All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

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...

Extremadura in Summer...Who needs a coastline?
Thursday, August 20, 2020


With over 1,500km of freshwater coastline, Extremadura is the first Autonomous Community with the prestigious Blue Flag awarded to a fresh water beach on La Orellana and has maintained it for four consecutive years. 



Contrary to what many might think, there are many ways to enjoy a refreshing summer with water playing a central role in Extremadura, so don’t rule it out because it doesn’t have a coastline: water sports in the wetlands of Badajoz, natural pools in the region of la Vera, Jerte, El Ambroz, Las Hurdes, Gata or La Siberia, a river cruise along the international section of the Tagus or a descent down the Alagon river are just some of the options available.



In the province of Cáceres lies one of the jewels of the “Valle del Jerte”, within the Nature Reserve “Garganta de los Infiernos”, known by the locals as  “Pilones” which is a long stretch of natural smooth stone bathtubs created by water erosion of the rocks over centuries. These natural bathtubs are filled with clear crystalline water coming down from the Sierra de Gredos. The natural pools, lakes, waterfalls, streams and water gorges in Extremadura comprise more than 60 attractive opportunities to go bathing in the Summer and escape the suffocating heat or do aquatic activities.



The Blue flag beach of Orellana in the heart of Extremadura, is the only river beach in Spain to have achieved since 2010, a Blue Flag rating. A singularity that is due to its water quality, location in a protected environment and infrastructure available. Located in the region of La Serena, Badajoz, Orellana Beach offers the opportunity to swim in freshwater waves and enjoy a poolside snack bar, a small marina and of course, lifeguards. 

Aquatic Adventures in Alqueva is celebrated during the summer season and runs up to mid September and is organised out of towns such as Chels, Villanueva del Fresno, Olivenza, Alconchel and Táliga in the Badajoz region. All activities are tied to the great lake Alqueva, which Spain shares with Portugal. Amongst the activities on offer are sailing, astronomy and star watching, safari in kayaks, multisport activities on land and water involving walking, cycling, canoeing to mention just a few.

You can also sail through international waters along the Tagus. A protected area totalling 50,000 hectares, with 47 species of mammals and 181 species of birds, including some endangered species and other which are rare sightings such as the black vulture. These are just some of the stunning and attractive reasons to justify a visit to  “Tagus International”, a joint venture between Spain and Portugal, which is waiting to be recognised internationally as a Biosphere Reserve Natural Park. No doubt it will be very shortly.



Descending down the river Alagon is an event that gains more and more fans year after year. With a distance of 18.8 kilometres running from the bridge of  Macarrona Riolobos to the town of Coria, in the province of Caceres, it takes approximately four and a half hours and is an event that seeks to offer you an entire day of enjoyment for all the family. 




The Valley of Jerte, Caceres is a superb area to practice “canyoning” or as it is known locally 'gargantismo' (waterfall rock climbing) can be done throughout the area. However three main areas are normally used the Nogaledas, the Hoyos and Papuans which are equipped with climbing anchors, diverters , public railings and guided rappels and there are different companies in the area that offer this activity. 



And why not some inland sailing? It is also possible in Extremadura, where there is a total of four yacht clubs, three in Cáceres (Tajomar, Lake Gabriel y Galán and Barlovento, located in the reservoirs of Alcantara, Gabriel y Galán and Borbollón) and one in Badajoz, the Guadiana Club Nautico de Orellana by the reservoir. 



Extremedura is also a paradise for sport fishing. Between the lakes and reservoirs within the autonomous community there are also fantastic opportunities for fishing enthusiasts. Reservoirs such as Alange, Orellana, García de Sola and Cíjara in the province of Badajoz or Alcantara , and Gabriel y Galán in Caceres are great for black bass, pike and many other sporting species.



For the kids there is also a water park located within walking distance from the border with Portugal. ' Lusiberia ' has slides, wave pool, playground and terraces and leisure activities designed for all ages.

So if you were thinking that Extremadura wasn’t an option because it doesn’t have a coast line…think again it is one of the most beautiful regions in Spain.

