Category Archives: Outside Madrid

See Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Fly from Madrid in less than 3 Hours)

2017_100518_5831_954Spain is sunny almost all year around. You can bask in the sun in Madrid, Segovia, Santiago de Compostela, or just about everywhere. Needless to say, you will never run out of days when you can revel and enjoy the amazingly warm Spanish climate. Still, if you want to go to where people say is the best place to head to during summer, pack your bag and  take the next flight to Tenerife. The largest of the Canary Islands, and the most populous one, it is one of Spain’s most important tourist destinations.

Let’s focus on Sta Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s port city, where you are like being transported to a tropical paradise, which is an amazing fact as the place is warmly nestled within the European continent.

And a tourist paradise indeed it is, as travelers go there to maximize their free time by relaxing, roaming around, dining, and enjoying the amazingly fine weather. Suffice it to say that if you are on a vacation and have chosen Tenerife for your destination, you will experience the best summer holiday ever.

What to see in Tenerife

Do you love the port, museums, plazas, boutiques and malls, water sports, and most especially the beach? These are some of the features that you can expect to enjoy when in Sta Cruz de Tenerife. This charming port has so much to offer that you’ll see yourself away from your hotel room all day. Vacation time here means imbibing its unique nature — the beach, the ocean, the volcanoes and mountains, and ancient towns. You will never want to leave this island the minute that you experience it.

The city boasts of an excellent transit system, offering efficient buses available in every nook and cranny of the city. But, there is no doubt that walking around the city is the best way to truly enjoy a taste of the capital. This is true especially if you are pressed for time to see as many tourist spots as possible.

Check out some of what Santa Cruz de Tenerife has to offer.

2017_100518_5843_944Tenerife offers great beaches where you can stay all day long to enjoy the warmth of the island’s summery climate. As soon as winter approaches the country, the city port is sure to start packing with avid beach lovers. Take a long lull at the beach or enjoy some exciting water activities at Tenerife.

2017_100519_5110_086The Plaza de España of Tenerife is one of the must-visit places in the island. Here you can see the Monument of the Fallen, a tower in the shape of a cross. Evidently, it boasts of designs influenced by Fascist architecture

2017_100518_5815_248After visting the Plaza de Españá, you will want to see another square just nearby, the Plaza de la Candelaria, the second most important plaza of the island. Here is where you can find historical sites such as the Casino of Tenerife and the baroque-designed Palace of Carta

received_1495893243811946Experience the beauty of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the island. The serene mountains can be seen from the hotel where we stayed.

Cheapest time to book a flight

When it comes to the weather, there is never really a bad time to fly out and visit Tenerife, as it’s warm all year round. Less visitors are around, hence, you can enjoy a much more serene stay.

As one who maintains a small budget whenever I travel, I make it a point to maximize my savings when buying fare tickets to my chosen destination. In the case of Sta Cruz de Tenerife, travelers who want to avail of lower plane fares must know that the Off season for flights to the islands are March to April, and November.These are the months when plane tickets are cheaper. Flying to Tenerife from Madrid? Flight time is a little under three hours.

Buitrago del Lozoya: Reach this Beautiful Spanish Town in Under Two Hours

2017_092318_0552_939My weekends in Madrid have always been monotonous — and I must say that they have turned doubly so, now that I have taken a new job. In fact, the latter has taken much of my time because workdays almost always include the weekends.  So whenever I am free on a Saturday, I find myself confronted with the dilemma of whether to just use such precious time to rest, or do what I really like, which is to travel outside Madrid.

Traveling outside Madrid meant choosing nearby towns that are preferably 50 kilometers away or even nearer.

This is why I am hesitant in visiting Buitrago del Lozoya, one of the smaller towns within the Community of Madrid, nestled in the Lozoya Valley near the Sierra de Guadarrama — and some 74 kilometers away from the capital.

Such a distance meant more or less 2 hours of travel, causing me to have some second thoughts . But then I realized that my previous trips such as Cuenca and Salamanca were also distant. And I was only too happy to have gone through such travels as these two are veritable goldmines as far as tourist attractions are concerned.

What to see in Buitrago de Lozoya:

2017_092318_0517_604The Arrabal Bridge, or El Fuente Viejo, as it is popularly called, is a strong structure that spans the Lozoya River. It serves as a link between the Andarrio neighborhood and the walled city of Buitrago. From the bridge, you are afforded a beautiful view of the river as well as the walls.
2017_092318_0536_853Fly-fishing days at Buitrago are weekends, like how I observed when I wander by the vicinity of the river last Saturday. I presume the river bank is littered with avid anglers any day of the week
2017_092318_0742_611The Rio Lozoya is the natural geographical feature that gives the town its name. This river almost embraces the town on all parts, which makes it an effective means of defense against enemies.
2017_092318_0454_840Another famous landmark of Buitrago is its Clock Tower, found in one of the walls of the city
2017_092318_0437_527Popular recreational activity in Buitrago is canoeing. with the river turning into a major natural water facility as families troop to the site with their own or rented canoes to enjoy paddling through the waters all day long
2017_092318_0352_901The small town of Buitrago is surrounded by thick, good-conditioned walls built as early as the 11th century. It is said that walls surrounding Spanish towns and cities during the Medieval Ages are commonplace; they are meant to protect  the towns and their people from invaders.
2017_092318_0342_911The crenels on the top edge of the castle walls have seen better days, yet they are obviously an integral part of what once were majestic majestic town walls meant to drive away prospective invaders during the Olden days
2017_092318_0327_958One of the major entrances of the Arab Walls, in front of the Sta Maria Iglesia
2017_092318_0314_199One of the minor gates of the Arab Walls, this one facing the River Lozoya
2017_092318_0305_728Peering through the main entrance to he walled town, you will be greeted by the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Castillo, a church that’s small in size but otherwise impressive in its interior.  Santa Maria Church definitely adds character to the already charming town.

Visitors of the town will also be treated to the works of Spain´s foremost writer as Buitrago maintains a Cervantes Museum, located right in its midst.

