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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 places to visit in Galicia
13 October 2020


Galicia is water, land, wind… Galicia is feeling, passion, joy… Galicia is art, history, legend… It’s everything that makes you dream and marvel…  Galicia is a land you’ll begin to discover little by little, step by step… Here are 10 places you mustn't miss, in no particular order:

 

1. Ribeira Sacra

The Ribeira Sacra, home to the largest concentration of Romanesque churches and monasteries in Europe. The Ribeira Sacra is a district marked by the River Miño and River Sil, which have shaped its spectacular landscape as they wind their way through the mountains. When this is combined with the faith and spirituality that can still be felt in the numerous monasteries dotted throughout the area, it means that this corner of Galicia cannot fail to appeal to all of your senses.

To mention the Ribeira Sacra is of course to mention wine, something that becomes obvious as soon as you set foot in the district: one of the most characteristic features of its landscape is the famous “socalcos”, the steeply terraced vineyards that run down the hillsides. And whilst you’re there, don’t miss the opportunity to taste some of the fantastic local wines, the product of one of the five Denomination of Origin wine-growing areas in Galicia, to which the district gives its name.


2. City walls of Lugo

The walls of Lugo are the best-preserved example of Roman military fortifications anywhere in the world. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the walls are an outstanding example of a way of building that exemplifies a variety of significant periods in the history of mankind.

From their Roman origins, through the tumultuous period of the Middle Ages and down to the ground-breaking and revolutionary 19th century, they constitute a unique monument that displays the different facets of the way in which the city of Lugo, in itself a conservation area of major importance, has evolved from the original Roman settlement of Lucus Augusti.

 

3.  Serra da Capelada

Serra da Capelada boasts some of the tallest cliffs in Europe.
Their highest point is Vixía Herbeira, 620 metres above sea level. From this vantage point, you can appreciate the full grandeur and size of these cliffs, second only in height to the sides of the Norwegian fjords, which plunge almost vertically down to the sea, at an angle of over 80º

The views from here are absolutely spectacular: a wonderful panorama of the mighty Atlantic Ocean and the rugged coastline on either side of Santo André are without a doubt some of the best to be found anywhere along the whole of the coast of Europe.

 

4. The Ferrol of the Age of Enlightenment

Although Ferrol was originally a town with a strong fishing tradition, during the 16th century its port started to become home to the ships of the Spanish Royal Navy. Subsequently, the monarchs Philip V, Ferdinand VI and Charles III were to be the driving force behind the construction of this magnificent complex, making the city the principal military base in Northwest Spain and the largest naval base of its day in Europe. On the inside, which can only be visited with prior permission, you will find the Sala de Armas (Armoury), until recently a training barracks and now residential quarters for Spanish Navy Marines deployed in Ferrol. You can also visit the Museo Naval (Shipbuilding Museum) and the Dique da Campá, one of the largest dry docks in the world. And you mustn’t forget Exponav, a permanent exhibition devoted to the world of shipbuilding.

 

5. The Tower of Hercules

In A Coruña, we can marvel at the Tower of Hercules, which dates back to Roman times and is the oldest working lighthouse in the world, the reason why it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Farum Brigantium was built by the Roman Empire at some time between the end of the 1st century AD and the beginning of the following one. Located at the entrance to the harbour of A Coruña, this magnificent lighthouse was designed as an aid to navigation along the rugged Galician coast, a strategic point on the sea route linking the Mediterranean to northeast Europe.

 

6. The Way of St James

You can’t leave Galicia without having walked at least part of the Way of St James. 
The pilgrims’ route to Santiago played a fundamental role in the exchange of cultures between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe in the Middle Ages. For this reason, the Way of St James was nominated as the First European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe. The so-called French Route, which has the longest tradition and is the best-known outside Spain, has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Starting in Roncesvalles (Navarre), it finally reaches Santiago de Compostela some 750 kilometres later. A route, therefore, which links Europe with northern Spain, passing secluded churches, bridges, cathedrals, monasteries and other such places of interest, accompanied by a permanent backcloth of greenery.

 

7. Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela has been the Christian pilgrims’ destination since the 9th century. From as far afield as the Baltic or the North Sea, thousands of pilgrims came on foot to the shrine of St James in Galicia, carrying their symbolic scallop shells along all the roads leading to Santiago, veritable paths of faith. To this we must add the fact that during the Romanesque and Baroque periods the shrine at Santiago de Compostela had a decisive influence on the evolution of architecture not just in Galicia, but throughout the whole of the north of the Iberian Peninsula

 

8. Cape Finisterre

Cape Finisterre, the destination of those pilgrims who, after visiting the St James’ tomb, continued their way along the route marked out for them overhead by the Milky Way until they could go no further. 

Finisterre was considered during the period of Classical Antiquity to be the end of the known world. In fact, its geographical location and impressive sunsets led Decimus Junius Brutus (the Roman general who conquered Galicia) to believe that this was indeed the place where the sun died at dusk. The area surrounding this headland has been considered a magical place since the earliest times, and legend has it that the Phoenicians set up an altar, the Ara Solis, at which they worshipped the sun. So why not take time to discover this corner of our coast, where the magic of the place will guide your footsteps.

 


9. The Cíes Islands

The Cíes Islands, one of the archipelagos that together with the islands of Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada make up the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park.

Their wealth of plant and animal life, combined with spectacular landscapes, make these islands a major and valuable cultural and environmental asset.

Cíes Islands is nature in its purest state. The boat trip from either Vigo, Cangas or Baiona Baiona, all of which have scheduled catamaran sailings to the archipelago in high season, enables us to admire their imposing presence at the mouth of the Ría de Vigo. 

 


10. Santa Tegra

A Guarda is home to the Celtic hill fort and village of Santa Tegra, from where you’ll be able to enjoy “the best panoramic view of a Celtic hill fort in two countries“. Naturally enough, the views from here are unrivalled: your horizon is bounded only by Galicia, with the fishing town of A Guarda at its head, the mighty Atlantic Ocean and the neighbouring Portuguese coastline.

