Tag Archives: Ciudad Rodrigo

Favourite Places in Spain, Ciudad Rodrigo in Castilla y Leon

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Last time in my favourite places in Spain I was in the tourist town of Ronda in Andalusia in the South, today I am three hundred and fifty miles north through sun-baked Extremadura and into iron-hard Castilla y Leon.

After several hours of motoring we came to Ciudad Rodrigo, which is the last city in Spain before reaching Portugal, a fortress city built to protect the western border of the country and as we approached we could see the walled castle and its fortifications standing proud and defiant on a rocky outcrop in a commanding defensive position.

Gone now are the whitewashed Pueblos Blancos, the click of the castanets, the flash of flamenco and the swirl of the matador’s cape because there is a demarcation line in Spain roughly along the line of latitude of Madrid which divides the country in two,  to the north the environment becomes harsher, the landscape is more severe and the towns and cities are made of stone.

Click on an image to scroll to scroll through the gallery…

And some views of the Rio Agueda from our hotel room…

Ciudad Rodrigo river and bridge at nightCiudad Rodrigo in the FogCiudad Rodrigo from the Hotel Molino

 

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Travels in Spain, The Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor Siguenza

We enjoyed our brief stay in Almagro and especially our time spent in the Plaza Mayor and as we had a final glass of Rioja on the balcony of the hotel we began to compile a list of our favourites.  The more places we visit the more difficult this becomes so we have now extended this list from five to ten and introduced two categories – cities and towns.

The Plaza Mayor is arguably the most important part of a Spanish town or city and I really cannot think of an equivalent in the United Kingdom where we have public squares but use them in an entirely different way – all day drinking, littering and anti-social behaviour.

In Spain the Plaza Mayor is the place where people meet, relax and enjoy themselves; it is generally flanked with shops and restaurants and usually has the town hall and the main church somewhere close by.  This is the beating heart of a Spanish community and when we arrive somewhere new it is usually the first place we make for because sitting with a glass of wine and complimentary tapas it is the best place to be to get a feeling for the town and its people.

Plaza Mayor Siguenza Spain

In the search for real Spain (not the coasts and the Costas), in the past five years, we have visited and enjoyed dozens of Plaza Mayors; Madrid, the largest, Salamanca, the second largest, Toledo, next to its towering cathedral and the tiled Plaza de España in Seville.  We liked them all and we began now to compile a list with a view to choosing our favourites.

We considered Ávila,  Mérida and ValladolidCáceres and Santiago de CompostellaOviedo and León  but after a lively debate weighing up the pros and cons and putting forward the case for each one in turn we finally agreed on the top five in each category but could not reach consensus on the actual order.

First the cities:  Segovia in Castilla y Leon because of the Cathedral and the architecture and the little streets running away from it like spokes from a wheel, Trujillo in Extremadura, because of its unspoilt medieval charm, its grand palaces and dusty, sunburnt aura and then Salamanca with its grand baroque architecture and after that Alcala de Henara and the Plaza de Cervantes with its statues and gardens and grandly colonnaded perimeter and then we would simply have to add Palencia  because of its unspoilt charm and the timeless quality of the buildings and architecture – a real gem!

Vic Catalonia Spain

And so to the towns: the unpretentious and functional Ciudad Rodrigo, reeking of the Spanish Peninsula War in every crack and crevice, Chinchón with its open balconies and bullfights and Siguenza with its stone simplicity, cobbled alleys, sharp stairways, deep arches, shady courtyards and stone buttresses leaning across the street and leaving barely a single shaft of sunlight and which was the probably the closest yet that I have been looking for in Spain.  Almagro with its stone colonnaded arches and Tuscan columns supporting overhead galleries all painted a uniform shade of green and fully glazed in a central European style which makes this place unique in all of Spain.  Finally Tembleque which we visited on a dreary overcast day but despite that there was no ignoring the quality of its fine Plaza.

That was a difficult debate and lasted as long as long as the bottle of wine and two dishes of olives but once we had finished we drained our glasses and thought about moving on in the morning.

Chinchon

Travels in Spain – Ciudad Rodrigo, Next Stop Portugal

Valladolid airport is only small with limited facilities but there was a sign apologising for this and promising imminent improvements.  We collected a steel grey Seat Ibiza from the Avis rental car office and set off immediately on the one hundred and forty mile drive to Ciudad Rodrigo.

As it was Sunday and we worried about shops being open we stopped as soon as we could at a motorway service station and bought beer, wine and snacks and then carried on.

We were crossing the Meseta, the great central plain of interior Spain, which at two hundred and ten thousand square kilometres makes up forty percent of the country and has an average altitude of six hundred and fifty metres. It is split in two by the Sistema Central, the Guadarrama and Gredos mountain ranges, creating Old Castile to the north (Castilla y Leon) and New Castile to the south (Castilla La Mancha). The northern ‘submeseta’ is the higher of the two at over eight hundred metres and coming from below sea level in Lincolnshire I worried that we might require oxygen cylinders.

After a couple of hours of really enjoyable motoring we came to Ciudad Rodrigo, which is the last city in Spain before reaching Portugal, a fortress city built to protect the western border of the country and as we approached we could see the walled city and its fortifications standing proud on a rocky outcrop in a commanding defensive position.

I knew roughly where the hotel Molina de Águeda was and as we kept an eye open for directions Kim had a navigational fluke and spotted a half hidden sign that signposted our destination.  As we pulled into the car park there were a few spots of rain but it came to nothing and there were blue skies above us as we unloaded the car and went inside to reception.  It was a very nice hotel indeed located in an old water mill on the river Agueda, elegantly refurbished and surrounded by woods and we had a good room on the front with a nice view of the river and the old city about a half a mile away.

Ciudad Rodrigo river and bridge

It was a pleasant evening, not cold, but the sort of temperature when local people feel it appropriate to put on a coat, hat and scarf but is still shirt sleeve weather for those of us from northern Europe with thicker blood.  We needn’t have worried about finding somewhere to eat because there was plenty of choice and the place was really busy with families out for a Sunday night on the town.

As a consequence of a severe Atlantic storm in the west we woke to a hissing wind and dark scowling clouds that the mountains of Portugal had failed to detain racing in from the west like battleships.  It was mean and moody but there was no rain so that was a bonus.

Ciudad Rodrigo Castle

From the hotel balcony it was possible to appreciate just what a land of contrasts Spain really is.  This was about as far away from the traditional view of Spain of the holiday brochures as it is possible to get and it was different too from our visit the previous month to Castilla-la Mancha.  Here we were getting close towards green Spain in the north with more small farms, livestock, deciduous woods, fast flowing rivers and Portugal just twenty-five kilometres away – which was where we planned to visit later.

After breakfastwe dressed appropriately and took the walk alongside the river and into Ciudad Rodrigo.  The sky was blue but filling all the time with dark purple clouds with only occasional shafts of sunlight darting through.  There was a spiteful wind that stung our ears and although it was a nice walk it was along a very muddy path that took us along the Rio Águeda.

As we climbed the outside of the city walls the wind strengthened and thankfully scattered the black clouds somewhere to the east towards Salamanca and they were replaced with friendlier white cotton wool ball clouds that raced in to take their place.  We entered the city through the western gate cut into the fortifications, still bearing the pock-marked scars of musket balls and found ourselves in a charming place overflowing with history and character.

Laredo Cantabria Spain

It was quiet enough today however and once inside the walls we walked to the castle, which predictably is now a Parador hotel, had a look inside and then walked around a part of the walls.  A few spots of rain forced us down into the city, past the curiously misshapen cathedral, the result of an earthquake which literally knocked it sideways, and into a tourist information office with the heating set to an unnecessary maximum and then on to the Plaza Mayor in the centre with its warm sandstone coloured buildings, ornate metal balconies and traditional Spanish shops and bars around all four sides.

Ciudad Rodrigo Street

The weather was changing by the minute and after the little shower the sky was blue with clouds that had no time to stop and spoil it because they were driven away swiftly by the wind.  It was nice enough to sit outside at a pavement café and have a drink while we planned what to do with the rest of the day.

We hadn’t seen all of Ciudad Rodrigo but we decided to leave some for tomorrow and feeling optimistic about the weather prospects decided to go to Portugal for lunch so we returned to the hotel to pick up the car.

Plaza Ciudad Rodrigo

 

Travels in Spain – Almagro, The Plaza Mayor and Flamenco

Seville Flamenco

“We are in the Spanish south.  The castanets click from coast to coast, the cicada hum through the night, the air is heavy with jasmine and orange blossom… the girls have black eyes and undulating carriages.”  –  Jan Morris,  ‘Spain’

We were staying at the Hotel Retiro del Maestre, a renovated old Spanish nobleman’s house on a dusty street leading to the main square of Almagro.  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.

It was late afternoon by this time and with the sun beginning to dip we didn’t linger long but made our way quickly to the Plaza Mayor to find a bar.  On the way we passed by the equestrian statue of the Conquistador Diego de Almagro and then entered the rectangular Plaza.

Almagro Plaza Mayor Spain

At a hundred metres long and forty metres wide it is flanked on both sides by arcades of cream Tuscan columns, weathered by the years, supporting overhead galleries all painted a uniform shade of botella verde and fully glazed in a central European style that makes this place truly unique in all of Spain.  These galleries were originally open and used as grandstands for public events, religious festivals and even bullfights that were held here until 1785, when they were finally banned by King Carlos III.

We choose a table on the sunny side of the Plaza, ordered beer and wine and just sat and watched the activity while we nibbled the inevitable olives.  The bar owner shooed away some small boys playing football, telling them to play elsewhere as families began to arrive and the bar quickly filled up with chattering customers enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

Plaza Mayor Siguenza Castilla-La Mancha

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 where we have public squares but use them in an entirely different way.  This is the place where people meet, relax and enjoy themselves; it is generally flanked with shops and restaurants and usually has the town hall and the main church somewhere close by.  In the centre sits a military veteran with only one arm selling Spanish lottery tickets.

When we arrive somewhere new it is usually the first place we make for because sitting with a glass of wine and a complimentary tapas it is the best place to be to get a feeling for the character of the town and its people.

In the search for real Spain  we have visited and enjoyed dozens of Plaza Mayors; Madrid, the largest, Salamanca, the second largest, Toledo, next to its towering cathedral and the tiled Plaza de España in Seville.  We liked them all and we began now to compile a list with a view to choosing our top five favourites.

We considered ÁvilaMérida and ValladolidCáceres and Santiago de Compostella in Galicia but after a lively debate weighing up the pros and cons and putting forward the case for each one in turn we finally agreed on the top five but could not reach absolute consensus on the actual order.

So this is our list: Segovia in Castilla y Leon because of the Cathedral and the architecture and the little streets running away from it like spokes from a wheel, Trujillo, where we had been only today, because of its unspoilt medieval charm, the unpretentious and functional Ciudad Rodrigo,  Chinchón with its open balconies and bullfights and although we had only just arrived we liked this place so much that we both agreed to include Almagro in the list.

  

After a second leisurely drink we paid up and left the square and strolled back to our hotel where we asked for some dining recommendations and the receptionist convinced us to go to her favourite restaurant just a couple of streets away so after we had rested and changed we took her advice and found the place in a side street off the main square.

Although it wasn’t especially late when we finished the meal we were tired after a long day that had started three hundred kilometres away in Mérida, taken us to Trujillo and then a three hour drive to Almagro and we were ready for bed.  We walked back through the Plaza Mayor that was lively in a subdued sort of way (if that makes sense) and then to the street to the hotel.

Spain Flamenco Dancer

About half way along the route back to the hotel we heard the lyrical sound of Spanish guitars, clacking castanets, the rhythmic stamping of Cuban heels and clicking stilettos, rather like the sound of an approaching steam train and we wondered where it was coming from and then through the pavement level window of a cellar we could see a dancing class in full swing.

Spain Flamenco

Some local people suggested that it would be quite all right to go inside and watch so we did just that and before the lesson ended we enjoyed fifteen minutes of genuine Spanish music played by an assembly of musicians and a group of young people dancing the flamenco; stamping, posturing and pouting in a rapid, aggressive, staccato style – wonderful vivacious movement, flicking to the left and prancing to the right and  accompanied all the time by the sound of chattering music like a machine gun firing into the sky.

It was a wonderful way to end the evening!

Almagro Spain Plaza Mayor

Weekly Photo Challenge: Door to the Town of Besalú

Besalu Catalonia Spain

The cool narrow alleys started to drop now as we approached the river Fluvià where fat carp swam lazily close to the surface in the sunshine and mocked the fishermen who were valiantly trying their luck and then we reached the twelfth century Romanesque bridge which is the principal feature of the town.

Before the adjacent new road bridge was built this was the only way of crossing the river and it is heavily fortified in a redundant sort of way and was once so important that it was blown up and partially destroyed during the Spanish civil war.

Read the full story…

Catalonia Spain Besalu Door

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

Ciudad Rodrigo in the Fog

Rio Agueda, Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain

After a couple of hours of motoring from Valladolid and bypassing the golden sandstone city of Salamanca we came to Ciudad Rodrigo, which is the last city in Spain before reaching Portugal, a fortress city built to protect the western border of the country and as we approached we could see the walls and the fortifications standing proud on a rocky outcrop in a commanding defensive position.

As a consequence of a severe Atlantic storm in the west there was a hissing wind and dark scowling clouds that the mountains of Portugal had failed to detain racing in from the west like battleships.  It was mean and moody but there was no rain so that was a bonus.

Read the full story…

It’s Nice To Feel Useful (5)

  

It’s nice to feel useful (5) …

Every so often I like to take a look at the search engine terms that may or may not have directed people towards some of my posts.  Some of them are just so funny and so here are ten more recent ones:

Joan of Arc getting burned at the stake clean images”.  Now, I guess that burning at the stake would have been a fairly messy business with all of that smoke and ash and burning embers rising up into the sky, not to mention the spitting fat as the flesh melted in the flames so I imagine that even if there were cameras in medieval France that the chances of getting a ‘clean’ image would have been rather difficult.

I wrote a post about Joan of Arc so perhaps that is where the enquirer was directed?

Next, I have three searches about bridges.  The first one is just too specific for me to be able to help but I did write a post about this bridge after a visit to Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2008 – how much space is between the beams on the stari most bridge?”.  Second, this one from an enquirer whose stupidity is just immense –what is a bridge?” and finally this one which is almost equally as dumb – why was the Humber bridge being built?”doh! Why did the chicken cross the road?

Hull Humber Bridge

Actually the  2,220 metre Humber Suspension Bridge is the fifth largest of its type in the World.  This is a very big bridge indeed but the statistic used to be even more impressive because when it was first opened in 1981 it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the World, a record that it held for the next sixteen years.

Leading on from the Humber Bridge my next favourite is –Anne Frank connection with hull?” because as far as I can make out there is none other than the Hull to Rotterdam P&O ferry.

I have posted a few times about travelling in Italy and the inevitability of a statue of the Italian hero of unification Giuseppe Garibaldi and although everyone knows that he has a biscuit named after him I was surprised to come across this search term – which Italian town has a biscuit named after it?”  Maybe the enquirer turned up at my post about Garbaldi when they were really looking for Genoese cake?

Giuseppe Garibaldi Molfetta Puglia Italy

Sex almost always rears its ugly head of course and large Norwegian penis in a jar” is my offering  in this collection of search out-takes.  I am not an expert on Norwegian penises, large or small, but I did visit the Penis Museum in Reykjavik and this is probably close enough to have recorded the visit to the blog.

Icelandic Penis Museum Reykjavik

This next search may or may not have anything to do with sex, I’ll leave readers to reach their own conclusions – car park in Ciudad Rodrigo”.  I have visited and stayed in Ciudad Rodrigo but I give you my word that I absolutely did not hang around in town centre car parks!

For this selection of search terms I have save my favourite until last and this is it – things to do in Tossa de Marr Spain for clairvoyants”. Now, call me a sceptic if you like but if you can see into the future what on earth does a clairvoyant need with a website of advertised events – why don’t they just look in their crystal ball?

I have been to Tossa de Mar and I have to say that palm reader, soothsayer or clairvoyant that it is a very fine place to visit.

Tossa de Mar Costa Brava Postcard