How to go to Buitrago:

Take the ALSA autobus 191 stationed at Plaza Castilla Station. The buses park and pick up passengers at Darsena 36. Tickets cost 5.10 euros one way. From Madrid, you will have arrived at the town in approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Map:

Sevilla and its Spectacular Plaza de España (and Royal Alcazar Palace and Garden)

2017_090323_0544_262Andalucia is one of the regions in Spain that display significant Moorish influence. It is likewise known for having a beautiful capital, Sevilla. And indeed, the latter is known for its grandiose and immense beauty. Luckily, we had the chance to see Sevilla, even if just to stop by at its two most important landmarks — the Plaza de España and Royal Alcazar. No doubt about it, if you’re flying to this city for a short time or you’re a first timer, it is imperative that you see the world-famous square and alcazar (castle or even military fort) In the case of Seville’s Alcazar, there’s no denying that it is one of the most beautiful in all of Spain, and comparable, if not more breathtaking, than the other famous alcazars of the country, including that of Toledo and Segovia. Despite the ending summer season, the sun decided to be searing, and the heat of the day is almost unbearable. Still, we decided see as much as we can. Time and again, it has been utilized as a location for films and TV series, which is understandable as it is just so beautiful. The first movie to feature it was the Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. The more recent one as a film location was the Attack of the Clones of the Star Wars saga. Some scenes of the 2012 movie, the Dictator, were also shot at the Plaza de España. The building exhibits mixed designs of Mudejar and new Mudejar as well as Art Deco, the result of which is the edifice’s total uniqueness.  It was built by Spanish designer Anabal Gonzales, right at the edge of Maria Luisa Park, and was initially intended to be the location where the exhibits of the country would be held. A bird’s eye view of the complex will reveal the place to be a huge half circle in shape on which the central building runs on the edge and over a river. It is accessible mainly by bridges that are said to be representative of the old Spanish kingdoms.  On the walls of the building are tiled alcoves; they are meant to represent the country’s provinces.

Marvel at the beauty of Plaza de Espana:

2017_090323_0638_255From afar, you may marvel at the magnificence of the main bricked-and-tiled building of the square. It is a premier Spanish attraction, and a must-see site by anyone touring  the country 2017_090323_0620_373Surrounding the Plaza Espana building is a wide canal, which is some 515 meters long.

The bridges

2017_090819_2042_038The bridges are not without important history behind its construction; they represent the four ancient Spanish kingdoms — these are Navarra, Leon, Castile, and Aragon.

Towers

2017_090322_3243_216Two tall towers, the south and the north towers, accentuate both ends by a pillared gallery. In front of these impressive edifice, positioned right in the middle of the promenade, is a large fountain.

Columns

2017_090323_0554_617The long facade of the square has tiled semi arcs supported by white columns, exhibiting styles from the Moorish and the Renaissance period. In front is a wide expanse of promenade where people enjoys a close view of the plaza

Royal Alcazar Palace

Another worth seeing in Seville if only for its heavy Moorish influence is the Alcazar Real Palace, which was the official residence of the Moor rulers during the start of the second half of the twentieth century. The alcazar has become all the more famous because it was used in some scenes in the Game of Thrones. 2017_090322_5633_282The gate to the Real Alcazar de Sevilla. Notice the tile with the depiction of the lion 2017_090322_2700_883The pond in front of the Alcazar lends an air of calm and romanticism to the place 2017_090322_5840_557The exterior of the Alcazar is the garden filled with trees, bushes and flowers. Also enhancing the garden are its pools 2017_090322_5831_309The high ceiling, the gigantic carpets plastered on the walls, and the tiled floors will greet you as you enter the Royal Alcazar.

Movies and TV series where Sevilla has been featured:

Plaza de España can only be described as both spectacular and breathtaking. It is no wonder that the place was the site of some of the major US movies such as Star Wars and The Dictator by Sasha Baron Cohen. Real Alcazar Palace, on the other hand, is where you’ll find some of the important scenes in the latest Game of Thrones season. 2017_090322_3336_729Starwars scene with the Plaza de Espana as backdrop 2017_090322_3319_270In the above photo, you can see walking through the promenade are Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala, with the robot R2 D2 behind them. 2017_090322_3310_841Skywalker and Amidala at the Garden of Real Alcazar Palace

Let’s tour Plaza de Espana

Originally, Plaza de España was constructed for use in the 1989 Ibero-American Exhibition or the Expo 29. If you happen to visit Seville, you can still see the many pavilions and kiosks meant for the exhibition, particularly in the area of Parque Maria Luisa. Now, the square is touted as one of the best attractions of the province of Seville, together with its equally impressive cathedral. Tourists will love the means of touring the plaza, and these are carriage ride and boat ride.

Horse-drawn carriage tour

2017_090819_1541_961One of the best ways of seeing the Plaza is via a carriage. It’s spacious enough to accommodate around 4 people, albeit if you are in for a romantic experience, you can ride them with your spouse or partner to tour all around the plaza, and even beyond, to the landmarks and important points of interests of Seville. Hiring the carriage for an hour costs around 36 euros. It has a retractable roof for those who are avoiding the blazing rays of the summer sun.

Boat ride

2017_090819_1553_140Plaza España is surrounded by body of water wherein you can rent and ride a boat. The cost of a rowing boat ride is 5 euros for around 45 minutes. A maximum of 4 people can ride the boat — this is a fun and exciting way of seeing the square. If you want a much faster water ride, you can hire the motor boat, or the Enriqueta — this costs some 9 euros.

How to go:

2017_090819_1952_639The popular and fast way to get to Sevilla from Madrid is by train; travel time is from 2 hours and 20 minutes to 2 hours and a half. Go to the Train station in Atocha along Avenida de Barcelona, and you can catch the first ride at 7AM. Departures are every hour, thereafter. The last schedule of train ride to Seville is at 10PM.

Map

Salamanca: Old City of Castille and Leon

2017_071618_2307_593Salamanca. Let’s say it has always been on my mind ever since I learned that it is home to the country’s oldest university. For just like in the case of Alcala de Henares, also known as Spain’s university town, I yearned to check out and learn more about the place.