The view is even more impressive if we travel backwards in time: the inhabitants of this hill fort and village could enjoy it from their very dwellings. However, the site of this settlement wasn’t chosen for its views, but for more mundane reasons such as strategy and security, because from here they could monitor and control the sea traffic and the whole of the mouth of the River Miño.

 



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Spain's Best National Heritage Hotels - Paradores
30 September 2020

Before I go into the best national heritage Hotels of Spain, I thought it might be interesting to know a little background on this wonderful initiative. It was in 1910 that the government entrusted Marqués de la Vega Inclán the project of creating a hotel network, practically non-existent in the country at the time, which would provide accommodation for tourists and improve Spain’s international image.

In 1926, continuing this Project and from the office of the Royal Tourism Commission created in 1911, De la Vega Inclán impelled the construction of a hotel in the Gredos Mountains, which would open up the wonders of this landscape to tourism.

The idea excited King Alfonso XIII, who chose the location personally. Work began in August of this same year and was completed on the 9th of October 1928 with its inauguration by the King himself. This was to become the first establishment of the subsequent network of Paradores de España, the Parador de Gredos.

With this first establishment inaugurated, the ‘Board of Paradores and Inns of Spain’ was drawn up and efforts were focussed on perfecting the original idea and making use of chosen historical and artistic monuments and areas of great natural beauty to establish new Paradores.

In the favourable climate of the twenties, the results of the first administration and the imminent Latin American Exposition reinforced the project and inspired the construction of new Paradores, now in monumental buildings, such as those inaugurated in Oropesa (1930), Úbeda (1930), Ciudad Rodrigo (1931) and Mérida (1933), among others. At the same time, the first lodging houses that were being integrated into the network would also open to the public, such as Manzanares (1932), Bailén (1933) and Benicarló (1935).

With the passing of the years, Paradores continued to spread out over the entire country. This was also a period marked by the development of infrastructures such as roads, railways, airports, ports…

The Civil War, naturally, meant not just stagnation but a slump for tourism. Some of the infrastructures comprising the network were damaged or used as hospitals, but once the conflict was over, the idea was consolidated and a new impulse was produced with the restoration and reopening of the existing Paradores.

During the period following the war, Paradores were created with diverse ends, as in the case of the Parador de Andujar, as well as others whose objective was to promote the country’s tourist attractions. The conversion of the San Francisco de Granada Convent, located in the heart of the site of the Alhambra, one of today’s most attractive Paradores, took place during these years (1945). The same occurred in other tourism settings, such as Santillana del Mar (1946), Malaga, with the Parador de Gibralfaro (1948), and Pontevedra (1955).

Nevertheless, the greatest expansion was produced during the decade of the sixties, coinciding with the significant tourism development that the country experienced. During these years the network of Paradores went from 40 to 83 establishments. Among others, the following were opened: Córdoba (1960), Cañadas del Teide (1960), Jaén (1965), Guadalupe (1965), Nerja (1965), Aiguablava (1966), Ávila (1966), Olite (1966), El Saler (1966), Vielha (1966), Gijón (1967), Zafra (1968), Hondarribia (1968) and Toledo (1968).

The period of the Spanish transition brought about the change in the ownership of the General Management of Paradores, and more importantly, its administrative department. A broad restructuring was implemented, closing some obsolete installations or those very far of the traditional routes and as such producing heavy losses, and the operating criteria were revised in order to improve profitability. Over these years Paradores provided the setting for acts as important as the elaboration of the draft of the Constitution in the Parador de Gredos (1978), the signing of the draft of the Statute of Catalonia in the Parador de Vic (1978), and the Statute of Autonomy for Andalusia in Carmona (1980). And the inaugurations did not cease. Among them were some as outstanding as Sigüenza (1976), Carmona (1976), Cardona (1976), Tortosa (1976), Almagro (1977), Seu d’Urgell (1977) and Segovia (1979).

During the eighties, a number of hotels from the public chain Entursa became part of the Paradores network. Among them, establishments as emblematic as the Hostal de Reyes Católicos (Santiago), the Hostal de San Marcos (León) and the Hotel La Muralla (Ceuta). Both Santiago and León have maintained their five stars deluxe category throughout the years. At the same time Salamanca (1981), El Hierro (1981), Chinchón (1982), Trujillo (1984) and Cáceres (1989) were opened.

With the arrival of the nineties, Paradores experienced a fundamental change. On the 18th of January 1991 the corporation, ‘Paradores de Turismo de España, S.A.’ was established. The objective was to make the hotel chain a profitable company which depended exclusively on its own profits for the maintenance and operation of the network. At this time its activity consisted of the management of 85 establishments and two lodging houses located on the Spanish mainland, the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla.

Paradores has combined tradition with innovation and developed new strategic policies: a clear commitment to environmentally-friendly policies, a strong investment in the renovation of the network, the development of R&D initiatives, the implementation of new technologies and the promotion of quality as the main premise of the hotel service offered by the chain.

The thirty hotel beds with which Paradores started, with the inauguration of the first establishment in the Gredos Mountains in 1928, have now reached over 10,000 and the number of establishments has reached a total of 97. Many of these are located in historical buildings such as convents, monasteries, castles and palaces. The rest, often located in monumental settings or in the very heart of nature, exhibit a regional or modern architecture.

Currently, more than 3.500 professionals work for Paradores and the establishments have an average of 63 rooms, a size which allows for more personalised attention with a higher degree of quality in the services offered to guests.

With establishments in all of the autonomous communities (with the exception of the Balearic Islands) Paradores de Turismo is the leading hotel chain in cultural and nature tourism. As such, in addition to having establishments in nine cities declared World Heritage Sites, more than half of the Paradores in the network are found in monumental settings and many others allow people to lodge in national parks and the most interesting natural areas of the country.

A corporation with just one shareholder, the Spanish state, Paradores de Turismo is also an instrument of the government’s tourism policy, as well as a leading company in the Spanish tourism sector.

