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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 :-)

SPAIN'S TOP 10 - Most charming villages
30 January 2014

This ranking is not in order but a short list of the most unusual, charming and breathtaking villages Spain has to visit. Maybe some have escaped me and you may like to add to the list or even knock one off the list... please leave a comment and your suggestions if that is the case :-) I am happy to edit the list.


1. Setenil de las Bodegas, Cádiz

Setenil de las Bodegas is a town (pueblo) in the province of Cádiz, Spain, famous for its dwellings built into rock overhangs above the Rio Trejo. According to the 2005 census, the city has a population of 3,016 inhabitants. It has an exact antipodal city: Auckland, New Zealand.
This small town (pueblo) is located 157 kilometres (98 mi) northeast of Cadiz. It has a distinctive setting along a narrow river gorge. The town extends along the course of the Rio Trejo with some houses being built into the rock walls of the gorge itself, created by enlarging natural caves or overhangs and adding an external wall.

Modern Setenil evolved from a fortified Moorish town that occupied a bluff overlooking a sharp bend in the Rio Trejo northwest of Ronda. The castle dates from at least the Almohad period in the 12th century. However, the site was certainly occupied during the Roman invasion of the region in the 1st century AD. 

fotos - Jose Luis Sanchez Mesa

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2. Besalu

Besalú  is a town in the comarca of Garrotxa, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain.

The town's importance was greater in the early Middle Ages, as capital of the county of Besalú, whose territory was roughly the same size as the current comarca of Garrotxa but sometime extended as far as Corbières, Aude, in France. Wilfred the Hairy, credited with the unification of Catalonia, was Count of Besalú. The town was also the birthplace of Raimon Vidal, a medieval troubadour.

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

Photo : Jordi Paya

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3.Casares, Málaga

Casares is a town and municipality in Spain, located in Málaga province, in the autonomous community of Andalusia.

In Roman times the spa of la Hedionda, located on the road to Manilva, was already well known, and this is where Julius Caesar supposedly was cured of a liver complaint, thanks to the sulfuric waters that still pour out of the local spring. For this reason that during the Roman Empire, Casares was allowed by emperors to mint its own coins.

The 12th century Castle, around which grew the present town center, was founded by the occupying Moors. In 1361, Peter I of Castile and the dethroned Muhammed V signed the Pact of Casares, by which the Moorish King recuperated his throne, leaving Casares as part of the Nasrid Dynasty. The town surrendered to the Catholic forces after the fall of Ronda in 1485 and was handed over to Rodrigo Ponce de León, Duke of Cádiz. Later during the Rebellion of the Moriscos, Rodrigo's descendent, the Duke of Arcos, accepted the surrender of the rebel Moriscos, the Moors who had "converted" to Christianity. Casares had taken an active part in the Morisco rebellion, put down by Don John of Austria. The town separated from Manilva in 1795, being granted the title of Villa. At a later period, Casares was the only town, apart from Cádiz, that the Napoleonic troops has not been able to take.

Photo : miquitos

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4. Olite, Navarra

The sleek and harmonious silhouette of the Castle-Palace stands out against the skyline of Olite, a small town in the centre of Navarre just 42 kilometres south of Pamplona that was the seat of the Royal Court of the kingdom in the Middle Ages.

The thick walls and crenelated towers of the Palace were home to monarchs and princes. Declared a national monument in 1925, it is the best example of civil Gothic architecture in Navarre and one of the most notable in Europe.

A walk through the narrow streets of Olite will take you past noble stone houses with coats or arms on their facades and grandiose wooden eaves, mediaeval galleries and splendid churches, and the Roman wall surrounding the town. 

