arcángel (17C), and my favorite there (because Valencia monk came to my current area to preached circa 1410-19) the Ermita de San Vicente Ferrer (18C) renovated and now use for civil events ,and the house of the inquisition or Casa de la Inquisición.

Almodovar del Pinar Almodovar del Pinar

A webpage to help you plan your trip here in addition to my blog post:

Castilla la Mancha tourist office on Almodovar del Pinar : http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/almodovar-del-pinar-44131/descripcion/

We come to an even smaller town but very picturesque we saw on the road and decided to come in to. This is Arcas del Villar or simply Arcas now. There are many sites still use Arcas del Villar but the main buildings are in Arcas. It is only 8 km from Cuenca at a height of 959 meters.  You easily reach it from Cuenca on the road N320a and then the local CM 220.  In the municipality including several small towns the highest peak is the  Monte Talayuelo at 1273 meters. It has a mountain pass call La Tórdiga at 1200 meters. The municipality is cross by the San Martin river and has several lakes on the complex Lagunar de Arcas.

The main thing to see here is the Church of Our Lady of the Nativity or Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Natividad, Romanesque style dating from the 13C with only one nerf and abside semi circular right in town center.

Arcas del Villar Arcas del Villar

 

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on Arcas del Villar: http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/arcas-del-villar-63731/descripcion/

City Hall of Arcas on things to see in Spanish http://www.ayuntamientoarcas.es/turismo/

Now we come to a very historical castle fortress of my beloved Castilla La Mancha and Spain.

The Castle of Garcimuñoz is a very small town of less then 70 folks right along the expressway A-3 Madrid-Valencia at km. 156. It is at 915 meters above sea level and the town is on a descend from it.

The long history which I will try to make much shorter is to follow.

During the Arabs/Moors occupation the place was called Al-Marg Hamal. In  1177,king Alfonso VIII conquered the town of  Cuenca, and two years later takes over the place of now Garciamunoz after also taken Zafra de Záncara.  The castle took the name from a knight García Muñoz, that accompanied the king and this was confirmed in various documents of the period such as in 1167 ,and twice in 1179).​ García Muñoz  was name mayor of the Castle in charge of the population and it is for this reason that it was known with the name of castle Garcimuñoz.  The town was re populated by ordered of the king with folks from  Extremadura  and Burgos.  Later on, king Alfonso VIII took Alarcon in 1184 and made the castle belong to its jurisdiction for 138 years.

During the many wars amongst the kingdoms of Spain ; in 1296 king Jaime II of Aragon starts a war to take over some places belonging to Don Juan Manuel; this later claims they were taken in haze and ask to be returned to him. One of the compensation was Alarcon and several other villages, he obtained from the regent queen Maria de Molina priviledges given at Cuéllar in 1297 , that ,also confirm the treaty of Torrellas of 1304. Thereafter ,for most of his life Don Juan Manuel lived in the castle of Garcimuñoz, in one of the towers he kept his fortune according to his will and where he wrote many of his literary works. Probably, it is here that his daughter Constanza (wife of king Pedro I of Portugal), was born and later died in Santarem in 1345 leaving one son Fernando that later would be king of Portugal as Fernando I.

Here comes a central figure in the history of this area and Spain, Don Juan Pacheco ordered built a new fortress at Garcimuñoz  in 1456 on top of the previous fortress of Don Juan Manuel ( when the cemetery was transfered here in 1974 due to excavation later in 2008,  you can see the lower level of the old fortress built by Don Juan Manuel. The son of Don Juan Pacheco, Diego López Pacheco, was opposed to the ruling of Isabel I or Isabel la Católica, together with the archbishop of  Toledo Don Alfonso Carrillo. The war of succession was on after the death of king Enrique IV  in which towns such as Garcimuñoz, the last remnants of the marquis of Villena falls to the infanta Isabel.  In 1480  it is signed at Belmonte  the concordat with the Catholic kings and with this ends the war  as well as the fighting utility of the castle of Garcimuñoz.

Until the first third of the 19C, the marquis of Villena are the lords of the castle and town and in charge of collecting taxes . The law of 1823 ends the lordships and the charge of taxes passing to tribunal courts or governement treasury; this cause the Marquis of Villena to sell the castle or Castillo de Garcimuñoz.

