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Still Discovering Spain...

Here for over 25 years and I still discover new things every day...

Human Towers in Tarragona
Thursday, October 6, 2022

 

On the 1st of October this year, the first Saturday of the month, the biennial “Concurs de Castells” in Tarragona was celebrated. No less than 32 teams compete to build the highest human tower.
   
Some teams include up to 500 members who climb on top of each other to build a human pyramid. The previous edition year saw the first ever ten-tier pyramid in a competition. But it is not the men who need to be brave here, but the children, who have to climb to the pinnacle of the tower, often as young as five years. However, they wear foam helmets to protect them from injury. Nonetheless, if it was my child up there I would still be terrified. 

 

 

Now we also see foreign teams entering the competition.  "Els Xiquets de Hangzhou", from China came in second place in the previous edition and is now getting more global coverage for this unusual event in other areas of the world.

Nearly 6.000 spectators enjoyed the most important tower-building event. The Human Tower Competition is a first-class event and a magnificent opportunity to enjoy human tower building, an example of Catalan culture declared Cultural and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

 

 

 

How does it work?

Castells –a Catalonian word that means castles– are a cultural phenomenon particular to Catalonia and consist of erecting human towers. This tradition originated at the end of the 18th century in Valls, Tarragona, when rival groups of people called colles, began to compete in constructing the different kinds of human towers that we recognise nowadays.

There are three definite parts to a castle; the pinya or base the tronc or trunk and the pom de dalt or the crown of the castle.

The pinya is the horizontal base of the construction on which all the accumulated weight rests and is used to stabilise and strengthen the erected structure, as well as softening or breaking the falls if any should occur.

This vertical structure is the trunk and consists of a certain number of people on each store, varying from 1 to 9 people depending on the castle and this also gives us the name of the castle.

At the very top of the castle are the canalla (which means youngsters), and they make up the pom de dalt, the crown of the castle, and because they are more agile and light-footed they are the ones in charge of climbing to the very top. One or two supporting structures can be built on top of the pinya if the castle is very high. The one directly on top of the pinya is called the folre and the one on top of that is the manilles. So the folre is at the second level and the manilles at third level height with respect to the ground. Every person who takes part in the building is called a casteller –castle-maker–.

The towers or castles are erected following very precise techniques and every castle is a law unto itself because of the different factors to be taken into account. As a rule, the pinya is formed first of all, this involves a very strict order and discipline, with everybody having an allotted station within the base group. Thereafter the different storeys begin to rise up. The strongest people at the bottom on top of the pinya and the most agile and lightest on the top storeys. The last person to climb the whole tower or castle is the anxaneta, a young girl or boy who, on arriving at the very summit raises his/her arm and salutes the public. This is the highlight of the event as the castell is considered to be crowned. But in fact, the job is only half done the structure still has to be brought down safely. The erection of human castles has different variants, some are with the pinya with folre and manilles, others with different trunk formations or where the castle is erected from top to bottom, this is done by brute force lifting the canalla up first and then the other storeys below them successively.

 



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The Unknown story of Spain keeping the Russians at bay
Thursday, September 22, 2022

The history of Spain has thousands of pages and for centuries the leaders together with renowned personalities have achieved all kinds of milestones that have changed the course of humanity. Besides the arrival of Christopher Columbus to what is now America being, certainly, the best known, Spain has endless stories to be told...

Given the expansion throughout the globe initiated by Columbus, Spain came to conquer and govern extensive and numerous territories. The extension of the Spanish Crown thus became one of the largest empires ever recorded. Thanks to this, the history of the country has all kinds of curiosities, among which are unknown territories by most.

In the year that celebrates the 500th anniversary of the circumnavigation of the world by El Cano and Magallanes, many of the territories that were once Spanish come to light. In that sense, one of the great unknowns was Alaska and the occupation by Spain of this territory. Although the explorers who managed to circle the Earth for the first time did not go anywhere near Alaska, we will take a look at this page of Spain's history.

