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Archive for spain

A Royal Visit in Santander

By Linda Tancs

Widely recognized as an emblem of the city of Santander in northern Spain, Palacio de La Magdalena was the summer residence of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia for 17 years. Situated on the highest point of the Península de La Magdalena (sandwiched between the historic quarter and El Sardinero, a famous beach), the English-style residence (evoking the Queen’s homeland) is surrounded by gardens and wooded areas, a popular place for relaxation among the 60,000 or so annual visitors. The palace also famously serves as the locale for summer courses of the International Menéndez Pelayo University presented by renowned faculty from around the world.

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Sea and Desert in Almería

By Linda Tancs

Spain’s Almería province rivals any beach destination, with long, sandy beaches stretching from Pulpí in the east to Adra in the west bathed by the warm waters of the Mediterranean. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the desert located north of the city of Almería (Tabernas), popularly cited as Europe’s only bona fide desert. A popular film location, the area is characterized by rugged badlands suitable for hiking. Go now before the temperatures climb.

Spain’s Geological Hotspot

By Linda Tancs

Some of Europe’s most original geological features are located in Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in Spain’s Almería region. Nearly 94,000 acres strong, the reserve is Andalucía’s largest coastal protected area and a mecca for geologists. Formed during the Tertiary Period, it’s an extensive volcanic region dominated by lava domes. Other points of interest are the ancient volcanic chimneys at the iconic Mermaids Reef, fossilized tongues of lava at Mónsul Beach (the reserve’s most famous beach) and mountains formed entirely by volcanic material like El Cerro Negro in the village of Las Negras. To learn more about the volcanic origin of this area you can visit the exhibitions in the House of the Volcanoes in Rodalquilar or the Las Amoladeras Interpretation Center.

Giant-Sized Fun in Barcelona

By Linda Tancs

In Spain, Barcelona’s biggest street party of the year is La Mercè Festival. Held near the end of September each year in honor of La Mare de Déu de la Mercè (Our Lady of Mercy, the patron saint of Barcelona), the event heralds the advent of autumn. A major highlight is the giants parade, where oversized effigies of kings, queens and nobles march through the streets to the delight of children. You also won’t want to miss the fire run, the human towers (like a cheerleading squad on steroids), the cathedral illumination and the projection of images on buildings at Plaça Sant Jaume. This year’s festival runs from September 21 through September 24.

Spain’s Mighty Wine Fight

By Linda Tancs

What Tuscany is to Italy, so La Rioja is to Spain. Below the Cantabrian Mountains, vineyards occupy the Ebro valley and surround the old town of Haro. The town residents are so proud of their wine-producing heritage that they host a Wine Fight each June 29 during a multi-day celebration of St. Peter. As you might suspect, the weapon of choice in this battle is wine—red, red wine. Combatants don white shirts and red scarfs, making their way to the highest hilltop in town where a blizzard of wine is aimed at each other from buckets, wineskin, sprayers and other useful tools. Drinking the spoils of war is highly encouraged. After the battle subsides, the warriors head back downtown for a feast and a bull run.

Bonfires of St. John

By Linda Tancs

The Night of St. John is a fireworks festival of pagan origin that celebrates the summer solstice. Held every year on June 23 in Spain, the event is characterized by a massive beach party accompanied by bonfires and fireworks. According to tradition, if you jump over a bonfire three times on that night, then you will be cleansed and purified and your problems burned away. Another ritual is to throw a note in the fire for good luck.

Dynastic Splendor in Spain

By Linda Tancs

In Granada, Spain, a Moorish structure known worldwide is Alhambra. Alhambra means “red” in Arabic, defining the color of the outer bricks comprising this symbol of Granada that served as a palace and a fortress for its Muslim occupants. Resting atop a hilly terrace, the views from there are commanding, and there are plenty of sights within the complex that are worth visiting. Don’t miss the Court of the Lions and its 124 thin, white marble columns or the vaulted ceiling of the Hall of Ambassadors in Nasrid Palace, the one area of Alhambra requiring a timed ticket entry. After your visit to the palace grounds, spend some time relaxing in the Generalife (often translated as “Garden of the Architect”), one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens in the world.

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