Plaza Mayor, Aranda de Duero
Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Silos
Orbaneja del Castillo
Roman Theatre, Merida Spain
Dance in Granada
Glenn gets a haircut in Madrid's Plaza Mayor
In Madrid, this guy gets around!
Cafe in Madrid
We flew from Vancouver to Paris, then to Madrid where we picked up our car. After flying for the better part of 24 hours a short drive is feasible so we drove to Aranda de Duero.
This is a relatively small town of 33000 people. If we had time to stay longer, the town is known for having wine cellars that interconnect below the streets of the town. The next morning I walked through the historic centre of the town. Not much going on at 6:30 am, but you know what it like when you cross the many time zones from Vancouver to Spain. Be prepared to wake up early!
One of the noted sights is the Santa Maria la Real church. It dates from the 15th and 16th centuries and has an ornate and detailed facade, especially over the main doors. Not open of course in the early morning hours when I was there.
There is an old Roman hump bridge that is next to the San Juan Church. Well worth walking down to the river as the area is very pleasant.
When we leave we drive up to the Monastery de Silos.
This is a a Benedictine monastery, in the small town of Santo Domingo de Silos. It is named after the 11C Saint Dominic of Silos. The original abbey dates from the 7th Century, and it was built in the 11th and 12th Centuries.
We enjoy our Travels to Cloisters, and the Silos Abbey, with its two-story cloister, was on our list of places to see. The capitals have carved scenes. The lower level has carvings with dragons, centaurs, lattices and mermaids. The cloisters are the only parts that remain from the monastery that has not changed from its original construction.
From here it is on to Burgos. Driving in Spain is very pleasant. There are numerous autoroutes, four lane highways, the majority have no toll.
Burgos is the capital of Castile and Castile used to be a kingdom in Spain. The city is also a major stop on the way to Santiago de Compostela. As I read more about the walk to Santiago de Compostela I found there are many "ways". In deed we crossed many.
While my friend Christopher Johnson was walking the Camino, we drove the Autoruria Camino de Santingo as our way from Burgos to Leon. The scallop shell, found off the coast of Galicia is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. There were numerous signs with scallop shells pointing the way, and we would see the walkers with a scallop shell attached to their backpack. This is a major activity of the area, and I read that in 2014 there were 237,886 pilgrims making the walk.
We visited the noted cloisters in the Cathedral of Burgos. They and the two cathedrals were impressive.
Burgos is a very pleasant town with a large pedestrian area that connects plaza to plaza. Our hotel, the AG Burgos, was located right in the centre of the city, and this is the location to be. Other than a nightmare to get in and out of the underground parking lot, this was a very nice hotel.
The Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas monastery is large and impressive. Unfortunately you have to take a tour, my tour was only in Spanish, and there are no photos allowed. Founded in 1187 by Alfonso VII of Castile, this was the location of royal weddings and major events.
We mustered up the nerve to get the car out of the parking garage, there is a killer turn that no driver will forget, and we drive to the small town of Orbaneja del Castillo. It was about an hour drove, took us through very scenic country with a combination of farmland and mountains. I wanted to take some long exposure photographs of the waterfalls that cut through this small hamlet. It was scenic, and there were many other photographers there. I hate waiting to get access to the "spot".
The small town at the top of the hill dates from the Medieval era.
The drive from Burgos to Leon took us across beautiful landscape. This area reminded me of Tuscany. Being spring, there were many tones of green, some very vivid.
Once we arrived in Leon we stayed at the massive Parador San Marcos, a previous monastery with impressive cloisters that is now one of the Paradors of Spain. King Alfonso XIII started the paradors in 1928 as a means of promoting tourism in Spain. The Paradors are in old castles, palaces, convents, monasteries etc. Prices range but if travelling in Spain do check out the paradors as an option.
We visited the Cathedral, considered to be one of the finest examples of French-style classic Gothic architecture. Nothing dark like the Notre Dame Paris, this church has 1,800 square meters of stained glass windows many of them dating from the 13th and 15th century.
I had in my notes to see the Monastery of San Marcos as an example of Renaissance Spanish architecture. Little did I realize we would be staying in the monastery!
We were in Leon on a Sunday, and while the cathedral was open, and in the historic centre major sights were open, the rest of the city was pretty quite.
By this time on the trip we have formally made the switch from Canadian to Spainish culture and we found ourselves going down for dinner at 10:00 pm!
