Spain. The Set Meravelles of the Greatest Peninsula in the World.

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Today is the one-year anniversary of Set Meravelles. Hoy marca el primer aniversario de Set Meravelles.

Thank you to my readers (averaging 300 hits a month! Yay!) and the people who support me and my crazy Quixote dream of staying in Spain in time of CRISIS. Gracias a todos mis lectores y las personas que me apoyan y mi sueño de locura de Quijote de quedarme en España en tiempos de crisis.

Originally, I was going to do a revisit to the Set Meravelles of Vizcaya, as it is unfair to have grouped Bilbao and Vizcaya in the same entry as there are so many Meravelles in the province. (That goes for every province though!) Estaba pensado en hacer otra vez las Set Meravelle de Vizcaya, como es injusto hacer en la misma la entrada con Bilbao y toda la provicina como hay tantas Meravelle en la provincia.

Then I thought, as I am running out of provinces to write about, and I was planning on writing up the Set Meravelles of Spain to conclude the series, perhaps I should go ahead and just name the Set Meravelles of Spain to celebrate the occasion. (Mallorca, León, Cádiz and Álava are coming, and then when I finally get to visit Lugo, Ourense, Zamora, Huesca, Albacete and Sta. Cruz de Tenerife, they will be done after I have at least spent more than 20 minutes at the bus station (Albacete, looking at you!) Después, me pensé, como ya me queda poco provincias, y estaba planficiando escribir un blog sobre las Set Meravelle de España para acabar con la serie, ya debería nombrar las Set Meravelle de España para celebrar el aniverario. (Mallorca, León, Cádiz y Álava ya vienen en entradas futuras, y cuando por fin visite Lugo, Ourense, Zamora, Huesca, Albacete y Sta. Cruz de Tenerife. Voy a esperar hasta que visitarlas (y no cuento Albacete hasta que haya estado más de 20 minutos en la estación de autobuses)

This is going to be hard. Impossible. In a country as amazing as Spain, you can not name just seven wonders. Impossible. So before I hear “You left out Lepe!”, keep that in mind. I tried to choose from a wide variety of interests for this list. I’m sorry for leaving out whichever wonder, but I can’t write about all  193829382938293918192383982495492 wonders of Spain.

Es imposible elegir solo siete maravillas. Por eso, no te quejas que se me olvidado Lepe o tu maravilla preferida. Lo siento mucho, pero no puedo escribir de todas las 193829382938293918192383982495492 maravillas que hay en este país tan espectacular. He intentando incluir cosas de todas las intereses para esta lista.

There are 17 autonomous communities in Spain, and each of them has a ton of history and amazing places to visit. I tried to spread the love, but the north seems to have more due to my love of the natural beauty found here. I also love Andalucía. Hay 17 comunidades autónomas en España, y cada uno tiene mucho historia y sitios preciosos para visitar. He intentando incluir un poco de todo, pero hay más en el norte porque me encanta la belleza natural del norte. Pero también me encanta Andalucía, tranquilos. 

What are your choices for the Meravelles of Spain? I’ll probably agree with whatever you write as long as it’s not Madrid city! ¿Cuáles sitios elegiría tu para las Meravelles de España? Probablemente voy a estar acuerdo, menos los que dicen Madrid capital xD. 

Set Meravelles

Camino de Santiago

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No matter which Camino you take, how you do it, where you leave from, how much of it you do, the Camino de Santiago is a unique experience. Most people who have done it say it was one of the best experiences of their lives. I’ve only done about 120 kilometres so far, but I cannot wait to arrive in Santiago. No matter wherever you are in Spain, you’re not far from some Camino to Santiago.

Granada y La Alhambra

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Granada remains one of my favourite cities in the world. Although I’ve only been to the Alhambra once, I’ve been to the city four times, and I am looking forward to a fifth time in the future. For me, the best of the city lies directly opposite the Alhambra: Watching the sunset from Mirador de San Nicolas.

