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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...

A Journey Back In Time
Friday, May 26, 2023


Can you imagine walking along a road that is more than 2,000 years old, surrounded by stunning landscapes? Would you like to go on a wonderful journey back to the times of the Roman Empire? There’s no need to go to Italy, all this is possible here in Spain, travelling along the Via Augusta.  


The Via Augusta was the longest Roman road anywhere in Hispania, covering some 1,500 kilometres from the Pyrenees, skirting the Mediterranean Sea as far as Cadiz, in southern Spain. Although many of its original sections are now roads and cannot be walked. If you want to cover part of this route you will be able to walk along many sections that do coincide with the original roadway.


This Roman road links at least 96 monuments. It forms part of the European Union "Roman Roads in the Mediterranean" initiative, and besides a wealth of cultural attractions, also offers stunning landscapes that you can enjoy on foot, by bike, or on horseback. Choose the sections you like most or design your own personalised route because the lack of hills on this itinerary makes it easy. Furthermore, the pleasant Mediterranean climate means you can do this trip at any time of year. 


You could start your route in Catalonia, north-eastern Spain, through a real natural corridor that the Roman emperor Augustus used between the years 2 and 8 BC. This first stage covers almost 700 kilometres, crossing Girona, Barcelona and Tarragona. On the way, you will be able to savour the landscapes of vineyards while you enjoy monuments that date back to the ancient Roman Empire, such as Barà Arch in Roda de Barà (Tarragona). Also in Tarragona, which the Romans called Tarraco, there is an impressive archaeological site very close to the Via Augusta, with the UNESCO World Heritage designation.


The Region of Valencia, on the shores of the Mediterranean, was the next large area crossed by the Via Augusta and comprises of Castellón, Valencia and Alicante. The route covers 425 kilometres and a large part of this runs less than 25 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea. The remains of mansions, bridges and triumphal arches such as the one in Cabanes (Castellón) succeed one another on an unforgettable journey running to places such as Jávea and Elche (Alicante province) and Sagunto (Valencia province), where you can visit its Roman Theatre. Landscapes of fruit trees, especially oranges, will accompany you on your way. Furthermore, you should not miss the stunning spots that surround the Via Augusta, such as Las Palmas Desert in Castellón, or the Albufera Nature Reserve in Valencia and the Carrascal de la Font Roja Nature Reserve in Alicante.







The third stage of this age-old route runs through Andalusia, in southern Spain, in the provinces of Jaén, Cordoba, Seville and Cadiz, following the course of the Guadalquivir River. The first pleasant surprise is in Linares (Jaén), where you will find the Roman ruins of Cástulo. However, one of the best conserved and most fascinating sections of the road is surely the one from Seville to Carmona. There you will find the Roman necropolis and the Puerta de Sevilla.


After marshland, the mountainous region of Sierra Morena and the vineyards of southern Spain, you come to Cadiz, where the Guadalquivir River has its mouth, in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. This marks the end of an unforgettable journey on the Via Augusta, a real window into the past. 








There are numerous archaeological sites throughout the country. All you have to do is choose an area. Go back to the times of the gladiators and emperors, and learn something of the civilisation that gave Spain such a priceless cultural legacy.


In this journey, one of the things that will become evident about the past is that the houses in ancient Hispania had heating systems, running water and thermal baths, that their occupants used instruments such as nail clippers, and that hunting was of great importance in their daily lives, as illustrated by the themes of the mosaics and by the weapons and utensils discovered at excavations.


There are countless Roman sites throughout Spain and some of them, such as those at Tarraco and Mérida, even have UNESCO World Heritage status. Alongside these major archaeological sites are smaller but equally interesting sites, often based on old Roman towns in beautiful natural settings. Just a few examples are the Carranque Archaeological Park in Toledo; the Roman towns of La Olmeda and Quintanilla de la Cueza in Palencia; the ruins at Oliva de Plasencia in Extremadura; the Roman towns of Els Munts and Centelles in Tarragona; the Roman city of Baelo Claudia in Tarifa… and so the list goes on.


The sites often also include exhibitions, audiovisuals, reproductions, explanatory panels and scale models to provide visitors with a more complete insight into daily life in these settlements. One such site, for example, is the Museum of Roman Towns at Almenara-Puras, 55 kilometres from Valladolid. The only museum of its type in Spain, it is perfectly integrated with the surrounding landscape and, with exhibits of remains recovered from a stately house from the 4th century AD, enables visitors to learn about life in a farming town during the days of the Early Roman Empire.


Visiting the Roman towns in Spain will take you on a journey through rooms, palaces and burial grounds; you will admire temples and statues dedicated to the ancient divinities; beautiful mosaics and paintings of incalculable artistic merit; marble columns and old stone walls; the remains of ceramics, glass objects, coins and tools; dishes, containers and decorative elements; arches, bridges, vestibules and courtyards; water tanks; pantheons... a whole host of monuments just waiting to be discovered. All in all, an enjoyable and fun way to learn about one of the most fascinating periods in Spanish history.

