Our Spanish Parador Extravaganza with the Parador de Siguenza

 

This 12th century medieval castle was begun in 1133 and built on a Roman settlement.  Until  this last century  it was the enclave of bishops and cardinals who maintained this castle and the Cathedral in the adjacent village.

Although an exceptional entrance portal, there were a few drawbacks. There are 40 wide steps up to the massive doors…and difficult to drag the luggage behind. Happily there are 2 elevators to get to your floor…and ours was on the 4th!

A small altercation when the receptionist said “no balcony” caused me to snag my Reservations out and show her “Superior, with balcony”. Then smiles.

It had a lovely view.

The view from our balcony included part of the castle wall, the mountains and a distant peek at the town.  (If you reserve the parador ahead, are over fifty years, you get generous discounts, excellent service and  accommodations…. just  carry the receipt!)

The timing was good. We were surrounded by greenery and they were just putting up the umbrellas . From what we could see on the location map, there were only two main streets that converged in the Central Plaza. These were commercial, narrow and stoned. With no car…need better shoes.

The downtown Plaza much improved as we approached the Cathedral! The church is just behind the plaza. We went to enter and found the church was locked (probably closed for lunch). We walked around this beautiful 12th century structure that the religious owners of the palace- for almost a thousand years- had also enhanced the cathedral.

After this we limped our way back to the parador and passed this picture in the lobby.

 

This picture was the only info I could find of the original building after its destruction. During the Spanish Civil war in the 30’s the bombing wrecked havoc on the castled. Looking closely you will see there are a few structures remaining.


 

This original chapel survived! One of the service people had to lead us to the balcony so we could see. Because of its age they don’t allow tourist to enter the lower levels, nor are there any signs for it.

Lovely original and mostly formal dinning room. Mike ordered a scrumptious bottle of wine to go with his seafood and I had to accept it graciously even though I was having “kid” (baby goat). And that night we slept like babies.

The following was an evening shot from the city below the parador. And what a memory!

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Our Spanish Parador Extravaganza continued: Parador de Cuenca, Spain

This is one of several overviews because the area is so large!  The most noticeable sight is the Hanging Houses on the right that lead up to the old town.

Looking at the walk way below, there are a few hardy souls heading for the old town. In the ravine is the river that together with the Hanging Houses, helped keep out the attackers over hundreds of years. You can see a bit of the town in the distance.

This view of our lovely Parador was originally the site of a 16th century convent and retained some original paintings.

This area, Costilla-La Mancha, was immortalized by Cervantes (1547) in “Don Quixote de la Mancha”. The tall, skinny knight riding a sway backed horse and wearing a medal dish as a hat and accompanied by his side-kick, Sancho. Both were out to defend those who needed protection….and did!

This infrequently visited area has great mountain ranges, dramatic gorges and the two cities of Toledo and Cuenca and these were the factures that drew us to Cuenca.

 

Four of these hallways encircled a beautiful outdoor patio (I could not take a picture because of the bright light).  The comfortable  furniture, and nearness of the bar made social interaction available ….weather rain (rare) or heat (hot summers)….air conditioning within.

This view of our lovely Parador was originally the site of a 16th century convent  and retained some original paintings. This lovely painting above a large doorway was one.

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We separated after breakfast:  Bert, a photographer, and his wife, Frie, were off to explore.  Shortly thereafter  Mike and I followed, but a little more slowly. After crossing the track and walking steeply uphill, this was a fantastic  close-up of a Hanging House. It was open for tours.  But the first room  WAS the balcony… and there was no way I was going to look out or down from there!

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I took this lop-sided picture of this 12th-18th century Cathedral because of the horde of people surging up the steps trying to enter the church.

Little did we know that it was the beginning of May Day Celebration in the square and the church was locked. There was laughter, music, and finally prayer. This assuages my desire to see the antiquities housed inside.

IMG_48231The younger priest wending their way through the crowd to line up before the stage.

This joyful celebration was worth missing the 12th and 18th century antiquities in the Cathedral.

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My opinion is that this row of religious were older, because they got the seats. Because of the crowd (and not understanding much of what they were saying) we moved on to eat lunch and of course have a glass of lovely wine.

 

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These ceramic tiles shown on the back of the dinning room wall were done during the 14th century. Interestingly enough they were made by musicians of the time and they placed their work upon this wall. The parador saved it.
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                            (I dare you to try walking through the above)
—-Many of the pictures are by Burt Haegemans.
(My camera died)
Although I saw no, “Don Quixote” these Spanish people are wonderful!
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Our Spanish Parador Extravaganzia continued: Parador de Alarcon

Not the biggest parador…but certainly being established in the 11th century makes it one of the oldest. Driving in, left side, bottom, and curving up to the parking lot behind, you walk through an iron portcullis to the inside of the courtyard. The village it still guards is behind the tower. Notice the high ramparts ….you will see us walking around them shortly!

This Medieval Arab Fortress was an exceptional witness to the Reconquest beginning in the 8th century and it perfectly preserves and maintains  the aura of Arabic influence.

Our bedroom, high on my priority list. I enjoyed having some of the “original” castle (left wall of rocks) to lull us to sleep.

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The window just above the staircase was our room. It looked down On the small but lovely courtyard with tables, umbrellas, greenery….and a couple  drinking wine! They were very friendly and asked us to join them. We did.

I told them what I had over heard from the concierge earlier talking to a customer: “Yes, you can go up to the battlements, walk carefully around the perimeter and please return the key.” And while we were there with Bert and Frie the couple with the key returned. Naturally, we ran and got the key for ourselves.

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This is what we saw when we got to the top of the turrets. Leaning down we saw the River Jucar below circling the ramparts.

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I could see Mike puzzling over what lie beneath us- or whether or not he was going to jump- but he looked puzzled by what he saw.

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We found out later that it was set up for paddle boats, canoes, etc for taking short trips around the river.

Mike Pondering jumping

Mike pondering jumping???

Bert and Frie added that we hand’t finished the wine yet and it was getting warm. Whoops, we were going down the stairs very quickly!

——The previous 4 photos were courtesy of Bert Haegemans.

Before meeting our friends for dinner Mike and I wanted to see the very old village the castle had guarded, and a very special church.

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Walking through the village on the rough heuwn steps, you can see the church (dark brown at the very top) but it was locked. A native offered that it was rarely opened except for special events because of its antiquity.

Interior dinning area Alacron

The dinning room that evening was beautiful with excellent roast lamb! A bit crowded but this Parador can only accommodate 28 people.

We found out that our new friends were also moving on to the next Parador that we had reserved for 2 days- how wonderful!

To be continued– with the Parador de Cuenca.

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Our Spanish Parador Extravaganza, May,2017

This is the view of the mountain top Parador. Our room was near the back, overlooking the swimming pool and defense walls both surrounding and protecting. This 10th century castle was strategically located in the upper part of town, like a typical fortress.

The next step, for me, was seeing the bedroom!

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Exceptional! On the 4th floor with a big balcony overlooking  the pool, mountains and valley.

Having flown in to Barcelona at 8:30am, we arrived at Tortosa in time for breakfast and after, a body- stretching walk around the fortress.

This is a Moorish burial site preserved from when they owned the castle in the 11/12th century. Notice the bony hand in the front left corner, third metal bar cuts it right in half… and nobody had an answer for it.

Just down the hill from this site, one can see how the city has grown around and up to the fortress its self…and not just for protection….these large, beautiful structures need many talented hands.

This is the front facing court yard. I had to take a narrow picture to reveal the centuries old defense system of bows and arrows and slots in the walls where they could be used!

A picture from our balcony looking over the pool (presently being cleaned….and, of course, it opened the day we left). Look carefully to the top of the mountains on the right. See the fuzzy white candles…from the ancient to the modern…they are windmills supplying energy to the surrounding towns.

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We sat in this alcove eating our dinner that first night. Above was one of the four Catalan Gothic windows preserving the Moorish elements in the castle walls. The interior denotes the passing of time with the Christian regal character prevailing.

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The next day we were up and, “walking” the town- which meant going up and going down- a lot…

The cathedral of Santa Maria of Tortosa is located in the space in which the Roman forum was traditionally placed.

In 1347 the building work of the Gothic catherdral started and it went on until the middle of the 18th century. It was built attached to the cloister, which dates from the 13th century. We started the tour in the ribbed underground vaults. Interestingly enough, we found out that the organization wasn’t allowed to charge us to visit the cathedral so they did charge us a nominal fee to go through the dungeon basement first. The cathedral was overwhelming, started in the 12th century and pretty much finished in the 13th. We hunted for a Jewish Synagogue in the old town and did happen upon a very old and frail looking building that may have been one, but now is just basically falling down.

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We had to end up in the town of Girona in order to find a small section of a remaining wall and archway of a synagogue….. I had to remember that in 1492 both the Moors and the Jews were thrown out of Spain. And consequently much of the  culture was destroyed. Sad.

Parador de TortosaThis was a fantastic trip and the enlightenment of visiting another world was wonderful! But it’s nighttime now and it’s off to bed… and thank God that we do have an elevator. Sweet Tortosa.

 

 

 

 

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Parador De Siguenza

A lovely 12th century medieval castle build on Roman settlements of the 11th century. It was primarily used as the residents of the Bishops and Cardinals until the end of the last century.

This Parador courtyard was added to the original building. During the time of the Bishops and Cardinals living here they needed areas where they could say their daily prayers and contemplate outside of the confines of their small rooms.


These are very old original defense wall, probably from the 11th-12th century. I would be interested to find out if any visitors had a proclivity to “rock-climb”.

 

Dinning areas are always beautiful and comfortable. The original walls and ceilings did not have glass windows of course- but the Bishops and Cardinals had a good deal of money for their refurbishing.


This staircase, the old and new sections, the walls, archways and the floors are original. But as time moved forward the glass doors and the windows were added.

 

I imagine that these, “guards at the door” started very early on for the reception of food and other necessities and when the wars came along, they were there for the fighting and protection.

This parador was the Bishop’s sea for 8 centuries.  They brought in a lot of money for the town and the church. This cathedral was in walking distance from the parador down to the town’s plaza Mayor Central.

We have not been here yet but after learning all this history, it will not be over looked!

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The Templar Knights of La Couvertoirade

And really want to go back and re-visit!!!

2Independent-Travelers

Templar Village

We left Montpellier, France on the A-75 highway to Paris. It was heavily packed with Sunday traffic and impacted with roadwork repairs. We exited for the first stop in tracking the Footsteps of the Knights Templar at the 11th century site of Covertairade. This beautiful walled city is set in the middle of pastoral farmlands with distant rolling hills. The entrance to the village is through huge doors that were barred from the inside during attacks. Then crossing a tiny plaza in front of a museum, we continued walking past both ancient and some refurbished houses and shops.

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It’s easy to spot the older buildings and the ones being refurbished, particularly windows with glass and some sharper edges on the roof lines.

The streets were narrow and graveled. We came to a lovely 12th century church adjacent to the castle/armory built on top of a ridge.
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This is the front…

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Malaga, Spain VI

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Malaga became a thriving port. First came the Phoenicians followed the Romans and later by the Moors. Then in the 19th century the sweet Malaga wine became one of Europe’s most popular drinks… Until Phylloxera ravaged the vineyards in 1876.

“Hotel Gibralfaro”malagala-pool-spain Is a parador with beautiful accommodations. This top floor swimming pool offers a beautiful view of the Mediterranean and the portside facility.

We walked down the footpath between our parador and the remodeling of an ancient building- no sign- to view the busy portside- But then it began to rain and we ran back up the hill to the bar.

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This lovely bar was a bit crowded because of the rain and the tourists mobbing in to get a drink and get dry.

It also was a lighter eating habitat compared to the major dining room and slightly better food and quieter.

 

The dining room was larger than this but it was the only picture I could find.

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You can’t quite see this view of Malaga Costa-Del-Sol from the hotel, but it’s not far away and if the weather’s good you might thoroughly enjoy it.

Unless you hate hot beaches and lots of noise, body traffic and some other traffic!

“But and exquisite area”

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malaga-gibralfaro-2“Malaga Gibralfaro” the front of the hotel, invites patrons to relax after eating or imbibing to sit and enjoy the view, which- we did.

 

 

 

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5th in the Parador Series

It was diffichanging-housesult to find pictures of the Hanging Houses in Cuenca, Spain. I had to use Bing for the excellent pictures because we had not been there and wanted information.

The 1992 book, “Discovering, Spain, an uncommon guide” by Penelope Casas  gave us vital history of the area.

Cuenca  hangs at the edge of a rocky spur, ringed by gently rounded cliffs and flanked by surrounding rivers the, Jucar and the Hucar.

Cuenca is an impenetrable fortress, approachable only by way of a narrow bridge crossing  a shallow moat. That strip of land was the only point that the city needed man-made protection.

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Lower left is the Parador while the Hanging Houses are across the river and around the cliffs. Notice that the bridge crossing the river runs up to the highway and up and through the houses. This was the only place where Cuenca needed man made protection and was defended by thick fortified walls.

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This was a 6th C. convent abandoned and later converted to a parador. It is directly opposite of the hanging houses and has a wonderful view.

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This is a grand place to go for an afternoon break and a drink after walking miles and miles of the town.

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With energy left one could avail themselves of the swimming pool.

 

 

 

The Hanging Houses of Cuenca, backed by the cliffs, rise more than a dozen stories over the rivers, but from the medieval streets that wind and twist up and down from the central Plaza Mayor, the houses are just three and four floors high. The best way to see them is from a distance.

 

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We haven’t been here yet, but from all this information and the pictures, there is no way we’re going to miss this site and the Hanging Houses, and maybe over imbibing after entering one of the structures!

 

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Parador de Olite : 4th in the series

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We crossed the French Pyrenees into Spain, planning to head for “Santiago de Compestela” but saw a sign for Parador de Olite,  and, since it was late afternoon, headed for the Parador.

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This was the first time we had seen both a parador and castle united in  sharing  buildings! Driving around the complex, we came to a lovely garden area and a sign “Parador”.

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Most of the rooms  and common areas of this 15th C structure are found in the wing of this majestic Palace/castle. This was the favorite  home of the Kings of Navarra in the 11th through 15th C, and still retains the seat of power. The church was straight ahead behind the three blue towers on the right. Because of the various sundry wars was mostly dismantled. The floor part was left and you could walk around the front, which is almost dead-ahead and overlook the city.

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The living room area was part of an interior courtyard…with a glass ceiling  that could be opened or closed.  The adjacent  dining/breakfast area was also glass ceilinged but with the music of tinkling fountains and beautifully potted plants.

On the other side of the living room was a curved stone stair way that led to a small music filled bar….where we happily partook of the wine!

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This main street was added to the castle complex and grew as it did.  The various kings, families, retainers and  armies  expanded and so did the city. Agriculture production expanded particularly with fruits and vegetables  and naturally, wine making.  This street is lined with apartments, small houses, restaurants, shops, one other hotel…where we ate dinner one night…and a Church.

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Our rather austere but lovely bedroom.  The large arched balcony had moveable glass windows, which we appreciated when it started to rain…and after when the bugs started flying. We had an excellent distant view over the fields to the Pyrenees Mountains. The other direction revealed  cracked and crumbled stone walls from one of their battles…a great view even though it was from our bathroom window.

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A beautiful sight as we drove away down the main street and off to a nearby winery.

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We had hoped to walk a part of the Pilgrimage…..but it’s hot and it’s long…another time.

 

This is a picture of the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James) is the medieval pilgrimage route across Spain.

It is a new huge network of varying routes across Europe that end in Santiago, where the bones of Saint James (Spain’s Patron Saint) lie. More information is to be had on this computer! (originally it started with one’s getting awards in Heaven for the journey… I’m not so sure now.)

 

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Parador de Tortosa: Part 3 of a series

 
The 2 previous Paradors I wrote about were places where we stayed. Now, preparing to revisit Spain, I resolved to investigate new ones.
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And this picture helped do just that!  The 10th C.  Castle was a typical fortress  preserving  the original Morrish elements throughout.  The interior denotes the “changing of the guard”  and incorporated the décor of its successors into its structure.
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The Church in the foreground was begun in the 11 th C. and finished over two hundred years later. Beyond the Church sits the Ebro River and the initial  reason for the fortress: it guarded the single bridge that connected this area to the sea in the 10th  C.
When Tortosa became a Parador, it modernized to lure the paying customers. The internal is beautiful- you will see- but the pool with the marvelous view really got my attention.
(But be sure you know ahead of time what the date is for the pool being heated.)
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A different view of the protected village below, and the massive power of the fortress embracing it.
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Tortosa at dusk encouraging clients to hurry back for dinner with a cocktail by the fireplace.
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(Bedtime at the Parador) These suites look beautiful- and the doors out to the balcony encourage a sunset view over the river Ebro below and the vast mountains beyond: Cardó Massiff.
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All the Paradors serve excellent breakfast. You can order from the wait staff and/or help yourself to fresh fruits and juices from the buffet. The room was enchanting with its original arches and windows kept from much earlier times.
In California we revere the ancient sites- but we have nothing like the Paradors!
My mind was made up about the Parador Tortosa.

 

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