Bizkaia. Zazpi (7) Meravelles.

The longer I live in Euskadi, the more I realise that there are more wonders to discover in the province of Bizkaia (Vizcaya in Spanish). For that reason, I’m taking a second look at my initial entry and splitting the wonders up into two entries. Gran Bilbao, the Capital of the World, and the rest of the province. Lo más que vivo en España, lo más que me doy cuenta que hay muchas maravillas para descubir en la provincia de Bizkaia (Vizcaya). Por eso, estoy volviendo a mirar la entrada antigua sobre Vizcaya para hacer dos entradas. Gran Bilbao, la capital del mundo, y el resto de la provincia. 

San Juan de Gaztegulatxe
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Located on a small islet between Bakio and Bermeo, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a beautiful hermitage located at the top of the island. You can reach the small church by a bridge with over two hundred stairs. I have never been to the Great Wall of China, but I imagine it must look like this. It dates back to either the 9th or 10th century. It is said that if you ring the bell 13 times, it means you will never have headaches or will receive good luck or a wish. I still get headaches and my wish hasn’t come true…yet! Situado en un islote entre Bako y Bermeo, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe es una ermita hermosa ubicado al cima del islote. Se puede llegar a la ermita por un puente con más de 200 escaleras. Nunca he estado en la Muralla de China, pero imagino que sería algo como Gaztelugatxe. Fue construido en el Siglo IX o Siglo X. Dice que si tocas la campaña 13 veces, nunca tendrás otro dolor de cabeza, tendrás buena suerte o recibirás un deseo. Todavía tengo dolores de cabeza y no ha cumplido mi deseo.

Bosque de Oma

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Located near Kurtezubi, the painted forest is an art project from Basque artist Agustín Ibarrola. He painted his designs on a series of Monterrey Pines. I plan on heading back here for a full entry soon. Situado cerca de Kurtezubi, el Bosque Pintado es un proyecto de artista vasco Agustín Ibarrola. Pintó sus cuadros en una serie de pinos Monterrey. Tengo pendiente una vuelta aquí para escribir más sobre ello. 

Gernikako Arbola (Árbol de Guernica)

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In the centre of Gernika stands the most important oak tree in all of the land of the Basques. The Lords of Bizkaia always took their oath under the tree, and the current Lehendakari of Euskadi still takes his oath under the tree. The father tree lived 450 years, and the current tree (the fifth tree) was planted in 2015 from acorns from the third-generation tree that survived the bombing of Gernika in 1937. The tree is an important Basque symbol and stands for Basque liberties. En el centro de Guernica hay el árbol más importante en todo de Euskal Herria, tierra de los vascos. Los Señores Feudales de Bizkaia siempre fueron jurados abajo del árbol, y el Lehendakari de Euskadi todavía es jurado aquí. El árbol padre vivió 450 años, y el árbol actual (el 5º) fue plantado en 2015 de bellotas del árbol de la tercera generación que sobrevivió el bombardero de Gernika en 1937. El árbol es un símbolo importante para los vascos y significa libertad por ellos.

Urdaibai

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Urdaibai is a Biosphere Reserve located close to Mundaka, home of the left-banking wave. It is home to various types of flora and fauna, and it is also home to amazing beaches and views. I can’t believe I haven’t been in several months! Urdaibai es una espacio de biosfera a lado de Mundaka, el pueblo de la ola izquierda. Se puede encontrar muchos tipos de flora y fauna y también se puede ver vistas increíbles. ¡No me lo puedo creer que no he ido durante hace unos meses!

Urikola

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Urkiola has been a national park since 1989. It is home to a sanctuary and a mountain range, the most famous mountain being Anboto. The range splits the water divide between the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Another place I need to get back to soon. Urkiola ha sido un parque nacional desde 1989. Hay un santuario y una cadena de montaña. El monte más famoso es Anboto. La cadena divide los ríos de Mediterraneo y Atlántico. Es otro sitio donde necesito volver pronto. 

El Camino y sus etapas

Camino Day 7 Gernika-Zamudio 010There are at least two or three Caminos that pass through Euskadi and several variations of the Caminos too. The Camino del Norte enters Vizcaya between Deba and Markina and exits via Muskiz. There is a variant that takes you from the Gran Bilbao area to Burgos and the French Camino too. The Basque Camino doesn’t go through Bizkaia if I’m not mistaken. Hay al menos dos o tres Caminos que pasan por Euskadi y variantes del Camino también. El Camino del Norte entra Vizcaya entre Deba y Markina y sale por Muskiz. Hay un variante que conecta el Camino del Norte en Gran Bilbao y el Camino Frances en Burgos. El Camino vasco no pasa por Bizkaia. 

Elorrio

Located near Durango, Elorrio, a village of 7200 people, is home to a lot of medieval buildings. It was once a spa town, and it was also home of a major battle between the Oñacinos and the Gambionos, two rival Basque clans, in 1468. Situado cerca de Durango, Elorrio, un pueblo de 7200 habitantes, tiene muchos edificions medievales. Antes tenía un spa, y también había una guerra entre dos familias vascas, los Oñacino y los Gambiono, en 1468. 

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Gran Bilbao, the Set Meravelles.

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One of my very first Set Meravelles entries was dedicated to the province of Vizcaya. Nearly two years later, I have discovered there are enough amazing things in the province to merit splitting Bilbao and the province of Vizcaya into two separate entries. While the constant sirimiri is keeping me away from hiking (I just can’t hike in the rain!), it might be a good time to remind me why I love Bilbao in the first place by looking at the SetMeravelles of Gran Bilbao, la capital del mundo. (Gran Bilbao refers to the metropolitan area of Bilbao, including Getxo, Portugalete, Barakaldo and a few other suburbs.) Una de las primeras entradas en Set Meravelles fue dedicado a la provincia de Vizcaya. Casí dos años después, he descubierto que hay más de 7 maravillas en la provincia. Por eso, voy a mirar sus maravillas otra vez para hacer dos entradas distintas. Mientras el sirimiri no me permite hacer senderismo (No puedo hacerlo en la lluvia), quizá sea la hora para recordarme porque me encanta Bilbao y mirar las Set Meravelles de Bilbao.

