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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...

The Spanish Town that will transport you to a Fairy Tale land
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

 

In Spain, there are wonderful corners that everyone should visit at least once in their life. If you want to disconnect from the routine and enjoy nature, there is a Spanish town where you will feel as if you had travelled to a Disney production.

It bears a resemblance to Hallstatt (Austria), considered by many to be the most beautiful lakeside town in the world. It is located on the shores of Lake Hallstatt and is part of the UNESCO Heritage list. Hallstatt inspired the movie 'Frozen' and is an exceptional place.

 

 

 

The Spanish town that will transport you to a fairy tale land is Lanuza, located in the Tena Valley (Huesca). It belongs to the municipality of Sallent de Gállego and is located on the left bank of the Lanuza reservoir, where the waters of the Gallego river are deposited. During the construction of the lake, the town was about to disappear forever underwater.

In the 1970s, Lanuza was expropriated for the construction of the reservoir. More than 100 hectares were submerged underwater, but luckily the town centre was spared. In the 1990s, neighbours reclaimed the houses that were once theirs, ultimately winning the legal battle.

 

 

It was then that they began little by little to restore the town. Lanuza maintains its traditional architecture so that walking through its streets is like taking a trip back in time several centuries ago. One of its main attractions is the Church of El Salvador from the 19th century. Inside it houses a silver reliquary from the year 1557 with the remains of Santa Quiteria, the patron saint of the town.

 

 

Just half an hour's walk from Lanuza is the natural waterfall of O Saldo de Escarrilla. The route is very easy through a lush forest, and you can go with children. Although bathing in the pool formed by the waterfall is prohibited, it is a great place to enjoy some peace and quiet.

 

 

Very close to Lanuza is Panticosa, a town surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the Pyrenees. Despite its small size, it is very famous for its historic spa, one of the oldest in Europe. In addition, in the surroundings of Panticosa, you can practise many mountain sports.

 



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Spain's 500-year-old Pharmacy
Thursday, May 12, 2022

 

The pharmacy of today is sterile, white and efficient. Each medicine bottle or box is the same, and patients make their way in and out without lingering. However, 500 years ago, the local pharmacy was less science and more art, and the Esteve Pharmacy Museum in Llívia, Spain captures this ideal in the vibrant colors and luxury of a medieval European apothecary.

Established in the 15th century, the Esteve Pharmacy is one of the oldest in Europe. Since 1965 it has only housed the museum, but in its heyday, it attracted patients from across the region for medical treatment and drugs. Before the days of the child-locked pill container, remedies were kept in albarellos, a type of painted pottery that was sealed with parchment or leather.


Today, the museum has a large collection of the albarellos, including 87 rare blue albarellos that were modernized and include painted labels of the drugs they contained. Along with the beautiful storage jars, the museum also features a gaudy baroque cupboard that looks more fitting for a king’s kitchen than a medieval clinic. The contrasts between the museum and modern pharmacies are striking, and the Esteve Pharmacy is a fascinating look into the artful world of medieval medicine.



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The most beautiful towns in Spain to visit this summer
Thursday, May 5, 2022

 

 

In the Guide to the "Most Beautiful Towns in Spain 2021",  there are a total of 104 towns listed. All of them are idyllic places to plan a getaway or make a stop-off or a day trip if you are in the area this summer. Here is a selection I have made of some of the "less common" beautiful towns on that list, not necessarily on the Top 10 lists, but definitely worth visiting nonetheless!

 

Lastres, Asturias

In Asturias, there are idyllic coastal spots such as Tazones or Ribadesella, for example, but Lastres is really special. Its 16th-century whaling district, its typical houses perched on the cliff and the walk descending from the top of the town to the port are unmissable.

 

 

 

Frigiliana, Malaga

There are so many white villages in Andalusia that are worth visiting that a list would have to be made just for them. Frigiliana serves as an example, located in the region of Axarquia, which preserves one of the most valuable historical centres of Arab origin in Spain.

 

 

 

Frias, Burgos

This small town hanging from a rock in the province of Burgos is worthy of being a movie location. Located in the heart of the Montes Obarenes Natural Park, its panoramic view is impressive.

