VALENCIA, SPAIN: THE CITY OF ARTS & SCIENCES

A comfortable train ride to Valencia from Barcelona was 3 hours and 30 minutes ride for a measly 45.

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Located on the east coast of Spain, Valencia is its 3rd largest city after Madrid and Barcelona. The city boasts of its Ciudad De Las Artes Y Las Ciencias buildings – The City of Arts and Sciences. It was completed in 1996.

The City of Arts and Sciences is an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex in the city of Valencia, Spain. It is the most important modern tourist destination in the city.

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My favorite building of all in Valencia is the Banco de Valencia building that stands out  at the end of the Carrer de les Barques. Completed in 1942, the structure represents a mix of Beaux-Arts and Art Deco style.BANCO DE VALENCIA

Other remarkable buildings that utilizes and follow the trend of either Beaux-Arts or Art Deco style are as follows:

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Below are two friezes that represents the art deco style of ornamentation that most represent what is seen in buildings in Valencia.

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Two water fountains that are impressive in style are as follows.

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The above water fountain is welcoming as its sprays cools the hot air in mid-summer Valencia.

The water fountain  as shown below is quite impressive from a distance.13

At Closer inspection, however, the fountain is quite a disappointment. It has been turned into a pissoir and the smell of urine that reeks to high heavens is proof enough of how the residents of the city treated this site.12

Valencia is without ancient buildings as it is as old as the other Spanish cities. It was founded as a Roman Colony around in the year 138 B.C. There are a few ancient buildings that had survived the passing of time. Such an example is the Basilica de La Vigen de Los Desanparados built around the 1400’s. The church houses the statue of Our Lady of the Forsaken  and is the patroness of the city of Valencia.32 BASÍLICA DE LA VIRGEN DE LOS DESAMPARADOS - BAROQUE

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The Statue of the Virgen de los Desamparados.

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The pictures above is the Iglesia de San Lorenzo. It was built in the 13th century and is  located at Placa de Sant Llorenc.

Below is The Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia or better known in Spain as Iglesia Catedral-Basílica Metropolitana de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de Valencia, alternative known as St.Mary;s Cathedral was completed in and around 1238. The church is built in Gothic style of architecture but has Romanesque Baroque and Neo-Classical elements. 33 Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia

Valencia can be said to be calmer and slower than the frenetic pace of Madrid and Barcelona. Below is a street scene where locals are seen to relax on a Sunday afternoon.15

 

LA PEDRERA – BARCELONA, SPAIN

CASA MILA

Previously called Casa Mila and, named after Pere Mila who had it commissioned, it was  the last residence designed by Antoni Gaudi. The building was started in 1906 and was completed in 1912. What is unique about this building is that Antoni Gaudi relied on organic shapes in designing the outside and the interior of the building including the decorative shapes and forms that are all over the building.

 

Façana Pedrera

 

The above view of La Pedrera was taken an upper floor of a building across the street. La Pedrera was built on a continuous curve all around outside and inside of the building. It is one of the finest example of a Spanish Modernisme or Art Noveau architecture in Spain today.

 

4. FACADE

A view of the decorative balconies that seems to be made of wrought iron as it taken from above the street level.

 

5. HALLWAY & DECORATIVE GATEThe above image is one of the entrances to building with a rather ornate gate.

 

6. STAIRS

A rather ornate stairs leading to the upper levels of the building. Some of the decorative features of the wrought iron railing mimics the form and shape of the gate as shown above.

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9. SUPPORTING PILLAR WITH DECORATIVE CEILING

Decorative ceiling of the La Pedrera and a supportive column with carvings from the ground level of the building.

 

10. THE ATTIC

There were areas of La Pedrera that were not open to the public as they are apartments and inhabited. Rooms that are inhabited by tenant. Once I reached the attic, I was confronted with a dark cavernous space that also feature exhibits (sadly the images are lost as I took the pictures with my cellphone that was stolen from me while I was at a store buying water). One wends around the cavernous room to reach the entrance to the -5+6rooftop that offers a garden of beautiful sculptures.