And no, you will not find the Guggenheim on this list. Or my enemy Aste Nagusia! Or San Mamés! Bilbao is so much more than those things, although the Bilbaínos never realise that…no, no vas a encontrar el Museo Guggenheim en la lista, ni me enemigo Aste Nagusia…ni San Mamés. Bilbao es mucho más que esas cosas, aunque los bilbaínos no se da cuenta de eso…

Bilbao is a city of 353,000 people and the metropolitan area has over a million people. It transformed from a grey, industrial city to a colourful, vibrant city with grey skies in the 90s and 2000s thanks to the opening of the Guggenheim Museum. It was founded in 1300. The people of Bilbao are very proud of their city and often refer to it as “la capital del mundo” (the capital of the world” (or “munduko hiriburua” in Euskera)). Bilbao es una ciudad de 353.000 personas y la zona metropolitana tiene más de un millión de personas. Se transformó de una ciudad gris a una ciudad vibrante con colores con cielos grises siempre en los años 90s y 2000s gracias al Museo Guggenheim. Don Diego López de Haro fundó la ciudad en 1300. Los bilbaínos son muy orgullosos de su ciudad y a menudo se refiere al Bilbao como “la capital del mundo” o “munduko hiriburua” en euskera.

Cliffs of Getxo

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The Cliffs near Getxo are a sight to behold. Who needs the Cliffs of Moher with these magnificent beauties around? Los acantilados a lado de Getxo son una maravilla. No hace falta ir a los Acantilados de Moher cuando tiene estes acantilados. 

Puente de Bizcaya

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The Puente Colgante is a “hanging bridge” that ferries cars, bikes and people over the Nervión statuary with a suspended machine. It opened in 1893 and connects Portugalete and Getxo. El Puente Colgante transporte coches, bicicletas y personas sobre la Nervión con una máquina colgante. Abrió en 1893 y conecta Portugalete y Getxo.

Puentes de la Nervión

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Zubizuri, de Calatrava

In Bilbao, there are many beautiful bridges, such as the Zubizuri (White Bridge), Puente Salve, Puente Euskalduna, Puente de Deusto and Puente de San Antón, just to name a few, that cross the Nervión statuary. Bilbao tiene muchos puentes bonitos, como el Zubizuri (Puente Blanco), Puente Salve, Puente Euskalduna, Puente de Deusto y Puente de San Antón, para nombrar unos cuantos, que cruzan La Ría Nervión.

Plaza de Unamuno y Plaza Nueva (Berria)

The two beautiful plazas in the centre of Bilbao’s old town serve as the heart of the city. Both have several pintxo bars and are a popular meeting point. Plaza Unamuno also has a metro stop and the Basque Museum. Las plazas bonitas con el corazón y la vida de Bilbao y el Casco Viejo. Los dos disponen de bares de pintxos y sirven como un punto de encuentro para salir por El Botxo. La Plaza Unamuno también dispone de una parada de Metro y el Museo de Euskadi.

Pagasarri

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Views from Pagasarri

Bilbao’s most famous mountain is over 600 metres high. It’s a popular sunny (and even rainy) Sunday afternoon destination for the denizens of Bilbao, and it offers magnificent views of “El Botxo”. El monte más famoso de Bilbao es más de 600 metros y es un sitio popular los domingos de sol e incluso los domingos lluviosos para los bilbaínos. Ofrece unas vistas espectaculares de El Botxo. 

Artxanada and its Funicular

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The closer mountain, Artxanda, has a funicular that takes to the top in 3 minutes. The funicular is celebrating 100 years right now, and the views of Bilbao are also quite nice. El monte más cercano a Bilbao, Artxanda, dispone de un funicular que tarda 3 minutos en llevarte al cima. El funicular celebra su 100º aniversario este año, y las vistas de Bilbao son bonitas. 

Alhóndiga

The Alhóndiga (now Zentroa Azkuna) is an old wine cellar that has been transformed into a state-of-the-art community centre with a gym, library, restaurants, shops and a cinema. It’s great for all those rainy days. La Alhóndiga (ahora Zentroa Azkuna) es una alhóndiga vieja que transformó a ser un centro de la comunidad que tiene un gimnasio, una biblioteca, restaurantes, tiendas y un cine. Está bien los días de lluvia numerosos.

The Set Meravelles of Málaga Provincia.

Some places in Spain are so special that they merit a closer look. My recent visit to Málaga showed me there are many more than Seven Wonders (Set Meravelles in English!).  So I am dedicating a separate entry for Málaga Capital and Málaga Provincia. Last week I wrote about the city, and now it’s time for the province. Algunos sitios son tan especial que merece la pena hacer otra mirada. Mi visita en febrero a Málaga me mostró que hay muchas más que Siete Maravillas  (¡Set Meravelles en castellano!). Por eso, he decidido escribir dos entradas distintas para Málaga Capital y Málaga Provincia. La semana pasada escribí de la ciudad, y ahora toca la provincia. 

Set Meravelles Málaga Province

1. Caminito del Rey (Yet to discover)

Located in a steep gorge in El Chorro near Ardales, the Caminito del Rey, once known as the world’s most dangerous walkway after five people died between 1999 and 2000, is reopen to the public as of 2015. It received its name when Alfonso XIII walked it to inaugurate a nearby dam. It was closed in 2000, and in 2011, extensive construction to make it safer for hikers began. It’s extremely hard to get tickets, so make sure you check the web site in advance to get yours. (I checked two months in advance and they were already gone.) Ubicado en un cañón profundo en El Chorro cerca de Ardales, el Caminito del Rey, conocido en el pasado como el Caminito Más Peligroso del Mundo después de la muerte de 5 personas entre 1999 y 2000, reabrió al público en 2015. Recibió su nombre cuando Alfonso XIII caminó por allí para inaugurar una presa en la zona. Cerró en 2000, y empezaron obras en 2011 para hacer el Caminito seguro para senderistas. Las entradas suelen estar agotadas (miré con dos meses de antelación y ya estaban agotadas), entonces, si quieres ir, hay que mirar con much antelación. 

2. Ronda
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Located 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Málaga capital, Ronda is a small city of 35,000 inhabitants most famous for its Puente Nuevo, completed in 1793. It attracted writers like Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway in the past. It’s been around since the Neolithic Age, and its current situation has been around since the Romans. Ubicado a 100 kilometros desde Málaga capital, Ronda es una ciudad pequeña de 35.000 habitantes y es conocido por su Puente Nuevo, terminado en 1793. En el pasado, tenía su encanto para escritores como Orson Welles y Ernest Hemingway. Existió en la Edad Neolithico, y la situación actual ha existido desde los Romanos.

3. Nerja and surrounding villages
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Nerja, a small city of 21,000 inhabitants 50 kilometres east of Málaga, has a name meaning “abundant source. In addition to the caves with primitive paintings discovered in 1959, there is a famous 19th century aqueduct nearby. The highlight of the village, for me, is the view from El Balcón de Europa, a lookout in the centre of town. Nearby villages of Maro and Frigiliana are also worth the visit. Nerja, una ciudad pequeña de 21.000 habitantes situado unos 50 kilometros este de Málaga, significa “fuente abundante”. Además a sus cuevas con pinturas primitivas descubiertas en 1959, hay un aceducto famoso del Siglo XIX. Lo mejor del pueblo, para mi, es la vista desde El Balcón de Europa, un mirado en el centro del pueblo. Los pueblos de los alrededores Maro y Frigiliana también merecen la pena. 