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The Garxal Lagoon
Friday, May 19, 2023




Standing in front of the Garxal lagoon is like watching the creation of the world. The sediment dragged by the powerful Ebro is continuously catching up to the sea, forming barriers, islands and lagoons such as this one, which is constantly visited by seagulls, terns and a thousand other birds. This is where today the Ebro flows into the sea, and it is difficult to imagine that during the times of the Romans the river used to end in Amposta, which is now 25 kilometres from the coast. There is a special route dotted with observatories so cyclists and walkers can go all the way around the area but it is forbidden to enter inside. Nature is the boss here.


To reach this spot at the tip of the arrow-shaped Ebro delta, you need to cross many kilometres of rectangular paddy fields, which turn green when the rice shoots appear in summer but look like mirrors for the rest of the year, when you can only see water.




A farming landscape pleasing to the eye and also the stomach, as this is where they produce the high-quality rice of the Delta de l'Ebre Protected Designation of Origin, which is the basis and star of paellas and other dishes. If you visit between September and November or from April to June, it is a good idea to take an umbrella as it often rains heavily during these periods. The rest of the year is totally dry.




In the Encanyissada lagoon, measuring nearly 1,200 hectares, children can have great fun observing many types of birds close up, like mallards, purple herons, coots, podiceps, cormorants, flamingoes and black-crowned night-herons, although if you are visiting in a couple, there is nothing better than enjoying the peaceful Eucaliptus beach nearby.


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Discover Burgos - Home to the First Europeans
Friday, April 28, 2023

The province of Burgos, with its present borders, dates back to the mid-19th century, and its capital, the City of Burgos, to the year 884 when it was founded by Count Diego Rodríguez Porcelos due to the population migrating down from the mountains in the north to the plains of the northern Meseta (central plateau). But the history of this area, and especially its pre-history, extends much further back…

Human activity has left a deep and indelible mark on the province of Burgos. The most outstanding page from the past of Burgos must be sought in the hominid sites of Sierra de Atapuerca, where remains from over one million years ago have appeared of what has been considered as the first European. The excavations at Sierra de Atapuerca have permitted the modern world to rewrite the history of Europe and to know how we have evolved for millions of years. So far, they have found five different species: Homo Sp. (still to be determined, 1,200,000 years), Homo Ancestors (850,000 years), Homo Heidelbergensis (500,000 years), Homo Neanderthalenis (50,000 years,) and, of course, Homo Sapiens (us). The sanctuaries of cave paintings of Ojo Guareña; the dolmen group of Las Loras; the copious forts and necropolis of the Iron Age; the Roman town of Clunia and a considerable series of high-mediaeval necropolis and hermitages in La Demanda and Las Merindades are also of great importance to the province.



Burgos is a territory where the historical origins of Castile were gestated and where the Castilian language was born, it is a province sown with incomparable and extremely beautiful samples of the cultural and artistic heritage. Its varied regions and towns are studded with churches, hermitages, monasteries, palaces, towers and castles from all times and styles. All of these remains are the unmistakable testimony of a dense and almost incomparable history. Few territories can boast such variety, quantity and quality of monuments.



The landscape of the province of Burgos radically breaks with the cliché that identifies Castile with an enormous and arid plateau. Mountains and plains form a relief where the strong contrast of its elements stand out. An enormous mosaic of ecosystems and natural landscapes, the ideal place to forget about the stress of busy town life and escape from the southern sweltering heat in summer and let yourself be carried away by the murmur of the water and wind.

The Province of Burgos is the centrepiece of the path traced by the Road to Santiago on the Iberian Peninsula. The strategic geographic placement of the Province of Burgos made it a necessary zone of transit for the millions of European pilgrims who made their way towards the Tomb of Santiago the Apostle from their home countries.

Over the course of the nearly 114 kilometres that cross its territory can be found an impressive collection of cultural landmarks. Its principal points of interest include Redecilla del Camino, Belorado, Villafranca Montes de Oca, San Juan de Ortega, the city of Burgos, San Antón and Castrogeriz.

Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, known as “El Cid” Campeador, is Burgos' most universal figure. When examining the life of El Cid, a distinction must be drawn between two figures: the historic figure, about which there is a fair amount of information, and the literary figure created by the Poema de Mío Cid and by the Romancero. The historic El Cid was born around 1048. According to tradition, he was born in the nearby town of Vivar del Cid, though there is no reliable testimony. In his youth, he developed a friendship with the future king Sancho II, of whom he was a faithful vassal from 1065 to 1072. Upon the king's death, he immediately entered the service of Alfonso VI, and carried out different missions under the orders of the monarch. His good relationship with the king ended in 1081 when he attacked the Muslim lands of Toledo with his private army and without the consent of the King. The incident sent him into exile, which forced him to live off his military skills in foreign lands, first under the Muslim king of the taifa of Zaragoza, and following his reconciliation with Alfonso VI in 1087 and after several months of direct service to his king in Castile, in Levante where he spent the last twelve years of his life, first as the delegate of the Castilian king, and after being taken prisoner in 1088, in a second exile, as an independent warrior and prince of the Muslim kingdom of Valencia, in whose capital he died in 1099. A memorial statue of El Cid can be found in the centre of The City of Burgos.



