Spain 2011, The Plaza Mayor

Almagro Spain Plaza Mayor

We were staying at the Hotel Retiro del Maestre, a renovated old Spanish nobleman’s house on a street leading to the main square and we found it easily and left the car in the underground car park.  It was a friendly family run hotel with spacious and comfortable public rooms, a large outside terrace basking in the pleasant sun and was a nice room for us with a view over the garden.

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7 responses to “Spain 2011, The Plaza Mayor

  1. Thanks Andrew for another essay that held my attention from first word to last.
    I am 95% in awe of the sheer number of places you have been: a plethora of towns and highways that have never seen my re-tread tyres.
    But then I do most of my travelling in my mind. And it never rains in there.
    [Andrew thinks: “Ninety five percent. But what about the other five per cent?]
    What indeed. Ah! There you have it Andrew. There is that element of doubt in some of us: even people like me who once took 13 el cheapo weekends from Stansted in one 12 month period. We wonder whether travel really DOES broaden the mind? And then another concomitant question: if it does, do we want to BROADEN our minds anyway? Why is “broad” great and “narrow” bad?
    But anyway, excuse my thinking out loud here: let me get back to your daily account, above.
    I was struck by this sentence:

    The Plaza Mayor is the most important part of a Spanish town or city and I really cannot think of an equivalent in the United Kingdom.

    Yes, I know what you mean. And of course it ain't just Spain, as you will be the first to tell me. Italy is pretty big on it too. Piazza del Campo in Siena; St Mark's Square in Venice; Piazza Navona in Rome … etc. etc.

    But with respect, I think it not entirely lost here in the UK. I was back in Glasgow last week – perhaps Britain's most underrated big city – and was as ever bowled over by George Square. I note that Jamie Oliver has just opened his first Scottish restaurant on the square.

    And true, our great squares in British towns and cities are not what they were. Northampton – for many years the holder of the title of the biggest square in a British TOWN (as opposed to city) – is a shadow of what it was. Office blocks have encroached. But there is still a degree of al fresco dining, and the square still has a great appeal for me.

    But some HAVE improved. I was stunned by the changes in the Market Square in Warwick when I re-visited recently. Delightful. And of course some cities still "have" it: take Nottingham.

    I reckon you can put their Old Market Square (Slab Square) up against anything! My one-time Mexican girlfriend used to tell me that it was almost he equal of El Zocolo in Mexico City. (That was probably pushing it a bit, to please me. But only a bit. Slab Square always thrills.)

    Finally, MY favourite square in Spain? It is a toss-up between Orange Square in Marbella and a square in Barcelona. No, not the Cathedral Square, but one called Placa Reial: a relatively little known but big square, almost hidden away just YARDS off Las Ramblas (but a million miles away in MOOD.)

    Thanks for reading this. And thanks as ever for your writings.

    Dai Woosnam


    • Thanks for stopping by again Dai – I really appreciate your feedback!

      I agree with what you say about public squares in the United Kingdom and you are absolutely correct when you identify them (Birmingham and Liverpool are two other good examples). I lived near Nottingham for a long time so I know exactly what you mean about ‘Slab Square’! Although we have squares in the concrete and physical sense I was thinking more about the way we use them and I don’t think they have the same social or community significance as they do in Spain or Italy for example. Perhaps this has something to do with our national psyche or maybe it’s because of our unreliable weather?

      I hope you enjoyed your short break in Glasgow? It’s a place I have passed through but never stayed, perhaps I should consider it sometime in the future.



  2. Thank you Andrew for your – as always – reasoned response. You strike me as being Sweet Reason personified. (Something I am loath to say about anyone who has made a living in local government. Don’t get me started please on why Lincolnshire has eight – or is it nine? – unitary authorities, and thus massive duplication of roles. Seems to me that ONE Director of Environmental Services ought to do for Lincolnshire, one Director of Health, one Director of Education, etc etc. … not eight or nine of each! And of course the shamefully pusillanimous local press here have a vested interest in going along with this financially crippling nonsense.)
    But hey, your excellent travel journal is not a vehicle for me to light my blue touch paper in, and ask you to stand well back! So I will quickly get back in step and talk about matters I really SHOULD talk about here.
    You said of squares:

    I was thinking more about the way we use them and I don’t think they have the same social or community significance as they do in Spain or Italy for example

    Yes, of course you are right.
    And that is partly down to the absence of the “paseo” from British culture. Young men do not walk along one side of a square doffing their hats to young women walking on the parallel side!
    Put it down to climate.
    (Mind you, on second thoughts, let me breathe those words back in. After nightfall, our big city squares come alive and young men and women engage in social discourse on a big scale: if you want to call it that!)
    Maybe alcohol consumption has as much to do with it, as climate. The Spanish and Italians just drink earlier in the day!
    (Weak joke from me!)



  3. Thanks Dai

    You are absolutely correct about duplicitous local government. Although there are doubtless too many public servants (one less now that I have hung up my boots) there are also excessive numbers of elected members with their noses in the publicly financed trough! The real problem is that successive ruling political parties in central government have failed to address the issue because they are terrified to legislate because of the fear of losing power or votes – the Tories will never abolish the Shire Counties because this is their power base in the country and it is exactly the same with the Labour Party who cannot contemplate losing control of the large cities. Instead they hope that local authorities will make their own voluntary arrangements and this is extremely unlikely because local government is all about vested interest. What it needs is root and branch reform as we last had in 1974.

    Back to public squares and I am certain that I would not feel as comfortable walking through Nottingham at eleven o’clock at night as I did wandering through Almagro. It’s not a good comparison because they are on a different scale but you will know what I mean! Last week I stayed in Albano Laziale, a small town south of Rome and it was much the same, safe (apart from the traffic), friendly and very welcoming.



  4. Dear Andrew,
    This made me laugh out loud:

    Back to public squares and I am certain that I would not feel as comfortable walking through Nottingham at eleven o’clock at night as I did wandering through Almagro.

    Yes! You could say that again.
    I spent most of my working life selling booze all over Britain – from Wick and Thurso down to Penzance – and I now feel very guilty about it. Like I was selling guns to the Arabs and the Israelis at the same time.

    My last trip to New York City was just before Christmas in 2000. This was less than a year after moving to Grimsby. I was telling someone here of me being in the Bronx at 1am. That Grimbarian asked me if I was scared. I replied “Not half as scared as I’d be being around the Riverhead at the same time of night!”



  5. In comparison to your self I am a mere baby at blogging and I would give the earth to have as many hits as you have.
    However I have read your post..I like what I see and enjoyed what I read…so I shall be returning to gather more information on Spain. I lived there for 7 years but you have discovered far more than I ever saw.
    Hope you do not mind ..I have subscribed

    Adios amigo muchas besos


    • Hi and thanks for the comment. I am fascinated by Spain and its different regions and my objective is to visit as much as I can as soon as I can. Next time I plan to go north to Zaragoza and Burgos. Andrew


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