4. Antequera (Yet to discover)

Antequera, known as the heart of Andalucía due to its central location between Málaga, Córdoba, Granada and Sevilla, has nearly 42,000 residents and is located 45 kilometres (27 miles) from Málaga capital. It features an alcazaba (citadel), many churches, Roman baths, the Arco de los Gigantes (Giants’ Arch), the Palace of Nájera and is also one of the hottest places in the summer in the Iberian Peninsula. Antequera, conocido como el corazón de Andalucía dado a su ubicación centra entre Málaga, Córdoba, Granada y Sevilla, tiene casí 42.000 habitantes y está situado a 45 kilometres de la capital de Málaga. Hay una alcazaba, muchas iglesias, baños romanos, el Arco de Gigantes, el Palacio de Nájera. También es uno de los sitios más calorsos de España en la Península Iberíca en el verano.

5. El Torcal (Antequera) (Yet to discover)

Located near Antequera, El Torcal is a nature reserve with several unusual and beautiful rock formations and a ton of hiking trails. The Sierra de Torcal separates Antequera and Málaga capital, and the highest point is Camorro de las Siete Mesas at 1336 metres (around 4000 feet).  The Tornillo (Screw) is the most famous rock formation, and there are also caves. Situado cerca de Antequera, El Torcal es una reserva natural con muchas formaciones de roca raras y hermosas. También dispone de muchas rutas de senderismo. La Sierra de Torcal separa Antequera y Málaga capital, y el cima más alta es Camorro de las Siete Mesas con 1336 metros de altura. El Tornillo es la formación de roca más conocida, y también hay muchas cuevas. 

6. Marbella (Yet to discover)

Eva Longoria and Michelle Obama both have talked about the beauty of Marbella, a city of 140,000 located between Málaga capital and Gibraltar. It’s at the foothills of the Sierra Blanca and attracts thousands of tourists every year thanks to its beauty. It’s famous for its Golden Mile, a four mile (6.4 km) stretch of luxury estates and hotels. Eva Longoria y Michelle Obama hablan de la belleza de Marbella, una ciudad de 140.000 habitantes ubicado entre Málaga capital y Gibraltar. Está al pie de la Sierra Blanca y atrae miles de turistas cada año dado a su belleza. Es conocido por su Golden Mile, 6,4 kilometres de casas grandes y hoteles pijos. 

7. Vélez-Málaga (Yet to Discover)

A city of 75,000 people is located 4 kilometres (2.4 miles) inland, Vélez-Málaga is a market city with beautiful views and a quaint Old Town. It has castle ruins, several churches, and remains of the old walls. It looked amazing from the bus from Málaga to Nerja, and I nearly got off in Torre del Mar to be able to visit this town. Una ciudad de 75.000 personas que está situado a 4 kilometros del mar, Vélez-Málaga es una ciudad con un mercado famoso y ofrece muchas vistas preciosas y un Casco Viejo pintoresco. Tiene ruinas de un castillo, unas iglesias, y ruinas de su muralla. Me pareció superbonito desde el autobus de Málaga hasta Nerja, y tenía ganas de bajar en Torre del Mar para visitar este pueblo. 

Málaga City. SetMeravelles revisited.

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After my recent visit to Málaga, I decided that as both the city and the province have so much to offer that I should revisit the Setmeravelles for Málaga and dedicate an entry to both of them. First up, the city. You can still read the original Setmeravelles entry for Málaga here. Después de mi visita reciente a Málaga, he decidido que la ciudad y la provincia ofrecen tantas maravillas que debería mirar de nueva a las Setmeravelles de Málaga y hacer una entrada separada por la provincia y la ciudad. Primero, la ciudad. Todavía puedes leer la entrada original aquí. 

Málaga has a population of 569,000 people, making it the second largest city in Andalucía after Sevilla and the sixth largest in Spain. It’s home to two of the most famous Spaniards outside Spain, Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas. It also has a lot to offer tourists and malagueños alike. Malága tiene una población de 569.000 habitantes y es la segunda ciudad de Andalucía después de Sevilla y la sexta ciudad más grande en España. Es el lugar de nacimiento de dos españoles conocidos en todo el mundo, Pablo Picasso y Antonio Banderas. Ofrece mucho para los turistas y también para los malagueños.

Alcazaba
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The Alcazaba of Málaga was built by the Hammudid Dynasty in the 11th century and is the best-preserved alcazaba (Arabic for “citadel”) in Spain. It offers some amazing views of the city, and entrance is 2,20€, or 3,30€ for a combined ticket with the Castle of Gibralfaro. La Alcazaba de Málaga fue construido por la Dinastía Hammudid en Siglo XI y es la alcazaba mejor conversada en España. Tiene vistas preciosas de la ciudad, y la entrada es 2.20€ o 3.30€ para una entrada combinada con el Castillo de Gibralfaro. 

  Castillo de Gibralfaro
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130 metres above the city of Málaga lies the Castillo (Castle) de Gibralfaro. It was built at the beginning of the 14th century by Yusuf I of the Kingdom of Granada. It’s located next to the Alcazaba and costs 2,20 to enter, or 3,30 with a combined ticket to the Alcazaba. It also has spectacular views of the city. Situado a 130 metros sobre la ciudad de Málaga es el Castillo de Gibralfaro. Fue construido al principios del Siglo XIV por Yusuf I del Reino de Granada. Está ubicado a lado de la Alcazaba y cuesta 2.20€ para entrar. Una entrada combinada con la Alcazaba cuesta 3.30€. También tiene vistas espectaculares de la ciudad. 

Catedral
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The Cathedral of Málaga dates back to the Renaissance, although it has a Baroque appearance. The tower is 84 metres/276 feet high and the church is technically unfinished, which gives it the nickname “La Manquita”, or “One-Armed Lady.” La Catedral de Málaga es del Renacimiento, aunque el edificio es de la epóca barroca. El torre tiene altura de 84 metros y la iglesia todavía no es completa de construir, que le da el apodo “La Manquita”.

Teatro Romano
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In 1951, they discovered the old Roman Theatre, which is at the steps of the Alcazaba. It dates back to the First Century B.C. En 1951, descubrieron el Teatro Romano antiguo, que está ubicado al pie de la Alcazaba. Fue construido en el Siglo I a. C.

