Posts tagged ‘Spain’

April 29, 2021

La Elipa, Madrid! souvenirs forever!!!

And coming back to nostalgia posts updating this one was a thrill and very happy to see it again and updated for you and me. This is one of those little places one do not think visiting but then again I was living in Madrid. Living and visiting are two different things; what you go through you do not forget and when all was fun and happy times ,souvenirs forever my Elipa! Let me tell you a bit more ok.

I come to my nostalgia, my souvenirs of youth in a city that will always be mine, Madrid. I have written so much on it in my blog over the years, but as always when you have so much to share ,you seen to forget the little spots that brings out the real joy in this much travelled men. Ok so I would like to share it with you, a nice piece of my life’s history. I will take you to a very off the beaten path of MadridLa Elipa and its old but wonderful baseball field.

The Elipa  is a neighborhood in Madrid located in the district of Ciudad Lineal. It borders to the north with the Carmen neighborhood, to the east with the cemetery of the Almudena, to the south with the district of Moratalaz , and to the west with the Avenida de la Paz( peace). The Elipa is located around the Avenida del Marqués de Corbera, most if not all the buildings are from the decades of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The area’s lung is a pine forest in which a national school is located. This pinewood was quite small due to the construction of the M-30 beltway highway (finished around 1974) , although many of its inhabitants mobilized to avoid its disappearance. And now a great beltway of inner Madrid. Very near where I used to lived!

A bit of history I like on the area

The area of La Elipa today was between 1212 and 1219 the Lujanes, a former lineage from Madrid, had a lordship in what would be known as the Elipa. It was granted by the king to Miguel Ximénex de Luján, who named it in memory of his wife, Phelipa de Vargas. At the beginning of the 19C, the Elipa belonged to the municipal district of Vicálvaro. Towards 1880 in Madrid, it was necessary to build a new modern cemetery of great capacity, but since there was not an appropriate land in the city, the new cemetery was made in the area of Vicálvaro, so that the large piece of land of the new  cemetery was bought to Vicálvaro and annexed to Madrid towards 1886, this is today the necropolis of the Almudena. In the year 1951 the municipal district of Vicálvaro was annexed to Madrid due to the great urban chaos that existed in the area of the current neighborhoods of the Elipa and  district of Moratalaz and because Madrid needed space to grow.  As envisaged by the Ministry of Housing, the new urban projects improved in quality, thanks to the intervention of the private initiative. For example, a neighborhood of this type was that of the Elipa. Until this time ,in the 1950’s the current  Calle San Maximiliano and Avenida de Marqués de Corbera formed a single road, which was known as the Calle de la Elipa. The construction of some blocks of flats, which had their entrance through the avenue, gave the main route of the neighborhood its current width.

As far as transports ,many taken by me since my early teens living there were initially old bus as private vans belonging to a private company that connected the Plaza de Manuel Becerra with the cemetery of the Almudena ( bus line P-10) and the neighborhood of Quintana (my old home area!) with the Vallecas (bus P-13 ,and the one I always took to reach the Elipa baseball field see below). These vans, which circulated in the Elipa, became the lines, of the new Madrid transport network  E.M.T. (Empresa Metropolitana de Transportes) the nos. 110-210 and 113 (running the same route as my old P13!). In  2007 was inaugurated the Metro station of the Elipa, belonging to Line 2 and located in the Avenida del Marqués de Corbera, corner with Calle Santa Felicidad.

On the border with the district of Moratalaz is the sports center of the Elipa, which despite its name does not belong to the district of Ciudad Lineal, but to Moratalaz. In this sports center, apart from swimming pools and other sports facilities, is one of the few fields of grass for baseball in Spain, where they play and train, among others, the Municipal school of baseball of Madrid. This is my old playing field visited nowdays when in the city and still looks wonderful; lots of youthful memories here, and it makes me feel young when by here! I give you now some webpages to help you understand the baseball here. First from the city of Madrid on the sports complex, and then the Spanish Baseball/Softball federation on the school of baseball of Madrid.



These are long links could not make it shorter, sorry.

The city of Madrid on the Elipa sports complex

The official Spanish baseball and softball association on the Municipal School of Baseball

And of course a bit more on the history of this La Elipa sports complex the home base of baseball in Spain  and today it is ,also, the school. Many memorable moments of teen years here!!!

The baseball field of La Elipa, in the district of Moratalaz, has more years than the Vicente Calderón stadium (now gone) or the stadium of Vallecas. So much so that it is the oldest in Europe. Its concrete, sand and turf have been a living witness to the history of this sport in Spain and its struggle to grow in the Spain of football/soccer fame. Not many know it, but there was a time, between the 1960’s and 1980’s  not only Real Madrid CF (my TEAM in baseball I played as well as football/soccer and the other sports I follow such as basketball), F.C. Barcelona or Atletico Madrid had baseball sections, but was taught in schools and at least in Madrid, everyone who wanted to start a team received from Castilian Federation , the balls, bats and gloves to do it for free. Two American teams made up of military of the bases of Zaragoza and Torrejón de Ardoz (played in the Elipa field as well!! ) joined in on this league that counted about 8 teams including the Abraham Lincoln School, Condepols, and Piratas teams!! (what a bunch of memories here) . The Latin American exiles fled from the dictatorships of their countries, did joined in and help improve the level of baseball here.  Spain did ok with winning the European title of 1955, several sub-championships, and especially the Olympic Diploma of Barcelona ‘ 92.


When touring the corners of the field today, one intuits that in that form of decadent beauty hides the memory of a time past full of great moments. Its cracks rust and flaws are like the scars that tell us about the hard road that has come to get here, and at the same time, are signs of the strength it treasures; like saying, “I’m here to stay.” With a seating capacity for just over two thousand people, it will go thru one of the most important reforms in its half century of history. They have change the sand and the little natural grass that is not dry for a synthetic surface, easier and cheaper to conserve, and the changing rooms are going to be built again. A facelift for an installation that holds firm the ups and downs of this sport. That is still available, as for 55 years, of those who want to venture into the romantic struggle of minority sports, or those who want to feel the distant homeland a little closer. Indeed so much nostalgia and memories here to last me for a lifetime; Madrid will always be Madrid in heaven with a hole in the sky to look down it every day. Thanks Elipa!!!



And thank you for reading it. Its one of those simple spots that means so much to me and reminds of my dear late mom Gladys efforts to bring me to La Elipa. Indeed memories forever. and hoping you are a fan of baseball and stop by and see it, looks like any small US town baseball field!!

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

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April 29, 2021

My Metro line 5 of Madrid!!!!

This is a memorable older post that love to revive update for you and me. This is what it started it all for me and my Madrid. This is where I lived for four beautiful years and many returns, and I lived right off the Metro Line 5 of Madrid in the neighborhood of Quintana and the district of Ciudad Lineal! Let me happily tell you about it.

Now I am in nostalgia lane , let me bring you up another memorable moment of my life.  As far as my youth, public transport was it, of course.  So when living there and even for souvenirs’ sake when visiting, I take the metro or the bus lines, much less the cercanias trains.  One of my fav things to do, as not really a tourist but a long time resident coming back, is to take my teen years metro line 5 of Madrid. Again, words of mine cannot express the joy of riding this line, bringing friends and family to ride it and especially my sons over the years! This is it line 5 metro of Madrid, it has evolved as Madrid!

I have written on it briefly in between posts before, but as it is so much me, feel obligated to make you read on it along, sorry ::) It is awesome ride really, try it!! And I do take it just to go back to my old piso or apartment and reminicent of youthful nice days when there with my dear late mom Gladys now. I have taken my Dad, my dear late wife Martine now, and my sons alone to this spot; its like a pilgrimage for me , need to do it. My piso or apartment above floor with my Dad Elio visiting below!!


The Metro line 5 crosses the city ,and consists of 32 stations which make up a 23.2 km route between the Alameda de Osuna and Casa de Campo stations. Here is a map I took do not remember from where but it shows the metro of Madrid map from 1975! At that time the line only reach Ciudad Lineal!!! and back to Callao!!

