Monthly Archives: September 2016

Plaza de España: Madrid’s Premier Square

imageThe grandest square in Madrid, and perhaps the whole country, is the Plaza de Espana. Located at the western portion of Gran Via, this square is a must-see Madrid attraction if only for its wide expanse filled with sculptures and lush greenery. It boasts of a spacious area that covers roughly 36,900 square meters, no wonder it is listed as one of the biggest in Spain.

One would observe that the plaza is well-tended and maintained. Its central fountain is an inviting sight — complete with statues and a strong, flowing water — features typical of a major Spanish square. I had visited the park a couple of times during the earlyv hours, and often I would see gardeners caring for the greens and keeping the surrounding clean. Evidently, it is a maintained plaza, with every corner serving as a perfect spot to have photos for cherished souvenirs.

Plaza Espana is a major spot in downtown Madrid among tourists from all over and locals as well. It is not surprising since its location is strategic, acting like a crossroad that leads to many other Madrid attractions – such as the Royal Palace, the gardens of Sabatini and Campo del Moro, the Puerta del Sol, Debod, Retiro Park’s Rose Garden, and Plaza Mayor.

1. Monumento de Plaza de Espana

At the center of the square is the Monumento a Cervantes. The tall structure itself, with the globe on top, is made of granite, while the sculptures standing on its sides are made of Sepúlveda stone and bronze as main materials. In the photo below, on the left of the monument is the Torre de Madrid, while on the right is the Edificio Espana.
image

2. Water Birth Fountain

The Fountain of Water’s Birth at Plaza de Espana, known locally as the Fuente del Nacimiento del Agua, is like any other found in a typical Spanish square — it serves to further add aesthetics to the place. It features the sculpture of fountain nymph Naiad holding a pitcher from which the water pours.
image

3. Miguel de Cervantes

The centerpiece of the square is the Monument of Miguel de Cervantes, erected at Plaza de Espana in 1929. Cervantes is the country’s most celebrated writer and novelist, and author of the Spanish novel – Don Quijote de la Mancha.
image

4. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza Bronze Statues

Don Quixote on horseback holds a metal lance. To his left is his assistant Sancho Panza with his donkeyimage

5. Aldonza Lorenzo

A. Lorenzo’s stone sculpture, a fictional character in Don quixote de la Mancha. She is also known by the name of Dulcinea del Toboso.
image

6. Edificio España

Directly in front of the plaza is the much-photographed Edificio Espana. Constructed in 1953, it is popular among tourists because of its simple yet attractive facade of white and rust hues. image

7. Torre de Madrid

Popular plaza edifice and located along Gran Via is the Torre de Madrid. Like the Edificio Espana, it is touted as a precious Madrid landmark and city treasure.image

8. Real Compania Asturiana de Minas

Directly facing the plaza and the Calle Bailen is Real Compania Asturiana de Minas. With its construction spanning 8 years, from 1891 to 1899, the French-inspired edifice is one of the most admired examples of architecture of its time.

image

Visit Plaza de Espana via:

Metro: Plaza de Espana Station — Lines 10 and 3 service this station, found right within the plaza. It is also connected to Linea 2.
Bus: C1, C2, 3, 48, 44, 133, 1, 46

image

Map:

Outside Madrid: Toledo Spain [What to See]

imageThe majestic Alcazar (fortress) lording over the whole town of Toledo

You need not travel for hours just to escape the frenzied Madrid crowd and enjoy the quiet of the countryside. For instance, if you want to go to Toledo Spain and wish to experience what the country’s former capital has to offer, you need only less than a hour, or roughly 45 minutes to reach this magnificent hilltop town.

A popular day trip destination, Toledo is a veritable cultural melting pot of sorts if only because it was formed from the influence of three different religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Such influences molded the place into the unique and historically rich town that it is now, as seen thru its Moorish walls and towers, plazas, cathedrals, museums, bridges, and Christian Roman ruins. Consequently, its overflowing uniqueness led UNESCO to declare it as a World heritage site.

imageToledo Cathedral

Toledo is the heart and soul of Spain, being the country’s former premier city, long before Madrid became the current one. This “pueblo” within the Castille La Mancha community sets itself apart from the rest of the region because it drips in so much grandeur and history.

A major Spain attraction like Cordoba and Compostela de Santiago, what makes Toledo a preferred destination is that it requires less travel hours to reach, which means much more time to explore the place.

A marked edge of Toledo is that going there is cheaper especially if you’re from Madrid. Traveling via bus will cost you less than 10 euros if you purchase round trip tickets. Likewise, sites and attractions are near each other. You’d get to walk through the town´s cobbled streets, which can be narrow and confusing – much like a labyrinth — but exciting, nonetheless.

Visit Toledo now, see it, and in no time at all, you will fall in love with this Spanish gem. Explore the town to the fullest, and be ready to add Toledo to your list of favorite Spanish towns.

