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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

When travelling this summer why not take in some stars?
01 July 2020

 

When travelling to or around Spain this summer “Star Tourism” is maybe something you want to keep in mind. If you have never considered this type of tourism and like the idea of gazing and interpreting the firmament, a great place to do so is Spain. Spain has some of the best vantage points in the world to marvel at the sky at night, so why not combine your passion for astronomy with an unforgettable trip to the Spanish countryside.

Spain's clear skies have preserved their natural darkness owing to the lack of light pollution. Indeed, at present, the Canary Islands, along with Hawaii and Chile are the homes of the observatories where the telescopes of the future are to be installed. The good climate offers endless nights with clear skies. Additionally, many of the areas from which the stars can be observed from are protected natural areas, such as nature reserves, that are sure to impress visitors.

There are country house lodges and small hotels in Spain that specialise in stargazing. These normally have planispheres or star charts, educational material and a telescope. There are also companies and associations that specialise in organising events for important moments such as eclipses and meteor showers. Indeed, Tenerife even hosts the Starmus Festival, which is aimed at astronomy, science and music enthusiasts and which has counted with people of the stature of Stephen Hawking as speakers.

There are several types of Starlight certifications (Starlight Reserves, Starlight Tourist Destinations, Stellar Parks, Starlight Hotels, etc.) that are granted to places that include sky watching as part of their natural heritage, thus ensuring a quality tourist experience. You can get more information at the website of the Starlight Foundation, created by the Canary Island Institute of Astrophysics (IAC).

 

 

Here is a selection of the Starlight areas in Spain : 

Sierra Sur District. (The Sierra Sur mountains in Jaén Andalusia, southern Spain). This is a landscape abounding in mountains and canyons where the air is clean and transparent. Different astronomy associations and the Andalusia Astronomy Observatory normally organise guided observation activities. There are even companies that provide private astronomy guide services at those country house lodges that have professional telescopes.

Andalusia Sierra Morena Mountains. There you will find a marvellous network of star gazing vantage points and accommodation. They also offer package holidays that include specialist guides, observation material, day and night activities, accommodation, 4x4 travel, etc.

El Montsec. This is a Starlight Tourist Destination located in the foothills of the Pyrenees in Lleida (Catalonia). You could do no better in this area than pay a visit to its large astronomy park made up of the Universe Observation Centre (COU) and an Astronomy Observatory. Did you know that the well known “Montsec Eye” is to be found there, the 12-m dome which opens out to bring you “face to face” with the Montsec sky?

Tenerife. Both the Teide National Park along with other mountain peaks on Tenerife and the town of Granadilla de Abona hold Starlight certification. If star gazing is exciting in itself, watching them from a volcano at over 2,000 m above sea level is an incomparable experience. What better place to gaze at the moon than from a lunar-like landscape? The geographical situation of the Canary Islands offers visitors a chance to observe both the northern and southern hemispheres. You can sign up for a guided visit to see inside one of the most modern telescopes in the world or to take a photograph of the night sky.

La Palma. Known as the “beautiful island”, this is the most rugged of the Canary Islands and the one with the clearest skies. It is definitely an understatement to say that this is one of the best places on earth to observe the stars. All the towns on the island have astronomy vantage points. Its famous Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory, standing some 2,400 m above sea level is one of the most complex telescopes, and indeed one of the most complete, in the world. You can visit it, but only by prior arrangement. La Palma has several hotels and country house lodges with observation instruments. There you will find sundials and even restaurants that offer “galaxies” and “constellations” among their dishes.

 

 

Gredos Norte. This is in the south of the province of Ávila (in Castile-León, inland Spain). It has a network of star watching vantage points that are equipped with information panels, car parks, etc. The Astronomy and Astrophotography Congress is held there every year.

Biosphere Reserve of the Valleys of Leza, Jubera, Cidacos and Alhama. We are talking about the beautiful countryside of La Rioja (northern part of inland Spain). Several activities have been organised there in recent years such as talks about the sounds of nature, tours to spot nocturnal birds, explanations on the link between the Celtiberian culture and the stars, bathing under the stars in thermal springs, learning about the constellations, etc. La Rioja also has two star parks: the Laguna one in Cameros and other in Cervera del río Alhama.