 

 

 

Besalu, Girona

I could have chosen Cadaqués or any of the towns that make up the so-called Garrotxa region, all of them worthy of entering this list, but Besalú is a magnificent representation of the beauty of the entire province of Girona. It has one of the best preserved medieval ensembles in Catalonia. In fact, it was declared, in 1966, a historical-artistic complex due to its great architectural value, and it is enough to see a couple of photos to know that you have to set foot on its streets at least once in your life.

 

 

 

Fornalutx, Majorca

 If you are lucky enough to travel to Mallorca soon, you have to give up at least one day on the beach to enjoy the Tramuntana mountains and the idyllic villages located in its heart. Dèia, Sóller and, above all, Fornalutx make up a wonderful enclave. The latter is quiet, with its characteristic stone-carved buildings and surrounding orange and lemon trees.

 

 

 

Comillas, Cantabria

 Santillana del Mar, Potes, Bárcena Mayor… The list of must-see towns in Cantabria is very long but I opted for Comillas for its location and the unique beauty of its peculiarities. And there are few places where you can see Gaudí's work outside of Catalonia, Comillas is one of them, surely the best.

 

 

 

Alcala del Jucar, Albacete

In a quiet area of ​​the province of Albacete, close to the province of Valencia, is this beautiful town embedded in a rock that forms the gorge of the Júcar river. It is a surprising place of unexpected beauty since its location gets "little media coverage".

 

 

 

Vejer de la Frontera, Cadiz

Next to the famous Cadiz coast, the town of Vejer de la Frontera overwhelms with its white beauty. Its elevated location with respect to the environment already catches you as you approach it, and its tangled streets conquer you as soon as you let yourself get lost in them. It is, without a doubt, a must-see that is well worth giving up a day at the beach for.

 

 

 

Allariz, Ourense

This Galician town is little known because it is not usually included in the list of the most beautiful towns in Spain, but it is one of those unique corners that the interior of Galicia offers. And above all it is because of its idyllic location and how well the architecture has adapted to the environment, letting it be the protagonist. Surrounded by chestnut forests and on the banks of the Arnoia River, this town with a medieval layout is a mandatory stop if you travel to Galicia.

 

 

Laguardia, Alava

In the heart of Rioja Alavesa, surrounded by vineyards and wineries that offer a unique landscape, is the town of Laguardia, already in the province of Álava. Located on a hill, and surrounded by a great wall, it is a must stand just a stone's throw from Logroño.

 



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Emir Mohamed I Park - The Heart of Madrid
Thursday, April 28, 2022

 

 

In the city of Madrid, there are parks that are well known by locals and tourists, such as El Retiro and El Capricho. However, there are others that go completely unnoticed and whose visit is well worth it. This is the case of the Emir Mohamed I park, an Andalusian-style Arab park in Madrid with beautiful green areas that can be visited on weekends and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

In 1954 the Arab wall was declared Historic-Artistic Heritage, although the archaeological work did not begin until much later. The first excavation campaign took place between 1972 and 1975. After the last excavation campaign, between 1987 and 1988, the area was abandoned.

Until 2010, what is now the Emir Mohamed I park, was just a plot of land. Between the years 2010 and 2011, the Madrid City Council rebuilt it as a park, giving the complex the shape of a star. The works were promoted by the Environment Area of ​​the Madrid City Council and financed by the Plan E for Local Investment, of the Government of Spain.

In 2016, the Culture Area of ​​the Madrid City Council began a project to promote the wall restoration project. The importance of this development lies in the fact that Madrid is the only capital of Arab-Islamic origin in Europe. Moreover, its name is a hybrid of Arabic and Romance: "Mayrit", which refers to the watercourses that run through the area where the Emir Mohamed I park is located.

The city of Mayrit was founded by the Emir Mohamed I between the years 853 and 865. It was born as a small town and a fortress on the hills of the Manzanares valley to keep an eye on the rebels of Toledo and defend the Middle March from Christian attacks.

 

The remains of the Islamic period are located mostly in the historic centre of Madrid, around the Almudena Cathedral, the Cuesta de la Vega, the Calle Mayor and the Palacio de Oriente, the Arab wall is, without doubt, the most remarkable and oldest, although remains of silos have also been preserved, as well as hydraulic structures. The techniques of capturing water brought from the East, the qanats, or underground channels, began to develop at this time and are the origin of the extensive network known as "water journeys", which supplied Madrid along long routes for centuries, until the construction of the Canal de Isabel II, and which are still partially preserved.