After arriving on the American continent and later occupying the territories that today would be California in the 18th century, Spain began to look further north. However, for the Spanish to come to dominate this frozen territory, some attempts would be needed under the premise of trying to stop the Russian advance in nearby territories.

The Viceroyalty of New Spain extended its domains over the years from Mexico to the southern regions of the current United States after the arrival of Columbus. Thanks to the papal bull Inter Caetera from Pope Alexander VI, both Spain and Portugal were authorised by the church to extend their domains throughout the New World giving them the godly right to colonise, convert and enslave.

Alaska was undoubtedly one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. The extreme climate of the area has made its exploration impossible for centuries. Despite this, it has always had remarkable importance thanks to the fact that it is the link between America and Asia.

it was in 1774 when a maritime expedition under the command of the Mallorcan Juan Pérez arrived at the Island of Queen Charlotte. This today is the southern limit of Alaska. Juan Antonio Bucarelli, Viceroy of New Spain that year, gave detailed instructions that would allow them to reach the island and discover Nootka Bay next to Vancouver Island. Fifteen years later, Esteban José Martínez, commanding the ships Princesa and San Carlos, would also take possession of the Ensenada de Nutka, whose territory became part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

At that time Spain managed to dominate the area although no Russian presence was detected. This led the crown to stop the expeditions, although Esteban Martínez and Gonzalo López de Haro sailed north after discovering the Pacific coast. At that moment the Spanish crown realized that not only Russia wanted to possess Nootka but that England also wanted it.

For this reason, Carlos III tried to secure the area and commissioned Martínez to occupy the territory, dislodging any attempt at domination. At that time, the fort of San Miguel was built, which after some scuffle with English ships would generate a conflict with Great Britain.

After years in the territory where all kinds of scientific and exploration work was carried out by Spain, tension grew with Great Britain. The indignation of the latter had grown over the years and was even on the verge of unleashing a large-scale war.

However, a war never took place and the dispute was resolved through negotiation between Spain and England. Thus, the Spanish undertook to dismantle, after a series of concessions, the fort of Nootka while freeing maritime traffic.

Spain's stay in the area despite its rapid withdrawal was key to world history. Russia wanted to annul Spain from both California and the entire Pacific coast. Commissioner Rezanov al Czar himself even stated that this area could be part of the Russian Empire. For this reason, it is considered that Spain managed to stop the Russian expansion that more than likely if it had come to conquer the region, would have been greatly extended.

Finally, it should be noted that there are still place names in Alaska such as Valdez or Cordova after more than two centuries. The latter, moreover, places greater emphasis on the importance that Spain had in the area and for the course of history.



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How the crew members of the Magellan and Elcano expedition survived 500 years ago
Thursday, September 15, 2022

The crew of the Victoria boat were hungry, thirsty and disoriented.

It is September 8, 1522, and a ship docks at the Seville dock in appalling conditions.

She has just been towed down the Guadalquivir river from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, on the southern coast of Spain, where she arrived two days earlier. On board, 18 hungry, thirsty and disoriented crew members.

The ship in question is the Nao Victoria and at the head of those sailors is the Spanish Juan Sebastián Elcano. It was not their initial objective, but they have just gone down in history: they have managed to go around the world for the first time.

Anyone would imagine that the first thing those sailors did was go out and celebrate. However, far from the truth, they went, barefoot, to the church of Nuestra Señora de la Victoria and the Cathedral of Seville. They wanted to keep a promise. The promise they made during the worst moments of their journey.

Such were the hardships that these men went through that, beyond glory, simple survival was the best of prizes. They have just accomplished a feat hardly imaginable aboard a ship that, for three years, was the closest thing to a prison.

Let's travel back three years to find out what happened on those ships.

 


It all begins on August 10, 1519, when five ships and about 250 men, led by the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan, set out from Seville.

On board, the ships there is food and drink for two years.

"They carry salted meat and fish, fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese, butter, bread, oil, vinegar and spices. There is also quince, although it is used almost exclusively by officers," according to Lola Higueras, former technical director of the Naval Museum of Madrid.

A varied diet that, however, lasts only a few months, since there are not enough means to preserve food and it starts to rot.