Mad plano-metro-1975

Unlike most Metro lines in Madrid, its route does not run almost entirely below the main roads of the city, but at least on its way through the city center , between Alonso Martínez and Acacias, it runs through the underground of the city without  correspondence with scarcely any surface street. It is, therefore, one of the first lines that passes to a greater depth to that of the others in the center of the city, in part to not overlap with them in the correspondances, but also in part by this lack of coincidence, since under the buildings the tunnels usually are  run more deeply for security reasons and space.

The Metro Line 5 as such was inaugurated on June 6, 1968 between the stations of Callao and Carabanchel, although they are part of its current network two sections previously inaugurated and belonging in its day to other lines, such as my section  between Ventas and Ciudad Lineal was inaugurated on May 28, 1964 as part of joining with Line 2. In October 1977, and on the occasion of the construction of the railroad line between Aluche and Móstoles (line C-5 of Cercanias trains), the section between Aluche and Carabanchel was incorporated to the line 5, moving of the latter to the station of Aluche the head of the lines  5 and 10. In 1980 the line went east to Canillejas, (here lived my aunt and then in the early 1970 ‘s was going by electric tram from Ciudad Lineal!)  and was extended under the Calle de Alcalá (I lived right on it!!!) until its end next to the road to Barcelona (A2).


In the summer of 2017 the line closed to change the catenary (from wire to rigid), to change the signaling to a new one and to renew four stations of the line (Canillejas, Torre Arias, Suanzes and Aluche). From August 20 to April  2019 will close the station Gran Via and trains do not stop by for the installation of elevators/lifts  and the connection of the station with the vicinity of Sol.(this is ongoing due Summer 2021).  Crossing the city from northeast to southwest passing through the center, is one of the most important lines as far as travelers are concerned. It covers important axes such as Calle de Alcalá or Calle General Ricardos, giving service to very populated neighborhoods of the capital. It connect with:

Line 1 at Gran Via . Line 2 in Opera and Ventas. Line 3 in Callao and also in Acacias by long correspondence. Line 4 in  Alonso Martínez and also in Diego de León by long correspondence. Line 6  in Oporto and Diego de León. Line 7 in Pueblo Nuevo. Line 9 in Núñez de Balboa.  Line 10 in Alonso Martínez and Casa de Campo. Branch at Opera. Renfe  trains near the stations Aluche and Piràmide and also in Acacias by long correspondence. On bus lines of the network  2 Intercity buses at the Canillejas and Ciudad Lineal, from  network  4 in Oporto and Aluche, and from network 5 at Aluche and Campamento.

The metro line 5 stations (which you will notice are some nice sights stops): Alameda de Osuna, El Capricho, Canillejas, Torre Arias, Suanzes, Ciudad Lineal, Pueblo Nuevo, Quintana, El Carmen, Ventas, Diego de Léon, Nuñez de Balboa, Rubén Dario, Alonso Martinez, Chueca, Gran Via, Callao, Opera, La Latina, Puerta de Toledo, Acacias, Piràmides, Marqués de Vadillo, Urgel, Oporto, Vista Alegre, Carabanchel ,Eugenia de Montijo, Aluche, Empalme Campamento, and Casa de Campo

It seems to be projected the expansion of the line, making it corresponds with line 8 in a new station under the Avenue de Logroño, between the stations of the line 8 of the Campo de las Naciones  and airport terminals T1-T2-T3, creating the possibility to continue by the same avenue to Barajas station.  As for its opposite end, the line ends in Casa de Campo, where Line 5 is constituted on a central platform between the two of line 10.  By the station’s own configuration and the position of the tunnels on both lines, the addition of a new platform to line 5 is not ruled out as in Principe Pio, but the possibilities of destinations for the extension are of a questionable utility . The configuration of the same route of the line, looking preferable to bring more direct lines to those neighborhoods,according to Madrid metro news.

Some webpages to help you visualized this wonderful metro line 5 of Madrid are:

The official Metro de Madrid on line 5:

The official CRTM regional bus lines of Madrid connections from metro line 5:

Above for my nostalgia you can click on the bus symbol in Quintana and it brings you to journey planner, you put in 113 bus line and this is the one I used the most to La Elipa sports complex; which in my days the bus was call P13( see next post).

The city of Madrid EMT bus network you can take from my Quintana line 38 to Manuel Becerra square and then take line 146 to Cibeles stop and then walk to Puerta del Sol or any other sight in between. EMT journey planner webpage:

Of course, the metro line 5 on Calle de Alcalà  is right by no 331 (my apartment) and if you go to no 299 Calle de Alcalà, you can take the bus line 113 to Elipa and the Almudena cemetery and the Elipa sports complex! Enjoy the ride into real local Madrid! A wonderful right where you will combine off the beaten path trip into real every day life in Madrid with wonderful monuments sights. Hope you enjoy the post!

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

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April 29, 2021

Plaza Mayor of Trujillo!!

And here coming back to my deep Spain, an area seldom visited and huge in monuments, history and architecture of Spain, Europe and the  Americas. I like to bring you to a special spot in Trujillo,updating an older post on the Plaza Mayor!! Hope you enjoy it as I.

This is pure Extremadura and my best there is Trujillo. I have written before posts on the city, but would like to showcase its main square, Plaza Mayor.  Therefore ,here is a brief introduction to something that is a must to see in my beloved Spain. The Plaza Mayor of Trujillo.  The Plaza Mayor of Trujillo, province of Cáceres, autonomous Region of Extremadura constitutes an architectural space of great beauty and monumentality, is the neuralgic center of the city where all the roads converge, in it dominates the architecture of the 15C  and 16C and is surrounded by buildings of great tourist interest. It is a beautiful Renaissance square that occupies a huge space!


The old town contains many medieval and Renaissance buildings. Many of these were built or enriched by the Conquistadors born in the city. These include, the conquerors of Peru, Francisco Pizarro and his brothers,  as well as Francisco de Orellana and Hernando de Alarcón. In the center of the square the statue of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru made in bronze in 1927.


The plaza Mayor is surrounded by beautiful and historic buildings like the Casa de Las Cadenas; called as is because of the chains that hangs from the lintel;  allegedly deposited by Christians liberated from the moors. Palacio de los Marqueses de Piedras Albas;on the Support of the balcons of the square renaissance style. Palacio de los Vargas-Carvajal; with a corner balcón on the square and two eagles. Palacio de los Chaves-Cardenas; with a facade in columns in spiral gothic style .Palacio de la Conquista; plateresque style , with a wonderful corner balcón.This building was for many years for people who enlisted to go to Peru and raised by Hernando Pizarro, the brother of the Conquistador of Peru. The Church of  San Martín ; 14C and 16C it has a a door of Gothic strokes called of the files because it is decorated with them, which houses an interesting altarpiece. The Church de la Sangre (blood); baroque style, where it is buried Gabriel, in it stands out a dome of brick.

trujillo-palace-of-the conquista pizarro-pl-mayor-sep12



The noble houses, generally less ancient (16-17C), are here lightened with arcades, loggias or corner windows. The Plaza Mayor, original by its irregular layout, its successive plans connected by wide staircases and the wide variety of noble houses that border it, is evocative of an ancient art of life such as the gates or Portal del Lienzo,and  Portal del Pan.  The Palacio de los duques de San Carlos 17C today houses a convent of cloistered nuns.  The Torre del alfiler (Needle tower), superb Mudejar steeple occupied by a stork of course!



There is rare to see so much history,architecture of great beauty preserved in just one square! Love it!!!  This is Trujillo, a must to see I am telling you!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and is a must me think,are:

The Trujillo tourist office at the Plaza Mayor with contact for further info.

The city of Trujillo on heritage

Ministry of Culture of Spain on Trujillo in English :

The Extremadura region on Trujillo things to see

A better me think private webpage on things to see in Trujillo in Spanish:

Trujillo is nice all around and on previous post told you about what to eat;and others. I just leave you with the main square, Plaza Mayor ,and hope that you too come to see this marvel of my beloved Spain.

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

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April 28, 2021

The beaches of San Sebastian!!

And now back to the lovely city of San Sebastian and its wonderful beaches! I am updating this older post on the wonderful beaches of the city. They were always a reason to be here along if any, but read my other posts on San Sebastian ,is a lot more than beaches. Anyway, hope you enjoy the post as I.

There is snow in Spain as well and my favorite areas are covered already so why not bring on the beaches of San Sebastian!  I came here with the family including my Dad (my dear Mom Gladys had already passed away in France 2007). Even while living in Madrid never made it here, so ironically finally went to these wonderful beaches from France. I am talking about the Zurriola and La Concha beaches of San Sebastian.