 

TOP 10  Paradores selected by travellers from around the world :

 

1. PARADOR DOS REIS CATÓLICOS – Santiago de Compostela  *****

Combining history, art and tradition, the goal of pilgrims and the emblem of St. James, the Hostal dos Reis Católicos, in the Plaza do Obradoiro, forms together with the cathedral one of the world’s most remarkable, and most visited, urban settings. The Hostal, which first saw life as a Royal Hospital in 1499 to house the many pilgrims arriving in Santiago, today still invites the traveller to enjoy this universal and fascinating city.
Considered the oldest hotel in the world, it is also one of the most luxurious and beautiful. It has four extremely beautiful cloisters, elegant public rooms, spectacular bedrooms and a luxurious dining room offering Galician style fish and meats and the classic apple pies and crème Brulee.

 

2. PARADOR SANTO ESTEVO – Ribeira Sacra  ****

This Benedictine monastery in the middle of the Ribeira Sacra, an area of outstanding natural beauty where the rivers Miño and Sil meet, is one of Galicia’s monastic centres and now a holiday highlight. The existence of the Monastery has been proven in the 10th century, although its origins appear to be in the 6th and 7th centuries. In the monastery, styles range from Romanesque to Baroque, with three remarkable cloisters (Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance). The building was declared a Historic and Artistic Monument in 1923.
The Hotel has a total of 77 rooms distributed around three cloisters of different styles and periods. The rooms are particularly interesting as they are all different, some with impressive views over the landscape and the valleys of the river Sil. The Hotel has a restaurant with terrace by the chestnut forest, a café with terrace in the entrance cloister, lounges and beautiful gardens.


3. PARADOR DE ALCALÁ DE HENARES – Madrid  ****

This newly opened hotel is located in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, only 26 km from the capital city and 20 km away from Barajas International Airport and IFEMA. It has 128 guestrooms. Parador de Alcalá de Henares is housed in a magnificent seventeenth-century building, the former Santo Tomás Dominican Convent and School. It is one of the city’s landmarks along with Hostería del Estudiante, in the former Minor School of San Jerónimo, founded by Cardinal Cisneros in 1510 and overlooking the beautiful Patio Trilingüe at the University of Alcalá de Henares. These monuments form a complex that was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Around the cloisters, at the Santo Tomás School-Convent, there are the restaurant, the bar, the breakfast room, the guests’ lounge, and the night bar. There is also a restaurant in Hostería del Estudiante, which serves a wide range of courses, including Cervantine food and the well-known traditional “costradas”. The Parador has a swimming pool, which is open only in the summer. All in all, it is a wise combination of tradition and avant-garde, creating a space where you can relax or hold successful business meetings in a comfortable place living up to the high-quality standards of Paradores. 

 

4. PARADOR DE OROPESA – Costa Azahar  ****

The stately home of the Álvarez de Toledo, Counts of Oropesa, once the home of soldiers, clergy and noblemen, enjoys exceptional views of the Sierra de Gredos. The historic value of the Torre del Homenaje, a tower attached to the Parador, the columns of the courtyard, and the pool with outstanding views over the plains of Campo Arañuelo, make up a very attractive hotel.
The interior is dominated by lamps, chests and curtains, with large, bright rooms, lounges and workspaces. Game and seasonal produce are features of Oropesa, where the cookery of Toledo offers lamb, roast kid and other specialities such as Migas del Arañuelo, a bread-based dish, and confit of partridge.

 

5. PARADOR  AIGUABLAVA -  Costa Brava ****

The Parador de Aiguablava is situated in the unique Punta D'es Muts enclave, surrounded by pine trees and overlooking the sea. Here guests can enjoy beautiful beaches, coves and unspoilt landscapes. It is an ideal location for sports and outdoor activities, as well as relaxing walks through picturesque green settings.
Under the distinctive light of the Mediterranean, the hotel provides its guests with a high level of comfort and a range of services both for individual guests and business conferences. There is a gym, swimming pool and sauna, as well as rooms with spectacular views overlooking the sea.
Costal influence is also reflected in the ‘ampurdanesa’ cuisine, whose typical dishes include sea urchins, baked snails and chicken and lobster stew. During the summer, dishes can be sampled on the beach alongside the restaurant.
The Parador has its own restaurant, ‘Mar i Vent’ which is separate from the hotel located in the neighbouring cove overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

 

6.PARADOR DE CANGAS DE ONÍS – Picos de Europa ****

Tradition has it that it was built by Rey Alfonso I, ‘The Catholic’, on February 21st 746, with excavations carried out before conversion work started on the building for the Parador supporting the idea. The present monastery was founded on the site and run by the Order of San Benito until the 1835 sale of Church lands. Two rooms displaying archaeological remains found during refurbishment work, especially ceramics, bear witness to its distant past.
The Monastery was declared a National Monument in 1907 with a new wing added using matching building materials to match the original. Set on the green banks of the River Sella, this jewel is reflected in the waters below.
The magnificent Picos de Europa setting frames the backdrop. The modern and comfortable facilities at the Hotel make it the ideal spot to discover the wondrous Asturian landscape, enjoy local colour at celebrations and the ancestral folklore, as well as savour the best most genuine dishes from the rich local cuisine.

 

7. PARADOR DE CARDONA – Catalunya ****

The Hotel is located on a headland in a 9th century fortified enclosure, alongside the 11th century Minyona tower and an 11th-century church with characteristic features from the surrounding Catalan Romanesque. Its location provides exceptional panoramic views over the city and the fertile lands bathed by the River Cardoner.
Some of the hotel rooms have charming canopy beds. Pits, towers, walls and gothic features come together with predominantly comfortable décor and Catalan-inspired mediaeval furnishings.
Catalan cuisine is served in the dining room including aubergine terrine with pig’s trotters, selections of sausages and especially barbecue dishes with the braised lamb shoulder a highlight.