One of the most popular times of the year to stargaze in Spain is during what is known as the “Tears of Saint Lawrence”. They refer to the Perseids meteor shower of shooting stars that usually takes place between the 11 and 13 August every year. Not every night is suitable for sky watching on account of moonlight and wind factors however the best nights are those just before and after a new moon.  



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Menorca 1000 BC
23 June 2020

There was a civilisation on the Balearic Island of Menorca which built strange stone constructions known as talayots, taulas or navetas throughout the 1st millennium B.C. It is fairly easy to follow a route around the island to visit these wonders. A good starting point would be the Biniai Nou megalithic tomb. The Me-1 road linking the cities of Mahon and Ciutadella is the central backbone that crosses Menorca from one end to the other. Five kilometres from Mahon, a trail to the right leads to two hypogeal that give rise to the monument. The oldest human remains in Menorca were found here (2300-2200 B.C.).

 

 

Returning to the Me-1, you can head back 1 kilometre to the turn-off for the town of Talatí de Dalt. The highlights here are the monumental taula and several megalithic caves. Next is the Calescoves necropolis, located around 8 kilometres away on the southern coast, in two rocky coves which were a jetty in the Roman and Byzantine periods (towards the 6th century A.D.) here there is a set of one hundred caves that were used as a burial ground.

Not so far away is So na Cassana, where we can find the ruins of a religious complex and, along the same road around 2 kilometres down, is the Talayotic settlement of Torralba d’en Salort with its splendid megalithic monuments, several talayot, a hypostyle hall and numerous caves.

 

 

If you continue on, you will come across the town of Alaior. It is worth making a stop here to visit the picturesque nooks and streets with their traditional white limestone Menorcan houses. Next we take the Son Bou road and, after the Galmés Tower, there are a further two monuments.

 

 

These are the megalithic tomb of Ses Roques Llises and, the most important site, the Talayotic settlement of Torre d’en Galmés, the largest on all the Balearic Islands where we get a better view of what these types of settlements were like.

From here we head into the heart of the island, still on the Me-1. Forests and farmland, which use the traditional dry stone walls for separation, line the route.

 

 

We head through the towns of Es Mercadal (7.5 kilometres), located alongside the Mare de Déu de Toro mountain and shrine, the highest peak in Menorca, and Ferreries (7 kilometres). Here we need to take the road to Es Migjorn Gran to shortly afterwards take the turn-off leading to the Talayotic settlement of Son Mercer de Baix (3 km). The examples of navetas still standing are magnificent.

 

 

The next stop is the Naveta des Tudons, a splendid funereal monument and one of the best preserved and most visited on the island. To get here, we need to return again to the Me-1. At kilometre 40 (5 km after Ferreries), a 1-km deviation on the left leads directly there.

Finally, and after getting to Ciutadella on the western coast of the island, the Son Saura road leads you to the Talayotic settlement of Son Catlar around 6 kilometres on, which stands out for its large 800-metre long wall.



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Paradise lost in Asturias
16 June 2020

The Playa del Silencio (Beach of Silence) is known to be the best beach in Asturias, North West Spain. The name speaks for itself. The beach is shaped like a shell, formed with cliffs, and is approximately 500 meters long. There are giant rock formations that extrude from the sea like little islands. It has been registered as a protected space meaning visitors must respect the surroundings. This also means you won’t find restaurants and litter in the sand next to you. From above, the view glimpsed through pine trees shows cliff-side steps twisting down a white cliff to a cove.

 

 

The tranquil beach is inexplicably empty, while grey and cream flow-lines of rock strata at the cliff base betray the tumultuous activity of past ages. It makes a great diversion for those on the Camino de Santiago trail. The beach is very popular for scuba diving because of the untainted environment. The sea is very calm here, as the cliffs and rocks protect it from the waves, creating an almost still and silent sea, the small, sometimes unnoticeable waves just tickle the beach with delicacy. The water is quite deep and mussels, barnacles and sea bass are easily seen through the crystalline waters. The sand is fine and golden but peppered with pebbles too, a gratuitous contribution from the neighbouring cliffs. The Beach of Silence is truly a paradise lost. It is perfect and untouched nature and a pleasure to enjoy. For a peaceful and tranquil rest from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, fewer places are better.