Museo y Casa Natal de Picasso

Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in the Plaza de Merced in 1881. Although the artist moved away from Málaga when he was only 10, the city still boasts of his fame today. His birthplace is now a Museum, and there is another Picasso Museum in the Palacio de Buenavista. The Museo Picasso Málaga opened in 2003. Pablo Picasso nació en Málaga en la Plaza de Merced en 1881. Aunque el artista se trasladó de Málaga cuando tenía 10, la ciudad todavía habla de su fama hoy. Su casa natal ahora es un museo, y hay otro Museo de Picasso en el Palacio de Buenavista. El Museo Picasso Málaga abrió en 2003. 

Museo Carmen Thyssen (Yet to discover)

The Carmen Thyssen Museum focuses on 19th century works from Andalusian artists. It opened in March 2011 and features many items from Carmen Thyssen’s personal collection.  El Museo Carmen Thyssen es el hogar de obras de Siglo XIX de artistas andaluzas. Abrió en marzo de 2011 y tiene muchas obras de la colección personal de Carmen Thyssen. 

Centre Georges Pompidou (Yet to discover)

The French Centre Pompidou opened a temporary branch in Málaga, El Cubo (The Cube) that houses about 100 works from the Pompidou 20th and 21st century collection. It opened in 2015. The permanent display will study the influence of Picasso. El Centre Pompidou francés abrió un museo temporal en Málaga, El Cubo, que es el hogar de unas 100 obras del la colección de Siglo XX y XXI del Centre Pompidou. La colección permanente estudiará la influencia de Picasso. 

Gibraltar. Let’s rock and roll.

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My apologies for the pun. Even in Spain, I continue to read Pearls Before Swine. Blame Stephen Pastis.

Gibraltar is a huge, giant rock at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula (The Greatest Peninsula in the World) that is a sore subject for most Spaniards and Spaniard wannabes like me. It technically belongs to the United Kingdom. Technically. During the War of Spanish Succession, an Anglo-Dutch force captured it from the Spanish, and the Treaty of Utrecht ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713. Three hundred years later, the Spanish are still not happy about it. In the summer, at the border crossing, there can be long lines. I was a bit miffed that I didn’t get a stamp in my passport when I went in 2009.

Gibraltar is 6 square kilometres (2.3 square miles) and has nearly 30,000 inhabitants.

My visit was another day trip from my trip to Málaga over the May Day long weekend in 2009. I was debating whether to take the too damn early bus or the early bus, and I took the early bus. I fell in love with the beautiful scenery in Málaga. On one side was the sea, and the other side were mountains. The bus stopped in La Línea de la Concepción, a border town in Cádiz, and I walked across the border (no long lines that Friday in early May) and the airport to Gibraltar.

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I loved the rock! My Spanish teacher had told us stories. I loved the apes. I loved being able to see Africa. I loved buying “forbidden” sweets like Reese Pieces and smuggling them back across the Spanish border. (For the record, it wasn’t really smuggling as Reese Pieces are completely legal in Spain but aren’t marketed here or sold outside shops catering to American and British tourists. But it’s such a better tale when you say you smuggled Reese Pieces across the Gibraltar border into Spain.)

I don’t remember much about what I ate, but I do remember things being a bit more expensive. I also remember a cute waiter once I recrossed the border to catch the early evening bus back to Málaga and trying to understand “andaluz”. I vowed to go back to Gibraltar one day, but I’ve never made it back.

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Here’s my private journal entry on Gibraltar, as it’s been six(!) years since my visit. Friday I woke up early to go to Gibraltar. I didn’t take the 7.00 bus as I needed sleep. I didn’t realise that there were two bus stations and was worried about missing the bus to La Línea de Concepción, the Spanish city across the border from Gibraltar. I didn’t. I even had time for tostada! The bus went along the most beautiful stretch of highway I have ever seen. The mountains and the coast of the Mediterranean. I got to La Línea and walked across the border without any problem. It was one of the biggest culture shocks of my life, being greeted in and speaking English. The rock is something amazing. I took the cable car up…saw so many monkeys, p…it might be the coolest thing I’ve seen. I saw Africa too! Legend has it that as long as the monkeys live on the rock, Gibraltar will be British, but once the last monkey leaves, it will revert to Spanish rule. I tried to tell the monkeys to go back to Africa, but they refused to listen. I found Reese Peanut Butter Cups and Reese Pieces and smuggled them across the border to Spain. Unfortunately they melted on me before I got to eat them. (I still ate the Peanut Butter Cups…the Reese Pieces are reserved for tonight.)

Set Meravelles

The Rock

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The Rock of Gibraltar is famous. Duh. It was one of the Pillars of Hercules and was formed during the Jurassic period. (Possible Jurassic World 2 plot: The Spanish use dinosaurs to win back Gibraltar?) Being 426 metres high (1398 feet), the rock dominates the landscape. There is a Moorish castle there today, plus a maze of tunnels I wouldn’t want to risk getting lost in. It is also the reason why we say something/someone is “like the Rock of Gibraltar”.

The Strait

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The Strait of Gibraltar separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean Sea and peninsular Spain from Morocco (Ceuta is a Spanish city located on the African continent I have yet to visit. Yes, it is on my to-do list.) The strait’s narrowest point is 7.7 nautical miles, or 14.3 kilometres, or 8.9 miles and the depth ranges between 300 and 900 metres (980 and 2950 feet). The ferry across the strait takes 35 minutes.

The Apes

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Gibraltar is home to 300 or so Barbary macaques. Or rock apes (although they are technically monkeys.) If you look closely, you can see two in the photo. I didn’t want to get too close to them, but they were such fun to watch. As the monkeys were becoming more and more reliable on humans, they began to sneak into town, wrecking havoc and causing damage. Now feeding the monkeys comes with a fine of  £4000. Legend says that as long as the monkeys stay on the rock, Gibraltar will remain British. In 1942, when the population had dwindled down to just 7, Winston Churchille ordered that the numbers be replenished. The legend also says that the monkeys arrived from Morocco in a subterranean tunnel that has yet to be found by humans. The plot thickens…

The Airport

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The airport, opened in 1939, is unique because the runway literally runs through a road and pedestrian crossing. It closes to cars and people whenever a plane takes off or lands, of course, but imagine having to walk across an airport runway every time you wanted to run across the border for Reese Pieces or a relaxing café con leche. A new road is currently under construction. Although the airport doesn’t receive much air traffic compared to Málaga’s airport, 415,000 passengers used it in 2014 alone. In 2012, it was voted one of the “‘World’s Scariest Airport Landings and Take-offs”, by readers of the Daily Telegraph.