 

8. PARADOR DE PLASENCIA – Caceres ****

The hotel is in the former convent of Sto. Domingo, founded by the Zúñiga family in the mid 15th century, in the Gothic style inside and in part of the exterior.
Strategically located in the historic centre of Plasencia, this is the ideal place to explore the architectural beauty of this singular city and the beautiful landscape around it.

 

9. PARADOR DE CACERES – Caceres ****

The Parador de Cáceres represents the harmonious union of the palaces of the marquises of Torreorgaz and the so-called Ovando Mogollón, Perero y Paredes House, both dating from the 14th century.
The interior of the building boasts all the elegance, quality and comfort of a historic structure adapted to suit the needs of today's guests, especially the restaurant and outdoor areas, café and guest lounge. This last room is a particularly pleasant spot to meet and chat.
 In short, the renovated Parador de Cáceres will set the standard for tourism and gastronomy in the region as both a tourist location and a venue for celebrations and events.

 

10. PARADOR DE NERJA – Málaga ****

The Hotel is on a cliff overlooking the sea, in an ideal spot to enjoy the beach, which is reached by a singular lift; the coastline and the lovely natural landscape of the area. The entrance to the building boasts a splendid garden whose greenery contrasts with the blue of the pool.
The spacious, light-filled interiors are comfortably furnished with elegant decorative details. All the rooms in the hotel have large terraces looking onto the sea (except basic rooms). The upper rooms also enjoy spectacular views over the Mediterranean and the mountains of the Sierra Almijara, and the beautiful cliffs of this rustic Málaga coast.



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Great escapes in times of Covid
25 September 2020

Treehouses, transparent bubble-shaped rooms to watch the stars or a fancy caravan, staying in these very original hotels in Spain will be a truly unforgettable experience and the perfect way to get away from it all an isolate during these difficult times. From North to South, here are a few of the most interesting and original hotels that will make every night feel special and help you discover Spain like never before and stay safe in times of Covid!

 

1. Cabanes als arbre, Sant Hilari Sacalm, Girona

http://www.cabanesalsarbres.com/es

If you have ever dreamed about being like Robinson Crusoe, then stay in this treehouse, near the Montseny Mountain, in Catalonia. In this very privileged area, you can view the world from above.


2. Airstream, Alzozaina, Málaga

https://www.glampingairstream.com

In the quaint white-washed village of Alozaina, in Málaga, you can stay in an authentic classic American caravan that is as luxurious as a 5-star hotel. This tiny vehicle is perfect for a romantic getaway.


3. Casa de laila, Alhaurín el Grande, Málaga

http://www.casadelaila.es

Casa de Laila takes rural tourism and glamping (“glamorous camping”) to a new level. If you want to spend the night in a tent without compromising on comfort, this pretty corner of Alhaurín el Grande is perfect.

 

4. Hotel Consolación, Monroy, Teruel

http://www.consolacion.com.es

Located in the beautiful Matarraña region, Hotel Consolación is one of the most special hotels in Spain. It merges the tradition of an old baroque hermitage with ultramodern and minimalistic cubes on top of a hill. It’s so cool!

 

5. Mil Estrelles, Borgonyà, Girona

http://www.milestrelles.com

Very close to the famous Banyoles Lake it is possible to stay inside a transparent bubble, with the stars as your ceiling. This hotel’s round rooms are named after stars and is as romantic as it is magical.

 

6. Hotel Plaza de Toros de Almadén, Almadén, Ciudad Real

http://almaden.es/turismo/alojamientos/116-hotel-plaza-de-toros.html

There is surely nothing more typically Spanish than a bullring that has now been converted into a hotel. Located in Almadén, it has been transformed into an amazing place where every aspect of its design has been carefully thought-out, for example you can have breakfast overlooking the arena.

 

7. Hotel Les Cols Pavellons, Olot, Girona

http://www.lescolspavellons.com/

Les Cols, in the middle of the pretty Garrotxa area, is more than just a hotel: it is a sensorial and very Zen experience. There are glass rooms, volcanic earth at your feet, lava gardens and you can even sleep under the stars.

 

8. Otro Mundo, Elche de la Sierra, Castilla-La Mancha 

http://www.otro-mundo.com

In the Sierra de Segura Mountains, in Castilla-La Mancha, there are a few white Eco domes that have everything you could possibly need. Otro Mundo is a hotel where sustainability really matters, as well as comfort. It is a truly other-worldly experience.

 

 

 



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Spain's Best Water Parks
20 August 2020

Many of us will have surely enjoyed all or nearly all of the summer pleasures by now - COVID permitting. Summer holidays and the beach go together like a bucket and spade, sure, but there are many more ways to get wet and have fun in Spain. Although the beach is undoubtedly one of the best places for cooling off, another great idea is to take your family, grandchildren or some friends to a water park where children will have an awesome time and adults will get to feel like kids again. Here are some of the best water parks in Spain and the first two in the ranking boast worldwide recognition.

 

1. SIAM PARK - TENERIFE

Siam Park, the water kingdom opened its doors in 2008 as the most spectacular theme park with water attractions in Europe and many would consider it the best park in the world.

Siam Park adds a whole new dimension to the leisure offering in the Canary Islands and is located in Adeje, south of Tenerife. Siam Park will amaze everyone with its diverse attractions and exotic settings.

The park covers 185,000m2 of natural landscapes and exquisite oriental design make it a major new development in tourism, where all the family will experience adventure, excitement and plenty of adrenalin.

Every attraction offers a unique experience and combines with the mystery of the ancient kingdom of Thailand, to transport visitors into a world of excitement and magic. 

Siam Park offers exclusive facilities for every occasion; events, birthdays, conventions and concerts.  It also has its own surf school where both adults and children can learn to surf. 

 

2. AQUALANDIA - BENIDORM

Aqualandia in Benidorm, the first water park built in Spain, opened in 1985. Since then it has been not only one of the largest water parks in the world, but also ranks among those which offer the most attractions and facilities as well as outstanding customer service.