 


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Spain's Most Valuable Fish
10 June 2020

If we were to name an iconic species of the Mediterranean sea and the straight of Gibralter, it would no doubt be the Atlantic bluefin tuna. Strangely, not many people know about this amazing animal, which is one of the biggest and one of the most commercially valuable fish in the world. Precisely for this, it has been heavily overfished for decades and the victim of widespread pirate fishing especially in its main spawning grounds across the Mediterranean. 

 

 

Adults are typically 2 metres long but can reach over 4 metres, making the Atlantic tuna one of the largest bony fishes and the largest of all the tuna species. Adults average around 250kg, but the largest recorded specimen was a massive 679 kg - that’s heavier than a horse!

How fast can tuna swim? You`ll usually find them cruising around at 2.8-7.4km per hour, but can swim double that, nearly 15km per hour, for some time. But it’s when they’re chasing their prey or avoiding a hungry shark that they really let fly, accelerating faster than a Porsche and reaching speeds of 70, and maybe even 100 km per hour! No surprise then that the word tuna comes from a Greek word meaning “to rush”.

Atlantic bluefin tuna are not just fast sprinters they are also champion long-distance swimmers. These fish are found on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean, from Brazil to Newfoundland in the west and West Africa to Norway in the east. Throughout their lives they roam this vast area searching for prey, returning each year to their spawning grounds in either the Gulf of Mexico or the Mediterranean Sea. These travels include trans-Atlantic crossings, which a bluefin can complete in less than 60 days. Up to 30% of the total population makes this voyage, with some individuals even making multiple crossings in a single year.

You probably learnt at school that fish are cold-blooded. That’s mostly true - but not for bluefin tuna. Their specialized circulation system allows them to retain up to 95% of the heat generated by their muscles. This means they can keep themselves much warmer than the surrounding water - essentially making them a warm-blooded fish!

Atlantic bluefin tuna must literally swim for their life. Their rigid head helps them to swim fast, but doesn’t allow them to pump water over their gills like some other fish. Instead, water is forced over their gills as they swim with their mouths open. But this means they need to keep swimming - like some sharks, if they stop they will die. 

Tuna are fearsome predators from the moment they hatch. They hunt by sight, and have the sharpest vision of any bony fish. Adult Atlantic bluefin tuna eat schooling fish like herring, mackerel, flying fish, and anchovies, as well as squid, eels, and crustaceans and occasionally starfish and even kelp. They can dive down to around 1,000m to find food. 

Atlantic bluefin tuna larvae have only a 1 in 40 million chance of reaching adulthood. But the lucky few are amongst the ocean’s top predators. They can expect to live for at least 15 years, and even as long as 30. They’re not quite at the top of the food chain though. Their fast speed allows them to escape most predators except for large sharks, toothed whales like killer whales and pilot whales… and humans.

Atlantic bluefin tuna has long been valued in the Mediterranean, where it provided food for numerous civilizations and created wealth. This is in stark contrast to North America, where prior to the 1960s it could only be sold for pet food!

But in the 1960s, international markets for canned and fresh tuna arose following the development of longlines, purse seines, and freezing equipment that allowed frozen tuna to be shipped long distances. Soon, large numbers of commercial purse seiners were catching Atlantic bluefin tuna for canning. 

By the 1970s, attention switched to giant bluefin tuna for the Japanese market, where the bluefin had become a highly sought-after delicacy for sushi and sashimi. 

Longliners, harpooners, and purse seiners all targeted the giants, driven by the high prices paid in Japan - which consumes 40% of global bluefin landings and where a single bluefin has sold for over $ US 736,000! These fleets have used ever-more sophisticated means to find the tuna, including spotter planes and sonar equipment.

