Tag Archives: Sigüenza

On This Day – Sigüenza in Castilla-La Mancha

Hopefully we are on the countdown to overseas travel but until that happy event happens I continue to trawl through the archives.  On 11th April 2014 I was in the town of Sigüenza in Spain…

It was raining so we took our time over breakfast and it was mid morning by the time we left the hotel and there was a simple choice – up the hill to the Alcazar or down the hill to the Cathedral.  We decided to start at the top of the town and make our way to the bottom.

Lined on each side with caramel coloured houses with terracotta tiled roofs, the Calle de Valencia followed the line of the old medieval town wall and half way to the castle we passed through the Puerto del Porto Mayor which was once the main gateway into the narrow streets of the old town and from here there was a final twisting climb to the Plaza del Castillo and the inevitable Parador Hotel.

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Capricho Rillano – In The Style of Antoni Gaudi

When we are away we usually make careful plans and are reasonably certain of where we are going and what we are going to see but it is always good to come across something unexpected.

On March 23rd 2013 we were staying in the Spanish town of Siguenza in Castilla-La Mancha. We had driven out of the town and visited the town of Molina de Aragon which on a desperately cold day had turned out to be rather a disappointment.

And so we left Molina de Aragon and headed back along the N-211 which is called the Ruta del Cid and the first village that we came to was Rillo de Gallo and there staring out over the main road was an unusual house.

Unless I was very much mistaken a Gaudi house but I was mistaken because it turned out to be a house built in the style of Antoni Gaudi and, I have to say, looking completely out of place within its surroundings.

This it turns out was the Capricho Rillano built by a Gaudi enthusiast Juan Antonio Martinez Moreno and substantially unfinished which made me wonder if it had the necessary planning or development consents?

So we pulled over, parked the car by the side of the road and walked to the house.  It may not have been designed and built by the Catalan master himself but it was still wonderfully impressive.

I knew nothing of this place of course, it wasn’t in the guide books so I researched it later. Juan Antonio Martínez, a resident of Guadalajara, worked without sketches or plans, like Gaudí in his early days and he is not an architect, but an experienced builder.

The imposing façade is inspired by the great works of Barcelona and in particular the Casa Batlló with the same characteristics of pinnacles and helical columns, paraboloid domes, warped roofs of multi-coloured ceramics, iron bars and doors, of overflowing fantasy and even a terrible ceramic snake that climbs a corner of the façade along three floors and crawls onto the roof in the style of the dragon at Park Güell.

The serpent incidentally is based on a local myth about a gigantic snake which is supposedly as a big as a man and has been sighted regularly – presumably after closing time!

It was interesting to explore the exterior of the building (the doors were firmly locked) and observe the details, colourful mosaics that covered the form and shape of the building that used the trencadís technique of broken tile mosaics. In contrast to the sobriety of the adjacent buildings in the village, the tangled and impossible forms and the colours of this building were a welcome surprise.

I liked it. I don’t know if building a house in the style of Gaudi makes it a Gaudi house?  I suspect probably not. I could paint a vase of sunflowers but it wouldn’t be a Van Gogh. I could write a play but it wouldn’t be a Shakespeare.

But I liked it all the same. I wonder what Gaudi himself would have made of it?

Having enjoyed the unexpected house we thought it only good manners to explore the village because it is said that El Cid himself passed this was on his way to Valencia. Actually, El Cid just like Don Quixote passed through every town and village in Spain, or so it seems.

I would like to be able to tell you that the place was spectacular but I am afraid that I can’t – it was dull and lifeless, cold for the Spanish, shirt sleeve weather for us and the streets were empty. We followed a map which cost me 80c at the Tourist Information Office (every town and village in Spain regardless of size  has a Tourist Information Office it seems) and which showed all of the old town highlights but we didn’t find anything to take our breath away so we started to walk back and then heard some lively conversation from a bodega so we pushed the doors opened, spotted an empty table and went inside.

This explained why the streets were empty because the entire village was in here. It was wonderful and made the long drive absolutely worthwhile – a traditional bar with local Spanish wine and a plate of perfect sticky paella as complimentary tapas – and after we had finished we were very reluctant to leave but we needed to be back in Siguenza in time for the Santa Semana Easter Parade.

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On This Day – Besalu in Catalonia

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 8th July 2013 I was in the town of Besalu in Catalonia.

Besalu Catalonia Spain

We found the Hotel Three Arcs and the receptionist told me that we could ignore the traffic restriction notices that seemed to suggest that the place was pedestrianised and bring the car into the main square but I was nervous about this because it involved driving over one of those solid steel retractable bollards that rise up from the centre of the road.

I was worried in case it raised up without warning and the CCTV cameras would catch the moment and I would forever be shown on television repeats of the Spanish equivalent of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ or ‘America’s Funniest Videos’.  I could sense that a local driver behind was getting impatient so I had to go and I revved the engine and popped the clutch, spun the wheels and dashed across as quickly as I could.  Nothing happened – the bollard stayed down of course and people sitting at a bar probably wondered why I had set off as though I was an Italian driver at a set of red traffic lights.

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On This Day – Semana Santa in Siguenza, Spain

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 13th April 2014 I was in the Spanish town of Siguenza in Castilla-La Mancha.

We had travelled there specifically to see the Holy Week Parade, the Semana Santa which is one of the most important traditional events of the Spanish Catholic year; it is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter and features a procession of Pasos which are floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion.

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Travels in Spain, Castles and Fortresses

Castles of Spain

Finding a castle to visit is not difficult in Spain because, according to the Official Tourist Board there just about two thousand five hundred. For comparison there are eight hundred in the United Kingdom and whilst France claims roughly five-thousand this figure includes a lot of questionable small Chateaux in that number.

My blogging Pal Brian has some interesting observations on French Chateaux and I think you might be interested to visit this post and then more of his site…

Chateau Saumur … a love-hate experience!

When or if you come back click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

Travels in Spain – Off the Beaten Track (1)

If you are travelling to Spain and want to avoid the coast and the obvious tourist traps then let me make some suggestions…

Almagro in Castlla-La Mancha

almagro

“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’

Almagro is an old town that was once much more important than it is today, two hundred and fifty years ago it was for a short time the provincial capital of La Mancha (1750-61) but religious decline set in during the reign of Charles III and it fared badly and suffered damage in the Napoleonic and the Carlist wars.  Eventually it was eclipsed by its neighbours, Ciudad Real and Bolaños de Calatrava and it became the quiet town that it is today on, not being unkind, a secondary, less important, tourist trail.

At a hundred metres long and forty metres wide the Plaza Major is one of the finest in all of Spain, 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.

Antequera in Andalucia

“For almost the first time I felt I was really in Spain, in a country that I had longed my whole life to visit. In the quiet back streets of I seemed to catch a momentary glimpse, a sort of far-off rumour of the Spain that dwells in everyone’s imagination.”  –  George Orwell

Antequera has always been an important place due its geographical position as it falls on a natural crossroads east/west between Seville and Granada and north/south between Malaga and Cordoba and the Moors built their most impregnable castle at this place to protect their possessions in Iberia.

Plaza San Sebastian is at the very bottom of the city at a busy roundabout junction where every major road in the city seems to converge, a bubbling pink marble water fountain, a modern monument that marks the junction of two Roman roads, a proud church, several grand buildings and overshadowed by the looming presence of the Alcazaba, a steep cobble-stoned hill climb away.  The steps are steep but lead to the castle gate and inside is the Plaza de Santa Maria dominated by the biggest church in town.

Girona in Catalonia

Girona Catalonia Spain

“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than most countries.  How easy it is to make friends in Spain!” – George Orwell

This is a fine place – better than Barcelona!  The old town is packed onto a hillside alongside the river, which is spanned by a series of bridges that lead to the shopping area. One bridge leads to  Carrer de la Força, which, it’s hard to believe was once part of the Via Augusta, the road that led across Spain from Rome, and from the tenth to the end of the fifteenth century was the main street of one of Europe’s most important Jewish quarters.

The visitor will climb all the time but make frequent and sometimes pointless diversions into side streets and blind alleys, up steep steps and along difficult cobbled passageways, always grateful for shade in this labyrinth of enchanting lanes.

Eventually everyone will arrive in the square in front of Santa Maria Cathedral whose Baroque façade conceals an austere Gothic interior that was built around a previous Romanesque church, of which the cloisters and a single tower remain.  After the climb find the energy to climb the steps from the square to the Cathedral and go inside to visit the interior of the building and see the World’s widest Gothic nave and the second widest overall after St. Peter’s in Rome

Siguenza in Castilla-La Mancha

Plaza Mayor Siguenza Spain

“…Sigüenza, ninety miles from Madrid, remains a quiet spot in an empty landscape.  It sits among narrow valleys celebrated by Camilo José Celar in his ‘Journey to the Acarria’”  –  Christopher Howse – ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Sigüenza has always occupied an important strategic geographical position in a narrow valley on the main road and railway line between Madrid and Aragon and Catalonia.  This is not a surprise, the Romans, the Moors and the Catholic Monarchs of the Reconquista had all previously fortified this place.

For a small town the cathedral is an immense building and one of the most important late Romanesque buildings in Spain which was built to symbolise the power of Bishop Don Bernardo who began construction in the twelfth century.  It has three naves and a main chapel with an ambulatory and a dome and around the outer walls are a series of commemorative chapels which reads like a who’s who of the local campaigns of the Reconquista.

Inside is the jewel of the Cathedral, the Chapel of St. Catherine which houses the sepulchre of Martín Vázquez de Arce where in what is regarded as one of the finest examples of Spanish funerary art is his alabaster statue decorated with the cross of Santiago as he lies serenely on his side while casually reading a giant book. The authors of the Spanish Generation of 1898 (a group of patriotic artists and philosophers) drew national attention to the statue by naming him ‘el doncel de Sigüenza’ – the boy of Sigüenza.

Siguenza Spain

In the Plaza Major café tables are arranged in the shadow of the South Tower which reaches high into the blue sky and has small-fortress like windows at regular intervals and the description fortress-like is rather appropriate because they bear the marks of shell damage inflicted on the building in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

Besalu Catalonia Spain

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time

Siguenza Sundial

Lined on each side with caramel coloured houses with terracotta tiled roofs, the Calle de Valencia followed the line of the old medieval town wall and half way to the castle we passed through the Puerto del Porto Mayor which was once the main gateway into the narrow streets of the old town and from here there was a final twisting climb to the Plaza del Castillo and the Parador Hotel.

Read the Full Story…

Castles of Spain

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye-Spy

CleopatraRock Sculptures St MaloIceland ReyjkavikCatalonia Spain Door DetailSemana Santa Siguenza

 

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.

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Catalonia Spain Besalu Door