Photos : Hector Garcia

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5. Ronda, Málaga

Ronda is a city in the Spanish province of Málaga. It is located about 100 kilometres (62 mi) west of the city of Málaga, within the autonomous community of Andalusia. Its population is approximately 35,000 inhabitants. Around the city are remains of prehistoric settlements dating to the Neolithic Age, including the rock paintings of Cueva de la Pileta. Ronda was however first settled by the early Celts, who, in the 6th century BC, called it Arunda. Later Phoenician settlers established themselves nearby to found Acinipo, known locally as Ronda la Vieja, Arunda or Old Ronda. The current Ronda is however of Roman origins,[1] having been founded as a fortified post in the Second Punic War, by Scipio Africanus. Ronda received the title of city at the time of Julius Caesar.

photos : Philip Capper / Thomas Fano

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6. Albarracín, Teruel

Albarracín is in the province of Teruel, part of the autonomous community of Aragon. According to the 2007 census (INE), the municipality had a population of 1075 inhabitants. It is the capital of the mountainous Sierra de Albarracín Comarca. It is a picturesque town surrounded by stony hills and the town was declared a Monumento Nacional in 1961.
The town is named after the Moorish Al Banū Razín family that once  dominated the area during the period of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula. From 1167 to 1300, Albarracín was an independent lordship known as the Sinyoría d'Albarrazín which was established after the partition of the Taifa of Albarracín under the control of Pedro Ruíz de Azagra. It was eventually conquered by Peter III of Aragon in 1284, and the ruling family, the House of Azagra was deposed. The last person to actually hold the title of Señor de Albarracín was Juan Núñez I de Lara, although his son, Juan Núñez II de Lara continued on as the pretender to the title until 1300 when the city and its lands were officially incorporated into the Kingdom of Aragon.

Photos : Alende Maceira / Orvalrochefort

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7. Cadaqués, Girona

Cadaqués (Catalan pronunciation: [kəðəˈkes]) is a town in the Alt Empordà comarca, in the province of Girona, Catalonia, Spain. It is on a bay in the middle of the Cap de Creus peninsula, near Cap de Creus cape, on the Costa Brava of the Mediterranean. It is only a two-and-a-quarter hour drive from Barcelona, and thus it is very accessible and not only attracts tourists but people who want a second home for weekends and summers. In 2002, Cadaqués had an official population of 2,612, but up to ten times as many people can live in the town during the peak of the summer tourism season. 

Salvador Dalí often visited Cadaqués in his childhood, and later kept a home in Port Lligat, a small village on a bay next to the town. A summer holiday here in 1916, spent with the family of Ramon Pichot is seen as especially important to Dalí's artistic career. Other notable artists, including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, Richard Hamilton, Albert Ràfols-Casamada, Antoni Pitxot, Henri-François Rey, Melina Mercouri and Maurice Boitel also spent time here. Cadaqués is mentioned in the story "Tramontana" by Gabriel García Márquez.

Photos : Joan ggk

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8. Castellfollit de la Roca, Girona

Castellfollit de la Roca is a town of approximately 1,000 inhabitants in an area of less than a square kilometre, making it one of the smallest towns in Catalonia. This small urban area is bordered by the confluence of the Fluvià and Toronell rivers, between which the town's spectacular basalt cliff rises.

The sight of the church and the houses high on the edge of the basalt precipice has become one of the most photographed and painted images in Catalonia; it is also however a magnificent natural viewpoint overlooking the valleys of the two rivers.

The basalt crag where the town is situated is over 50 m high and almost a kilometre long and is the direct result of the erosive action of the rivers Fluvià and Toronell on the remains of the lava flows from the volcanic eruptions which took place thousands of years ago. 

The lava, once solidified, became basalt, a hard rock which takes on different forms, depending on the cooling, contraction and splitting processes of the lava. The cliff is the result of two lava flows; the first took place 217,000 years ago, and originated in the area of the village of Batet, and has formed slabs, the second, a more recent formation from the volcanoes of Begudà is 192,000 years old, and has formed into prismatic shapes.

Photo : Ferrran Cerdans Serra / Wiros 

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9. Sallent de Gállego - Lanuza , Huesca

Sallent de Gállego is a municipality located in the province of Huesca, Aragon, Spain.