In the late 1990s came a new development in the bluefin tuna industry: tuna farms, which could be the final nail in the coffin for the endangered eastern population.

The farms are actually fattening pens for live-caught bluefin tuna, and supply a new market in Japan for cheaper bluefin tuna for sushi and sashimi. Suddenly, the prized bluefin was affordable for nearly all Japanese, not just the wealthy. Demand soared...and so did the fishing effort.

 

 

The practice of transferring live tuna at sea to tug boats for transportation to the farms makes it extremely difficult to keep track of how many tuna were transferred, and what size they were. 

Japan, which imports most of the bluefin tuna captured in the Mediterranean, has strict rules prohibiting IUU fish from entering the country. However, China and other Southeast Asian countries are less strict. Their ports would likely accept illegally caught bluefin tuna from the Mediterranean.



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The Jellyfish are back...
05 June 2020


The beaches are starting to open again after many weeks of lockdown and already we are seeing cases of jellyfish stings...

Jellyfish, of both harmful and harmless varieties, are a fairly common sight along the Mediterranean coast. They generally occur in swarms, making them readily visible and, in theory at least, easily avoided. Jellyfish are normally to be found between 20 and 40 miles from the coast where the waters are warmer and saltier, coastal waters being generally colder and less salty and acting as a sort of natural barrier.

Concentrations of jellyfish in any given year are dependent on several factors. A warm, dry winter and spring inland, for example, will normally lead to a high build-up of jellyfish at sea. However, when freshwater river input into the sea is lower due to lack of rain, salinity increases and this allows them to breach the barrier. Other factors include winds and sea currents as jellyfish just drift along in the currents.

Hot summer weather also brings them in, the time when millions are bathing, so sting numbers increase dramatically. Tourism being of great importance to the Spanish economy, jellyfish swarms are regularly reported in the local press in summer. However, despite these warnings, hundreds of people are stung every day up and down the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

 

 

One of the most common jellyfish in the Spanish Mediterranean is the Mauve Stinger (Pelagia noctiluca). It may grow up to 10 cm in diameter and is distinguished by a mushroom-shaped, deep bell. It has 8 hair-like tentacles, extending as far as 3 metres, and all are covered in nematocysts (stinging cells). Its sting is both potent and painful, but short-lived.

 

The Compass jellyfish (Chrysaora hysoscella) is readily identifiable by a ring of brown dots around a flattened white saucer-shaped body. It has 32 semi-circular lobes around the fringe, each one with a brown spot. On the upper surface of the bell, 16 brown v-shaped marks radiate outwards from a dark central spot. There are also 24 tentacles around the edge of the bell, grouped in threes. It has a potent sting that can produce extremely painful and long-lasting weals.

 

The Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia physalis) is undoubtedly a name that almost everyone has heard of. Technically, it is not actually a true jellyfish but a hydrozoan, a floating colony of four types of polyps! But it stings like any other jellyfish so we will call it one. Its highly potent sting can, in extreme cases, provoke cardiac arrest and death in particularly sensitive persons. The nematocysts retain their potency long after death, as many have discovered to their cost after handling specimens washed up on the shore.

If you are unlucky enough to be stung by a jellyfish you can treat some stings yourself using first aid. But if the symptoms are serious – such as severe pain, swelling or difficulty breathing – dial 112 to request an ambulance immediately.

The best treatment for you may depend on the type of jellyfish that stung you. But most stings can be treated with these simple remedies:

Remove stingers. Remove any pieces of jellyfish tentacle in your skin by rinsing the wound with seawater. You can also try gently scraping off the stingers with the edge of an ID card or a credit card. Avoid getting sand on the wound. And don't rinse with freshwater or rub the area with a towel, as these actions may activate more stingers.

Rinse with vinegar or apply a baking soda paste. Rinse the affected area with vinegar for about 30 seconds. Or apply a paste of baking soda and seawater. Each method may deactivate the stingers of some types of jellyfish.

Take a hot shower or apply ice packs. Hot water — as hot as you can tolerate but not above 113 F (45 C) — and ice packs may help ease the pain.

