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Spain's Top 10

Simple...a series of lists rating Spain's top 10 in anything and everything...they may be lists compiled by independent reviewers or by myself....whichever, I hope you find them useful :-)

10 'must-see' destinations in Andalucia
22 May 2019

More than 1100 kilometres of coastline, two National Parks and cities such as Seville, Córdoba and Granada are the epitome of Andalusia, but there is so much more to this region. Roman ruins, villages that defy gravity, dizzying trails and rivers that appear to be from another planet. This too is Andalusia. Come discover these other destinations, those that aren't on the first page of the travel guides. They will make your jaw drop all the same. This is the ideal place for your next getaway. (In no particular order)

 

1. Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia. Roman Andalusia

If you like archaeology, here are two places that cannot be missed. The first is in Santiponce (a mere 15 km from Seville), where the remains of the ancient Roman city of Italica (206 BCE.) are found. From here you can see its Roman amphitheatre and part of the outline of its streets. In Cádiz, only two and a half hours by car from here, you'll find the Archaeological Site of Baelo Claudia, one of the best known examples of Roman urban planning.

 

 

2. Caminito del Rey, Malaga

Leave your dizziness behind to enjoy the Gaitanes Gorge on this unique trail. It has a bridge hanging from the mountain's wall that in some stretches is barely a metre wide, and 100 meters tall. Although it has been closed to the public due to poor maintenance, after a long restoration process, it was reopened at Easter.

 

3. Río Tinto, Huelva.

It's as if you were on Mars; the landscape seems dyed red along the Río Tinto, a river running through the province of Huelva. The peculiar colour of this river is due to the high concentration of heavy metals in underground aquifers.  In addition to gazing at the river's extraordinary beauty, you can get closer to the Río Tinto with a visit to its Mining Park, where you will learn how the region was transformed thanks to mining.

 

4. Vejer de la Frontera, Cádiz.

This is one of the white Andalusian towns where you'll run the risk of running out of memory on your camera, especially at its walled fortress which is perfectly preserved. Situated on a hill, Vejer shines almost to the point of making you squint. Nevertheless it is necessary to keep your eyes open to appreciate its incredible views that allow us to see the African coast

 

5. Casacada de la Cimbarra, Jaén

An impressive waterfall nearly 40 metres high is one of the best kept secrets in the province of Jaén. The town council of Aldeaquemada, the nearest village, recommends leaving your car at the foot of La Cimbarra and taking the path to the right in order to see the waterfall from its base, or taking the path on the left to see the waterfall head on.

 

6. Sierra de Grazalema. Grazalema, Cadiz

It's April year round in the Grazalema mountains. According to records it rains here more than anywhere else on the Iberian peninsula, something that makes this area one of the most ecologically valuable in Andalusia. The intense rainfall and the limestone terrain make this area a paradise for fans of rock climbing and caving as the landscapes are steep and there are many caves and grottos.

 

7. Cortegana, Huelva

At only 60 kilometres from the Portuguese border you'll encounter a small medieval village with a gem to be discovered, the Sanchocuanto castle, where every August the most important Medieval fair in Andalusia takes place. In addition to the village's historic and architectural value, Cortegana is worth a visit for its natural beauty. The town is located in the middle of the Aracena mountain range, surrounded by valleys full of cork oak and chestnut trees.

 

8. Pasarela sobre el río Castril, Castril, Granada

While the capital and the Sierra Nevada are the main tourist points in the province of Granada, there are other charming places in this area such as the Granada high plateau, a land of contrasts with nearly desert like terrain as well as high mountains. Here you'll find treasures such as the hanging footbridge over the Castril river, a spectacular 20 minute walk on the wooden footbridge through the river gorge. In addition to the village of Castril, it's also worth visiting Huéscar, the county's capital.

 

9. Vélez-Blanco. Castillo de Vélez-Blanco

This Renaissance fortress, one of Andalusia's best, impresses from afar with a perfectly maintained silhouette on a hillside. It is nearly 2500 square metres and has two main buildings joined by a drawbridge. The fortress's "Patio de Honor" [Courtyard of Honor] cannot be missed. Made of white marble, it is considered a gem of the Renaissance.

 

10. Setenil de las bodegas, Cádiz

One of the most spectacular destinations in Andalusia is this village set in stone. Adapting perfectly to the topography of the area, part of the old town has been built around rocks, with some buildings above them and some inside them. Wandering the narrow streets you may suddenly find yourself in the heart of a rock.



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SPAIN's Top 10 Museums
08 May 2019

You don't have to travel to Florence to suffer from Stendhal syndrome. Spain also boasts an extensive art collection, envied the world over. Just visiting one of the ten art centres in this top ten would be enough. You might not experience dizziness, palpitations and trembling, as French writer Stendhal did on his visit to the Italian city, but you will without a doubt leave with another perspective on art. Here are Spain's ten best museums. Not in any particular order.....


CaixaForum, Barcelona


It represents a trend in museums that has spread throughout Spain in recent years, where art galleries combine exhibitions with all kinds of activities, such as workshops, conferences, projections, etc. The space is managed by La Caixa through the bank's Obra Social foundation, but the programming isn't its only appeal. It's located in a very remarkable Modernista building, the old Casaramona factory designed by famous Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch.

 

Reina Sofia Art Centre, Madrid


It's one of Madrid's large museums and full of art both inside and out. It's dedicated exclusively to modern and contemporary art and walking through its rooms you can see one of the key works of Spanish art: Guernica, by Pablo Picasso. Before contemplating this marvellous piece, you should take a moment to enjoy the surroundings. The museum is comprised of two buildings: the first dates from the 16th century and used to be the old San Carlos hospital; the second was built in 2001 and is the work of prestigious architect Jean Nouvel.