One of the City of Burgos’ most important monuments is the Cathedral of Santa Maria. Built on the location of the original Romanesque cathedral, the first stone was laid in 1221 by King Ferdinand III and Bishop Don Mauricio. The main façade has the Royal Gate, also known as the Gate of Pardon, which was refurbished in the 18th century, and a large rose window and gallery with 8 statues of the monarchs of Castile beneath the statue of the Virgin Mary and the inscription “Pulcra es et Decora”. On both sides are the 84-metre towers crowned with slender spires from the 15th century, by Juan de Colonia. The tympanum of the Sarmental Gate, from the 13th century, shows Christ the healer with the four evangelists and, on a ledge below, the twelve apostles, with monarchs and musicians.

The mullion shows Bishop Don Mauricio with prophets and apostles to the sides. Above it, a beautiful rose window. The Coronería Gate, also known as that of the Apostles, is Gothic and shows Christ the Judge between Our Lady and St. John and, to the sides, a complex and majestic apostolate. The Pellejería Gate was built in 1516 by Francisco de Colonia. Above the transept is the dome, which was built in the 16th century and involved work by the masters Felipe de Vigarny and Juan de Vallejo. The chapel of El Condestable was built at the upper end by Simón de Colonia in the 15th century. It boasts a magnificent decoration of coats of arms and slender spires that form, together with those of the transept and those of the towers, an inimitable forest of stone with a wealth of statues and filigree work.




But Burgos isn’t just about monuments; with so much history it is hardly surprising that it is also a centre for gastronomy.  Several of the dishes and preparations of the Burgos cuisine have gone beyond the provincial limits and have become the stars of the national culinary art. Suckling lamb roasted in a wood oven, rice black pudding and the fresh cheese from Burgos are the most well-known.





But it doesn’t stop there, it also happens to be one of the most respected wine regions in Spain as if falls at the banks of the River Duero and accounts for a large part of the denomination Ribera del Duero. The Ribera del Duero does not extend all the way along the banks of the River Duero (as its name suggests). The wines come from a specific area where nature is unique and the land is very special. 

The lands included in the Ribera del Duero Designation are located on Spain`s northern plateau. Four of the provinces of the Autonomous Community of Castile & León come together in the Ribera del Duero: Burgos, Segovia, Soria and Valladolid.

The River Duero is the axis uniting more than 100 villages spread out over a wine growing belt which is some 115 Km long by 35 Km wide, of which 60 villages fall into the province of Burgos.

Spain’s most notable winery, Vega Sicilia is from this region and was established in 1864, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that the region really took off internationally when the bodega Pesquera was founded and  started to make red wines from Tempranillo in a more concentrated, full-bodied and fruit-driven style than most Rioja wines of the day, which were then virtually the only Spanish red wines found on export markets. Other prestigious bodegas are Emilio Moro, Protos, Arzuaga amongst others.





Burgos is a land to enjoy with all the senses. The popular heritage treasured for centuries by the inhabitants of the province and of which its rich traditions and legends are a good example, its almost never-ending songs and its festivities and pilgrimages have left an incomparable trace, which confers upon the people of Burgos a unique and singular character and seasonal climate, a perfect synthesis between the European mildness and the Mediterranean luminosity.


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Any time of year, but in winter it does get very cold and frequently snows, so for em the best time of year is Spring or Summer.

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A Wine Co-op built by Gaudi's Pupil
Friday, April 21, 2023


Defined by the playwright Àngel Guimèra as one of the 'cathedrals of wine', the modernista cellar of Pinell del Brai is an architectural expression of the agricultural cooperatives in Catalonia at the end of the 19th century. Its construction, in 1919, was the responsibility of Cèsar Martinell who used all the elements of the traditional local architecture and enriched it with the technical innovations of his teacher Antoni Gaudí. For those who know the works of Gaudí, it is easy to see his influence in the work of Martinell. The light that is filtered from the windows, the floor plan reminiscent of a church and the feeling of spaciousness recreates the interior of a Gothic Gaudiesque Cathedral.

But beyond the architectural beauty of the building, Martinell created a functional space designed for the production of wine. For this reason, some important technical innovations were incorporated: the structure of the warehousing based on parabolic arches, the ventilation system through large windows or insulation in the cavity walls of the containers in which the wine is made.