It was when I finally visited the place a few weeks ago that the town obviously come off as more than just a mecca for the learned, but so much more. Above anything else, it is a wondrous architectural paradise. I was entranced as I go about the town, even if I go to roam around for just a few hours.

Seriously, if there were something about the town that fascinated me the most, it was its cathedrals, both old and new. The two stand side by side, both flaunting their unique beauty that somehow complimented each other.  Witnessing the awesome beauty of these two works of art more than compensated my hours long trip.

I traveled 3 hours riding the normal autobus, and some 2 and a half on the express. Frankly, my total number of travel hours exceeded the length of time that I stayed in Salamanca.

But again, I have to say that it’s all worth it. The museums, the churches, the plazas, the restaurants and cafes, the souvenir shops, the monuments — everything that you want to see in a place is all here.

Here are some of the sites and attractions that you can see in Salamanca:

Plaza Mayor de Salamanca

2017_062610_3011_363The Plaza Mayor of Salamanca is know to be one of the most beautiful, if not downright the most beautiful of all of Spain. This sprawling spot in the midst of the city is the hot spot of all that involve Salamancan social life. A grand creation of Spanish architect Churriguera, the square is regarded as one that can rival the Plaza Mayor of Madrid, Spain’s premier plaza. On one side of the town square stands the edifice that houses the city hall of Salamanca. In this baroque style building is where the city functions and activities of the municipal government take place.

Porticoed arcade of the square

2017_071623_5001_811The four sides of the square are filled with establishments of all types — restaurants, ice cream kiosks, clothing boutiques, souvenir shops, among many others. Salamanca’s plaza  brims with life and vibrancy because of  all forms of human activities happening within– 365 days in a year

Casa de las Conchas

2017_071912_2339_250The House of Shells, built around the 1400s by Rodrigo Maldonado, used to be a palace that served as the residence of Catholic Monarchs. It was so-called because of the numerous shells jotting out of much of the edifice’s facade. It is said, but has yet to be proven, that a gold coin can be retrieved if the shell is removed from the wall.

Viejo Catedral

2017_062615_0200_855The construction of the Old Cathedral of the town, also known as the Cathedral of Santa María, started way back in the 12th century and was finished after more than 200 years. A project of then bishop Jerome de Perigord, it boasts of beautiful mix of Gothic and Romanesque style. Its patron saint is St Mary of the See. It may be small compared to the newer cathedral, but Viejo reeks in rich history.

Nuevo Catedral (the New Cathedral)

2017_062610_1729_358Salamanca boasts of two famous cathedrals, the Old and the New. The Old Cathedral, limited in space in the early 1500’s, and deemed to be unable to serve the burgeoning university town, was supplemented by a new one. The construction was a 200-year affair, with the edifice considered to be one of the last vestige of the Gothic style. The old catedral still stands to this day, although the original plan was to take it down once the Nuevo Catedral is finished.

Palacio de Monterrey

2017_062616_1338_247
The Monterrey Palace was the Plateresque-design edifice by the 3rd Count of Monterrey. Its current owner is the House of Alba, also the owner of the Monterrey country. It has been declared a National Historical Monument in May 1929

Salamanca’s Roman Bridge

2017_071912_2403_622One of the oldest roman bridges of Spain. Its span is ably supported by twenty-six arches, with more than half constructed by the Romans during the 1st century B.C.

Convent of San Sebastian

2017_071618_2032_237The Convent, also called the Church of San Esteban, was built in 1524 and completed in 1610. Like the Monterrey Palace, it also exhibits Plateresque-style, which is heavily evident in its facade. It is also called the Convent of the Dominicans because it is run by the said religious order.

Universidad de Salamanca

2017_062614_5400_919I went to Salamanca just so I can see the world famous University, known to be the oldest educational institution, having been founded in 1208. It also claims the title of the 3rd oldest university in Europe.

Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca

2017_062614_5751_692Another popular university is the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca, which is of Catholic leanings. It was founded much later, at around 1940. It also has a campus in Madrid.

How I reached the city

By bus

Your trip to Salamanca starts by taking Line 6 and getting off at Mendez Alvaro. Here you’ll find Estacion Sur, the biggest bus station in Madid. There are 2 to 3 bus companies that offer trips to Salamanca, but I suggest that you take the Autores bus owned by Avanzabus Line. It has been my choice of commuting every time I travel out of town because it’s convenient, affordable, and even has pc tablet that offers movie and audio entertainment.

How much did I pay for the bus fare?

I opted an ida y vuelta ticket, hoping to pay less for the transportation fare. The guy at the ticket counter suggested that I buy an “abierta” return ticket — this required me to get a specific return time to Madrid once I arrive at the bus station at Salamanca. All in all, I just paid around 32 euros for my trip.

Indeed, a single day is good enough time to enjoy a wonderful, breathtaking place like Salamanca. For less than three hours, you will arrive in town before lunch time, go roam around the whole afternoon, have lunch and coffee at the plaza mayor, wander some more, take the bus home and arrive in Madrid late in the evening. Definitely, Salamanca is a perfect addition to your list of easy and enjoyable day trip destinations.

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Valladolid: Lenten Town of Spain

2017_051321_5954_018Having learned that we are looking for something new to go to on Good Friday, someone in our group  gushed about the Castile town of Valladolid, assuring us that if only for its processions, the place is a must-see during the Holy Week. Bonus treats are the centuries-old churches and museums kept well-preserved within the city boundaries, as well as the strong Castillian vibe that the place is known for. Quite convinced, we signed into joining a small group that will travel to this town early Friday morning.

During the trip itself, I felt how time  seemed to have passed so slowly despite the fact that the distance between Madrid Valladolid is but all of two and a half hours. Perhaps I got used to the many quick 1-hour-or-so day trip destinations I had before, such as Toledo, Colmenares Viejo, Alcala de Henares and Manzanares el Real.