"Bread gets wormy very quickly, so they almost eat more worms than bread. It's a monstrous thing," Higueras points out.

The lack of supplies begins to take its toll and, after reaching the Pacific, the situation only worsens.

They do not know the length of this ocean and as the days go by many crew members begin to starve.

Others, in their desperation, cast their eyes to the ground looking for the only living animal that resists: rats.

"Half a ducat (the currency of that time) was paid for a rat," says historian Pablo Emilio Pérez-Mallaina.

This unpleasant food then becomes a real delicacy. And in an element of salvation as we will see later.

But the rats also run out and the expedition continues without finding land. It is then that, desperately, one last element enters the sailors' diet.

"They even eat the leather that protects the candles. They eat it by softening it in seawater and, sometimes, overheating it a little over the fire," says Higueras.

Heartbreaking hunger is not the only headache aboard these small ships. Thirst also becomes the protagonist of the conversations of these brave men.

The water also begins to rot after a few months and "imaginative solutions are sought to collect rainwater with candles", as Lola Higueras explains. But it doesn't always rain, nor is the water they collect enough for so many crew members.

Hence, some sailors can no longer resist and throw their buckets into the sea to relieve their throats with salt water. "This generates a series of tremendous cramps," says historian Carlos Martínez.

Thirsty, locked in a boat surrounded by water and unable to drink because they will probably get sick: mental torture that is repeated day after day for many extended periods of the journey.

Without water, the only drink that hydrates minimally is wine, although it is highly rationed and can cause disputes among sailors. But even this delicacy also ends up rotting.

 


Hunger and thirst are soon joined by disease. Especially one that those sailors know well, scurvy, a terrible disorder very common in those expeditions that spend long periods without touching land.

This disease spreads among sailors due to the shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables, which causes a significant vitamin C deficiency.

"Their teeth fall out, their gums swell and the body weakness is terrible until it leads to death. But it also involves another very serious issue. The manoeuvring of the ships is based on climbing to manage the movement of the sails. A time comes when the sick can no longer climb and the ship would be left adrift", explains Lola Higueras.

Scurvy plagued crews who spent long periods without touching land. Few are spared from this disease, and the lucky ones remember then the moment when they left their scruples behind and threw themselves on the rats that were scurrying around the ship.

"They become an element of salvation because rats synthesize vitamins B and C in a special way," Higueras points out.
But the physical torture of these three years is also accompanied by the psychological. Those ships, barely 80 or 90 tons, become real "prisons" for the fewer and fewer crew members who resist.

They have small cellars, but, far from being a place to rest, they are used to store the ship's spare parts and the little food that lasts.

The deck is the only place for the crew, day and night, exposed to total inclement weather and unable to protect themselves.

The fire, prepared with sand and refractory bricks, is not intended to keep the sailors warm, but is reserved almost exclusively for cooking. And only when possible.

"Most of the time they cannot light the stoves on board, because with any storm, it can cause an ember to jump and burn the boat. The regulation is very strict. Candles cannot be lit near certain points. They cannot use oil lamps because they oscillate and can cause a fire. And smoking is strictly prohibited," explains Lola Higueras.

 


In a three-year journey, the storms are continuous and the boats are at the mercy of the waves. Death lurks at every moment and there appear the "anonymous heroes or invisible heroes".

That's what Lola Higueras calls divers. Expert sailors who, without extra oxygen and working in apnea, "manage to save artillery pieces, valuable cargo and, above all fix leaks underwater. Very complex work to do, especially in the high sea".

Heroes exposed to tremendous injuries such as ruptured eardrums, risk their lives to save those ships and, with it, the lives of their companions.

Hunger, thirst, disease, fear and countless hardships. The glory of making the first circumnavigation of the world is received by these navigators upon arrival.

But along the way, survival alone becomes the greatest of feats. Because as Lola Higueras says, this trip was "an epic one in extraordinary conditions."



