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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...

Castro de Baroña - Location is everything...
Thursday, November 26, 2020

The ruins of this ancient settlement exist only as a series of circular foundations, but what a view they had!

The village 'Castro de Baroña' was constructed not only in a strategic location but also one of incomparable natural beauty, surrounded by beautiful beaches and mountains. A completely excavated seaside example of a settlement dating from the first century BC to the first century AD (the Iberian Iron Age/Galician Castro Culture), it consists of 30 circular or oval stone houses within a double defensive wall. The settlement was not positioned in this isolated coastal spot simply to fend off attacks from the sea, but rather to defend itself from attacks from the mainland. It took full advantage of the protection afforded by it’s position, the defensive ramparts across the isthmus prevented attacks on land whilst a large, rocky cliff constituted an excellent sea defence.



Popular myth claims that these "castros" were inhabited by the "Praestamarcos" tribe and that it is actually on the "Vicu Sapcorum," an ancient Roman road that traversed the "Barbanza" hills, and was called "Per Loca Martimia." Whether this is actually true is hard to say, but it is claimed that people lived in this desolate spot for many centuries up until the arrival of the "Suevians."

It is difficult to determine what the site once looked like since there is no evidence of upper walls, roofs, windows or even doors. Some hypothesize that this was a storage settlement but most archaeologists posit that it was inhabited year-round since there is clear evidence of shellfish gathering and fishing. There is also a furnace located in the northern section which was probably used for smelting tin, gold, copper, and iron mined in the nearby mountains. The settlement could have been completely self-sufficient, except that no facilities to store freshwater have been found.















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A winery you must visit - Marques de Riscal
Tuesday, November 17, 2020

On a hill overlooking the town of El Ciego is a building, which, from a distance, looks like flowing ribbons, made of metal and glass.

Even those who don't drink will love a visit to this winery. The Marqués de Riscal City of Wine is a place where wine culture invades your five senses. You can taste a glass of good red while you take in the architectural work of Frank Gehry, breathe in the smell of the vines, listen to the wind in the leaves and experience the pleasure of a wine therapy session on your body. What more could you ask for?



Located in the town of El Ciego, in Alava, this winery has succeeded like few in creating a world of proposals around its alma mater, wine. For this reason, it has built its own City of Wine, a complex comprising the historic Marqués de Riscal winery (1858), the oldest in Rioja.

This wine emporium didn't come from nowhere, it is the result of centuries of working with vines and the fruits they produce. During the 16th and 17th century these vineyards expanded exponentially, and by the early 19th century wine production had reached 1.8 million litres, making this the most important town in the entire Alava region of Rioja in terms of production

The eye-popping architecture of the Hotel Marques de Riscal makes a real statement; designed and built by Frank O. Gehry who Vanity Fair labelled ‘the most important architect of our age’. Glass-walled rooms offer views of the medieval town of El Ciego where history and culture flourish like the grapes hanging from their Rioja vineyards.



The transformation of the winery is a bridge between the 19th and 21st century for its owners, and Gehry's intervention was an important innovative element. Its building, which could be called sculptural, is now an iconic element of the landscape of El Ciego, with a characteristic curved titanium-covered outside that twists to show the chromatic tones of the winery: reds similar to wine; the gold of the mesh used by the winery; and the silver of the capsule of the Marqués de Riscal bottle.

The red wines of the "Marqués de Riscal" series are both traditional and modern Riojas. They are made using the latest technology but are loyal to tradition, with the excellent grapes of the best-known local Rioja varieties (tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo) and high quality barrels. The winery has a range of wines with Designation of Origin Rioja, which it has been producing since 1858. One of the most outstanding is its Frank Gehry selection red, 100% tempranillo, with an intense colour and potent aroma combined with a complex and open expression in the mouth. In terms of its white wines, Marqués de Riscal can boast having the largest vineyard of the Designation of Origin Rueda.



The winery offers daily-guided tours, lasting approximately an hour and a half, which show you the winemaking process as well as a small wine-tasting session with appetisers.

Gastronomy is certainly the order of the day if you decide to visit the restaurant. With three Michelin stars to his name, who better than Chef Francis Paniego, to oversee your hotel dining experience.

You can order straight from the menu or perhaps try one of a number of ‘tasting ceremonies’, ‘degustaciones’, where you can enjoy a selection of their premium dishes. Needless to say, the wine list is to die for. The spa has won 3 international awards for excellence and offers you the chance to submerge yourself in the Jacuzzi, hit the fitness centre or soak your feet in the pediluvium (foot bath). Specialist treatments include hydrotherapies like the Barrel Bath, where you soak in an exfoliating grape marc, and the ritualistic Winemaker's Massage, which increases blood circulation and improves muscle tone.



The hotel offers local tours as well, exploring the Basque-flavoured culture around the area. As a border town between the Navarre and Castille kingdoms, the village has seen a fair amount of history in its nearly 1000 years. With the hotel as a piece of 21st-century imagination, the juxtaposition is an interesting look at the transformation of architecture. Glass rooms overlook the village below like a futuristic castle over an ancient feudal town.

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The Lagoon
Tuesday, November 10, 2020


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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Second only to Switzerland...
Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Spain is a land of contrasts, as many of you know. It is perhaps most well-known for its beautiful sandy beaches that go hand in hand with the great weather, particularly during the summer months. But it’s not all about the sun, sea and sand. Spain is also one of the most mountainous countries in Europe as well, and climbing to the top of some of the country’s highest peaks will reward you with the most spectacular sights ever.

Richard Ford, the 19th century traveller and first British hispanophile, jokingly said in 'Gatherings from Spain' that the country is just one big mountain. 24% is above 1000 m and 76% between 500 and 1000 m above sea level. Spain has an average altitude of 660 metres. In Europe only Switzerland is higher (by a long way - average altitude of 1,300 metres). So it should come as no surprise that Castilian is so rich in words for mountains, hills, cliffs and plateaus. 

Of the 505,988 km2 of Spain , 57,615 km2 are below 200m, 156,370 km2 are between 201 and 600m, 198,650 km2 are between 601 and 1,000m, 88,766 km2 are between 1,000 and 2000m; and 4,587 km2 higher. Only 12% of mainland Spain lies at a gradient of less than 1 in 20 (5%)

The Pyrenees have a maximum width of 130km, run 440 km and cover 55,375 km2. In the Pyrenees there are 212 peaks above 3,000 m. The highest peak is called Aneto (3,404m) though until the early 19th century it was thought that Monte Perdido was higher. 

The largest surviving glacier is on Aneto. It currently covers 163 ha, down from 692 at the end of the 19th century. The Pyrenean glaciers are melting fast. The last glaciers disappeared in the Sierra Nevada in 1913 at Corral de la Veleta which was the southernmost glacier in Europe .

Walking is a great way to keep fit, but walking in the mountains (with a bit of climbing) is even better. Every region has its own area of peaks and natural scenery. Why not try some of the smaller heights before heading for the ‘big’ ones.

1. Teide (Tenerife) 3,718 

2. Mulhacén (Granada) 3,478 

3. Aneto (Huesca) 3,404 


4.Veleta (Granada) 3,392 
5. Llardana (Huesca) 3,375 
6. Alcazaba (Granada) 3,366 
7. Monte Perdido (Huesca) 3,355 
8. Cilindro (Huesca) 3,328 
9. Perdiguero (Huesca) 3,321 
10. Maladeta (Huesca) 3,309 




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