Did you know that Valladolid is not only famous for its religious processions, museums, and churches, but it is likewise associated with a number of popular historical figures? Popular names who were born or have stayed in Valladolid are Christopher Columbus, the world conqueror; Phillip II and Phillip III, former rulers of Spain; and Miguel Cervantes, the iconic Spanish writer.

First stop: Tordesillas

If you’re bound for Valladolid, it is a must that you stop by the town where the treaty between Spain and Portugal was signed. We only had 30 minutes more to Valladolid when we took a lull at this quiet town, made historic because of the 1494 treaty signed by the two most powerful countries during that time. The treaty divided the New World between the two countries.

It was just frustrating because we stayed in Tordesillas for all of 40 minutes, and not two hours like what was earlier planned. I decided by make the most of our stay there by rushing to the Treaty Houses, and the town’s Plaza Mayor to take some pictures.

Seeing Valladolid

Finally, we reached our destination after 25 or so minutes of travel from Tordesillas. One thing unique about this famous Castile town is the absence of mountains and hills, a topographic feature common in other Spanish towns and cities. It has no mountains to speak of — the only one in all of Spain. Another distinction is that it is completely surrounded by all other provinces belonging to the Castile and Leon community — these are Palencia, Zamora, León, Segovia, Burgos, Salamanca, and Ávila .

Holy Week in Val

Brotherhoods and groups of Catholic leanings are known to hold their own celebration of the Lent, interpreting the passion of the Christ through processions. Streets are filled with observers intent in watching the long procession that tells the story of the Passion and Death of Jesus. Most of the important processions are during the Easter Week itself.

If you want to experience the best that the town offers, visit it during Easter, since it is the time when religious processions happen, where spectacular and breathtaking religious displays and icons depicting Christ’s suffering and death are paraded. Religious fraternities that consist of members and leaders are garbed in robes of different designs and colors.

They carry beautiful, life-sized statues of Jesus and other religious personalities atop carriages to be witnessed and appreciated by devotees. Processions are usually accompanied by a band that plays somber religious hymns.

Stunning Photos

2017_051322_0449_702Santa Maria de la Antigua Church is a Catholic Church of  combined Roman and Gothic-style architecture, patterned after that of the Burgos Cathedral. In English, it is the Church of St. Mary the Ancient. It is so-called because it was built way back in the 12th century. As early as 1897, it was declared a national monument, a Bien de Interes Cultural.

2017_051322_1050_835The Iglesia Conventual de San Pablo, more popularly known as the  Iglesia San Pablo de Valladolid, is one of the iconic churches of the town and all of the community of Castile and León. It took builders more than 23 years to built, from 1445 to 1468. The church is the place where King Philip II and King Philip IV were baptized. It was said to have been visited by  French conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte.

2017_051522_4509_741Plaza Mayor of Valladolid have originated all the way from the Hasburg monarcy, and is recognized as a true Spanish Square. It is also is touted as the very first plaza of Spain. The grounds are vast and wide, intended to be so in order  to hold shows and sports events. This vital spot in the town hosts most of Valladolid’s public events, including the Holy Week’s presentations and processions

2017_051321_4926_531Ayuntamiento de Valladolid is the stately edifice lording over the town’s Plaza Mayor, and serves as the office of the town administration

2017_051522_3132_897Palacio Real de Valladolid is located at Plaza de San Pablo, in front of the Iglesia de San Pablo. It served as the official residence of the Kings in the early part of the 1600’s, the era when the town acted as the seat of the Spanish courts

2017_051522_3122_683Iglesia Penitencial de la Vera Cruz, or the Penitential Church of Santa Vera Cruz in English, is a church located in the middle of the town, right within the  Calle Platerías. The church is associated with the Brotherhood or Fraternity of the Holy Cross Vera, recognized as the the oldest Lenten Brotherhood in the City. It houses one of the most important icons in Spain, the Lignum Crucis

2017_051522_3737_717Mercado del Val strongly reminds me of Mercado de San Miguel mainly because of its glass and iron architecture. Built in the late 19th century, it is found in the Plaza del Val, and a stone’s throw away from the San Benito el Real Church

2017_051322_2305_684 Iglesia del Monasterio de San Benito, or the Saint Benedict church — flaunts old Gothic church architecture. Its site was the former location of the Alcazar Real de Valladolid, an imposing edifice masterfully built with its gate tower-shaped, Rennaissance-inspired facade giving the church a uniquely beautiful appearance

2017_051322_2946_785Processions in Valladolid are often joined in by Spanish ladies of the town wearing mantillas, or traditional shawl or lace worn over their head using a special comb known as peineta.

2017_051323_0552_721After an hour of waiting , the long procession finally started at 8PM, passing through vital streets to end at the Plaza Mayor2017_051323_0801_596Valladolid processions, as in other processions on most Spanish towns, are dominated by men wearing capirote, point cone-shaped hat. These men belong to fraternities or brotherhoods assigned to reenact vital scenes from the suffering and death of Jesus Christ

2017_051322_2653_284Monasterio Real de San Joaquin y Santa Ana is the official monastery of the Congregation of Monasteries of Cistercian nuns of San Bernardo. Its exhibits a neoclassical design created by Francesco Sabatini. Adjacent to the monastery is a museum that displays baroque pieces. The Monasterio Real itself boasts of valuable art pieces such as a number of paintings by Goya,  which incidentally are the only ones by the artist that exists within the Castile Leon community.

How to go:

Via Train: Available is RENFE, Spain’s railway system, which offers AVE high speed train service. The cost of the ticket depends on the schedule and availability of ride, with the price ranging from as low as 12 euros to as high as 30. The town has its own station called the Estacion del Norte, but it is located outside the center of the capital. You will have to walk some 25 minutes to reach the city proper.

Bus: If you want to take the autobus, go to the ALSA station at Estacion Sur. The company offers regular rides throughout the day, with tickets selling from 12 to 15 euros one way. Travel time ranges from 2 and a half hours to 3.

Map:

Puerto Jose Banus of Malaga — Luxurious Spanish Marina-Paradise

2017_051022_3255_733Puerto Jose Banus of Malaga, a premier Spanish marina that’s a mere 10 minutes away from the city of Marbella, is considered as one of the richest spots in Spain. The name of this spot strategically located in New Andalucia is synonymous to luxury, style and glamour.

Banus is a veritable haven for the moneyed and the powerful; easily it is the prime destination of choice of the rich and famous who are in search of pleasure brought about by the vast Andalucian seas. In fact, the port is considered to be one of the most sought after premier destinations in the whole of Spain.

I guess everything that you can think of and even discover in terms of luxury, you can find it in this  port. And especially during summer months, the roads (that are literally filled with top cars like Bentley, Maserati, and ferrari) lead to Banus.

You will never have a hard time looking for the you top brands as they are sold in upscale boutiques. Top brand names like Polo, Versace, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and the likes and other designer name. As the saying goes, you name it, Banus has it.

High-class restaurants is not wanting in Banus as well. In fact, those who frequently dine out will fall in love with this place if only because of the presence of numerous upscale bars, restaurants, and other food establishments. Some of the favorite spots here are Belvedere Restaurant and Pizzeria, Restaurante Los Bandidos, Serafina.

Again, let us not forget that Puerto Banus is a top marina and port, hence, you can expect to see a world-class port boat and yacht facility that seems only to be seen and experienced in Spain. Boat lovers will consider the place a luxurious and dreamy paradise after witnessing all sorts of first class boats, yachts, and recreational fishing vessels navigating the marina’s beautiful, glimmering waters.

How to go to Puerto Banus

2017_051022_3215_602The port is just some 11 kilometers away from the City of Marbella. The fastest and most convenient way to reach it is via plane —  you can reach the port within 37 minutes from the Malaga airport. I suggest to take a taxi from the airport, but if you want to maximize your savings, it’s best to hire a car for a week or the duration that you will stay in the puerto. There are also mini buses for hire that will bring you around the area, especially if you belong to a traveling group.

Photos that will make you want to visit Puerto Banus in a heartbeat

To be frank, only the well-heeled and big spenders are able to afford what the place has to offer, and so it is not surprising that A-list personalities, movie actors, top athletes and even politician are a common sight here.
2017_051022_3442_178Vacationers have a great time relishing the beautiful sights at Puerto Jose Banus2017_051022_3430_783Rows of beautiful power sailboats and yachts are found afloat along the marina2017_051022_3414_136Shops of high-end and luxury brands such as Bulgari line up the front of the marina2017_051022_3359_109For Sports car fanatics, Banus is the place to go as most brands of Luxurious sports can be found and are for sale here.2017_051022_3343_214Seemingly lording over the Marina and the whole port area is the 1,200-meter tall
La Concha of the Sierra Blanca mountain ranges. Perfect choice for those who want to enjoy quality hiking, it got its name because of its unique shell-like shape2017_051022_3333_6472017_051022_3238_542People enjoy dining at La Bocana, a top-notch restaurant at Paseo Benabola that offers a magnificent view of the seas, particularly their sunset. The restaurant offers sea foods, European, and Mediterranean cuisine.

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Passing Thru Historic Tordesillas

Last year, we stayed the whole length of the Holy Week in Madrid. In my case, I resolved to be a recluse, to confine myself at home even if just for a few days, to no avail.  This, upon learning that most of the establishments in Puerta del Sol was open for business, and got me tempted into visiting this popular part of the city centre.

This time, however, everyone decided to spend Good Friday out of town in far off Valladolid, which is some two and a hours away from the city. One of the major towns outside Madrid and within the the community of Castilla y Leon, I got interested in seeing the place having learned about the varied religious processions held there during the Lenten season.

But first, our group had to pass thru Tordesillas, a small, quiet town some 25 kilometers on the Southwestern portion of the provincial capital.

The organizer of the group insisted that we see Tordesillas if only for the great history behind it, the town being the site of the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal. The treaty was an agreement between them specifying how they would divide the ownership of the newly discovered Americas.

He mentioned the local event called the Toro de la Vega festival, which the town is known for. Year after year, the festival is being prevented by animal rights group from being held as it features a bull which was to slaughtered by toreros on horseback.

What to see in Tordesillas

Iglesia Museo de San Antolín de Tordesillas

2017_041617_2933_342The Museum of San Antolín was built during the first half of the 17th century under the helm of Gil de Reynaltos. Found within the old San Antolin church, it is known to house numerous valuable art pieces that originated from other Churches. Such collection of art workwas initiated by Ismael Rodríguez Paniagua. Most of the important art works are undergoing continuous restoration to ensure their preservation.

2017_041618_0000_275
2017_041617_2849_976Alley and outside stairway, rustic parts of the town leading to the Casa de Tratado
2017_041618_0028_838This particular road is lined with bare, lifeless-looking trees on its sides, with their  branches, totally without leaves, reaching out to touch and intertwine. 2017_041618_0000_275Not a soul in sight for most streets and alleys of Tordesillas last Holy Friday, like the one seen above
2017_041617_5943_688The Plaza Mayor of Tordesillas resembles most other Spanish square. It has four sides as its boundary and is surrounded by old houses, bars and other establishments. The upper floors of the edifices are supported by strong porticoes. While looking simple and rustic, it is considered by the town folks as their meeting place, with locals enjoying their afternoons and late nights having dinners and copas of vinos on the terraces of bars and restaurants found within.

Casas de Tratado de Tordesillas

2017_041617_2859_375 Relief that represents the historic treaty stands in front of the Cases de Tratado de Tordesillas. Houses of Treaty in English, these two edifices are actually merged palaces, and are said to be the site where the then world powers Spain and Portugal held vital negotiations. Here was also the place where the two countries signed the treaty that involved the New World.

Plaza Mayor

2017_041618_1158_191The plaza mayor opens its four doors, its gateways to the outside town particularly to the important neighborhoods, such as Santa Maria and San Pedro. Old-type homes of bricks or wood are noticeably dominant as you wander about the immediate areas — an indication that Tordesillas is one of those ancient Spanish towns.