Aqualandia is an extensive natural area where you can enjoy a wide variety of water activities and many other amenities. It covers an area of 150,000 square metres and has 50,000 square metres of free parking.
With their great range of record-breaking water rides, splash pools and other attractions there’s something for everyone to enjoy a fun day out.

 

3. AQUOPOLIS - MADRID (7 parks around Spain)

Of course, there are no beaches in the Spanish capital but you don’t need a beach to cool off and forget about the almost unbearable summer heat. Aquopólis is opening a new attraction this summer 2014. Waikiki Jungle, a gigantic, semi-covered water slide for an adventure in pairs on the new-style rubber rings. For a spot of relaxation before returning to the action, there’s nothing like renting one of the cabins in the VIP area. This park forms part of the Parques Reunidos programme, meaning that annual pass holders can enjoy Aquópolis throughout the summer season.

 

4. AQUATROPIC - ALMUÑECAR

Located in Almuñecar, Aquatropic water park was opened over 20 years ago, being a reference for entertainment experience on the Costa Tropical. Year after year since opening, they have incorporated new attractions suiting to the needs of the visitors, using 35,000 m² of the park.

It offers multiple water attractions such as Tropical Trails, Lake Cascade, the Wave Pool, the Zig-zag, the Kamikaze, the Hidrotubo, the Black Hole, the Children’s pool and more. As well the parkland which is surrounded by extensive vegetation to create shadows and spaces designed for Pic-Nic, to make your visit more enjoyable. The park is an environmental benchmark as it’s the only saltwater water park in Spain.

 

5. AQUALAND - MALLORCA

It is worth tearing yourself away from the wonderful bays of Majorca for a day to visit Aqualand. Of course, relaxation won’t be the reason because nobody goes there to sunbathe; they go to experience the adrenaline rush brought on by its 17 attractions for both the young and not-so-young. However, if you do want to chill out for a while, this can also be done in the water in either the jacuzzi or on the Congo River - a relaxing journey on which you wouldn’t be the first to close your eyes and let yourself be carried away by the current. 

 

6. COSTA CARIBE AQUATIC PARK - TARRAGONA

Installed in the heart of the Costa Daurada this amazing water park will plunge you into a refreshing trip that will transport you to paradise in an aquatic adventure. At the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park of Port Aventura, you can practice rafting, go down trepid slides or relax on a lounger indulging yourself with a mixture of the sound of the waves that reach the sand and the tasty reggae rhythm that runs through every corner of this amazing water park. 

During its more than 50,000 square meters you can see its more than 4,300 tropical plants that are all carefully looked after to the smallest detail to make your visit an unforgettable experience in PortAventura. 

 

7. AQUARAMA - BENICASSIM

Just 45 minutes from Valencia, Aquarama water park with over 45,000 square meters is packed full of fun for all of the family. There are some amazing slides from the daring slides such as “The Devil’s Drop” which holds the record as the highest slide in all of Europe with a height of 30 meters with the slide angling in at 62 degrees . The Space shot, which is the only one in Spain, the Whirlpool and more and more rides…. For those who like to relax a bit more, there are pools, jacuzzis and wave pools. There is also The Pirates Cave and the Mini Dunes areas which are for the exclusive use of the younger ones of the family.

 

8. WATER WORLD / AQUADIVER - LLORET DE MAR - PLATJA D'ARO

Here you are entering a world of experiences of two of the finest water parks imaginable, Aquadiver in Platja d’Aro and Water World in Lloret de Mar. In the two water parks on the Costa Brava, you can enjoy various rides, such as wave pools, rapid rivers, kamikaze…. A set of attractions for children and adults public. Aquadiver water parks in Platja d'Aro and Waterworld in Lloret de Mar is a perfect place to spend unforgettable days with family and friends. You'll find the best services in the same water park, for your comfort and experience, such as restaurants, pancake houses, picnic areas and pine forests, where they can relax and enjoy a wonderful environment.


9. AQUA-CENTER - MENORCA

Aqua Center Los Delfines is in Ciutadella, Menorca. Although it only has 12.500 m², it is the only park on the island but offers a great day out for the whole family with the most modern water attractions:  Black Hole (2-seater float), Adventure River (Single seater float with 91,5m run), Giant Slides, Water Tunnels, Children's Water Shuttles, Kamikaze, Jacuzzi and so on.


10. PARQUE ACUATICO MIJAS - FUENGIROLA, MIJAS

Park Aquatico Mijas is located in Fuengirola, Mijas, Costa del Sol. The park offers great attractions such as water rides for all ages, shows, beach areas, wave pool, and Spa treatments.



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Med Diet - Top 10 foods that are good for high blood pressure
13 August 2020

High blood pressure is a serious health condition that can contribute to heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, kidney disease, and other problems. High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a common medical problem, especially among diabetics.

While there are many ways to rein in high blood pressure, one of the simplest and best methods is to eat a good diet. Here are ten foods found to be especially effective in lowering blood pressure in clinical research.

1. Bananas
Foods high in potassium, such as bananas, help to lower blood pressure. This is because an excessive salt intake is one of the leading factors in hypertension, and potassium helps to naturally regulate salt levels in the body. Plus, bananas are an easy-to-eat natural snack.

2. Beans
Beans of all sorts can reduce blood pressure. Besides their potassium content, beans have lots of heart-healthy fiber. A healthy heart can better maintain good blood pressure. Beans are also high in protein, which has been connected to low blood pressure in research.

3. Spinach
This dark, leafy green is great for your health in general, and will specifically help blood pressure because of the potassium, magnesium, and folate found in the vegetable. Like potassium, folate and magnesium are valuable for keeping blood pressure down.

4. Blueberries
An easy natural snack, blueberries provide your body with flavonoids, a group of natural compounds shown to help prevent hypertension by lowering blood pressure levels.

5. Chocolate
You wouldn’t think that a food as tasty as chocolate could have any positive health benefits, but chocolate does lower blood pressure. Research has discovered that the cacao found in chocolate contains compounds that limit blood pressure levels by dilating blood vessels. Opt for dark chocolate, which has more cacao.