Another characteristic element of the winery is the glazed ceramic frieze on the façade designed by the painter Francesc Xavier Nogués, where there are scenes of the harvest and the production of wine and oil. Despite it being spectacular, due to the lack of budget, it was taken out of the initial project and was not incorporated until 1949.



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Fact - Price affects your taste buds
Wednesday, April 12, 2023

We all probably shared this intuition and a study carried out by the University of Basel (Switzerland) has corroborated it: the price of wine influences, as much as we imagined, in the perception of the taste of consumers.

This is due to a simple mix between marketing and psychology: After paying, for example, 100 euros for a bottle of wine, would we be willing to say that it is not good? The study carried out by a team of psychologists led by Christoph Patrick Werner has shown that when it comes to wine tasting - an activity aimed at pleasing the senses, especially when we talk about taste and smell- the tasting experience is influenced by many more factors than just these two senses. The good taste of wine could be more related than we thought to the price it is believed to have.

For the purposes of the study, a tasting was carried out with 140 people. The participants had to give a grade to three wines of different prices (cheap, medium and expensive). They were required to assess the taste, intensity, aroma and how much they actually "liked" them. They repeated tasting in three different situations: seeing the real price on the bottle, seeing a false price, and no price.

The meeting at the University of Basel in Switzerland started like any other. As soon as the participants began to arrive, they were placed at individual tables and asked not to speak with their neighbours, so that their opinions on the wines to be tasted did not influence each other.

When testing the taste-intensity ratings for the samples of real, fake, or no-priced wines, the most expensive wines were rated as having the most intense flavour. However, although the ratings for "liking" did not differ for wines with a real price or those that did not indicate a price, the false price increase for cheap wines had a significant influence on the ratings for "liking". However, in the opposite case, fake discounted prices for premium wines had no effect on the "liking" ratings.

According to the researchers, their results coincided with similar studies carried out previously in which it was observed that the levels of "liking" expressed with respect to a particular wine were much more related to its price than we had believed.

On the other hand, other studies indicate that the appreciation of its intensity remained stable and generally did not change - even when they tried to influence it through prices. In order to unify these results, the team measured both variables. Here, too, their results coincided and showed that the subjective appreciation of a wine's flavour depends not only on its intrinsic qualities but also on information or external stimuli, such as the price that it is said to have.

Werner's team has thus shown how effective the marketing technique is known as 'price signal' is. Knowing the price of things influences the consumer experience differently and that is also true for wine!

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Self-medication over 50,000 years ago
Wednesday, March 29, 2023


The science journal Nature published a study co-authored by Lalueza-Fox that suggests the extinct human species the Neanderthal had developed its own medicine cabinet to cope with pain and disease.

This is what emerges from an analysis of calcified dental plaque from two individuals who once lived in the northern Spanish cave of El Sidrón in Asturias.

“Evidence for self-medication was detected in an El Sidrón Neanderthal with a dental abscess and a chronic gastrointestinal pathogen,” reads the study abstract.

Ancient DNA from this individual’s dental plaque suggests that he chewed poplar bark, which is a natural source of salicylic acid, the analgesic ingredient in aspirin. “This bark has no nutritional value, so why would he chew it if not to relieve the pain?” wondered Lalueza-Fox who works at the Evolutionary Biology Institute in Barcelona, at a presentation of the study.

The Neanderthal also consumed Penicillium, a fungus with antibiotic properties. These results back the findings of an earlier 2012 study, which concluded that the Neanderthals of El Sidrón used plants like chamomile, which helps with digestion, and Achillea, which has anti-inflammatory properties.



The British prehistorian Karen Hardy, of Barcelona’s Autonomous University, signed both papers. “All of the world’s animals self-medicate. Dogs, for instance, eat grass to induce vomiting. To me, the surprising thing would be for Neanderthals not to self-medicate,” she said.

Recent research has dispelled the cartoonish notion of Neanderthals as subhuman creatures. Members of the species adorned themselves with showy feathers, possessed praiseworthy technology, used fire to cook, buried their dead and had sex with modern humans over 100,000 years ago.

According to hardy The Neanderthals were intelligent, and they possessed an ecological knowledge that we have lost. María Martinón Torres, a paleoanthropologist at London University College, notes how the study shows that Belgian Neanderthals had a meat-based diet, while the Spanish ones were more vegetarian. A diversity that portrays the Neanderthals as a flexible species, able to exploit different resources depending on circumstance and availability.

This researcher is aware however that a British anthropologist named Chris Stringer came up with an alternative theory in 2013: that these non-food plants were found in Neanderthal dental records due to their own consumption of herbivore stomach contents. But Martinón Torres notes that the indications of salicylic acid and natural antibiotic consumption only show up in a Neanderthal with a painful dental abscess, which as far as she is concerned, seems like more than just a happy coincidence.



The cave of El Sidrón, in the northern Spanish region of Asturias, was discovered in 1994 and excavation has been going on since 2000. Since then, it has produced a treasure trove of 2,500 bone remains from at least 13 Neanderthal individuals, both male and female. Around 49,000 years ago, in what appears to be an act of survival cannibalism.

