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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...

Time to Visit Aranjuez Palace
Friday, November 24, 2023


Felipe II, endorsing an old project of his father, Emperor Carlos, ordered in 1561 the replacement of the old Aranjuez master's residence with a new building that is the antecedent of the current riverside Royal Palace. Juan Butista de Toledo was the architect to whom the king commissioned the plans, beginning the construction of the chapel, which was completed by Juan de Herrera. A few years later, the construction of the Palace began under the direction of Juan de Minjares. When Philip II died, in 1598, the riverside construction finished the so-called south tower, occupied by the chapel, and a large part of the midday and west facades.

Until the reign of Felipe V, the works of the new Royal Palace of Aranjuez remained practically abandoned. Following Herrera's primitive plans, the Bourbon king entrusted the Royal Site surveyor, Pedro Caro Idrogo, with the continuation of the works, which were restarted in 1715. The north tower is raised, with identical characteristics to the one built by Minjares, and the west facade is completed, also building the entire structure that makes up the current body of the Palace.



The building destroyed by fire, Fernando VI entrusted its reconstruction to Santiago Bonavía, who included some changes in the restoration of the main façade, such as the supporting arches of the first-floor terrace and the addition of the façade on which the statues of the kings Felipe II, Felipe V and Fernando VI.

In the time of Carlos III, the Royal Palace of Aranjuez was expanded, Francisco Sabatini being the author of the western wings, which laterally limit the superb Plaza de Armas. At the end of the right-wing, the current chapel, decorated by Bayeu, was built, and the theatre that was to be located in the wing on the left was not completed.

The Royal Palace of Aranjuez is characterized externally by its white colours, of the Colmenar stone, used in its construction, and red, of the bricks used in its walls. The front of the building, except for its central body, has a succession of windows, on its lower floor, and balconies, on the upper floor, which is topped by a balustrade. In the central body, with one more floor, is the pediment with the coat of arms of Fernando VI, on which are placed the statues of the kings Felipe II, Felipe V and Fernando VI, according to the Bonavía project. In the lower part of this central body, a portico with five semicircular arches, also designed by Bonavía, supports the terrace of the main floor with its large balcony. The façade facing east, with two floors, has in its centre a projecting body whose windows and balconies dominate the Parterre Gardens. Finally, the North and South facades, with similar architectural characteristics, are made up of two sections topped by a balustrade. 

If you are wondering what the palace is like on the inside, maybe you should pay it a visit - it is now open for visits. You can you can buy entrance tickets here. But here is a preview...



Like 2        Published at 6:37 PM   Comments (2)

It's time to starting thinking about the Christmas lottery...
Friday, November 17, 2023

Spain's Christmas lottery has been running for over 200 years. I have no idea how long other lotteries have been working but in Spain the Christmas lottery is a tradition, an institution, and plays a major role in boosting the Christmas Spirit.


I must admit when I first came to Spain I found it quite confusing; “series”, “billetes”,  “decimos”, “participaciones” etc. and then the prizes which seem endless, when the results are published the following day in the paper it takes up pages and pages. To give you an idea of how important this is for the Spanish and their festive spirit, this year there is an expected average spend per inhabitant of in the Valencian community of €75, slightly more than last year.  This year there is an expected turnover of more than 3,6 Billion Euros of which 70% will go back out in prize money. Not quite sure what happens to the other 30%, which is a fair whack!


Originally in 1812, it was an idea created by a Minister called Diriaco Gonzalez to increase the government income without penalising the people via additional tax. As it goes there are over 15,000 prizes given out. . 





In total 180 million “decimos” (tenths) are put on sale in the month of July at €20 a ticket.  A decimo is a tenth of a “billete”- Note. So obviously if you want all of the decimos of a particular number you need to buy the entire “Billete” at €200.


Each number assigned to a “Billete” is printed up 180 times into what they call “Series” – serial numbers, basically, so each run of decimos has a different serial number. So if you chose for example 12,345 as your preferred number (always five digits) to buy all of the tickets that carry this number in the country you would have to buy 180 “Billetes” (all the serial numbers) meaning you would have to cash out €36,000.