Already from a later period, various monuments survive in Madrid, both religious and civil, in the Mudejar style, built by Muslim master builders after the Christian conquest, which took place in 1083 by the troops of the King of Castile and León, Alfonso VI. Among them, the church of San Nicolás de Bari stands out, perhaps the oldest in the capital, as well as that of San Pedro el Viejo, both in the historic centre.

 

 

However, The Arab Park is located in the heart of Madrid, on the Cuesta de la Vega, on one of the sides of the Almudena Cathedral. The remains of the Islamic wall that delimit part of the park belong to the first walled enclosure of Madrid, which was rightfully declared a Historic Site in 1954.

One of the main attractions of the enclosure is the fountain in the shape of a six-pointed star. In addition, a parterre runs along the wall, and very old trees stand out in the green areas.

Without a doubt, the Emir Mohamed I Park is a highly recommended visit in Madrid.

 

 



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The Easter Processions Return
Thursday, April 14, 2022

                    

Spain is completely transformed during Easter week. Everybody, everywhere, turns out to experience one of Spain's most traditional events to the full. Don't miss the chance to visit this event: you'll be able to share some very special moments in an atmosphere unlike anything you've ever known.

                There are many different ways to discover Spain: enjoying its coast and beaches, following a route around its various monuments, exploring the countryside, playing sports like golf... However, if you've never visited Spain during Easter week, then you simply have to come. And even if you already know this famous fiesta, it's well worth making another trip, as each region of Spain has its own way of celebrating the event.

In Spain, Easter week is celebrated with a great deal of emotion. People take an active role in its events and traditions. All day and night the streets are filled with the beat of the drums, masses of colourful flowers, and the consummate art of religious sculpture, all combining to produce a highly moving atmosphere.

Easter week is celebrated in every city, town and village in Spain. Nevertheless, there are some fiestas that are especially well known for their uniqueness and beauty, and have received the International Tourist Interest designation.

During Easter week in Seville you'll see how the “cofradías” (religious brotherhoods) manage to withstand the colossal weight of elaborately decorated statues of the Virgin Mary as they parade through the narrow streets of the old town. Easter week in Malaga includes the ritual privilege of the freeing of a prisoner, and one of the most moving moments of all is when the figure of Jesus Christ blesses the convict. During the Easter week celebrations in Cuenca you can also enjoy the concerts in the Religious Music Week festival, which take place in historic buildings such as the cathedral.

If you go to León in Easter week, you'll find one of the highlights is the encounter between Saint John and the Virgin Mary in the Plaza Mayor square, which marks the end of the Easter processions. During Easter week in Zamora, the sound of Gregorian chant provides an incredible atmosphere for the nocturnal processions. During the Easter week processions in Valladolid, make sure to look closely at the religious statues –they are priceless works of Baroque art. Easter week in Salamanca is spectacular on account of the backdrop formed by the city's stunning monuments.

The Palm Sunday procession in Elche features the customary palm leaves and is one of the most beautiful of any held in Spain. In Cartagena the culmination of the processions is especially moving, with thousands of people joining their voices in song to intone the Salve Maria to the Virgin Mary. Lorca is especially original – the processions include figures and scenes from the bible and from ancient civilisations. In the province of Albacete, the crowning moment in Easter week in Hellín is “the tamborada”, when the sound of up to 20,000 drums invades the town. Easter week in Cáceres is unique for its cofradías dating from the 15th century, and Eater week in Murcia has moments of breathtaking emotion such as on Easter Saturday, when the procession of 'Cristo Yacente' passes beneath the Santo Domingo arch .

However of all these celebrations the most renowned and publicised is that of Seville. These celebrations are famous for their statues of the Virgin Mary with canopies: they are Baroque statues with silver and gold crowns, embroidered cloaks and velvet tunics, which only reveal face and hands.

 

 

Seville has been holding its Easter week celebrations since the 16th century, and they have become universally famous. Some 50,000 people put on traditional robes to parade in the 58 organised processions, while the "costaleros" carry the “pasos” (religious statues) on their shoulders. There are processions in the evening and at night every day. Each brotherhood sets out from its church and has an established route, although they must all pass the so-called “official section”, which starts in Calle Campana and finishes passing by the Cathedral. Once each procession has left the Cathedral, it returns to its church on a different route to that followed on the way out. The “saetas” are very emotional moments of the processions: these are solemn flamenco songs, recited “a cappella” from the balconies in honour of the statues.