Professor Lalueza-Fox told a meeting of the Royal Society in London that they appeared to have been killed and eaten, with their bones and skulls split open to extract the marrow, tongue and brains.  The victims included three female and three male adults, three boys aged 12-15 and three children aged from two to nine years.  All had been butchered.  It must have been a big feast.  We think Neanderthal groups were about 10-12 strong so this may have been a complete family group, although someone may have got away.

Neanderthals lived in Europe from about 240,000 to 30,000 years ago so their remains at most sites range over many millennia.  Unusually, the El Sidron find captured a single deadly event one day around 49,000 BC – thousands of years before the first modern humans arrived in Europe.  The remains were all buried in a room-sized gallery 250 yards from the entrance but were likely washed into the chamber from above.

Professor Lalueza-Fox said: “We think the victims were killed in a rock shelter above where their bones were found.  They were killed and their bones stripped of meat and dumped.  Then shortly after they were killed, a powerful storm came along and washed the bones, stone tools and sediments down a chimney and into the little gallery where we found them.  Those sediments sealed the chimney and the gallery, so the bones sat there for 51,000 years till they were found again.”

The bones were remarkably well-preserved and their DNA virtually uncontaminated, allowing Professor Lalueza-Fox and his team to sequence Neanderthal genes governing features like hair colour, blood group and taste perception.

The El Sidron find is not the first evidence of cannibalism among Neanderthals, which may be one of the reasons why they were ultimately less successful than modern humans.  Professor Lalueza-Fox explained: “Neanderthals had small social networks, which made them less able to co-operate with others in times of trouble.  Perhaps that made them prone to eating each other when times got hard.”

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Castillo de Javier - The Birthplace of Saint Francis Javier
Thursday, March 23, 2023


A silhouette of crenellated towers cuts the horizon, welcoming your arrival at the Castle of Javier, the birthplace of San Francisco Javier (St Francis Xavier), patron saint of Navarre, centre of religious missions and tourism in Spain. 

The fortress stands on a rock outcrop 8 kilometres from Sangüesa in the Central region of Navarre. Every year in early March the castle is the destination of thousands of people from all over the community in the popular pilgrimage known as the Javierada.

Cross the drawbridge and enter a world of towers, dungeons, machicolations, embrasures and arrow slits, enabling you to get to know the place where Francis Xavier was born (1506) and lived. He was later the co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and one of the most universal missionaries.

Near the border with Zaragoza (Saragossa) province, at the highest part of the small village of Javier, stands the imposing silhouette of the Castle of Javier, the birthplace of the patron saint of Navarre, San Francisco Javier (St Francis Xavier).

The origins of the castle go back to the end of the 10th century when a signal tower was built called la Torre del Homenaje (Tribute Tower). Its strategic location on the border between the kingdoms of Navarre and Aragon reinforced its role as a fortress, and the different sections of the castle were gradually added on. 

In 1516, Cardinal Cisneros ordered an attack on the castle and it was partially destroyed, and at the end of the 19th century, the basilica was built next to the castle. Reconstruction work on the castle began in 1952 gave the fortress its original appearance and nowadays it is one of the few castles that conserve its defences and structures such as machicolations and arrow slits.

Francisco de Javier was born into a noble family and was the sixth child of Juan de Jasso, an important figure in the kingdom of Navarra, and María de Azpilicueta. He left for Paris at 19 years of age to study in the Sorbonne, where he met Ignatius of Loyola, with whom he was later to found the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). 

This is where his evangelising zeal emerged, which led him to travel to thousands of cities, towns and villages in Africa and Asia for 11 years until he died of pneumonia on December 3rd 1552 at the age of 46 when he was about to enter the Chinese Empire. Five centuries later, he has left his mark in all the places he visited, and in his native land, Navarre, he is loved, revered and admired. 

On the first two weekends of March, a popular pilgrimage known as the Javierada takes place to the Castle of Javier, in which thousands of people from all over Navarre travel great distances on foot to venerate the Saint. 

The origin of this tradition goes back to 1886 when the help of St Francis Xavier was invoked to stop the cholera epidemic that was decimating Navarre; in gratitude for the fulfilment of this desire, the people made a promise to make a pilgrimage to Javier.

You start in the entrance hall, going through the main door to the castle, where you can see a stone relief with three shields separated by angels, representing the family coat of arms. You go through the stables and down into the basement, where the bodegas (wine cellars) used to be.

A set of dioramas reveals small details of the saint's life, and from here you pass into the main floor with an exhibition of objects from the old castle, souvenirs of the Saint and a model of the old building. This museum is divided into three sections: 1) history of the building, 2) Javier and Navarra in history, and 3) the art gallery, where the highlight is the Flemish canvases by Maes. Finally, a ramp takes us up to the other rooms in the castle.