MOORISH ATTRACTIONS

1. Alcazar de Toledo

This is Toledo´s famous fortress, standing at the highest point of the town. So-called because it was controlled by the town’s ancient conquerors, the Moors. It still maintains a vast military importance to the town.

image

2. Puerta de Visagra

Also called Puerta Nueva de Visagra, this imposing monument serves as the gateway to the walled city of Toledo, Castilla La Mancha.

image

3. Antiguas Murallas y Torres

The ancient towers and walls that surround Toledo are clear evidences of the Moorish influence on the town.

image

4. Puente de San Martin y Rio Tajo

One of the popular town attractions is the San Martin Bridge with its 5 arches, spanning over the historic Tagus River (Tajo Rio). San Martin was a Roman bridge, but was rebuilt by the Moors in 1212.

image

5. Iglesia de El Salvador

I’ll include the Church of El Salvador under the Moorish group since it was originally built as a mosque, at the time when the Muslims dominated the town.

image

JEWISH INFLUENCE

1. Museo de Separdi

The Sephardic Museum boasts of a rich display of the history of the Jewish people in Toledo through its valuable Judaic artifacts. Where located: Calle Samuel Levi.

image

2. The Menorrah Tiles

The white Menorrah or the Jewish candle holder over a blue-background tile. Many of these tiles are embedded in the streets of Toledo, indicating a once thriving Jewish presence.

image

3. Transito Synagogue

The synagogue of the Transito is unique because while it is a bonafide Jewish place of worship, the edifice evokes a Moorish design. It is built by Samuel Ha-Levi (full name: Samuel Ben Meir Ha Levi Abulafia), a Jewish advisor to the 14th century King of Castile, Pedro I.

image

4. Sta Maria la Blanca

Santa Maria la Blanca, now a small Christian church and museo, was built as a synagogue, functioning as one until the latter part of the 14th century. Ownership was eventually transferred to the Catholic Church. Christian worship and cultural events are said to be held at the site.

image

ROMAN CATHOLIC LEGACY

1. Catedral de Santa Maria de Toledo

A popular Roman Catholic church patterned after the Bourges Cathedral of France, it is known by many names such as the Toledo Cathedral and Cathedral of Spain. It is considered one of the finest structures that utilized Gothic architecture. Entrance ticket price: 8 euros

image

2. Iglesia de San Ildefonso

The church of San Ildefonso is dedicated to the town’s patron saint, St Ildefonsus. Run by the Jesuits, the church is primarily baroque in design. It is simple and charming church that’s popular among tourists who wander within the Calle de Mejico area.

image

3. Convento de San Antonio, Dulces Artisanos

The Convent of San Antonio de Padua can be found in Santo Tome, one of the Town´s central streets. It sells pastries and sweets like yemas at affordable prices, to the delight of tourists and locals alike.

image

OTHER TOLEDO SPAIN ATTRACTIONS

1. Plaza Zocodover

The town´s main square, a tourist attraction, is bustling like most other main squares in Spain. People rush about in the plaza throughout the day, mainly because of the surrounding restaurants, souvenir shops, and the fancy, red-colored tourist train that brings riders to the spot where panoramic photos of the town from afar can be taken.

image

2. Museo de Santa Cruz

Its location is where an ancient hospital used to stand. Now, the Santa Cruz Museum features everything that represents the magnificent era of the country — the Spanish Renaissance. It presents works of Luis Trista and El Greco, among many other renowned artists. Direccion: Miguel de Cervantes

image

3. Museo del Greco

Located along Paseo del Transito, the museum is dedicated to Domenikos Theotokopoulos — or simply El Greco. As his name implies, he was from Greece but settled in Toledo Spain where he led a prolific life as an artist and architect. Here, he produced most of his beautiful painting-masterpieces.

image

4. Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Another popular town Square, where the Ayuntamiento, the body in charge of the town government, and the Cathedral de Sta Maria are found.

image

5. Hostal San Tome

Hotels in Toledo Spain abound, and so finding a nice accommodation is easy to be had if you want to stay in town overnight or for a few days. Hostal San Tome belongs to the list of fine Toledo hotels — for one thing, its location is right in the middle of the action. Booking a room here is the perfect thing to do. Here is its website.

image

How to reach Toledo:

Bus: An ALSA bus is bound for Toledo every 20 to 30 minutes. Go to the ALSA station at Plaza Eliptica and buy tickets for 5.39 euros apiece. You pay less, 9.70 euros, if you purchase ida y vuelta tickets. Duration of travel: approximately 45 minutes.

Train: Take the Renfe AVE service at Atocha station, the price is around 25 euros (round trip). The train option is much faster; time of travel via Renfe is approximately 30 minutes.

image

Mapa

Outside Madrid: The University Town of Alcala de Henares

imageAlcala de Henares is famous for two things: first, it is the birth place of premier Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes, and second, it is recognized as the earliest planned university town in the world.