Like 2        Published at 10:05 AM   Comments (3)

Touching the heavens - A Legendary Basilica
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Basilica of Covadonga, alongside the sacred cave where pilgrims venerate the statue of La Santina (Our Lady), is a place of worship and pilgrimage for the people of Asturias. It is of neo-Romanesque style with two high towers flanking the main entrance. Nearby there is a spring which flows from the sacred cave and beneath there is a famous fountain with seven spouts and is a place of reference for all young ladies wanting to marry, a traditional local poem says: "The Virgin of Covadonga has a fountain very clear, the girl who drinks from it will marry within a year." 
According to the legend King Pelayo and other Asturian warriors fought the Arabs from a cave dug out of one of the rocky faces of the Covadonga Valley. The tale says that a little virgin appeared to Pelayo in the cave before the battle forecasting the victory of the Christians over the Muslims. A different legend also tells that before the battle with the Muslims the cave was probably used, about 1500 years ago, as a celebration and worshiping centre by a Celtic sorceress and as a holy meeting place for the Celtic tribes that lived in the area at that time. This would be the earliest divine origin of the Covadonga cave, used in the first place by pagan Celtic tribes for magical and spiritual practices. As in many other locations throughout the region, with time, the Christians took over the holy Celtic spaces to build their own churches and sacred places, and Covadonga was not an exception.
A Christian chapel was the first construction inside the cave and it was ordered by King Alfonso I The Catholic (739-757) as a memorial for the battle of Covadonga.  Originally the Holy Cave chapel was wooden, until it and everything it contained, including the image of the Virgin, jewels and goblets, were lost in the fire of 1777. The image, which is there today, dating from the 16th century, was donated by the Chapel of Oviedo Cathedral in 1778 as compensation for the loss of the early Virgin. The Virgin known as The "Santina" is an image of Mary which forms an integral part of the Asturian tradition through history, through word of mouth from generation to generation, and through personal religious experiences. Deeply rooted in the people of this land, it constitutes one of the strongest and most powerful convocational symbols that the Asturians have. Its figure was carved, incarnated, gilded and polychromed from oak in the 16th century. She measures 71.4cm tall, including the pedestal, with a girth of 46 cm at her widest point, and a depth of 21 cm. The current baby Jesus was placed there in 1704. Standing out from her clothing is the mantle that Our Lady wears from her shoulders to her feet. Its colour changes according to the occasion. The normal mantle is a reddish-purple colour with a golden trimming and stamped with simple floral motifs.
The chapel, which is to one side, was also reconstructed in stone, as it can be seen today. One can also find the tomb of Pelayo in the Cave, in front of the image of the Virgin.
Although he was originally buried in a nearby parish called Santa Eulalia de Abamia, his remains, along with those of his wife Gaudiosa and his sister, were later transferred to the Holy Cave where the tomb of Alfonso I and his wife Hermelinda (Pelayo"s daughter) is also kept, although slightly more hidden.
Behind the cave, in the guts of the mountain, an underground cascade runs free, and it reaches the outside world right underneath the cave, falling some 20 meters down into a natural water pool where pilgrims and visitors throw coins wishing for their dreams to come true.
After heavy rains or when the snow melts on the mountains the streams bulges with water and the sound of the waterfall is so intense that from inside the cave you can’t hear anything but the water crashing against the rocks and falling into the pool.
At one side of the pool you can find the seven-spout water fountain. Many Asturians still try to respect the tradition by going to Covadonga and drinking from all seven spouts before their marriage, just in case.
