Tag Archives: Trujillo

Travels in Spain, Icons

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Travels in Spain – Statues

Francesco Pizzaro Trujillo Extremadura SpainBurgos Weary PilgrimDon Quixote Alcala de HenaresEl Cid Burgos SpainAntequera King FedinandPhilip IV and the Palacio Real

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

Travels in Spain – Trujillo and Francisco Pizzaro

“…the breed of men who conquered a continent with a handful of adventurers, wore hair shirts day and night until they stuck to their flesh, and braved the mosquitoes of the Pilcomayo and the Amazon” –  Gerald Brenan

In the hilltop town of Trujillo standing above the sunburnt plain there stands a statue of a man who changed the course of history – Francisco Pizarro the illegitimate son of a Castilian soldier who, five hundred years ago,  left his home to seek his fortune in the New World.  With fewer than two hundred troops and a few dozen dogs and horses, he conquered the vast empire of the Incas and the Spanish colonisation of South America had begun.

It is a magnificent statue, matched only by that of mighty El Cid in Burgos, and I challenge anyone not to admire it.  Here is the gigantic figure of Pizarro  sitting astride his proud giant of a horse dominating the entire square of Trujillo, head up, beard jutting and plumes flowing as though trying to stay attached to his helmet whilst at full gallop.  The statue captures and epitomises the flare and the audacity of the conquistadors and in his hand he carries a menacing sword but in a message that here was a man who lived and died by the sword the statue has no scabbard which seems to suggest that he rarely ever put the blade away!

Catalonia Wooden Door Detail

Trujillo is a city on the Tozo River, a tributary of the Tagus and is sited on the only hill for miles around about forty kilometres east of Cáceres.  Although the Autovia passes close by it is not an especially busy tourist city so when we drove in and followed signs to the Plaza Mayor we found parking unexpectedly easy just a few metres away from the main square.

The pace of life in the plaza was delightfully slow with a just a few visitors wandering around and others sitting with local people in the bars and cafés around the perimeter. It was pleasantly warm but I would suspect that in high summer this large exposed granite space can become almost like an anvil for the sun and it would be important to find a spot in the shade.

Trujillo has apparently always been a tough old place. “Its inhabitants normally survive on pillage and trickery…” wrote El Idrisi, an Arab traveller, in the fourteenth century – and pillage and trickery were what the Conquistadors did best.  They sent back shiploads of plundered gold and filled their home town with elaborate mansions.

All around the square there are grand palaces and mansions and outside the sixteenth century Iglesia de San Martín in the north-east corner is the reason why, a great equestrian statue of the famous Spanish conquistador.  It is an interesting coincidence that many of the sixteenth century explorers and adventurers who carved out the Spanish Empire in South America came from Extremadura and as well as Pizzaro, Hérnan Cortés, who defeated the Aztecs and founded Mexico, Hernando De Soto, who explored Florida, and Pedro de Almagro, who accompanied Pizzaro, all came from this harsh south-west corner of Spain.

Francisco Pizzaro was born in Trujillo and became a conquistador who travelled along much of the Pacific coast of South America.  I imagine he wasn’t an especially pleasant man – with an army of only one hundred and eighty men and less than thirty horses he encountered the ancient Incan empire and brutally and quickly conquered it, killing thousands of natives, including the Inca King Atahualpa and stealing immense hoards of gold, silver, and other treasures for the King of Spain and for himself including the Inca King’s wife who he took for a mistress.

As a consequence of Pizzaro’s adventures, Spain temporarily became the greatest, richest and most powerful country in the world and as well as conquering Peru and founding the city of Lima, he also added Ecuador and Columbia to the Spanish Empire thus providing immense new territories and influence and spreading Roman Catholicism to the New World.

TheMission-Filmszene-16836

We walked out the Plaza Mayor and followed the steep cobbled lanes as they twisted their sinuous way up past buildings constructed of attractive mellow stone, past the inevitable Parador and more churches and mansions until finally we were at the top at the Alcázar of the Moors who controlled this city for five hundred years before the Reconquista.

Inside the castle we walked around the high stone walls glinting in the sunshine and stopped frequently to admire the uninterrupted views over the sun-baked dehesa of Extremadura spreading endlessly in every direction in a ragged patchwork of agricultural green, gold and brown where distant villages float on the vastness all the way to Portugal and stunted oaks and olive trees provide the only cover in a harsh terrain.

Walking back down to the plaza was a great deal easier than the energy sapping climb but we got lost in the cobweb of tiny streets and surprised ourselves by emerging at an unexpected entrance to the square which was jam-packed with cars on account of it being the end of school for the day and parents were collecting their children to take them home.

It was a little past lunch time and we were overdue something to eat so we examined the menus at the pavement restaurants and when Kim was satisfied with our choice we found a seat in the sun and ordered some local dishes and a glass of cold beer.

Francisco Pizarro

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory

“…the breed of men who conquered a continent with a handful of adventurers, wore hair shirts day and night until they stuck to their flesh, and braved the mosquitoes of the Pilcomayo and the Amazon” –  Gerald Brenan

The Conquistador, Francisco Pizzaro…

It is a magnificent statue, matched only by that of El Cid in Burgos, and I challenge anyone not to admire it.  Here is the gigantic figure of Pizarro  astride his proud giant of a horse dominating the entire square of Trujillo, head up, beard jutting and helmet plumes flowing as though trying to stay attached to his armour whilst at full gallop.

The statue captures and epitomises the flare and the audacity of the conquistadores and in his hand he carries a menacing sword but in a message that here was a man who lived and died by the sword the statue has no scabbard which seems to suggest that he rarely ever put the blade away!

Francisco Pizzaro was born in Trujillo and became a conquistador who travelled along much of the Pacific coast of South America. With an army of only one hundred and eighty men and less than thirty horses he encountered the ancient Incan empire and brutally and quickly conquered it, killing thousands of natives, including the Inca King Atahualpa and stealing immense hoards of gold, silver, and other treasures for the King of Spain and for himself including the Inca King’s wife who he took for a mistress.

As a consequence of Pizzaro’s adventures, Spain became the greatest, richest and most powerful country in the world at the time and as well as conquering Peru and founding the city of Lima, he also added Ecuador and Columbia to the Spanish Empire thus providing immense new territories and influence and spreading Roman Catholicism to the New World.

Francisco Pizzaro Trujillo Extremadura

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

Entrance Tickets – The Castillo at Trujillo

Castillo Trujillo

We walked out the Plaza Mayor and followed the steep cobbled lanes as they twisted their sinuous way up past buildings constructed of attractive mellow stone, past the inevitable Parador and more churches and mansions until finally we were at the top at the Alcázar of the Moors who controlled this city for five hundred years before the Reconquista.

Inside the castle we walked around the high stone walls glinting in the sunshine and stopped frequently to admire the uninterrupted views over the sun-baked dehesa of Extremadura spreading endlessly in every direction in a ragged patchwork of agricultural green, gold and brown where distant villages float on the vastness all the way to Portugal and stunted oaks and olive trees provide the only cover in a harsh terrain.  But although it sounds bleak, this dramatic landscape has a barren beauty –  this is Spain’s unspoilt heartland.

Read the full story…