Saturday, October 19, 2013


The Aqueduct of Segovia 
Aqueduct runs through the city
The curve of the arch - no mortar
One of the most amazing structures we’ve seen in all our travels is the Aqueduct of Segovia.  Built by the Romans in the 1st century, it is almost 3,000 feet long and 94 feet high at its highest point .  It carried water to the city from the a source in the mountains 11 miles away.  The 167 arches are made of 25,000 granite blocks joined without mortar and held together by force equilibrium.  
Segovia Cathedral

Segovia’s massive 16th  century cathedral is known as “The Lady of Cathedrals.” Situated in the main square of the city, it was the last Gothic church built in Spain.  

Kings Room Alcazar
The Alcazar of Segovia was has been a fortress, royal residence, prison and military academy. Today it is a museum and one of the most famous castles in Spain.  Supposedly, it inspired Cinderella's castle in Disney World.  

The Alcazar is designed like a ship, built around 2 courtyards and surrounded by a deep moat.  The rooms house antiquities, ancient artillery and works of art.  The ceilings are works of art in themselves.  In the Hall of Kings, the upper wall bordering the ceiling is lined with statuettes of Spanish monarchs.  
Our hotel in Segovia - former monastery

Plaza Mayor Madrid
The car trip portion of our journey came to an end in Madrid.  We said goodbye to our trusty Citroen after 5 months and 10 days on the road.  After returning the car to the leasing agent, we spent a few days in Madrid.  

The Royal Palace Madrid 
With a population of 3.3 million, the capital of Spain is a big, vibrant city. In fact, it is the third largest city in the European Union after London and Berlin. Madrid is a mixture of modern and historic.  Filled with museums and public plazas, it a wonderful city to explore on foot.  The largest square, Plaza Mayor, stands on the site of the medieval market.    
Almudena Cathedral

The Royal Palace with 3,418 rooms is one of the biggest palaces in Europe. Nowadays it is used for official functions only. The royal family reside in a more modest palace on the outskirts of the city.   
Ancient Egyptian Temple Madrid
The Prado Museum

Right across from the Royal Palace is the Almudena Cathedral, the only Spanish cathedral consecrated by a pope (Pope John Paul II in 1993).  Construction began in 1879 on the site of a medieval mosque that was destroyed in 1083 when the Spaniards defeated the Moors and reconquered Madrid.  The interior is beautiful and has a wide variety of art from historic to contemporary.  

One of the most unusual sites in Madrid is the Debod Temple.  The  2,000 year old temple was gifted to Spain by Egypt in appreciation for their help with dismantling and relocating the temples of Abu Simbel which would have been submerged when Lake Nassar was created.

Madrid deserves more than the few days we spent there.  We didn't have time to do more than walk by The Prado, a world famous art museum.   Perhaps next time!  Now it is on to Torremolinos and a few weeks in the sun.   

Monday, October 7, 2013


Front of the Cathedral of  Santiago
We visited many churches, cathedrals and basilicas on this trip but nothing compared to what we saw in Santiago de Compostela and Salamanca. 

The Botafumeiro - Incense Burner

The tomb of the Apostle James

Ornate sculptures adorn Cathedral towers

According to legend, the Apostle James brought Christianity to the Iberian peninsula in 44 AD. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he was martyred. Legend claims that two of his disciples brought his body back to Spain and buried it in what is now known as the city of Santiago de Compostela. The site of the tomb was forgotten over time but in 814 a local peasant rediscovered it. The bishop authenticated the relics and with that a Holy City and eventual World Heritage site was born.  

The Way of St. James became one of the most important Christian pilgrimages in medieval times. The giant incense burner in the Cathedral was used to overpower the odor of the early pilgrims.  Today   hundreds of thousands of modern day pilgrims make their way to the city as it is considered one of the most important Christian sites in the world.   

Salamanca's Roman bridge

Plaza Mayor: social center of Salamanca

One of Salamanca's many churches
Sunlight shimmers off sandstone buildings in Salamanca making the 'golden city' one of the most beautiful in Spain. A Roman bridge with 15 granite stone arches spans the Tormes River and leads into the city. It was built in 89 AD and reconstructed in the 17th century. 

University of Salamanca philosophy building
Numerous pedestrian walkways wander around and through the Old Town which was declared a World Heritage site in 1988. In the center, the huge Plaza Mayor is filled with shops, outdoor cafes and people.   
Birds make a home atop a bell tower
Birthday lunch in Salamanca

Salamanca is especially known for its old and new cathedrals, just 2 of many churches in the city, and its university.  Founded in 1812, the University of Salamanca is the oldest higher learning institution in Spain.  

Salamanca was a lovely place to spend my birthday. Beautiful city, ideal weather and a great lunch at a charming little restaurant. 

Our hotel with typical golden facade