Europa Point (Yet to be discovered)

I unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the lighthouse, mosque, shrine to Our Lady of Europe, Nun’s Well and views of Africa from the Europa Point. The tunnel from the Eastern side of the Rock of Gibraltar was apparently closed when I was there in 2009. It’s the southern most point of Gibraltar, but not the Iberian Peninsula, which lies 25 km away at Tarifa.

St. Michael’s Cave (Yet to be discovered)

I also missed out on St. Michael’s Cave. The upper part has been used for 2000 years, but the lower part was only discovered in 1942. The lower cavern may have been sealed for 20,000 years and resembles a cathedral. It also has a lake that holds an estimated 45,000 gallons. Tours generally last around three hours, so plan accordingly.

Llanito

Llanito is the unofficial dialect which mixes Andalusian Spanish (el andaluz) and British English. It is based on a lot of code switching and loan words from various Mediterranean languages. A lot of words come from English but are pronounced in the andaluz manner. My Spanish not being the level I have now or the level that I thought I had when I was there (:P), I didn’t really catch any of it, but it has to a delight to listen to for language geeks like me. I wonder what “Gibraltar español” sounds like in Llanito. (Sorry to readers from the UK. I couldn’t resist.)

Andorra. Es parla català.

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Andorra had been beckoning me for a while. Sitting there just north of Spain and south of France and one of the smaller countries in the world, it was calling my name. “Pablo. Pablo. Pablo.” I had to go just to say I had been to the one country in the world that has my  Catalan as its sole official language.

It was a last-minute trip. I had originally planned to go to Italia over Semana Santa with a pitstop in Barcelona. The year was 2012, and Spain was a bit miffed (as they still are) with the government. (I can state a fact without being fined, right? Tengo miedo de la ley mordaza…) So they decided to have a general strike on March 28, which cancelled my AVE high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona, which meant even if I took the night bus after work, I would be hard pressed to catch my flight to Italia. Combined with some last-minute expenses (for those that read last week’s entry on bad flats and worse flatmates, it was when they decided the study would be a fourth bedroom), this was a sign that my trip to Italia would be better off postponed.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. So I found a cheap pensión in La Raval in Barcelona and decided to do a day trip to Andorra. I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to be in Barcelona, nothing else mattered. Now that the tourists have overtaken the city for good, my heart is back in Valencia, but I digress. So on my penultimate day in Barcelona for that trip, I caught a 6 a.m. bus to Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra. It was a 3 hour or so bus ride, and there wasn’t much of a border. The bus pulled into a bus station, and I got out to explore.

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Andorra la Vella is small (22,256 people and 40,000 in the urban area according to the latest statistics) but has beautiful views. It’s the highest capital in Europe at 1023 metres (3356 feet) and is a popular ski destination. Being there in late March, I just took advantage of the opportunity to practice Catalán (they mistook me for Portuguese for some reason!), though a lot people I encountered were happier to practice their Spanish than many Catalans. Still, when I ordered my café amb llet at the bar near the bus station, a rush of excitement went through me. I explored the city and went shopping, as Andorra is a tax haven. I’ll be honest and say I don’t understand what that means, nor can I give an opinion on Greece or anything to do with economics. I studied journalism and Hispanic Studies. Humanities. No maths for me. But I can conjugate three verbs in Basque so there.

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A day trip to Andorra does not do it justice. There is so much to see in the country located high in the Pyrenees. According to popular tradition, Charlemagne granted a charter to Andorra in return for their help against fighting the Moors. The Bishop of Urgell has run Andorra since 988, and today is a monarchy with two Co-princes, the Bishop of Urgell (in Catalunya/Spain) and the French President. Although not a part of the EU, they use the Euro, and the country itself is home to around 85,000 people. It is the sixth smallest country in Europe.

And of course…they have many wonders to see.

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Andorra La Vella

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The capital city is a good base for exploring the small country and is located in the southwest part of the country where the Valira del Nord and Valira de l’Orient streams meet to form the Gran Valira River. It goes back to pre-Christian times. It has mild summer temps and snow winters. The old town, town hall and the Església de Sant Esteve and Santa Coloma Churches are the main sites (in addition to all the shopping).

Coma Pedrosa

The highest mountain in Andorra is 2,942 metres (9,652 ft) tall. Mountain climbers are naturally drawn to it, and there are many lakes on the western slopes. It’s located at the northwest corner of Andorra and has historically been a border between France and Andorra. It takes the shape of a pyramid. The trek to the summit begins at Arisnal, the closest town.

Los Lagos de Tristaina

Located in the parish of La Massana, the lakes of Tristaina are part of one of the most popular hiking trails in Andorra. The three lakes are situated near Coma Pedrosa near the French border.

Valle de Madriu

The Madriu Valley (Officially Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror) is a glacial valley that comprises 9% of Andorra and is found in the southeast part of the country. It’s Andorra’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be the heart and soul of the country. There are two summer-only settlements, and the valley can only be accessed by foot.

Santuario de Meritxell

Meritxell is the patron saint of Andorra, and the Sanctuary dedicated to her forms part of the Ruta Mariana, a route of five sanctuaries. The others are Pilar in Zaragoza, Torreciudad in Huesca, Lourdes in France and Montserrat near Barcelona. (I’ve seen 2/5!) It’s located in the village of Meritxell (hence the name), and the original statue dates back to the 12th Century. However, due to an unfortunate fire in 1972, the original was destroyed and the new one is a replica.

Pont de la Margineda

I have a thing for medieval bridges, I know. The Margineda Bridge is located in Santa Coloma near the capital Andorra la Vella. It was built around the 14th or 15 century and crosses the Gran Valira river and is registered in the Cultural Heritage of Andorra.

La Ruta de Hierro

The Iron Route is a short 4-kilometre long route that goes through the area historically known for its iron mines. It’s located near Ordino and is one of several “Rutas de Hierro” in the Pyrenees.

Bonus: For the skiers (not me, my ankle still hasn’t forgiven me for that 2014 attempt at snowboarding), check out Pas de la Casa, which was listened on International Business Time’s Best European Ski Resorts in 2011.

Álava. Hey, we’re Basque too!

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Álava was my last new Spanish province (sorry Basques for saying “Spanish”) in August 2013. I have six left, which I hope to pick up sometime in this next year. In the autumn of 2013, I spent a lot of copious free time there as I was seeing someone from there.

In the Basque Country, all the fuss is made about San Sebastián-Donostia and Bilbao, but Vitoria-Gasteiz (the Green Capital!) is worth checking out too. While one can go crazy driving around in a circle on the city streets (that bus ride killed me!), the Casco Viejo is beautiful, with the cathedral and the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca being the highlights.