In Salamanca we stayed at the Palacio de San Esteban, another of the paradors. The hotel is part of the Palace of San Esteban, with the Church next door. My kind of hotel as when we drove up, a young man came out, told me he would park and car and we can check in and go to our rooms.
Next to the Palacio was the Convento de San Esteban (Church of St. Stephen). The facade of the church is referred to as stone tapestry, and it meets that description with detailed stone work. The facade of the church started in 1524 and was not completed until 1610.
The chuch is known for its cloisters which have two levels. The impressive De Soto Staircase goes between the two levels. There were actually two other cloisters in the church but access to those is limited to the monastic community.
The town is interesting. Like many Spanish cities, it has a Plaza Mayor, the main plaza. Here the Plaza Mayor is surrounded on all sides by arcaded buildings, all with the same look. Unfortunately, there was some type of event that had taken place and they were in the process of taking down the exhibition that was in the centre.
There is an old Roman bridge that crosses the river. I walked to it, but frankly it was not worth the effort. Only one section of the original Roman construction remains.
We leave Salamanca and drive towards Merida, a town with significant roman architecture. Of interest was the Teatro Anfiteatro, the Roman Theatre. It dates from 16-15 BC and is in remarkable condition. The fiberglass seats, however, made to look like rock, detracted from the impressiveness of the overall structure. The theatre was completely covered with soil, with only some of the pillars extended out of the ground. Excavation to reveal the theatre curtain and the seats started in 1910.
We drove onto Zafra to stay at a parador with a pool. We thought we needed some time to relax before arriving in the larger cities of Seville and Madrid.
The Parador was excellent, an old castle with an impressive courtyard, but the pool, completely empty! Oh well, it was good to spend two days in this small town of white-washed buildings.
When we arrived, we dropped off the car at the train station. The balance of the trip would be by train or bus until we flew back up to Paris. In Seville our friends from Vancouver, Mike Arbogast & Margot Orr, joined us. We had rented an apartment, centrally located, and with a great roof-top patio. It was a ten minute walk to the centre of the pedestrian area that contained the cathedral and the Alcazar.
The cathedral is stunning. The Alcazar is considered one of the most beautiful in Spain. The Metropol Parasol was a few minutes away and very interesting. A massive wood structure over a plaza. Take the 3E ride to the top and that even includes a free drink in one of the restaurants.
From Seville we took the train to Granada. The train made it most of the way, then stopped in a small town, and we boarded buses for the rest of the way to Granada. Work on the rail line was underway to bring a high-speed train line for the Madrid-Granada connection.
The next day we had a private guided tour of The Alhambra, the noted Moorish citadel and palace. Our guide was excellent and we spent the morning walking through the extensive grounds and buildings.
In the evening we jumped in a cab and went to a secret place, the Plaza Mirador de San Nicolas, for night photos of the Alhambra that sits across the river. Not sure how the word got out, but there were plenty of other photographers and people there. I had a hard time getting a spot along the ledge to set up my tripod. But it was all worth it. We had a great dinner in an outdoor restaurant with a view that will stay with us for many years.
From Granada we took a Premium Bus up to Madrid. The train schedule just did not work. This was like a flight, we received a box lunch, and 45 minutes before arriving, we received a light snack!
Our apartment in Madrid was wonderful, located right off the central Puerto del Sol. Madrid is a city that never seems to stop. The crowds in the Puerto del Sol would go until well past midnight. In the early hours of the morning there were those slowly making their way home.
The roof top patio was so pleasant for breakfast, and then dinner in the evenings. There was a canopy, but basically it was way too hot to sit on the patio during the day.
We enjoyed our week in Madrid. Our location made everything so close. The Marcato San Miquel was a nice little find. Plaza Mayor a five minute walk. The Plaza Santa Anna became a favorite for the restaurant and the pleasant atmospher.
We found the Royal Palace to be exceptional. We also went to see a flamenco dance. What passion and power. We had an excellent table, one back from the dance floor, and we could feel the power of each stomp.
While in Madrid there were a few day trips to towns that were about 30 minutes away by high speed train. The trains travel at over 250 k/hour so there were a number of options.
Can only do one day trip. Then this is it.
In Toledo, a major festival was to happen the next day. The cloisters at the Monasterio de San Juan de Los Reyes were incredible. The cathedral is a real show stopper.
From Madrid we flew back to Paris where we both have apartments.