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"Fish landmarks" in Seville
Thursday, September 8, 2022

The "freiduría", or fish fryer, is the street food of Seville. Food stalls have always existed, in small stores on the ground floors of buildings, where chanquetes (transparent goby), sardines, shrimp, squid etc., are all fried and wrapped in paper cones that absorb the extra oil. The arrival of international restaurant chains didn't signal their end. Indeed, the people of Seville make good use of these traditional outlets each day, especially on summer nights.

Crossing the Andalusian capital you will encounter some classics. The Inchausti family run La Moneda which is by the Arco del Postigo and offers not only fish but also "puntillitas" (molluscs no longer than 5 cm, effectively baby squid - seen below in the photo) and mantis shrimp soup (a fairly flat crustacean, with not a lot of meat, but very flavorful). Since 1904, the same family has run El Arenal, near the La Maestranza bullring. Here, the specialities are adobos (Spanish marinades) and fried cuttlefish.

 

Visiting La Isla freiduría next to the cathedral we can try fried hake caviar, very popular in this Andalusian region. We should also keep in mind the breaded shrimp and the prices, which are quite reasonable compared to the rest of the establishments in the city centre.

 

 

Near the entrance to the Jewish quarter, the Puerta de la Carne freiduría is a must, founded in 1928. Fried, breaded, and boiled shrimp and cod are some of their specialities. They are open until midnight, with longer hours in the summer months.

 

 

Finally in the neighbourhood of Triana, probably one of the most popular in the entire city and a meeting point for lovers of tradition and tourists alike. Crossing the Isabel II bridge (popularly known as Puente de Triana, or Triana bridge) you will reach the Freiduría Reina Victoria. The establishment's interior is reminiscent of a school cafeteria, or an association hall, but that shouldn't detract from its appeal because founded by Galician immigrants, it boasts hake, cod and calamari served by few, but very effective, waiters. Before heading back to the centre, you should also visit Alboreá, with a spacious terrace and a bar, to have some weighed cold cuts. You can't leave without trying their tortillitas de camarones (shrimp fritters), quite common in Seville but difficult to find with such good quality. Enjoy the tour!

 

 

 

 



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The "City" Of Gibraltar
Thursday, September 1, 2022

More than a century has passed and there are still different ways of seeing its fall and its influence. Spain had a great empire, possibly the best that has existed since the Roman Empire and up to the present day. Possessions in half the world and a territory that reached more than twenty million square kilometers of the planet. Its loss was almost as hard as its conquests, but much of its authority is preserved, so much so that, although several territories that were colonies deny their past, history cannot hide it.


Like every conqueror who ends up falling on the opposite side, the Hispanic Monarchy had to give up territories that it had conquered years ago with blood, sweat and tears. Many others ended up becoming independent from the empire over time, and on some occasions, Spain tried to recover lost areas, but without success. As is the case with Gibraltar, which, despite being located on the Iberian Peninsula, fell into the hands of the United Kingdom more than 300 years ago.

The case of this territory, located next to the province of Cádiz, is peculiar, and although in recent years it has not led to any armed conflict, Spanish and British authorities have had their ups and downs. On August 29, the controversy came to light again after the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, granted the status of "city" to Gibraltar, after, according to the BBC, at the beginning of the year the colony applied to be granted that recognition as part of Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee, as did 39 other places around the world.

This status of "city" is associated with the fact of having a cathedral, university or a large population, although there are no official rules for its concession. According to EFE, historians reviewed the national archives and verified that it had already been designated as a city for the first time in 1842, during the reign of Queen Victoria, although this fact was omitted, for unknown reasons, during all these years. 180 years later, Johnson has recognized it this way again.

 

 

The 17th century had just ended when the former Spanish monarch, Carlos II, died. "The bewitched", as he was called, was the last of the House of Austria and his death generated the War of Succession to discover his heir to the throne. The war lasted twelve years, between 1701 and 1713, and left a serious dynastic conflict in Spanish territory that ended with the rise to power of Felipe V and the establishment of the Bourbon Dynasty.

While the conflict was taking place, Great Britain, one of those interested in the Spanish throne, occupied Gibraltar in 1704, taking advantage of the weakness that the Spanish empire was going through to attack this part of the Iberian Peninsula. With an attack led by George Rooke in which the British fleet attacked the enclave with 61 warships, a domain far superior to the Spanish resistance and the city fell in a few days.