6. Beets
The juice of this root holds nitrates that have been found to quickly lower blood pressure among hypertension patients. Once ingested, nitrates become nitric oxide, a gas that helps blood vessels stay dilated by relaxing their smooth muscle.

7. Potatoes
The minerals potassium and magnesium are found in abundance in potatoes, so eating this food will put a damper on your high blood pressure. Potatoes also contain nitrates. Avoid loading your potatoes with large amounts of salty butter or sour cream, or frying them in unhealthy seed oils.

8. Milk
Products with lots of calcium are good for high blood pressure, making milk a great option for those with hypertension. Try drinking skim milk, though, since milk rich in fat will exacerbate blood pressure problems.

9. Olive Oil
Daily consumption of at least two tablespoons of phenol-rich extra virgin olive oil can be effective in lowering blood pressure. In one study, 35 per cent of the participants were able to discontinue their hypertensive medications after consuming EVOO for six months.

10. Oatmeal
A high-fibre diet protects from hypertension, making oatmeal a good choice. Since fibre is digested slowly, blood sugar levels are kept in check, which in turn reduces blood pressure. Plus, oatmeal has very little fat and sodium.


Hypertension is sometimes termed a ‘silent killer’ because the malady has no obvious symptoms. Considering how common the condition is, check with your doctor and consider making changes to incorporate more of these heart-healthy foods in your diet.

 

[source OOT]



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Selection of 10 'Top' Beaches Around Spain
17 July 2020

Spain's coastline is peppered with spectacular beaches so I have refrained from my usual title of Top 10... to introduce 10 'top' beaches from the country. All are well worth a visit!

 

1. Es Talaier (Ciudadela, Menorca) 


After a 15-minute walk from Son Saura, everything conspires to push the traveller into this voluptuous pool of translucent waters that shine under the bright sun. Its pine groves are seductive like snake’s eyes, and the beach is free of tourist boats.

 

2. Cala Fonda, Waikiki (Tarragona) 


The proximity of a petrochemical compound only underscores the value of this Mediterranean relic. It is necessary to park at the restaurant Mirall d’Estiu, on Larga beach, and walk for two kilometers. The pine groves then give way to an uncomfortable final stretch before the actual beach is reached. Some walk about in the nude, others go for a swim. Everyone talks wonders about this place.

 

3. Escorxada and Fustam (Es Migjorn Gran, Menorca) 


Water taxis were created for those who dislike walking. Taximar (www.menorcataximar.com), based in Cala Galdana, organizes trips to the remote coves of Escorxada and Fustam, with stops at Trebalúger and a couple of sea caves. The parasol-and-cooler-carrying traveler can then choose a beach to enjoy for the next five hours, until pick-up time. The cost of the service is €25.

 

4. La Granadella (Xàbia, Alicante) 


There is nothing quite like enjoying the majestic Mediterranean early in the morning outside high season, and to practice your swimming strokes as you listen to the rhythmic sound of the pebbles being swept by the waves. Sur restaurant (www.restaurantesur.com) has its own boat and vegetable garden.

 

5. Melide (Cangas de Morrazo, Pontevedra)  


To say Melide is to evoke the Cíes islands: there are only three kilometers separating Melide from the national park, and no need to stand in line at the ship docks. Both share a creamy-colored sand, freezing waters and loads of pine trees. Its remote location ensures that the masses stay away. A foot trail begins in Donón and ends in Punta Subrido, home to Pedro Piñeiro’s beach bar.

 

6. Playazo de Rodalquilar (Níjar, Almería) 


Located inside Cabo de Gata, this is a crowded beach (access is easy) but its sand is a joy to behold, and it is set against a cliff of such a pale yellow as to appear white. It was the filming location for the 2015 movie ‘Lejos del mar’ (or, Far from the sea), by Imanol Uribe. The Los Patios hotel is nearby (www.lospatios.net). It is a good idea to walk the 1.4 kilometer trail from San Ramón castle to Cuervo cove.

 

7. Güí-Güí (La Aldea de San Nicolás, Gran Canaria) 


This is the beach at the end of the (Canary Islands) world. The two-and-a-half hour mountain trek from Tasartico is worth it (remember to bring at least two liters of water per trekker). Anyone who makes it to these two strips of sand with views on Mount Teide should be eligible for a certificate of achievement.

 

8. Aigua Xelida (Palafrugell, Girona) 

The pungent smell of the pine grove, its narrow shape, the fact that the nearby residential estate is nearly unnoticeable... Everything conspires to make us disconnect from the outside world. A plaque on the fisherman’s shack reminds visitors about the times when the writer Josep Pla spent time here, drawing inspiration from the coastline and the wind to write about a legendary, extinct Costa Brava that we may nevertheless explore in kayaks (www.kayakingcostabrava.com) from the homebase of Tamariu.

 

9.Xarraca (Sant Joan, Ibiza) 

This cove in northern Ibiza is located next to the road, and its waters are of an arresting turquoise color. This is a pebble beach, meaning that it is good for snorkeling and paddle boats. Rising up from the water near the shore is Penya Grossa, a rock that doubles as a diving board, and the nearby Penya Petita, a small reef where swimmers stop for a break.

 

10. Barayo (Valdés / Navia, Asturias) 


Anyone approaching Barayo from Navia will be treated to one of the parking lots with the most sublime views on the Cantabrian coast: salt flats, marshes, dunes, tall grass and cane fields, pine trees and eucalyptus on a cliff.



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Spain's Top 10: Freshwater Oases
03 July 2020

When it comes to Spain everyone seems to picture a sandy beach on some coastal resort but in fact, I have to say that I have had some of my greatest moments in Spain, inland at many of the country's idyllic freshwater spots. Lagunas de Ruidera was a wonderful discovery many years back. What is so fantastic about these places is the crystalline freshwater, many of them are actually born from natural springs. The water is incredibly refreshing as opposed to the hot bath water which can be found on the Mediterranean coast during the summer.