The beach of Zurriola is one of the three beaches of the city of San Sebastián . It is located between the mouth of the Urumea river and Mount Ulía, and has an approximate length of 800 meters. Facing the elegant and quiet profile of the beaches of Ondarreta and La Concha, the beach of Zurriola has been consolidated as a beach with a younger profile and suitable for the practice of surfing (it is the most open beach and with strongest swell in the city) and to have  the Jazz Festival of San Sebastian and of competitions of bodyboarding, surfing, skateboarding and similar events. The practice of nudism is allowed since 2004, being one of the few Spanish urban beaches that allow it.


This is the beach area where we parked each time there by the Kursaal Congress area Gros neighborhood , really across from the beach! There is a more popular beach but we still preferred Zurriola of all the beaches there, more intimate, and local. Of course, better for the younger crowds.

Do not want to tell you more as plenty on these popular Zurriola beach,therefore, will give you some webpages to help you enjoy your visit here:

The San Sebastian tourist office on Zurriola

My fav beach webpage Plages TV on Zurriola

The city of San Sebastian/Donostia on Zurriola

Moving . on to the more popular La Concha beach. La Concha Beach is located in the Bay of La Concha in the city of San Sebastián. Located west of the mouth of the Urumea river, separated from the same by Mount Urgull and the center of the city and housed in the Bay of La Concha, the island of Santa Clara closing the bay. It has an average length of 1 350 meters, an average width of 40 meters and an average surface of 54 000 m².  It is a sandy beach and shallow, in which the tides travel often limits the surface useful for use. It can be considered a beach of urban environment and massive use. Of the same bay form the beach of Ondarreta, more familiar, and not frequented by us.

san-sebastian-playa-de-la-concha-to city

The shell railing (barandilla) extends from the city/town hall of San Sebastián to the Ondarreta beach, and only changes design in the area of the Caseta Real (Royal Hut) . To know the origins of this architectural element we go back to the time when queen Isabel II reigned and in which San Sebastián was visited by royalty. The handrail was  built in 1910 and inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1916. It was placed by sections and the previous railing was moved to the Paseo de France. There is a stretch of railing totally different from the rest is where the Caseta Real was formerly. Right next to Thalassotherapy La Perla.  My memorable picture (me and Dad) on this post and showing my proud Paris Air Show polo!


La Concha is the most popular beach there and one of the best in Europe. Do not want to tell you more as plenty on it ,therefore here are some webpages to help you plan your trip here:

The San Sebastian tourist office on La Concha

The city of San Sebastian/Donostia on La Concha

My fav beach webpage plages TV on La Concha

There you go plenty of beaches in San Sebastian to choose and enjoy it with your family in nice San Sebastian or Donostia (basque). Always a pleasant visit by my family. And important to know the weather in advance you can count on Spain official meteo service AEMET. Enjoy your time here in Summers of course.

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

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April 27, 2021

Some news from France, CCCXXXI

I usually do this once a month or so, but things are changing and news sometimes gets clouded in various communiqués. One has to do with the virus of fame, and the other on travel plans for the future. The idea is to do as soon as possible, later will be more paperwork. Let me tell you the latest

The peak in France around the 6000 hospitalisation in intensive care in hospitals. Way back the Presi Macron wanted to reach 3000 but it seems this will not be achieve and the same goes for many who dare publish correct information. The improvement in the rate is only of 0,9% or hardly nothing. The contradiction on the vaccines are increasing even if in small percentage to the number of dosis; France had two deaths last month from Astra Zeneca vaccine. Last death was April 20 of a 75 years old from the Pfizer vaccine.

As of April 8, the French Medicines Agency had identified 25,641 cases of adverse side effects from the vaccine, a quarter of which were serious. By that time, 10.2 million French people had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Thus only 0.24% of people vaccinated experienced adverse effects and 0.06% experienced serious adverse effects. Looking at mortality, 405 people died after receiving an injection of Pfizer vaccine (out of 9.8 million doses injected on April 8) and seven after receiving Moderna vaccine (out of one million doses injected) . Concerning the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is criticized because of suspected cases of thrombosis, 65 people died after an injection of the AstraZeneca vaccine, including 8 because of thrombosis (out of 2.7 million doses injected). The Agence Française du Médicaments webpage:

Therefore, until this trend settles down and I see more results we are holding on ,and wait more results and information from the government. Unless , of course, we are force to take it in order to be able to travel…….!

From May 3, 2021 therefore, the rules will evolve “gradually” with initially a freedom of movement found between the departments without the limit of kilometers or the compelling reasons that go with it. So far the areas, departments that are on stricter rules are the Hauts-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d´Azur (PACA) ,and Île-de-France where the most tension at the moment, with rates above 100%. The occupancy rate is nearly 80% in three other regions: Center-Val-de-Loire, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Grand-Est. The general government of France webpage with a map:

Therefore, Bretagne is the least impacted but paying the same as everybody. The idea expose by some government folks is to gradually release the areas departments that are less impacted and so on. Will see as President Macron next public announcement is due for Wednesday May 5 2021. UPDATE earlier , rather than a new post will include this update here

Today Thursday evening, Pres Emmanuel Macron must unveil to the regional daily press all the stages that the deconfinement of France will follow. Already rumored in the press, they have been confirmed with BFMTV.  The executive has, however, provided a brake mechanism, which will block these reopening if the health situation does not allow them.

Stage 1: May 3

The curfew will be maintained as it is, at  19h (7pm). Teleworking will continue to be recommended. Middle school classes will reopen with a half-gauge for the 4th and 3rd, and high schools will reopen with a half-gauge. Inter-regional travel restrictions and travel certificates will be ended!!!!

Stage 2: May 19

The curfew will be moved to 21h (9 p.m) . Shops will reopen, in accordance with gauges and health protocols adapted to each place and activity. Restaurant terraces will reopen, with tables for a maximum of six people. Museums, monuments, cinemas, theaters, performance halls with a seated audience will be reopened, with gauges yet to be defined. Reopening of outdoor and indoor sports facilities for spectators.

Stage 3: June 9

Curfew shifted to 23h (11 p.m)  Reopening of cafes and restaurants, with tables for a maximum of six people, in accordance with gauges and protocols adapted to each place and activity. Reopening of sports halls and expansion of sports practice to outdoor contact sports and indoor contactless, in compliance with gauges and protocols adapted to each place and activity. Authorization of gatherings of less than 1000 people

Stage 4: June 30 This will be the end of the curfew.

The other item I like to touch base here is travel. We are all eagerly waiting to travel and long… However, paperwork is coming. First was the USA ESTA visa requirement or what they call it authorisation. All French as well as other European Union members needed to get one to travel there. Now the European Union worked on a scheme to return the favor. Slow down by the virus pandemia that was to start in 2021 now it has been push back to 2022, the ESTIAS visa authorisation. For guidance info, this is the ESTA rules from the US government:

The European Union ETIAS comes from “European Travel Information and Authorization System”. It is a fully electronic system that tracks visitors from countries that do not need a visa to enter the Schengen area. In a way, it resembles the United States Electronic Travel Authorization System (ESTA), which serves a similar purpose.

Since citizens of countries that do not need a visa to spend up to 90 days in the EU, do not need to go through a long visa application process, the ETIAS system is ensure that these individuals do not pose a security threat. This travel authorization system will collect, track and update the necessary information about visitors to determine whether or not it is safe for them to enter Schengen member countries.

The main reason that led to the approval of the ETIAS authorization is safety. With the increased risk of travelers all over the world, the EU wants to ensure the safety of travel in its countries. The ETIAS system will significantly reduce security concerns through its information and data collection systems. What this means is that the ETIAS system will detect whether a person is a threat to the security of the Schengen countries. This will therefore lead to denying the person entry and preventing the threat from being present within the borders of the EU. It will just deal with the problem before it can even exist. However, in addition to making travel safer, the ETIAS authorization will also help EU countries and all travelers in the following ways: Reduced processing and application times; Improving border management in EU countries; Assistance in the detection and reduction of crime and terrorism; By preventing migrations contrary to the regulations, By strengthening the EU visa liberalization policy.

