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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 :-)

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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Madrid's Paseo del Arte
20 March 2020

Many people visit Madrid and are unaware of how rich in culture one particular area of the city is. This area, known in English as the 'Art Walk' or ‘Paseo del Arte’ in Spanish, boasts art and beauty as you’ll see nowhere else in the world. Along a stretch of just over one kilometre, you’ll find the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Reina Sofía Museum, as well as a number of other institutions and buildings which are well worth visiting. Few places on the planet offer such as variety of art and culture in such a small place. Here are the top 10 places to visit on Madrid's Art Walk

 

1. Prado Museum

Paseo del Prado, s/n

The Prado Museum is the crown jewel of one of the capital’s most visited tourist itineraries: the Paseo del Arte (Art Walk). Its walls are lined with masterpieces from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish schools, including Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May, 1808. Its collection comprises 8,600 paintings and over 700 sculptures, so we recommend you decide what you want to see before stepping into the museum.

 


2.Thyssen-Bornemisza Museu
Paseo del Prado, 8

Located on the Art Walk, this museum’s collection traces the history of European painting from the Middle Ages through to the late 20th century.
Given the wealth and variety of its treasures, comprising more than a thousand works of art, you should start your visit in the section that most interests you. Italian primitives, the German Renaissance, 19th century American art, Impressionism, German Expressionism and Russian Constructivism are the most widely represented schools and movements in the museum.  

 

 

3.Reina Sofia Museum
Calle Santa Isabel, 52

Located on the Art Walk, the Reina Sofía houses works by Dalí, Miró and Juan Gris as well as Picasso’s masterpiece: Guernica.
This passionate journey along the history of Spanish contemporary art is divided into three collections: ‘The Irruption of the 20th Century. Utopia and Conflict (1900-1945)’; ‘Is the War Over? Art in a Divided World (1945-1968)’ and ‘From Revolt to Postmodernity (1962-1982)’. The star piece of the museum is Guernica, one of Picasso’s most famous paintings. Exhibited by the Republican Government at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1937, this mural depicts the pain suffered by the victims of the bombing of the Spanish city of Guernica on 27 April, 1937.

 


4.National Archaeological Museum
Calle Serrano, 13

The National Archaeological Museum (MAN), which houses one of the world's most important antique collections, has just reopened after a comprehensive remodelling process that lasted for six years. Comprising implements and works of art from Mediterranean cultures, its exhibits span from prehistory to the 19th century.

 

 

5.Casa de América
Plaza de la Cibeles, 2

Casa de América is one of the most active cultural institutions of our city. With a view to fostering contact between the Latin-American peoples and Spain, it organises all kinds of cultural activities (exhibitions, lectures, film and literary cycles, etc.).
Its premises, the Palacio de Linares in the Art Walk, are a real jewel which must be visited. The limestone building, with its clean lines, the work of Carlos Colubí, Adolf Ombrecht and Manuel Aníbal Álvarez, houses an interior rich in furniture, lamps and bronzes from Paris, crystal from Antwerp, carpets from the Royal Tapestry Factory and a choice collection of paintings by artists of the stature of Francisco Pradilla, Manuel Domínguez and Alejandro Ferrant.

 


 

6.Naval Museum
Paseo Prado, 5

The origin of the Naval Museum goes back to September 28th 1792, thanks to an initiative of Antonio de Valdés y Fernández Bazán, Navy Secretary of King Carlos IV. After multiple vicissitudes, the current Museum reopened in October 1932 in the current location of the old Navy Ministry, currently the Spanish Army Headquarters, located in the Art Walk.

 

7.National Museum of Decorative Arts
Calle Montalbán, 12

Located between the Art Walk and Retiro,  this museum – created in 1912 - was intended to be a place for the education of artisans, craftsmen, artists and connoisseurs of the industrial arts, following the inspiration of other museums of the same type, such as the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

 

8.Royal Botanic Gardens
Plaza Murillo, 2

Declared an Artistic Garden in 1942, its collections include an outstanding herbarium with more than a million entries, the library and the archive - with nearly 10,000 drawings - as well as the exhibition of 5,000 species of live plants.