 

The following images are the Rooftop Sculptures of La Pedrera by Antoni Gaudi.11. SCUPLTURE1

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17. SCULPTURE718. SCUPTURE8

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25. LA PEDRERA AT NIGHT

La Pedrera at night located at 92, Passeigh De Gracia, a rather busy street lined with Boutiques, Cafes and Restaurants.

SAGRADA FAMILIA – THE ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF BARCELONA

It has been over 30 years since I have been in Barcelona and it has grown stronger as a melting pot of different races. One has only to walk around Las Ramblas to witness the thousands of people who have come from different parts of the world to have a taste of Spanish culture.

One of the major attractions in this Spanish City is the Basilica known all over the world as the Sagrada Famila. Officially known in Spanish as Templo Expiatorio De La Sagrada, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, a Roman Catholic Church that is shaped like a Latin Cross. There is no known church or building like the Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia is a unique and a grand masterpiece that is located in the heart of  Barcelona.IMG_0663

The monumental church is dedicated to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, or the Holy Family, which the church has derived its name. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are  considered the most important saintly figures in all of the Catholic pantheon.Construction of this magnificent church was started in 1882 under architect Paula de Villar who resigned a year later. Antoni Gaudi, a Catalan Architect, took over as the Chief Architect. Gaudi‘s artistic vision was a mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau, with curvilinear forms, which is how the Basilica appears today. 

 

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The church‘s construction history is not replete with changes. Historical background of the church records more than a few obstructions of its construction. These include the death of Gaudi in 1926 with only about 25 percent of the church complete; an interruption of work during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 which had caused the destruction of Gaudi‘s plans and workshop by the Catalan Anarchists and, in 2011, an arsonist started a fire in the sacristy. Despite all of these unfortunate events construction of the Basilica continues today under the direction of Jodi Fauli as Chief Architect. It is expected that the Basilica will be complete in 2026. 

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The Church has three important facades: The first is the Nativity Facade which faces east.

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The Passion Facade is well oriented facing west. IMG_0881

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The Glory Facade faces south.

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The images below are full of symbolism. The symbol that they represent can be best explained by someone well versed with the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the lives they led.

There are architectural details that can escape the eye and can only be appreciated if one is up at the observation tower. The following can then be seen up close from that vantage point.

As one enters the church from its eastern entrance, one could not miss the colorful bronze door of the Portal of Charity of the Nativity facade. The door was created by the Japanese Sculptor Etsuro Soto. Inspired by nature, Etsuro Soto  adorned the door with Flowers, Ivy leaves and insects.

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While standing on the middle of the central nave, one eyes pans upward on the large columns to reveal the most magnificent vaulted ceiling. The design was intended to mimic trees and reveals Gaudi’s love of nature.

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A crucified Christ is suspended from the ceiling with a decorative umbrella over it.

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The stained glass windows are central to Gaudi’s design to allow natural light to illuminate the interior of the church. The impressive stained glass windows are as high as a two story building and stands for some christian symbolism. The window at the transept area represents the Resurrection of Christ while others represent different saints and religious figures.

 

 

 

One of interest is a holy water font that is attached to a wall. The font is a big sea shell and the information about it reveals that it was donated by the Philippine Government. I did not notice whether there are more of this sea shell but I must admit that I have not seen anything like it in size.

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There are more beautiful and artistic impressions that are woven with religious symbols that are in this magnificent church. Photographic images, such as in this page, do no render them justice. One may only appreciate the beauty of the vision of Antoni Gaudi by visiting the church in person. I hope you do.

 

 

 

ZARAGOZA, SPAIN

Merely a one hour and fifteen minute ride by Renfe train, Zaragoza is a quieter city than Madrid or Barcelona. It also takes another a maximum of two hours train ride to Barcelona.

This ancient city, founded around 25 BC, has three most notable ancient landmarks: The Basilica De Nuestra Senora Del Pilar, La Seo and the Aljaferia.