You start the visit in the Sala de Escudos, decorated with the coats of arms of Francis Xavier's parents and his family tree. Passing through a stone door you gain access to the Sala Principal or Grande (main room), a place for receiving visitors and where the family spent the most time. Then we go up the steps to the Torre de Undués until we reach the Camino de Ronda (battlements), a protected corridor for the defence of the castle. Stones and boiling oil were often poured over attackers through the machicolation!

Leaving the chaplains' rooms (now an oratory) on the left, you enter the old heart of the castle. There are two rooms here around the Tribute Tower, the oldest construction of its type in Navarre. The room on the right was the bedroom of St Francis Xavier, and on the left is the chapel of San Miguel (St Michael), the first one in the castle. Walk out onto the adjacent terrace, where you will get a sense of the strategic location of the castle, and enjoy the spectacular views: to the north, the Sierra de Leyre, to the west, the flood plain of the river Aragon, to the right, the frontier with Aragon, and to the south, the area known as El Castellar.

You then descend to the bottom of the tower, where a corridor takes us to the Hall of the castle and the Capilla del Santo Cristo (chapel of the Holy Christ). Behind a grille stands the Christ of Javier, an impressive 16th-century Gothic image carved in walnut. According to tradition, the figure sweated blood when the Saint was dying in Sanchuan, an island off the coast of China. It is surrounded by a dramatic mediaeval fresco, the only Gothic representation of the Dance of Death that exists in Spain.

Going down the stairs you come to the inner courtyard/parade ground and you exit through the gate. At your feet are the old steps, and on the left (breaking with the construction style of the castle) is the wall of the Basílica, built in the 19th century on the site of the Palacio Nuevo (New Palace) built by the parents of Francis Xavier, where he was born. The tour ends back at the starting point, the entrance hall. 

Once the visit to the castle has ended, do not miss the eclectic Basilica, whose façade contains images from the life of Francis Xavier.

A multi-purpose hall called the 'Aula Francisco de Jasso' has been built for the 5th Centenary of the birth of the saint, with capacity for 1,300 people, and also the 'Georg Schurhammer' exhibition hall, with the personal archives of the greatest biographer of Francis Xavier, specially brought from Rome.


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The Best Prawn in the World - Gamba Roja de Denia
Friday, March 17, 2023

Not all prawns were born equal and the most prized of them all is found in Dénia. This beautiful coastal town of the Valencian Community is located in a bay at the foot of the mountain range Montgó. In the very centre of the bay, there is, surrounded by palms, the harbour of Dénia. Despite its importance, it has conserved the ambience of a typical Mediterranean fishing port. From here you can take ferries to the Balearic Islands of Majorca and Menorca, which can be reached in about three and a half hours. Near the port, there is an area called "Baix la Mar" with traditional fishermen houses and picturesque squares and alleys. Here you can enjoy Dénia’s excellent seafood and amongst all that is on offer is the most famous prawn in Spain, the ‘Striped Red Prawn of Dénia (Gamba Roja/Rayada de Dénia). A unique crustacean found off the coast of this traditional fishing town and considered an international delicacy. 
The Red Prawn from Dénia has an intense flavour due to its unusually high concentration of iodine and salt mixed with its lean meat and has become a staple ingredient for chefs in the region and is now gaining international recognition. Unfortunately, this shrimp is not easy to catch so it’s not cheap as numbers caught on a daily basis are very low making it one of the most exclusive foods in the Valencian Community but on a special occasion, it is a real treat. This spectacular shrimp is also easily identifiable from an anatomical point of view, it has a strong red pigmentation different to the common white prawn with red stripes along its tail, while at the same time it has a much larger head which hides an exquisite explosion of flavours. The characteristics of the Red Prawn from Dénia have made it the signature dish of many famous restaurants both within Dénia and the rest of the Community.
One of the restaurants, which prides itself on dishes made with the Dénia Red Prawn, is the Quique Dacosta Restaurant, which has led to this seafood acquiring an international reputation. In the menu "Local Universe", Dacosta has created three different dishes with the Dénia Red Prawn: a plate of crispy crust Dénia Red Prawn served as a snack, a bowl of Dénia Red Prawn slightly cooked in seawater and finally a dish made with the juice from the head of the prawn inside a floating sphere. However, this is very fancy cooking and the majority of chefs in the region say that the best way to cook the Dénia Red Prawn is simply boiling it in seawater rather than cooking it on the hot plate as you would with most other crustaceans. Apparently, the seawater prevents their juices from being released and all the flavour is kept inside. For a large prawn, it should be in boiling water for approximately three minutes then taken out immediately and with a lot of care so it doesn’t break, placed immediately in ice-cold seawater to reduce its temperature. The ideal serving temperature is 15ºC. Whichever way you prepare it they all agree it should be served without any dressing, sauces or garnishes as these would only mask the natural flavour of this very special prawn.
The areas where you can fish Dénia Red Prawns are very limited and are found in the Mediterranean Sea between the Cape of San Antonio and Ibiza. There is actually a rather unique marine trench in the seabed where the highest concentration of Dénia Red Prawns can be found. However, this shady habitat is over 600m deep so virtually no sunlight ever reaches it and as a result of the shrimp's main food source is algae that grow at this depth and as the algae can’t photosynthesise they are a much finer food source than those found at shallower depths. Additionally, the sea current follows the trench bringing fresh water through it permanently and as there are practically no predators in the trench, it allows the shrimps to grow to a large size and obtain a good weight.
Without doubt, the best place to buy Dénia Red Prawns is the Lonja at Dénia port. Every day there is a traditional auction where local restauranteurs and the general public bid on lots of seafood and fish arriving in on the fishing boats. However, if you are not up for an auction, the temple of the red prawn in the city is definitely the restaurant El Faralló found in the area of Dénia known as Las Rotas. Originally the restaurant was just a bar that drew customers from a nearby campground. Nowadays The Faralló has managed to become one of the gastronomic temples of Dénia and one of the most highly recommended restaurants to taste the Dénia Red prawn, a fantastic place to celebrate a special occasion.
Dénia was recently recognised by UNESCO (the United Nation cultural organisation) as the town of origin for this special prawn launching it to international fame. So if you have never tried them and happen to be passing through Dénia, they are an absolute "must" to have on the agenda for any food lover.

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Whale Watching in Spain
Wednesday, March 8, 2023


Argentina, Scotland, Canada, the Antarctica… and, Mazarrón! There are many destinations where you can spot large cetaceans such as whales, but none so near and so economically as on the coast of Murcia. From the harbour of Mazarrón itself you can lift the anchor of a yacht and sail away with the wind behind you, to spot these mammals. Although it is more common to see species such as the striped, Atlantic bottlenose and short-beaked common dolphins, if you are lucky, you may also see sperm whales or even fin whales. The adventure is even more attractive if you add the cuisine and wide range of leisure activities offered by the coast of Murcia. Irresistible.



The coast of Murcia, Almería and Cadiz is one of the few places in Spain where it is still possible to feel the excitement of whale spotting. This is because there is practically no continental shelf in this area; in other words, the deep water (between 2,000 and 2,500 metres), which is precisely the habitat this marine species needs, is very near the coast. This, accompanied by a benign climate that guarantees smooth sailing is the perfect combination for converting the experience into a great marine adventure.



Your search for the kings of the sea can either start in the Port of Mazarrón or in Cartagena, where you can set sail towards deep water. Throughout the whole trip you need to keep your eyes glued to the horizon and, as time the animals appear, listen to the crew's explanations as though it were a biology class. You will probably see dolphins (the striped, Atlantic bottlenose and short-beaked common species) or long-finned pilot whales (which can grow to a length of between 4 and 6 metres) but if you are lucky, you might see large cetaceans such as sperm whales or fin whales along the way. The latter do not usually live in these waters but use them as a migration area, meaning they are slightly more difficult to spot. You will need to increase your camera memory when you watch the dolphins playing around the prow of the boat or spot the back of a sperm whale (which can measure between 15 and 18 metres) appear under the surface - a unique experience.



To experience this adventure, you can choose excursions of between one and several days, depending on your budget and how long you want to spend enjoying the sea. On the one-day trips you sail in search of the animals and return to port the same morning; whereas on the two to five-day trips, besides spotting whales, the boats anchor in dreamlike coves so that you can have a swim, rest or do water sports like snorkelling, diving or kayaking. The final touch of the trip is the boat itself: you can sail on a fantastic yacht, the Karyam, or on board an old, reconverted fishing boat, the Osprey II - each is as charming as each other. 



As if the excitement with the whale adventure were not enough, once you are back on dry land Cartagena and Mazarrón have a lot to offer you. While in the first town you can immerse yourself in its numerous history-filled nooks and crannies, such as the Púnica Wall or the Teatro Romano, in the second, you can enjoy fishing culture in the area by visiting, for example, the impressive fish market.

And since it is impossible to visit Murcia without trying its tasty seafood and vegetable-based cuisine, we suggest you end your trip with a culinary offering. Grouper from Mazarrón with potatoes and ajotomate (with sweet paprika and ground cumin), hake meatballs, Mazarrón-style migas (fried breadcrumbs with spicy sausage and bacon) or Bolnuevo torrijas (French toast) are just some of the area's irresistible specialities. You can try them at Restaurante Miramar in the Port of Mazarrón, will not let you down, especially if you want to try arroz a banda or grilled squid. If you prefer to eat in Cartagena, you can go to La Catedral in Plaza Condesa de Peralta, very near the harbour, where the cod in tomato and garlic mousseline au gratin are simply delicious.