 

9.Royal Observatory of Madrid
Calle Alfonso XII, 3

The Royal Observatory of Madrid was commissioned by Charles III at the suggestion of Jorge Juan. The construction of the main building, designed by Juan de Villanueva, began in 1790 on a small hill situated beside the present day Retiro Park. At the same time the astronomer W. Herschel was commissioned to build a 60 cm diameter reflecting telescope. 

10.Biblioteca Nacional
Paseo Recoletos, 20 - 22

This museum, whose aim is to promote the importance of books throughout history, comprises eight rooms. As well as conserving original manuscripts, the library allows visitors to learn about the work of librarians and reveals the secrets of Miguel de Cervantes. The National Library aims to contribute to the city’s culture by offering public educational activities which are difficult to find in standard museum programmes.



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Spain's Top 10 Landscapes
13 March 2020

Spain has one of the most varied landscapes in Europe, if not the most. It is peppered with spectaular geological wonders, many of which have been included in the UNESCO European Geopark Network. All landscapes included in this register must be of scientific, esthetic or educational significance. Of course, there are many more geological 'maravillas' and maybe with time, I will extend the list, but here are 10 of the most important...

 

 

1. Sobrarbe, in the Aragonese province of Huesca, is home to some of the most striking landscapes in the entire Pyrenees, from the calcareous summits of Treserols to the canyons of Ordesa and Añisclo (pictured), the valleys of Pineta and Escuaín, the Posets massif, the valley of Chistau and the Sierra de Guara mountains. http://www.geoparquepirineos.com 

 


2. A new Spanish member joined the European Geopark Network in March of this year: the Molina de Aragón and Alto Tajo geopark in Guadalajara province. Its 4,000 square-kilometer area includes the Gallo River Gorge, the fossil forest of Aragoncillo and the pit of Alcorón. The park’s symbol is aragonite, a variety of calcite that crystallizes in hexagonal prisms and was first described thanks to samples found in Molina de Aragón. http://www.geoparquemolina.es

 

3. Dating from 10 million years ago, the formations at Cabo de Gata on the Almería coast are one of the largest magma-derived mountains in Europe. Old lava flows, volcanic domes, craters and fossilized beaches make up a landscape that, despite looking like a semi-desert, is home to a variety of ecosystems, including more than 1,000 endemic plant species and some of Spain’s most beautiful beaches. http://www.degata.com

 

4. Seville’s Sierra Norte mountains stretch from the mine at Cerro del Hierro (Iron Hill) to the spherical granite rocks of El Pedroso and Real de la Jara. In between, visitors can find the Los Covachos cave, the Huéznar River waterfall, the fossilized jellyfish of Peña Escrita, and over 170,000 hectares of cork oak, holm oak and olive trees. http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/medioambiente 

 

5. Around 36 million years ago, Catalonia’s interior was covered by a sea that disappeared as a result of the great folding process that gave birth to the Pyrenees. Among the products of that geological process are the Toll and Salnitre caves, the serrated peaks of Montserrat and the Catalan potassium basin. http://www.geoparc.cat/es

 

6. The collection of limestone massifs extending southeast of Córdoba province, along the border with Jaén and Granada, show the effect of water over the course of eons. This is a chaotic landscape filled with pits and sinkholes, karst formations such as the limestone pavement of Los Lanchares, the Bailón River Canyon and the Bat Cave, near Zuheros. The area is also known for its ammonite fossils – the remains of cephalopods that ruled the seas during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. http://www.andalucia.org

 

7. Fossils trapped for over 50 million years in the pastry-puff rock formation – technically known as flysch – along a 13-kilometer stretch of land on the western coast of Gipuzkoa have earned this place a spot in the European Geoparks Networks. Like a book written in stone, each stratum of flysch contains a 60-million-year-old chapter in the history of the Earth, from the Upper Cretaceous period (around 100 million years ago) to the Eocene (40 million years ago). http://www.geoparkea.com

 