So if you fancy a change, this is a wonderful alternative and you probably won't have to fight to find a spot to lay down your towel! The word oasis comes to mind when I see them as in many occasions all that can be seen around them is arid land and dry pine forests. Some of these places also allow water sports and freshwater fishing so also a great opportunity to keep yourself busy.

 

These are 10 of the top places around the country, naturally, there are so many, so feel free to post a comment if you know of any more wonderful freshwater oases...

 

1. Lagunas de Ruidera (Ciudad Real)

 


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2. Lago de Sanabria (Zamora)

 

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3. Los Pilones (Cáceres)

 


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4. Embalse de Orellana (Badajoz)

 


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5. Las Fuentes del Algar (Alicante)

 


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6. Pantano de San Juan (Madrid)

 

 


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7. Lago de Bolarque (Almonacid de Zorita, Guadalajara)


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8. Playa de Zahara de la Sierra (Cádiz)

 


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9. El Parrizal de Beceite - Teruel

 


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10. Las Presillas (Rascafría- Madrid)

 


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The Best Beaches along the Coast of Valencia-Alicante
26 June 2020

Lying on the sand and enjoying the sun, diving into the refreshing waters of the Mediterranean, playing volleyball, taking a pedal boat out to sea, working out in one of the fitness areas, eating an ice-cream or taking a sailing course are just some of the activities you can enjoy on Valencia's endless beaches. Admittedly, Andalucia and Murcia has some wonderful spots but some of my favourites are to be found in the Valencian Community. Playa La Granadella tops the list because it is certainly my favourite in the region as I am not really a fan of sand and Granadella is a shingle beach. But the rest of the list is in no real order. So I hope this helps to show you around a little and maybe even gives you ideas for alternative places to visit when on holiday along the coast of Valencia.

 

1. Playa de la Granadella de Jávea (Alicante)

 


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2. Playa Norte de Gandia (Valencia)


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3. Playa de Levante de Benidorm (Alicante)


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4. Playa del Portet de Moraira-Teulada (Alicante)


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5. Playa Norte de Peñíscola (Castellón)


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6. Playa de Cala del Penyal de Calpe (Alicante)


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7. Playa de El Russo de Peñíscola (Castellón)

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8. Playa de Canet d´En Berenguer (Valencia)


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9. Playa de Els Terrers de Benicàssim (Castellón)


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10. Playa de la Concha de Oropesa del Mar (Castellón)


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Fancy a Long Post-Quarantine Walk? Here are 10 suggestions...
19 June 2020

After three months of quarantine who doesn't feel like a long walk? Have you been dreaming of crossing medieval bridges, Roman roads, magical valleys, walking along stone pathways bordering rivers, seeing castles or walking through vineyards? That’s no problem, Spain offers all this and much more. You don’t need to be a sports expert, hiking doesn’t require very much preparation and you can always choose from the various routes (Long Distance, Short Distance, Local Paths, Urban Paths, Green Ways…) and difficulties available. Here are 10 of the best walking routes in Spain. Clearly this is not definitive as the list is endless but its a start...

 

1. Ruta del Cares : Poncebos to  Cain (Asturias y León)

 

 

It is without a doubt the best known of all the routes in Picos de Europa. With a good pair of shoes and a light backpack, this route can be walked without any problem from May through to October. However, It is recommended not if possible, to avoid the route during the month of August to the large crowds that build up. 

Once parked at the beginning of the awl, you will then pass through a tunnel made of rock and take the path that leads off to the right. This is definitely the "hardest" part of the trail as it climbs a gentle slope to the top of the mountain. Once there, a gentle descent begins and then you reach the Cares Gorge. The way to Cain is easy to follow as it is very well marked and lined with precipices. After passing a series of bridges you will reach some caves carved out of rock and before you know it you will be in Cain (2h 30 m. from Poncebos). The timing is just an estimate as you will be passing some of the most beautiful views along the way, some will take more time to soak it all in. Once in Cain turn around and return along the same route.

 

2. Río Borosa (Andalucía)

This hiking route is deservedly the most popular in the Natural Park of Sierras de Cazorla, Segura and LasViñas (Jaén), which also means there's a good possibility of overcrowding on popular dates. The swift waters of the river Borosa, the rocks in the riverbed and the riverbank vegetation, is one of the most spectacular river scenes in southern Spain. 

 

3. Monasterio de Piedra (Aragón)

Monasterio de Piedra Park is one of the most beautiful places in the province of Zaragoza. It offers a spectacular route where water rises in the form of stepped waterfalls and seeps through untold caves. 
It is an ideal place to enjoy nature and it is a family-friendly environment. You can eat outdoors, there are tables and plenty of shade it also offers a restaurant and accommodation. Dogs on leads can enter the park, except in the area of birds of prey and the visit around the 12th century Cistercian monastery.

 

4. Ruta de las Médulas (Castilla y León)

The route of Las Medulas in Bierzo (León) is an amazing route that lets us see landscapes of extraordinary beauty. Along the route, you will get to see Cornatel Castle, which is located on a limestone cliff, Lake Carucedo and eventually you will reach Las Medulas, a technological whorl of art excavated by the Romans in their search for gold. This landscape has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and cherished sites of Spain. 


5. Senda del oso (Asturias)

 

La Senda del Oso runs along the Trubia River valley, it is the second most popular active leisure routes in Asturias, after the universal Ruta del Cares (Nº1 in the list), and the only one that can compete in the number of visitors to the divine gorge of the Picos de Europa. The river is born from the springs in El Puerto de la Ventana, a natural border with the Leonese region of Bahia, and descends between beech trees and limestone boulders to create a fabulous gorge where there is hardly any room for the river, the road and the route of the popular Senda del Oso is one of the most exciting initiatives available for active leisure in the area.
 