Overall, the ETIAS authorization will make travel within the EU less painful and safer.Some of the countries that will need an ESTIAS are  Australia, Canada, Brazil, Japan,  Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States of America. There are many others see the list on the webpage included on this post.

The ETIAS system is expected to cost only 7€ for each request. This is only valid for adults over 18, as people under 18 will not have to pay a fee. You can pay the charges by debit or credit card. Immediately after payment is completed, the ETIAS authorization will begin to be processed. If approved, the ETIAS application can be valid for 3 years or until your passport expires. If it isn’t, however, you’ll get a deny message. In the rejection message, you will have a written reason why the ETIAS request was refused. You can appeal this decision or depending on the reason for the denial, you can adjust your request and try again.

To use the ETIAS authorization correctly, you must first go through the first country indicated in your application. For example, if you intended to go through Germany, Belgium and Austria, and you indicated in your request that the first country you will visit is Germany, you must go through Germany before visiting Belgium and Austria. After entering the first country, you can visit any other country in the Schengen zone for 90 days. If you have a Schengen visa, you will not need an ETIAS authorization. You can present your visa to the border authorities when entering the Schengen zone countries. When your visa expires, you can apply for ETIAS authorization if you are eligible.

The official ESTIAS webpage:

The European Commission (EU) on ESTIAS webpage:

The Council of Europe (EU) on ESTIAS webpage:

Therefore, be prepared and I would say get your travel plans done early. As I have been saying and reading many travel experts (if you recall reading my blog, used to work in management duties on IHG) , the avalanche is getting there and reservations without cancellation penalties will be the norm now. For example a popular French hotel chain Logis de France has 45% capacity book for summer by foreigners alone! Hope it helps.

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

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April 25, 2021

Some news from Spain CII

Well there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for start traveling again. Here in my belle France all eyes are on May 3rd, and see some eating places are beginning to relax from this weekend! Can’t wait as I am sure my readers are. For me especially, Spain is dear and yearning to be back, especially to my nostalgic Madrid. As in between let me give you the latest scoops of my favorites in my series some news from Spain! Hope you enjoy it as I!

La Biblioteca General Histórica de la Universidad de Salamanca or the General Historical Library of the University of Salamanca was created in 1254 and currently has 2,774 manuscripts, 483 incunabula and some 62,000 volumes printed between the 16C and 18C. The General Historical Library of Salamanca is the oldest university library in Spain. The Salamanca University was founded in 1218 by the will of King Alfonso IX of León, although it was in 1254 when Alfonso X ‘El Sabio’ granted it its first constitutional charter, and in 1255 when Pope Alexander IV granted universal validity to the titles imparted. by the new University. The oldest inventory of the Library, with a nominal list of authors and titles, dates from the early 17C or about 1611 and it contains 879 works, between manuscripts and printed matter. Amongt them, these little treasures are exceptional. The manuscript ‘De materia medica’, popularly known by the name of its author, Pedanius Dioscorides, was the botanical work with the greatest diffusion during the Middle Ages and collects extensive knowledge of medicine, botany and pharmacology that lasts over time as axes of traditional medicine. The one preserved here is a copy written in Greek sometime in the 15C in Italy. It also guards the codex ‘Armorial’ by Steve Tamborino, which was owned by Agustín de Torres, King of Arms of the Catholic Monarchs, and considered as the jewel of the Spanish armories of the 16C by collecting a multitude of coats of arms of different people or lineages, mainly from the Aragonese area. The Terrestrial Globe , it is made of paper and plaster and rests in a wooden cradle formed by a circular bowl for the compass in which the months and the zodiacal signs are outlined. Made in London in 1757 by Johan Senex and Benjamin Hardon, it presents, surrounded by floral motifs and angels, the same legend in Latin and English. The translation reads “Globe of all parts and regions explored, according to the latest astronomical navigational observations and reliable inventories.” Awesome!! More in Spanish from the Library here:

A retreat of the monks in the Middle Ages opens to tourists in a town in León. The seventeen cavities of Villasabariego have been recovered.  A new walkway allows a comfortable view of the caves excavated in Villasabariego in the Middle Ages .These artificial caves are found in the Cerro de Villasabariego, in the town of the same name, about 20 km to the southeast of León, and it is believed that they were excavated during the High Middle Ages as the home of hermit monks who sought solitude, away from the population centers, to meditate and live. The first study of these cavities was carried out at the University of León in the 1920s. Then, in full fashion of discoveries related to prehistory. More in local newspaper in Spanish:

A rock treasure in La Rioja with one kilometer cave with galleries, pillars and niches. The Cueva de los Cien Pilares opens to the public, after extensive rehabilitation, in Arnedo (La Rioja) with the recreation of a monk’s room next to the niches that were used as columbariums. More from La Rioja tourist office:

After more than five months closed to tourism due to the health crisis, the Cathedral of El Salvador of Avila has just announced the opening of its doors to visitors who want to know the wonders of the first Gothic cathedral in Spain. The tourist visit to the Cathedral can be done in full, except for the climb to the bell ringer’s house, which will remain temporarily closed. At the moment, conservation works are being carried out in the antechrist, which is about to be completed. Until then, you can visit the entire Cathedral and, through the cloister, access the museum and the Chapel of San Bernabé (Sacristy of the Cathedral).  Next to the cathedral, the Basilica of San Vicente will also open to tourists this past Friday. As with the wall, the Cathedral of Ávila has a confusing start date of construction. There are those who point to the year 1091 and those who place it in the twelfth century. Even so, enough is known about this temple to be considered the first of the Gothic style built in Spain, in dispute with that of Burgos. It has French features, with similarities to that of the Basilica Saint-Denis France. “The interior of the temple is overwhelming for its past shadow embedded in its walls and for its quiet darkness, which invites meditation on the supreme,” wrote Federico García Lorca.(see post). Its famous Portal de los Apóstoles, bas-reliefs in which the Apostles guard the Pantocrator under whose watchful gaze the faithful enter the interior, on the north portal of the seo, is striking. More on webpage Cathedral of Avila official:

As told before on my previous some news from Spain, now more light. The supposed painting by Caravaggio that was discovered at an auction of the Ansorena house belonged to the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (RABASF), but was exchanged for a work by Alonso Cano to an ancestor of the current owners, three heirs of The Pérez de Castro family from Madrid, linked to the world of culture and politics, is the owner of the supposed Caravaggio that was going to go up for auction a few weeks ago for 1,500 euros!!!. The Royal Academy of San Fernando has issued a statement today in which it assures that, according to the research of Dr. Itziar Arana, Coordinator of the RABASF Center for R + D + I Studies, a “caravaggio” called “Ecce-Hommo” with two saiones (executioners) of Caravaggio “belonged to the institution”. The politician Evaristo Pérez de Castro, ancestor of the owners and honorary academic of this Royal Academy since 1800, would have proposed to the institution in 1823 the exchange of this work for another from its collection, a “San Juan Bautista” by Alonso Cano. The painting was declared unexportable by the Ministry of Culture and it is speculated that it could have been tried to sell outside of Spain before it went up for auction. Official webpage of RABASF:

The National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) in Madrid has just inaugurated Deserts of Spain, a visual walk through the driest Spanish geography by photographer and traveler Luis Sáez (Murcia). The Biodiversity building of the Museum of Natural Sciences , Calle José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2, Madrid. Open until June 13 2021 .Admission 7€. Yes indeed we have deserts too lol! Some of favorites are Los Coloraos Gorafe (Granada),  Mahoya Desert (Murcia) Also known as Abanilla desert, name of the Murcian town in which it is located. It is a huge area of land made up of badlands  that ten million years ago was the seabed. And Bardenas Reales (Navarra) The head of Castildetierra is the best known formation of the Bardenas Reales.And yes this one I have even passed by car back in 1991!!! Awesome!! More from the MNCN in Spanish:

I am going to give you an imaginary trip of my beloved Segovia. Of course, best done by car as yours truly road warrior.  Anyone who visits Segovia in the spring will find an image that contradicts that of the writers of the generation of 98, that endless plain in which, according to Azorín, the entire history of Spain fit and that some have compared with the Australian Outback with high mountains, pine forests, deep canyons and a rolling green sea dotted with yellow flowers and early poppies. This is a route of art, nature and gastronomy through the less trite places of the Castilian city and its province. Enjoy it and plan ahead I am coming too!