Finally you have "participaciones" which are shares of "decimos" normally divided in to 10 parts aswell, so 1/10th of a "decimo"- 2 euros. This is normally done by groups of people who can't afford to buy so many tickets at €20 and prefer to buy more "shares" in other numbers and hedge their bets for a budget. This is very common in bars and schools, small companies and groups of friends etc. It is also very common for companies to give lottery to their employees as a Christmas gift.


As far as the prize money goes, the main prize is the 1st Prize which they call “El Gordo de Navidad” and pays out €4,000,000 per Serial number, which is €400,000 per Decimo. The 2nd prize pays out €1,250,000 per serial number, the third prize €500,000 per serial number and then there are other prizes of €200,000 - €60,000 - €20,000 euros and so on.


This lottery, as opposed to other lotteries, does not make any one person stinking rich, mainly because of the price of the tickets. It is designed to share the wealth amongst the people. As the Serial numbers and the Billetes tend to be bought up together without being divided, it is very common for entire villages or neighbourhoods to end up having bought the same number or very similar numbers that also gain prize money, meaning when it hits in a small village the chances are most of the village wins. 


On occasions, several “serial numbers” can hit in the same place. When you think that there is a prize of €4,000,000 for each of the 180 “Series” it’s quite a substantial sum that is being distributed just with the 1st prize - €720m. This is why it is so popular because there is a slightly better chance of winning something even though the probability of winning the 1st prize is only 1 in 100,000. Still much better odds than the EuroMillions.


However, there is a 1 in 10 chance of getting your money back and coming out evens and a 15,3% chance of actually winning something. If the last number of your ticket coincides with the last number of the 1st prize in your series you get your €20 back. So the thinking is I’ve got a “good chance of winning something” even though it might not be entirely true. Most people wouldn’t invest in anything if it had a 10% chance of breaking even! But this is Christmas and it’s all part of the festive tradition, not even the Spanish Civil war was capable of stopping the lottery. During that period each side stopped and did their Christmas lottery, so it doubled up!






The prize draw is a major event on TV, many kids take the day off school to stay home and watch the draw, even though they shouldn’t! It lasts for at least 3 hours until all the prizes have been given out. The system used is a traditional one that hasn’t changed much since 1812. It entails two wire spheres that rotate until one wooden ball falls down the shoot. One sphere is for the ticket number and the other is for the prize that corresponds.


Every year children from the San Idelfonso School sing out the numbers and the prizes in a very characteristic way, adding to the occasion. So if you are feeling lucky go out and buy a “decimo” who knows?!!









Like 0        Published at 10:28 PM   Comments (1)

50 Most Popular Villages in Spain
Friday, November 17, 2023

Rural tourism and everything that has to do with nature are consistently on the up. Many are often at a loss for places to visit and things to do so here is a list of the most popular villages in each of the 50 provinces of Spain.

The criteria for selecting the 50 villages were the following: all the towns/villages in the list had to have less than 20,000 inhabitants and then the options were ordered by data compiled from search results and trends in Google. If you are at a loss for things to do or want a different destination from time to time, these 50 towns are the ideal way to discover rural Spain:


Osuna (Seville): the ducal town has a very rich artistic heritage. The Monastery of the Incarnation, the Collegiate Church and the Quarries are just a small sample of its many charms.

Frigiliana (Málaga): located in the Natural Park of the Sierras de Almijara, Tejeda and Alhama, walking through the narrow and steep streets of its historic centre is like travelling back in time. Go to the viewpoint of Callejón del Peñón to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire town.

Setenil de las Bodegas (Cádiz): this town in the Sierra de Cádiz is part of the Route of the White Villages. One of its peculiarities is the location of its houses, many of which were built "sheltered" from the rocks.

Guadix (Granada): the 'European Capital of Caves' has more than 2000 inhabited cave houses.

Rute (Córdoba): one of the main attractions of Rute is the many gastronomic museums, in many, they continue to make anise, nougat or chocolate, among other products following traditional methods.

Mojácar (Almería): a few kilometres from the coast of Almería, we can find this white town full of places of interest, such as the Plaza del Parterre, the Church of Santa María or the Puerta de la Ciudad.

Cazorla (Jaén): Hidden between olive groves and with the mountains behind, Cazorla is the perfect option for those who want to enjoy nature and cultural visits at the same time.

Aracena (Huelva): one of the most popular places in this town, located in the Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche Natural Park, is the Gruta de las Maravillas, a true paradise of stalactites and stalagmites.



Tarazona (Zaragoza): amongst the great cultural offering of Tarazona, considered one of the most monumental cities in Aragon, the cathedral stands out, built in the French Gothic style, but with Mudejar and Renaissance elements.

Jaca (Huesca): at 820 meters above sea level, in addition to being a reference destination for winter sports lovers, Jaca has an important monumental legacy. Good proof of this is its citadel, a 16th-century fortress.

Albarracín (Teruel): this small medieval town of just over 1000 inhabitants is, without a doubt, one of the most picturesque in Spain. Located on a hill in the Universal Mountains and surrounded almost entirely by the Guadalaviar River, it has many places of interest, such as the Church of Santa María or the Episcopal Palace.


Llanes: the historic centre of this fishing village, declared a Historic-Artistic Site, is one of the best-preserved in the Principality of Asturias. Two of its strong points are the palaces and emblazoned houses.


Teror (Las Palmas): in this beautiful town on the island of Gran Canaria is the Basilica to the Virgen del Pino, patron saint of the Diocese of the Canary Islands. Also go to the historic centre to see the characteristic balconies of Canarian architecture, especially in Plaza del Pino and Calle Real.

Garachico (Santa Cruz de Tenerife): although the eruption of the Trevejo volcano in 1706 was a hard blow for Garachico, this Tenerife town knew how to rise from its ashes, and today its rich architectural heritage takes us back to the 16th and 17th centuries.


Comillas: also known as the 'Villa de Los Arzobispos', Comillas has some of the most important modernist monuments in Cantabria. The jewel in the crown is undoubtedly El Capricho, the work of the great Antonio Gaudí.

Castilla y León

Tordesillas (Valladolid): this town witnessed numerous historical events, such as the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. Its historical and architectural legacy make it one of the most popular places in Castilla y León. Among its most outstanding monuments, it is worth mentioning the Houses of the Treaty, the Royal Monastery of Santa Clara, the Church of Santa María and the Plaza Mayor.

Astorga (León): the city where two of the main routes of the Camino de Santiago converge, the French Way and the Vía de la Plata, has an important legacy from Roman times. The cathedral and the Episcopal Palace are also two points of great cultural interest.

Lerma (Burgos): the town of Lerma, located on a hillock in the Arlanza region, has one of the most outstanding Herrerian-style architectural ensembles in Spain. The history of the town is intrinsically linked to the Duke of Lerma, one of the most visited places being the Ducal Palace.

Ciudad Rodrigo (Salamanca): Ciudad Rodrigo is synonymous with historical, cultural and natural heritage. In this walled city, whose historic centre was declared a Historic-Artistic Site, it is possible to visit innumerable architectural gems, such as the Castle of Enrique II de Trastamara or the Cathedral of Santa María.

Puebla de Sanabria (Zamora): located in the vicinity of the Lago de Sanabria natural park, its cobbled streets lead the visitor to discover places as magical as the Castle of the Counts of Benavente or the church of Santa María del Azogue.

Cervera de Pisuerga (Palencia): this small village in the Palentina mountain has a lot to offer. A good starting point to start discovering Cervera is the Plaza Mayor, whose arcades and stone columns are a clear example of Castilian architecture.

Arenas de San Pedro (Ávila): in the middle of the Sierra de Gredos and at a height of 510 meters, in Arenas de San Pedro there is no shortage of places to visit. One of the most visited is the Castillo del Condestable Dávalos, declared a Historic-Artistic Monument in 1931. Today, the Torre del Homenaje houses an interesting museum.

Pedraza (Segovia): declared a Historic Site in 1951, this medieval walled town is a magnet for tourists, due to its beauty and rich heritage.

Medinaceli (Soria): its most emblematic monument, the Arco de Medinaceli, dates from the 1st century and is a good example of the rich heritage of this town, in which the traces of the many civilizations that inhabited it can still be seen.

Castilla-La Mancha

Consuegra (Toledo): we cannot talk about Consuegra without mentioning its 12 windmills, which, together with the Castillo de la Muela, form the ideal setting to relive the best exploits of the ingenious gentleman Don Quixote de La Mancha.

Almagro (Ciudad Real): here is the only Corral de Comedias that has been preserved as it was in the seventeenth century, and best of all, it is still active! For that alone, Almagro is worth visiting!

Alcalá del Júcar (Albacete): the hermitage of San Lorenzo, the castle and the picturesque cave-houses are just some of the monuments that await you in Alcalá del Júcar, a town declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1982.

Sigüenza (Guadalajara): thanks to its wide cultural, natural and gastronomic offering, Sigüenza is one of the most popular destinations in Castilla-La Mancha. The town, which due to its strategic location was already populated during the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, has many places of interest, such as the castle, the Casa del Doncel or the church of San Vicente.

Belmonte (Cuenca): the castle of Belmonte, in the Gothic-Mudejar style, dominates the horizon of this beautiful town. Since its construction in 1456, the fortress had an important role in the different stages of history. In the 19th century, the castle was inherited by Eugenia de Montijo, future Empress of France.


Cardona (Barcelona): in addition to the picturesque historic centre, travellers who come to Cardona can visit the impregnable castle built in 886 by Wilfredo el Velloso. The fortress was the residence of the lords of Cardona, nicknamed the Crownless Kings, during the Middle Ages.

Miravet (Tarragona): on the banks of the Ebro river we find one of the most charming villas in Catalonia, Miravet. The 12th century Templar castle is one of its main attractions, and many curious people come here to see the walls and the different rooms of the fortress.

Cadaqués (Gerona): the picturesque white houses scattered through the labyrinthine streets of the old town make Cadaqués one of the most charming coastal towns in all of Spain. In addition to sun and beach, the town has emblematic buildings such as the House of Don Octavio Serinyana, the Torre del Colom or the parish church of Santa María.

Solsona (Lérida): Baroque lovers cannot miss Solsona, as the city has an important architectural legacy in this style. Among its most outstanding monuments are the Episcopal Palace and the Portal del Puente.

Comunidad de Madrid

Chinchón: Its Plaza Mayor, full of wooden balconies and arcades dating from the 15th century, is the heart of Chinchón. In addition to the charm of the popular Castilian architecture of the square, this Madrid town has other places of interest, such as the Clock Tower or the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.

Valencian Community

Bocairent (Valencia): in this Valencian town, stone is art. Come to Les Covetes dels Moros and discover it for yourself. It is believed that this set of artificial caves with more than 50 "windows", located in the Barranc de la Fos cliff, served centuries ago as granaries or warehouses.

Guadalest (Alicante): Guadalest is a small town with a long history, evidence of its existence goes back to Muslim times. Declared a Site of Cultural Interest, the town has several monuments and places of interest, such as the San José Castle, the Alcozaiba castle and the Casa Orduña.

Peñíscola (Castellón): Peñíscola Castle, also known as Castillo del Papa Luna, is one of the main attractions of this town on the shores of the Mediterranean. Did you know that the old Templar castle became the residence of Pope Benedict XIII?


Zafra (Badajoz): go to the Plaza Chica, where weekly markets have been held since 1380, to see up close the "rod of Zafra" on one of the columns of the arcade. This rod was the system of measurement used by the merchants of the time. Other must-see places are the Alcázar de Los Duques de Feria, the Convent-Museum of Santa Clara and La Candelaria.

Trujillo (Cáceres): the city of Trujillo, structured around the Plaza Mayor, forms part of the Ruta de Los Conquistadores, a route that reviews the key places related to the Discovery of America since it is the hometown of Francisco de Pizarro. Among the many monuments, the castle stands out, whose construction dates back to the 9th century, during the golden years of the Caliphate of Córdoba.


Betanzos (A Coruña): also known as the City of Knights, Betanzos became the capital of one of the provinces of the former Kingdom of Galicia. Today, its rich cultural heritage is a reflection of its long history. A good example of this is its old town, declared a historic-artistic complex in 1970.

Cambados (Pontevedra): the 'Capital of Albariño' has numerous places of interest, such as the Pazo de Fefiñáns, the Pazo de Ulloa or the Torre de San Saturniño. This beautiful fishing village is the perfect option for those who want to enjoy a good food-and-wine experience at the same time.

Ribadeo (Lugo): the emblazoned palaces of its historic centre and the "Indianos" mansions (of South American style) in the San Roque neighbourhood are a symbol of the architectural wealth of this beautiful town in Mariña Lucense. Also, the world-famous 'Cathedrals' beach is very close to the town.

Allariz (Ourense): thanks to the stupendous rehabilitation of its historic centre, this town located in the heart of the province was awarded the European Urban Planning Prize in 1994.

Islas Baleares

Valldemossa: on the island of Mallorca, between the Tramuntana mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea, we find Valldemossa, a beautiful town surrounded by vegetation just over 400 meters above sea level. If you could only visit one place, go to the Real Cartuja de Jesús de Nazareth, a former monastery of the Carthusian monks, through which Chopin, Unamuno or Jovellanos, among others, passed.

La Rioja

Haro: Haro, a favourite destination for lovers of wine tourism, also has an important architectural and cultural legacy. Its famous historic centre ("Herradura"), the church of Santo Tomás, the basilica of Santa María de la Vega or the stately palaces, whose construction dates back to the 16th and 18th centuries, are an essential visit.


Olite: the city's castle is the most important medieval monument in Navarra and one of the most popular fortresses in all of Spain. Royal seat during the Middle Ages, in 1925 it was declared a national monument. In addition to the castle, in Olite there are numerous monuments and places of interest, such as the church of San Pedro, the church of Santa María la Real, the Roman walls or the Plaza de Carlos III.

País Vasco

Bermeo (Vizcaya): this fishing village located in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is an essential stop in the Basque Country. Although many come to this town to visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, the truth is that Bermeo has many other attractions, such as the Ercilla Tower, the Old Port, the Church of Santa Eufemia or the old town.

Hondarribia (Guipúzcoa): at the mouth of the Bidasoa River, Hondarribia welcomes its visitors with the colourful balconies of its typical houses. The current structure of the walled enclosure dates from the Renaissance, but efforts to fortify the city had already begun in the High Middle Ages. Behind its walls is an old town with cobbled streets where places of interest follow one after another.

Laguardia (Álava): in addition to the excellent preservation of the medieval layout, with jewels such as the Church of Santa María de Los Reyes or San Juan Bautista, the capital of Rioja Alavesa conquers hearts and palates thanks to its excellent food and wine offer.


Moratalla: the castle-fortress and the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption of Moratalla dominate the horizon of this beautiful mountain town. Another of its great attractions is the ritual of the Tamboradas, declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco, a show that is worth seeing at least once in your life.

Like 3        Published at 7:07 PM   Comments (1)

House with a Sea View
Saturday, November 11, 2023

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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Visiting Barcelona - A labyrinth from 1791
Saturday, November 4, 2023


The archetypical hedge maze sitting in the center of Barcelona's Parc del Laberint d'Horta (Labyrinth Park of Horta) is one of the city's hidden gems, having delighted visitors for centuries making it the oldest garden in the city.

The Labyrinth Park is also the oldest park in Barcelona and since it's located outside of the tourist radius, it's something of an undiscovered treasure. The park is located in the district of Horta in the north part of the city. To maintain the park's beauty, a maximum of only 750 persons are allowed to enter each day.

The park was built in 1791 by the marquis and landowner Joan Antoni Desvalls of d'Ardena. At the same time the construction of the Desvall palace began. The park extends over 9 hectares and is divided into two gardens: the older garden in a neoclassical style and the younger garden in a romantic style.



Inside the neoclassical garden is the 820-yard long labyrinth that gave name to the park. In the centre of the labyrinth is a statue of Eros, the god of love. Right above the labyrinth are two large pavilions with statues of the Danaë and Ariadne and beside the stairs leading up to the garden's highest point stands a statue of Dionysus, the god of wine. At the top of the stairs is another pavilion, dedicated to the nine Muses and behind this building we find a large and beautiful pond.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Desvall palace was a meeting place for the society's elite. Over the years, three kings have paid a visit to the gardens. When you walk around the garden, it's easy to imagine how it looked during the celebrations once held there; the outdoor theatre, the beautiful outfits and exquisite food, the children playing games in the labyrinth..



The romantic and classical part of the garden dates back to the 1800s and has thousands of flowers sheltering in the shadows of the many large trees. Here you also find a waterfall and a romantic canal. The romantic garden is very beautiful but it doesn't provoke the same feelings or interest as when you are walking inside the neoclassical garden.

The easiest way to the Labyrinth Park is to take the green line L3 to Mundet. The park is only a 5-minute walk from the subway.


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