Some things to see here are: On the side of this castle on a cut of it, was started to built in 1663 a Church or Iglesia de San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) and opened in 1708. The stones and towers of the castle were used to built the Church and were the cause of the destruction of most of the castle; however thanks to the Church we have a castle stil today.  The patio was rented to the local priest for a cemetery as it was then prohibited to buried folks in Churches.

The Castle is really it here and a must to visit easy off the A3 road. The walls of it are 3 meters thick and built to resist the attack of artillery of the times. On the lower level, it is reinforced with a slope making it difficult to conquered it. The form is square irregular and its corners are reinforce with circular cubes. On the north side you have the main entrance tower or Torre del Homenaje; these towers has a dome in bricks and crown with casements and ample space to move artillery.In its heydays had two levels, one the lowel level had a patio with anti lighting crosses and on the second level on the northeast side had five gothic windows in the form of a Cross.

The windows of the first and second level shows that part of the castle had a palace aspect. The first floor windows have three centers and the middle inverse. There is a ornamental arc that is closed with a crown below it and in the center the Royal arms of king Enrique IV of Castile . The castle is peculiar because below it ordered built in 1458 there another where Don Juan Manule lived and in turn it is the continuation of the one lived by Garcia Muñoz , of which one day was destroyed by  the Caliph Yusuf  in his conquest of 1172 against the town of Huete.

Garcimunoz Garcimunoz

Other things to see are:  the Cross of Jorge Manrique built in 1941. it is about 3 km from the town on the way to Nava ,the place where supposely felled fatally wounded the poet Jorge Manrique in 1479. it is built from shisel stone from the Cathedral of Cuenca and it is the place to return after the procession of the Virgin. You can read in the monument: Here felled fatally wounded Jorge Manrique, fighting for the unity of Spain. It has two shields on each side and in the center an iron cross. At the foot is a deposit where the coplas song of Jorge Manrique amongst them the “A la muerte de su Padre”  to the death of his Father, today there is only a hole left.

The town also, had an hospital.  After in 1834 evicting the monks and in 1835 the sisters there was a hospital for the poor with land reaching to the castle of  Garcimuñoz  as well as two convents.  The hospital of Our Lady of the Conception or hospital de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción was founded by the parish priest in 1640.  The convent or convento de frailes de San Agustín (of monks of St Augustine) was founded by Don Juan Manuel in 1236 , and still preserve the abside of the Church in gothic style and the walls of the cloister. The convent or  convento de monjas agustinas, also known as Nuestra Señora de Gracia was founded in the 15C and restored in 1500 ; it is still in good condition inhabited by 8 families in the town.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Association to safekeep the castle not oficial in Spanish : http://www.castillogarcimunoz.es/

Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha: http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/castillo-de-garcimunoz-20731/descripcion/

There you go another nice local sublime historical ride on my Castilian plains of my beloved Spain. Hope you enjoy the ride, and history for always.

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

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June 16, 2018

A nostalgic look back on Alarcon!

A nostalgic look back on Alarcon, indeed.  I have heard of this town, but never visited, always continuing on towards Valencia and the Mediterranean in younger days and with the family just the big towns. On one of our summer runs to Spain, decided to see smaller towns of my beloved Spain, so the turn came for Alarcon. It was memorable indeed.

Alarcon is in the province of Cuenca in the Castilla La Mancha autonomous community about 87 km from Cuenca, the capital of the province.  Alarcon sits on a rocky hill almost completely encircled by a loop of the river Jùcar. In the 8C an Arab fortress was built on the promontory above the river, a useful defensive position. Stone walls and 5 turrets surround the castle of Alarcon. One of these turrets sits right on the river and enabled the inhabitants to draw fresh water even during a siege. After a long occupation by the Moors the castle was taken by the Castilians during the Reconquest in 1184 following a nine-month siege. As well as the castle admire the main square with its old town hall and the 16C San Juan Bautista Church and stroll through the medieval streets. The church houses some excellent murals by Jesus Mateo. The Santa Maria church is a lovely Renaissance church.

My previous blog post on Alarcon here: The castle and old Alarcon

The only drawback we had is as we were pressed for time, the wait at the restaurant was too long and the reception not to Spanish standards of welcoming. The rest was wonderful, history, architecture, old , just what I like.