I made the mistake of visiting Vitoria-Gasteiz for the first time during their fiestas, la Semana Blanca, which begin on August 4. While I am happy I did see the arrival of the Celedón to officially commence the week of parties, I did not appreciate the Basque tradition of celebrating by throwing wine at everyone. I know, I’m an aguafiestas (party pooper). It was hotter than Bilbao, but it’s usually a lot cooler in winter. It’s one of the coldest places in the Iberian Peninsula (and that offends no Basques, Spaniards or Catalans!)

The tramin Vitoria is quite similar to the one in Bilbao, and the city is very bike friendly. It was the European Green Capital of 2012 and is also the capital of the Basque Country, which is probably what inspired the people of Bilbao to rename their city “The Capital of the World (La capital del mundo/munduko hiriburua da). It has a population of 242,000, and the people are nicknamed “babazorro”, or bean eater in Basque, as Álava is known for beans and potatoes (they are probably the ones who brought potatoes to Idaho, which has a Basque connection.)

While I have been to the Bizkaia side of Gorbeia, one of the most important Basque Mountains, I haven’t been to the Álava side. One day, one day.

A few weeks ago, I decided to do some exploring and research for this entry. (I am still mad I haven’t made it to Laguardia yet.) I caught Cercanias (Spain’s system of commuter trains) and visited Llodio (which is nice) and Amurrio, which I fell in love with. Beautiful views and nice towns.

While Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia get most of the attention when it comes to the Basque Country, Álava is also quite nice and shouldn’t be left out when visiting Euskadi.

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El Casco Viejo de Vitoria

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The Old Town of Vitoria is quaint and perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon stroll. Two cathedrals, the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca, Basilica de San Prudencio, the Basque Museum of Contemporary Art, a museum of playing cards and many other churches and plazas are just waiting to be explored.

La Bajada de Celedón

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To kick off the fiestas of Semana Blanca, a figure holding on tightly to an umbrella (Vitoria-Gasteiz is the Basque Country, after all), descends to his awaiting crowd. then the “chupinazo”, spraying everyone within reach with wine, begins. Every August 4th without fail the Celedón will descend upon the Basque Capital.

Gorbeia

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Gorbeia, the 1481 meter tall (4859 feet) mountain in the center of the Basque Country, has been the heart of a natural park since 1994. It is a tradition for Basques to climb the mountain on the last day and first day of the year. I’ll stick with the autumn when the leaves are changing for more beauty. I cannot wait to arrive to the cross after my Camino is over.

Amurrio

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Amurrio, population 10, 239 habitants as of 2014, might be small, but it is beautiful. I rather enjoyed my recent Sunday afternoon walk through the village. The town hall is worth seeing, and the town produces txakoli, the popular Basque wine.

Laguardia (to be discovered)

Laguardia, the small village of 1500 folks that I had hoped to have visited before writing the entry for Álava, is one of the most important wine-making villages of La Rioja Alavesa. The area was first habited during the pre-Roman times. Besides the bodegas, the town offers a wall, a Renaissance old town hall, a few churches and some plazas to check out. There are also some prehistoric remains in La Hoya and a Celtic Pond.

Valderejo (to be discovered)

The Valderejo Natural Park is located in a valley on the Purón River and is known for its wildlife, especially the Griffon vultures. It’s located on the way to Burgos from Vitoria.

Valle Salado (to be discovered)

Near the village of Añana, population 135, 30 kilometres from Vitoria, are the salt flats of the Valle Salado (salty valley). They were abandoned in the 20th century but have been made a historical monument to attract interest and tourists. They look really cool, and I hope to visit soon.

No matter where you travel or find yourself, there is always something to be wondered about. To limit yourself to seven wonders, siete maravillas or set meravelles is next to impossible. And to see all the wonders Spain or the world has is definitely impossible. That will never stop me from trying!

 

Cádiz and some relaxing Sherry for not such a high tarifa.

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Tucked away in the southwest part of Spain, between Huelva, Sevilla and Gibraltar with views of Morocco, Cádiz is, like every Spanish province, a contrast of many things. And as a Pearls Before Swine fan, I just had to make a pun out of this entry’s title.

Cádiz is known for its beautiful pueblos blancos (villages with white architecture), beautiful beaches and being home of Jerez de la Frontera, where they make sherry (Jerez is Spanish for “sherry”. It’s also home of the rainiest part of the peninsula, the Sierra de Grazelema. I’m not even going to ask how a place could be rainier than Bilbao because I don’t even want to consider that possibility.

I spent two summers working at a summer camp in Jerez, a beautiful andaluz city famous for its horses and for its sherry. It wasn’t as hot as some places in Andalucía (in fact, some nights I needed a jacket). The less said about the camp, the better, but I do have fond memories of the city. My favourite was my afternoon off when I was able to visit Cádiz, the province capital city. I walked all around the town, imagining Havana in Cuba (which is said to be very similar). I remember having a very cheap café con leche and admiring a beautiful sunset over the beach. On the train back to Jerez, there were some lovely fireworks.

I also got to tour Tío Pepe, one of the sherry bodegas in Jerez. For the life of me, I can’t remember if I ever made it to El Puerto de Santa María or not. I do know I was in charge of a bunch of rowdy teens most of the time (which included supervising them playing golf, of all sports)    and had no time to explore this beautiful province…although with the winter I’m still recovering from, I’m not wanting to go to the rainiest point of the peninsula any time soon.

By the way, the people of Jerez strongly feel that flamenco was born in Jerez and not Sevilla. I asked my amigo andaluz from the east part of Andalucía who has no stake in this debate, and he says it is from the north part of Cádiz and the south part of Sevilla, so both are correct.

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Cádiz

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Cádiz is the oldest continuously lived in city in Spain and comes complete with an old town and old city walls. Nearly 124,000 people call the city home. The metropolitan area is over 600,000 habitants. The Phonetians called it “Gadir”/”Agadir”. It’s located on a sand spit of land, which causes development problems. Today, besides the beaches and the Bay of Cádiz, the city has a cathedral, many beautiful plazas and churches, the monument to the 1812 Spanish Constitution, the Tavira watchtower, a Roman theatre and the Castle of Santa Catalina. It also has Carnivales.

Carnivales

Río is not the only place in the world with Carnival. Every year, Carnivales become more popular in Spain as people dress in costumes. (As Halloween has been adopted into Spanish culture, the Spanish differentiate between Carnival and Halloween by only wearing scary costumes on Halloween. I’ve been called a liar when I explain that in the United States people wear any type of costume for Halloween. I digress). One of the most important Carnivals (if not the most important) is the Carnival of Cádiz. Cádiz has special groups called “chirigotas” who provide satirical music and performances as everyone dresses up in costume/fancy dress.  The “comparsas” work all year on their satire, and there are also “coros” providing music.