But I believe many flock to Alcala because it is conveniently close to Madrid. Imagine a beautiful town just 30 kilometers away from the city, such a proximity makes Alcala Spain a perfect day-trip destination. It is very near the capital many thought it is a mere suburb of Madrid when it is actually a legitimate Spanish town.

And so the fact that Alcala de Henares is just 50 or so minutes away and could be reached easily by train or bus, not to mention it owns a few impressive bragging rights and titles – all this makes it a popular and favourite destination for tourists.

Despite being home to top schools and tourist attractions, Alcala appears to me as a quiet and quaint town, the opposite of the noisy and tourist-drenched Madrid. I love that many of its sites and attractions are clumped close together; allowing tourists to explore them without having to make long walks in between.

Here are some of the Alcala de Henares attractions that are certainly worth seeing:

1. Cervantes Square

The plaza is dedicated to one who´s widely regarded as the greatest writer of Spain — Miguel de Cervantes. His statue stands in the middle of the plaza, while in its far end is the 19th-centuray built Kiosk of Music. You can also see in the background the Church of Santa Maria Tower (what´s actually seen in the photo is the remains of the ancient edifice).
image

2. Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso

Also called the Old University and the University of Alcale de Henares, San Ildefonso College is famous for its Plateresque facade (currently being renovated). It is the best known creation of Rodrigo Gil de Hontanon, a Spanish architect from the Renaissance era.

image

3. Capilla del Oidor

This baroque-style chapel is where Miguel de Cervantes was baptized. Capilla del Oidor is actually the existing remains of the Santa Maria Cathedral and one of the important edifices on the south end of the Cervantes Square.

image

4. Museum of Miguel Cervantes

Cervantes’ birthplace is transformed into a museum in his honor. Here, I’m seated between the bronze likeness of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the main characters from the Spanish writer’s most famous novel, Don Quixote de la Mancha. Museo de Cervantes is located at the historic Calle Mayor.

image

5. Corral de Comedias

Below is the Courtyard of Comedies, situated at the right side of the Cervantes Square if you face the statue. It is claimed as the oldest comedy courtyard since it dates back to the beginning of the 17th Century. It now functions as a theatre, and permits guided tours.

image

6. Catedral de los Santos Niños Justo

The early 16th century Gothic Church is built in dedication to Saint Mary Magdalene. It is situated in the middle of the town, an imposing presence at the Plaza de los Santos Ninos.

image

7. Calle Mayor

A highly historical street in the country, the Calle Mayor is one of the best proof that urbanism and commercialism already existed and flourished in medieval-era Spain.
image

8. Archbishop’s Palace

What was once a fortress castle, as evidenced by the presence of the murallas nearby, is now the the residence of the Alcala de Henares Diocese. The palace is a proud World Heritage site monument.  Direccion: Plaza de Palacio

image

9. Convento de las Clarisas de San Diego y Alonso Carrillo

Standing in front of the Convento de las Clarisas de San Diego is the statue of Archbishop Alonso Carrillo. The convent is of the Franciscan order. Direccion: Calle Beatas (near the Colegio de San Ildefonso)

image

10. Puerta de Madrid

A historical structure from way back 1788, it primarily served as the point of entry from the ancient town of Alcala to Madrid, and vice versa. Direccion: Calle Andres Saborit

image

11. Alcala de Henares Walls

Known as the Murallas de Henares, a significant portion of these 12th century walls are seen near the Palacio de Arsobispo. It served as the town´s protection, and was a effective means of taxing products entering the city.

image

12. Laredo Palace

An edifice built in the 19th century by Spanish architect Manuel de Laredo, it features no distinct style but rather displays a strong evidence of varied architectural influences from Moors, Renaissance, and Goth. It currently functions as a Museo de Cisneros.
image

How to Go

Cercanias (train): Ida y vuelta tickets are available at 7.60 euros, with the vuelta ticket valid until the morning of the next day. I bought my tickets at Nuevos Ministerios, albeit I presume tickets can also be had at Chamartin, Recoletos, and Atocha since the trains also pass thru these stations.

A little advice: For first timers to Cercania service, be attentive of the periodic voice announcements informing passengers of the train stops. The train is fully-packed at certain points of the trip and so the noise from the crowd can render the announcement weak and hard to hear. This might cause one to miss his stop altogether.

Map

The Rose Garden [La Roselada] at Retiro Park

imageEveryone will be delighted to see La Roselada or the Rose Garden, a heavenly piece of land found in a strategic corner inside the Retiro Park of Madrid, Spain. The whole area forms an elliptical shape, and is surrounded by beautifully trimmed hedges that are grown to a proper height; this allows passersby to have a peek of the garden from the outside.