The history of Alarcón is governed by its role as a stronghold; however, the castle is not the town’s only precious heritage: it also claims a rich architectural variety, both religious (the Churches of Santo Domingo de Silos, San Juan Bautista, the Santa Trinidad, and Santa María del Campo, as well as the Hermitage of Santa María de la Orden), and civil (the town hall, the House of Villena, and the Castañeda Palace).

Castle of Alarcon, is of Muslim origin, this medieval fortress was constructed in the 8C and conquered by King Alfonso VIII in 1184. The castle sits atop a promontory inside a bend of the Júcar River, creating a formidable stronghold whose battlements provide an impressive view to the border with Valencia. The keep, built around 1460 by Castilian nobleman Juan Pacheco, serves as the fortress’s trademark feature. The historical figure Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena, who wrote the Tales of Count Lucanor, once lived within the castle walls. It opened its doors as a parador hotel in 1966.

Alarcon

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Parador de Alarcon old castle  http://www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-alarcon

Church of Santo Domingo de Silos, This is a 13C church built in the late Romanesque style. Of the original structure, both the semicircular apse in the nave and the southern portal have been preserved. The portal’s splayed arch consists of three colonnettes per door jamb, capped by pointed proto-Gothic archivolts. In the 16C, the square tower and the walls of the nave were built following Renaissance designs, while the Baroque period saw the modification of the ceiling with a ribbed barrel vault. Today the church has been adapted for use as an exhibition hall and auditorium.

Art Center – The Murals of Alarcón; Old Church of San Juan Bautista. The current structure dates from the 16C as a replacement of the previous Romanesque building. It has a single nave covered with a barrel vault, a portal in the Herrerian style, and a tower that remains from the original church. Buttresses stabilize the lateral walls; however, contrary to custom, they are located in the interior and thus divide the space into smaller areas that serve as tiny chapels. In 1994, the young Spanish painter Jesús Mateo began the project of covering the totality of the old structure in a set of mural paintings. it is considered one of the greatest examples of contemporary art worldwide.

Alarcon

Church of the Santa Trinidad . This Church comprises two naves, dating from the 13C and 16C respectively, although the vault in the older nave was built in the 15C. Of note are its pointed ribbed side arches, its chancel arch, and its Renaissance altar. The original Romanesque apse, circular in form, has been replaced by the current rectangular one. The portal is typically Plateresque; it bears the coats of arms of the Marquis of Villena, and of his contemporary, Bishop. The Church tower stands on a portal known as the arco de la villa (town gate).

Alarcon

Church of Santa María del Campo .This Church presently serves as a parish Church. Erected at the beginning of the 16C, it was constructed in the Plateresque style and features Gothic tracery in the vault. The portal dates from the middle of the same century and was built by Esteban Jamete (born Etienne Jamet) of Orléans, who is also supposed to have made the altarpiece with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, as well as the sacristy.

Alarcon

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here in addition to my blog post are

A wordpress site been use as city hall on tourist info by a local in Spanish: http://www.aytoalarcon.es/

Castilla La Mancha tourist office on Alarcon in English: http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/alarcon-44031/descripcion/

Hope it helps to bring you out to the deep Spain, the soul of the Spanish people , travel to know and you will know why more travel is needed.

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

 

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June 15, 2018

The land of discoveries, come back to Trujillo!

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; a find. I have already know the city from my Spanish history,but never been to the town. This was the opportunity.

Trujillo  is in the Province of Caceres in the autonomous community of Extremadura 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.

My previous blog post on Trujillo is here: https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2012/09/22/trujillo-extremadura-birthplace-of-conquerors-and-more/

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 is 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 Saint Fernando III (king).

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 here 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.

Trujillo

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.

Trujillo

Some webpages to help you trip planning are

Extremadura tourist office on Trujillo : http://www.turismoextremadura.com/viajar/turismo/en/explora/Trujillo-00001/

Tourist office of Trujillo; http://www.trujillo.es/monumentos/iglesia-de-santa-maria-la-mayor/

Parador de Trujillo: http://www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-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. 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!!!

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June 15, 2018

Quaint towns of the Province of Cuenca!

Well ,rain is back, flooding in some parts where I am and even in Spain, rivers flowing thru towns unfortunately, this is the end of Spring and Summer coming up June 21th. Anyway, here are my newest take you go places.

I have enjoyed coming with the family to visit these places on first time, something we relish having discovered them together. We took our base in the mountains of Cuenca and from there went by car all over. These are the quaint little towns of Tragacete, Canete, Tarancon, Una, and Villalba de la Sierra all in the province of Cuenca, autonomous community of Castilla La Mancha.

