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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 Best Beach in Asturias
24 October 2017

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 neighboring 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.


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Like 1        Published at 16:32   Comments (1)

Tales of Ghosts and Demons
17 October 2017

With Halloween not far away popular legends are already being shared around the country. In addition to Spain's rich mythology, the entire country is home to towns, cities and buildings that are renowned on account of legends involving ghosts that inhabit them, paranormal phenomena within their walls or tales of impossible love. Many have been handed down from generation to generation. Various cities organise dramatised guided tours that recount tales of mystery dating back in time, often under the moonlit sky to ramp up the emotion. This small selection of just some of these tales, some famous and others not, serves to help those visiting these cities find out a little more about their secrets.

Pedraza Castle, Segovia

In addition to being renowned for its Noche de las Velas, in which the entire town is lit by candlelight, Pedraza, which has managed to preserve its Medieval essence, is also home to a castle that serves as the backdrop to a mysterious tale of love and vengeance. Legend has it that Elvira and Roberto, lovers who lived in the town, were killed by the lord of the castle, who was infatuated with Elvira. Today, those sleeping at the castle, which belongs to the Paradores of Spain network, report having seen two mysterious figures roaming its passages whose heads are lit by a crown of fire.

The mystery of the girl in the cave and the Pyramids of Güímar, Tenerife

Tenerife is home to various tales, including those involving UFOs. The most famous, however, involve the Badajoz Ravine, in Güimar and the pyramids in the same town. According to an old legend, at the end of the 19th century a girl went for a walk in the ravine and entered a cave, where she spoke to a strange being. When she returned home, her friends and family had all aged significantly while she remained exactly the same. There is also a legend about the pyramids in the same town, similar to the Egyptian pyramids although somewhat smaller: despite having been studied and various theories debated, their construction remains a mystery to this day. Could it be possible that this island in the Canaries has been visited by extraterrestrials on more than one occasion? 

Santa Bárbara Castle, Alacant

This imposing fortress offers the best panoramic views of the city of Alicante and the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to the famous “Face of the Moor”, a giant rock in the shape of a man's face, the castle is the setting of another tragic love story. Apparently, when these lands were governed by the Moors, the castle was inhabited by a Caliph and his beautiful daughter. She had two suitors. One promised to open a trade route with the East to bring her silk and spices. The other, a young man from a noble family, aimed to win her affections her by opening a dyke and bringing water to the city. The princess gradually fell in love with the latter, but it was her father's wish that the man who set off to India take her hand. The young man then went crazy and threw himself from a ravine. On the same spot, the earth miraculously opened up, with water springing from the mountain, filling what is known today as the Tibi Dam. In her grief, the young bride also threw herself into the abyss from what is now known as the Salto de la Reina Mora (Leap of the Moorish Queen).

Salamanca Cave (Satan's classroom), Salamanca

In reality, this cave currently serves as the sacristy of the Church of St Cyprian, in Salamanca. A variety of different tales focus on this site. It has been said that it is the entrance to an underground maze that connects the entire city and is even cited in the works of Cervantes and Calderón de la Barca.  Legend has it that here, the devil taught classes in the occult. These classes were attended by seven students, who studied for seven years each. After finishing their studies, one was chosen at random to remain at the service of the devil as payment for his teachings. One of these chosen students was the Marquis de Villena, who fled from the macabre figure; unfortunately, during his flight he lost his shadow, leaving the town's inhabitants to conclude that he worshipped Satan.


La Cruz del Diablo, Cuenca

This city is bursting with mystery; in fact, it is one of the cities where guided night-time tours are offered to discover more about its legends. One of the most popular tales is about La Cruz del Diablo. According to local residents, a brash young man, known for his party animal spirit, met a beautiful girl. His plight to win her affections in order to prove his heartthrob status finally won her over. Their date took place on a cold, stormy night. Lightning struck nearby, lighting up what should have been the girl's beautiful legs; however, what the man actually saw were claws. He fled in terror and reached the Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites, where he hung on tightly to the cross, asking for divine help to prevent him from being taken by the devil. To this day, his handprint can be seen on the cross.