 

The Guggenheim, Bilbao


Few museums can claim to have triggered a city's transformation, but that's exactly what the Guggenheim did. In fact, Bilbao is now one of Spain's most popular tourist destinations. Its avant garde architecture, the work of Frank O. Gehry, will undoubtedly impress you with its curvilinear forms and extraordinary play of titanium volumes, now a symbol of Bilbao. You mustn't miss the work 'The Matter of Time' by Richard Serra which is part of the permanent exhibition, where you will find yourself immersed in seven impressive sculptures.

 

Valencia Modern Art Institute - IVAM, Valencia


If you're an art lover and you're going to Valencia, as well as visiting the City of Arts and Sciences, another must-see is IVAM. This gallery is dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It has two different spaces: the Julio González Centre, dedicated to the museum collection and temporary exhibitions; and the Sala de la Muralla, located in the building's basement, with the preserved remains of the city's mediaeval fortifications. The activity programme includes courses, workshops and even concerts.

 

La Casa Encendida, Madrid


This is a social and cultural centre with some of Madrid's most experimental artistic expressions and an outstanding programme of educational activities, conferences and debates. The gallery is managed by the Obra Social Caja Madrid foundation and pursues four lines of action: Solidarity, Environment, Culture and Education. After participating in one of the activities on offer, there's nothing better than taking a walk around the rooftop garden and enjoying the great views.

 

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona - MACBA, Barcelona


While it didn't transform the city like the Guggenheim in Bilbao, it did become one of the motors of change in the renovation of the neighbourhood of El Raval, which went from being a run-down area to one of Barcelona's most modern. The building by Richar Meier is noteworthy for its combination of straight lines and curves, the large interior spaces and the harnessing of natural light. The exhibition and event spaces include the Capella MACBA annex, formerly the Los Angeles convent church. The museum focuses on art from the second half of the 20th century.

 

Dalí Theatre-Museum, Figueres, Girona


The museum took over the former Figueras municipal theatre (19th century) and clearly reflects the artist's personality and work. Dalí himself supervised the renovation works on the building, which is recognisable for its red and gold paint job and the large white eggs that crown it.  Although you can visit throughout the year, it's worth going in August when they open at night. From 10 until 1 in the morning you can contemplate the artist's work while having a glass of the Spanish sparkling wine cava.


Picasso Museum, Malaga


The fascinating work of the artist from Malaga and the beauty of the Buenavista Palace make this museum a unique place to enjoy art and culture. The gallery's 155 works range from his first academic studies to his personal vision of classicism; from the superimposed planes of cubism to his incursion into ceramics; from his interpretation of the great masters to his last paintings in the seventies. Temporary exhibitions, educational and cultural activities, the library and a specialised bookshop complete a suggestive proposal.


Thyssen – Bornemisza Museum, Madrid


Located on the famous Paseo del Prado and forming part of what is known as Madrid's Art Triangle, the museum is in the beautiful Duque de Villahermoso Palace, remodelled by the prestigious architect Rafael Moneo. It houses what is without a doubt one of the most important private art collections in the world, with works from the 13th to 20th centuries. The museum proves particularly didactic due to its size and the way the works are displayed according to chronological, thematic and stylistic criteria. 

 

The Prado Museum


This is the king of Spanish museums, an international authority due to the fact it possesses the most complete collection of 11th to 18th-century Spanish painting. You will need several hours to go through the rooms displaying the works of the great masters such as El Greco, Goya, Rubens and Rembrandt.  Here you can see one of the most famous Spanish paintings of all time: Las Meninas, by Velázquez. Architecture lovers will also enjoy visiting the museum's new wing, an extension designed by the architect Rafael Moneo. 



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See Spain in Twelve Landscapes
23 April 2019

From mountian lakes to deserts and beaches, natural scenery which is certain to captivate any visitor can be found all over the country, Spain has it all. Few countries offer such a variety of breathtaking landscapes.

Discover my top 12…..(I couldn’t cut it down to 10!)

 

1.Garajonay National Park (La Gomera, Canary Islands) 

Thanks to its geographic location and subtropical climate, the center of La Gomera island preserves an extraordinary jungle site, featuring an abundance of protected species. The forest at Garajonay National Park presents visitors with an image of the earth as it was 60 million years ago.

 

2. Sakoneta Beach (Basque Country) 

An hour's drive from San Sebastián, land and sea intertwine on the lovely Sakoneta beach, which shines with its greatest splendor at low tide. Erosion has carved continuous, vertical patterns into the cliff walls, known to geologists as flysch, and it makes the rocks especially scenic.

 

3. Ordesa Valley (Aragon) 

At the heart of Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park, through the wide array of climates brought by the deep valleys and the high mountains, a large inventory of species abound. The result is a site with an incredible diversity of living organisms. Eagles thrive, as do marmots, and pine trees grow beside oaks in the forests.

 

4. Bardenas Reales (Navarre) 

These miniature, desert-like badlands in northern Spain are unique due to their location in a region that is much better known for its wet and green landscapes. Erosion from wind and rainfall have carved out surfaces that are commonly referred to as “elephant hides.”

 

5. Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park (Catalonia) 

Located in the central Pyrenees, the Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park stands out for its huge mountains towering more than 3,000 meters above sea level. The eastern part of the park is especially stunning, as the reflection of the mountains can be seen on the water. The installation of ramps in certain areas also means that people with limited mobility can also enjoy the beauty.

