Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, Spain

Santillana del Mar is a unique medieval Spain town of stone-paved streets. It is a designated heritage site, and has been one of Cantabria’s best-known cultural and tourist centres for decades.

Since the Middle Ages, Santillana del Mar has been one of the region’s most important towns. It was the capital of the old ‘Asturias de Santillana’, a merindad – medieval jurisdiction – comprising the territory of present-day Cantabria. The human imprint here is far earlier, however, and goes back thousands of years: the world-famous Altamira caves are just two kilometres from the centre of the village.

The town dusters around various well-defined cores. The Plaza de las Arenas square, presided over by the Palacio de Velarde; the Plaza de la Colegiata; the Plaza de Ramon Pelayo, formerly the market square and watched over by the Merino and Don Borja towers and the town hall; and the environs of the Regina Coeli and San Ildefonso convents. Santillana is endowed with an outstanding architectural heritage. Of the religious buildings, the centre-piece is the Colegiata de Santa Juliana, around which the medieval town grew. The first monastery was founded here in the eighth to ninth century and housed the relics of St Juliana -the root of the name ‘Santillana’.  Around the twelfth century, the monastery became a collegiate church (colegiata), and from then on the town’s most powerful families vied to enlarge and develop it. Most of the church is fully fledged Romanesque, with Renaissance and Baroque additions.

Among the lay architecture, the standouts are the torres (towers) of Don Borja and Merino or Velarde, both being fifteenth-century; and then the Peredo-Barreda palace, the Villa palace and the Bustamante palace, all built in the eighteenth century. Some of these old manor houses are now home to arts institutions like the Diocesan Museum, the museum dedicated to the sculptor Jesus Otero, the Fundacion Santillana, an arts centre sponsored by Caja Cantabria, and the Casas del Aguilay la Parra, which are nosv exhibition centres. The town’s powerful attraction isn’t just its landmark buildings, though. It’s the place as a whole, with all its more modest buildings-all of them are period architecture. Santillana’s wonderful townscape takes you back to times gone by.

Besides the architecture, there is a wealth of things to see and do at the town’s many temporary exhibitions and arts-centre activities, all the year round. There is also a wide range of available accommodation and hotels for all tastes; establishments tend to be small or medium, and are very often housed in old buildings that contain centuries of history within their walls.

Guided walk

If you leave your car in one of the parking lots signposted on the way into the town, a good place to start your tour of Santillana is the road­crossing opposite the Regina Coeli convent of cloistered Poor Clare nuns: the building is sixteenth-century and houses a very interesting Diocesan Museum.

Enter the town by the Calle Santo Domingo. On your left you will immediately see the Peredo-Barreda palace (now home to the Caja Cantabria arts centre), and the Casa de los Villa manor house to your right. A little further on, the street forks. To the left, Calle Juan Infante, flanked by small houses bedecked with flowers, opens out into the Plaza Mayor, one of the town’s most characteristic corners. Here are the Casa del Aguila and Casa de la Parra manor houses, in front of which stands a statue of the Altamira bison. Opposite, the Parador Gil Bias hotel occupies an old house that used to belong to the Barreda family. A short distance away is the town hall, with its wide balcony of wrought iron and its decorated arcade. Nearby, as if presiding over the square, is the Torre de Don Borja, now the seat of the Fundacion Santillana, and the Torre del Merino, a ‘house fort’ where the merino mayor of Asturias de Santillana – the highest local authority in medieval times – had his residence. Leaving the square at its left end we carry on along a narrow alley that runs perpendicularly into the junction of Carrera and Canton streets. In the Calle Carrera, to the right, there rises the fifteenth­century Torre de Velarde. To the right, heading towards the Colegiata church along the Calle Canton, you’ll pass the eighteenth-century Valdivieso palace, now a hotel. On both sides of this street, which is one of the busiest in town, there are a great many typical dwellings, including the house of Leonor de la Vega, a late fifteenth-century noblewoman whose son became the famous Marquis of Santillana. Next to Leonor’s house stands the Casa de los Hombrones (‘the big men’), named after the heavy stone coat of arms of the Villa family. The street from here on takes the name Calle de! Rio, and goes down to a picturesque water trough, to the right of which are the late seventeenth-century manor houses of the Cossio and Quevedo families, with the Casa de los Abades opposite; the space is closed off by the beautiful Romanesque Colegiata de Santa Juliana (collegiate church). A visit to the church and its cloister is a highpoint of this walk. Finally, after the Colegiata you will find the Plaza de las Arenas, the most notable building being Velarde palace.

A visit to Santillana del Mar should start or finish with the Altamira Museum, next to the original Altamira cave. Just two kilometres away from the town centre, Altamira is one of the finest European examples of Upper Palaeolithic art.

Finally, Santillana boasts a small but prestigious zoo with a very wide range of wildlife. Its standout section is its ‘quaternary park’ of species that were widespread in Cantabria in the times of the Altamira settlers: bears, horses, bison, reindeer, wolves, capercaillie, lynx, and more.


Mexico – Historic and Colorful

An easy flight from many U.S. gateways, Mexico is a land of colorful contrasts and diverse pleasures. Here you can immerse yourself in historic city centers, relax at marvelous beach resorts, travel back in time at ancient ruins, witness the grandeur of whales in their natural habitat, and explore awe-inspiring canyons. Discover Mexico’s magic just south of the border.SUN AND SEA

Those seeking fun in the sun will find plenty of variety in Mexico. The Yucatan Pen­insula’s Caribbean shoreline features hotspot Cancun, the laid back islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, and the lovely beach resorts of Tulum, Playa del Car­men, and Xpu-Ha. On the Pacific coast, Acapulco beckons with its sublime bay, outstanding hotels, and round-the-clock energy while further north, you’ll find the charming beach village of Zihuatanejo and exceptional lodgings in neighboring Ixtapa.

ARCHEOLOGICAL WONDERS

Numerous archeological treasures left by centuries of pre-Hispanic civilizations attest to Mexico’s glorious past. Teotihuacan, near Mexico City, is famous for the pyramid-lined Avenue of the Dead featuring the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. Monte Alban is a signifi­cant Zapotec ceremonial center on a mountaintop overlooking the valley of Oaxaca. The Mayan ruins at Palenque in the state of Chiapas are dramatically positioned atop a tall ridge at the base of forested mountains. And Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and Ek Balam are impor­tant Mayan sites on the Yucatan Peninsula.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS Mexico is blessed with breath­taking natural beauty and wild­life, Head to the Baja California Peninsula (from January through March) to witness the majesty of the gray whale. An estimated 10,000 of these graceful crea­tures travel from the frigid Ber­ing Sea to mate and give birth to their calves in the warm Pacific waters. While there are many great viewing locations, the protected waters of El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve provide ideal conditions for both the whales and whale watchers.

Inland, magnificent Copper Canyon is a 6,487-square-mile network of canyons in the Sierra Tarahumara of Chihuahua. The Chihuahua to Pacific Railway leaves from Los Mochis on the Sea of Cortes and travels inland to Copper Canyon. The railway, an engineering feat with 39 bridges and 86 tunnels, traverses the canyon offering incredible vistas of pine forests, jagged peaks, and valleys before descending into the city of Chi­huahua. You can stay overnight at stops along the way to explore the dramatic terrain while hiking, horseback riding, and camping.


San Sebastian, The Arts

If we talk about contemporary art in San Sebastian, we must evoke the figure of Eduardo Chillida. The sculptor not only projected the image of La Concha far beyond our frontiers, but he has also made his work one of the most recognised icons of our geography. As a sample, the Peine del Viento (Wind Comb), his most beloved creation, and the perfect starting point for following the artist’s steps through the city. We can feel them in the Pico del Loro -where we can visit the tribute to Rafael Balerdi-, in La Concha Promenade -“Homenje a Fleming”-, in Mount Urgull -with Pedro Arana’s bust in one of its hills-, and in the two main churches, the Cathedral of El Buen Pastor and the Basilica of Santa Maria, exhibiting two of his crosses. The Chillida-Leku Museum, five kilometres from the city centre, is the last work by Eduardo Chillida when he was alive: a green space inhabited by his works where the visitor can ‘get lost’.

Other big artists like Jorge Oteiza also “exhibit” their works in the streets of San Sebastian: we can find his ‘Empty Construction’ in Paseo Nuevo, defying the rough sea, and on the outside fal of the San Vicente Church, located in the Old Town, we can enjoy the sculpture of La Pieta. In addition, the city also offers a wide range of art galleries and exhibition halls such as the Koldo Mitxelena Cultural Centre, an interesting rotating exhibition by new art stars, or the Kutxa Kubo Hall, offering a continuous programming of temporal exhibitions with international projection. This artistic tour can be completed with “Tabakalera” the International Centre of Contemporary Culture, located in the old tobacco factory, where we can enjoy exhibitions periodically.


Picasso Museum, Barcelona

The Museum Collection

The Museu Picasso of  Barcelona is the centre of information and background for the early years of learning of Pablo Picasso.

The history of the MuseuPicasso is a tribute to the artist’s express desire to leave his mark on Barcelona. That wish was materialised by the contribution of Jaume Sabartes, his close friend ever since their youth and personal secretary from 1935 onwards, as it was Sabartes who donated his own per­sonalcollectionof Picasso paintings to the city of Barcelona. In this way, he became the driving force behind the creation of a Museum Picasso in Barcelona, the first anywhere in the world and the only one created while Picasso was still alive.

On March 9, 1963, under the name of ‘The Sabartes Collec­tion; the museum officially opened its doors to the public in the Palau Aguilar. In 1970, Picasso himself donated nearly a thousand more works that had been kept in his family’s Barcelona residence. As a result, the City Council made available the Palace next door, the Castellet. These works, together with 58 magnificent paintings that go to make up the Las Meninas series -a hugely rich interpretative analysis of Velazquez’s famous work that Picasso had donated in the memory of Jaume Sabartes in 1968-, made the Museum Picasso of Barcelona the not-to-be-missed central point for anybody interested in knowing more about the artist’s work.

The Museum collections contain key works that mark the va­rious early times when Picasso was most intensely involved with the city of Barcelona, in exhaustive detail up to his Blue Period as well as works from other notable dates, such as the year 1917, when he visited Barcelona, accompanying Olga Khokhlova and the Russian ballets of Diaghilev. The Museum Picasso also offers an excellent series of engravings by the artist, while our ceramic section boasts 41 pieces created bet­ween 1947 and 1965, donated in 1982 by Jacqueline Roque.


Boly Mill – Childhood Home of Saint Bernadette

THE HOUSE WHERE BERNADETTE WAS BORN

The Boly Mill (so called after the name of the original owner) was, for a period of 10 years (1844-1854), a place of happiness for Bernadette Soubirous.  Now a Catholic Saint, Bernadette is the saint and visionary of Lourdes, France.  She lived here with her parents, her brothers and sister, and also with her grand­mother, her uncles, aunts and cousins.

THE RECEPTION AREA

The photos on display, depict the people of Lourdes in 1850 ; we see the civil, military and religious society of the time (the upper class), and the poo­rer people, millers, stonemasons, peasants and labourers (the lower class).

Our attention is drawn to two families : the Casterot family, who where mas­ter millers resident in the Boly Mill, and the Soubirous family, who where simple mill workers.

A marriage of love united these two families. Franpois loved Louise, in spite of the age difference between them, and in spite of local custom that deman­ded he marry Bernarde the eldest of the family. His love for Louise and their marriage flourished and endured in spite of all the problems.

It was a Christian family united in prayer, open to others, and full of cha­rity towards those less fortunate than themselves.

HOME AND BIRTHPLACE

On the upper floor :

Here is the room where Bernadette was born on January 7 1844. She was baptised two days later (January 9) the day of her parent’s wedding anniver­sary. There is another room where the memorabilia recall : family life at the Mill, its joys and sorrows, work, meals and prayer.

On the ground floor :

One room was used for everything and served as both kitchen and living room. By day, it was a living room and by evening a place of prayer. This was the Mill as it was known to Bernadette, the Mill whose millstones turned in the flow of the Lapacca river.

Bernadette lived the first ten years of her life in an atmosphere of love and faith. Since their marriage on the 9th January 1843 her parents lived happily together. It was during these years, in this loving atmosphere, that Bernadette began to acquire qualities of personal strength and to develop a balanced temperament. These qualities were later to help her weather the storms of her life. The good times gave way to a period of hard struggle. 1853 saw the beginning of this difficult period.

A number of things combined to make life difficult for the family, The indus­trial revolution with its introduction of steam mills, a time of great drought in the region, the family’s great generosity towards the poor and their reluc­tance to force debtors to settle their accounts, were all factors which ultima­tely endangered the future of the family business.

In the Spring of 1854, the family were unable to pay the rent and were thus forced to move to a cheaper mill.

In 1855, a cholera epidemic swept through Lourdes killing 38 people in five weeks. As a result of this epidemic Bernadette herself was to suffer chro­nic asthma for the rest of her life. This was a painful hardship for one so full of life. The epidemic also forced the family to seek yet a cheaper mill to rent. This time they were forced to leave Lourdes and go to Arcizac.

In 1856 famine struck the area and the government distributed free flour. This meant bankruptcy for the Master Miller Soubirous who now found him­self looking for work and was often unemployed. Bernadette’s mother, although she had four children, two having died very young, was forced to go out and work. Bernadette herself worked as a waitress in a local Inn. It was thus impossible for Bernadette to go to school or to receive any formal religious education.

In 1857, the family were unable to pay any rent at all and were forced to seek accomodation in the Old Jail « The Cachot » (a place you should also visit). On March 27th, Franqois Soubirous was wrongly accused of having stolen a bag of flour and was put in jail for a week. Then in November so as to decrease « the number of mouths to be fed », Bernadette was sent as a housemaid to a farm in Bartres where in the evenings she minded the chil­dren and during the day she tended the sheep. She stayed at Bartres till January 1858 just three weeks before the Apparitions.

Bernadette was able to endure this decline in social standards, and this whole series of setbacks and failures, because she found in the family (father and mother, brothers and sister, godfather and godmother, aunts and cou­sins) a stable environment, a family whose love was stronger than misfortune.