The War of Succession ended with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht on April 11, 1713, in which the British and French monarchies and other allies divided up the territories of the states of the Hispanic Monarchy. On July 10 of the same year, a second treaty was signed between the British and the Spanish, in which Gibraltar and Menorca were ceded to Great Britain.

Why did Spain recover Menorca but not Gibraltar?

From the Treaty of Utrecht, there is a clause in which "England received the fortress as a deposit, but could not deliver it to any other political power except Spain, previously negotiating with it". That was always maintained as long as the British Empire preserved its unity.

But from that very moment, the recovery of both territories was a Spanish objective. The alliance of Spain with the first French republic a few years later caused the rupture with England, already with Carlos IV in power. Menorca was under British rule for more than seventy years, fifteen under Spanish rule and another seven under French influence, until, in 1802, by the Treaty of Amiens, the island returned to Spanish hands. A luck that was not obtained with Gibraltar.

One of the attempts to recover the colony took place during The Great Siege, taking advantage of the War of Independence of the United States. But it ended with a disastrous result, and a strategy that did not work and left thousands of Spanish soldiers dead.

Previously, it had taken advantage of other occasions such as the War of the Austrian Succession (between 1739 and 1748) or the Seven Years' War, as well as later, in the Spanish-English wars before the arrival of Napoleon's troops in Spain. All ended with a vain attempt to recapture Gibraltar.


Could Gibraltar be part of Spain again?

During World War II, Franco assured that "Gibraltar is not worth even the life of a Spanish soldier", after German propaganda took advantage of the situation to bring Spain into the conflict. With those words, Winston Churchill promised that, at the end of the Great War, talks with Gibraltar would return. But the war ended, Churchill no longer ruled and the documentation was destroyed in England.

Since 1963, Gibraltar has been included in the list of territories subject to decolonization, after it was approved in 1959. Currently, there is a UN agreement in which England and Spain are asked to solve the problem. But by then, England consolidated Gibraltar as an independent state, which allowed the problem to continue to this day.



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Spain's Stonehenge
Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Dating back to 4,000 years ago, the Guadalperal Dolmen could be the largest Neolithic site in the entire Iberian Peninsula.

The extreme drought that is plaguing the entire European continent is taking a significant toll on access to water for millions of people. Cáceres, the second largest province in Spain, is not exempt from the consequences of the extreme heat wave in the country. On the contrary, after suffering historical lows in its main bodies of fresh water, a circle of prehistoric stones was discovered in the bed of the Tagus River, almost completely dry.

 

 

Officially known as the Guadalperal Dolmen, this could be the largest Neolithic site ever found on the Iberian Peninsula. Archaeologists refer to it as the 'Spanish Stonehenge', due to its size and estimated age. The lowering of the water level in the reservoir completely exposed it, allowing researchers to take a closer look.

For the first time in history, climatologists and meteorologists named an extreme heat wave. Officially recognized in Spain as 'Zoe', she was named in an "effort to facilitate the spread of awareness of dangerous events", according to The Weather Channel. Due to its severity and extension, they have described the phenomenon as "cooking the planet over a slow fire".

 

Even the United Nations agency, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), warned that June and July will be the hottest months in the Western Hemisphere, causing raging forest fires, extreme droughts and deaths from heat stroke. At the same time, one of the largest reservoirs in the country reached historic lows, with 28% of its total capacity.

With the advance of the drought, a Neolithic site was revealed. As seen in Stonehenge, it is a circle of concentric stones. It is estimated that the megalithic pieces are at least 4 thousand years old.

 

 

Clothes and belongings that the prehistoric inhabitants of the region used remained in the Guadalperal Dolmen. For this reason, researchers have described it as "an archaeological treasure" unique in Europe. In May 2022, according to the Official State Gazette (BOE), it was declared a Site of Cultural Interest, with the category of Archaeological Zone.