 

6. Lakes of Covadonga (Asturias) 

The Lakes of Covadonga are situated 1,000 meters up in the Picos de Europa mountains. Around them, herds of horses, cows and goats graze at their leisure in a calm and tranquil environment. Visitors are also encouraged to take advantage of the surrounding hiking trails – no hiking or climbing experience is required to embark on them.

 

7. Cabo de Gata (Andalusia) 

Cabo de Gata Natural Park is a volcanic complex that also features traces of human activity in the area ranging castles to 19th century mining villages and 20th century flour mills. As beautiful as the land is the sea that lines its coast, perfect for swimming and sailing.

 

8. Las Médulas (Castilla y León) 

The Romans scavenged these hills of León for gold and ended up creating the largest open pit mine in the history of their empire. What remains is a striking contrast or red sand against the green forest. Visitors can walk inside the holes bored by the Romans or view them in their entirety from the Orellán observation deck. It’s been a World Heritage Site since 1977.

 

9. Garrotxa volcanoes (Catalonia) 

The La Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park features almost 40 different volcanoes. Despite the landscape being formed by volcanic activity, the area’s rainy climate has resulted in the long dormant volcanoes being covered in vegetation.

 

10. Naranjo de Bulnes (Asturias) 

The peak of the mountain Urrielu, or Naranjo de Bulnes, is more than 2,500 meters above sea level. Although it’s not the tallest mountain in the Picos de Europa range to which it belongs, its vertical walls make it perfect for climbers.

 

11. Teide (Tenerife, Canary Islands) 

175,000 years ago, lava emerged from the Earth, giving shape to the Teide volcano, which is also Spain’s tallest mountain. Still active, it’s the third tallest volcanic formation in the world, rising 7,500 meters from the ocean floor. Because of its height above sea level (3,718 metres), it regularly snows at the peak, providing, in a single image, a beautiful contrast between winter wonderland at its summit and arid desert at its base.

 

12. Playa de Catedrales (Galicia) 

On the coast of northern Spain near the Galician town of Ribadeo, waves crash against a series of arches that resemble a great cathedral. In fact, the proper name of this beach is Praia de Augas Santas (“Holy Waters” in Galician). It’s advisable to visit during low tide to admire the sand from the caves and the arches.



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Spain's Top 10 Hamburgers - Mmmm!
27 March 2019

Hunger has done much to awaken the ingenuity of human beings to calm their appetite. And the hamburger is one of the clearest examples of this. Today you can find a multitude of versions with wagyu, kangaroo, antelope or even Jabugo pig meat. But it was originally created and developed as "fast food" going back as far as the Mongols, who minced the meat of lower quality to be able to chew it and digest it better and they even placed it under their saddles to soften it with every bounce. 

Nowadays the hamburger is a worldwide icon of drooling, happiness and enjoyment…or have you ever seen someone sad as they bite into one? 

Because it deserves a tribute, I wanted to select, from the closest, the best. So even though Spain is not synonymous of hamburger, there are many places around the country that serve a mighty good one. So, here is the definitive list of the best hamburgers in Spain…

 

No.1 BURGER BEER - VALENCIA

http://www.burgerbeer.es

 

No. 2  LA BRASA CANALLA - BILBAO

http://labrasacanalla.com/

 

No. 3 CANALLA BISTRO - VALENCIA

http://www.canallabistro.com/

 

No. 4 BURGUETT - SEVILLA

http://www.burguett.com/es/

 

No. 5  GOIKO GRILL - MADRID, VALENCIA, BARCELONA

https://www.goikogrill.com/

 

No. 6 CAFETERÍA HD - MADRID

http://grupolamusa.com/cafeteria-hd/

 

No. 7  LA ROYALE - BARCELONA

http://www.laroyale.es/

 

No. 8  OVAL BARCELONA

http://www.ovalbcn.com/

 

No. 9  MAD CAFE GRILL - MADRID

http://madrestaurants.com/

 

No.10  LA PEPITA - VIGO

http://www.lapepitaburgerbar.com/

 



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Spain's Top 10 Lookouts - Breathtaking!
12 March 2019

Spain has some breathtaking views and if you are looking for the perfect spot to grab that memorable selfie or just a moment to switch off from the world and admire it's beauty, here are 10 places that will most certainly fit the bill...

 

1. El Río (Lanzarote). This lookout, situated at the summit of the impressive Famara cliff that soars 479 meters above sea level, is one of the most iconic designs of Canary Island architect César Manrique. Located in the north of Lanzarote and facing the northeast, the lookout mimics the surrounding volcanic environment and provides several points to admire the Chinijo archipelago— which is made up of La Graciosa, Montaña Clara, Alegranza, Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste islands.

 


2. Santa Catalina (La Hermida, Cantabria). Facing the Hermida gorge, the lookout in the Peñarrubia municipality of Cantabria was built in 1999 and is considered to be one of the most impressive in the region. It sits at the peak of the Santa Catalina mountain and features a cantilevered deck that juts out over the gorge. When visitors look over, they can see 1,000 meters down to the Deva River.


 

3. Salto del Gitano (Monfragüe national park, Cáceres). The legend goes that a gipsy was chased by a pair of Civil Guards from another era (dressed in a cape and leather three-cornered hat) into the Las Corchuelas mountain range and up to Falcon rock. Here he was trapped between the Tajo River ahead and his pursuers behind. The gypsy decided to jump and gained so much momentum that he landed on the other side of the riverbank, unscathed. Today, this very spot is the park's lookout point.


 

4. 


La Antigua lookout in the Melero Meander (Riomalo de Abajo, Cáceres). Arguably the best view of the Melero Meander (Meandro del Melero) and the Alagón river can be seen from the La Antigua lookout near the town of Riomalo de Abajo. You can get there by driving on a road that is partly paved, and part forest path (for the last two and a half kilometres). Leaving the town, on the way to the vantage point, you’ll find a naturally formed pool on top of the Ladrillar River.