Take a pain reliever and apply lotions. Apply calamine lotion or lidocaine to help relieve itching and discomfort.


These remedies are unhelpful or unproved, do NOT use them:

Human urine
Meat tenderizer
Solvents, such as formalin, ethanol and gasoline
Pressure bandages



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Barcelona's concert hall - "Palau de la Musica" -
29 May 2020

The Palau de la Música Catalana was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The concert hall is an architectural jewel. Its exterior is as surprising and unique as its interior, with one of the most beautiful auditoriums in the world.

Built between 1905 and 1908 for the Orfeó Català (a Catalan choral society), it is currently one of the most representative Catalan Modernist buildings in Barcelona.  

Its impressive acoustics is the reason for which many famous artists wish to sing in the Palace of Catalan Music and why it is held in such high esteem.

If you happen to be in Barcelona and have enough time, I recommend booking the guided tour. If you don’t have time you must at least walk past the Palau to see this magnificent building.

 

The building’s guided tour begins with a presentation of its history, its current programme how it plays an essential role in the society of Barcelona.


 

Once the presentation finishes, visitors are taken to the concert hall. This auditorium is naturally lit during the day with a bright and colourful light thanks to its stained-glass panes and its enormous stained glass skylight. The hall is beautifully decorated to immerse the spectators into a magical world, almost fantasy.

 

 

The hall and the stage contain sculptures, busts, reliefs that fill the room with magic and create an ideal atmosphere for the various artists that perform in the Palau.

 


The tour of the Palace continues in the Lluís Millet hall which is a gathering place for concert-goers a striking Modernist hall with a small terrace with peculiar columns covered in mosaics.



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Fishing is back! Time to catch a beast!
20 May 2020

 

We are now into Phase 1 across the country and fishing is back! If you fancy a challenge, the mighty River Ebro has without a doubt become one of Europe's premier catfish fishing destination. It's quickly becoming one of the places to rival anywhere in the world for the sheer volume and size of its catfish, known as 'Siluro' in Spain, these river monsters are regularly being caught weighing over 100lbs and specimens over 200  lbs are starting to show at a surprising rate.

 

 

The River Ebro is one of the largest river systems in Spain and is a significant source of hydroelectric power and irrigation, home to a huge head of monster catfish; it is also responsible for making fishermen's dreams come true. 

The Ebro runs 565 miles from the Cantabria Mountains in the North, through the Pyrenees and Iberian Mountains and into the Balearic Sea of the Mediterranean between Valencia and Barcelona. It was once a modest rive until a series of dams were built which led to parts of the Ebro valley being flooded to form one of Europe's finest fisheries.

 

 

The Wels Catfish, also known as the "European Maneater," is one of the ugliest fish you will ever meet. Although they will not likely swallow you whole, they have the appearance of being able to do so, with wide, bulbous heads and horrible, gaping mouths. The Wels is the only catfish in Spain and grows so large due to having an endless food source of smaller fish and no natural predators. This is what the anglers seek in the River Ebro.

 

 

Also called the sheatfish, is a large catfish native to wide areas of central, southern, and eastern Europe, and near the Baltic and Caspian Seas. It has been introduced to Western Europe and is now found from the United Kingdom all the way east to Kazakhstan and south to Greece. It is a scaleless fresh and brackish water fish recognizable by its broad, flat head and wide mouth. Wels catfish can live for at least thirty years and have very good hearing.

This catfish lives on annelid worms, gastropods, insects, crustaceans, and fish including other catfishes; the larger ones also eat frogs, mice, rats, and aquatic birds such as ducks. Recently, individuals of this species in environments that are not their native habitats have been observed lunging out of the water to grab pigeons on land.

The wels lives in large, warm lakes and deep, slow-flowing rivers. It prefers to remain in sheltered locations such as holes in the riverbed, sunken trees, etc. It consumes its food in the open water or in the deep, where it can be recognised by its large mouth which

contains lines of numerous small teeth, two long barbels on the upper jaw and four shorter barbels on the lower jaw. It has a long anal fin that extends to the caudal fin, and a small sharp dorsal fin positioned relatively far forward. It uses its sharp pectoral fins to capture prey. With these fins, it creates an eddy to disorient its victim, which it then simply engulfs in its enormous throat. It has very slippery green-brown skin. Its belly is pale yellow or white. Colour varies with environment. Clear water will give the fish a black colouration while muddy water will often tend to produce brownish specimens. Weight and length are not correlated linearly and also depend on the season.

