Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Explore Spain by Car - 4 great drives around Spain

Spain is a country of spectacular scenery, colourful, vibrant culture and wondrous variety with its array of energetic cities, sleepy coastal towns and charming, picturesque mountainous villages. Spain is incredibly diverse, so it’s well worth taking the time to explore as much of the country as you can during your stay, as every stop on your trip is likely to offer something new and unique. Driving in Spain is one way to explore its true diversity.

For a true sense of freedom and independence, hiring a car and road-tripping around Spain is highly recommended, as this gives you absolute autonomy over your itinerary, putting you – literally – in the driving seat during your trip!

Allow the recommended routes below to inspire you to plan your first road trip around the beautiful country of Spain…

  1. The Cinco Villas

If colourful history, stunning architecture and an insight into traditional, authentic Spain are your thing, this 90 kilometre drive will not disappoint. You can begin your journey either at Tauste and heading north, stopping at the villages of Ejea de los Caballeros, Sábada, Uncastillo and Sos del Ray Católico respectively, or complete the route heading from south to north. Either way, these five historic villages offer a plethora of medieval castles and churches, Roman ruins, mausoleums and markets, and allow ample opportunity to immerse yourself in the fascinating history and architectural beauty of Spain.

2. Drive from Vielha to Esterri d’Aneu

The 42 kilometre drive from the small Pyrenean city of Vielha to the charming town of Esterri d’Aneu will expose you to the dramatic, awe-inspiring Pyrenees mountain range, which is, arguably, one of the most naturally beautiful areas of Spain. The route takes drivers over the Bonaigua Pass, and the views throughout this journey are nothing short of postcard-perfect. The endless mountains and surrounding national parks make this area of Spain ideal for nature-loves and hikers alike, and both Vielha and Esterri d’Aneu make ideal bases for those looking to immerse themselves in Spain’s Great Outdoors.

3. The Basque Coast

The great thing about driving the coastline of Spain’s Basque Country is you can start just about anywhere, drive in any direction, and hit places worth seeing. Being on the coast, there’s no shortage of beautiful beaches, dramatic, rugged cliffs and charming coastal villages to see, so be the master of your own destiny and go with your instincts on where to stop!
For inspiration, the coastal city of San Sebastian is one of northern Spain’s most popular destinations, boasting a lively atmosphere, delightful urban beach and array of historical landmarks, while the charming fishing villages of Getaria and Lekeitio provide relaxing, laid-back bases for exploration of the coast.

4. Valle del Jerte

Following the Rio Jerte (Jerte River) along the N110 for approximately 70 kilometres will allow you views of the Jerte Valley and surrounding rural, mountainous area, unique and beautiful due to the spectacular vision of cherry blossom trees blanketing the area every spring – but only for a short period of time though, so factor this in to your plan! The Jerte Valley is perfect for hiking and exploring Spain’s natural beauty, and for those looking to make the most of the weather and the stunning open spaces and try a variety of outdoor activities, including quad biking, horse riding and mountain biking.

Friday, 4 July 2014

A walk around the perfect Andalucian town of Ronda

Photograph Clspeace

Spend a day exploring the history of the beautiful white washed village of Ronda on the Costa del Sol. Ronda is a small, charming village with stunning architecture and history and is easily navigated on foot. The following walking tour highlights the most popular Ronda sights and can be done in one day with a leisurely stroll.

Ronda is most famous for its bullring, built in the 18th century. The oldest and most revered bullring in all of Spain, it is best to begin your walking tour at the Plaza de Toros. Tour the plaza and visit the bullfight museum (Museo Taurino) to learn about Pedro Romero, said to have killed over 6,000 bulls, and other famous matadors as well as famous spectators.
After this, journey across the triple arched New Bridge (Puente Nuevo) into the old town. Completed in 1793, this bridge spans the Tajo gorge and offers spectacular views. There is a museum and the bridge that provides detailed insight into its construction and history. From here, visit the Mondragon Palace (Palacio de Mondragon) built in 1314. Home to many kings throughout the centuries, this stunning palace is full of history and beautiful Moorish architecture. Tour St. Mary’s Church (Iglesia de Santa Maria la Mayor), the city’s original mosque. This elegant church has been declared a national monument and the elaborate interior is well preserved.  Next, visit the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento), Church of the Holy Ghost (Iglesia del Espiritu Santo) and the gateway and walls to the original 13th century city for a fascinating glimpse into the history and traditions of this beautiful village. For wine lovers, a stop at the Museum of Wine is a must. Tracing the history of winemaking from Neolithic times to modern day, the museum offers a fascinating journey of Ronda wine.

One of these unique paradors is located in the centre of Ronda, located some 60 kms north west from Marbella on the Costa del Sol. It was formerly the cities Town Hall and is located right next to the Puente Nuevo, one of Southern Spain's most visited national monuments, and if you visit Ronda you will immediately understand why it is such a popular desitnation for visitors to the area. The views out from the hotels are stunning, specially if your room looks directly down to the bottom of the gorge some 120 meters below. 

Local cuisine is always on offer at every Parador around Spain and the Parador de Ronda one is no exception, here you will find quality elaborated dishes such as “ajo blanco” a cold garlic soup, “Conejo a la Rodeña” a rabbit and almond soup, one of my favourites is “ Salmorejo” a thicker type of Gaspacho soup topped off with local olive oil and cured jam.

Continue your walking tour with a stroll across the Old Bridge, also known as the Arab Bridge, into the northern part of the Ronda village. Visit the Felipe V arch, one of the main doors of the old town and the 11th century Arab Baths. According to Muslim custom during this time, people must be cleansed before entering the city and this bath was built near the city entrance. This bath is one of the most well preserved baths in all of Europe. You may choose to view a short video explaining the ancient water systems of the Bath.

Wander down the narrow streets and stop for lunch at the local favorite, Cafe Bar Bodega San Francisco, for an authentic Andalusian dining experience. Enjoy a drink at one of the tiny bars or visit one of the many tapas bars before returning to the bullring.  

If time permits, visit the Plaza del Campillo, for a walk down a zigzag trail into the Tajo gorge. Massive cliffs and a seemingly bottomless chasm provide magnificent scenery and awesome photo opportunities.  

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Noche de San Juan - One of Spain`s best beach parties

Spain´s beaches where full again last night with excited families enjoying a night of fun for the Noche de San Juan, one of Spain`s best loved summer beach festivals.

This ancient pagan festival pays tribute to the summer solstice, and was named after  John The Baptist  and dates back over 5000 . Although not on the mainstream Spanish fiesta calendar it is one of the most celebrated nights in the whole year.

The Noche de San Juan is  a chance for everyone of all nationalities,  young and old, families, visitors and tourists alike to get together in a relaxed atmosphere en enjoy each others friendly company. Bonfires are made, big and small, beach parties are arranged, dancing and fun is had by all, barbeques are lovingly prepared  and lit and the smell of fish and meat waft along the coastline tempting passers by to enjoy the fun and try some a plate of fresh sardines or perhaps marinated pork on skewers ( Brochetas ).

The noche de San Juan is celebrated on the night of the 23rd June all over Spain,  and it is believed that being close to the fires will purify you from any misdeeds that have occurred during the year leaving you free for the coming year of any burdens.
Traditional  requires that you jump over the fire three times to be purified, this is mostly left to the younger generation who revel in clearing the burning embers and landing safely on the sand the other side, great fun to watch.

Most town halls, specially those located along in the popular tourism resorts will also put on extra activities such as live music and fantastic firework displays which usually commence around mid night.

The Noche de San Juan is a fun filled Spanish fiesta which all family members can enjoy.