 

5. The Ordesa lookouts (Huesca). These peaks of Huesca are peppered with lookout points that are made from rock walls that were formally used for defence. These include the King lookout, or the one at Acunta point (pictured above), which has an impressive view overlooking forests of firs and beech trees as well as snow-covered mountains. Nature clubs often organize guided hikes to these sights, and tourism taxi and bus routes are also available from Huesca as well as from Nerín.



 


6. La Peña (El Hierro, Canarias). This lookout, located in Guarazoca, north of one of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, is another creation by architect César Manrique and also features a restaurant. From here, visitors can see “the consequences that resulted from the giant landslide that occurred millions of years ago in El Golfo valley,” explains the local tourism agency, Turismo de Canarias. The long stretch of cliffs are covered in thick local vegetation and at the bottom, vineyards and orchards spot the volcanic plain that stretches to the Atlantic Ocean.



 

7. 
Fitu (Arriondas, Asturias). The Fitu lookout in Arriondas, Asturias, gives you a sweeping 360-degree view of the coast and beaches to the Sueve nature reserve and even to the Peaks of Europe National Park. On particularly nice days, visitors can see up to the municipalities of Cangas de Onís and Covadonga.

 

8. Sa Creueta lookout. The Sa Creueta lookout (or El Colomer) is a vertical rock, 232 meters above sea level, that rises from the Formentor peninsula in the northeast of Mallorca. It is the best lookout of all the vantage points along the 18-kilometre road that winds around Pollença bay. Its magnificent view of Formentor cove is best seen at sunset.



 

9. Sa Foradada lookout (Mallorca). Tourists and visitors flock to the Sa Foradada lookout for its cinematic sunsets. Located between Deià cove and the Caló de S'Estaca beach, on the eastern coast of Mallorca, it is surrounded by the beauty of the Sierra de la Tramuntana mountain range. Visitors typically pose for photographs or watch the sunset from the Na Foradada restaurant terrace.


 


10. Fuente Dé Cable (Cantabria). This lookout is located 1,850 meters above sea level, next to the main cable car station. From here, visitors can enjoy spectacular, panoramic views of the central plains of the Picos de Europa mountain range up to the Cantabrigian mountains.




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Spain's Top 10 Walks - For those who have a head for heights
01 February 2019

Spain has some of the most spectacular trails in Europe and even some that were once considered amongst the most dangerous in the world. If you fancy a walk with a little more excitement you might just want to check out these breathtaking but vertiginous walks around Spain...here are the top 10 (in no particular order.)

 

1. Bejía Canal, Anaga, Tenerife 

Located on Tenerife’s northeast coast, the path out of the village of Bejía, on the northern slope of the Anaga massif (above), offers plenty of photo opportunities. Moderately difficult, the trail is four kilometres long and follows the Bejía canal through the Seco ravine that eventually drops down to Punta del Hidalgo. The walk can be circular – and longer (7.5 km) – if you climb the ravine from Punta del Hidalgo and come up from the bottom of the valley to Bejía.


2. Faja de las Flores, Pyrenees, Huesca 

In one of the most spectacular belts of Ordesa, there is a challenging trail across the valley that requires some rock climbing. It takes about eight hours but the effort is rewarded by breathtaking views.

 

3. Cañón de Añisclo, Pyrenees

The Canyon of Añisclo, generated by the Bellós river, is oriented from north to south and extends for almost 25 kilometres, from the Circus of Añisclo - at the foot of Monte Perdido - to the confluence with the Aso valley. Its minimum altitude is 700 m, in the Fountain of the Baths; And the maximum of 3,022 m, in Punta de las Olas.

 

4. Cares Route, Picos de Europa, Asturias y León 

Accessible and amazing, this magical 12-kilometre walk is carved into the edge of the mountainside in the Picos de Europa. Known as the Cares trail, it connects the Asturian town of Poncebos with Caín in León, offering the kind of views that have made it one of the most popular hikes in the national park. The trick is to have a friend walk from the other end so you can swap car keys midway through the hike and avoid having to trudge the 12 kilometres back to your vehicle!

 

5. Penya Roja, Mallorca 

There are plenty of exciting and secret climbs on the peninsula of Alcudia in Mallorca, like the trail to Penya Roja from the Victoria sanctuary that hugs the cliff face and is dizzying enough to require a handrail. The highlight of this walk is the Atalaya crossing (above), a narrow 15th-century tunnel designed to protect access to the fort at the top. The climb not only leads you to the ruins of this fort but also gives you a magnificent view of the Mallorcan coastline.


6. Caminito del Rey, Málaga 

For a long time, the Caminito del Rey – King’s Path – was considered one of the most dangerous trails in the world, but the construction of a brand new footbridge over the old and deteriorated trail in 2015 now allows walkers to safely cross the vertiginous 100-meter-high Gaitanes stretch over the River Guadalhorce. A real treat.

 

7.Cahorros de Monachil, Granada 

Just minutes from the center of Granada, the Monachil River runs through a narrow gorge at the base of the Sierra Nevada massif where an exciting mountain trail – three hours long and moderate to difficult – climbs above the ravine (above), taking you to a suspension bridge that’s 63 meters long and a passageway that forces you to crouch at the part known as The Pigeons’ Cave.