The Basilica De Nuestra Del Pilar, decidated to the Virgin Mary. It is claimed that the Basilica had a more simple origin as a small chapel built by St. James, one of the Apostles of Christ around 40 A.D. The church has gone through reconstructions and architectural changes through the centuries from Romanesque to the its present Mudejar Baroque  form.

FRONTAL FACADE OF THE BASILICA

Among the impressive exterior features of this church are its seven mini-domes around a central dome. Each of the mini-domes are covered with tiles of  yellow, blue, green and white lending a Byzantine air to its over-all appearance.

The church is flank by four towers on each corner.

 

 

 

3. BELL TOWER

THE BELL TOWER OF THE BASILICA DEL PILAR

The two aisles, flanking the central nave, are darkened as devotees stand in devotional contemplation in front of the numerous chapels along the sides of the Basilica.IMG_0390_2

The vaulted ceiling is a lavish display of the ornamentation of Baroque design is evident with the use of ribbons, cherubims, the use of light and shadow and dramatic embelishments.

4. VAULT & PILARS

The pillars are massive and are expressions of faux finishing to make them look as if they were made of marble.

5. PILLARS

The Basilica is the center piece of the Plaza Del Pilar which is always buzzing with tourists and locals.

IMG_03817. THE PLAZA

8. THE PLAZA

The La Iglesia La Maria Magdalena is a classic example of the Mudejar Architecture Santa Magdalena Church. Mudejar Architecture is a Gothic form with Islamic influence. It became prominent in Spain around the 12th Century A.D.

9. A PART OF THE LA IGLESIA DE LA MARIA MAGDALENA IN ZARAGOZA, SPAIN UNDERGOING RECONSTRUCTION. NOTE THE MUDEJAR DETAILING OF THE CHURCH.

The Iglesia De Santa Maria Magdalene was built sometime around the early 14th century. As shown above, it has a distinct tower that mimics an Almohad style minaret. It is located at Plaza de la Magdalena, a stone throw away from the Plaza Del Pilar.

10. SANTA MAGDALENA CHURCH

Another special ancient building with its Gothic-Mudejar tower is the Iglesia De San Pablo. It sits close to large mythical god water fountain on one end of the Plaza del Pilar.

11. IGLESIA DE SAN PABLO

Another structure of Gothic-Mudejar style is the tower of the Iglesia de San Pablo which can be seen behind the building in the forefront in the above photograph. The tower is octagonal in shape with Moorish design details. This building is merely a few steps from one of the end of the busy plaza.

Not far from the Plaza is the Cathedral de San Salvador or better known as the La Seo.

12. THE CATEDRAL DE SAN SALVADOR OR LA SEO

The northwest facade of the church is in Mudejar design in dark brickwork and colorful ceramic decorations in geometric patterns.

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The most interesting part of the church is its collection of 14th and 17th century Flemish and French Tapestries housed in its Museo De Tapices. The tapestries are massive in size and some cover an entire wall and from the ceiling down to the floor. Photographing the tapestries is not allowed but below are scanned images from the catalogue of the museum and from a postcard.

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Below is a section of one of the tapestries showing more of a close-up detail of the beautiful art. 16. TAPESTRIES

Back at the Plaza, one cannot miss the massive water fountain that has a statue of mythical water God sitting naked. The size of the statue is quite impressive.

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On the south end of the plaza are statues dedicated to Goya.

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Not far from the above statues is the Museo De Goya. The statues and the Museum are a fitting tribute to an artist who spent a good number of years as a resident of Zaragoza.

24. MUSEO DE GOYA

On the east end of the plaza is the La Lonja, which was intended as a trading exchange building in the 16th century. It is now an exhibition hall. La Lonja architectural design is purely Renaissance in style.

LA LONJA

The vaulted ceiling of the La Lonja makes it one of a kind.

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The Mercado Central in Zaragoza was built 122 years ago and still bustles with activity with the usual assortment of meat, fruit and vegetables for the taking.