We start from my beloved port of Navacerrada (first and last tried of skiing! see post). The road descends unruly through the forest to the beautiful palace and the Versailles gardens of La Granja de San Ildefonso, (see post) refuge of the first Spanish Bourbon, Felipe V (born in Versailles and grandson of Louis XIV). From Madrid through the Alto del León or the Guadarrama tunnel, the road soon leaves the pine forests behind to run through a wonderful  landscape, all heavenly yours. To the left of the road you can see the pink palace of Riofrío, an old royal hunting lodge that stands alone in the middle of an old forest of ash, oak and holm oaks limited by a stone wall and populated by herds of deers. The city of Segovia is immediately visible!!!

About Segovia they have written from Cervantes and Quevedo to the American Nobel Prize winner Saul Bellow (The Gonzaga manuscripts). Beyond the inns, the aqueduct, the cathedral and the fortress, there are many other places that the fast or voracious tourist will miss. The Castilian city has more than 20 Romanesque churches, (see posts on many) all of them built in a period of only 70 years, between 1180 and 1250. Among the most beautiful are that of San Martín, in the Caballeros neighborhood, and that of San Millán, in the district of the witches. Among the less known, that of San Justo, in the old suburb of El Cerrillo, with a unique set of 12C wall paintings discovered by chance after some works. Outside the walls is that of Vera Cruz, the most eastern and enigmatic of the Segovian churches, built on a dodecagonal plan and attributed to the Templars.

You will see the most Saracenic style reflected in the beautiful alfarjes of the Monastery of El Parral, the fortress or the Monastery of San Antonio el Real (now converted into a hotel) in which the Moorish masons, master builders and carpenters who lived in the neighborhood worked, considered the best in Castilla. Last Friday, April 23, it was 500 years since the battle of Villalar (Valladolid), which ended the autonomy of the Castilian towns and cities represented by the town and court councils, against the imperial and absolute power of Carlos V.  In the most beautiful of the Segovian squares, that of the Sirenas, next to the Romanesque atrium of San Martín, stands the statue of the Segovian community member Juan Bravo, beheaded the next day along with his brothers in arms Juan de Padilla and Francisco Maldonado (also  many others). The memory of Sefarad survives in the main old Synagogue (today Corpus Christi Church) and the seven streets of the old Aljama, between the cathedral and the wall.

As we leave the city, you will see beautiful towns such as Coca, the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Theodosius I the Great (347-395), and its formidable Gothic-Mudejar castle. You will arrive at Turégano, the Roman Toroda, with a square of porticoed houses on which the castle of Arias Dávila (1436-1497) looms, closed for restoration. Camilo José Cela writes in his book Jews, Moors and Christians: “Through the air of Turégano, still glued to the ghostly silhouette of its Castle”. You will follow and see the Cistercian Monastery of Santa María la Real, later named in honor of Bernard de Clairvaux when he was canonized, was removed stone by stone in 1925 on behalf of the American billionaire William Randolph Hearst, and which ended up in North Miami Beach Florida USA (also truly visited by yours ). A detour from the road near Arcones leads to Pedraza, another mythical town considered to be the most beautiful in Spain!
The webpage for the FLorida monastery is here:

Hope you enjoy the ride thru this magnificent Segovia landscape and town love it! Something worth going back for it!!

I have passed by here several times and know about the efforts to re start the train station. This is a historic occasion for Spain indeed and soon France. The inauguration of the new Canfranc train station for domestic travel is the first major milestone for the future reopening of the international line, closed for 51 years. Contacts continue to be maintained to convene the quadripartite meeting between the governments of Spain, France, Aragon and Nouvelle Aquitaine, and to materialize the momentum for the reopening of the international line. Looking forward to it, now this is one train ride I will take! For now you can visit the international train station building more info from Canfranc tourist office in Spanish:

And now let me give some flavor, Spanish flavor even with some international hint of the wonderful cuisine of Spain. Enjoy it all in Madrid! Buen provecho a todos!

In 2009, New York Burger opened its first restaurant in the capital with a proposal of gourmet burgers. Today it has five restaurants in Madrid and one in Barcelona and, for some time, it has also offered smoked meats.  Delicious place you must try it!  For example, the two burgers April 2021, on the occasion of the 12th anniversary: Liberty, with Parisian brown sauce (awesome!), and Nolita, with cured and smoked bacon “at home”, grilled on the grill and marinated in bourbon sauce. .Or the more than popular Angus Black Beef Rib, smoked for hours and glazed on the grill. The first store arrived, on Calle General Yagüe , today call San Germán (due to Spain memory lane changes].  And, shortly after, the expansion began: Recoletos in 2011; Castellana, 2013; Miguel Ángel, 2015; Moraleja, 2018; Barcelona, ​​March 1, 2020, on the eve of the pandemic. In 2019, the NYB of Moraleja Green was chosen the Most beautiful in the world, by Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, something like the Oscars of design in restoration! webpage:

One for the memories I told you about its possible sale due to financial problems due to the pandemic. Well it has happened.  The Grupo Urrechu finally stays with Zalacain thanks to the pandemic. After closing its doors during confinement and declaring bankruptcy last November, Zalacain will finally pass into the hands of the Urrechu Group. This has been decided by the Commercial Court No. 13 of Madrid. The emblematic establishment, the first Spanish restaurant to achieve three Michelin stars Considered one of the most luxurious restaurants in Madrid and where pages of the history of our country were written, Zalacaín opened Its doors in 1973. Its owner, a merchant seaman from Navarra converted to a hotelier, Jesús Oyarbide, managed to convert it, with his Basque-Navarrese cuisine with a lot of French influence and its elegant dining rooms, into the great benchmark of the capital’s international class. So long another that bite the dust in my Madrid.  Iñigo Urrechu began his career with Martín Berasategui, with whom he learned good taste in cooking, acquiring a passion for this trade.  He has worked in different restaurants, such as “Le Pain Adour et Fantasie” (France) with Chef Didier Oudill, who has two Michelin Stars. This is a union of several restaurants under his guidance and local chefs in charge.

The Madrid tourist office still gives a glimpse of this wonderful former Zalacain

And my grand finale on the culinary genious of my beloved Spain and still in my dear Madrid, let me tell you about what is cooking at Casa de Campo (see post).  The recent opening of restaurants such as Café del Lago, Villa Verbena, Contramar or El Ancla del Lago have revitalized the gastronomic offer of this natural enclave and Madrid’s green lung. The Casa de Campo is one of the green lungs of Madrid and, with its more than 1,530 hectares, the largest urban park in the city. We keep talking about its dimensions: five times bigger than Central Park (New York) and almost seven times bigger than Hyde Park (London). La Casa de Campo was the favorite picnic area of ​​Madrid before we coined the word picnic to go out to eat in the country and, today, it is again. How good I did it with my dear late mother Gladys, cheap and nice to eat. Memories forever and happy to read this, can’t wait to be back!!!!!!!!!!!

On the shores of the Lago (Lake), this terrace Café del Lago was started last March 2021 , created with the idea of ​​recovering the verbenero (neighborhood parties) spirit of the people of Madrid. The joint project of the TriCiclo Group and The Hat Madrid, two authentic brands, is a complete success. On weekends on the 600 m² terrace they hang the sign “in full”. The motives? Added to the impressive views over the Madrid skyline are the cuisine designed by Javier Mayor, Javier Goya and David Alfonso, founders of Grupo Triciclo (TriCiclo; Il Giro in Tándem trattoria, La Elisa tavern and Súa grill). As of May 4, El Cenador, the covered air-conditioned pavilion, will be operating with the same offer as the terrace. El Taller del Lago or the lake workshop. “It is a concept of world cuisines a bit street food style, harmonized with some 20 international beers . Location at  Paseo de María Teresa, 3. Does not close. Average price: 20-25 euros ( snacks); 30-35 euros (lunch and dinner at a high table) and 40-45 euros (at a table with a tablecloth). You know Spain! I have been to the one in Retiro park they have Terraza El Ancla! webpage:

The El Urogallo group is a classic in Madrid’s restaurants. In 1996 he opened his first place El Urogallo Casa de Campo next to the Lake and, almost 25 years later, his terrace and lounge, his traditional cuisine, his tapas and his rations are still there. Today, the brand which has three more Grouse at  Príncipe Pío, Pozuelo and Majadahonda  has just opened Contramar in the heart of Casa de Campo, with views of the Lake and a taste of the sea. Because the proposal revolves around seafood cuisine . Location is at Paseo de la Puerta del Ángel, 12. Closed Tuesday. Average price: 35 euros. webpage:

And the established one we have visited El Urogallo Casa de Campo

El Ancla del Lago or the lake anchor. A little over two months ago this restaurant opened its doors on the shores of the Lake and in the shadow of the Plátano gordo (a shadow banana more than 200 years old and 20 meters high awesome!!!). The house of Luis García, which is the name of the owner, has a conservatory where white tones are imposed and a large terrace with magnificent views. Its cuisine, traditional and timeless. Its menu is completed with a varied proposal of dishes to share. Located at Paseo María Teresa, 2. Closed on Mondays. Average price: 25 euros. No direct webpage yet but they have a branch here:

And there you go folks, a dandy page for your plans to visit my beloved Spain and nostalgic beautiful Madrid! Hope you have enjoy the ride and be there soon. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

April 20, 2021

Some news from Spain CI

And that sunny time again which reminds me of my beloved Spain, everything under the Sun! I like to bring you with some tidbits of information to come and see when possible and wonderful information on the traditions of the kingdom of Spain. Hope you enjoy reading it as me telling you!

Ten Spanish towns aspire to become, on May 18, 2021 the Rural Capital 2021, within the initiative that for the fifth year organizes the website specialized in rural accommodation (my rental home place in Spain!).

Of those mentioned my favorites are:

Aia ( province of Gipuzkoa  Basque Country region) In this area the baroque Church of San Miguel Arcángel stands out, in Laurgain (3 km away); the Andra Maria de Aizpea hermitage, documented in 1530 and occupying a natural rock shelter, where, it is said, the Virgin appeared; or the San Pedro hermitage, with an altarpiece attributed to Andrés de Araoz. A walk through the historic center of Aia contemplates numerous samples of traditional architecture such as Casa Gilisagasti, Casa Garagorrienea, and Casa Ostatu-Berri, and, as if that were not enough, the wonderful beach of Zarauz is 20 minutes away by car.

Cuacos de Yuste (province of Cáceres , Extremadura region).  Beyond its main monument, the nearby Monastery of Yuste, where Emperor Carlos I of Spain lived his last days, the historical complex of Cuacos de Yuste , in the Extremadura region de La Vera, invites you to a quiet walk through its winding streets, in which you can admire the well-preserved popular architecture of its mountain houses, built with masonry, adobe and wooden frameworks, and have cantilevers and porticoed facades like those of its main square.

Olvera ( province of Cádiz , Andalusia region). Its whitewashed houses and steep streets that lead to two of the claims that the town boasts the most: the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación  18C and the castle built at the end of the 12C, was part of the defensive system of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada. he Peñón de Zaframagón natural reserve, which is home to the largest nesting colony of griffon vultures in Western Andalusia and one of the largest in Spain.

Daroca (province of Zaragoza , Aragón region).  Induces a journey through time through the Lower Gate, escorted by high towers, but also through the old wall to the Mayor Castle, erected on top of what was an Arab fortress where remains have been found of Muslim plasterwork from the 11C, or visiting the Palacio de los Luna, a noble residence around the 15C that preserves its wooden roofs. The Casa del Diablo, dating from the 15C, also deserves a stop in Daroca, so named because in the mid-19C it welcomed an anticlerical revolutionary nicknamed “El Diablo Rojo.”(red devil)

Ortigueira (province of A Coruña , Galicia region). In walking its streets should lead to a visit to the Barrio do Ponto, in the old town; the conventual complex, which houses the City/Town Hall, the Benefit Theater and the parish church; the food market, from the early 20C, and a walk through its port. Ortigueira is famous among Celtic music lovers, since the Ortigueira Celtic World Festival has been held here since 1978. Since 2000 its name is the Ortigueira Festival, and every second weekend in July hundreds of fans of folk music camp on Morouzos beach to attend the event. One of the most attractive options is to discover the Loiba cliffs about 10 km away by car. There is a signposted route that allows you to cross it from Esteiro beach (Mañón) to the Ribeira do Carro beach (Ortigueira). A stretch of coastline that is, for many, the best bank in the world.

Sepúlveda (province of Segovia, Castilla y León region).  This town founded in the Iron Age of just over 1,000 inhabitants is part of the association The Most Beautiful Towns of Spain. Some of the unavoidable visits go through its Plaza Mayor, its nerve center and partially arcaded; the Church of El Salvador, one of the paradigms of Castilian Romanesque; the Lope Tablada de Diego Museum; the sanctuary of the Virgen de la Peña; or the Puerta del Azogue or Arco del Ecce Homo, one of the seven gates that the Sepúlveda wall had. In addition, it is the perfect base camp to enter the Hoces del Duratón natural park, where the main protagonist is the griffon vulture. To its imposing scenic beauty are added historical attractions, such as the Romanesque hermitage of San Frutos 12C and the cave of the Seven Altars, whose interior houses a Visigoth religious monument from the 7C.

Taramundi (Principality of Asturias).  A knife of more than seven meters and 1,500 kilos welcomes the Museum of Cutlery, in the village of Pardiñas, just 3 km from Taramundi. A quiet walk through the town leads to Os Castros, one of the most important forts in Asturias and a decisive enclave of the Bronze Age as a place of passage and trade. And in Mazonovo, very close to the town, one of the largest mill museums in Spain awaits: it has no more and no less than 19, as well as a rudimentary hydraulic power station. The Taramundi Loom Museum, the Os Esquíos Ethnographic Museum, or the Bres craft center also transport us to that world of trades and crafts so deeply rooted in this part of Asturian geography.

Yeste ( province of Albacete, Castilla-La Mancha region. The silhouette of its castle, from the 13C in Gothic-Renaissance style, dominates the panoramic view of Yeste. Located in the middle of the Segura mountains, within the urban complex of this Albacete town, the Renaissance City/Town Hall stands out. And outside the town, the fortified towers of Islamic origin and Christian use during the Reconquest are worth a visit. On the last weekend of October, the entire town throws itself into the celebration of its Fair of Popular Traditions, with samples of artisan trades, a traditional market and the celebration of a traditional slaughter.

The Thyssen Museum presents Georgia O’Keeffe’s first retrospective. From April 20 to August 8 2021, the museum will show a selection of 90 works, considered one of the greatest representatives of North American art  by this pioneer of abstraction, five of which were already in the Thyssen, which is the museum with the most works by the artist outside the United States. O’Keeffe was a traveler who used colors and shapes “to express what she could not with words.” Flowers, barns, religious crosses or landscapes are some of the themes that captured the author’s attention over six decades. The retrospective begins with watercolors and drawings in which she renounces color to capture personal experiences in an abstract way. Almost a hundred works that are burning different stages, such as ‘Gray, blue, black, pink, circle’, an abstract representation to represent the dances of the Native Americans or ‘New York Street with the moon’, a mixture of modern architecture related to the sky and nature. O’Keeffe did not leave the United States until she was over 60 years old, and her first trip outside of it was precisely to Spain in 1953! webpage:

It is 50 years since the birth of the association that rescued 18 unique temples from the 10C and 11C from ruin and which can be visited on a route distinguished with the Seal of Excellence in Tourism in Aragon. Fifty years ago, in 1971, the Amigos de Serrablo Cultural Association was born, based in the province of Huesca town of Sabiñánigo, in the Alto Gállego region, the gateway to the Pyrenees and the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. The association, in addition to recovering popular architecture and intangible heritage (stories, legends, toponymy, gastronomy and customs) and contributing various publications, has created the Ángel Orensanz Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of Serrablo. Located in Casa Batanero, the museum is an example of the popular architecture of the area and is considered one of the best in Spain of its kind.The Church of San Pedro de Lárrede is considered the prototype of the complex and is the first of the route . Located in the urban area of the town, it has a Latin cross plan, formed by a rectangular nave and two arms as a transept and a semicircular apse. The bell tower enhances the complex due to its slenderness and sobriety. In addition, on the way we find the churches of Arto, Basarán (which was taken to Formigal), Busa, Espierre, Gavín, San Bartolomé de Gavín, San Pelay, Isún, Ordovés, Lárrede, Lasieso, Oliván, Orós Bajo, Otal, Rasal , Satué and Susín.