To access the cave there is a staircase leading up from the pool. It is not uncommon to see people going up the stairs on their knees because of a religious promise. The other way to access the cave is passing by the stone lions and following the road all the way up to the Basilica. Once at the Basilica there is a small pedestrian path that leads to a 30-metre tunnel carved out of the mountain and which is the antechamber of the Covadonga cave.
Silence and respect are demanded on the visit to the cave, especially when there is a mass on. It is a very similar atmosphere to Lourdes.
Many visitors from different regions and countries come every year to worship “la Santina”. Even Pope John Paul II made a very special visit to the Santina and to the Real Sitio of Covadonga in 1989, visiting also the Picos de Europa on his journey along the Camino de Santiago.
Roberto Frassinelli designed the basilica and the architect Federico Aparici Soriano erected it between 1877 and 1901. In 1777 a fire destroyed the old chapel that was by the Covadonga cave and it was then decided that they would build an eve more impressive structure. There was an initial project that was finally rejected because of its high costs and the opposition of local priests.
The definitive project was approved and launched by King Alfonso XII almost one century after the destruction of the original chapel. The initial project by Ventura Rodriguez with a classic design was finally replaced by the actual structure, which has a Romanesque style.
The original idea from the actual construction came from a German painter called Roberto Frassinelli, “el Alemán de Corao” that lived in the region. Architect Federico Aparici did the technical project, based on Frassinelli´s idea. The building sits over a large terrace and it has three different aisles. In the plaza in front of the basilica there is a 4 ton bell from 1900, a bronze statue of King Pelayo from 1964 and an obelisk from 1857, which according to the legend, stands at the place where King Pelayo was crowned.
The Covadonga Basilica was inaugurated on September 7th 1901, and Pope Leon XIII gave it the dignity of Basilica. It was built using pink limestone from the surrounding mountains. By the entrance portico there are two sculptures representing the two regional bishops started and finished the works. The inside of the basilica is famous because of its simplicity with just some decorative elements placed on the ceiling of the Basilica. Beside the high alter there are  two large paintings of Madrazo and Carducho that represent the Battle of Covadonga and the proclamation of Pelayo as King of Asturias.
Beneath the high altar there is a "pit" with the relics of San Melchior and Pedro Poveda. To the left there is an altar dedicated to San Melchior, the only Asturian Saint, canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1989. Due to their economical contributions to the building of the basilica, flags from all South American countries are permanently shown. 
Despite the many fires, the Museum of Covadonga still keeps very valuable and unique pieces. The crown of the Virgin of Covadonga is a very valuable piece of jewellery created by Felix Granda Buylla in 1918. It is made of gold with diamonds, rubies, sapphires and pearls. This crown is only used during the Covadonga celebration day, on September the 8th.
At the museum we can admire drawings from the basilica construction project done by the architect Ventura Rodriguez (the project that was rejected and replaced by the actual structure) as well as an impressive painting of King Pelayo. Pieces of jewellery, an ivory Christ from the XVI century donated by King Felipe II and ancient liturgical clothing together with other pieces of ancient art can also be contemplated and enjoyed within the museum. Nearby you will also be able to enjoy some of the most beautiful countryside Spain has to offer with breathtaking views of the Picos de Europa and some of the most beautiful lakes in Spain.

Ver mapa más grande


Like 0        Published at 12:35 PM   Comments (1)

Discovering Huelva and its pride and joy
Thursday, August 6, 2020

Between the Guadalquivir and Guadiana estuaries, the Huelva coast is a series of spectacular beaches, idyllic natural spaces and charming fishing villages with a true seaside feel where you can find the tastiest dishes on the Atlantic coast. The sea offers many delicacies, but only one stands out above the rest in the region's gastronomy. The white prawn, ‘The Pearl of Huelva’.



From east to west, the Costa de la Luz (Light Coast) starts at Tarifa and ends at the mouth of the Guadiana, the river border between Spain and Portugal. Many spots vie to be the most beautiful in the region. But on its coastline the white prawn has no need to compete - there is no rival to its flavour. With long whiskers and a flat body, the white prawn is the queen of the markets and tapas bars in Huelva. The inshore fleet catches it using traditional methods from the sandy seabeds of the coast and its thin skin, in a slightly pink tone, needs the right cooking time and a pinch of salt to turn this seafood into one of the finest delicacies of Huelva's cuisine.

There are a wide variety of prawns, but the one with the highest quality and culinary value is the Huelva coastal prawn, auctioned every day in the fish markets of Ayamonte, Huelva, Isla Cristina and Punta Umbría. Its meat is highly valued and it is prepared in many ways, although boiled and grilled are the most popular. To prepare them, boil water with salt and add the prawns when the water starts to boil. After a few minutes over the heat, leave them to rest in a bowl with water, ice and salt. If you want to grill them, put a layer of coarse salt on the grill, heat it and sear the prawns on both sides. Afterwards, you just need to season them with a generous handful of coarse salt. The Huelva white prawn, like other shellfish, has a high nutritional value and is a source of proteins, phosphorus, selenium, iron, calcium and vitamins such as B12 and niacin. One hundred grammes provide over 80% of the recommended daily amount of iodine for women over 16, and it must be consumed in moderation as its cholesterol levels are relatively high.

So for those of you who don’t know Huelva here is a short tour of this wonderful region…

If one starts at the marshes of Almonte. Here you can find the village of El Rocío, where thousands of pilgrims flock each year, on the first Monday of Pentecost, to honour the Virgin, their Virgin. It is the most popular, traditional and festive pilgrimage in Andalusia. The shrine (built in the seventies), the sandy streets at the doors of the brotherhoods, and the views of the marshes are must-sees.



The road takes you to Matalascañas. There you can enjoy the long Atlantic beach, take a look at its impressive lighthouse and stroll through the Dune Park, sign-posted along a path through junipers and pines. If you still have strength after this trip into nature, you can visit the Marine World Museum (Ctra. Matalascañas a Mazagón) and turn off at El Acebuche (Ctra. A-483 Km. 38.7), which is the Visitor Reception Centre for the National Park of Doñana and where you can find all the information you need to see everything there is to see in the park. A road runs through the National Park of Doñana and connects Torre de la Higuera beach (Matalascañas) with Mazagón beach. There are several recreational areas before reaching the turn-off leading to Parador beach, with spectacular sandstone cliffs such as Asperillo cliff.



From Mazagón to Huelva the landscape becomes more industrial and ends at La Rábida, the birthplace of the discovery of the New World. Here you can visit the José Celestino Mutis botanical garden, free of charge, with species from all five continents; the Muelle de las Carabelas dock with a reproduction of the three ships that took Columbus to America, and the monastery of Santa María de La Rábida (Diseminado De la Rábida; 959 350 411). Opposite the monastery, on the other side of the Huelva estuary, you can see the mouth of the Odiel and its marshes, also a protected Natural Landscape. Next the route takes you to the capital. At the entrance, cross the bridge over the river Tinto to join a road that leads along the Juan Carlos I dam to the lighthouse, opposite the refinery. Punta Umbría, one of Huelva's official summer destinations and the next stop on the route, is a stone's throw from the city. Wooden walkways lead to the famous dune beaches of Enebrales and Mata Negra. After a relaxing swim, continue the route to El Portil, at the edge of another of the most representative protected natural spaces on the Costa de la Luz: the mouth of the river Piedras and La Flecha del Rompido, a 10 km sandbar that extends towards El Terrón, home to one of the most important colonies of waterfowl such as the pintail, cormorant or the little egret. From here, head towards La Antilla, a long family beach with a great promenade, palm trees and terraces that almost touch the sand.

Next to the coast, the road offers views of the sea and takes you to Isla Cristina. The town's large inshore fleet is a leader in white prawn fishing, which you can buy at a good price in the fish market, famous since the 18th century. You must visit the area for some tapas. As well as its magnificent beaches (Islantilla, Centro or Punta del Caimán), its tapas bars are a good place for a rest. The route ends in Ayamonte, the westernmost town in the province, on the banks of the Guadiana. From the Villa district you can see the estuary, the International bridge and the Portuguese town of Vila Real de Santo António. The church of the Divino Salvador, Pozo Nuevo (New Well) and the Museum of the Brotherhood of La Soledad (Plaza de San Francisco), which houses pieces from the local Holy Week celebrations, are must-visits along the road to the area of La Ribera, which puts the finishing touch to the route with its fishing ports and marinas, and its busy streets around the Plaza de La Laguna.

Like 0        Published at 6:28 PM   Comments (1)

Spam post or Abuse? Please let us know

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x