This is precisely what I did, I peeked, excited to see what’s in store for me inside. I arrived some 30 minutes before 10AM and so, I walked around the outside perimeter while waiting for the garden’s gate to open to the public.

imageEntrance to the Rose Garden

Most flower plots have labels upon them — and so visitors would realize that many of the roses are varieties that originated from all over Europe. It was a beautiful park creation by the city’s chief garden then (in 1915) – Cecilio Rodriguez. He wanted to recreate the divinely beautiful rose gardens found in other major European capitals.

Now it boasts of thousands of roses of popular varieties to the appreciation of tourists and rose lovers. Definitely, this garden is one of the many spots that y0u should see if you must visit the Parque El Buen Retiro.

imageThe rose garden’s fountain offers a enchanting accent to the park
imageWinding pathways sprawl neatly in between continuous plots in order for visitors to better examine and appreciate the flowers
imageRoses of striking red-pink hue in full bloom at the La Roselada de Parque de Retiro
imageMany of the rose varieties come from other European countries like this Botticelle rose of France
imageI visited the garden this September, a time when the number of roses of various colors and sizes are still wanting. But wait till you visit the place during the month of May or June — this is the perfect season as there is a great abundance of roses in full bloom

Madrid Attractions and Landmarks Nearby

1. Puerta de la Independencia — triumphal arc monument in Madrid
2. Palacio de Cibeles — The city hall. Also known as the Palacio de Communicaciones. It is a white, granite-constructed building that houses the CentroCentro arts and cultural center of the city
3. Atocha Train Station – One of the important Renfe train/Metro stations of Madrid
4. Puerta del Sol – the city’s most popular main square
5. Prado Museum – Belongs to Madrid’s museum triad

Where to Find

The La Roselada is located inside the Retiro Park of Madrid, bordered by Paseo de Uruguay and Fernán Núñez.

Metro: Take Line 2 and get off at the Retiro Station, which is conveniently located inside the park. Other Stations near Retiro are Atocha and Atocha Renfe of Line 1. Take autobus number 51 if you want to reach it via bus — it stops right at the entrance of Retiro at Alcala.

Entrance

Free

Horario/Visiting Hours

April to September: 10AM to 8PM
October to March: 10AM to 6PM

Map

My Top 25 List of Delightful Spanish Tapas

The word “tapa” is derived from tapar, which means “to cover”. It is said that during the early days in Andalusia, supposedly the origin of the Spanish tapa, locals covered their glasses of wine or beer with a piece of bread or slice of ham to keep away pesky flies. Hence, this delectable Spanish food served in little plates was born.

Nowadays, you see locals and tourists eat tapas anywhere, not just in Madrid, but all over the country. Whether it is simple olives, or an exquisite dish like rabo de toro, every tapa is a gastronomic delight. Now if you’re a tapa lover, the good news is that there are tons of them that you can try.

Most are eaten according to their purpose – as Spanish appetizers or starters to the main course. Also, the Spaniards love to drink their vino or tinta de verano, and often, they take this with their favorite tapa. The latter’s popularity is so immense that it brought about the proliferation of more food establishments in Madrid that serve nothing else but tapas.

Needless to say, you can never claim to have been in Spain if you didn’t taste even one of these tasty appetizers. Don’t worry, if you stay in Madrid, you won’t miss them since every café must serve these culinary delicacies.

In my case, I am proud to have created my own list of Spanish tapas that I have already tasted from all over, in various Madrid barrios like Lavapies, in nearby towns such as Toledo, and even in much farther regions like Barcelona in the north of Spain, and faraway Granada, which is down the country’s southern part.

Here is my list of favorite tapas; they not in any particular order. But I’m sure many, if not all of them, are also your favorite:

1. Lacon

Lacon is one grilled Spanish food I could eat everyday. It can be a filling snack or light lunch, eaten without bread or as a bocadillo. With powdered paprika added on top, it’s perfect with iced-cold beer or refresco.  Also, lacon is usually drenched in olive oil for added taste. Where to eat: Restaurante el Jamonal, Calle Jacometrezo, Callao
image

2. Grilled Sardines

As a fish lover, I wouldn’t mind going to El Rastro just to have a taste of what I thought is the finest grilled sardines in town. Grilled perfectly and sprinkled with sea salt before serving, it’s quite a filling tapa and eaten best with a trozo of pan and chilled beer or coca cola. I recommend Bar Sarturce, Plaza Gral Vara de Rey Madrid

image

3. Morcilla de Burgos

If you have an aversion to blood-based food, I suggest you have some morcilla de burgos, and perhaps this Spanish tapa might change your mind. This is a delicious sausage that dark color of which is caused by it’s main ingredient, pig’s blood. The grainy feel as you chew it must be caused by the rice ingredient, or the perhaps some bits of coagulated blood. Paprika, salt, pepper, oregano complete the ingredients. I had this at Cafeteria El Sueno de Gonzalo, Gral Moscardo 9 Madrid

image

4. Aros Cebolla

I love the aros cebolla at 100 Montaditos — it’s firm, crispy, not soggy nor oily that all you want to do is pop one after another into your mouth until your plate is done. Not to worry, aros de cebolla one costs 1 euro every Wednesday and Sunday at 100 Montaditos.

image

5. Jamon serrano

This Spanish ham is thinly sliced and cured, and made from the meat of a white pig. It is less expensive than the Jamon Iberico. My very first dinner in Madrid includes Jamon Serrano, at Museo del Jamon.

image

6. Boquerones Fritos

This is a popular tapa that’s not just served in Madrid but anywhere else in Spain. For me, boquerones is one of the sea food dishes to die for, together with calamares and gambas. A squeeze of lemon enhances the savory flavor further. Museo del Jamon serves some of the best Boquerones.

image

7. Salmorejo Cordobes

Salmorejo is a soup, or to be specific, a purée of tomato and other ingredients such as bread. And like gazpacho, salmorejo is also served cold; but instead of croutons, diced jamon is added. Originated from Cordoba, the salmorejo took off and is now found in every region of Spain. Tasted my first salmorejo at El Nuevo Templete, Ave. de Francia, Valencia.
image

8. Chorizo

Chorizo tapa goes well with cerveza, which you can order at any Spanish bar or cafe. In my case, I had my first taste at Museo del Jamon branch in Paseo del Prado, near Atocha station, Since then, I prefer Museo’s thin chorizo over ones served in other bars, which are often thicker. I love to pair this tapa with a bocadillo de queso.
image

9. Croquetas

Another common Spanish tapa is the croqueta. It’s known for being tasty, and for me, the best I’ve tasted is at Bar Melo’s at barrio Lavapies. Each croqueta is such a delight because of its hot, melted ham-cheese filling. When eaten together with the equally delectable zapatillas (humongous lacon sandwich), my occasional late-night trip to Melo’s means a hearty, heavy meal.
image

10. Salpicon de Marisco

Salpicon is spicy and full of flavor, and eaten best with a copa, which is why it is the perfect tapa during summer. It is a fine mix of various sea foods like mussels, clams, gambas (shrimps) and fish, with veggies like bits of tomatoes and onion added. I had my first salpicon de marisco at Santiago de Compostela, O Paris.
image

11. Pimiento de Padron

Your own tapa list would not be complete without a plate of deep-fried pimiento de padron At Bar Sarturce. it is grilled or fried, and sprinkled with sea salt to taste. It’s called the Russian Roulette tapa because at least one in a heap will be spicy hot.
image

12. Brochetas

The name is derived from the French term brochette, which is skewer. Here in Madrid, not a few restaurantes serve skewered meat, and include it in their list of regular tapas. I ordered grilled brocheta de pollo, or skewered chicken at O Paris in Santiago de Compostela. A dish that’s full of flavor.

image

13. Palomitas de Pollo

This one’s simply chicken pops, and also considered as a tapa or appetizer. Usual spices are added to the mix for a truly delicious and spicy pops like paprika, black pepper and soy sauce. Try some of these palomitas at 100 Montaditos — the dish is 1 euro a plate during Wednesday and Sunday.

image

14. Gazpacho

Gazpacho is cold soup made of tomato, and so you get that tangy, sour taste, which is a delight to those who love tomato-based food. A refreshing appetizer on a hot afternoon. My gazpacho had croutons added, but other gaspacho dish have bits of veggies instead. Enjoyed this soup-tapa at Restaurante La Cava, Valencia Spain.

image

15. Salchichas

Hotdogs are great fillings for sandwiches, albeit that from Spain known as salchichas are served in bars in Madrid as tapas in cocktail form. I relished my first plate at 100 Montaditos at the corner of Bravo Murillo and Plaza de Castilla on a Sunday; hence, had it for only 1 euro.
image

16. Albondigas

If you want a tapa that can satisfy your hunger but won’t cause serious dent on the pocket, try Albondigas. Many Madrid restaurants and bars offer this Spanish tapa, which is simply meat balls in tomato sauce. One of the best-selling appetizers in town, it goes well with copas, although I had mine with coca cola and pan. Try some delicious albondigas at Cerveveria Don Simon, Hernani 57 Madrid.

image

17. Callos

A must-include in your list of Spanish tapas to taste, I had my first Callos at Museo del Jamon. A bit on the salty side, it was nonetheless a delectable dish. The main ingredient, the callos meat or tripe, must have been boiled for hours as it was so tender. Every piece just melted in my mouth. A must-have tapa!

image

18. Oreja a la plancha

I had this rich-tasting dish along Bravo Murillo. I swear the pig’s ear was so tender, and I love that it was served with a generous spicy sauce on top. Serious advice for those who want to taste as many Spanish tapas as possible — include this on your list. Enjoy some orejas at Casa Aurelio, along Bravo Murillo in Tetuan.