Until now, however, it had been little studied, because the water level prevented archaeologists from properly entering the site. Since the 1960s, this space has only been fully revealed 4 times.

 

 



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Europe's Best Preserved City Wall
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

 

In Spain, there is a city with a wall that is perfectly preserved and that can take us to a medieval world just by walking through its old town. This is Ávila, considered the Spanish city with the best-preserved wall in Europe, a place to spend a weekend enjoying highly valuable historical heritage, as well as the best gastronomy.

Ávila reached its maximum splendour in the 16th century as a town of mysticism and spirituality, epitomised by Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, or more commonly known as St Teresa of Ávila. If one follows the Route of Teresa, one will travel from the Gothic style through to the Renaissance, as Ávila’s most universal saint lived halfway between both periods. Saint Teresa and also San Juan de la Cruz brought the Spanish language to one of its highest levels through their poetry and writings on mysticism. 

 

Most of Ávila’s festivities and traditions are religious, but they also have a pagan side. Religion is joined by other leisure activities that are based on the town's multi-racial customs and traditions. Each quarter of the town has its own festival in remembrance of the divisions that existed in the past when each of the groups who went to repopulate the town settled around a parish church.

 


Ávila is situated in an area of rolling hills northwest of Madrid. As a city it holds the titles of "Ávila del Rey" (granted by Alfonso VII), "Ávila de los Leales" (granted by Alfonso VIII) and "Ávila de los Caballeros" (granted by Alfonso X), all of them present in the flag of the city.

Ávila's hallmark is its wall. In fact, it is considered the best preserved walled city in Europe. It is a Romanesque military fence that surrounds the old town. Both the wall and the old town, as well as several churches (San Pedro, San Vicente, San Andrés and San Segundo) located outside the walls, were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.

According to historical data, construction of the Ávila wall began on May 3, 1090, by order of Raymond of Burgundy and was completed in 1099. It would have taken 9 years to build it. However, in the 3rd century BC. C. the Romans built the first wall.


The characteristics of the walls are as follows: It has a perimeter of 2,515 meters, 2,500 battlements, 87 cubes or towers and 9 gates. It occupies an area of 33 hectares and forms a rectangle oriented from east to west. Its walls are 3 meters thick and 12 meters high. For its layout, the unevenness of the land was used and neither slopes nor buttresses were built. In addition, the wall has nine gates, colloquially called arches:

1. The Puerta del Alcázar or the Mercado Grande, where the figurative dethronement of King Enrique IV of Castile took place, an episode known as the Farsa de Ávila.

2. The Door of the Cathedral, of the Leales or of the Peso de la Harina, opened in the 16th century.

3. The Gate of San Vicente.

4. The Arco del Mariscal, receives that name in memory of Álvaro Dávila, Marshal of King Juan II of Castile, who subsidized its construction.

5. The Arch of Carmen or the prison, opens between two towers with a square section. It was restored in the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries.

6. La Puerta de la Mala Dicha, of Mala Ventura or popularly known as the Gypsy Arch, through which the Jewish quarter was accessed.

7. The Puerta de la Santa or de Montenegro, through which you access the house of Santa Teresa.

8. The Puerta del Rastro, de Grajal or de la Estrella, which has a 16th-century arch.

9. The Puerta del Puente, was restored in the 15th and 17th centuries.

In addition to the wall, there are many other things to visit in Ávila. Some examples are the Plaza del Mercado Chico, the main square of the historic centre; the Mirador de Los Cuatro Postes, the best place to admire and take pictures of the walls of Ávila; the Cathedral of Ávila, the first Gothic cathedral in Spain and it seems that its construction dates back to the end of the XI or beginning of the XII or the Puerta del Alcázar, the most important gate of the wall and also the most robust.

The Church of San Pedro Apóstol, a Romanesque church from the 13th century, is also considered a Site of Cultural Interest and well worth visiting as is the Royal Monastery of Santo Tomás, a Gothic jewel that was built between 1482 and 1493. 