 

8. Congosto de Mont-rebei, Lleida, and Pasarela de Montfalcó, Huesca 

The most hair-raising part of this walk that takes you along the Mont-rebei gorge – 500 meters high and barely 20 meters wide – has a steel handrail to stop you falling into the abyss. Running through the gorge is the River Noguera Ribagorzana on the border between Aragon and Catalonia in the Montsec mountain range. The round trip is 14 kilometres, with the footbridge of Montfalcó providing the dramatic ending. You can hire mountain guides if needed from the Montfalcó hostal. (www.guiasdelmontsec.es).

 

9. Grau de Barrots, Montsant, Tarragona 

The ‘graus’ that crisscross the Montsant mountain range, such as l’Escletxa (above), are narrow trails with sudden ascents. The most vertiginous one is Barrots – 5.5 kilometres of moderate to difficult hiking – which follows terraces that cling to the rock faces overlooking the Priotat vineyards.

 

10. Mao River Footbridge, Ourense 

The last stretch of the River Mao drops 600 meters in just a few kilometres, creating a stunning series of small waterfalls before it snakes through a narrow valley. A wooden walkway built into the hillside takes you to the point where this tributary meets the River Sil. The walk is an easy two kilometres that leave from La Fábrica, an old power station that has been converted into a lodge.

 



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The Best Epiphany Parades in Spain - The 'Three Kings'
01 January 2019

Lights, floats, pages, sweets, and a lot of excitement are all you need to make a procession of the Magi or Three Kings into a one-of-a-kind experience. Even so, every year towns and cities go the extra mile to make these parades special: theatrical productions with top-quality settings and costumes, and fabulous fireworks. From all the processions organised in Spain every 5 January, we have chosen five which amaze children and adults alike, due to their spectacular production values, their originality, or their history.

Alcoy, the oldest in Spain

Any discussion of Magi processions in Spain has to begin with Alcoi, which has been holding its parade since 1885. This is not its only impressive statistic - it also has an enormous number of participants, with nearly a thousand people in the procession. One of the most exciting parts of the parade are the torch-bearers, who light the way for the floats and the royal pages. As always in the Valencia region, bands of musicians are an essential part of the procession, with Christmas carols to add to the mood. Up to three bands participate in the parade, as well as groups of drummers and dulzainas (pipers). Another feature of this parade is the work of les negres, the royal pages who bring presents to the children, using wooden ladders to climb up to the balconies of the houses. Traditionally, the event begins at 6 pm and ends after 10 pm, with the sky lit up by an impressive fireworks display.

 

Girona, all lit up

Processions of the Three Kings in Girona province are lit in a very special way, with the fanalets all the children carry. These are small lanterns, made of paper and brightly painted, with a lightbulb inside and carried on a stick. In recent years they have been modernised and can be bought in the shape of one of the Magi, a Christmas tree, a snowman, or even the latest popular cartoon character. The tradition is thought to have begun in mountain villages where the children would light bunches of lavender to make sure the Three Kings would see them, even though there was no procession in the village. Now there are many towns and villages where children light the parade with their little lanterns, in one of Catalonia's most endearing Christmas scenes. Although the tradition has spread throughout the region, the processions in Girona province, such as in the cities of Girona or Vic, are still among the most spectacular.

 

Cerler, the Magi on skis 

Few presentations are as spectacular as the arrival of the Three Kings at the Cerler ski resort, in the Huesca Pyrenees. Their Majesties sweep down the slopes, leaving the children open-mouthed in amazement, as well as their parents - it is pretty unusual to see the Three Kings riding a chairlift or performing pirouettes on skis. For the whole morning, they chat with the children and pose for photos with them, and even hand out sweets, without the need for royal pages. The celebration continues in the afternoon in Benasque, with a more traditional and restrained procession - this is a small village - but with the best possible setting. There's no need to use fake snow to decorate the parade here, as the real thing is usually in plentiful supply for Epiphany, and the scene could hardly be more picturesque. 500 extras, 100 torch-bearers, 5 floats and around twenty horses to thrill young and old with the magic of Christmas.

 

Madrid, the most spectacular

Although there are several processions in the capital every 5 January, the most spectacular passes through the city centre. This is one of the biggest in Spain, with more than 1,500 volunteers taking part. The route traditionally begins at Nuevos Ministerios and ends at Plaza de Cibeles, like so many of the city's major celebrations. It was first held in 1928, and one of its unusual features is that since the late 1980s, the Three Kings have been played by members of the City Council. Another peculiarity is that the people in this parade don't throw sweets into the crowd along the whole route, only in the fenced-off areas. The City Council introduced this measure in 2014 for the children's safety. The parade ends with a fireworks display after a speech by the Magi in Plaza de Cibeles.

 

Santillana del Mar, like a fairytale 

This is one of the prettiest medieval towns in all of Spain, so here the processions of the Magi have an incomparable setting, one of the main factors which have made it an official National Tourism Festival. The setup is different from most, because as well as the traditional procession, eight scenes are performed from a Mystery Play, the Auto Sacramental de los Reyes Magos. The streets are covered in straw, torches are lit as dusk falls, and the townspeople dress up as pages, washerwomen and shepherds. The scene-setting and the participation of many of the residents completely transform Santillana, giving the sensation of having travelled back in time more than two thousand years. The numbers give an idea of the majestic scale of the event: nearly 500 extras, 100 torch-bearers, 5 floats and around twenty horses to thrill young and old alike with the magic of Christmas.



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10 Beautiful Forests to Visit in 2019
27 December 2018

Here are 10 stunning forests to visit this season or this coming Spring. Although we are in winter, it has still been very mild and there are some beautiful colours to discover...

 

1.  Forests of Ordesa (Huesca) 


The charm of the Pyrenees’ most spectacular valley lies in this explosion of colour that skirts these mountains covered in oak, ash, maple, hazel and rowan trees straddling the River Arazas.

