Skip to main content

Alcala de Henares

Calle Mayor

The Roman Empire found its way to Spain in the first century BC and they built a settlement in Alcalá de Henares. They called it, Complutum. The Visigoths drove the Romans away and they in turn were given the boot by the Moors in 711. The Moors named their new conquest, Al-Qal'at, which means citadel. Alcalá de Henares means citadel on the river Henares.

Alcalá was recaptured from the Moors in 1118 and became part of the bishopric of Toledo. It was in the early 16th century when Cardinal Jimenez de Cisneros conceived the idea of a univeristy town and laid the groundwork for a university with the specific purpose of training students as administrators for the church and the state. For years the Universidad de Alcalá was the center of higher education in Spain until it was moved to Madrid in 1836 and Alcalá was left to languish. Thanks to the forward thinking group of citizens called the Sociedad de Condueños (Society of Joint Owners) who bought several of the university buildings and preserved them that the historic center has survived to this day. The current Universidad de Alcalá de Henares was established in 1977.

       Downspout of a gutter 

It is perhaps due to the local residents' keen awareness and appreciation of their cultural heritage that they pay particular attention to detail such as this downspout which I noticed along the arcaded walkways. These covered walkways on Calle Mayor are lifesavers especially when the temperature hovers around 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months. You can sit at a café or shop in comfort without getting burnt by the sun.

Stork's Nest

These white storks are increasing in numbers. They seem to love their perches atop the towers and steeples (of which there are a lot of) in town. And the white stork is a protected species in Spain and the local government attends to their needs. Once a year they migrate to Africa for a couple of months and return in October. But it seems this pattern is changing as it has been observed that they are now spending more time in Alcalá. 

Plaza de Cervantes

The university and city center was conferred the Unesco World Heritage Site status in 1998. This was the first city planned as a university town and became the model for other educational centers in Europe and the new world. 

El Paraninfo, Colegio de San Ildefonso

El Paraninfo is a jewel of a hall Inside the Colegio de San Ildefonso at the Universidad de Alcalá. In the old days, this was where a candidate for a doctorate degree was tasked to defend his studies and receive his diploma or if he fails, leave in shame.  Nowadays, the annual ceremony for the Cervantes Prize for lifetime achievement in literature is held here with the King of Spain giving the prestigious award to the winner.

Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes
With Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

Miguel de Cervantes was born in Alcalá in 1547. We know him best for his work, Don Quixote de La Mancha.  The house where he was born is on Calle Mayor and it displays furniture of the era as well as various early editions of his book since its publication and the translated versions. There are also precious drawings by Salvador Dali. There is much to see in this compact house and the entry is free.

Cervantes through Don Quixote has left us this inspiring passage:

"One man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable stars
And the world will be better for this."

How to get there: Take the Cercanias train from Atocha station or Ministerios from Madrid to Alcalá de Henares. It takes approximately 30 minutes to get there and costs 5€ as of this writing.


Images by TravelswithCharie


Popular posts from this blog

Adare, Ireland's Prettiest Village

Thatched-roof cottages
Twenty minutes south of Limerick City on the River Maigue is Ireland's prettiest village, Adare. It's a small town, pleasantly quiet even in mid July, at the height of the tourist season. There was a celebrity classic golf tournament going on at the exclusive Adare Manor Golf Course during my visit. But thankfully, this did not bring in the crowds.

Augustinian Priory
It's an easy stroll from the Augustinian Priory to Bill Chawke's Lounge Bar on the opposite end of town.  Centuries old thatched roof cottages, medieval monasteries, vine covered townhouses, the Adare Town Park and the quintessential Irish pubs line Main Street. There's no need to rush. All these places invite visitors to linger and savor the moment.

At Bill Chawke's the kegs are full and ready to be served. But before saying your first "sláinte!" (to your health), consider walking the extra mile or so to the ruins of Desmond Castle, north of Adare Manor. It dates bac…

Bargain Shopping in Greenhills, Metro Manila

At Greenhills indoor flea market, you will find santos (religious statues), costume jewelry, authentic South Seas pearls, clothes, shoes, knock off branded handbags, Oriental furnishings, Christmas decorations, paintings, souvenirs and linens. There are stalls upon stalls of goods and you walk down narrow aisles teeming with shoppers who are at this moment doing their Christmas shopping.

I was particulary interested in new costume jewelry trends and there are a variety of stones and glass beads on display. The latest is a headband made of shiny glass beads, a unique party accessory. I was pleased to find wood carvings and paintings at much more reasonable prices than elsewhere in the city, except in Divisoria which I have yet to check out.

Weekends and holidays are the worst times to come though you can shop their night market during the holidays. Crowds notwithstanding, I plan to spend more time shopping for home furnishings at Greenhills after the holidays.

* * *

Photos by Charie

Carlos "Botong" Francisco, A Nation Imagined

Carlos "Botong" Francisco, FILIPINO STRUGGLES THROUGH HISTORY Oil on canvas, 1964, (located at ManilaCity Hall) A National Cultural Treasure owned by the City of Manila
Carlos Botong Francisco: A Nation Imagined is the latest art installation at the AyalaMuseum in Makati to celebrate the 100th birthday anniversary of Carlos “Botong” Francisco (1912-1969), a Philippine National Artist. Forty paintings and lithographs were culled from various private collections to form this exhibition. Of the large scale paintings on display, Maria Makiling and Fiesta, both oil on canvas, are representative of the indigenous genre which Botong loved to portray. In Maria Makiling, Botong reveals a relaxed and recumbent woman with her legs dangling in the cool waters of the stream and playing with an exotic deer by her side. Fiesta is about how the Filipino people gather to celebrate an important occasion, be that a religious feast or a wedding. The central figures are dancing the tinikling, a po…