The early hours of Good Friday constitute the most important time of the Seville Easter week celebrations. That night, some of the most venerated statues make their way through the streets, such as Jesús del Gran Poder, la Macarena, la Esperanza de Triana and el Cristo de los Gitanos. The streets of the city fill with people and with emotion all night and well into the following morning. However one needs to be patient because the waits to admire these beautiful statues tend to be long.

You can see processions by heading for any point on their routes, except in the “official section”. Here there are seats and stands from which to admire the passing processions, which must be reserved by contacting the Consejo Superior de Hermandades y Cofradías (Brotherhoods’ Association).

Easter week is one of the most spectacular and emotional fiestas in Spain. Religious devotion, art, colour and music combine in acts to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ.

 Palm Sunday as we know is the celebration that commemorates Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem and always sees large crowds of people in attendance.

The Palm Sunday Procession is held on the Sunday before Easter week. This fiesta has special importance in Elche. Its origins date back to the end of the 14th century. Hundreds of people take part by carrying figures hand-crafted in the town from palm branches, a truly beautiful spectacle.

 

 

Elche is the only place in the world where the tradition of crafting white palm fronds lives on. This town has been exporting palm frond creations to other countries for centuries. Palm branches are used, which, after being treated, are plaited into beautiful, creative forms and figures. Not to be missed at this fiesta is the palm-figures competition organised by the Religious Brotherhoods of Easter Association. The works presented for the competition are exhibited over the course of the weekend in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall. It is free of charge and you can admire, from up close, these beautiful, complex images created by hand.

 

  



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One of Most Beautiful Towns in the World - according to Le Monde
Thursday, April 7, 2022

 

I am sure that very few had heard of Riglos until the French newspaper Le Monde placed this small town of about 250 inhabitants in the pre-Pyrenean region of La Hoya de Huesca in seventh position in its special ranking of the 20 most beautiful towns in the world (and only Spanish one) that it recommends visiting in 2022.

The reason is not lacking for the publication, because the picturesque municipality of sloping white houses, on the banks of the Gállego River, is located in a spectacular natural setting, unique in Aragón, declared a Natural Monument for its scenic value and headed by impressive geological formations reddish in colour with vertical walls up to 300 m high, called Mallos.

 

 

This location is a great attraction for climbers, hikers and fans of birds of prey, the town is located at the foot of those imposing walls, formed over millions of years, which makes it inevitable to raise the view (and the camera lenses) towards its peaks while strolling through its streets. The charm of the town centre is in the tranquillity of the surroundings and in the simplicity of its stone constructions. At the entrance to the town, the small Romanesque hermitage of San Martín (12th century) stands out, with a single nave, while, in the upper part, almost at the base of the Mallos, the imposing church of Nuestra Señora del Mallo (s XVII), with three naves and a square-shaped tower with a bell tower, is the most emblematic construction in the town, whose setting, with the rock formations in the background, is one of the most beautiful in the area.

 

 

In recent years, the Mallos de Riglos has become a mecca for climbers from all over the world, thanks to the more than 200 existing climbing routes, most of them of high difficulty. Ornithology lovers also have an interesting place here due to the enormous presence of rock-dwelling birds, which have their habitat in the multiple hollows of the Mallos. These birds, mostly protected raptors, such as vultures, bearded vultures and Egyptian vultures, can be seen flying over the rounded tops. Specifically, in the Wall of the Vultures, there is one of the largest colonies of this species in Europe.

 

 

To get a better view of the Mallos, there are several signposted hiking trails that run through these impressive formations. One of the most popular is the so-called Vuelta a Los Mallos de Riglos, a circular route of about 5.5 km (about two and a half hours) that allows you to contemplate the grandeur of the enormous vertical stone walls from all sides. The path begins in the same town, ascends between the easternmost Mallos and passes through several viewpoints, the Vultures, the Espinalba or the Mallos de Riglos, with the river Gállego in the foreground.

 

 

Just 20 km from Riglos is one of the most incredible buildings in Spain, a must-see if you are in the area. It is the Loarre Castle, one of the most beautiful and best-preserved fortresses in our country. Considered one of the most important Romanesque ensembles in Europe and declared a Site of Cultural Interest and a National Monument, the medieval castle, built in the 11th century by Sancho III, stands on a promontory of limestone rock in the Sierra de Loarre, Huesca.

The complex is surrounded by a great wall built-in 1287 that covers some 10,000 square meters and has a perimeter of 172 meters. Inside the fortress, the small chapel, the crypt of Santa Quiteria and the church of San Pedro stand out. Despite being almost 10 centuries old, its state of preservation is excellent. In addition to hosting events, the castle has been the setting for several films, such as Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven (2005). It is open for visits on weekends and holidays.

 



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El Rocio - The Spanish Pilgrimage
Friday, April 1, 2022

        
 
This pilgrimage of El Rocio is the most famous in the region, attracting nearly a million people from across Andalucia and the entire country, and beyond. Every Andalucian city, town and village has its own pilgrimages, for its patron saint, virgin or other much-loved local figure. But the El Rocio has cult status, and is the most important and most colourful. It follows on from Semana Santa (March/April), and the various spring ferias, of which Seville's Feria de Abril (April) is the biggest.
 
 
 
This cult dates back to the 13th century, when a hunter from the village of Villamanrique (or Almonte, depending on which version of the story you follow) discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary in a tree trunk in the Doñana park. A chapel was built where the tree stood, and it became a place of pilgrimage. Devotion to this particular version of the Virgin was initially a local affair. Then, by the 17th century, hermandades (brotherhoods) were making the trip from nearby towns at Pentecost; by the 19th century, they came from all over Huelva, Cadiz and Seville, on a journey taking up to four days. Over the next century, the cult of the Virgin del Rocio became more and more widespread, and these days participants come from as far away as Barcelona and the Canary Islands - not to mention tourists who travel from abroad, around Europe and even further afield.
 
The object of the pilgrimage is a 13th-century statue of the Virgen Del Rocio (Virgin of the Dew), in the town of the same name. El Rocio is in Huelva province, in the heart of the Doñana park, between Almonte and the coast. Most pilgrims, known as rocieros, approach the town through the park itself.
 
The town of El Rocío is a sprawling, pretty Wild-West-style place (you tie your horse to a wooden rail with a sign saying "Reservado Caballos" - reserved for horses - while you have a drink or a meal), with sandy, unpaved roads (easier on the hooves). For a few days in late May or early June, Catholic hermandades (brotherhoods) and countless others flock from all over Andalucia, Spain, and beyond, to the town, to pay tribute to the Virgin del Roció, housed in her own church in the town.
 
Until the 1950s the town had only a few houses, and everyone camped in their wagons. Now, each of the 90 or so brotherhoods has its own house with stables, as well as its own chapel, with its name displayed at the front. Its members and their friends and families, and their horses, eat and sleep here during the pilgrimage weekend. People bring mattresses and bed down anywhere they can. There are impromptu parties, open-air masses, horse races and competitions between the hermandades. And lots of singing and dancing, at all hours of the day and night. These brotherhoods also stay at their houses at weekends throughout the year, with their families in tow, making each visit into a big fiesta.
 
The pilgrimage takes place over the weekend before Pentecost Monday, the seventh weekend after Easter. People start arriving on the Friday before, and leave again on Tuesday.
 
 
Every late May, or early June, in villages and cities across Andalucia (especially the western part), you can see the locals gear up their covered wagons and don traditional Andalucian clothing - broad-brimmed hats and traje corto for men (grey, brown or black trousers, often with Western-style leather chaps, and boots), and flamenco dresses for women - a slightly different style, with a fuller skirt than the fitted Feria dresses - to head off to the El Roció shrine, accompanied by their own virgin on her simpecado (float).
 
Some still make the journey the traditional way, on horseback, or in picturesque gypsy-style covered wagons (reminiscent of the Wild West), adorned with flowers (either real or imitation), with curtains tied back, offering a glimpse of the interior. These are pulled by pairs of oxen, whose yokes have decorated leather headpieces, and bells hanging round their necks. It is a spectacular sight - one not to be missed if you are in the area (especially Western Andalucia) that week. In Seville, for example, groups of horse-riders (men are called jinetes, women amazonas) and processions of gypsy caravans from the Seville brotherhoods, gather by the cathedral on the Wednesday morning before, as they prepare to set off on their pilgrimage to El Rocio. They return the following Wednesday. Other hermandades leave from all over Andalucia, earlier in the week.
 
 
There are three main, traditional routes, and most hermandades, wherever they are arriving from, eventually join one of these. These depart from Triana (Sevilla, to the north-east), Sanlucar de Barrameda (south), and Huelva (west).
 
People also travel in big trailers pulled by tractors, ideally with shade as it can get very hot, as well as lots of food and drink. The rocieros sit on benches along the sides of the trailers, including many children who go on the pilgrimage every year. The more practical and comfortable, though less attractive, option is a big white caravan, with the same curved roof as the traditional models, complete with air-con and running water. This is pulled by a 4x4, as the route takes rocieros through the Doñana park, including several river crossings, so a tough vehicle is essential.
 
 
Rocieras (flamenco style songs) are joyfully sung about the Pilgrimage. Everyone sings rocieras (flamenco-style songs about the pilgrimage) as they travel, and again at night around the campfire when the hermandades have stopped to eat, drink and dance and make merry, accompanied by plenty of wine. It is alleged by some that the annual baby boom which happens nine months after El Rocio always includes offspring produced as a result of extra-marital dalliances.
 
To reach the shrine, pilgrims must cross part of the Doñana park, which is a protected area full of rare wildlife, including the famous lynx wild boar, horses, and many water birds on the marisma (wetlands) such as flamingos, herons, storks and egrets. Law enforcement is well organised, with Guardia Civil and others working hard not only to keep order, but also to protect the environment. Fire is a special concern, as this event is one long party involving copious amounts of drinking and smoking. Information campaigns combine with round-the-clock surveillance in order to keep both participants and Doñana safe every year. Volunteers follow the rocieros to collect the thousands of kilos of rubbish left behind.

It has been criticised by many for the "hedonistic" and "pagan" aspect of the encampments, which is compared to the tales of Chaucer or Boccaccio; the absurd prices of real estate in El Rocío, where even the humblest house is now worth millions of euros; and the ecological impact on the surrounding Doñana National Park or Coto de Doñana, especially since the introduction of motor vehicles

In the early hours of Pentecost Monday, the Virgin is brought out of her church by the Almonte hermandad, who claim her as their own. A tussle ensues between the various other brotherhoods for the honour of carrying her to the next chapel, and so she journeys around the town, visiting all the hermandades' chapels, for the rest of the day. Popularly known as La Paloma Blanca (the White Dove), she is an object of massive veneration in Andalucia, and huge crowds push and shove just to get the chance to touch the glass case in which the Virgin sits, as she sways dangerously from side to side. People even lift small babies up to touch her. This remarkable, chaotic event is always televised by Canal Sur, the Andalucian regional TV station.
 
 
 
If you are not able to go on the El Rocio pilgrimage, the town of El Rocio itself is worth a visit at any time of the year. The modern church of Nuestra Señora del Rocio, dating from the 1960s, is a stunning sight when viewed from across the water (stop off at the restaurant by the entrance to the town), where the dazzling white sanctuary stand out like a beacon against the verdant green of the marisma, inhabited by wild horses, and the deep blue of the sky.
 
Equestrians will find plenty of shops offering riding gear, from (Western-style) tack, to all kinds of hats and boots, leather bags and woollen shawls, as well as flamenco dresses. If the wooden houses with verandas looks familiar, it's because the Spanish pioneers took their style of architecture with them from Andalucia when they sailed to North America.
 
 


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BEST TIME TO VISIT :  THE FIRST MONDAY AFTER PENTECOST SUNDAY (WHIT SUNDAY) 

HERE IS A LINK TO CHECK WHICH DAY IT FALLS ON EACH YEAR :  www.rocio.com/index.php



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Spain's Abandoned Pyramid
Friday, March 25, 2022

 

Humanity has been characterized throughout history by building all kinds of buildings. With multiple purposes, among them, the adoration of divine figures or veneration of the leaders to achieve posterity.

