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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...

How Pharmacies used to be...
Tuesday, October 29, 2019

 

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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700 metres above sea level
Friday, October 25, 2019

 

Casar de Burbia is a family winery located in a historic region with the protected designation of origin "El Bierzo", and they are devoted to producing red wines from their own vineyards.

The Fernandez Bello family started to produce wine in the ’80s by purchasing vineyards in the mountainous zones and highest areas of the valley, in Valtuille de Arriba (Leon).

The most significant assets of the winery are undoubtedly it's 27 hectares of vineyards surrounding the road to Santiago.

When the Fernández Bello family began to buy old vineyards in 1989, those on the mountain of Valtuille de Arriba were suffering gradual and evident neglect due to their limited production compared to the fertile valley. However, the value of these vineyards is currently unquestionable, both due to its steep slopes facing towards the sun, which drains any possible accumulation of excess water, as well as its altitude above 700 m, which provides a significant temperature difference between night and day.

The old vineyards needed to be regenerated since over 30 % of them were planted with white vines, mostly Palomino, a variety with little enological quality. The winery began a hard job which lasted 7 years, during which over 9,000 plants were grafted in the old existing roots. Using the most traditional grafting techniques in the zone, the 'Meseta graft', the white varieties were replaced with the blue-ribbon variety in the area, Mencia. All this effort, now bearing fruit, meant a regeneration of vineyards which was unmatched in El Bierzo region. One of the fruits of all this hard work was TEBAIDA -

 

 

TEBAIDA -  Casar de Burbia

 

D.O. Bierzo Red Aged minimum 16 months in French (Allier and Troncais) oak barrels 100% old-vine Mencía grapes
• Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (June 2009)- 91+ points

• Wine & Spirits Magazine 2009 - 91 points

• Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (91 puntos)

• Peñín Guide 2010 (Tebaida 2007) - 92 points

• Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (April 2008)- 92 points

• Peñín Guide 2009 (Tebaida 2006) - 91 points

 

 

Tebaida is made from a selection of the grapes from the different estates of Viña  San Salvador,  El Castañal, and Viña Sapita, which boast some of the bodega’s richest vineyards owing to their altitude at over 700 metres above sea-level, their orientation and their century-old status.

The terroir, typical of these estates, is more extreme and largely made up of slate with traces of other minerals such as iron and aluminium.

Harvesting is carried out by hand, as is the crushing process. Alcoholic fermentation takes place at a temperature of 24-25ºC in 5.000-litre capacity stainless steel vats, where extraction is maximised to the full. The wine is then subject to malolactic fermentation in French (Allier and Troncais) oak barrels, and aged for a minimum of 16 months.



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The Royal Quartet
Wednesday, October 9, 2019

 

Among the ornate rooms and historic artworks at the Royal Palace of Madrid is a surprise for anyone who wants to catch a glimpse of music history.

Known as the Royal Quartet, the foursome of stringed instruments kept at the palace are unique examples of the work of Antonio Stradivarius, the renowned Italian instrument maker. The Royal Palace’s quartet—two violins, a cello, and a viola—are among the eleven decorated Stradivaris in known existence. 

The ivory-inlaid quartet were offered as gifts to King Felipe V in 1702 by Stradivarius, and are the only set of decorated instruments the master is known to have made. The quartet was originally a quintet and contained another viola. Both violas were stolen by French troops during the Napoleonic wars; one was recovered in the 1950s, but the other remains missing today. 

 

For most Palace visitors, the quartet is a look-but-don’t-touch experience. One group is an exception, though. The Royal Palace hosts public concerts featuring their quartet-in-residence, Cuarteto Quiroga, where visitors can see and hear these rare instruments in action. “They were created in order to make music,” explained music adviser Álvaro Guibert, “so not playing them would be denying them their fulfillment.” Since being reunited with the stolen viola, the quartet has never left the Royal Palace, and according to Guibert never will again.

A Stradivarius is among the most coveted items in the world, considered to be the best-stringed instrument ever created. The violins, violas and cellos produced by the Stradivari family during the 17th and 18th centuries are prized for their remarkable sound and incredible craftsmanship, and a new study explores the possible techniques used by Antonio Stradivari. 

A Stradivarius in pristine condition can fetch millions of dollars. In 2011, a Stradivarius violin made in 1721, named Lady Blunt after Lord Byron's granddaughter, Lady Ann Blunt, was sold at a charity auction for $15,9 M The money collected during the auction went to Japanese earthquake relief funds. 

Approximately only 600 string instruments made by Stradivari are still known to exist...

 



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