If you are interested here is the link with more information :

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Raquel Welch Immortalised in Spain
Friday, February 17, 2023


Tenerife's most visible landmark, Mt Teide, has been a point of reference for those who sailed between the Straight and the Atlantic coast since antiquity and also a reference for Holywood as it has served as a backdrop for many films and was the stage for “1 Million Years B.C” which immortalised the late Raquel Welch.




With an altitude of 3,718 metres above sea level, Mt. Teide is the highest mountain in Spain and in all of the Atlantic archipelagos. The steep slopes of the mountain reach this altitude in a mere thirteen kilometres from the coastline. This is a strato-volcano-type edifice sitting on an ancient and gigantic crater-shaped depression made up of two semi-craters (calderas) separated by the "Roques de Garcia". Mt. Teide is crowned by the Pilon de Azucar (Sugar Loaf), which is still residually active in the form of fumaroles of steam and sulphur at 86º C 


The Crater (caldera), known as Las Cañadas, takes its name from the most typical feature of the park, the Cañada, a sedimentary plain that is normally situated at the foot of the walls or amphitheatre of the caldera. This entire spectacular geological landscape is derived from a grand volcanic structure, called the Cañadas Edifice, which originally encompassed the central sector of Tenerife. This edifice, with its enormously complex structure, grew in height over the millennia due to the accumulation of large quantities of lava flows and layers of pyroclasts, spewed out in many successive eruptions that occurred over a period of 3.5 million years, with alternating periods of construction and destruction. 

The Las Cañadas Circus still arouses controversy among geologists as there are several hypotheses about how it was formed, such as an explosion, erosion, collapse and major landslips. The most widely accepted theory until the early nineties was the hypothesis of a collapse as the fundamental cause. Research of the island sub-soil, however, and studies of the sea bed and its relief, in the final years of the 20th century, have confirmed the hypothesis maintained by Tenerife geologist and geographer Telesforo Bravo since 1962, against the general opinion of the scientific community of the time; i.e. that both Las Cañadas del Teide and the Orotava and Güimar Valleys are depressions formed by massive gravitational landslides, of over 100 cubic Km of earth.


The last recorded eruption that took place within the current boundaries of the national park occurred on the slopes of Pico Viejo, or Chahorra, in 1798, over a period of three months. This was the longest of all the eruptions that have occurred in recorded history in Tenerife: the lava spewed out of a fissure almost one kilometre long covered an area of almost 5 square kilometres and almost spilled over the wall of Las Cañadas through Boca de Tauce, one of the lowest points of the amphitheatre.



The environment is completed by the endorheic plains or flats of sedimentary material all along the base of the wall. These enclaves were called "cañadas" (passes or trails in Spanish) because they were important routes for guiding livestock through a genuine sea of lava, and this name lives on today. This explains the origin of the entire mountain peak area of the island, known in general terms as "Las Cañadas del Teide", or the Mt. Teide Passes. This vast natural cut or amphitheatre reveals the internal structure of the old volcanic edifice (Cañadas Edifice), forged by layers being laid down, one on top of another, recording the history of the eruptions of over a period of 3 million years. Las Cañadas circus is one of the largest calderas in the world. It is elliptical in shape, 16 km across at the widest point, 10 km across at the narrowest and with a perimeter of 45 km, of which, the part that is currently visible covers some 23 km, as the north wall was buried by later eruptions, which have led to the formation of Mt. Teide. The lava from different eruptions has filled in extensive areas of the former caldera with volcanic material of all kinds, sculpting a spectacular landscape of apparent chaos. So, more rounded volcanoes can be seen with yellowish and whitish tones due to the accumulation of pumice stone, like Montaña Blanca, or cones of ash and cinder, ranging in colour from reddish to black, due to the varying processes of oxidation over time, almost perfectly shaped structures like Montaña Mostaza. The lava flows sometimes form slag fields known as "malpaises" or "badlands", others fall down the slopes or run over older volcanoes, forming tongues, and others break up into enormous blocks, such as the "Valle de las Piedras Arrancadas" (Valley of the Broken Stones), near Montaña Rajada, where obsidian, shiny black volcanic glass, abounds. 

Obsidian was the raw material for the stone industry of the Guanches, who used it to make cutting tools that they called "tabonas".



To climb to the summit of the Teide, at a height of 3,718 metres, is a unique experience. The fact that part of the route can be done by cable car allows anyone, no matter what there physical condition is to make the ascent. The more adventurous can ascend on foot by the path that leaves from the area of Montaña Blanca, next to the road. This is the only route allowed and is quite demanding which takes almost six hours of walking.

The cable car service, which runs every day if the weather conditions allow, reaches the area known as the Rambleta, at a height of 3,555 metres. The rest of the ascent, a little over 200 metres, must be made on foot. Access to the peak (along the Telesfero Bravo path) is restricted and you need to apply for a permit to reach the summit whether you are on foot or going by cable car.



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