The castle of Larrés, a district of Sabiñánigo, has housed the National Drawing Museum since 1986. It is named after Julio Gavín, draftsman and ethnographer, his mentor and founder of the Association. It is a square-angular building with two opposite towers, consolidated in its current format at the beginning of the 16C. In 17 rooms, 350 works of the more than 4,000 that currently make up its collections are exhibited. Rooms 1 and 2, located on the ground floor, are reserved for temporary exhibitions, such as one dedicated to graphic humor with originals by Mingote, Forges, Gallego and Rey, Ricardo and Nacho, López Maturana, Serafín, Peridis, Chumy Chúmez, Oli, El Roto or Cano, among others.  The rest of the ground floor is dedicated to Aragonese drawing from the end of the 19C to the present, and the rest of the building is devoted to contemporary Spanish drawing, both figurative and avant-garde, graphic humor and comic, in various techniques, from pencil to ink. , watercolors, washes, waxes, graphite powder to collage.

The Amigos de Serralbo webpage in Spanish:

A wonderful nostalgic area for me is the Albufera. There thousands of birds and fans of them meet at the Albufera lake, one of the most important wetlands in Europe and a pure Mediterranean landscape just a few minutes from Valencia. Among the star stops is the island of Palmar, which condenses the fishing essence of the landscape. It is there where you can enjoy a boat trip to watch the birds and the rice fields originals of the paella dish). Then you can continue to El Saler (visited as child home of late aunt Maria Elena) to admire its virgin dunes and marvel at the native flora, as well as the views of its beach and the Mediterranean Sea. You can book a guide tour to see this webpage:

One of the inescapable spring events for wine fans has been, for eleven years now, the release of the annual Tío Pepe En Rama sack on the market, the most special bet of that icon of Spain that is the Tío Pepe of the bodega González Byass. Without filtering, without clarifying and without stabilizing, directly from the boots where the soleras rest to the bottles that will reach consumers, Tío Pepe en Rama is Sherry wine in its purest form, as it was drunk in the past (tradition heaven!). That is, in each of them the Atlantic Ocean, the west and east winds, the flower veil (the natural yeasts that help to mature the Sherry wine) and the mineral soil of marine origin (albariza) must be present. in which the palomino grape that is capable of bringing together all these essences is grown. The result is a gold-colored wine in which a certain turbidity can be seen, produced by dead yeasts ‘in service’, and which on the nose is quite a festival: pungent, with an overflowing minerality, a lot of salinity, notes of chalk and talcum powder, nuts, chamomile and even a touch of citrus. The passage through the mouth is very long, full, very, very dry, almost astrigent, (we are talking about a wine with less than one gram of sugar per liter, one of the driest in the world), iodized and very fresh. The cost of Tío Pepe in Rama is 15 euros in Spain. Gonzalez Byass webpage:

The Comarca de la Sidra  (the region of cider) is preparing to receive a unique natural phenomenon: the flowering of apple trees, or as the “Floriar del Pumar” is known by those lands. From mid-April to early May, the green meadows and slopes of the Mountains in this southeastern area of the Principality of Asturias are dyed in white and pink and are impregnated with a sweet smell thanks to the flowers that grow from the thousands and thousands of apple trees that dot the place, offering a magical picture that has become a true tourist claim. It is a sign that spring has already arrived in the region, comprised of the towns of Bimenes, Cabranes, Colunga, Nava, Sariego and Villaviciosa, some 30 km east of Gijón. The route involves a little more than 70 km that travel through less frequented roads and secondary roads and passes through charming villages and towns, gentle hills, bucolic valleys and enclaves with incredible panoramic views over the Cantabrian Sea, Villaviciosa, the Manzanera (apple) Capital of Spain, and a one of the largest towns in the region. It is advisable to park your car to walk through the beautiful old town, full of sculptures, palaces, emblazoned houses and plenty of places to taste the local cuisine and, of course, cider. webpage:

Read these names: Familia Torres, Vega Sicilia and CVNE (tops)  are at the top of the ranking of the 50 most recognized brands of the prestigious British publication ‘Drinks International’, which includes five other national wineries. The Familia Torres has been elected once again the most admired wine brand in the world according to the ranking The World’s Most Admired Wine Brands 2021 that is produced annually by the prestigious British magazine Drinks International. Of the 11 editions of this ranking to date, it is the fifth time that the Penedès family winery, which has just celebrated its 150th anniversary, has obtained this first place. The renowned Vega Sicilia (Ribera del Duero) occupies the third place in the ranking,the winery founded in 1864 in Valbuena de Duero (Valladolid), currently owned by the Álvarez family, rises six places compared to last year’s list. The Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), in eighth place in the ranking, is the third most admired Spanish brand in the world. The family winery, which was born in 1879 in the Rioja town of Haro, has risen 15 places this year to be in the top 10. If the complete list of 50 brands is taken into account, the countries that contribute the most wineries are France (with 11 mentions), Spain (with eight) and Italy (with six). The list of Spanish wineries is completed by the Riojan Campo Viejo (32), the Catalan from the D.O. Pla de Bages Bodegas Abadal (37), the centenary Ramón Bilbao (43), founded in Haro (La Rioja), which has been included in the ranking for three consecutive years, the Catalan Raventós Cordoníu (47), one of the oldest wineries in Spain, founded in 1551, famous for its cavas (sparkling wines), and La Rioja Alta, which debuts on the list. Yes Spain is moving up in wines folks take a look around you.

Las Ventas Monumental bullring prepares a festival for Dos de Mayo with Ponce, El Juli and Manzanares as performers (and how would I pay to be there!).The Las Ventas bullring will open its doors again on Dos de Mayo if the weather and, above all, the pandemic do not prevent it. The Center for Bullfighting Affairs of the Community of Madrid, in collaboration with Plaza 1, wants to open its doors closed from October 12, 2019 on May 2, a bullfighting date par excellence linked to the traditional Goyesca, according to the news advanced by Mundotoro. Yes Dos de Mayo is portrait by Goya on an event of Spain independence war so call from France’s Napoleonn dictatorship. And Mundotoro webpage with the president of the comunidad de Madrid fully supporting the opening viva Madrid!

A great meeting looks forward to every year starts a very special week today for all those who love literature. Although this year’s celebration, like that of the past, will have a certain bittersweet flavor, as there will not be the traditional delivery of the Cervantes award in the Auditorium of the University of Alcalá de Henares due, in part, to the pandemic and, also, to the delicate state of health of the winner, the poet Francisco Brines. In it, which will take place at the headquarters of Instituto Cervantes in Madrid, six writers and three publishers will leave their respective legacies in the Caja de las Letras. The guests are the authors Antonio Muñoz Molina, Manuel Rivas, Bernardo Atxaga, Carme Riera, Luis Alberto de Cuenca and Cristina Fernández Cubas, who summarize the cultural diversity and unity of our different languages, and, as representatives of the publishing houses, Pilar Reyes (director of the Literary Division of Penguin Random House), Valeria Ciompi (director of Alianza Editorial) and Manuel Borrás (director of Pre-Texts). It is the first time that the Instituto Cervantes has organized such a large collective transfer, which will bring to 79 the number of legacies held by the Caja de las Letras, (the vaults of letters)the old vault of its headquarters in Madrid. The next day, Wednesday 21st April , in the Soto del Real Prison an act for the inclusion and promotion of culture will be held. That same day the Espacio Cervantes will be inaugurated at the University of Alcalá. In addition, during that act the bulk of the acquisition of the library of the editor and poet Jesús Munárriz, founder of Visor, who has donated it to Cervantes, will be announced. It consists of more than 7,500 books, many of them first editions and most of them dedicated, that cover 20C poetry. On Thursday April 22nd, a poetic anthology by Francisco Brines will be presented at the University of Alcalá, and in the streets of that city the ‘Poetry in the Plaza’ will start, which seeks to involve all citizens. And, for the April 23rd, the big day, the Day of the Book, Sant Jordi, an institutional act is planned at the headquarters of the Cervantes Institute in Alcalá de Henares with the presence of the Kings, Don Felipe and Doña Letizia, and Minister Uribes. The act will contain dramatized readings of classic texts by members of the Young National Classical Theater Company; The actor José Sacristán will read Antonio Machado and Miguel Delibes and, as a culmination, the Cervantes 2021 prize winner, Francisco Brines, will recite some of his poems in a connection via video conference. At the end of this act, the exhibition of homage to Francisco Brines. The certainty of poetry. ‘ Without forgetting, of course, the continuous and virtual reading of Don Quijote at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. It will begin at 13h on April 23 and it will be precisely inaugurated by Francisco Brines.