 

2.  Fuentes de Narces (Asturias) 


The slopes that lead down to the River Narcea are home to one of the biggest and healthiest deciduous forests in Spain, providing rich, nutritious food for the brown bears that live in the vicinity.

 

3.  Fraga del Eume (A Coruña) 


This Atlantic forest, situated further west than any other in Europe, is hanging on by a thread as cement and tarmac encroach on its territory. It’s still a beautiful spot though, and the location for the famed novel 'The Enchanted Forest' by Wenceslao Fernandez Flórez.

 

4.  Montes de Redes (Asturias) 


The upper basin of the Nálon River, in the Asturian municipality of Caso, is covered with the wild forests of Redes, where brown bear and wolves roam amid the beech, oak and chestnut trees that are also home to chamois and grouse.

 

5. Dehesa del Moncayo (Zaragoza) 


Moncayo Mountain rises like an Atlantic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, offering shade and a splash of rich colour. Thick with beech trees and surrounded by holm oaks, olive trees and vineyards, this is a mystical corner of the peninsula where many seek spiritual solace amid the foliage.

 

6.  The Saja Forest (Cantabria) 


The Palombera pass is the crowning glory of the forests of the Saja River in the fall. The ancient woodlands hide a maze of paths traditionally used by mountain dwellers, who left their valleys to occupy the lands of Castile, retaken in the year 1,000 AD. The photo shows the waterfalls at the Pozo de la Arbencia inside Saja-Besaya Natural Park.


7 Tejera Negra (Guadalajara) 


Fall paints the landscape of the Ayllón massif between Segovia and Guadalajara, where beech trees mingle with yew trees. Against the odds, this forest has survived the hot dry Guadalajara climate as though a woodland spell is at work.


8.  Selva de Oza (Huesca) 


The high valley of Hecho in Aragón is crowned with an old untouched forest of beech and firs and black pines marching along the ridges. Below is the mountain gorge at the Boca del Infierno that twists upwards to the source of the River Aragón Subordán – the point where the mountains enclose this Pyrenean treasure whose very remoteness has saved it from the axe.


9.  Valle de Iregua (La Rioja) 


The Cameros hills conceal within their folds a beautiful beech wood, close to the source of the River Iregua. Surrounded by a semi-alpine pasture that has served nomadic cattle farmers for centuries, these beech trees account for the last native deciduous forest in the region.


10.  Monte de Santiago (Burgos) 


The source of the NerviónRiveris tucked away among the leafy beech forests of Santiago that begin at the cliffs of the Salvado mountains and advance down towards the meadows of the Arrastaria valley in Alava. The forests are constantly doused in moisture by the dense mists that also feed the river and ensure that the Salto de Nervión waterfall – considered the highest in Spain – remains a spectacular sight.

 


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Spain's Top 10 - Best-Preserved Medieval Villages
01 October 2018

Spain is a country of castles and walls and a good number of these have survived to this day in very good condition. Much of what is preserved from the medieval era, remains in towns, whose streets have maintained their personality, without succumbing to the temptation to expand with modern buildings and complexes.

Walking through these villages is like immersing yourself in a fairy tale. Its narrow streets, walls and castles transport us to a time of legend. If you want to make a trip to the Spanish Middle Ages, why not start with these....according to the Repsol Guide, they are the 10 best-preserved medieval villages in Spain:

 

Besalú, Girona

The name Besalú is derived from the Latin Bisuldunum, meaning a fort on a mountain between two rivers. It is also the historical capital of the county of “La Garrotxa”. Besalú was designated as a historical national property ("conjunt històric-artístic") in 1966. The town's most significant feature is its 12th-century Romanesque bridge over the Fluvià river, which features a gateway at its midpoint. The church of Sant Pere was consecrated in 1003. The town features arcaded streets and squares and also a restored mikveh, a ritual Jewish bath dating from the eleventh or twelfth century, as well as the remains of a medieval synagogue, located in the lower town near the river. Besalú also hosts the Museum of miniatures created by jeweler and art collector Lluís Carreras

 

Calatañazor, Soria

Calatañazor is a municipality located in the province of Soria, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2010 census (INE), the municipality has a population of 70 inhabitants...perhaps it's grown a little since then. The municipality is named after the tiny fortified city on top of a hill.

Also situated in the municipality are the hamlets Aldehuela and Abioncillo. Abioncillo used to be abandoned like many forsaken hamlets in Spain, but in the 1980s was turned around by a few dedicated teachers into an educational center.

In the valley between Calatañazor and Abioncillo, the Battle of Calatañazor took place in 1002. This place is still named El valle de la sangre (the valley of blood). Almanzor, the ruler of Muslim Al-Andalus is by some historians said to have died in this battle. There is a statue of him in Calatañazor.

 

Peratallada, Girona

Peratallada is a town in the municipality of Forallac, in the county of Baix Empordà, in Catalonia, Spain. It is located 22 km east of Girona.

Its name is derived from pedra tallada, meaning 'carved stone'. Declared a historic-artistic monument, most of the buildings are built from stone carved from the fosse or moat which still encircles parts of this small fortified medieval town. The privately owned Castle of Peratallada is the dominant structure in the center of the town, with a 13th-century Romanesque church dedicated to Sant Esteve (Saint Stephen) outside the town walls. The castle has been documented as early as 1065 AD and it was restored as a luxury hotel in the 1960s. During restoration, traces of settlement were found that date back to the Bronze Age.