8. Extremadura conceals unexpected landscapes, such as the one to be found at the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara geopark in Cáceres, where deciduous forests sit alongside olive groves, holm oak and fields of rockroses. It is a rocky place of jagged-peaked mountains that rise above the oak forests like dinosaur backbones. And beneath it lies a striking world of karst formations inside the cave of Castañar de Ibor, which was declared a natural monument in 1997 thanks to its eccentric calcite stalactites, arboreal shapes and delicate aragonite “flowers.”  http://www.geoparquevilluercas.es

 

9. The eruption of an underwater volcano off the Canary island of El Hierro in 2011 is just the latest chapter of an epic geological journey that began 100 million years ago, when the seabed opened up and released the magma that formed the isle. The smallest and wildest island in the archipelago, its 278 square kilometers contain over 500 volcanic cones and nearly 70 lava-made caves such as Don Justo, whose galleries span over six kilometers.  http://geoparqueelhierro.es

 

10. From the heights of Gúdar down to the border with Lower Aragón, the Guadalope River crosses a network of mountains, peaks and canyons that were once home to the Sea of Tethys and monsters such as the Elasmosaurus. Its tracks, and those of other dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras, are on display at nearly 70 paleontology sites inside the El Maestrazgo geopark. http://www.geoparquemaestrazgo.com



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Top 10 things you need to know about Fallas
05 March 2020

The month of Fallas has just begun! They call it the festival of fire, but Fallas is much more than just fire. Before the night when everything burns -la Nit de la Cremà (Night of the Cremà)- the city experiences an authentic street spectacle for ten days unlike many others celebrated in Spain. With it, they achieve something very difficult: visitors feel as if the celebration belongs to them as well. Colossal satirical figures, firecrackers that make the ground shake, fireworks that light up the darkest sky, troupes that bring the street to life from daybreak, and of course, fire, lots of fire. If you want to live Fallas in person, there are ten important things that you should keep in mind.

 

1. The origin of the festival

There are many theories and none of them 100 % provable. The most common theory is that the origin is in the city's carpenters' guild: that on the eve of the patron saint's day on March 19th, they burned outside their workshops the "parot," the post that supported the oil lamp for working at night. They added a lot of scraps to this "parot" and from this came the modern Fallas festival. What's undeniable is that it's a historic festival; the first written documentation about Fallas dates back to the 18th century.

 

2. Its own language

If you don't want to look like a tourist, take a look at the Fallas jargon. Although the festival as a whole is called Fallas the word “falla” actually refers to the monument. The plantà is the act of setting up and raising the falla. The ninot is the human figure of the falla. The cremà is the moment that the fallas are lit. The mascletà is the pyrotechnics spectacle in which hundreds of fireworks are set off, the most deafening of which is the one at the city hall.

 

3. Comfortable footwear and a fallas map

Each year around 700 fallas are set up in Valencia so if you want to enjoy art and sarcasm that abound, you'll need a fallas map -available in all tourism offices- and some comfortable shoes. As it's almost impossible to see all of them, make sure to plan on seeing at least the most spectacular ones, which are included in the Special Section (presented on March 16). The ones at the City Hall, the Convent and the el Pilar plaza never disappoint. 

 

4. Not only the fire illuminates

Before the fire illuminates the city on the Nit de la Cremà, Valencia shines at night from the lights that the Fallas committees place in the streets. The installations are so impressive that some streets are reminiscent of the famous Seville Fair. Thousands of coloured light bulbs adorn the streets creating authentic spectacles of light. Traditionally it's the Ruzafa neighbourhood where we can see the most magnificent lights. 

 

 

5. Exhibition of the Ninot

Before the fallas are set up in the street (on 16 March) we can have a taste of these works of art by visiting the Exhibition of the Ninot. It includes a ninot from each Fallas committee, which allows us to get an accurate idea of the quality of the fallas that will be shown that year. Among all the ninots shown, those rated highest will be saved from burning. 

 

6. The night doesn't sleep

Although going out looking for the best fallas and participating in the many activities organized in the city will leave us exhausted, we have to save some energy for the night because, after the fireworks, music begins to play and doesn't stop until sunrise. In addition to the open-air dances that the Fallas committees organize, the City Hall organizes concerts with top groups from the music scene, held in the are around the old Turia riverbed.