My previous blog post on some of these towns here: Quaint Province of Cuenca

Ok , let’s start. Tragacete  is as all are (not to repeat myself) in the Province of Cuenca, autonomous community of Castilla La Mancha located in the Serranía Alta or high sierra area, and part of the natural park of the Sierras of Cuenca or Parque Natural Serranía de Cuenca. Here the Júcar river is born in the Cerro de San Felipe  and reach the town on about 12 km from its birth; nearby ,you ,also find the birth of the Cuervo river also at about 12 km and the birth of the Tajo river and a bit further the wonderful Ciudad Encantada (enchanted city natural park), Parque de El Hosquillo (more rock formation park) , and the  Ventano del Diablo (the window of the devil with great views). The town is shaded by the highest peaks in the area all over 1850 meters high.  Going out further at about 2 km,  you have the Molino de la Virgen (windmill of the Virgin), there is a nice cascade down juraisic stones down river; you see the water come and go as it filtered on the calcaric rocks that reach a plain at about 1560 meters high  from where the Jucar river is created  (Cerro de San Felipe plains) at a place call the Ojos de Valdeminguete (the eyes of Valdeminguete).

Tragacete

Here is born one of the Royal trails of the animal and men crossing in Spain, that are regulated by a Royal decree signed by king Alfonso X the Sabio in 1273. The one here is known as the  Cañada Real Conquense o de los Chorros . It goes thru the provinces of Cuenca, Ciudad Real, and part of the province of Jaén in Andalucia.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Tourist office of Spain: Spain on Tragacete

Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha on Tragacete:  http://www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/tragacete-70831/

City Hall of Tragacete:  http://www.tragacete.es/turismo/oficina-de-turismo

We move on to  Cañete at about 70 km from Cuenca. Main road to take you there is the N 420 halfway between Cuenca and Teruel. There is a nice natural setting park at El Chorreadero. The castle you can do on foot as well as the quaint Postigo or Hoz del Postigo that has a pretty cascade fall, river, and hanging houses as well as the Chapel of the patron Saint of  Virgen de la Zarza, parts of the ruins and plenty of fishes , birds etc for the nature lover.

The Chorreadero ,you go out of town by the gate or Puerta de la Virgen and crossing the  Salinillas (sandy area) you can reach the place or continue towards  Cabeza de Don Pedro. The nice ruins castle or  Castillo de Cañete is of  Moors origins with various additions after the Castilian conquest. The last were done in the 19C during the Carlist wars. It is on top of a narrow hilly area where you can look at the town below and the  Mayor del Molinillo river. You can see the Wall ramparts or Muralla de Cañete, the town in parts is surrounded by it with Moorish origins and Christians modifications inside you can see the gate or Puerta de las Eras,with a horseshoe arc and Moorish lettering. You can see the Churches of Santiago, Chapel of San Juliàn, and Chapel of the Virgen de la Zarza. Lots of destruction here during the Spanish Civil War by the Republicans forces.  In addition, in 2015, it was discoverd a mount call locally El Cabezuelo or the big head with three megaliths steps that could be possible pyramids in steps the first in Spain. Even if the majority of experts believe is a Celtic Oppidum from the 3C AD.

Canete Canete

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

City of Canete: http://www.villadecanete.com/

Tourist office of Castilla la Mancha on Canete http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/canete-64231/descripcion/

This is a town we passed all the time and the sad story is that here my dear late wife Martine was treated for pains (there is a clinic (Centro de Salud) in city center) while on vacation, the first signs of her cancer. Villalba de la Sierra will be only sadly remember I am afraid. It is only 21 km from Cuenca on the foot really of the Serrania de Cuenca mountains where we rented houses the last several years at 1400 meters. It is an area good for natural river fishing on the Jùcar river on two spots call the  coto de Villalba, and  El Tablazo. You see from here high above the before mentioned Ventano del Diablo,, the valley of  Cambrón,​ where you will see the ruins of a former convent of Carmelites , the Barranco del Jùcar or canyon is good to see.