Today, Peratallada is known for its beautiful old stone buildings, rutted stone streets and passageways. Its proximity to the beaches of the Costa Brava and its numerous restaurants, small boutique hotels and artists' galleries make it a popular destination. The 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was partly filmed on location here.

 

Hervás, Cáceres

The most significant feature in Hervás' historical heritage is the Jewish quarter. Its narrow, steep streets are lined with houses clustering together like grapes, which were made with adobe and chestnut-wood frameworks, their roofs plastered with Arab tiles to shield the wind. The architectural heritage includes remarkable civil buildings such as the palace of Dávila, a large house from the middle of the 18th century, which at present houses a stately home-museum, and a public library.

The religious heritage includes the parish church of Santa María, erected in the 13th century, which exhibits elements that were added from the 16th century thru the 17th; the convent of the Trinitarian Fathers, inaugurated in 1659; the hermitage of San Andrés, from the 14th century, which at present houses the religious image of Cristo de la Salud, patron saint of Hervás; and the hermitage of San Antón.The infirmary of the Franciscan monks, from the 18th century, is currently home to the City Hall and the Municipal Police.

 

Buitrago de Lozoya, Madrid

Buitrago del Lozoya (Spanish pronunciation: [bwiˈtɾaɣo ðel loˈθoʝa]) is a municipality of the autonomous community of Madrid in central Spain. It belongs to the comarca of Sierra Norte. The town is one of the few in the community that have maintained its walls, which are of Moorish origin (11th century) and have been restored in the 15th century. It lies on a peninsula surrounded by the Lozoya river. Other sights include  the Buitrago del Lozoya Castle, a Gothic-Mudéjar structure dating from the 15th century and the Picasso Museum. This small museum contains works by Pablo Picasso from the collection of Eugenio Arias, a friend of the artist.

 

Peñafiel, Valladolid

Peñafiel is a town in the Valladolid Province and the greater autonomous community of Castile and León, Spain. It is best known for the Peñafiel Castle and for its medieval square used for bullfights and named "Plaza del Coso" (English: "El Coso Square"). The square is surrounded by private homes, but since medieval times the rights to use their windows, balconies and doorways during bullfights are owned by the town (see easement), which auctions them to the highest bidders.

The town is full of deep excavated underground caves which were traditionally used to store the wine because of the constant temperature they kept all year around. These caves have chimney vents for ventilation and to evacuate the gases generated by the fermentation of the wine. These chimney vents dot the landscape in and around the town and the castle.

 

Ainsa, Huesca

The village, which was the capital of the old Kingdom of Sobrarbe, and was later incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon in the 11th century, constitutes a magnificent example of medieval urban development.
The historic quarter of the village of Ainsa, declared a Historic-Artistic site, is formed by a group of houses that are packed together in the most harmonious and uniform of ways, among which the slender tower of the collegiate church stands out, as well as the enormous premises of the castle, almost as big as the rest of the town. The walls that surrounded the town centuries ago remain almost intact today, the town itself being filled with monuments that bring us back to the Middle Ages.

 

Ronda, Málaga

This town in the Málaga region sits on either side of the Tajo del Ronda, a narrow gorge more than 150 metres deep. Its old town has been declared Property of Cultural Interest. Celts, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs all inhabited these lands, which were reconquered by the Catholic Monarchs. The historic quarter, reminiscent of the Arab age and with a medieval layout is scattered to the south of the Guadalevín, while more modern Ronda, the part which sprang up after the 16th century, unfolds to the north of the course of this river. Several bridges unite the two halves of one of the most interesting towns on the route of the Whitewashed Villages, in the heart of the the Ronda hills, only a few kilometres from the Costa del Sol. 

 

Albarracín, Teruel

The former capital of a Moorish kingdom (Taifa), the small town of Albarracín has preserved all its Islamic and mediaeval flavour. Its old quarter has the Property of Cultural Interest designation.

The main thing that surprises visitors who arrives at the town of Albarracín is its imposing fortified enclosure, whose perimeter is far larger than the area of the urban centre. What we see today corresponds to three different periods of construction.
The Fortress and the Andador Tower are from the 10th century. In the 11th century, the kings of Albarracín constructed the walls around the poor area of Engarrada. Finally, after the Reconquest, the Christian lords and kings of Aragon erected new sections of walls and most of the forts and towers that remain.

 

Sepúlveda, Segovia

Declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1951, Sepúlveda reflects the influence of the Romanesque style in its monuments and streets, dating back to its era of greatest splendour in the 11th to 12th centuries. Sepulveda is the site of the first Romanesque church constructed in the province, El Salvador Church, dating back to 1093. It has only one nave with a semicircular apse and a tower separate from the nave. Another site worth visiting is the 12th-century Santa María de la Peña shrine, located on the outskirts of the town above one of the deepest gorges along the Duratón River. 



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Spain's Best Wine Festivals
28 September 2018


Although quite a few of the wine festivals have now come to an end in Spain I thought it might be interesting to post a selections of some of the most popular ones around the country. Same large and some small, but all celebrating "la vindimia" : the grape harvest. Take note of the one near you and pay a visit or note it down for next year if you missed it this time round!

 

 
1 – 8 September , Ciudad Real
Valdepeñas Wine Festival
D.O Valdepeñas
 
The Local cuisine really took centre stage in the2014 edition of the festival. Besides wine tastings that are discussed and paired with local produce, this year the city is holding the 1st Oenogastronomic Conference, “Saborea Valepeñas”. Every year, a person will be awarded the prize for “Best Grape Harvester of the Year”.
 