image

19. Chistorra

I had this tapas on my first night in Madrid, at . and that was 2 years ago. Chistorra is such a divine treat, whether eaten on its own with beer or with bread. It is similar to chorizo, although it is smaller and fattier. The chistorra at Museo del Jamon deserves to be on your top 5 list of Madrid tapas.

image

20. Alitas

Alitas is fried chicken wings, and is one of my usual orders at 100 Montaditos. While most tapas at Montaditos are priced at 1 euro during Wednesday and Sunday, alitas cost 2 euros. Still, it is affordable, and great to chomp on with cold beer.

image

21. Tortilla de Patata

Spanish omelette is a simple dish with eggs and potatoes as its main ingredients. While many tortillas are a bit dry and firm from too much potato, the one served at a cafe near home at Capitan Haya is creamy, which for me is just perfect.

image

22. Gambas Pritas

Another rich and flavorful tapas served at Bar Sarturce. Gambas are fried, with skin (shell), and served with a liberal sprinkling of sea salt. I enjoy having this with pan, consuming everything, meat, shell, and all.

gambas fritas

23. Rabo de Toro

A traditional Spanish tapa — I would order this Oxtail stew dish if served in the menu. Rabo de toro is from Andalucia, in Cordoba, and the tail ingredient is either from a bull or ox. Of course, it’s now available in many restaurants and bars all over the country. Had my first rabo de toro at Barcelona.

image

24. Torreznos Fritos

One of the typical tapas, and popularly requested as tapa in Museo del Jamon, Torreznos is pork cut in small cubes and fried to perfection, which means crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. I would just love to have some Mang Tomas (a Filipino sweet-sour-spicy liver sauce for roasted pig) on this.

image

25. Gambas al Ajillo

My salmorejo at El Nuevo Templete came with Gambas al Ajillo, and together with a trozo of pan, I finished everything off with a large glass of ice-cold cola, more than enough to cool myself down during my hot afternoon visit of Valencia. The gambas dish is oily but not too much, and has a strong garlicky flavor that made me love it all the more. Overall, a tasty Valencian tapa.
image

The Prado Museum Madrid [Museo National del Prado]: Major Madrid Attraction

imageIf you are an art connoisseur or an avid museum goer and want nothing but the best Spanish and European art pieces in Madrid, there are actually a number of good options in the city. But everyone will agree that the best choice is the Prado Museum.

Located along Paseo del Prado, it houses the biggest and most comprehensive collection of paintings and artworks by artists from Spain and all over the world. Included in the collection are the prized creations by three of the most revered Spanish artists – Francisco Goya, El Greco and Diego Velazquez.

Prado Madrid – Birth of a National Museum

imageConstruction of the Museo del Prado begun in 1785, when the design work of the edifice was assigned by Charles II to prolific architect Villanueva. It was finally completed in 1819 under the reign of Ferdinand VII, despite the halting of construction work brought about by the Napoleonic Wars. Initially called the Royal Museum of Painting, it was renamed the National Museum of the Prado in 1868.

Facts about the Prado Spain Museum

1. In the 10 best museums in the world list for 2015, the thelocal.es website ranks Prado as number four overall, beating Louvre of France, which is number 5. First in the list is the Metropolitan museum of New York.

2. If there is one distinct difference between Prado Museum and Louvre museum – you can take photographs inside the Louvre, while Prado prohibits visitors from doing so within its premises. I had been to both, and while I was reprimanded by a Prado curator for having taken a stolen shot, I had tons of Louvre photos as souvenirs, even a selfie that shows the Mona Lisa (although I believe the Mona Lisa was on display then was not the original).

3. The Las Meninas by Velazquez is the most important painting in the Museum’s collection. The art piece is unique in that one figure seen in the painting is Velazquez himself.

1024px-Las_Meninas,_by_Diego_Velázquez,_from_Prado_in_Google_EarthDiego Velázquez [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Franciaso Goya’s art work constitutes a good portion of the museum’s entire collection that his sculpture is displayed outside the museum in his honor. One of Goya’s work that’s worth seeing is the naked Maja, or the La Maja desnuda. This particular painting caused people to accuse him of obscenity.

image5. Museo del Prado belongs to the so-called The Golden Triad or Triangle of Art of Madrid, the top three art museums close to each other within the Prado vicinity. The other two are the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, a private museum of contemporary art, and Reina Sofia Museum, also national museo that features the finest in contemporary artwork.

6. Another painting that’s a must-see by Prado visitors is the Descent of the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, a renowned painter from Belgium. This particular painting is filled with remarkable details, with the artist succeeding in making the work so life-like. Anyone would notice how the body of Jesus as it is being lowered down and the fallen Mary, His Mother, had been similarly positioned by the artist.

7. The museum houses more or less 7,600 paintings and 1000 sculptures, all of which are high in value, both historical and monetary. As many as 3 million visitors are welcomed by the museum every year.

Nearby Madrid attractions

imageOne of the more popular churches in the area, San Jeronimo el Real has been serving the vicinity since the 10th century
imageMuseo Naval is a popular museum near the area. Also known as the Naval Museum of Madrid, it is highly visited because of its rich display of ancient and valuable historical items from the Spanish Navy
imageThe Royal Botanical Garden is in front of the Murillo Gate of the museo
imageStatue of Neptune (Neptuno) along the Paseo del Prado
imagePalacio de Cibeles is just a block away from the museum, and holds its own cultural and arts expositions at the Centro Centro. Also called the Palacio de Communicaciones, it dwarfs everything else within the Plaza Cibeles

How to go:

Direccion – Paseo del Prado 28014 Madrid

Prado Museum tickets:

Price of Admission is 14 euros

Take advantage of the free admission

Monday to Saturday: 6 to 8 PM

Sunday and holidays: 5 to 7 PM

Prado Museum hours:

The museum is open everyday of the year, except December 25, January 1, May 1

Regular opening hours

Monday to Saturday: 10AM to 8PM

Sunday and Holiday: 10AM to 7PM

Mapa

Valencia Spain – Charming Spanish City of New and Old


imageBefore our trip to Valencia Spain, I decided to check out the city on a few vlogs on Youtube and travel sites as well. It looks pretty amazing. And everyone who’s written about the place only has raves about it. When I was finally there, I didn’t realize that it was THAT amazing. My advise to people is — get ready to be immersed in modern art and culture and explore the dizzying yet charming Old Town.

You’ll enjoy your Valencian vacation to no end – this I assure — if only because the place boasts of a plethora of wonderful Valencia Spain attractions, all of which are certainly worth seeing.

The third-largest Spanish city, Valencia is not only awesome and breathtaking, but mesmerizing as well. I reserve the last description for the City of Arts and Sciences complex. I was practically spellbound as I stepped into it, with its many lights still lit when the morning is just about to break. If you’re coming from Madrid, the complex must be the first site you will see as you enter the city. It is only 3 to 4 hours from Madrid, (depending on your chosen mode of transportation)  but once you’re there, you feel that you are a world away, especially if you are in the science complex.

imageValencia is recognized as the heart of the autonomous region this part of the country, not only in a historical sense, but in terms of economy as well. And even if it’s divided into the modern complex and Old Town, the two totally compliment each other, and in fact, forms a fusion that makes the city stand out from the rest of Spain.

Breathtaking — that’s what it is after emerging from the centuries of occupation of three major groups – Romans, Moors, and Catholics. Such are strong influences that contributed to what the city has become today – a modern metropolis that embraces its glorious past.

Suffice it to say that the city is all about dream holidays, rich Spanish culture and tradition, avant-garde art, modernism, warm beaches, and of course, paella, the delicious sticky rice-dish. Only a select Spanish city can promise immense vacation pleasure and enjoyment – and one of them is Valencia.

What to see in Valencia Spain

I. City of Arts and Sciences

imageModern design, symmetry and strength are the obvious qualities that the edifices and structures at the arts and science complex want to convey

1. Prince Philip Science Museum

It looks odd, like a giant exoskeleton of some prehistoric animal. Yet inside, the Museu de les Ciencies Principe Felipe amazes, as it is home to a number of permanent expositions and events that delve in modern science and technology.
image

2. Hemispheric Planetarium

This ultra-modern science facility assures visitors the surreal experience of what’s it like to be in outer space. The planetarium  employs equipment and gadgets like laser and IMAX that enhance the lights, sounds, and images of shows and displays. In effect, it affords every visitor a fantastic, out-of-this-world sensation.

image

3. The Agora

One can see how the edifice of the Agora takes on the shape of an upright purple-colored mullusk shell. A creation of Santiago Calatrava, it is located near the Oceanographic and asserts a stunning presence at the Sciences complex.
image

4. Assut de l’Or Bridge

Puente de l’Assut de l’or, the Dam of the Gold, is an impressive cable bridge by engineer Santiago Calatrava.  Affectionately called the Serreria Bridge by its builder, locals on the other hand love to call it El Jamonero, the ham cutter.
image

5. Oceanographic Park

A gargantuan aquarium complex that features thousands of water species, the water park is also where dolphin shows are enjoyed by visitors. Design is done by famous architect Felix Candela.

II. Old Town

imageMuseo de la Almoina

This section of the city is aptly named, as evidenced by the archaeological remains at the museum at the Plaza de la Almoina. There is also the Serranos tower, was once part of a wall that surrounded Valencia. For me, the Old Town is  charming, with its narrow, rather convoluted roads that lead to precious sites such as the town’s famous markets, crowded squares, centuries-old cathedrals, and inviting cafes. The Old Town is the perfect next destination to cool the excitement down after that exhilarating tour of the City of arts and sciences.