Villalba de la Sierra

The city hall with tourist info on Villalba is here:   http://www.villalbadelasierra.org/portal/lang__es-ES/tabid__5354/default.aspx

Going up and around in this mountaneous area we reach the nice Uña (nails), there is a big lagoon/lake here part of the Parque Natural de la Serranía de Cuenca. You need to go by car up the mountain on the local road  CM-2105. It is a lake of 200 meters in diameter with clear emerald waters of no more than 15 meters deep. Wild life is big here with ducks, seagalls, etc as well as deers, wild pigs etc. Around the lake you come into the Balcony of Uña, from here we can see the rocky coastal shelf, known as the castle of Uña, which shields the town from the wind. This is the landscape known as Gorge Los Cortados. The sierras of Las Majadas (where we had been renting rural houses) and Valdecabras, among which the Jucar river runs, are the backdrop of the town’s entrance. The highlight of the historic quarter is the Church of San Miguel Arcángel, built in the 13C, and remodelled in the 16C. It is a building made of masonry, which has a steeple and a wooden gabled roof.

Una Una

Just around the corner from the town you have the Embalse de la Toba , a dam that starts from the  Júcar river ,between mountains. It is a big swamp of 150 hectares where you can see the muela de La Madera a place of many voltures and other rapace birds. The dam or embalse is created from the Júcar river together with others such as the Valdemeca, and other small streams . The Embalse de la Toba was built in 1925 as a project to conditioned the hydroelectric plant using the river for a traject of 20 km inside the Serranía de Cuenca that would help control the Júcar river as well as channeled the waters to the hydroelectric plant at Villalba de la Sierra. In Summer, it is one of the best areas for swimming and the most popular beach area in the province of Cuenca.

Una

The tourist office of Castilla La Mancha has some on Una here:   http://www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/descubra-el-casco-urbano-de-una-70931/descripcion/

Last but not least, is the town where we came in on the A40 to take the A3 to Madrid each time or vice versa. And of course, we went  to see Tarancon.

It is at the crossroads of the A-3 or Autovía del Este  Madrid-Valencia. The A-40 or Autovía de Castilla-La Mancha, starts in Ávila, past by  Toledo, Tarancón, Cuenca , and finish at Teruel.  The  N-400 connects Tarancón with Ocaña and Toledo. The local road  CM-200  connects the towns of Fuente de Pedro Naharro, Villamayor de Santiago, Tarancón , and Barajas de Melo in the province of Cuenca, and  Albalate de Zorita, Almonacid de Zorita, Pastrana and Fuentelencina in the province of Guadalajara. Tarancón  has a train station on the line Madrid-Cuenca-Valencia.  Tarancón as Madrid and Cuenca are in the zone E2 of the Madrid regional transport network and you can use the Abono Transporte pass to come here on the bus lines 352 from company Ruiz, S.A. and line 309 from bus company Auto Res, S.A. taking you to Ave Conde de Casal in Madrid or Cuenca bus/train terminals.

Tarancón , it is half way between Cuenca and Madrid at about 80 km. It has some nice quaint architecture as well. The Palacio de los Duques de Riánsares (palace of the dukes of riànsares was restored in the 19C on a rectangular shape and a central park with Toscans columns around which are the rooms of the palace of which very few originals are kept. It is currently the City Hall of  Tarancón. You can see outside the remains of the old gates wrough iron grills, the nice gardens in the 20C were change into the current square Plaza del Mercado.

Other nice things to see here are  the Church of our lady of the Assomption or Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción,from the 16C with a nice retable altar in plateresque style on the high altar. The convent or Convento de San Francisco, the sanctuary or Santuario de la Vírgen de Riánsares, and the palace mansion or Casa Palacio de los Parada, the parish Church of San Victor y Santa Corona, and other chapels such as San Juan, San Isidro Labrador, San Roque ,and Santa Quiteria.  There is a quaint nice old town around the parish Church.

Tarancon Tarancon

For the art lover or curious there is the painting collection of Emiliano Lozano. It includes about 300 works bequested to the city of Tarancón,by the family Lozano de la Pola, and it shows small and big portraits in all types of support and all kinds of techniques in which many of the greater works from the comics, portraits, posters, views of cities , wine houses etc etc are on display.

Tourist office of Castilla la Mancha on Tarancon: http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/tarancon-85531/descripcion/

Hope you enjoy the ride as much as we did; it is the real Spain, nothing about crowds or up prices, this is the real thing and of course, much better with a car.

And remember, happy travels, good health,and many cheers to all!!! Again thanks for stopping by. Cheers!!!

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