Spain has countless places within its borders where there are authentic and magnificent buildings envied throughout the world. Every year thousands of tourists, both Spanish and foreign, decide to visit the most characteristic buildings of Spain, something that has led this country to be one of the leading nations in this area.

History or monuments are usually one of the main attractions of the country that, together with the sun and sand, make up a varied tourist offering. Spain also has thousands of places to visit if you are in search of unique curiosities, such as the fact that it is one of the nations with the largest number of World Heritage Sites.

Among all the wonders that the country hides, there is a singular building that has been abandoned since 1975. The Pyramid of the Italians is a unique structure in Spain that was built in 1939 to commemorate the combatants of the transalpine country in the Civil War. 

 

 

Although these buildings are rightfully very famous in other countries such as Egypt or Mexico, in Spain this type of construction only has one representation. Thanks to the help that Benito Mussolini gave Franco during the Civil War, the Spanish dictator decided to honour the Italians who fell in the war.

This construction of more than 20 meters in height has a typical pyramidal structure covered with limestone plates. It is located in Burgos, in the Valdebezana Valley, Castilla y León, where its structure stands out above the landscape due to its unique shape.

The pyramid was inaugurated on August 26 to commemorate the victory over the Republicans in the Battle of Santander. Franco had the pyramid built to honour the fallen soldiers in 1937 whose architect was the Italian Pietro Giovanni Bergaminio.

 

 

In the early years, the pyramid was used to shelter more than 300 Italian soldiers who fell in the war, although in 1975 the Italian government claimed the bodies. From that moment on, the construction has been empty, although some still commemorate those soldiers today.

 

 

The main reason behind its construction was to bury the Italian soldiers with a grand inaugural ceremony led by the Foreign Minister and Mussolini's son-in-law at the site. Today the niches are still present in the pyramid with the plaques of the names of the deceased who occupied the place even though they are empty.



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Deadly Critters are out and about
Tuesday, March 15, 2022

If you live here in Spain, you need to be aware of a dangerous and often deadly critter known as the Pine Processionary Caterpillar (Thaumetopoea Pityocampa).

Unlike the vast majority of caterpillars, this particular species can be harmful to young children and sometimes fatal to dogs and cats.

Many dog owners have lost their pets after coming into contact with the caterpillars so it is important that you are familiar with them and the potential dangers.

In early spring, the processionary caterpillars leave their nests high up in the Mediterranean pine trees and head to the ground to pupate. When this happens, they potentially come into contact with young children and curious pets.

Below we provide you with everything you need to know about this insect including the dangers, how to identify them, where they can be found, how to stay safe and what to do if you come across them.

What is a Pine Processionary Caterpillar?

The processionary caterpillar is mostly found in wooded forests and can be identified by the thousands of small fine poisonous hairs or bristles that cover their bodies.

The caterpillars are 3-4cm in length and are usually an orange-brown colour.

The name ‘processionary’ comes from the fact that they create a procession or caterpillar style ‘conga’ from head to tail to form a long chain. It is not unheard of to see chains with hundreds of them all joined together.

 

 

In recent years, Europe has seen a big increase in numbers with Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium experiencing plague-like infestations.

The caterpillars can often be found in oak trees, which is where they were first discovered in the UK in 2006. However, here in Spain, they are more commonly found in pine trees which of course are a frequent sight.

The caterpillars are not only extremely toxic and therefore dangerous to anyone who comes into contact with them, they are also responsible for the destruction of the pine trees they inhabit.

Their nests are like tents and are usually found high up in the pine trees. The larvae (caterpillar) are considered to be real forest pests and will frequently come out at night and feed on the pine leaves

 

 

When the larvae are ready to pupate between late winter, early spring, they will march single file down the tree to the ground where they disperse looking for somewhere to continue their life cycle, often burrowing just below the surface.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to visit a forest to put yourself in harm’s way. Many of the parks and communal areas in Spain feature pine trees meaning that you can just as easily find them in urban areas.

Although many of the local councils will spray down the local municipal parks to prevent their spread, this isn’t always enough to keep them completely at bay. A brief search on the web will reveal many horror stories of dog owners losing their best friends after coming into contact with the caterpillars. In some cases, animals may need to have their tongues or parts of their lips amputated as a result. A horrible thought!

 

 

The dangers of the processionary caterpillar cannot be understated. The barbed hairs on their bodies are often fatal to dogs who either decide to eat one of the insects or sniff the hairs which can also be propelled by the caterpillar in an attempt to protect itself.

The hairs or bristles contain an urticating protein called Thaumetopoein which can in minor cases cause skin irritation or a rash much like that experienced after rubbing a stinging nettle. An antihistamine cream will usually be enough to alleviate the symptoms.

In more severe cases, humans can experience allergic reactions or respiratory problems. Asthmatics are particularly vulnerable and at risk of having a severe attack.

If you walk your dog in wooded areas, it is advisable to keep them on a tight lead at all times to make sure they don’t come into contact with the insects.

Loose hairs that can lie on the floor are also highly toxic as they will get caught in a dog's paw. The dog will then attempt to clean them which transfers the hairs to its tongue resulting in vomiting, swelling of the tongue and potentially suffocation.

If possible, avoid walking your dogs in wooded areas, especially during Spring.

 

Take a moment to watch this short video on the caterpillars.

 

 

When is Processionary Caterpillar Season?

Between December and April, the larvae will make their way to the ground in order to pupate and eventually turn into moths between May and July.

It is during these months that pets and young children are most vulnerable.

Where in Spain Do do You Find Processionary Caterpillars?

They’re found mostly in the Mediterranean region of southern Spain. The caterpillars are not exclusive to wooded areas, as they can also be found in pines that have been placed in communal or private gardens, at the golf course or by the roadside.

 

 

What to Do if You Find a Nest

If you do find a nest do not touch it! Contact the local authorities or specialists straight away so they can remove it safely.

Even if the nest is empty, the hairs from the caterpillars may still be present so still pose a danger to health. If the nests are not removed by a professional the hairs may become airborne causing further issues.

Make sure your neighbours are aware of the danger, especially those who may have young children, dogs or other pets.

What to Do if Your Pet Comes Into Contact With Them

If a dog or other pet comes into contact with processionary caterpillars, they may have small white spots around their mouth or on their tongue.

As the rash develops, this can lead to drooling and may cause your pet to become distressed. The tongue may also swell and lead to vomiting and potential suffocation.

If you believe your pet has come into contact with them, you should wash their mouth with warm water. It is advisable to wear gloves so you also do not get infected. It is then essential that you take them to a vet immediately. Do not delay!

The vet will most likely administer a fast-acting cortisone injection to reduce the swelling and irritation. They may be kept overnight for observation.

 



Like 3        Published at 10:14 PM   Comments (3)


A River From Nowhere
Wednesday, March 9, 2022

 

Found in the middle of the forest in Campanet, Spain, the Ses Fonts Ufanes is a unique hydrological wonder that only appears after heavy rainfall, like some sort of mythical natural legend. 

Asingular natural hydrogeological phenomenon in the Balearic Islands, Les fonts Ufanes are powerful intermittent water surges that come up suddenly and in a diffused manner, once enough rainwater has accumulated in the Puig Tomir massif and its surrounding areas.

These springs get their water from the rain that falls on the mountains and filters into the subsoil. Once it filters in, the water accumulates in an aquifer that sits over relatively impermeable materials. After several days of intense and constant rainfall, the aquifer overflows, and the water rushes up to the surface violently through the springs below the Gabellí Petit Estate.

The currents of these springs can go from 0 to 3 m³ /second in a matter of minutes under normal circumstances, reaching 100 m³/second in the case of exceptional surges. On average, these springs spew out an annual volume of 10 / 12 hm³. All of this water runs through the stream known as Torrent de Teló, comes together with that of other springs in the area and spills into another stream, the Torrent de Sant Miquel. From this point, the water placidly makes its way down to the flatlands of Sa Pobla, crossing the cultivation fields until it reaches S’Albufera. Here, in a radically different landscape marked by reeds and canals, the water virtually seems to stop in the final section of its course, before it flows into the sea.

 


 
The site can only be reached after a 20 minute walk through the woods, making it a well hidden marvel.
However the phenomenon is not completely unknown. In fact it has been marked as a contemporary UNESCO site, earning all the protections that affords. In addition, the property that the disappearing water flow sits on was purchased by the government in 2005, so that it could keep a better eye on it. At least when it hasn't vanished completely. 



Like 2        Published at 10:40 PM   Comments (0)


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