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San Sebastian,Spain

November 15, 2009

San Sebastian, Exploring the Inland

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We travel to the territory’s interior, to the highest landscapes and villages in Gipuzkoa, separated from San Sebastian by thirty kilometres, The Oria Valley has traditionally been the main communication axis between the North and the South; that is the reason why the N-I road is our particular guide in this journey. We do not need tc drive a lot to get to Tolosa, a highly noble town that, in the 19th century, was the capital town of Gipuzkoa during ten years. Before that time, it had already shown enough signs of its importance the Baroque palaces (Idiaquez, At4do…), the Gothic church of Santa Maria, or the precious arcaded structure of El Tinglado Market, on the banks of the Oria River. It would be an excellent idea to visit Tolosa on a Saturday morning, when we can enjoy the busy and colourful public market.

If you want to experience the same feeling in Ordizia, you should visit this town on a Wednesday: the market has been held for almost five centuries in the heart of the historic quarter, a Historic-Artistic Site. The palaces of Barrena and Zabala or the streets through which Fray Andres de Urdaneta, a 16th century seafarer, will say goodbye to us before leaving to Beasain. Now we are on the epicentre of the Goerri region, under the influence of magic Aralar Mountain Range and with the reference of the sharp summit of Mount Txindoki. The Igartza Site is the biggest monumental treasure in this place and the perfect key to travel to medieval Gipuzkoa, whether crossing the 12th century bridge, observing the mill working, or enjoying the stone and wood structure of the Igartza Palace.

We will get to Idiazabal, famous for the cheese -an Interpretation Centre explains the making process-, and we will drive to Segura through the GI-2637 road. The roots of this town are in the 13th century, the birth of one of the most graceful and beautiful villages in the territory. The small palaces (Lardizabal, Guevara, Ardixarra…) and the narrow streets are unique in Gipuzkoa, as well as the nearby Zerain Cultural Park. This town has been always related to iron ore mining and other activities closely linked to Anna Lur, Mother Earth. Going through Mutlloa, we get to Ormaiztegi, where we can visit the Zumalakarregi Museum. Located in the building in which the Carlist general Tomas Zumalacarregui was born, the museum reviews the life of this famous personality, as well as the 19th century Basque Country.


Burgos,Spain

November 12, 2009

Burgos in Castile and Leon

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The province of Burgos is situa­ted in the north-east of the community of Castile and Leon and has occupied a privileged place in Spanish history.

Nature has been generous with Burgos, providing it with an extremely varied landscape where we can discover high hills, bleak uplands, fertile meadows and riverbanks and northern green valleys. Several of the most outstanding Burgalese landscapes are protected within the Network of Natural Spaces of Castile and Leon: in the north of the province the karstic complex of Ojo Guareria, the Obarenes Mounts and the Orduna Pass. The Natural Park of the Sierra of Demanda to the East, the canyon of the river Lobos to the south and the Natural space of Yecla near to Santo Domingo de Silos. This natural wealth means that many outdoor sports can be practiced such as skiing, canoeing, climbing, hiking, rafting, horse-riding, etc. Hunting and fishing are especially important in our province.

The Historical-Artistic Heritage is copious and extremely varied: from the site of Atapuerca where the oldest human remains in Europe were found, the different cultures and peoples have left their legacy in the capital and pro­vince. We can find prehistoric paintings, Celtiberian forts, the Roman city of Clunia and the town of Banos de Valdearados, the Visigothic hermitage of Quintanilla de las Was and Romanesque art of exceptional quality distributed throughout the province. Gothic art can be seen at its best in the Cathedral of Burgos, but there are also important examples in the capital and province. There are also some outstanding Renaissance and Baroque monuments.

Both legendary and live names in popular tradition are associated with the history of Burgos, such as El Cid Campeador, Count Fernan Gonzalez or the Seven Infantes of Lara. The traditio­nal festivities show the wealth of Burgalese folklore. We can highlight the festivities of “El Colacho” in Castrillo de Murcia; the day of the Penas (clubs) during the patron saint festivities of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Burgos and the festivity of San Juan del Monte in Miranda de Ebro, all of which have been declared of tourist interest.