The 'Gastronomical Triad' of the town is made up of Judías del Barco (large haricot beans from the village of El Barco de Ávila, also known locally as 'pipos'), Chuletón de Ávila (veal chop from 500 g to 1 kg in weight, depending on your appetite!) and Yemas de Santa Teresa (sweet cakes made from egg yolks and sugar). A delight for any palate especially the Chuletón if you are a meat lover!

 

    

 

 

This type of menu is a true example of Ávila gastronomy, based on agricultural and cattle-farming products from a province that varies greatly in both geography and climate. Pulses and legumes have earned their fame thanks to the haricot bean from El Barco and the Carilla (a small haricot bean with a black dot) from the banks of the River Tormes and the chickpea from La Moraña in the north of the province. Meat is also popular: kid from Candeleda, lamb from the Amblés Valley and roast suckling pig from the north of the province.

The way the food is cooked is very simple and rustic with no sauces or extravagance; the importance is given to the quality of the product itself to ensure that it provides original flavours without the need for enhancements.

Avila is well worth a visit, you won't be disappointed.

 

 



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Some of Spain's most curious beaches
Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Beaches with freshwater waterfalls, historic buildings or islets where you can go when the tide goes out. Located between cliffs, on islands or even inside a cave. If we want to escape from the most typical places, the Spanish territory is full of curious sandbanks that will leave you speechless. Here is just a handful:

 


Cala Torrent de Pareis (Majorca)

Torrent de Pareis beach is located in the north of Mallorca, on the coast of the Sierra de Tramuntana. Its turquoise waters are guarded by gigantic cliffs that reach 200 meters in height and that give the place special acoustics. That is why, in the cove itself, choral concerts are often organised.

 

 

Glass Beach - Playa de los Cristales (A Coruña)

Within the Baleeira cove, in the municipality of Laxe, we find the striking "Crystals" beach. Years ago it was used as a garbage dump and all kinds of glass waste were thrown into its waters, which with the erosion of the sea and the wind turned into polished crystals that now cover its entire surface.

 

 

 

Gulpiyuri Beach (Asturias)

Oddly enough, the smallest beach in the world is not only found in Asturias but also inland. It is Gulpiyuri, a small sandy area connected by the sea through a small hole in the rocky wall, which is where the water enters.

 

 

Covachos Beach (Cantabria)

Covachos beach is located in the municipality of Santa Cruz de Benaza, very close to Santander. In its 50 meters of length, fine golden sand awaits us, clean and refreshing waters, a waterfall that flows into the beach itself and an islet to which we can only go when the tide is low.

 

 


El Golfo Beach (Lanzarote)

On the west coast of Lanzarote, the crater of an ancient volcano plunges into the Atlantic Ocean creating the Charco de los Clicos, which with its bright green waters contrasts with the black sand of El Golfo beach.

 

 

Cova del Llop Marí beach (Tarragona)

In the town of L'Hospitalet de l'Infant, we come across the Cova del Llop Marí, a cavity that goes into a cliff and surprises us with a beach inside. The value of this protected natural space is such that to access it you must make a prior reservation.



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A handful of random villages really worth visiting!
Friday, August 5, 2022

Spain is full of stunning villages but here I have selected just a handful. Some may be well known, and others may be less well known, but all are breath-taking and well worth a visit. 

 

Grazalema (Cádiz) 


On the Grazalema mountain range’s white village route, this charming enclave dazzles in the glare of the southern sun, its white façades contrasting with the natural green landscape around it. Curiously, this is the wettest area of Spain, which would explain why it boasts one of the country’s biggest forests of ‘pinsapo’ (fir), which has all but disappeared in the rest of Western Europe. A town of 2,165 inhabitants, Grazalema has been part of a Biosphere Reserve since 1977, making it a hiker’s paradise.

 

 


Villanueva de los Infantes (Ciudad Real) 


This town of 5,500 residents in Campo de Montiel, in the region of Castilla–La Mancha, was declared a site of artistic and historical significance in 2004 thanks, among other things, to its 17th-century Plaza Mayor – the main square – and Santiago Hospital. But apart from the architecture, it’s fun just to wander along the medieval street of General Pérez Ballesteros or the upbeat Calle Cervantes. Villanueva de Los Infantes is one of the corners of La Mancha that may have been the subject of Cervantes’ famous opening line in ‘Don Quixote’: “A village in La Mancha whose name I do not wish to recall...”