Valencia y las Fallas (y paella)

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Ay, mi Valencia (i la seua caloret). I wanted to include a festival on here, and after living through the Fallas in March 2011, no other Spanish (or any place) festival compares with the awesomness of the Fallas. And the paella is amazing for the foodies.

San Sebastián- Donostia

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Ay, Donosti. I agree with the guide I read during my first visit to this city. There may not be much to see, but it’s a place you have to see. I probably have offended every single person I know in Bilbao by listing it and not Donosti, but I will also remind them of Miguel de Unamuno’s quote about Donostia being beautiful but insignificant. Although it’s difficult to find good weather, their beaches are among the best in the peninsula for me. I love sitting along the rock along the river watching the wave crash into the shore.

Toledo,

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Segovia

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y Ávila:

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Tres capitales castellanas

The best thing about Madrid is its connection to three amazing Castillian province capital cities. Toledo is beautiful and medieval, Segovia has its Roman aqueduct and Alcázar that inspired Disney’s Cinderalla Castle, and Ávila is also a charm that’s a bit more off the beaten path.

Cangas de Onis y Covadonga

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When I saw this bridge with its cross where the Reconquista of Spain supposedly began, I felt moved. I can’t explain it. The nearby Basilica of Covadonga and the church in a cave are also jewels  of Asturias, and I can’t wait to see the lakes of Covadonga. But it is the bridge and the Asturian cross that somehow spoke to me most.

El Quijote

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 What would Spain be without Quijote? Although a fictional character, Don (Sir) Quijote says so much about Spain. I think my dream of staying in Spain long-term is becoming a bit quixotic itself. Many Spaniards boast of never actually having read this brilliant novel, but they are most definitely missing out.

Segovia…a Medieval Journey

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Located an hour north of Madrid, Segovia is an incredible medieval city that would have to be even more incredible covered in snow. I’ve visited the city three times and have also managed to visit a few of their coolest pueblos. The capital city and province are famous for their cochinillo (suckling pig. Babe fans might not want to try this delicacy), which is the food everyone recommends trying there. For not being a foodie, I did try this and I have to agree. It is delicious.

Segovia capital is a typical Castillian-Leonese capital city, small, medieval, quaint, and amazing. Its population tops out at 57,000 people and is in located in the Guadarrama mountains. Its Roman architecture, including that famous aqueduct, made it a UNESCO World Heritage City in 1985. It also has an old Jewish quarter

My first trip to Segovia was way back in 2009, when I was still trying to meet my goal of travelling to every Spanish comunidad autonoma and wanted to pick up Castilla y León before headed back to the States for the summer. I fell in love with the typical stuff, the aqueduct, the Cathedral, the Alcázar that supposedly is the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella castle, the medieval streets…I had a chance to study here instead of Toledo in 2003, and I found myself playing a lot of What-Ifs. However, both city have their merits, and Toledo is/was an amazing experience in its own right. I returned to Madrid happy with my first visit, dying for my second.

The second wouldn’t come until 2012. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There are just way too many places in Spain to see and experience to be able to do in one lifetime. Life always gets in the way. As the 15th of May is a holiday in the city of Madrid and many of the villages close by, I took advantage of having the day off to go to Segovia for a second time, and I was just as enchanted as I was the first time. It’s small enough and close enough to Madrid for a daytrip, although the bus seemed to be a bit expensive for an hour-twenty minute journey.

The third trip was a May Sunday morning in 2013. La Granja de San Ildefonso is a small village 13 kilometres/7.8 miles from Segovia Capital, and I took the bus from Madrid to spend my Sunday at this beautiful palace and gardens. I remember stopping at a bar with a Route 66 theme, and the bartender was so excited to meet someone who had been on Route 66 and was from the States. My freaking accent always gives me away. It was one of my favourite daytrips from Madrid ever.