The female produces up to 30,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight. The male guards the nest until the brood hatches, which, depending on water temperature, can take from three to ten days. If the water level decreases too much or too fast the male has been observed to splash the eggs with its muscular tail in order to keep them wet.

With a possible total length up to 4 m (13 ft) and a maximum weight of over 180 kg (400 lb), it is the second-largest freshwater fish in its region after the beluga sturgeon. However, such lengths are extremely rare and could not be proved during the last century, but there is a somewhat credible report from the 19th century of a wels catfish of this size. 

Most wels catfish are only about 1.3–1.6 m (4 ft 3 in–5 ft 3 in) long; fish longer than 2 m (6 ft 7 in) are normally extremely rare. At 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) they can weigh 15–20 kg (33–44 lb) and at 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) they can weigh 65 kg (143 lb).

Only under exceptionally good living circumstances can the wels catfish reach lengths of more than 2 m (6 ft 7 in) which is becoming a regular catch on the River Ebro nowadays. However, on average, a catfish in the River Ebro weighs in at around 100 lbs. People fishing on the river for carp are quite surprised when their rod suddenly doubles over and they discover they have hooked a Wels. These fish are very powerful and difficult to land. They fight hard while in the water, and because they are so slippery, they are not easy to handle. 

You need a fishing license to fish anywhere in Spain even if you are on a charter boat, and it is only valid for a specific region. If you intend to fish in various regions, you will need a license for each region. You can obtain the license from the regional office of the Ministry of the Environment (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente). Wels catfish are in fact considered an invasive species and thus you are not supposed to return them to the river, however this is very controversial among anglers and the vast majority are returned. But be aware it is against the law. That said, if you landed a 6ft specimen I don't think the local police would insist on you taking it home!

The Chiprana section of the River Ebro is noted for producing some of the best Wels catfish in the world. It is the location for the World Catfish Classic tournament, a catch and release event (contrary to what the law stipulates). It is a showcase for the best international catfish anglers to demonstrate their best practices. The safety and welfare of the monster fish are taken into consideration during this type of sports event. Winners receive cash prizes for daily and overall records during the four-day event. If you are interested in fishing for Wels catfish there are many guided fishing trips available along the Ebro river run by British and Spanish anglers, in fact, several British anglers hold records for landing the largest specimens.



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La Palma - The Greenest Island
05 May 2020

The volcanic island of La Palma seems to be painted green due to a deep shroud of a prehistoric forest. Connect with nature under some of the world's clearest skies, relax on its welcoming beaches or hike through deep gorges and past volcanoes. 

La Palma is the Canary island that was a finalist in the EDEN programme (European Destinations of Excellence) of the European Commission, in recognition of its sustainable tourism offer. This destination has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO for its numerous protected natural spaces considered ecological treasures. These are places that you cannot miss if you decide to visit the area.

 


Also known as the “Isla Bonita’’, La Palma is the greenest spot in the whole of the Canary archipelago. If you are a nature lover and you have a bit of an adventurous spirit, you will really feel at home here. You will be able to enjoy a genuine natural museum, whether you are with your partner, family or friends. 

La Palma's trails take you past waterfalls and up to the island's peaks. Once you reach the top, look up. The night sky is unforgettable. Clear skies and strict light pollution laws mean that La Palma is such a fantastic place for star gazing and astronomy that is has earned a Starlight award.

 


The advantage of visiting this little piece of the Atlantic is that it offers an attractive balance, both on the coast and in the mountains. Here you will be able to lose yourself in the lush forests and appreciate the steep surfaces, which will take you to beaches of gleaming, black sand where you can walk and relax.

A good way to start is to enter into the heart of La Palma where you will find the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, an underwater crater created by eruptions and erosion, a real visual spectacle that is well worth your attention.

