Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts with the label Spain

Ronda - You fill up my senses

"Ronda is the place to go if you are planning to travel to Spain for a honeymoon or for being with a girlfriend. The whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set." Ernest Hemingway
Ronda is the first stop along the route of the pueblos blancos in Andalusia. Framed by blue skies and the green valley below, it lives up to its title as the City of Dreams.

Four Enchanting Pueblos Blancos in Andalucia

"My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth's loveliness." Michelangelo 
Plaza de España in Grazalema
In the valley of the Sierra del Endrinal sits a peaceful town of a few thousand residents. Grazalema was our first stop along the pueblos blancos route. We had heard of their "cabello del angel" pastry and were curious about this "angel's head". We picked up some at a bakery off the plaza. They were sweet, as sweet as little angels who lovingly keep us out of harm's way.

Puerto Rico Restaurant

Puerto Rico Restaurant
We were lucky to have found a really good restaurant in the center of Madrid. So many other people concur by the queue that forms outside the restaurant on most days.

The Feast of Our Lady of the Almudena

The statue of Our Lady of the Almudena was brought to Spain by St. James, the apostle. It was hidden for centuries to keep it from being desecrated and destroyed by the arrival of the Moors in Spain in the 8th century. The search for the statue commenced after Spain was reconquered from the Moors in the 11th century.  It was miraculously found on November 9, 1085 during a novena and procession held for the purpose of finding her image. Since then Madrid has celebrated annually the feast of Our Lady of the Almudena, the patron saint of the city, on November 9.

Why you should enter the Mezquita with your eyes closed

"To Cordoba belong all the beauty and ornaments that delight the eye or dazzle the sight. Her long line of Sultans form her crown of glory; her necklace is strung with the pearls which her poets have gathered from the ocean of language; her dress is of the banners of learning, well-knit together by her men of science; and the masters of every art and industry are the hem of her garments." Stanley Lane Poole, The Moors in Spain: Introduction
One of the most amazing places I've visited in the world is the Mezquita. The Mosque Cathedral of Córdoba was built on the site of the Church of San Vicente from the Visigothic occupation of Córdoba in the 6th century. It has changed ownership a few times since then. Muslims ruled Córdoba from the 8th century through 1236 when Córdoba fell to Christian Spain. The Mesquita which was completed in 976 was left intact until King Ferdinand III converted the mosque to a cathedral within a mosque in the 13th century.
When you enter the Mezqu…

San Lorenzo de El Escorial

It's been ages since my first visit to the monastery of El Escorial. What impressed me most then were the long corridors and one particular door with a low clearing so you would have to stoop so low to pass through. Or else.....
I was delighted to discover that I could go to San Lorenzo de El Escorial by taking one of the suburban trains from Chamartin. And the trip took less than an hour and costs 8.10€ roundtrip. So I took off one sunny afternoon to rediscover this old town. What struck me as we approached El Escorial were the spectacular mountains which dominated the landscape. Little did I realize that when I opted to walk to the monastery that I would be climbing up a thousand meters to the foot of Mount Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama. So I panted uphill all the while thinking, will I ever get there? I found out later on that I took the roundabout way along Avenida de Los Reyes Catolicos but what the heck. It was a good exercise which I badly needed after the overindulg…

Cerralbo Museum

The Cerralbo Museum is a museum palace which belonged to Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo (1845-1922). He was an avid collector of art and antiques which he obtained from his travels and from art auctions in Europe. His acquisitions include paintings, sculptures, drawings, tapestries, ceramics, historical documents, books, photography, objets d'art and furniture. It was one of the finest collections of its time. The palace of the Marquis was built to be both a residence and a gallery.
The armoury was the receiving area of this aristocratic residence. The Marquis and his Marquess, Inocencia Serrano y Cerver, greeted their guests in this hall where the suit of armor belonging to the illustrious ancestor of the Marquis, Pablo Fernandez Contreras, the first Earl of Alcudía, (who was the Admiral of the Spanish Squad that defeated the Dutch fleet in 1635) is on display. The Marquis of Cerralbo also inherited the title of Earl of Alcudía.
The formal dining room…

Chinchón, Spain

The charming town of Chinchón is a quick bus ride from Madrid's Conde de Casal bus station through green countryside and somnolent little villages. For most of the passengers in the bus, it was a time to doze off after a busy morning of shopping and doctor's appointments in Madrid. But that was rudely interrupted when a race car driver in a black sedan cut in front of our bus with two feet to spare and the bus driver had to brake quite forcefully waking up the weary from their siesta. Then everyone started to talk at once about our close call and my once aloof seatmate who had gone to dream world after finishing her pastry, started to converse with me. She later volunteered to show me the way to the Plaza Mayor (which is also close to where she lives) and we had a pleasant conversation as we slowly climbed uphill to the square.


The Plaza Mayor of Chinchón is a 15th century square surrounded by white washed three storey buildings with wooden balconies called claros. The square…

Casas Colgadas, Cuenca

Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses)
The Casas Colgadas are the iconic symbols of Cuenca. Hanging precariously on a cliff above the deep gorge of the Huécar river, they defy gravity. There used to be more hanging houses in Cuenca but only three have survived to this day. The Museo de Arte Abstracto Español occupies two of these houses. To get a good perspective of their hairy perch, walk downhill to the Puente de San Pablo which straddles the gorge. 
Hanging Houses from Puente de San Pablo
The footbridge of San Pablo is a good vantage point for a sweeping view of this fortress town. Look down and you'll appreciate the depth of the gorge. Look up and you'll see how the balconies of the Casas Colgadas seem suspended in the air. Look behind you for a panoramic view of the highest section of the old hill town. And across the bridge is the Parador de Cuenca, a former monastery from the 16th century which has been converted into a government-run hotel.
View of the gorge of Huécar and Pa…

Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, Cuenca

"What you have done in Cuenca is surely one of the most admirable, indeed brilliant, works of art.... a remarkable balance of painting, sculpture, and architecture." Alfred H. Barr in a letter to Fernando bel
Jardin Seco, Fernando Zóbel, 1969
Manila born Fernando Zóbel conceived the idea of a museum for abstract art in Spain while contemplating on a proper home for his significant collection of Spanish contemporary art from the 1950s to the 1960s. Together with Gustavo Torner, they found a venue in the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses) in Cuenca. The Museum of Spanish Abstract Art opened in 1966 with forty works of art on display from Zóbel's collection. His fellow artists and friends -- Torner, Gerardo Rueda, Antonio Lorenzo and Eusebio Sempere assisted him in various capacities as co-director and curators of the museum. 
Zóbel became concerned with how best to insure the survival of the museum beyond his lifetime. He decided to donate his collection to the Fundación Jua…

Cuenca, Spain

Cuenca
The Moors built this fortress town around 711-714 on a ridge between two gorges of the Júcar and Huécar rivers. Alphonso VIII of Castile captured this citadel, known then as Kunka, in the 12th century and renamed it Cuenca. A Christian town was born and spread down the hill. The old hill town or "upper city" became the seat of religious institutions while the lower town hosted a booming textile industry until the 16th century. 
Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In its Justification of Inscription, the World Heritage Committee describes Cuenca thus: "It is also exceptional because the walled town blends into and enhances the fine rural and natural landscape within which it is situated".
Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is the gathering place for festivals like the nine processions preceding Easter and the concurrent celebration of Religious Festival Week. The Camino del Calvario, (Road to Calvary) procession with religious pasos (statues or images set on a float…

Museo del Greco

A Repentant St. Peter c. 1600
Domenikos Theotokópoulos or El Greco was born in Crete in 1541. He moved to Toledo in 1577 after years of apprenticeship in Venice and Rome. El Greco's paintings have raised many questions as to why his subjects are elongated. Some theorists believe this is a result of an impaired vision. Others advanced that El Greco was merely using his own painting fundamentals to create what he envisioned as natural beauty. Nonetheless, El Greco left an enduring body of works. Many of the paintings on view at the Museo del Greco belong to the later period in his career including the Apostolate series. He died in Toledo in 1614.
In the painting above, a repentant St. Peter is portrayed with tears in his eyes. St. Peter is begging for forgiveness after denying Jesus Christ three times.  The theme of repentance was common in the late 16th century. 
St. James the Greater (Zebedee) Oil on canvas, 1608-1604
"It is only after years of struggle and deprivation that t…

Toledo

Alcázar
Though I've traveled extensively, once in awhile I will do things without preparation. So I find myself in unfavorable situations and there's no one else to blame but me. Now I know never to walk around the walled city of Toledo without a map unless my plan is to happily get lost along its narrow and winding cobblestone streets. The Castilla region was also experiencing an extraordinary heat wave during my visit. So there I was walking in circles when the temperature was roaring past the 100° F mark. 
Calle Commercio
A friendly cashier at the Burger King on Plaza Zocodover* informed me that the El Greco Museum is past the Cathedral but that it was quite a distance away. Armed with my cold drink, I followed the main street to the spire of the Cathedral of Toledo in hopes of finding the museum. (*What's in a name? Zocodover means place of animals and originates from the Arab word, suq ad-wadābb.)
Tympanum of the Puerta del Reloj Cathedral of Toledo
I easily made it t…

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 universit…