 

 

7. The despertà

Although little sleep is had during Fallas, the alarm sounds early thanks to the despertàs. This tradition consists of going through the neighbourhoods with a music band and firecrackers; nothing special if it weren't for the fact that they do it at 8 in the morning. It's one of the acts that full-blooded "falleros" (Fallas festival-goers) like most but that the visitors hate, especially those who go all out at night. Maybe packing some earplugs isn't such a bad idea...

 

8.Fire Parade

It's one of the most impressive events of the entire festival, so we should take special note on our plans. It's held on March 19 and is the prelude to the famous Nit del Foc (Night of Fire), when all the fallas burn. It's a parade that combines music with dancers and, evidently, fire, carried by the so-called demons. Only a couple hours afterwards the flames take the city, making ash of the fallas that have decorated the city for days.

9. Floral offering

Between the fire, the music and the pyrotechnics, there is a moment of calm to organize some of the nicest and remarkable moments of the festival, the offering of flowers to the Virgen de Los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Forsaken). This event is spectacular in that hundreds of falleros and falleras carry flowers, wearing the typical clothing and accompanied by musical parades. For almost two days these flowers are placed to cover a replica of the Lady, known as the "Geperudeta," nearly 15 meters tall.

 

10. Food!

Even if our feet are really suffering from walking and dancing during the festival, some of the most fun we'll have is eating the traditional doughnuts with hot chocolate and the famous paella, which is always a treat for our palates.

                     



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Spain's Oldest Restaurants
24 January 2020

In Spain, there are as many as 120 hundred-year-old restaurants. The term is used to define what used to be called "casas de comidas" (meal houses), although the name was created in France in the second half of the 18th century. "Restaurants" constituted another sort of eating establishment, a new one if we define them as places where one can order a meal from a range of choices at a range of times and eat it on the premises.

About 1765, people rounding the corner of the Rue Bailleul and the Rue des Poulies, just a few blocks east of the Café de la Régence, passed by the innovator’s sign: “Boulanger débite des restaurants divins” (Boulanger sells divine restaurants). Boulanger was originally a soup vendor and certain soups were known as restaurants—literally, “restoratives.” The Encyclopédie defined restaurant as “a medical term; it is a remedy whose purpose is to give strength and vigour.” Thanks to Boulanger and his imitators, these soups moved from the category of remedy into the category of health food and ultimately into the category of ordinary food...Almost forgotten in the spread of restaurants was the fact that their existence was predicated on health, not gustatory, requirements. None the less I can assure you these restaurants found around Spain were certainly founded on gustatory requirements and still do to this very day serve some of the finest food in the country. Here are 10 of the oldest and best restaurants in Spain in no particular order:

 


1. Botín (C/ Cuchilleros, 17. Madrid) - 1725

In 1989 the Guinness Book of Records classified it as the oldest restaurant in the world. This establishment in Madrid is the genuine birthplace of suckling pig and lamb, which they continue to roast with holm oak wood in the oven that was used on the date the premises were founded, in 1725. The restaurant was founded by the Frenchman, Jean Botín, and then handed down to his nephews. Since 1930, it has been run by the González Martín family. It achieved the world record as it has been the only restaurant so far that can certify how long it has been a "restaurant" - as we understand it today. Others may have started out as taverns or shops that sold food and later transformed into restaurants.


2. Lhardy (Carrera de San Jerónimo, 8. Madrid) - 1839

Thanks to Lhardy, founded in 1839 by Emilio Lhardy, gastronomic modernity arrived in Madrid. In a building near the Puerta del Sol, the restaurant is divided into three floors and 6 dining rooms. It is said that Isabel II used to meet her lovers in one of them, the Japanese room. Eating in Lhardy is like travelling back in time, everything is just the same as it was when the establishment first opened.


3. Casa Gerardo (Carretera AS-19, km 8.5. Prendes) - 1882

It opened its doors in 1882 and today it is managed by the fourth and fifth generations of chefs. Pedro and Marcós Morán, father and son, are specialists for including Asturias in their dishes. Their most well-known creations are the fabada desgrasada (fat-free bean stew with Spanish sausage) and merluza a la sidra (hake with cider). Their menu also includes room for innovation, and this is reflected in the traditional and new dishes.