 

 

 

Ujué (Navarre) 


The cobbled streets of this rugged medieval hamlet, 50 kilometres from Pamplona in the Olite district, lead up to the Santa Maria church–fortress that was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. Once you have made it up, you can enjoy panoramic views that stretch from the foothills of the Pyrenees and the plains of Ribera del Ebro to the mountain of Moncayo to the south. It is also worth just strolling through its labyrinthine streets, which are home to 200 people, as well as sampling the local delicacy, ‘migas de pastor’ (or shepherd’s breadcrumbs).

 

 


Chinchón (Madrid) 


The main square is the best place to start a sightseeing tour of this charming town of 5,447 inhabitants, some 44 kilometres southeast of Madrid. Recognized as one of the most beautiful squares in Spain, it is by no means all the town has to offer. There is also the 14th-century Torre del Reloj – or clock tower – which is the only vestige of the Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church, the 15th-century Castillo de Los Condes – Castle of the Counts – which is fairly well preserved despite being ravaged by fires and wars, and the San Agustín Monastery, whose living quarters have been converted into an impressive Parador, or state-run luxury hotel.

 

 


Covarrubias (Burgos) 


Lying on the banks of the Arlanza River, Covarrubias has the only pre-11th century Castilian fortress in Spain – the Torreón de Fernán González, which was built in the Mozarabic style in the 10th century. Lately, there has been a surge of tourism to this community of 600 inhabitants, with visitors drawn by the tomb of Princess Christina of Norway in the cloister of the Church of San Cosme and San Damián. The daughter of King Haakon IV, Christina married Prince Felipe, the brother of Alfonso X the Wise in 1258 in Valladolid and was buried in Covarrubias following her death four years later. Legend has it that whoever touches the bell next to the tomb will find love. The Archivo del Adelantado de Castilla is also worth a look as are the numerous medieval-style dwellings that line the streets.



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Streets and buildings built under rocks: this is the most peculiar town in Spain
Tuesday, July 26, 2022

 

If this summer you want to enjoy a holiday in Andalusia without being too hot, there is a municipality in the province of Cádiz that you will love. It is a unique town in Spain since all the streets and buildings are built into and under a rock face.

It has a population of 2,700 inhabitants, and a few kilometres away there are many towns that are well worth a visit, such as Olvera or Ronda. Therefore, you can spend your rest days discovering this area of ​​Andalusia and falling in love with every corner.

Sound familiar? The town is Setenil de las Bodegas, located an hour and a half by car from Cádiz capital. It is located around a canyon excavated by the waters of the Guadalporcún River, and strolling through its streets is a true experience for the senses.

 


Cuevas del Sol Street is the most important in the municipality. It is located in the lower part of the town, so it is the first place you will visit in Setenil de las Bodegas. All the houses are built under huge rocks and there are many restaurants where you can try some amazing dishes from the local cuisine.

From Calle Cuevas del Sol there are some stairs going up to the Mirador del Carmen, which offers the best panoramic views of the town. You will be amazed to see the complex "urban planning".

Calle Cuevas de la Sombra is also a very picturesque place. It receives this name because there is a large rock suspended between two rows of houses, which does not let even a single ray of sunlight through. It is in front of Calle Cuevas del Sol.

 

In the highest part of Setenil de las Bodegas is the Torreón, one of the essential places to visit. It is the only thing that remains of the ancient fortress built in the Middle Ages by the Muslims.

Next to the Tower is the Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation, whose origins date back to the 15th and 17th centuries built on the site of an old mosque. Inside it houses the Altarpiece of the Annunciation from the end of the 15th century.

 

 

The Hermitage of San Benito is one of the most important religious temples in this unique town in Spain. Although it is a simple construction, inside is the image of Father Jesús Nazareno, the most admired carving in the town.

As you can see, visiting Setenil de las Bodegas is a great option for a day out this summer!

 



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