 

       [Photographs by Saul Santos @  www.santossaul.com   http://www.santossaul.com]

 

If what you want is to reach the clouds you can travel along high mountain ranges, including Roque de los Muchachos, which boasts one of the most modern astrophysical observatories in the world. A great idea for looking at the stars from a height.

When you have finished exploring inside, you can go to the coast to enjoy the shoreline, whose entire shape has been moulded at the whim of the volcanic lava coming from the great volcanic chain of Cumbre Vieja. Once there you only need to worry about inhaling the sea breeze and admiring the precipitous landscape dotted with small coves and cliffs.

 

 

 

The art of this island not only resides in nature, but you can also find it in the numerous places of archaeological interest, hermitages, churches and museums. In particular, you must not to miss the historical site of Santa Cruz de La Palma.


Once you have arrived, you can learn about its island culture and the traditions such as “The Indianos in Carnival’’ and the Fiestas Lustrales festival, also known as the Bajada de la Virgen de las Nieves, which is celebrated every five years.

If you plan your visit during the first fortnight in July, you will be able to live the Semana Grande (Big Week) and the Semana Chica (Small Week), full of events and festivities. Worth a special mention is the Danza de Los Enanos (The Dance of the Dwarves), a deeply rooted tradition which will be repeated with a new edition in 2015.

You must not forget about the textile crafts, the cigar-making and the island's cuisine. The homemade desserts and cheeses play a special role in the island's extensive offer. In this way, you will be able to experience the richness of the island’s traditions for yourself.

All this with an average yearly temperature of between 16 and 21 degrees centigrade, which enables you to make the trip and enjoy the activities at any time of the year.

 



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Gaudi's First House
28 April 2020

Anyone visiting Barcelona is likely familiar with the unique work of architect Antoni Gaudí. His buildings are a defining aspect of the city. Now, visitors can become even more familiar with the revolutionary architect by stepping inside the first house he ever designed.

 

 

Casa Vicens is one of seven properties built by the Catalan modernist architect in the Barcelona region which are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. UNESCO considers its distinctive style an “outstanding creative contribution to the architectural heritage of modern times.” As they define it.

From the tiles painted with French marigolds on the first two floors to its domed rooftop, which provides a spectacular view of the neighbourhood, Gaudí’s first major architectural project laid the groundwork for his remarkable works of art and paved the way for Catalan Modernism.
Currently, a museum, which opened in 2017, it boasts 15 rooms restored with extensive research and input from descendants of the original tenants. It features a collection of furniture made by Gaudí and 32 paintings by the Spanish painter Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés.

Stockbroker Manuel Vicens i Montaner commissioned the house, which was constructed between 1883 and 1888 as a summer home and it was later expanded in 1925 by Barcelona architect Joan Baptista Serra de Martínez. The structure contains a myriad of styles which reflect the innovative architect’s inspirations from subjects like nature to oriental and neoclassical architecture. Truly an architectural gem and very much worth a visit if you happen to pass through Barcelona

 

 



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A labyrinth of Stone
24 April 2020

Forming a labyrinthian stone maze are the natural karst formations of the Los Callejones de Las Majadas or “Alleys of Stone.”

Besides the maze like set of “alleys” the stones also resemble bridges, arches, walkways, stone people, doors, plazas, and monoliths all named accordingly: the Dog, the Whale, and many more. The unusual rock formations were sculpted by slow differential erosion by wind and water over millions of years.

The twisting passageways are easy to get lost in, and so two main walkways are marked through the “alleys”. Cattle herders in the area have used the stone walls as natural cattle enclosures for hundreds of years, and in some places you can still see remaining pens.

 

Los Callejones de Las Majadas is in the Natural Park Sierra de Cuenca in Spain which is also home to a similar geological wonder the “Enchanted City” or Ciudad Encantada. The landscape is alien enough that it has served as the backdrop for fantasy films such as the 1969 Valley of Gwangi, and Conan the Barbarian in 1982. The whole park is an official "Natural Site of National Interest” in Spain and well worth a visit.



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