6. Las Islas Cíes (Galicia)

The islands of Ciés can be reached only by sea, by private boat or ferries: Cangas-Cies or Vigo-Baiona-Cies. Once on the island, there are several hiking trails. All are well marked and in good condition. If you wish to be accompanied by experts, The National Park offers guides-interpreters specialised in different guided tours, which are free but have a maximum number of participants per route, which is normally between 10 and 15 depending on the route.


7. Laguna Grande de Gredos (Castilla y León)

 

A mythical road linking the Platform (parking) to the Laguna Grande in the Circo de Gredos. It is recommended that you wear high boots because of the cobbled and loose rock path. It is easy to see mountain goats, especially at sunset, when they come down to the river to drink.


8 . AigüesTortes y Lago San Mauricio (Cataluña)

 

 A truly breathtaking route through pine forests surrounded by the Pyrenean peaks, which ends in an impressive high mountain lake. The route begins in the car park called Prat de Pierró and it has been prepared so literally it can be walked by anybody.


9. Por el Valle del Jerte (Extremadura)

 

There is a no better alternative to enjoying nature tourism than the hiking network of the Valle del Jerte. Discovering the "cherry" Valley is an incomparable experience, especially when the trees are in blossom.

Hiking in the Valley of Jerte is a treat for all ages and physical conditions, different paths are classified into levels of difficulty and length so that every visitor chooses the one that best suits their skills and preferences. The MIDE (Method of Excursion Information) is a system that has been created so that hikers can assess the technical aspects and physical demands of the trails. This system also classifies the difficulty of the route numbering them from 1 to 5. Hiking routes through El Valle del Jerte all have this system to provide quality information to hikers.

 

10. Ruta de los Cahorros (Andalucía)

Monachil is a town that is located just 8 kilometres to the southeast of Granada, in the south-central part of the region of the Vega of Granada. This is where we find Los Cahorros, an amazing area ideal for hiking or rock climbing. 

It is incredible that this place is just a 15-minute drive from the Alhambra. In literally fifteen minutes you can be in an entirely different place, where peace and tranquillity triumph over the traffic of the city. This makes it a good choice for a getaway from Granada since you can leave in the morning, spend the whole day there and return to the city by night time.



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The Basque Country in 10 stops
08 April 2020

The sea and mountain, an internationally recognized cuisine, and an ancestral culture that continues to exist today, all make the Basque Country an attractive destination for all types of people. On each side of the border, we find small, fishing villages and innumerable cliffs that remind us that a short trip is not enough to enjoy this land. At any rate, any trip along the coast must include these essential stops. So if one trip is not enough time for you, returning isn't a bad idea.

 

Sopelana (Bizkaia)

 

As one of the surf meccas and the closest to Bilbao, Sopelana is commonly visited by water sports enthusiasts and also by paragliders thanks to the cliffs that hug its beaches. Apart from enjoying the sun and the beaches, the town is also part of the Iron Belt: a tourist route along which we can explore the remains of military fortifications in the area that have been recently restored.

 

Bermeo (Bizkaia)

A quintessential fishing village that is also the perfect location to explore some of the greatest treasures of the Basque coast which are practically a requirement to visit while in the region: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and the Urdaibai biosphere reserve. It is essential to eat a good marmitako, a traditional tuna pot, in one of the port taverns.
        

Lekeitio (Bizkaia)

We cannot overlook Lekeitio as another noteworthy fishing village since it has the oldest txakoli wine press in the Basque Country. Moreover, this village has one of the most famous, rowboat sports clubs. A spectacular port with a mountainous backdrop.
        

Ondarroa (Bizkaia)

Almost on the border of Gipuzkoa, Ondarroa's outstanding features are its historic medieval centre and its seafaring flavour. In fact, in the port, we can learn about the fishing cycle, from the fishes´ arrival onto the boats to where their trip finishes on our plates. Ondarroa means "mouth of sand" since it is built on the stretch of land formed by the river Artibai. For this reason, the town has multiple bridges in spite of being rather small
        

Zumaia (Gipuzkoa)

 

Apart from having been the setting for one of the largest blockbusters of our cinema, this community will amaze us with its flysch, rocky, sedimentary formations in the sea that create an otherworldly landscape. From here we can visit Getaria, the birthplace of the famous sailor Juan Sebastián Elkano.
        

Pasai Donibane (Gipuzkoa)

As we leave behind Donostia-San Sebastián and before reaching France, we find Pasai Donibane, a town that is unknown to tourists but has hidden treasures such as its main plaza where colourful, traditional Basque buildings seem to crowd together for a picture. A secret: the poet Víctor Hugo spent several days here and we can visit the house where he stayed, which has now been converted into a museum.
        

Hondarribia (Gipuzkoa)

[photo courtesy of Hondarribia Travel Guide http://www.euskoguide.com/places-basque-country/spain/hondarribia-tourism/ ]

The last stop before crossing the border, Hondarribia receives visitors with a very extensive cultural and tourist experience for a rather small town. Perhaps it is because of this that once we visit, we are already planning our return. From water sports to golf to enjoying a reinvented, traditional cuisine.
        

San Juan de Luz (Francia)

A tranquil, crescent-shaped bay where we can find a fine sand beach. It's not strange that this has been one of the summer destinations chosen by many tourists for centuries. Although we are in France, it seems as if we have not left the Basque Country thanks to the vibrantly coloured, traditional Basque houses.  An area which, in the 17th century, drew the attention of pirates.
        

Bayona (Francia)

This town celebrates its festival in full San Fermín style, including the traditional red and white dress. However, this is not the only tradition that it shares with the south of the Pyrenees: the cuisine is so similar to what we find in Gipuzkoa or Biscay that will continue to delight us. And of course, we cannot forget their famous chocolate!
        

Biarritz (Francia)

From international surfers to the most distinguished bourgeoisie of the 19th century, everyone who visits Biarritz falls in love with this small, resort city. As the years go by, all kinds of tourists continue to live here in perfect harmony. And the city caters to all of them. This is why it is perfect to stroll between its mansions and relax while lying out in the sun.



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