And there you go folks, some news from Spain again ,thanks to all of you for following me on these long posts since my blog started back in 2010. It has been a thrill to do it and enjoy it very much , thanks again for keeping me company. Hoping always you enjoy the post

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

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April 17, 2021

KIO is Puerta de Europa ! Madrid of course!!

And here I am updating this older post of my beloved Madrid. Well of course, if you read my blog you know me and Madrid. However, most folks guided by tourist guides go to the Centro or center area of  Madrid which is loaded with tourist hangouts waiting for you. I have said and I do, go out into the regular living, know the country, the city , the people and you will see nice monuments too. This is the case at the Puerta de Europe or Europe’s Gate and the KIO buildings. Let me tell you about them ,and hope you enjoy as I.

I am trying to remember my memories and have plenty so hard to choose as they all look sentimental. Getting to write about Madrid is easy for me, my favorite city. From Madrid to heaven and a hole in the sky to look down on it every day!  So you all go to the Centro, old city center by now overrun with visitors; visitors are good don’t get me wrong, they are needed and all around like it. It is just that after a while, it becomes so so visited that the locals starts cooking, painting and showcasing just for the visitors and not the local modes. So I always said get out from the center and see the city,it will amazed you.

I am taking you up north along Paseo de la Castellana to lovely Plaza de Castilla (Castile square) in the Chamartin district. And here you have a wonderful architecturally done buildings and art centers and a huge local transport hub. It is one of my hangouts in Madrid and we love to shop by it, especially the gourmet grocery store of Sanchez Romero (many branches in Madrid) at Castellana 196 not far on right hand side to Plaza de Castilla.

The two towers that are located in Plaza de Castilla, and that make up the so-called Puerta de Europa (gates of Europe) , are commonly known as Torres Kio because they were promoted by the Kuwaiti company Kio (Kuwait Investments Office).  The two buildings are located on either side of the Paseo de la Castellana, the main artery of the center north of Madrid, on the northern edge of the Plaza de Castilla, in the Chamartín district., and across from the Centro de Arte Fundación Isabel Canal II  Paseo de la Castellana, 214 ( a foundation for arts center name after queen Isabell II water chanel). webpage:

The buildings are two inversely symmetrical towers inclined towards each other, 15 degrees with respect to the vertical one, and were the first inclined skyscrapers of the world. The skyscrapers have a height of 114 meters and twenty-six floors, and are visible several km away from Madrid, given their situation in one of the highest heights of the city. They are the first towers voluntarily inclined in the world. The construction of the towers began in 1989, but due to a series of financial difficulties, it interrupted for several years and ended only in 1996.  On a total surface of 2 340 m2 of floor, the towers consist of a steel structure covered with glass curtain walls totalling a surface of 32 864 m2 for a height of 114 meters.(about 376 ft)   Each building has four elevators, the first two of which serve floors 1 to 13 and the next two floors 13 to 27. These are the second highest twin towers in Spain, after those located in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.


The tower that has the top of the logo of Bankia is called Puerta de Europa I, whereas the other one, with the logo of Realia, is known as Puerta de Europa II. To avoid confusion the first has a heliport painted in blue and the second in red. KIO towers, at that time in construction, are one of the scenarios where the film is developed The Day of the Beast (El Dia de la Bestia) by Alex de la Iglesia.

Around the plaza you will see the obelisk of Calatrava itself 92 meters high (304 ft) ,and 6 meters in diameter (19.8 ft).  the monument of Calvo Sotelo, a huge sculpture of the Spanish jurist and politician, built in 1959 in memory of the assassination that was one of the sparks of  the Spanish civil war. The area is one of the main bus terminals in Madrid, above ground many local buses have a stop here, and underground you have buses to nearby cities and inter province service. You reach it on metro Plaza de Castilla ,lines 1,9,10.


The Madrid tourist office on the KIO towers at Puerta de Europa in the Plaza de Castilla

The Bankia bank story on the Kio towers in Spanish:

Hope you enjoy this trip out from the tourist center and be encourage to see more of Madrid. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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April 16, 2021

Museo de América of Madrid!!!

Again updating and again memories flashing in my beloved Madrid! So much of my life centered around this city, I guess more than any other. If life could had made me lived here forever, oh well we will go on with the memories of always. This one was one I came in a class trip as a young boy, and then stop. Later in life came with the family for a memorable visit! Hope you enjoy as I ,the Museo de América of Madrid!


This is a dandy to visit. I was glad to visit with the family . I really was missing something beautiful ,educational, historical, architecturally inspiring a real museum of real facts and events. I love it!  I am talking about the Museum of Americas or Museo de América up Calle de la Princesa ,right past the Faro de Moncloa (see post) on a hilly area just behind the lighthouse tower or Faro de Moncloa. The wonderful Museo de América, a museum on all Spain relates to Latin America and our cultures.


The Museum of America or Museo de América is a national museum  is dependent on the Ministry of Culture. There are exhibited collections of art, archaeology and ethnology of America (Latin) since pre-Columbian times to present  times. The idea of collecting such collections, envisaged since the time of Cardinal Cisneros, was concretized by government law of 1941 ; the works, which began in 1943 , finished  in 1954. Once the institution was established , the collection that was exhibited in rooms of the National Archaeological Museum were transferred to its definitive location in 1962.  The works kept at the museum are of various origins. They are made up of donations, legacies and progressive acquisitions, and essentially of collections formerly deposited in the National Museum of Archaeology. Until 1868, these works were stored at the National Museum of Natural Sciences. In 1771, king Charles III had founded a Royal Cabinet of Natural History, containing objects from the first archaeological excavations and scientific expeditions. This small collection is the original nucleus of the museum.


The collections cover a period extending from prehistoric times to the present day; The essentials, however, consist of pieces of pre-Columbian archaeology, ethnography and colonial art. They bring together more than 25 000 objects.  Through a magnificent collection of pre-Columbian objects (such as those coming from Peru and Guatemala), from the Colonial era (Andean schools and the Viceroyalty of New Spain), and from the contemporary indigenous peoples (from the North west Coast to Amazonas), and using an anthropological discourse, presided over by respect for all cultures, the Museum of America offers the possibility of stopping at the many objects, texts and images that have spread for centuries realities and inventions on America. In this way it is possible to recognize how their peoples and cultures evolved through more than 12,000 years of history, how their models of society were articulated, how it was their contribution to the world of religion, and what instruments they used to communicate with each other.

mad museo de america side tower aug16

The permanent exhibition is organized in five parts:

Knowledge of America: This space seeks to present the way in which the knowledge of the American continent and its peoples has been built in Europe, through the exhibition of the myths that once spread over the New World, Chronicles, Expeditions and mapping.

The Reality of America: This part is intended to be a presentation of the settlement of America from the original migrations to the development of the different indigenous cultures, presented chronologically.

Society: this part evokes the existence of the various American societies: Tribal Societies and complex societies. It is treated daily life, through housing, the economy, the organization of society, the power.

Religion: in this space are exposed the main deities, as well as myths and sacred places, rites, objects of worship,… This part is equally interested in the religions of the United States and the Catholic religion, established by the Europeans.

Communication: Here, the exhibition focuses on the development of written and oral communication in America. It is based on Codex, but also on native languages and Spanish.

The exhibition of objects of art or archaeology are complemented by audiovisual presentations.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and you must I said!

The Madrid tourist office on the Museo de America

The official Museo de America

The Ministry of Culture and Sports of Spain on the Museo de America

Hope you have enjoy this brief description and encourages you to come over to the Museum of America. You will be glad to know more about my beloved Spain and the people of Hispanic America.

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

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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 :

The city of Toledo on public transports:

The Castilla La Mancha tourist office on 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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