Tag Archives: Andalucia

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

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.

Map

My Great Andalucian Adventure: Cordoba

Many believe that Spain is all about Madrid – that the city is the best place to be if you’re in the country. The fact is that there must be hundreds more regions, cities, pueblos, and barrios to see and explore in this Iberian peninsula other than its capital – and one of them is Andalucia.

Where is Andalucia?

The region, which because of its exotic qualities has made it a favorite setting of popular movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Indiana Jones and many more, is found in Spain’s southern point. It is undeniably world-class as a tourist destination, where every area must reek in countless amazing sites and attractions.

The region also boasts of the ideal climate all throughout the year – hot in summer and mildly cold in winter – perfect for those once-in-a-lifetime vacation adventures.

In other words, you need not be stuck with Madrid as Spain affords you at least another option. If you’re someone who rares to experience the most unique Spanish culture and tradition, Andalucia is the perfect choice.

andalucia maps
The 8 provinces of Andalucia are clumped together down the southern tip of Spain (Map courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps used with permission.)

Andalucia has eight provinces – these are Cadiz, Cordoba, Almeria, Jaen, Granada, Huelva, Malaga and Seville. Each one is beautiful and breathtaking – ready for any tourist to explore and appreciate.

My next two blog posts (including this) will be about Cordoba
Spain
and Granada, the first two Andalucian provinces that I had the pleasure to see and experience.

Off to my Andalucian Adventure

A city that was declared a World Heritage site, specifically the Historical Center of Cordoba, it was first ruled by the Romans until the Moors took over in the 8th Century. It was said to be the start of the blossoming of a city, the greatness of which easily rivaled other Moslem territories, like ancient Damascus and Constantinople.

And as Cordoba experienced being immersed in both Roman and Moorish cultures, what resulted is a place that exudes the strong characteristics of these two as evidenced by the massive edifice of worship that accommodates at least two religions; the Moorish-inspired whitewashed towns complete with Catholic cathedrals, basilicas, and parroquias; and the lively fiestas and celebrations that honor both Christian and Islamic traditions, among others.

First Stop: Cordoba Spain

image

Thru the initiative of an adventurous bunch of Filipinos (their common denominator is that they attend masses at Iglesia de Nuestra Sra. del Espino, along C/ Conde de Serrallo near Plaza del Castilla), a Saturday trip to Andalucia’s Cordoba and Granada was organized.

Leaving the church premises at 1AM, the bus arrived at Cordoba before 6AM, stopping near the foot of the Puente Romano and the Gate of the Bridge. It was still early in the dawn, but a number of people are already around and checking the place. We just came in, yet it was easy to to tell that the place reeks of magnificent attractions — and the following are just some of them.

Cordoba Spain Attractions

1. La Mezquita

image

Try to start a discussion about Cordoba, and surely, La Mezquita will be mentioned. It is to be expected as the edifice is of utmost importance to the Cordobans, it being a highly-revered Arab-Andalucian treasure.

Mesquita means Mosque, and its complete name is Mezquita Catedral de Cordoba. It is called as such because it was originally a mosque, but now serves as a Catholic place of worship. Mesquita is unique in that the Moslems also want to have it for their own, proving its immense significance to the Islam religion. In fact, it is recognized as the most important Islamic structure within the Western world.

One look at the façade and you see how it reflects Moslem and Baroque designs. It is a huge mosque, and touted as the third largest in the world. Judging from our walk around its perimeter, the building must cover an area equivalent to a few city blocks.  No doubt, it is one of the most fascinating landmarks that you can see in Cordoba.

2. The bell tower of Mezquita

image

This is the present bell tower and is open to the public if you’re touring the Mesquita-Catedral. During the days of the Moor occupation, the tower was originally a minaret or a place where the call to prayer is made.

Built by Abderraman III, the leaders of the cathedral decided to convert it into a bell tower, with the last of the series of reconstruction happening in 1664. If you want great views of Cordoba and the grounds of the Mezquita-Cathedral itself, it is a must that you climb up the bell tower.

3. Puente Romano

image

In English, it means the Roman Bridge – an impressive structure that crosses the equally great Rio Guadalquivir. This is known to be the sole bridge of the Ancient Cordoba region for a long time. A colossal work of architecture by the Romans way back in the 1st century A.D., the Spanish government reconstruct it into its original state to preserve its historical importance.

Watch the above video of the Puente Romano de Cordoba as it was featured in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Notice its appearance markedly altered thru the use of computer-generated effects. (Video is courtesy of Cordoba Film Office).

4. Torre de Calahorra

image
After the Moslem took reigns of Cordoba, they added a tower to the Roman Bridge in order to protect it and the city itself from invaders coming from the south side of the banks. Inside you will find a museum that displays artifacts from the three great religions – Christian, Jewish, and Moslem. It is open to the public, starting at 10AM. Price of regular admission: 4.50 euros

5. Plaza de la Corredera

image
This is one of the city’s famous squares, built right within its midst. The plaza presents a strong Castilian style and is said to be modeled after Madrid’s Plaza Mayor. The square is rich in ancient Roman history, evidenced by the pieces of mosaics found in the site at the time of its construction.

Today, especially now that is summer, the terrace becomes a place where great drinks are enjoyed such as a chilled Fino. On one side of the plaza is found the entrance to a popular Cordoba mercado – El Mercado de la Corredera.

6. Puerta del Puenta

image
In English, it means Gate to the Bridge. Puerta del Puenta was constructed in 1570 with Hernan Ruiz II at the helm. Its imposing presence was meant to greet King Felipe II during his Royal visit of the city.

Located at the end of the Puente de Romano, the arch also served as the entrance to Cordoba; hence, the name. The one that stands today was a replacement to the Moslem Gate, which then also replaced the original gate created by the Romans of Julius Ceaser’s time.

7. Roman Water Wheel

image
Walk to the right of that part of the bridge near the Gate, and you will see the giant (wooden?) water wheel constructed during the ancient Roman times. It was initially intended as a mill wheel, but the Moors later used it as a way of bringing water to the palace. It is said that the one standing today is a replica. The original wheel was dismantled as the noise it created was deemed a nuisance by Queen Isabella.

8. Triunfo de San Rafael

image
This is an old Monument with a locked gate found near the Mezquita-Catedral. It is built to honor the protector of the city, Archangel San Rafael. It is near the Gates to the Roman bridge, a strategic position which I assume as a way for San Rafael to oversee and protect the city.

9. Cruz del Rastro

image
Cruz del Rastro, or the Flea market Cross, is a reminder of that part of history when the Christians and Jews were pitted against each other. The end of the conflict between the two groups and in honor of Alonzo de Aguilar is remembered with the construction and installation of the cross in the Middle of the flea market.

10. Statue of San Rafael

imageAn addition to the Roman Bridge, way back in the 1600’s, is still another magnificent statue of San Rafael. Created by Bernabe Gomez del Rio, it stands right in the middle of the bridge. In front is a candle stand on which visitors and tourists may light a candle in honor of the Patron Saint of Cordova

image
Cordoba is, needless to say, an Iberian city that’s unique because of the harmonious blend of Roman and Moorish cultures. Apart from the Roman and Moslem built structures, towns, and bridges, the place is above all proudly Spanish; it exhibits strong Iberian tradition that was handed down through numerous generations, like the famous flamenco dances and the celebration of Spanish fiestas.

Particularly awaited by many during the month of May is Cordoba’s Patio festival. It’s a major event in which the town residents open their patios or yards wide to entertain tourists and guests.

There’s always the next time, I can only say. If ever I get the chance to return, I must do it outside the hot summer months – as the less punishing weather will allow me to see more sites and really enjoy endless trekking with friends, hopping from one whitewashed Andalusian town to another. Here’s hoping to see more of Cordoba once again.

How to Go From Madrid to Cordoba:

imageThe blackness of predawn and the silhouette of the palm trees add to the somber depiction of the Torre de Calahorra

Bus: Mendez Alvaro is where public bus services to different cities and regions, including Cordova, are available. Basic bus tickets are worth 15 euros; however, be prepared for a long travel, which is approximately 5 hours. If you don’t mind the long journey, then go and book a bus seat now at Madrid’s premier bus station at the Intercambiador, where its own metro train stop, the Metro Mendez Alvaro, is also found.

Train: Want to reach Cordova faster? Take the fast train service of AVE, and you will arrive at your destination in under two hours. Tickets, of course, are much more expensive at 70 euros.

Join Informal Group Tours: I paid 40 euros for the whole trip, and this amount even includes the entrance fee to the Nazaries Palace of the Alhambra complex. And so, one clear advantage is that you are saved the trouble of getting the entrance tickets – the organizers do it for you. Information about these types of tours are usually posted at message boards of local churches.

The only downside of these tours is that time is very limited; we were allotted only 3 hours in Cordoba as we were also scheduled to go to Alhambra of Granada. Hence, we didn’t visit many other important sites like the Juderia and Medina Azahara. We weren’t even able to witness the magnificent interiors of Mezquita since it opens at 10AM and we had to leave at 9.30AM. (The entrance fee is 8 euros.)

Therefore, to make the most of your travel, my advice is to take the bus at Mendez Alvaro, and go online to buy a professional guided tour package that covers much of Cordoba Spain attractions.

My next post: Alhambra of Granada