How to go:

2017_041617_2944_634The Avanza bus in Estacion Sur at Mendez Alvaro is the easiest and most popular means to reach Tordesillas. Travel time is a little over 2 hours, with one way bus tickets costing around 13 euros.

Map:

Las Fallas, Valencia: Festival of Ninots and Fireworks

2017_032623_2915_626How do putrid gunpowder smell, fire, fumes, noise from almost incessant firecracker blasts, fireworks display, more fire, and crowded streets pedestrianized for the holidays appeal to you? Would you wade thru throngs of frenetic merrymakers as you wander around town for hours on end, until you find yourself trudging along on already wobbly knees yet determined to witness the midnight finale, which is the destruction by fire of beautiful papier mache works of art?

This is exactly what I did at Valencia’s Las Fallas, that time when the town becomes Spain’s biggest street party, and everyone was in deep festive madness. It was March 19, and I was feverish the moment we arrived, never wavering up until the day’s end.

Las Fallas, Valencia: What to See and Do

2017_032612_4942_711The celebration is a four-day long affair that started on the 15th of March, when locals take to the streets to assemble and display their ninots with pride. These are structures made of paper erected to reach a number of stories, and built to look like they are scaling up the skies. There are also minor ninots or the ninot infantile, smaller ones that I observed were burned hours before the finale.

The festival culminates on the 19th of March, when finally, most ninots are burned and subjected to a fiery destruction until only ashes remain, this amidst the cheering of the spectators and participants. The festival coincides with the Feast day of the patron saint of carpenters and builders — Saint Joseph.

What can you expect during Las Fallas?

Impressive Ninot Displays on strategic points of the town

2017_032812_2851_883image image imageimage2017_032820_4844_622imageThe best of Valencia’s sculptors and artists design and create impressive ninots, which were built with popular cartoon characters and nationalities as themes. Some neighborhoods boast of both huge and small ninots, with the latter being burned to ashes hours before the burning of the larger ones, as seen on the picture immediately above.

Everyone participates at the Festival

2017_032807_5624_620This couple is off to join their neighborhood’s street party
imageBefore this smile, the princess sobs as the ninot burns, as if to express grief from its destruction
imageChildren hold hands to form a circle, dancing and chanting in front of the ninot infantile, a small-sized ninot found in many neighborhoods
2017_032700_0211_169Beautiful child princess, together with other children of the neighborhood, look over the burning of the ninot
imageYoung musicians playing a lively piece celebrating the burning
2017_032700_0230_401I wore the white and blue scarf associated with the Las Fallas known as the Pannulo de Hierbas
2017_032812_2832_906Having the time of our lives in Valencia

Impressive Firework Displays

imageAs if the blinding, spellbinding bursts of fire and light created from the burning of the ninots are not enough, Valencia further brightens its night skies by igniting beautiful fireworks, sending them up high to create colorful, dancing incendiary displays. The fireworks are an integral and indispensable part of Las Fallas. One of the best places to witness the fireworks is at the Carrer L’arquebisbe Mayoral.

Bullfight games throughout the festival

imageThe best bullfights events happen at the festival, and so afficionados of the sport can expect a truly exciting spectacle. Bullfighting has been part and parcel of the celebration of the Las Fallas.

Las Fallas / Valencian Food Delicacies

image
imageThese are bunuelos, local pastry likened to a donut. Made of pumpkin paste, it is one of the traditional foods at Las Fallas. To make for a truly delicious snack, have a hot choco drink where you can dunk your bunuelos in. Half a dozen sells at 2.50 euros

  • imageAlthough I love senyoret, or the sea food paella, I ordered valenciana instead. The one on the photo is just right for two persons, and approximately costs 29 euros, or 14.50 euros per head. Tastes great! My friend with whom I shared it, however, didn’t want no rabbit meat, and so, I have all of it for myself.
    imageChurros, like bunuelos, are also sold aplenty during las Fallas. Eaten best when dunked in a thick chocolate syrup

    Burning of the Ninots

    The efforts of the artists were hardly futile as the best ninots are identified, and awards and recognitions are handed to the artists and their winning creations. Well, for the rest, the fact that their works of art were chosen to participate and was admired by everyone was still a great recognition. In the end, at the finale, hundreds of huge and minor ninots will be sent burning into flames.
    2017_032610_3700_510This Sino-themed ninot, with all the vital Chinese elements, a towering, colorful papier-mache masterpiece…2017_032610_4149_553…met its fiery fate at around 12 midnight, to the shouts and cheering of spectators. Immediately after the structure was engulfed by strong flames, steady water was doused from the firefighters’ hoses to control the fire.

    The Las Fallas, undoubtedly, is one of the must-see festivals of Spain. All roads lead to Valencia at this time of the year.

    One word of advice, though; if you’re not used to loud firecrackers, its best to come to Valencia on the first day of the event. This way, you’ll get used to the booming noise by the time Las Fallas culminates on the 19th, and the fireworks are at their strongest and loudest. I must say everything about the Las Fallas is spectacular (do watch the fireworks video below), and strongly recommend that everybody attends the event next year.

Suffice it to say that it was total excitement throughout the last day of the fiesta. By the time we boarded the bus en route back to Madrid, I was dog-tired, but happy nonetheless to have gone thru the experience, and confirm what every one else is saying about it, that Las Fallas is Spain’s best of the best.

Ten Nearby Madrid Towns that are Bona Fide Day Trip Destinations

So charming is Madrid, Spain that first-timers are likely tempted to stay within its confines and wallow in its beauty. Every barrio of the city is unique and fascinating that it is pure fun to hop from one place to another, walk thru paseos, loiter around the plazas and calles, and soak up on what it can offer. Trust me, I did all this a countless number of times — and every time, it’s just insane fun.

Everywhere in Madrid are breathtaking sites and attractions — world-class museums like Prado and Reina Sofia, among many others; towering basilicas and cathedrals such as San Gines and Almudena; and gargantuan parks and gardens like Retiro and Sabatini, respectively.

The city is a gastronomic paradise.  Restaurants and cafes of different shapes, sizes, and culinary delights are scattered all over — there’s Museo del Jamon, Bar Santurce, Botin, Cafe Melo’s Bar, to name a few of my favorites. I swear there must be a joint offering sumptious Spanish comida in every street corner.

Madrid is where you blend easily with the crowd at evening street parties and gatherings — events commonplace in the city, on any day of the week. Here is also where you can witness solemn processions that venerate the Lady and various saints, and participate, to your heart’s delight, in thunderous festivals held all throughout the year.

Still, did you know there’s so much to see and discover on the outskirts of the city? So many towns are situated very near the capital, and needless to say, all are a must-visit as they boast of tons of attractions as well.

I myself had traveled, wandered, and explored quite a number of these pueblos. Referred to as day trip destinations, they are so near that you can go there, experience and relish these places, and be back in Madrid — all within the day.

Here are my top 10 beautiful and exciting towns near Madrid:

1. Avila

Bright yellow walls of AvilaOne of Spain’s major Castilian towns, Avila is famous for its perfectly preserved Murallas or Town Walls. The haunting Catedral de Avila is touted as one of the first Gothic churches built in the country. And if you happen to be in Avila, make sure you have a taste of its popular yema, a sweet delicacy, among many other traditional pastries offered by the town.

How far from Madrid: 2 Hours
Recommended Mode of Travel: Autobus – Avanza Bus (at Estacion Sur)
Cost of Fare: More or less 14 euros (lda y vuelta)

2. Alcala de Henares

imageThe town is known for being the birthplace of famous Spanish Writer, Miguel de Cervantes. In front of his home are the bronze figures of Don Quixote and Sancho Pancho, the main characters of the Cervantes’ novel, the Don Quixote de la Mancha. The prestigious Colegio Mayor de Sn Ildefonso or the University of Alcala is the reason this pueblo within the Community of Madrid is called the University Town.

Number of hours from Madrid: 50 minutes
Best Travel Option: Cercanias trains. Get your ride at Nuevos Ministerios, or other select Metro stations such as Chamartin and Atocha.

3. Colmenar Viejo

imageThis town is proud of its tiny, historic hermitage called the Ermita de Santa Ana, and the Basílica dela Asuncion de Nuestra Senora.

Distance from Madrid: 37 kms. (less than an hour)
Best Travel Option: Autobus 721 at Plaza Castilla
Cost of Fare: 7.20 euros round trip

4. Manzanares el Real

Manzanares el Real Castle is also called Castillo de los MendozaA town made famous by its two castles, the New Castle of Manzanares and the Castillo Viejo. The former is also a fortress and said to be the most preserved castle within the Communidad de Madrid. If you love to hike, the nearby Pedriza Mountain can be reached by walking in just under an hour. Continue further up the hill beside the mount and you will encounter the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Peña Sacra.

How far from Madrid: 50 kms. (less than an hour)
Enjoy going there via: Autobus 724 at Plaza Castilla
Cost of Fare: 8.40 euros Ida y Vuelta

5. Town of Chinchon

imageSome 40 minutes or so away from Madrid is the quaint and tranquil pueblo of Chinchon. Its plaza mayor is a bit peculiar because it is shaped like a bullring. The fact is that the square is used actively for the sport; because of this, Chinchon is recognized as one of Spain’s bullfight towns. Must-eat are Teta de Novicia and Pelotas de Fraile, delightful, traditional breads sold in pastelerias within the town’s plaza mayor.

How far from the capital: 45 kms. (55 minutes)
Recommended travel option: Veloz Autobus 337 at Avenida de Mediterraneo
Fare Cost: 4.20 euros one way

6. Segovia

The Roman Acqueduct at Segovia, SpainIf only for its historic Romano Acueducto and breathtaking Alcazar or fortress, I’d take the bus or train trip to Segovia in a heartbeat. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of seeing these wondrous Segovian landmarks. The aqueduct, for one, is the main symbol of the town. Did you know that this ancient structure still works, and is capable of transporting water throughout the city? The Alcazar, on the other hand, is compared to the castle of Disney — both are charming and enthralling. The whole town itself enjoys the fine distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. By the way, don’t leave without having a taste of its savory and mouth-watering delicacy – the Cuchinillo or suckling pig.

Recommended mode of travel: RENFE train (Chamartin)
Time of travel by train: Less than 30 minutes

7. San Lorenzo El Escorial

imageI recommend this place if you are looking for a fine and quiet respite, away from the noise, and the hustle and bustle of Madrid. Be sure to check out the interior of the fabled Monastery, which once served as a royal palace of the King. Visitors will be mesmerized by the grandeur of its library, while the mighty courtyard of the Old Testament kings is something to marvel at. You must also see the Pantheon, where the remains of many royalties are kept.

How far from Madrid: 45 kilometers
Best Travel Option: Catch the autobus 661 at Moncloa, if you want to go the Galapagar route. Take 664 if you want to pass by the Valley of the Fallen gates.
Fare Price: 4.20 euros one way

8. Toledo

imageOne of the most visited towns within the Community of Madrid, not only because Toledo is very near the capital, but also because it is filled with many spectacular attractions. Its alcazar is its most recognizable landmark, a magnificent site lying in the town’s highest peak. The best view of the edifice can be had from the Tagus River. Other interesting sites to see in Toledo are the Museo de Separdi, the Toledo Cathedral, the Ancient Walls and Towers, and the Transito Synagogue.

Distance between Madrid and Toledo: 45 minutes
Recommended Bus: ALSA autobus, at Plaza Eliptica.
Price of autobus ticket: 5.39 euros single trip; 9.70 euros for ida y vuelta tickets.

9. Aranjuez

imageIt is bestowed the title, Spain’s Royal Town. The stately Palacio Real will not be missed, since its grandness conspicuously sprawls right in the midst of Aranjuez. The palace, the beauty of which rivals Madrid’s own Palacio Real, is accentuated by gardens of manicured hedges and multi-hued flowers dedicated to both the King and Queen. It is surrounded by gushing waterways — natural and man-made. The Iglesia de San Antonio, the Royal Church, is found in one part of the plaza of the same name, and one of the Aranjuez’ major attractions.