 

 

 
 
5 – 8 September - Cordoba
Montilla-Moriles Grape Harvest Festival Córdoba
D.O Montilla-Moriles
 
Every year they appoint a master of honour who is given the keys so they can safe guard and defend the wines of the region for the whole year. Declared of National Tourist Interest, its most important acts include competitions for all the venenciadores (wine pourers), bottle turners and coopers in the region.
 
 
9 - 14 September
Wine Festival in Jerez
D.O Jerez-Xérès-Sherry and Manzanilla
 
Cádiz can boast of being European wine city for 2014. The acts include activities for children, such as Children’s Venencia Competition, where they pour wine using a traditional, long handles dipper. Using a venencia to decant Jerez wine is quite an art that has to learn from a young age.
 
 
14 September
La Rioja Alavesa Grape Harvest Festival, Labastida
D.O Rioja
 
It is a travelling festival that began 21 years ago in Laguardia. The 2014 edition will be held in Labastida, which will be in charge of bringing together the most important festivities. However, all the villages will be present in the same way. This is demonstrated in the Wine Competition in which only villages that produce D.O Rioja can take part; so all the villages in the area are legible. There is also the possibility of tasting the wines produced in the villages that comprise La Rioja Alavesa and some wineries, such as Eguren Ugarte, organise activities for the family that range from picking grapes to treading the fruit after it has been harvested- the part children love the most.
 
 
14 - 15 September
Cigales Wine Festival,
Valladolid
D.O Cigales
 
Cigales is the ‘cradle of claret’ and its wine festival is one of the oldest in the country. As a result, it has been awarded the title of Festival of Regional Tourist Interest. Besides the traditional treading, for two days a wide variety of activities are held, such as talks on the world of wine, tasting competitions and a wonderful medieval market, which gives the festival a past times feel, times when wine also played a starring role.
 
20 September
Wine Festival in Logroño 
D.O Rioja
 
2014 commemorates the 58th edition of this tradition; it starts off with the Pisada Popular, a public grape-treading event that takes place with the purpose of extracting the first must, which is then dedicated to the city’s patron saint. Another great wine event, known as the Quema de la cuba (the burning of the cask), brings the festival to an end. Continuing with the aim of becoming a gastronomic benchmark, the “Gastronomic Week” is also held during the festival.
 

 

 
 
28 September
Grape Harvest Festival in Sotillo de la Ribera
D.O Ribera del Duero
 
Sotillo de la Ribera has been holding a great party every year for 36 years now. It is dedicated to its wines and has guided tours and tasting events, not only of wine but also oil. Some of the wineries in the area also organise special activities to celebrate the festival, including a demonstration of how the local residents used to harvest the grapes in former times.
 
28 September - 6 October
Grape Harvest Festival in San Miguel de Tabagón, O Rosal
D.O Albariño
 
A week when there is no chance of getting bored thanks to a complete programme of activities that unsurprisingly, are all related to wine and the grape harvest: Talks on technical aspects of grape-harvesting, wine, gastronomy and photography competitions, as well as a pageant with all the local inhabitants and tourists who decide to visit this town in Pontevedra taking part.
 

 

 
3 - 5  October
Cavatast, 
Cava and gastronomy exhibition in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia
 
Cava is the big appeal of this region, one that for the last 18 years has decided a special gastronomic display of products that are the perfect match for these bubbly wines. The activities include a ride on an electric bicycle along the paths that go through the vineyards in the area, the route coming to an end with a local chocolate-tasting event.
 
 
3 - 5 Octubre
Riberjoven, Young wine and Gastronomy Festival, Peñafiel
D.O Ribera del Duero
 
 
This is the only festival in the country that is dedicated to young wine and it is precisely by taking this concept into account that they offer activities typically associated with children but which are adapted for older people, such as the Grape Harvest Storyteller for Adults. Although in Peñafiel children have a significant role in the festival- they perform a play related to the grape harvest and participate in different workshops.
 
 
10-13 October
Cangas del Narcea Festival, Asturias
D.O Vinos de la Tierra de Cangas (Cangas Wine)
 
The Festival begins when the local hotel and catering professional award the Golden Vine prize to a person with links to Cangas and its wine. The demonstration of the classic grape treading is carried out in a traditional way; a scene is staged with a barrel that is transported on a typical cart. All the restaurant in the area are involved in the festival and while it lasts diners can enjoy a typical grape harvest menu.
 
10 - 12 October
Grape Harvest Festival in Rueda
D.O Rueda
 
Despite being well known for its white wines, Rueda also produces some exquisite red wines. So everyone can try them, a marquee is set up in the town’s main square where winery owners offer people the chance to taste their wines and typical local products. In addition, some wineries organise Open Days. The first must extracted from the traditional Grape Treading is given to the participants.
 
 
12 - 13 October
Verdu Grape Harvest and Wine Festival
D.O Costers del Segre
 
This Lleida town runs numerous competitions related to grape harvesting and its associated professions, with competitions such as the one for picadors (grape treaders), porrón lifters (people who lift and drink from traditional wine pitchers), vine throwers; there is even a grape carrier race. To make sure you have enough energy to compete, there is nothing better than tucking into a grape harvester’s breakfast. They are served every day during the festival. If you are looking for something quieter, then you can go to the gastronomic exhibition held in Verdu Castle, which opens its doors especially for the occasion.
 
 
14 – 22 October
Wine Festival in Toro
Zamora
D.O Toro
 
These days it is normal to see the roads around the city jammed with carts that are overflowing with all kinds of utensils for harvesting grapes, just like in the old days. A festive pilgrimage travels along the main streets announcing the start of the harvest. Another quite strange annual tradition is the Wine Fountain, during which a large cask is set up in the bullring from which the young men have to drink whilst trying to out of the way of the bulls that are guarding the cask.
 


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