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I was in Segovia again in 2013 when I went on an excursion with the Madrid gay Christian group. On the way back from visiting the Pueblos Negros de Guadalajara , we stopped in a lovely village called Ayllón. I got a free poster from the Oficina de Turismo that is still hanging in my room in Bilbao.

Many of the places in Segovia province that I want to see have horrible times for buses. For example, Pedraza only has one bus a day from Segovia at 17:00, so you have to stay the night. This is not to avoid tourists, but it’s for the people of the village who catch the bus in the morning to spend the day in Segovia shopping and whatnot, then return on the bus at 17:00. But for those without a car, it makes things more complicated. I remedied this situation on my move from Madrid to Bilbao on 30 July 2013. I rented a car and drove through the province, picking up villages like Pedraza and Sepúlvedra off my list. Pedraza didn’t have a good place to eat, I remember, so I found a great restaurant and had a late lunch (even for the Spanish) in Sepúlvedra. A great way to close out my time in Madrid.

Set Meravelles

1. La acueducto 

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The aqueduct of Segovia is the most famous place in the city and province. It is believed to have been built in the first century AD and is believed to have been commissioned by the Roman emperor Domitian. It transported water from the Fuente Fría (Cold Fountain. Things sound better in Spanish.) some 17 km/11 miles away to Segovia and was an impressive feat for the Romans. It operated until the mid 19th century. Today it’s easily the most photographed aqueduct in Spain and is currently a part of the World Monuments Watch to ensure its protection well into the future.

2. Alcázar de Segovia

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Originally built as a fortress, the Alcázar (fortress) of Segovia has also been a palace, a prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military school. It is currently a museum and a military archived storage facility. In 1474 the Catholic Queen Isabel took refuge here after the death of Enrique IV  and was crowned the next day Queen with the support of Segovia’s council. It is one of the inspirations for Cinderella’s Castle, perhaps giving credence to the myth that Walt Disney was born in Almería.

3. Catedral de Segovia

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The Cathedral of Segovia is one of the last Gothic cathedrals in Europe built before the Renaissance style took over. It’s located in Plaza Mayor in the centre of Segovia capital and was built in the 16th century after the previous one had been destroyed in a rebel attempt that lasted months. Crescentius of Rome is still buried here.

4. Ayllón

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Ayllón is a small village of 1400 people that was a random place that I visited and fell in love with. It’s 94 km from the capital (or 56,4 miles) and the Aguisejo and Riaza rivers pass through the village. The treaty that ended the wars of the Interregnum between Portugal and Castilla was signed here.  It is listed as a place of cultural interest (Bien de Interés Cultural) by Spain.

5. Pedraza

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Pedraza is a very small village of 500 people located 37 km/22,2 miles from Segovia capital. It is a medieval village complete with walls and has a castle. It’s one of those villages built on a hill that offer spectacular views, and it’s well worth the drive or staying a night if you must rely on that crazy bus schedule to get here.

6. Sepúlveda

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Located partially in the Parque Natural de las Hoces de Río Duratón, Sepúlveda is a village of 1200 citizens and is another place of Bien de Interés Cultural. It has been important in several of Spain’s many wars throughout history and offers several churches and a castle in ruins.

7. Real Sitio de La Granja de San Ildefonoso

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Sometimes known as the Spanish Versailles, La Granja de San Ildefonoso is an 18th century palace with incredible gardens and incredible views of the surrounding mountain countryside. Despite not having any elephants, it has been a popular hunting site for Spanish kings through history. Today it is open to the public and if you’re there for the festivals of San Fernando and San Luis, you can see the fountains on full display. The palace began construction by Felipe V and modeled on Versailles in France. It was the summer home to many kings, but I just don’t see King Felipe and Queen Letizia summering there today due to all the tourists. Maybe the abdicated King Juan Carlos and his wife Sofía might visit since they have more free time now.

Bonus: Riaza (yet to visit)

Riaza is another quaint medieval village. I know there are even more in this medieval province to discover one day.