Jerez de la Frontera

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Jerez is the largest city of the province with 215,000 habitants and is the fifth-largest city in Andalucía. Located 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean, it is included in the Cádiz metropolitan population of over 600,000. They have a cathedral, la Cartuja de Jerez de la Frontera monastery (a Bien de Interés Cultural), an alcázar (fortress), many churches and plazas, sherry and horses. Despite having lived there six weeks, I didn’t have much of a time to explore the city. I was left with a favourable impression from what little I did see.

Los pueblo blancos (to be discovered)

The pueblos blancos are villages where the houses all have white walls and red/brown tiled roofs. There are a series of connected villages with this look in Cádiz and Málaga. The towns all have a Catholic church and narrow, winding streets. They were first painted white during the Miguel Primo de Rivera dictatorship in the 1920s. There are a ton of hiking and other outdoor activity opportunities here.

Tarifa (to be discovered)

Tarifa, population of nearly 18,000, is located at the very south of the province on the Strait of Gibraltar. The word “tariff” comes from here as it was the first port to charge for its use. It’s home of the Guzmán Castle, the church of St. Matthew, the ferry to Tangier, Morroco, and many wind sports.

Sierra de Grazalema (to be discovered)

Grazalema is a village of 2200 people located in the foothills of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. It is more or less the middle point of the Cádiz-Sevilla-Málaga triangle, allowing for easy access from any of the major cities. The park is home of many caves and vultures. It is said to be the rainiest part of the peninsula and has been a biosphere reserve since 1977. Nine Cádiz populations and five Málaga populations (including Ronda)  have territory within the park boundaries.

Sanlúcar de Barrameda (to be discovered)

Sanlúcar, population 68,000, is located in the northwest of the province on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, about 50 kilometres from Cádiz (30 miles). It is home to some beaches, the Santiago Castle and a few palaces (including city hall) and churches. It’s one of the cities that produces sherry. It’s also close to the Doñana National Park.

León…like a lion.

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I’ve been wanting to go back to León ever since that one night I spent in the capital on my way to Asturias in 2011. (How is that four years ago?) My time there, like so many of the smaller provinces, was too short, but it left an impression on me.

On the Puente de Noviembre (long weekend/bank holiday for All Saints’ Day (Todos Los Santos) of 2011, I took off after work, excited that I was about to complete my goal of visiting every comunidad autónoma by arriving to Asturias the next day. I had already decided my next goal would be to visit every province (still working on that one), so I spent the night in León.

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My bus arrived about 10, if I remember correctly, and I checked in at the pensión/hostal (I forget which). The woman was one of the friendliest owners I have encountered in Spain. I went out to the Barrio Húmedo and had either tapas or a kebab, I forget which. It was cold, but being from Ohio, I relished the cold. I walked around a bit and got a good night’s sleep. I awoke Saturday morning to explore the city. I fell in love with the Cathedral, as I’m one of those who believe if you’ve seen one Spanish Cathedral, you’ve pretty much seen them are. However, the Catedral de León, one of the most famous of Spain, is special with its beautiful stained-glass windows. I also saw the Casa de Botines, designed by the famous Gaudí. I had a delicious café con leche y tostada con tomate near the Casa de Botines in a café, whose name escapes me, that left an impression on me (I still remember that breakfast.) I also enjoyed all the graffiti stating that León is NOT Castilla. I didn’t hear any of the dialect “leonés”, but I did see some of the graffiti. After strolling along the river a bit, I headed off to Asturias, anxious to set foot in the last of the 17 autónomas.

Since then, I’ve been dying to go back to León. I almost took off for there a few times this year, especially because I wanted to be able to write the entry dedicated to León better. Alas, time and money never go together.

I also remember being excited at seeing the arrows for the Camino de Santiago (Francés).

The facts on León capital? It was founded as a Roman military encampment around 29 BC. Today it is a city of  nearly 132,000 people and nearly 500,000 in the metropolitan area. León was once one of the most important kingdoms but was consolidated with Castilla in 1301.

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Catedral

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The Catedral of León, also known as La Casa de la Luz (House of Light) or Pulchra Leonina, was built on the site of Roman Baths. During the Reconquista, the baths were converted to a Palace. King Ordoño II converted the Royal Palace into a cathedral to show his devotion to God after defeating the Moors in 917. Alfonso VI consecrated a second cathedral in 1073. The third cathedral began construction in the 13th century but wasn’t completed until the latter part of the 15th century. Today it’s an important milestone on the Camino Frances, and I was glad I was able to see the inside of it for free (it was open on that Saturday morning), as the stained-glass windows are truly impressive.

Barrio Humédo y Casa de los Botines

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La Casa de los Botines is a house designed by Antoni Gaudí in the centre of León. It is four stories/storeys and has a basement and an attic. Gaudí used typical architecture from León, incorporating medieval and neo-Gothic influences. It was bought by the Caja España bank in 1929, and in 2010 merged with similar institutions due to the crisis (2008-???). It’s located near the Barrio Humédo, so named for the number of alcoholic drinks sold in this neighbourhood. The barrio has over 100 bars, centered around Plaza de San Martín and surrounding streets. For the non drinkers, the neighbourhood is also renowned for its tapas.

Astorga (to be discovered)

Astorga has been on my radar for years, perhaps due to all the reading of the Camino de Santiago I did, dreaming of one day doing it myself. Ey, estoy en ello. Located on the River Tuerto 32,4 kilometres (27 miles) southwest of León capital, the city of 12,242 people (2009 records) predate the Paleolithic era. Today it is home of a Cathedral, the Gaudí designed Palacio Espiscopal, Roman remains, remains of the old city walls, and a chocolate museum.

Ponferrada (to be discovered)

With nearly 70,000 habitants, Ponferrada is the last major city before reaching Santiago on the Camino Francés de Santiago. The city was an important mining town for the Romans. It’s home to the Castillo de los Templarios, a Templar Castle dating back to the 12th century. There is also a basilica, a Museum of Radio, el Museo de El Bierzo offering the history of the region, soon an Energy Museum (currently being constructed), and a few churches and érmitas (hermitages). It also offers a ton of opportunities for hiking/trekking and nature.

Parque Natural de las Médulas (to be discovered)

Speaking of nature, located close to Ponferrada is the Natural Park of Las Médulas, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. They were the most important gold mine in the Roman Empire once upon a time. Today it offers some amazing hiking routes and scenery.