 

27. THE MERCADO CENTRAL OF ZARAGOZA WAS BUILT 122 YEARS AGO

The following images are taken from the top of an observation point a short distance from the Plaza Del Pilar.

28. DOMES

The above image is the rooftop of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora Del Pilar. The small domes surround the central dome seen on the background. The smaller domes are covered in Blue, Green, Yellow and White tiles reminiscent of Byzantine art form.

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31. BELL TOWER

The Basilica is flanked by four bell towers on each corner.

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The central dome of the Basilica.

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The image below is the rooftop of an unidentified building in the same area.

34. ANOTHER ROOFTOP

 

A DAY IN SEGOVIA, SPAIN

Segovia is better known for its magnificent Aquaducto and the city and the Aquaducto were declared a Unesco World Heritage in the mid 1980‘s. 

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This marvel of ancient engineering work was built by the Romans around the 1st century A.D. The Aquaducto has a span of 15 km and was constructed to transport water into the city from a river from the mountain about 17 km away.

The Aqueducto reaches its highest point at 93 ft. and is simply a magnificent piece of ancient architecture.

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Among the ancient treasures of Segovia is the CATEDRAL DES DE SAN MIGUEL that sits at the center of the Plaza de Mayor. It is the same church where Isabel was crowned queen of Castille. This cathedral is symbolic of Spain‘s position as one of the strong bastion of Catholicism in the ancient times. 

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The interior of this Gothic church is of white walls and stone vaulting. The original cathedral was built near the alcazar and was transferred to its present location.

The impressive bell tower reaches a height of about 90 meters.

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The church boasts of stone ribbed vaultings.

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There are numerous chapels and altars inside the church in honor of saints and previous priests and bishops.

THE VAULTED CEILING OF THE CATEDRAL DE SEGOVIA

 

 

The church has numerous altars and chapels housing icons and statues honoring saints and of persons of religious importance of the ancient times.

 

 

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The above statue is one of the Famous saints from Avila, Santa Teresa De Avila, considered a prominent mystic of the Roman Catholic religious pantheons. She is regarded as the patron saint of Spain.

One of the most impressive religious art work in the cathedral is a colorful stained glass window called the Vitraux of Virgin Mary which must have consisted of several hundred pieces of stained glass to form the art work.

VITREAUX OF VIRGIN MARY

One interesting piece of ancient art a baptisimal font that must have been carved painstakingly to depict religious figures. As it is housed in the Capilla De La Piedad De Conception. As all the chapels, including the Capilla De La Piedad De Conception, are protected from public incursions with the installation of ornamental bars, the baptisimal font can easily be missed.

BAPTISIMAL FONT OF THE CAPILLA DE LA PIEDAD DE CONCEPTION - CATEDRAL DE SEGOVIA

Another ancient building of note is the Iglesia De San Martin sitting along Calle de Juan Bravo. It is a simple and more humble in appearance but it was built during the middle ages, around the 12th century. The original architectural style is considered Romanesque with Mozarabic influence which is an Arabized style that was adopted by Iberian Christians during the middle ages.

Another gem in Segovia is the beautiful Iglesia De San Martin. It is a simple and more humble in appearance but it was built during the middle ages around the 12th century. Located at Plaza Medina Del Campo, the original architectural style is considered Romanesque with Mozarabic influence which is an Arabized style that was adopted by Iberian Christians during the middle ages.IMG_0204

The colonnade of the church features fourteen columns altogether.

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SIDE OF ST MARTIN

The image above is a section of the of the Iglesia De San Martin that reflects a Romanesque architectural influence.

And below is the Belfry of the Iglesia De San Martin built in the Mudejar style, which in essence is part Gothic and part Islamic that was in prevalent use in the medieval Spain.

MUDEJAR BELFRY OF THE IGLESIA DE SAN MARTIN

I found myself inside the church, but a mass service was just beginning. I held back from taking pictures wishing not to be disrespectful of those in attendance.

As I wandered around, I came across a stone sculpture, the Los Leones Fountain on Plaza De San Martin. The top section of the sculpture features two young children with their arms wrapped around a big fish.