The town is located in the central Pyrenees besides the reservoir of Lanuza on the foot of some of the highest summits of the chain, close to the border with France. It is part of the Alto Gállego comarca, and it is the capital of the Tena Valley. The Gállego river runs through the town and its first tributary, the Aguas Limpias, unites to the Gállego inside the town. Both rivers' sources are inside the municipality.

The Foratata peak (2,000 m) towers over the town, being an iconic peak for all the valley. Other important summits belonging to the municipality are Anayet, Tres Hombres, Arriel and Balaitous, many of them are over 3000 meters high.


Photos: Pablo Ares Gastesi / Fernando

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10. Cudillera, Principado de Asturias

Cudillero  is a small picturesque village and municipality in the Principality of Asturias, Spain. These days, Cudillero's main economic activities are related to tourism, but it is also known for its fishing ships. A legend says that it was founded by the Vikings. People from Cudillero speak Spanish and a dialect called Pixueto. 

Photos : Javier Losa / Mario Sanchez Prada / Jose Luis Martinez / Guzman Lozano

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Like 3        Published at 12:28   Comments (17)

SPAIN'S TOP 10 - Bizarre Foods
15 January 2014

Spain has some very wierd food, so I thought I would pull together some of the most bizarre food I have come across during my time in Spain.

If you can add to the list please leave a comment!

1. Sea Lamprey cooked in its own blood - Lamprea en su propia sangre - Galicia



2. Stewed Cockerel Crests – Crestas de gallo - Zamora 



3. Lambs brains - Sesos de cordero – La Rioja



4. Testicles in Sauce – Criadillas en Salsa



5. Fried Cockeral and lamb stomach/intestine  - Gallinejas y entresijos – Madrid


6. Gooseneck barnacles – Percebes – Galicia


7. Pigs' Ears – Oreja de Cerdo


8.  Elver (new born eels) and garlic – Anguilas



9.  Tripe Stew – Callos - Madrid


10. Sea Snails – Caracoles  de mar  

Like 2        Published at 11:26   Comments (9)

SPAIN'S TOP 10 - Expat New Year's Resolutions
09 January 2014

I’ve always been a big fan of New Year's Resolutions. They give you a chance to reflect on the past year and evaluate what is working well in your life and what areas could use a little improvement; there is definitely something about a fresh beginning that encourages us to believe we can change.

Unfortunately, the existence of Ditch New Year's Resolutions Day, demonstrates the natural state of humans to continue in their well-established behavioural patterns by which most people have dropped their resolutions.
This ‘special’ day is on January 17th. The theory is that it takes three weeks to form a habit, which probably explains why most people fail and the 'ditch-the-resolution day' falls just short of 3 weeks!

While it is probable that there are a number of general resolutions we all promise ourselves we will keep, like watching less television, doing more exercise, eating more greens, drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking, there are some that are specific to life as an expat in Spain. So I have pulled together a list of 10 resolutions that might just make your life a little happier over 2014. If you have thought of doing any of these or decided on any others please leave a comment! 

1. Improve my Spanish
2. Start following a ‘real’ Mediterranean diet
3. Socialise more with Spanish people
4. Learn more about Spanish culture
5. See more of mainland Spain
6. Cut back on the cheap alcohol/stop smoking
7. Spend more time with/skyping the family
8. Watch more Spanish television and less Sky
9. Take up a new hobby
10. Read a Spanish newspaper at least once a day


Advice on achieving your goal!

Keep it real.
It’s one thing to be excited about a goal, it’s another to achieve it. Make sure you set reasonable goals and have a plan to make it work through the year.

Don’t overload yourself.
Pick one or two goals and stick with it. Resolving to change 20 different aspects of your life in one year is only going to give you more things to worry about and fix at the end of the next year.

Be specific
Details matter; make a plan. Also break down larger goals into smaller ones so they’re easier to achieve. This will help you set clearer and more achievable targets.

Reward yourself
Every time you reach a goal or a mini goal, treat yourself. You’ve done a good job, you need to enjoy it so you can keep at it and hit the next milestone.

Good luck with your New Year's resolutions

Like 0        Published at 14:28   Comments (1)

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