Linares Palace, Madrid

The Spanish capital is home to numerous enchanted buildings that set the scene for entertaining tales. Linares Palace, located in Plaza de Cibeles, is just one example. Apparently, a scandal concerning the romance between the Marquises of Linares, who were supposedly siblings on their father's side, resulted in a daughter who they locked in the palace to prevent gossip. Legend has it that the spirit of the girl haunts the palace's rooms, singing nursery rhymes and calling for her parents. With or without its ghostly inhabitant, this emblematic Neo-Baroque building in Spain's capital is spectacular.

The Legend of Cambaral, Luarca

It is no surprise that this town, with its deeply-rooted seafaring tradition, is home to various tales involving pirates. Cambaral, renowned as the fisherman's district, was named after a famous pirate that terrorised the region's residents until he reached this Asturian town. Here, he was captured and badly injured. A beautiful young local woman was responsible for healing his wounds during his captivity. They fell in love and decided to run away together; however, they would meet their demise at her father's hands, as he would decapitate both of them in their escape. The story goes that they remained in an embrace while their heads rolled into the sea. The Puente del Beso (Kissing Bridge) was built in the town in their remembrance; those visiting the bridge at night report having heard the sound of the lovers speaking to one another from the bottom of the sea.

Like 2        Published at 13:30   Comments (3)

The Best House in the Region
13 October 2017

A repentant thief discovered this 19th century sculpture of Our Lady currently venerated as Queen and Mother of La Rioja at this mountain sanctuary. Today it has a church that looks like a miniature cathedral, flanked by an old Renaissance inn and a Neoclassical monastery.

It is obvious that Our Lady of Valvanera is the patron saint of La Rioja because she has the best house in the region: a sanctuary located 1,000 meters above sea level in a lush, green valley in the Sierra de la Demanda, surrounded by mountain peaks (Mori to the north, Umbría to the south, Cándalo to the east, and Pancrudo to the west) and innumerable forests and bodies of water (the name Valvanera, according to scholars, comes from Vallis Venaria: Valley of the Water Veins). Driving along the road, full of curves and breathtaking views, we come upon a cross with the warning: “No woman shall cross this point to enter the municipality of (...) and if she does, she will be arrested until she pays sixty wages to the King's prosecutor.” 

Naturally, that was a thousand years ago. Today everyone, both men and women, are welcome to visit this Benedictine monastery where we can spend a day (or days) listening to Gregorian chants inside the Gothic church and birds chirping in the forest. In addition, we can do all this while hiking or cycling along the mountain routes and then replenishing carbohydrates with a hearty plate of caparrones (Anguiano red beans) at the inn's restaurant. To round off the meal, a chupito or shot of liqueur distilled by the monks, which is also a digestif, thanks to the juniper and chamomile that grow on the mountain slopes.



The Monastery of Valvanera is located in the municipality of Anguiano, a town famous for its festive Danza de los Zancos (Stilt Dance), where the participants launch themselves spinning like tops down a stone-paved slope, at the bottom of which they are stopped by the crowd. On a route along this valley irrigated by the Najerilla River, you must visit the village of Pedroso, where excellent walnuts that among the best in Spain are harvested.





Continuing along the valley you arrive at Baños de Río Tobía and another gastronomic milestone: the Martínez Somalo cured meat factory, which has been making chorizos (spicy sausage), salchichones (salami-type sausage), cured loin, and ham for 110 years. In Nájera, the king is the pepper, to which a festival is even dedicated in Autumn. Before or after visiting the Monastery of Santa María la Real, the main monument in this historical village, you must savor the typical flavors of La Rioja and visit the Hostería San Millán de la Cogolla, located within another monastery, the Monastery of Yuso, where you can also stay the night.


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