Apart from the great natural and cultural heritage, Burgos has, over the years, always welcomed and fed the traveler. The accommodation offer is extensive: from modern and comforta­ble hotels to guest-houses, camping sites and rural accommodations, in order to satisfy the demands of our visitors. Gastronomy is worth a separate men­tion, two products have the name “Burgos”, black pudding and cheese, but the exquisite lamb, game, meat and vegetable stew (olla podrida), mediaeval lentils, pork products, etc. must also be included. In the many bars and restau­rants, the visitor will have the chance to taste these dishes. The excellent wine of Ribera del Duero is the compulsory accompaniment.

 THE CAPITAL

Situated between the old Castle and the Arlazon River, Burgos is a city which has known how to preserve its personality.

The marvelous Cathedral, decla­red Heritage of Humanity, dominates the town with its open-work spires.

The Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas, a Cystercian monastery and pantheon of the kings and queens of Castile, the Cartuja (monastery) of Miraflores with masterpieces by Gil de Siloe and the mediaeval churches of San Lesmes, San Gil, San Nicolas and Santa Agueda, among others, preserve mas­terpieces of sculpture and Gothic and Renaissance painting.

There are also palaces such as the House of Cordon and the House of Miranda and old pilgrim hospitals, such as “del Rey” or San Juan, which are testi­monies of the city’s historical importan­ce on the Road to Santiago.

The Museum of Burgos must be visited in order to discover the heritage of Burgos and its province.

The riverbanks of the Arlazon and the large city parks add the counterpoint to the extensive cultural heritage.


San Sebastian,Spain

October 31, 2009

San Sebasitan, Festivals & Fiestas

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 The Feria-Theatre Fair San Sebastian is an unavoidable event for the Performing Arts sector. July is the month of instrumental rhythm. Every year the Jazzaldia – International Jazz Festival, presents a brilliant and complete programme.

The good turnout at the Kursaal tickets offices around the time of the Quincena Musical (musical fortnight) demonstrate the love that the Donostiarran people feel for symphonic music. Concerts involving major musical artists and renowned orchestras bring together both old and young; the “no more tickets available” sign is inevitably displayed.

But the great cultural date which the city looks forward to with enormous anticipation every September is the International Film Festival. On those days the theatres overflow with spectators during morning, afternoon and night, and the city fills up with stars.

Another festival that is growing year by year is the Horror and Fantasy Film Festival that, with other activities, completes a year full of cultural events for all tastes. 

The festive calendar is inaugurated by the popular tamborrada, which takes place on January 20th, the Day of San Sebastian, the patron saint of the city. The fiesta starts on the previous night with dinners out in restaurants or gastronomi societies. At midnight the city’s flag is hoisted in the Constitucion Square to the rhythm of the San Sebastian march. In the morning an army of 5.000 children dressed as drummers take part in the children’s parade.

February marks the celebration of Carnival, the most important fiesta of the winter period. Carnival is announced by the riotous tinkers who, as the popular song goes, “come from Hungary”. The band of inudes and artzaias cavorting alongside (nannies and shepherds) recalls their entourage. And finally the Carnival fills the streets with colour, ushered in by the appearance of the God Momo.

The arrival of summer is marked by the festivities of June 23rd, the eve of the solstice, with the blessing of the Tree of St John in the Constitucion Square. This is followed by a performance of the traditional Basque dance aurresku and at midnight bonfires are lit throughout the city. Later on in the summer comes the principal fiesta of Donostia, the Semana Grande, which celebrates the festival of the Virgen de la Asuncion (Virgin of the Assumption) and takes place throughout the whole of the week of August 15th. A packed programme of street parties, performances and cultural and sporting events fill the day. But the most incomparable event takes place at night: The International Fireworks Competition.

In September, the feast comes with the Euskal Jaiak and their complete festive programme including sports and dances. It immerses the city into a big popular celebration. On the two first Sundays of the month, the celebration will be completed with La Concha Flag, the main rowing boats competition of the Cantabrian Coast.

Bringing the year to an end, the Santo Tomas fair, held on December 215t, is one of the most keenly anticipated of Donostia events. The fiesta commemorates the old market which used to be held in San Sebastian, when the farmers and ranchers of the province used to come down to the capital to pay their taxes and display the best of their produce.


Cantabria,Spain

October 25, 2009

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, Spain

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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.


Cantabria,Spain

October 6, 2009

Garabandal – Star on the Mountain

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San Sebastian de Garabandal, situated in one of the most remote corners of Cantabria Spain, is a place of wonder.  Here we present the first ever GPS mapping of the significant sites in San Sebastian de Garabandal:

Parish Church:  N43.20142 W4.42403

Site of the Miracle of the Host:  N43.20069 W4.42257

Conchita Gonzalez’ childhood home:  N43.20047 W4.42251

Ancient Fountain:  N43.20038 W4.42245

Start of the Path to the Pines:  N43.20020 W4.42383

Site of 1st apparition of St. Michael the Archangel:  N43.20006 W4.42381

Site of 1st apparition of the Virgin Mary at Garabandal:  N43.19981 W4.42396

Rock of St. Michael the Archangel:  N43.19928 W4.42442

The Pines:  N43.19842 W4.42440

GARABANDAL

This is a small village in northern Spain, in the Santander province, its full name is San Sebastian of Garabandal. No more than 300 people live in Garabandal. The town is impressively quiet. There is no doctor in the town and no resident pastor at the parish church. The pastor from Cosio used to celebrate Mass there on Sunday.

In the evening of June 18, 1961, four girls were playing on the outskirts of the town – Conchita Gonzalez, Maria Dolores (Mariloli) Mazon, Jacinta Gonzalez and Maria Cruz Gonzalez – not related despite having the same name. Maria Cruz was eleven, the others twelve, and all were from poor families.

Suddenly they heard a loud noise, like thunder, and saw before them the bright figure of the Archangel Michael. On the following days the Archangel appeared to them again in the same place. He announced that on July 2 they would see Our Lady. This was the beginning of the Garabandal events.

OUR LADY OF CARMEL

The news spread quickly through the region. July 2 was a Sunday and the town was crowded. At six in the evening the girls went to the place where the Angel had appeared, and to the surprise of the crowd they entered into ecstasy. Our Lady appeared to them accompanied by two angels, one being St. Michael. The girls described the vision as follows:

“She is dressed in a white robe with a blue mantle and a crown of golden stars. Her hands are slender. There is a brown scapular on her right arm, except when she carried the Child Jesus in her arms. Her hair, deep nut-brown, is parted in the centre. Her face is long, with a fine nose. Her mouth is very pretty with lips a bit thin. She looks like a girl of eighteen. She is rather tall. There is no voice like hers. No woman is just like her, either in the voice or the face or anything else.” Our Lady Manifested herself as Our Lady of Carmel.

At times the wind rustled her long hair which reached down to her waist. The girls spoke with the Virgin with the utmost naturalness. “We were telling her, “they said, “about our tasks, how we were going to the meadows…” and “She smiled at the little things we told her.” Our Lady showed them how to treat her: “Like children who speak with their mother and tell her everything… Children who rejoice to see her when they have not seen her for a while.”

MORE APPARITIONS

After this first apparition there were many more. During 1961 and 1962 Our Lady appeared several times each week. The four girls did not always receive the apparition together. Sometimes only one, other times two or three of them saw the vision. Nor was it always at the same hour of the day. Our Lady appeared many times at night and even early in the morning, in an attitude of sacrifice and penance, at the same hours when Our Lord is most offended by the sins of men. Even so, the girls would arise the following morning, as early as usual, to work in the fields, carrying bundles of grass or wood, or tending the cattle and sheep, without showing signs of fatigue.


San Sebastian,Spain

October 4, 2009

San Sebastian, The Arts

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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.


San Sebastian,Spain

September 29, 2009

Tapas and Pintxos in San Sebastian

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Pintxos, the pleasure of tiny food

It emerged as a simple and tasty way of killing time before having lunch or dinner. This custom was called “ir de pintxos” (go for some tapas) and, as time went by, it evolved, became sophisticated, and reached our days as a distinguishing mark of gastronomy not only in San Sebastian, but in the whole Basque Country. At present, the pintxo is not only for misleading our stomachs, but it goes far beyond, as we can see in the many bars and taverns of the city. Eating standing up has never been such a pleasure. From Spanish omelet or the traditional “gilda” (a hot, spicy kebab­type snack named in honour of Rita Hayworth and made with chili pepper, anchovy and olive), nowadays we can enjoy more complex and succulent recipes, giving place to the so-called miniature cuisine that is essentially tasted in the bars of the Old Town, the City Centre, the Gros Quarter, and other areas in San Sebastian. The dish diversity is endless and impossible to summarise in few lines: in order to know the idiosyncrasy you must visit the bars, brimming with gastronomy delights and, above all, being carried away. A piece of advice: do not forget the number of tapas you have eaten; you will be asked.


,Burgos,Spain

September 23, 2009

The Cathedral of Burgos

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An admirable and glorious work of christian art. It was founded by King Fernando III the Saint and Bishop D. Mauricio. On July 20, 1221 they placed the first stone. Nine years later they celebrated the first mass; and forty years later, they consecrated it. Its works lasted, appro­ximately, about 400 years.

There is not any news of the first architect. It is attributed to the master Enrique, followed by Juan Perez and Pedro Sanchez.

The Cathedral is dedicated to the mystery of the Ascent of the Virgin to Heaven. It can be seen that Burgos was one of the first cities in the world that de­dicated their Cathedrals to this mystery.

Already in the XI century, when the Cid was departing for his exile, upon saying good-bye to Burgos, asked for the protection from the Virgin calling her Glorious Saint Mary. This trial that the old romanic Cathedral, which Alfonso VI ordered to be built, was also dedicated to the Ascent.

This Cathedral was sadly destroyed in order to level the ground and build on top the actual one. Until now there do not exist any other memories than some dis­played spires in the cloister, found in the excavations which were made upon installing the heating.


Barcelona,Spain

September 22, 2009

Picasso Museum, Barcelona

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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.


San Sebastian,Spain

September 19, 2009

San Sebastian, Night Life

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San Sebastian has three essential night leisure areas, each one with its own identity. If you want to enjoy San Sebastian at night, you can do it at weekends, although Thursday nights have been livened up in the last years thanks to the foreign students of the Erasmus Programme. One of the busiest places is the Old Town, which never seems to rest. Throughout the day, it is the place for the txikiteros-groups of friends going from bar to bar drinking small wine glasses- and, at night, it becomes a lively area with bars of all kinds and condition. The Reyes Catholics Street, located behind the Cathedral of El Buen Pastor, hides the chicest part, with modern places and bolder music proposals. Likewise, the young Gros Quarter is a place with scattered bars for those who like more relaxed and intimate atmospheres.

Some of the main pubs in San Sebastian are the classic Dioni’s, La Kabutzia -located in the highest part of the Real Club Nautico de San Sebastian-, the Museo del Whisky-with live piano concerts-, the Wimbledon Pub -next to the Peine del Viento (Wind Comb)-, the Sheraton Discotheque-calm surroundings and good music every day till the early hours-, Stick Cocktails -specialised in exotic drinks, in Errenteria-, or the ZM Zurriola Maritimo, for those who want to enjoy the night near Zuriola Beach. The discos Bataplan and La Rotonda -both with excellent views over La Concha Bay­are perfect for welcoming the new day after a dancing night, while the Rio Cabaret is a classic for the daring ones.