San Miguel de la Escalada (to be discovered)

Ten kilometres away from the Camino de Santiago, the San Miguel de la Escalada is a monastery with Mozarabic art and architecture. It was consecrated in 951 around the time of the founding of the Kingdom  of León. It was abandoned in 1836.

Castrillo de los Polvazares (to be discovered)

Located five kilometres from Astorga, Castrillo de los Polvazares is a small pedestrian-only hamlet of 81 habitants. The entire village is made of stone. Houses, roads, everything is stone. It was important for the reconquista of Astorga during the Spanish Independence War. They do mention the city is overrun with tourists in the summer, so I’m making note to revisit León in the autumn or spring.

Mallorca. My worst holiday could be your best!

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A long time ago, when this site was just beginning, I wrote about Ibiza (Eivissa), but I didn’t include Mallorca or Menorca. I still have yet to discover Menorca and its many treasures (I’ve seen the photos), but I have been to Mallorca.

It was my worst trip ever.

In retrospect, I totally blame the circumstances going on. I had just been fired from my job for being “demasiado reservado” (too shy and reserved), and I had also taken the chance and told the guy of my then dreams (now I wouldn’t touch him with a ten-metre pole) that I had feelings for him. It was unrequited (no correspondido).

Never do this the night before a weekend getaway! It cast a bad mood over everything. I felt so lost and alone. Everywhere I saw, every couple (straight or gay), reminded me of my eternal singleness. As it was a Ryan Air flight, I would’ve lot more by cancelling than by not going, so I went.

I did my best. Palma de Mallorca is a nice city, and the Spanish Royal Family have a summer residence there. I only got to visit Valldemossa (I regret not going to Deià instead), where everywhere I went I was greeted in German, which I don’t speak. If only I had my B1 in Catalán then!

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I know out of all the places I’ve been to, it is probably Mallorca that deserves a second chance. I know I missed the best of the island for sure.

And we’re in luck, as I actually wrote up a decent entry in my personal travel journal about what I was experiencing. Yeah, Mallorca needs a second chance!

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It was sort of a bad-luck trip all around.

The plane arrived about a half hour late, and we all know I hate flying. Then the hostel gave bad directions for the bus to town, which meant I ended up seeing practically all of Palma de Mallorca. Then, the hostel sucked. The people working there were incredibly unfriendly and somewhat rude. And I had that funk. The part of town it was in was dodgy, and it was a 45 minute walk to the “centre historic” (CATALAN). The beach was even further. At least the weather was nothing like it was forecast to be.

I was going to go to the castle first, but I had no clue how far up it was. I was rather hungry too after getting up at the butt-crack of dawn and not having much to eat. So I eventually found a place to have a bocadillo de tortilla close to the centre. I was getting annoyed because NO ONE SPOKE SPANISH. It was mostly German with some English thrown in. There were hardly any Spanish whatsoever. The place is just too damn touristy.

I did see the palace where the royal family holidays. I skipped entering the cathedral as it’s probably a sin to charge people to enter a house of worship, eh?  I walked around the Parc del Mar, which was beautiful, made it to the beach…walked back, stopping at the Hard Rock, even though I didn’t buy anything til the next day. I ate another bad meal and elected to catch up on sleeping. Having your heart broken keeps you from sleeping more than three hours ya know.

Saturday I woke up about 8.30 so I could have breakfast at a really awesome cafe, then I went to catch the bus to Valldemossa. But wait, the web site was wrong, so I missed the bus! I ended up walking around the centre historic for a bit, going to a gay cafe, then catching the bus at 12.30. Valldemossa was beautiful. I had a decent lunch there, then went back to Palma…I went to the beach, but I didn’t stay long as I went back to try to take a siesta as I had a headache. I went to a farmacía so I could speak Spanish and bought some ibuprofena. I then went to the castle, which was amazing as usual. I had dinner at the cafe where I had breakfast, and the waiters set off the gaydar. A few minutes later I heard them talking about his “novio”, so my European gaydar…I totally forgot the word! CONVERTER! has finally arrived.

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Palma de Mallorca

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With over 400,000 habitants, the capital city of the Illes Baleares is located on the south of the island. The city dates back to 123 BC when the Romans conquered the island. The yearly average temperature is 21ºC (71.2ºF). There are many churches, including the cathedral La Seu (built on a prior mosque), the old city and the Arab baths. The Royal Family’s summer residence is found here, and there is also a beach. What more could you ask for?

Castillo Bellver

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Located on a hill 3 kilometre west of Palma, the Castillo Bellver is one of Europe’s few circular castles. It was originally the residence of the Kings of Mallorca when they weren’t staying on the mainland and was built in the 14th century. It has been a museum since 1932 and has served as the city’s history museum since 1976. It’s one of my favourite castles I’ve been to, and I didn’t have to risk herpes simplex I by kissing any of its stones!

Valldemossa

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Although the small town only has 2025 habitants (2014 figures), it has a lot of history and has attracted various people throughout history. Ramon Llull, famous in Catalán circles, lived in the area. Austrian Archduke Ludwig Salvator was a fan, as was composer Frédéric Chopin (and to a lesser extent, Chopin’s lover George Sand. Today you can still visit the Royal Charterhouse of Valldemossa, a former Carthusian monastery.

Deià (To be discovered)

Deià, a small coastal village of less than 800 located 16 km (10 miles) north of Valldemossa, is one of my biggest travel regrets. Writer Robert Graves was a fan, as are Mick Jagger and Mark Knopfler. It’s the cliffs on the sea and the coves that brings so much attention to it.

Sa Dragonera (To be discovered)

Just off the west coast of Mallorca lies the islet and Natural Park of Sa Dragonera. As the island appears like a dragon, it received the name “dragonera”. Sometimes foreign languages aren’t so daunting, eh? It’s about 3,2 kilometres long and 500 metres wide, and the highest peak is 360 meteres. The Audiencia Nacional prohibited construction on the island in 1984, and the Balearic government declared it a national park in 1987. It is a part of Andratx.

Andratx (To be discovered)

At the tip of the island and at foot of the Sierra de Tramontana mountains, Andratx, population 16,000 or so, dates back to the Roman times. It was built inland to avoid pirate attacks, and 12 of the towers built to protect from pirate attacks still exist today. The town has undergone a transformation since 2004 and has become one of the most popular areas for foreigners and is beginning to attract celebrities on holiday.

Pollença

The port town of 16,000 on the north part of Mallorca, Pollença is a lovely port town that was founded in an area that would avoid pirate attacks. Beware, Captain Jack Sparrow! There are a few coves (calas, or small beaches), and a 365-step staircase that leads to a church and impressive view of the town and area.