LA FUENTE DE LOS LEONES - PLAZA SAN MARTIN

Below is a Statue of Juan Bravo located at the Plaza De San Martin. He was a resident of Segovia who became the rebel leader of the Revolt of the Comuneros, an uprising of the citizens of Spain that took place in 1520 to 1521 against Spanish authorities.

MONUMENTO DE JUAN BRAVO - PLAZA SAN MARTIN

My wandering around the small city led me to the Plaza Mayor. The Plaza is the convergence point of most of the streets of the city. The plaza is lined with several establishments such as coffee shops, Jewelry stores and stores that display wares to tempt tourists and the like to bring home to their respective countries as a memento of their visit to the beautiful city of Segovia.

As the day advanced, the desire for lunch by the body became insistent. I was intrigued by the description of what is claimed to be a national food of the area called Cochinillo asado en horno de leña. Sadly the acclaimed gastronomic pride of the area did not meet my expectations.

COCHINILLO DE SEGOVIA - 3 EURO - RESTORANTE EL BERNARDINO

As I wend my way back to my starting point, I was fascinated by the narrowness of the streets of the city, which tells me that the ancients had not presaged the birth of the automobile in the 19th century.

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Midway to my starting point is a symbol that is known to those who have traveled the Camino de Santiago – the scallop shell.

SCALLOP SHELL SYMBOL OF THE CAMINO SANTIAGO

The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, is a pilgrimge route that has several starting points in Spain, France and Portugal. The Camino ends on the seashores of Galicia where the Cathedral of St. James the Apostle is found and is believed to house the remains of St. James. The scallop shell carved in the stone reveals that the City of Segovia is one of the major stops of ancient and present day pilgrims as they trek towards Galicia.

As I finally reached my starting point, the beauty of Alcazar de Segovia is revealed from below the city. Of Moorish origin, the word Alcazar roughly translates as Fortress or Castle or citadel. This imposing structure is considered unique because of its shape, that of the bow of a ship. The castle had been used differently over time, either as a fortress, a royal residence, a prison, etc.but presently serves as a museum.

It is then time to take the nearly two hour bus ride back to Madrid where I was deposited infront of the Plaza Del Toros which was awashed with awashed with spectators of one of the most popular entertainment in Spain, the slaying of bulls.

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According to one of the spectators, the arena was capacity full because the featured matador was Jose Mari Manzanares, Jr. who is considered the top Matador to the present time. Manzanares also owns his popularity from his movie star good looks.

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THE ROAD TO TOLEDO IS PAVED WITH GODLY INTENTIONS

Plaza_de_Toros_de_Las_Ventas_(Madrid)_03It was only 8 in the morning on another intense Spanish heat. The temperature has already gone up to 24 degrees. I have booked earlier for a guided tour to Toledo and Segovia on this day. I came 30 minutes early and only then did I discover that the rendezvous point was right infront of the famous and massive Plaza de Toros. The edifice was constructed in the Neo-Mudejar style, a revival of the Moorish Architectural style that was introduced by the Arabic Moors who occupied Spain from around early 700 A.D. to early 1200 A.D.

The tour bus left  few minutes behind but we were on our way without a hitch. I dozed off and when I woke up we were parked at the Mirador Del Valle which is the best vantage point for viewing the entirety of of the World Heritage City of Toledo. MIRADOR DEL VALLEToledo achieved its glorious name as as the “Imperial City” for serving as the court of Charles V,  who served as the King of Spain from 1516 and as the Holy Roman Emperor from 1519. Toledo also achieved its fame as the “City of the Three Cultures” as Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted peacefully in this small city. Toledo, was already established as far back as the 5th century long before the Romans came to Spain and was inhabited by the Carpetani, a pre-Roman Celtic people.

One of the entrances to the city of Toledo by foot is through the Puente De Alcantara, the name of the bridge was derived from the Arabic word al qantara which means bridge.ALCANTARA BRIDGE2

The bridge, however, was built by the Romans and spans the Tagus river. The Tagus runs through the the mountains of Spain and reaches all the way to Portugal before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

The most prominent building that can be seen from the Parador is the Alcazar.

ALCAZAR DE TOLEDO

The magnificent building sits on the highest point of Toledo. It has gone through several reconstruction through the centuries and had multiple uses such as a palace,  royal prison, a military barracks and now as a military museum. The building represents different types of architecture such as Renaissance, Medieval and Plateresque.

Our rather rushed foray into Toledo revealed the magnificent Catedral Santa Maria De Toledo.

CATEDRAL DE TOLEDO

The construction of the impressive building was started in 1227 and followed the principle of Gothic Architecture with its pointed arch and ribbed vaults which was the architectural style that was in fashion around the 12th century. The Catedral‘s facade is adorned with several religious statues that are just too many to identify.

Equally as impressive is the Monasterio de Juan De Los Reyes that was constructed in the Gothic Style.

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It was intended as Royal Mausoleum for Ferdinand and Isabela but the Royal couple changed their plans and were buried instead in Granada.

Along Calle de Miguel De Cervantes is the statue of Miguel De Cervantes, the author of novel Don Quixote. The novel is considered seminal in the development of modern fiction writing.

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The picture below shows a portion of the walled city of Toledo.

THE WALLED CITY OF TOLEDO

One of the festive streets on Toledo as seen below.

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Balconies and walls of the streets are adorned with colorful banners.

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An ancient coat of arms adorns the a wall in one of the streets.

Sadly, our visit to Toledo was rather short and did not allow much exploration as our next destination, Segovia, awaits us.

MADRID IN THE SWELTERING HEAT – II . . . If Heat Had Teeth

I had booked a 3 hour-bike tour with Bravo Bike Tours. David, the tour guide, is 100% Spanish but he spoke with a decidedly British Accent. David was quite knowledgeable of Spanish History and the relevance of the sites we visited. I can only remember a few of the places we have seen but one of the memorable spots was a narrow street where Miguel De Cervantes had lived.casa-cervantesCervantes wrote “Don Quixote” in 1605 and 1615. The work of fiction is considered seminal in the development of the Modern fiction writing.

There were about 20 more of us riding on modern bikes. Unfortunately, I wore shorts that hung rather loose that gets getting caught on the saddle of the bike every time I dismounted that I fell in one of our stops making me look clumsy. As we rode along, the temperature rose to 39 degrees and it was only 11 a.m. We went through a number of scenic spots which included the Parque Buen Retiro.800px-Paseo_de_la_Argentina_(Retiro,_Madrid)_02

The most notable structure in the Park is the Palacio De Cristal which was built in 1887 to house Flora and Fauna from the Philippines. It  is now home to various art exhibits.1200px-Parque_del_Buen_Retiro_PalacioCristal03

At this point, the temperature has soared to 39 degrees and it was only 11 a.m. We biked through a number of spots which included the Plaza Mayor that was the site during the Spanish Inquisition of a number of Auto da fe, a cruel public ritual conducted by the Catholic church in which penance is openly displayed by those accused as heretics or suspected of practicing witchcraft and ultimately executed on the same spot.

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We rode on going through a number of spots negotiating busy streets heavy with vehicular traffic. There were a number of streets that challenged my fitness ability with the rising slopes that induced muscular pain along the leg and calf area. My heat addled brain no longer registered the name of the places we stopped to view as my visual cues to stimulate memories were in the photographs I have taken with my cell phone that was stolen by one of the citizens of the city of Barcelona. We made it through in one of the busiest streets, the Gran Gia, without anyone of us meeting our final destiny.

Gran Via

Gran Via

We stopped in one of the outdoor cafes where we were being refreshed with drinks of our choice before heading back to Bravo Bike Tours to return the bicycles. Altogether, I recommend the Bike Tour with Bravo Bikes but not during the summer months as the unbearable heat with the physical exertion can be a real challenge to one`s fitness ability and particularly for those with cardiovascular health issues.