How to go: Via 423 autobus at Estacion Sur bus station, Mendez Alvaro.
Fare cost: 4.20 euros, one way

10. Cuenca

imageAnother quiet, enchanting pueblo within the Castille La Mancha region. Cuenca is a little over two hours away from Madrid, making it as one of the farthest nearby towns. Still, you’d realize the rather long trip is well-compensated after seeing the breathtaking Casas Colgadas, or Hanging Houses. Another must-see is the mesmerizing Cuenca Cathedral, looming on one end of the Plaza Mayor, opposite the arch gates.

Hours from the capital: 2 hours
Best travel option: Via autobus Avanza, at Estacion Sur
Price of bus fare: 25 euros for round-trip tickets

Pueblo de Cuenca: Amazing Madrid Day Trip (Be There in Two Hours)

imageNo doubt about it, Madrid Spain has tons of amazing places to offer that you’d be at a loss on which to visit first. In case you’re in the city for a few days and would love to see exciting towns that are a stone’s throw away from the capital, I suggest that you include Cuenca in your itinerary.

It is one of those beautiful pueblos situated right within the Castille La Mancha region of Spain you have to visit — a quiet and charming one, I have to say. What’s true is that the town reeks in so many sites and attractions – museums, churches, monastery, winding streets and alleys, cafes — and of course, its famous ancient houses called the Casas Colgadas. The latter appear to be clinging precariously on the cliff that looks over the narrow, shallow river called Hueca. This body of water moves along an area nestled beside the collosal Cuenca Mountain range.

If only for these breathtaking casas, or the Hanging Houses in Spanish, a visit to the town is all worth it — even if for just a day. However, for anyone with a fear of heights, it might be a herculean feat to get to the site since you need to cross a bridge that spans the gorge, which is a few hundred feet below.

No need to fret, still, as you have another option, a less exciting one at that. There is a street on the side of the cliff that goes up to the location of the hanging houses and into the ancient city.

My suggestion is that you take the bridge and just avoid looking below, and you’d be perfectly fine. In the first place, you would want to cross it especially if you must take the best photos of the houses.

Did you know that much of the cliff was once lined with many of these houses on its side. Over time, however, only a few proudly exists; the remaining ones now serve as historical remnants of such once glorious past of the Cuenca town.

Here are some truly amazing Cuenca, Madrid attractions that you must see:

1. Catedral de Sta María y San Julian de Cuenca
imageThe Cuenca Cathedral, or the Basilica of Our Lady of Grace, is constructed using a strong Gothic architecture. It has features that resemble other world-famous churches such as the Soissons Cathedral and Notre Dame de Paris. Like a number of Spanish churches, visitors are prohibited to take pictures. The cathedral has been mentioned by Notradamus in one of his predictions, identifying it as the sole bastion of Salvation during the End of days. In another legend, Rodrigo de Luz mentioned the church as the place where the Holy Grail is kept and preserved. The presence of the Holy Grail will save the church from destruction during the Final Hour.

2. Plaza Mayor (Town Square)imageTourists have a number of cafe and restaurant choices at the Plaza Mayor of the town. The Cuenca Cathedral is located within the square.

3. Casas ColgadasimageThe few remaining hanging houses in Cuenca. The edifice emits a yellowish glow from the incandescent lights that are turned on as the day moves into nighttime. Known as the Casas Colgadas in Spanish, they are found in the eastern side of the old town, just overlooking the Rio Huécar. Only three are existing, unfortunately, and it is the most popular and photographed house of the group. Every night, indeed, the house becomes a spectacular sight; but for me, it is more like a haunting image from afar.

4. Hanging Houses at NightimageThe Casas Colgadas become a enthralling sight as they illiminate because of the yellow incandescent light that glow from the interior. While in the beginning, the cliff was lined with these houses, but now, only a few remain.

5. Puente de San Pablo (Steel Bridge)imageThey say the St. Paul Bridge is the best location from which to take photos of the Casas Colgadas. And indeed, it is, albeit the cold wind and dizzying heights rendered taking pictures of the Hanging houses a difficult task. I actually crossed the steel bridge twice. The first time, I crossed it to reach the ancient time, while the second was at nightfall, in order to take night pictures of the houses.

7. Parador de CuencaimageFrom the Steel bridge of Cuenca, you may also enjoy a grand view of the Parador de Cuenca. A wondrous sight during night time, the parador is recognized as a treasure of the town, the Parador is actually a convent converted into a beautiful hotel for tourists who would love to have a breathtaking look of the town, the hanging casas, and the Hoz del Huécar.

8. Iglesia de San AndresimageOne of the more popular churches in Cuenca is the San Andres church, a 16th century church designed by master architect Pedro de Alviz. Numerous renovations were done to the church because of the ravages brought about over time.

8. Cuenca Arched GatesimageThe wide arched gates is the entrance to the plaza mayor and into the town. Also known as Los Arcos, it is part of a building that serves as the City Hall or Ayuntamiento building. The square is not totally pedestrianized — you would encounter light vehicles passing by the narrow plaza mayor and thru the arch gates.

 9. Ruins of Iglesia de San Pantaleonimage

In Calle San Pedro, just after the town’s Plaza Mayor is the remnant of what is known as the Iglesia de San Pantaleon. It is said to be the oldest church in the whole town, and is known to possess an ogival arch from the 1200’s that’s supported by columns. It also has a flat-shaped apse, which suggests that it was of Templar origin. The church ruins is closely associated with Spanish Federico Muelas, a major poet of the town.

How to go:

imageYou may take a autobus trip to the town via the Avanza bus service, which is stationed at Estacion Sur de Madrid. One of the city’s largest bus stations, you  can reach it via Madrid Metro Linea 6 Circular, at Mendez Alvaro. Ida y Vuelta ticket fares are at 25.00 euros. Duration of bus travel is more or less two hours.

Map: