Huesca, the Set Meravelles.

Huesca is a province of Aragón located in the Pyrenees near the French border. The population is near 230,000 with the majority of the denziens living in the capital city of Huesca. It’s also the home of a lot of ski resorts. Jaca is another important city. I finally went for the first time in March 2017. It was well worth the wait, and I look forward to exploring it more one day. Huesca es una provincia de Aragón situado en los Pirineos cerca de la frontera francesa. La población es unos 230.000 habitantes con la mayoria viviendo en Huesca capital. También hay muchos estaciones de esquí. Jaca es otra ciudad importante. Por fin fui por la primera vez en marzo de 2017. Merecía la pena, y me da ilusión volver un día para explorar la provincia más. 

ELS SET MERAVELLES DE HUESCA

Canfranc

An old, abandoned train station in the mountains of Huesca. Incredible. Una estación de tren abandonada situado en los montes de Huesca. Increíble. 

Ciudadella de Jaca

The “Castle of San Pedro” is at the centre of a beautiful town with views of the nearby mountains. It was built under King Felipe II in the 16th and 17th centuries and restored in 1968. El Castillo de San Pedro está en el centro de un pueblo bonito con vistas de los Pirineos cercanos. Fue construido durante el reino del Rey Felipe II en los Siglos XVI y XVII y fue restaurado en 1968. 

Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña (yet to be discovered)

The Monastery of San Juan de la Peña is located near Santa Cruz de los Serós. It was built in 920, and rebuilt after a fire in 1675. The old monastery has been a National Monument since 1889 and the new one since 1923. It is built into the rock and the Holy Grail is said to have been sent there before being sent to its current location in the Cathedral of Valencia. El monasterio de San Juan de la Peña está ubicado cerca de Santa Cruz de los Serós. Fue construido en 920 y reconstruido después de un incendio en 1675. El monasterio antiguo fue declarado Monumento Nacional en 1889 y el nuevo en 1923. Está construido en la roca y se dice que el Santo Grial era mandado allí antes de mandarselo a la Catedral de Valencia, donde se dice está ahora. 

Castillo de Loarre (yet to be discovered)

The Castle of Loarre is one of the oldest in Spain, built in the 11th and 12th centuries. It was important in the Reconquista. It was seen in the 2005 film Kingdom of HeavenEl Castillo de Loarre es uno de los castillos más antiguos de España, construido en los Siglos XI y XII. Era muy importante durante la Reconquista. Era usado en la película Kingdom of Heaven en 2005. 

Ordesa y Monte Perdido (Yet to be discovered)

The Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park is known for its waterfalls and wildlife. It is a glacier valley in the Pyrenees and has been a national park in some form since 1918. El Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido es muy conocido por sus cascadas y su fauna. Es un valle glaciar en los Pirineos y ha sido un parque nacional en alguna forma desde 1918. 

Alquézar (Yet to be discovered)

Alquézar is a small village of 300 people. Its name comes from the Arabic word for “castle” or “fortress” and located in the Sierra y Cañones Parque Natural (Mountain and canyons). Alquézar es un pueblo pequeño de 300 personas. Su nombre viene de la palabra de árabe por “castillo” o “alcázar”. Está ubicado en el Parque Natural Sierra y Cañones. 

Aínsa (Yet to be discovered)

Aínsa is another village in the Pyrenees and has 2173 inhabitants. It is also located in the Sierra y Cañones Parque Natural and has a castle in addition to beautiful mountain views. It usually comes up in those “Most Beautiful Spanish Villages” lists. Aínsa es otro pueblo del Pirineo y tiene 2173 habitantes. También está situado en la Parque Natural Sierra y Cañones. Tiene un castillo y vistas preciosas del monte. Suele salir en las listas de los pueblos más bonitos de España. 

Jaca, Canfranc y Rapitán

From Rapitán in Jaca…Pirineo

Jaca is not the biggest city in the province of Huesca, as it only has 13, 396 residents, but it is probably the most famous. I had been wanting to travel there for a long time, but for whatever reasons, the province of Huesca has eluded me until now. Jaca no es la ciudad más grande de la provincia de Huesca, como solo tiene 13.396 habitantes, pero creo que es la más famosa. Llevo mucho tiempo queriendo ir allí, pero hasta ahora, no he tenido la oportunidad ir a la provincia de Huesca. 

Jaca from Rapitán

It’s popular with the Basques due to skiing, and the Basque presence is definitely noted in this Aragonese town. La ciudad es popular con los vascos dado a su proximidad a estaciones de esquí, y se nota mucho la presencia vasca en este pueblo aragonés. 

The bus ride from Zaragoza took about 2.5 hours, and while it passed through some spectacular scenery, I was more than anxious to get off the bus. I dropped my stuff off at the AirBNB, which was in an old pensión, I believe, and went off to explore the town. El viaje de autobús de Zaragoza tardó sobre 2,5 horas, y aunque pasaba por paisaje espectacular, estaba ansioso llegar a mi destino. Dejé mis cosas en el AirBNB, que estaba en una pensión antigua, creo, y fui a explorar el pueblo. 

Ciudadela

The most famous monument of the former capital of Aragón is the Ciudadela (Citadel), which is pretty impressive. It’s also known as the Castillo of San Pedro (St. Peter’s Castle). It’s in the centre of town and at sunset, many people were walking or resting on the green on a beautiful mid-March afternoon. El monumento más famoso de la ex-capital de Aragón es la Ciudadela, que es impresionante. También es conocido como el Castillo de San Pedro. Está en el centro del pueblo y al atardecer, había mucha gente paseando y descansando en el césped en una tarde bonita de marzo. 

The Cathedral is also pretty nice and is from the 11th Century. The city of Jaca is close enough to the Pyrenees for skiers and snowboarders to stay the night, so although it’s small, it’s always full of life. La Catedral (del Siglo XI) también es bonita. Jaca está cerca a los Pirineos y muchos esquiadores y aficionados del snowboard hacen noche allí. Aunque es una ciudad pequeña, siempre hay ambiente. 

Catedral de Jaca

Friday morning, I was originally going to catch the 8:25 bus to Canfranc, but I was locked inside the building, as I couldn’t figure out how the key that was supposed to unlock the door worked. The gates were closed with a padlock, so I just went upstairs and rested a bit. Viernes por la mañana, tenía pensando coger el autobús a las 8.25 a Canfranc, pero me encontré cerrado en el edificio. No sabía como funcionaba la cerradura. Volví a la cama para descansar un poco más. 

Jaca

I went downstairs again around 9:30, had breakfast and explored a bit before catching the bus at 12:00. Me bajé otra vez sobre las 9:30, desayuné y exploré el pueblo un poco más antes de coger al autobñus a las 12.00. 

Estación de Canfranc

Canfranc is a can’t miss site for anyone travelling through this region of the Pyrenees. It’s home of an abandoned train station. The train station is mysterious and beautiful, and of course, it has spectacular views of the mountains. The station was closed in 1970 when there was a train derailment on the French side (France is about 5 kilometres away), causing the destruction of a bridge which France never rebuilt. Two passenger trains arrive daily from Zaragoza. No se puede perder Canfranc si estás viajando por esta parte de los Pirineos. Es el hogar de una estación de tren abandonada. La estación es misteriosa y preciosa, y desde luego tiene vistas espectaculares de los montes. Se cerró la estación en 1970 cuando había un descarrilamiento de tren por el lado francés que causó la destrucción de un puente. Francia nunca reconstruyó. (France está a unos 5 kilómetros de Canfranc). Hoy en día hay dos trenes de pasajeros que llegan de Zaragoza todos los días.

Pirineos/Pyrenees

After exploring this fascinating village of 454 people, I returned to Jaca for lunch. After lunch, I set upon my afternoon goal, climbing Rapitán to the fort. The hike takes a little over an hour from the city centre and is located 1142 metres (3746 feet) above sea level. I walked around the fort, wrote in my personal travel journal, meditated and enjoyed the views before heading back to Jaca. Después de explorar esta pueblo fascinante de 454 personas, volví a Jaca para comer. Después de comer, tocaba el reto de la tarde: subir Rapitán al fuerte de Rapitán. La ruta tarda más o menos una hora del centro de la ciudad y está situado a 1142 metros sobre el mar. Di una vuelta por el fuerte, escribí en mi diario de viaje personal, medité y disfruté de las vistas antes de volver a Jaca. 

Rapitán

That night, they were having a festival of drum corps, so the entire city reverberated with the percussion. The token Irish pub (in Spain, if a village has two bars, at least one is an Irish pub) was surprisingly empty for being St. Patrick’s Day. I had on my green Ireland shirt for the day. I do have Irish ancestors from way back. Esta noche, había un festival de percusión, y toda la ciudad sonaba de tambores. El pub irlandés (en España, si un pueblo tiene dos bares, al menos uno es irlandés) era vació por ser el día de San Patricio. Estaba llevando mi camiseta irlandesa por el día, como tengo antepasados irlandeses. 

Puente/Bridge near Canfranc

Saturday morning, I bid my adieu to Jaca and caught the bus to Huesca, where I would later catch a bus to Barcelona to end my holiday. Sábado por la mañana, me despedí a Jaca y cogí el autobu´s a Huesca, donde tenía que coger un autobús a Barcelona para terminar mis vacaciones. 

Fuerte de Rapitán

Huesca capital has a population of 52,347. Unfortunately, the combination bus-train station didn’t have any place to leave my luggage. None of the lockers had keys. I sighed and explored the city with my backpack (training for the Camino) and laptop case (which I won’t have on the Camino). Huesca capital tiene una población de 52.347. No había una consigna para dejar el equipaje, y ninguna de las taquillas disponía de un llave. Me suspiré y exploré la ciudad con mi mochilla (entrenamiento para el Camino) y bolsa de portátil (que no tendré en el Camino). 

Huesca

The Cathedral was nice, and the old town was worth visiting too. I had lunch in the Plaza de Catedral, which I do not recommend.  A few hours gave me enough time to see the city, which looked like a good place to live and a good base to explore the Pyrenees. However, I prefer Jaca. La catedral estaba bien, y el casco antiguo merece la pena. Comí en la Plaza de Catedral. No lo recomiendo. Unas horas me dio suficiente tiempo para ver la ciudad. Me parece una sitio bonito para vivir y un buen base para explorar los Pirineos. Sin embargo, prefiero Jaca. 

Huesca

Now…only three provinces left in my quest to set foot in every Spanish province. This holiday, however, was far from over…Ahora…con solo tres provincias en mi reto pisar todas las provincias españolas. Sin embargo, las vacaciones todavía no han acabado. 

See, verde.

Hike/Ruta: #8/40 of 2017
Date/Fecha: 17-marzo-2016
Kilometres hiked: 10
Mountain/Route: Rapitán
Difficulty: Easy, a bit steep at times

Teruel to Albarracín

The day had finally arrived for my escape from Fallas. I caught a BlaBlaCar from Valencia to the capital city Teruel, population 35, 675.  I arrived to Spain’s smallest provincial capital city around 9:30 and left my luggage at the bus station so I could explore the town without a big pack and computer case. El día, por fin, ha llegado para mi escape de Las Fallas. Cogí un BlaBlaCar desde València a la capital de la provincia de Teruel, población 36.675. Llegué a la capital provincial más pequeña de España sobre las 9.30 y dejé el equipaje en la estación de autobuses para poder explorar la ciudad sin una mochila grande y bolsa de portátil. 

I had been to Teruel before in 2011, and I have been wanting a return visit ever since. I had a coffee at the bar inside the tower across from the bus station before setting off to re-explore. Ya había estado en Teruel una vez  antes, en 2011, y he querido volver desde entonces. Me tomé un café en el bar dentro del torre enfrente de la estación antes de empezar a explorar la ciudad una vez más. 

Teruel…¡existe!

I had already visited a few of the museums on the first trip, so this visit was just to walk around the city and enjoy the atmosphere. The town is home of Mudéjar architecture, and I climbed up one of the towers, el Torre de El Salvador. It gave excellent vantage points of the city and surrounding countryside. Ya había visitado muchos de los museos en mi primer viaje, y esta visita era para pasear la ciudad y disfrutar su ambiente. Es el hogar de la arquitectura Mudéjar. Subí uno de los torres, el Torre de El Salvador. Dio vistas excelentes de la ciudad y el paisaje próximo. 

View from Torre El Salvador

I also visited the most famous statue of the city, El Torico. I loved the little bull. También visité la estatua más famosa de la ciudad, El Torico. Me encanta el toro pequeño. 

El Torico

I was surprised and happy I double-checked the bus timetable when I left my baggage, as the bus left at 14:10, not 15:30 as stated on the internet. Remember, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet! I had a quick bocadillo de chorizo before taking off to Albarracín. Me sorprendí cuando comprobé el horario de autobús cuando dejé el equipaje, como el autobús salió a las 14.10 y no a las 15.30 como dice en internet. Recuerda, no se puede creer todo que pone en internet. Comí un bocadillo de chorizo en la estación antes de coger el autobus a Albarracín. 

Mudéjar

The bus was more a large van, and it was pretty full. It also served as school transport between the school on the outskirts of Albarracín and the village. El autobús es mejor dicho un furgoneta grande, y estaba casí completo. También sirve como el transporte escolar entre la escuela en las afueras de Albarracín y el pueblo. 

Albarracín, population 1010, is a beautiful medieval village in the Sierra de Albarracín located on the Guadalaviar River. It has been a Monumento Nacional since 1961. I arrived about 15:00 and found my pensión, no thanks to Google Maps which was confusing. Again, don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Albarracín, población 1010, es un pueblo medieval precioso en la Sierra de Albarracín situado en el Río Guadalaviar. Ha sido un Monumento Nacional desde 1961. Llegué sobre las 15.00 y encontré mi pensión. Google Maps no sirvió nada de ayuda y solo me confundió. Otra vez más, no se puede creer todo que hay en internet. 

I checked in and left my stuff behind and went exploring the town. I found myself on a trail that led out to a hermitage not too far from the pueblo that provided spectacular views of the village and surrounding mountains. Hice check-in y dejé mis cosas en la pensión y fui a explorar. Me encontré en un sendero que fue hasta una ermita cerca al pueblo. Había vistas espectaculares del pueblo y el monte. 

I retraced my steps and then went to the top of hill that had the city walls and walked along them for a short while. I found myself in the village shortly after, stopping at the tourism office to double check the time the one bus left in the morning (8.55, and it was on time too, spoiler alert). I had a quick coffee and walked along the Fluvial Trail next to the Guadalaviar. Volví y después subí el monte que tenía las murallas de la ciudad. Caminé a lado de ellas un rato y después me encontré en el pueblo. Verifiqué el horario del único autobús (8.55, y llegó puntual, aviso de espoiler) 

The cathedral and castle were closed, but I did go up to the castle to see what ruins I could. The streets are beautifully preserved and cobblestone. La catedral y el castillo estaban cerrados, pero subí las ruinas del castillo. Las calles son buen preservados y adoquinadas. 

It was hard to find a cheap place for dinner that was open on a Wednesday in March that was a workday for 95% of Spain, so I splurged a bit. I got a good night’s sleep and left the next morning at 8.55. I arrived back in Teruel and had time to go to the meeting point for my next BlaBlaCar that would take me to Zaragoza where a bus for my next destination was awaiting me. Era algo difícil encontrar un sitio barato para cenar cuando era un miércoles de marzo y la mayoría de la península tenían que trabajar. Entonces, me traté a una cena un poco más cara que normal. Me dormí bien y cogí el autobus a las 8.55. Llegué a Teruel y me dio tiempo para llegar al punto de encuentro del BlaBlaCar que me llevó a Zaragoza donde tenía que coger un autobús al próximo destino. Jueves es el día del mercadillo de Teruel. 

I have visited a ton of beautiful places in Spain. Albarracín is by far one of the most spectacular I have had the opportunity to see. He visto muchos sitios preciosos en España. Albarracín es uno de los más espectulares e impresionantes que he tenido la oportunidad ver.

La ermita.

Hike/Ruta: #7/40 of 2017
Date/Fecha: 15-marzo-2016
Kilometres hiked: 5
Mountain/Route: Albarracín
Difficulty: Easy, a bit steep at times

Escape from Fallas!

I love the monumentos of Fallas, I really do. The fireworks are a dazzling display each and every time. The Carrers de Llum are a masterpiece. And who doesn’t have a certain fascination with watching things safely burn? Molan los monumentos de Fallas, de verdad. Los fuegos artificiales son una exhibición resplandeciente cada vez. Els Carrers de Llum son obras maestras. ¿Y a quién no le fascina cosas quemar (con mucha precaución)? 

However, I do not like hordes of people, and I do like travelling. As I haven’t had a lot of holiday time this school-year to take off to unexplored rincones of Spain, I decided a while back that I was going to use this time to travel. Sin embargo, no me gustan las aglomeraciones de gente,pero me gusta viajar. Como no he tenido muchos festivos este año escolar para explorar rincones desconocidos de España, decidí hace mucho tiempo que iba a usar estas vacaciones para viajar. 

I saw various monuments being planted and the streets lit up before leaving on Wednesday morning. Y antes de irme, vi la planta de varios monumentos y las calles llenas de luces antes de marcharme miércoles por la mañana. 

My stops included Teruel capital, Albarracín, Jaca, Canfranc and Huesca capital before ending the trip in Barcelona for the weekend. Las paradas incluyeron Terul capital, Albarracín, Jaca, Canfranc y Huesca capital antes de acabar en Barcelona por el fin de semana.

Teruel was nice to visit again, Albarracín and Jaca incredible jewels, Canfranc is a special place, and Barcelona always rocks. I even found a new, special place in Barcelona I hadn’t been to before. Now that I’ve visited Huesca, there are only three Spanish provinces left for me to visit. Estaba bien visitar Teruel otra vez más. Albarracín y Jaca con joyas preciosas. Canfranc es un sitio especial, y Barcelona siempre mola mogollón. Incluso descubrí un sitio especial en Barcelona que no conocía antes. Y con Huesca…ahora solo me quedan tres provincias españolas para visitar.

I want to take time to write about them the way they deserve, so be on the look out very soon. For now…time to rest. Quería tomar mi tiempo para escribir de ellos como merecen, entonces…a continuación. Por ahora…toca descansar.

Autumn in Ademuz: Senderismo, lluvia y belleza.

ademuz-1

Spanish exclaves have always fascinated me. An exclave is a territory that is surrounded entirely by a different province, region or even country. Spain has quite a few, and Ademuz has been on  my radar for five years now. However, without a car, it’s a pretty difficult place to get to due to lack of public transportation. It’s a village of 1286 inhabitants about 140 km from Valencia (86 miles) from the Valencia capital.  Los exclaves españoles siempre me han fascinado. Un exclave es un territorio que está rodeado por una provincia, región o incluso país diferente. España tiene unos cuantos, y he querido visitar Ademuz desde hace cinco años ahora. Sin embargo, sin coche, es un sitio bastante difícil llegar dado que no hay mucho transporte público que llega allí. Ademuz es un pueblo de 128 habitantes situado a unos 140 km de Valencia capital. 

When I saw that the hiking group in Samarucs, a  gay sports association in Valencia, had a weekend planned in Ademuz, I immediately made plans to go. I was nervous but excited, hoping to get to know more people, and after the excursion to Cova Tollada, I was a bit less nervous. A bit. Until I saw the forecast. Rain. Did I not leave Bilbao to escape the torrential rains that were affecting me so much? Cuando vi que el grupo de senderismo de Samarucs, un club deportivo gay en Valencia, tenía una excursión a Ademuz planificado, me apunté. Estaba nervioso pero emocionado. Quería conocer gente nueva, y después de la excursión a Cova Tollada, estaba algo menos nervioso. Un poco. Hasta que vi la predicción de tiempo. Lluvia. ¿No me marché de Bilbao en parte para escapar las lluvias torrenciales que estaba afectándome tanto? 

We left bright and early Saturday morning, the 22nd of October, from the Torres de Quart. It took about an hour and a half to arrive at the Hostal Santo Domingo, an adequate motel in Ademuz. The forecast wasn’t so good, so after the typical Spanish second breakfast (almuerzo in these parts of Spain. Never brunch.), we headed out in cars to some of the places that were originally planned for Sunday. The weather held out for us to explore some of the waterfalls and beauty of Riodeva, a population of 198 residents (2008 statistics). The original plan was to go up the mountain hiking instead of cars, but when the forecast is rain, and when you’re not Basque, things change. Salimos a las 8 de la mañana de Valencia, el 22 de octubre, desde el punto de quedada, Torres de Quart. Tardamos sobre una hora y media para llegar al Hostal Santo Domingo, un hostal adecuado en Adamuz. Todavía daba lluvia por el día, y después de segundo desayuno (aquí conocido como “almuerzo. Nunca brunch.) salimos en coches para visitar unos de los sitios que eran planificados para domingo. El tiempo nos permitió explorar unas cascadas preciosas y la belleza de Riodeva, una población de 198 habitantes según estadísticas de 2008. El plan original era subir el monte caminando en lugar de coche, pero cuando da lluvia y no eres vasco, cambian las cosas. 

Casa Domingo

Casa Domingo

The waterfalls were beautiful, and the rain held out until we started to eat. We ate quickly before heading out to some abandoned mines and, more interestingly, miner’s houses.  Las cascadas eran preciosas, y la lluvia no empezó hasta que empezamos a comer. Por eso, comemos rápido antes de ir a explorar unas minas abandonadas y, aún más interesante, las casas antiguos de los mineros. 

The miners’ houses were in caves, and they look as if they haven’t been disturbed since the 1950s (they have been under restoration since 2008 or so, and they’re doing an excellent job!) The rain started back up again, so back to the hostal for rest and café to warm up.

Las casas de mineros eran ubicados en cuevas, y las han restaurado como si nadie las hubiera tocado desde los años 1950. Han empezado la restauración en 2008 (creo) y están haciéndolo super bien. La lluvia empezó de nuevo, y volvemos al hostal para descansar y tomar café para calentarnos. 

In the afternoon, the rain let up again to explore the village of Ademuz, which has character. The dinner at the hostal was great, although I gained a kilo from it. It would’ve been better if we had been hiking all day! I went to bed super early as I was exhausted. Por la tarde, la lluvia paró de nuevo que nos permitió explorar el pueblo de Ademuz, que tiene cáracter. La cena en el hostal estaba bien, aunque me engordé un kilo después de la cena. Estaría aún mejor después de un día completo de senderismo. Me fui a la cama muy pronto como estaba agotado. 

Sunday we woke up for breakfast and left for the hike originally planned for Saturday, from El Cuervo to Tormón in the province of Teruel.  The skies were a bit brighter, but still pretty darn grey. The drivers went on to Tormón to leave the cars, and the rest of us explored El Cuervo, population 113. They at least had a bar opened on Sunday, something nearly impossible to find in the city of Madrid, population 3 million in Madrid Proper. ( / my sarcastic commentary on Madrid) They also had a nice lookout of the beautiful region. El domingo nos despertamos para desayunar y nos marchamos para hacer la ruta que tenían pensado para sábado, desde El Cuervo hasta Tormón en la provincia de Teruel (sí, existe). Los azules estaban más azules, aunque seguían más grises que azules. Los conductores dejaron los coches en Tormón mientras exploramos el pueblo de El Cuervo, población 113. Al menos tenían un bar abierto en domingo, algo que es casí imposible encontrar en la ciudad de Madrid, población 3 millón. ( / comentario sarcástico de Madrid) Tambíen había un mirador de la zona bonita. 

We set off for the hike about 11, with the sun trying to peak out. There were a few drops of rain throughout the day, but nothing too drastic. The hike went through some beautiful mountains and sites of the River Ebrón. (The hike is known as “Los Estrechos del Ebrón”, the Straights of Ebrón). The trees were in full autumn foliage display, something I never really saw in Euskadi (because it’s perpetual rain and the leaves just fall off before they have a chance to change colour?)  Empezamos a caminar sobre las 11, con el sol intentando decir “hola”. Había unas gotas de lluvia durante el día, pero nada muy drástico. La ruta pasa por montes y sitios preciosos por el Río Ebrón. La ruta se llama “Los estrechos del Ebrón”. Los árboles estaban brillantes con los colores de otoño, algo que nunca vi mucho en Euskado dado a su lluvia perpetuo y las hojas se caen antes de tenían la oportunidad cambiar de color, supongo. 

The beauty of nature was talking to me, and I needed time to truly listen. The drawback of going with a large group is there is no time to stop and smell the roses. I think many people who have walked the Camino de Santiago have had a moment or moments where they just needed to stop and have an emotional release, and this moment was building up through me until a point where I had to take advantage of a break so I could have five minutes alone to allow emotions out in a healthy way (ok, I broke down crying to release built up emotion! I’m not ashamed.)  I’m an introvert, and I need some time alone to process the experience. And after those five minutes, I felt a LOT better and was able to return to being social and trying to make friends. I learned a lot about myself this weekend. La belleza de la naturaleza estaba hablándome, y me hacía falta escucharlo bien. Lo malo de hacer senderismo en un grupo grande es que no te da tiempo para tomar tiempo a oler las rosas (si hay un buen refrán para decirlo en castellano, porfa, avísame.) Creo que muchos peregrinos a Santiago han tenido un momento cuando tenían que parar para desahogar de emociones, y este momento estaba creciendo dentro de mí hasta que llegué a un punto donde tenía que aprovechar un descanso para tener cinco minutos para desahogar en una manera saludable. Vale, lloré para desahogarme. No tengo vergüenza. Soy introvertido, bastante, y necesito tiempo en solitario para poder entender la experencia. Y después de esos cinco minutos, me encontraba mucho mejor y podía ser sociable y intentar hacer amigos. Aprendí mucho sobre mi mismo este fin de semana. 

We ended up at a beautiful waterfall, Calicanto. It provided one of the most beautiful autumn scenes I have ever had the opportunity to see. No, it’s not Niagra, but it is quite spectacular. We ate there before continuing on to Tormón, a few minutes away. Tormón has a population of 28, as of 2014, but it does have an albergue, El Abrigo de Tormón (the winter coat of Tormón). La ruta acaba en unas cascadas preciosas, Calicanto. Era una de las escenas del otoño más increíble que he visto en la vida. No, no era las Cataratas del Niagra, pero era bastante espectacular. Comemos allí antes de seguir hasta Tormón, unos pocos minutos más. Tormón tenía una población de 28 personas en 2014, pero tiene un albergue, El Abrigo del Tormón. 

We went back to El Cuervo by car to pick up the cars. Most people went back to Valencia, but a few cars stopped in the village of Castielfabib, 275 habitants in 2015. We saw more cats than people. The old church was nice, but on a grey autumn Sunday afternoon, there was little going on. Still, it was a village that had been on the Valencia bucket list I’m trying to find the time to officially make, and I was glad to have visited. Volvimos a El Cuervo en coche para recoger los otros coches. La mayoría de las personas volvieron a Valencia, pero algunos paramos en el pueblo de Castielfabib, 275 habitantes en 2015. Vimos más gatos que personas. La iglesia antigua era bonita, pero en un domingo gris del otoño, había poca cosa. Sin embargo, era un pueblo que estaba en la Lista del Cubo (Bucket List, estoy inventando ahora por humor xD) que estoy buscando el tiempo para hacer, y estaba contento visitarlo.

 

It was a very special weekend, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced it. Era un fin de semana especial, y estoy agradecido haber tenido la oportunidad para tener la experiencia. 

Hikes #30-31/40 of 2016
Date/Fecha: 22/23-octubre-2016
Kilometres hiked: Day 1: 6ish? Day 2: 15.
Mountain/Route: Ruta de Deus de Riodeva (Día 1)/Estrechos del Ebrón (Día 2)
Difficulty: Día 1: Easy Día 2: Moderate due to some tricky places. 

Teruel…isolated yet enchanting

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Teruel has a reputation for being one of the coldest places in Spain. It’s remote and hard to get to, being the only province capital in the peninsula that lacks a train connection to Madrid. It’s remote and unspoiled by the tourist masses, which means it was right up my alley for a day trip in February 2011. It’s another place I regret I haven’t had the chance to get back to…yet.

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Teruel is the smallest province capitals with just 35,000 habitants. Many buildings were constructed with the Mudéjar architecture, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the architecture itself.) It is located 915 metres above sea level. It is just as beautiful, at least for me, as Toledo, Ávila and Segovia, but it still remains isolated, despite the efforts of the Teruel existe (Teruel exists) tourism campaign.

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I took the bus from Valencia on Feb. 12, 2011 (I looked up the date on my private journal). I think it left around 8:00, and I was there by 9:30 or so. I walked around the town, visiting the cathedral, the towers, the plaza with its famous statue, and I had a tostada con tomate y JAMÓN. It was delicious. It wasn’t as cold as previously told (although remember, I am originally from Ohio so my idea of cold may not be yours. You’ve been warned). I found the train station and admired the city from down below. I decided to combine trips and take an earlier bus to see Segorbe in Castellón on the way back (which turned out to be a mistake as I missed the bus back to Valencia from Segorbe and had to stay the night!).

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From my personal journal…I didn’t write much. Darn. I got up early to catch the first bus to Teruel, which is this awesome little pueblo that’s a province capital. It’s really beautiful, but you can see everything there is to see in about an hour. And I even stopped for some tostada with JAMÓN, which was the best jamón ever.

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Set Meravelles

Torres y iglesias de Teruel

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Teruel has four churches included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Mudéjar Architectures. All of them are incredibly beautiful. You have the Torre (Tower) de El Salvador, Catedral de Teruel, Iglesia (Church) of San Pedro (which is home of the Tomb of the Amantes (Lovers) of Teruel) and the Iglesia de La Merced to choose from if you want to see Mudéjar architecture. There are a few other churches here too in other styles.

Plaza del Torico (Carlos Castell)

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The main plaza of Teruel has an interesting statue in the centre. The fountain has a small bull at the top watching the city. The fountain dates back to 1375 but has been replaced two times since. The current one was erected in 1858. Legend has it two soldiers ignored the orders of King Alfonso II followed a bull due to some dreams they had. The bull lead them here to start a new population. It is the one of the most famous landmarks of the province.

Jamón

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I’ve said many times I’m not really a foodie (I could live on Spanish tostada alone and be happy), but Spanish jamón serrano is the best ham in the world. Teruel is known for it. To go to Teruel and not try jamón (sorry vegetarians! You are exempt, of course!) is like to go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower. Teruel is famous for “buen jamón serrano” (“buen” is good.)

Albarracín

Albarracín has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful villages in all of Spain (and probably attracts more tourists than the province capital.) Although it only has 1000 habitants, the village is quite beautiful and surrounded by mountains and offers a ton of hiking opportunities. It also offers a lot of history and a chance to experience authentic rural life.

Mirambel

Even smaller than Albarracín with only 137 habitants (2004 census), the village of Mirambel is located close to the Castellón border in the Maestrazgo mountains. It’s mentioned by Basque writer Pío Baroja in La Venta de Mirambel and offers beautiful mountains and conserves some of its old walls.

Castillo de Mora de Rubielos

There are a lot of castles in Spain, and I would love to have the chance to just go touring all the castles (and then write about them, of course!) The castle located in Mora de Rubielos, population 1700 in 2009, is definitely on my list. The village is located in the mountains (like most places in Teruel).

Alcañiz

Alcañiz is the second largest city in the province with 16,000 folks calling it home. The Jewish population of the city were protected until the Inquisition and had to pay a fine if they wished to move out of the city. Today you can still visit the Calatravos Castle, a gothic market, underground passages and a few churches. Nearby, you can see rock paintings of the Val del Charco del Agua Amargo.

Teruel province is also home of Miravete de la Sierra, population 12, which calls itself El Pueblo Donde Nunca Pasa Nada (the village where nothing ever happens). This marketing campaign has actually brought a number of curious visitors. I am sure if I ever have a car, I’ll be one of the curious ones.

It’s Festival Time. Part 2 of…

After experiencing Fallas in 2011, one would think I have had enough of Spanish Festivals for a lifetime…not so much. It is true that I am one of those introverts who just doesn’t like being around masses of people. I’m just not a festival or life-of-the-party type. I prefer sitting back and observing. However, I also tend to feel guilty about “missing out” on something. I still have yet to see San Fermines (maybe next year). But there are many other festivals to see, especially in the Basque Country region.

Last year, when I moved to Bilbao, I took advantage of living close and went to Basque capital, Vitoria, on the 4th of August to see the beginning of the Festivales de la Virgen Blanca. I am NOT a fan whatsoever of the Basque “chupinazo” which involves getting everyone extremely wet with wine. This was strike one against it. Strike two was just too many people crowded into the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca. However, it was really cool to see the descent of the “Celedón” to start the festivities. If only I didn’t have to be drowned in wine to see it.

Getxo, Bilbo, Vitoria 101 Getxo, Bilbo, Vitoria 105

As the Basques like their festivals, they have it planned to have three weeks straight of festivals between the three biggest cities. I missed the festivals of Donostia, but living in Bilbao meant I had to survive Aste Nagusia.

Marijaia is the symbol of Aste Naguisa, a cariacture of a Basque woman ready to party. She is seen everywhere on the posters advertising the event, and when she arrives on the third Saturday of August, the parties begin.

Aste Nagusia began in 1978 and is becoming one of the biggest festivals in Spain. From extremely weird street theatre performances outside the Teatro Arriaga to walking giants to nightly firework displays, Aste Nagusia has something for everyone…except peace and quiet. They also have street discos, Basque dances and concerts. For nine days, Bilbao is filled with people. And then on the fourth Sunday, Marijaia takes a nice sail on a raft down the Nervión Ría to meet a fiery death. The party is over until next year.

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Each village has their own festival too. The most infamous in the Basque Country would have to be in Lekeitio, where for San Antonlines, people compete by seeing who can hang onto a dead goose the longest. The goose used to be alive for this event.  I’m not sure whether I’ll make it to this one. We’ll see.

I have been to a couple of other festivals in Spain. In October 2012 I went to Zaragoza for the Pilares, which honour the patron saint of Zaragoza, Pilar. Like the Fallas, they have an offering of flowers which takes place on October 12. All day long, people dress in the traditional costumes of Aragón to offer Pilar flowers. The next day, they offer fruit. There are tons of concerts, fireworks and other fesitivities too. As all of Spain has the day off for Día de la Hispanidad, this one is quite popular and busy. However, it’s not quite as famous on the international level.

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Another festival catching on more and more every year is, of course, gay Pride or Orgullo. I have been twice. Again, as I try to avoid huge conglomerations of people, it’s not really my think. In Madrid, there are so many people that you can’t move. All the bars in Chueca are jam packed with concerts in the street (sometimes. Sometimes, like when I was there in 2011, there are noise ordinances that prohibit sound from being made so everyone had to listen on headphones. I am not making this up.) and drunken tourists everywhere. Pride in Valencia was much calmer and more fun. I remember the drag queen apologizing for not speaking “valenciano”.

So while I am not a party person, I have to admit sometimes festivals can be a good change of pace. The atmosophere changes tremendously with the festivals, and people are happier. The crisis is long forgotten. And I’m sure someone could find a festival in Spain for every day of the year.

However, that person will not be me.

Zaragoza. Crossroads of Aragón.

For those of you who don’t know, Zaragoza is a city located in Aragón halfway between Madrid and Barcelona *and* Valencia and Bilbao. (Four hours from each of these cities.)  It’s one of the biggest cities in Spain, but it doesn’t have the fame as many other cities. It seems to serve as nothing more but a quick stop to bigger destinations, which is not fair at all to the city or province. The city has many things to offer without all the hustle and bustle, and for those wanting a city break without a bunch of annoying tourists wearing socks with sandals, Zaragoza is the place for you.

Aragón is the comunidad autonoma that once was part of the Kingdom of Aragón that merged with Castilla when its king Ferdinand II married Isabel. Don’t remind the Catalans this, but Catalunya (and Valencia and the Illes Balears)) were once part of the Kingdom of Aragón and their flags stem from the old Kingdom of Aragón flag.

Zaragoza also likes to name streets for films and video games. Where else could you have a tram stop named for The Wizard of Oz (El mago de Oz?)

My first time actually visiting Zaragoza was in February 2010. I had been through it a couple of times before on the bus from Madrid to Barcelona, but this was the first time I went specifically for Zaragoza. I was impressed. The best part is the Basilica de Pilar, the gigantic church that can be seen from afar. There are also Roman ruins that were just discovered in the 1970s. The city was named for Augustus Caesar. There is also the cathedral La Seo nearby, the river Ebro with several bridges, the Expo from 2008, and El Tubo, the best place in the city for tapas. I only spent one day and one night here, which is enough to see everything. It was a cold day (Aragón is known for wind and it has several of those modern gigantic windmills that make Quixote’s windmills in La Mancha seem miniscule.)

My second trip to Zaragoza was in October 2012 for the Pilares Festivals, which will be talked about more in the upcoming Spanish Festivals Part II blog.

And I just finished my third visit to Zaragoza in 2014. It seems I’m going here every two years. This time I was able to find out how nice the people of Zaragoza really are. My friend from Madrid says they are “bordes” (rude, rough and tough), but I found them to be quite friendly, welcoming and genuinely good people. They represent Spain well.

I also got to visit Calatayud, the second largest city of Zaragoza, this visit. It’s well worth the visit with several castles, old churces and amazing views.

There are a few Meravelles that I still have yet to discover in Zaragoza, such as Monosterio de Piedra and Sos De Rey Catolico, which I’m going to have to have a car to visit. But for now, I will leave with the wonders that I *have* seen.

Set Meravelles de Zaragoza

1. Basilica de Pilar

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2. Festival de Pilares

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3. Puerto de Venecia (the largest shopping centre in Europe?)

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4. Roman ruins in Zaragoza

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5. Cathedral La Seo

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6. El Tubo for Tapas

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7.  Calatayud

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