4. Casa Duque (Calle Cervantes, 12. Segovia) - 1895

The first meal house in Segovia belongs today to Marisa Duque, the fourth generation of restaurateurs. Keeping to the traditional essence, the typical Segovian menu always features large French beans, Castilian soup and suckling pig. For starters, there is nothing better than some juicy slices of bacon


5. Hotel Santa Catalina (C/ León y Castillo, 227. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria) - 1890

The restaurant that is now managed by José Rojano belongs to the hotel that was initially planned for the English who, looking to make their fortune, used to stopover in the Canary Islands on their way to America. Now the menu has been renewed and, as a consequence of the chef's birthplace, includes creations from the Islands as well as the Basque Country.


6.  7 Portes (Passeig Isabel II, 14. Barcelona) - 1836

Josep Xifré i Cases was a powerful Catalan businessman in the first half of the XIX century; the richest Catalan at the time. He built the so-called Xifre houses in the Isabel II Promenade in Barcelona and took a hand in the design himself, as he wanted to create buildings with porches similar to those in the Rue Rivoli and the central squares of Paris.

He made his home and office in the new building and decided to place a luxurious café on the site as well. The café had seven doors through which the public could enter, and an eighth entrance for staff and goods.

Nowadays the restaurant is famous for its rice dishes. Politicians and intellectuals have sat at its tables since 1836, but when the restaurant was taken over by the Parellada family, who continue to run it today, it became a meeting point for expert gourmets. 


7. Arzak (Avenida del Alcalde José Elosegi, 273. Donostia) - 1897

Not everyone knows that Arzak is a hundred years old. It was Juan Mari's grandparents who decided to open a business in Alza (today part of Donostia) which the locals used to call the “highest of vinegars”, because of the quality of the wines served in the restaurant. His mother took a step forward with her baby cuttlefish in their ink or hake in parsley and wine sauce, her son followed in her wake, representing a benchmark in New Basque Cuisine, and now her granddaughter, Elena. 


8. Echaurren (C/ del Padre José García, 19. Ezcaray) - 1698

In 1898, Pedro Garcia and Andrea Echaurren decided to remodel their old coach house that served as a refuelling stop for carriages. The imminent arrival of the railroad forced to anticipate the future, to refocus its business and where previously housed the stables and carriages, they decide to install a dining hall taking advantage of the culinary virtues of his wife, Aunt Andrea. It started with them, this proud culinary tradition and hospitality that has endured for five generations. 

 

9. Antigua Taberna Las Escobas de Sevilla - 1386

Opposite the Cathedral of Seville, in the heart of the Andalusian capital, as Escobas is a living testimony of the history of Seville. There are writings that rate it as the oldest tavern in Spain, founded in 1386, when it was also grocery shop, where wine was sold and brooms were made and hung from the ceiling.


10. Cal Xarina (Collsuspina - Barcelona) 1550

The restaurant Can Xarina of Collsuspina (Barcelona) is a handsome Gothic-Renaissance mansion where you can taste the best flavours of the traditional Catalan cuisine. The restaurant Can Xarina prioritizes local and seasonal produce, so the ingredients are always fresh and high quality (mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, peas, artichokes, etc.). Some of his most characteristic dishes are baked shoulder of lamb, oxtail stew in the pot or preparations with hake and monkfish.

 

Other Centenary Restaurants in Spain:

Hotel Lleida, Graus, Huesca (1867)
Miramar, Alcúdia, Mallorca (1871)
Mesón de Borleña, Borleña de Toranzo, Cantabria (1834)
Las Cabañas, Peñaranda de Bracamonete, Salamanca (1885)
Venta de Aires, Toledo (1891)
Fonda Europa, Granollers, Barcelona (1771)
Gaig, Barcelona (1869)
Hostal Jaumet, Torà, Lleida (1890)
Hotel Durán, Figueres, Girona (1855)
Hostal Coca, Torredembarra, Tarragona (1820)
Paz Nogueira, Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña (1838)
Café Gijón, Madrid (1888)
El Vinagrero, La Unión, Murcia (1910)
Café Roch, Pamplona, Navarra (1898)
Casa Montaña, Valencia (1836)



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