1. Plaza de Toros de Valencia

The bullring is a staple feature in Valencia postcards, as the famous stadium is one of the city’s iconic symbols. Built in the mid-19th century, it stands right in the midst of the city, near the city hall and the North Station. Bullfighting events are still being held there, especially during the Fallas fiesta. The latter is a traditional festival that occurs in March, where there is a grand parade of puppets or gigantes. The festivity ends with the burning of the gigantes except the one chosen as the best of the lot.

image

2. Les Torres dels Serrans

My fear of heights didn’t stop me from climbing up the Les Torres dels Serrans, or Los Torres of Serrano. It is one of the 12 gates that guard the city during the late 14th century. Legend has it that the name was derived from a famous family the lived near the place.image

3. Catedral de Santa Maria de Valencia

My visit includes attending the midday Sunday mass at Catedral de Sta Maria de Valencia, a spectacular Roman Catholic church — inside and out. It was built in the 13th century as a replacement to an ancient temple. The religious edifice speaks of Roman and Gothic elements in its design. image

4. Turia Fountain

Wandering to the Plaza de la Virgin near the Cathedral, you will certainly not miss the Fuente del Turia, which displays a huge statue that represents the god Neptuno. The flowing water is supposed to depict the Turia River
image

5. Lonja

Another Goth-inspired edifice masterpiece from the 15th century is the Lonja, one of the city’s important landmarks. Another popular Valencian monument-landmark, the Central Merkat, is just across the street.
image

6. La Playa

The urban beaches are but some of the reasons why tourists troop to the city during summertime. Here I took fancy of the dolphin statues on display at the Las Arenas Beach (Playa de las Arenas de Valencia).

image

7. Estacion de Nord train station

The North Station, or Estacion del Norte in Spanish, was constructed way back in 1917 by the Railways of the North of Spain, a top train station maker in the city during those times. The North Station boasts of a premier train railway system, seeing a steady traffic of commuters day in and day out.

image

Tasting Valencia’s Paella

It was a busy day — the exploration of the Sciences complex , the midday mass at the Catedral de Sta Maria de Valencia, and stroll along the Old town got me really starving. Come 2PM, we finally decided to try one of those Old town restaurants that serves the Spanish dish that the region boasts about – the paella. We found one right within La Plaza Mercado (Plaça Merkat) — Restaurante La Cava. imageThis Mediterranean restaurant along Calle San Fernando is just one of the many at Market plaza, and I thought we made the right choice as the food joint serves really delicious paella.

imageGazpacho con croutons – cold soup to start the meal

imageEnjoying a taste of Valencia food means having a plateful of sumptuous paella for lunch 

imageThe lamb dish (cordero) perfectly complements my Valenciana

imageI realized that a flan is a flan, whether you’re in Madrid, Barcelona, Manila or Valencia. It’s the perfect postre to have – para siempre!

Hotels in Valencia Spain

One of the modern medium rise Valencia Spain hotels, it is just a few-minute walk from the City of Arts and Sciences — we even passed by it as we proceeded to the Valencia beach. It is a little over a kilometer away from station Ayora and around 3.7 kilometers from the Central Market. All available rooms are furnished to the delight of guests, and feature vital amenities like Wi-Fi and satellite TV. The luxurious suites boast of a private balcony or terrace for some spectacular views.

Where located: Av. de França 33 València

imageFor guests who want to be booked at a convenient hotel Valencia room that’s a stone throw away from the City of Arts and Sciences complex, the best option is the Tryp, considered by many as one of the finest Valencia Spain hotels. Common feedback are  its large, spacious, and clean rooms and suites as well as quick and efficient services. Guests choose this hotel if only because it offers rooms with spectacular views of the city.

Its location is at Carrer del Pintor Maella 35

Traveling to Valencia Spain?

imageHow to reach by bus:

Auto buses are perhaps the cheapest means of going to Valencia or any other Spanish city and town, for that matter.  The first departure of buses from Madrid is as early as 8:00 in the morning. On the average, it will take you 4 1/2 hours to as long as 7 hours to complete your journey to Valencia via bus. ALSA bus company offers regular bus services to the city – just click on the its link here and enter the necessary information. You may also purchase bus tickets at the ALSA Plaza Eliptica station.

How to reach by train:

If you take the high-speed train by AVE at Atocha Renfe station, you now have a direct connection between Madrid and Valencia. Travel time is much less compared to bus — around 1.5 hours. There are a sufficient number of train trips daily, from 1 to 3 scheduled trips to Valencia every hour — the maximum frequency is usually during the day’s peak hours (late afternoons).

Map: