The bonus to this museum was the newly opened “Mudejar Space” with 300 Mudejar pieces from the 18th century. Next, I came upon Iglesia de Santo Tome, next to the famous Museo Greco. Here, I noticed a poster showing that a choral group from Miami would be performing at “Sabado 21 Mayo, 20.30 h”, that meant two hours from the time I read the poster! We made it! The concert featured choral master works paired with Spanish and American folk and spiritual songs.
From Toledo, we headed towards Cuenca, which is famous for its hanging houses that perch dramatically over the Huecar Gorge. The road up to Cuenca was ablaze with bright yellow flowers. We had a delicious tapas lunch at Meson los Arcos across from the impressive Gothic Cathedral in the historic village. After lunch, we found the bridge, Puente de San Pablo. Across the bridge, we could see Casas Colgadas which is home to the Museo del Arte. I spotted a trail – the Senda del Hocino de Federico Muelas – and set out, skirting the foot of the canyons and ending up at a lookout at Camino de los Jeronimos. I then retraced my steps to meet Arthur for our journey to Manzanares where we spent a night at a quaint French-provincial-style B&B, the Antigua Casa de la Bodega, for a night of tranquil rest.
Our next stop was Granada where we stayed at Hotel Fontecruz Granada on Gran Via de Colon in the centre of town. The Alhambra here is the last and the greatest Moorish palace; it is one of Europe’s top sights. In order to protect the site a controlled number of visitors are allowed per day. We managed to join a conducted tour for four hours – not enough time to do justice to this magnificent site.
The historic centre of Granada is in the Darro River Valley, between two hills. On one hill is the great Alhambra, and on the other is the best preserved Moorish quarter in Spain – the Albayzin – whose hidden beauty, in narrow and winding streets, can best be discovered on foot. In contrast, the city also has some broad promenades – Carrera de las Veirgin and Paseo del Salon are the two principal ones. My favourite was the Boulevard El Salon which is lined by Romantic-period gardens that run along the city’s main river, the Genil. It was while wandering here that I spotted a second poster, this time featuring the University of Southern Maine Chamber Singers, making their appearance at Iglesia Nuestra Senora de los Augastias on 26 Mayo at 8.30 p.m. This energetic and cheerful group gave a standing-ovation performance with three encores against the back drop of the most overwhelmingly gaudy church.
Travelling and sight seeing are fine but, as we all know, very tiring. For the finale of our visit to Spain, we spent some time with friends who are living in Ontinyent, south of Valencia. We stayed at the beautiful Kazar Hotel which is modelled on a Moorish palace. In fact, the suite where we slept was used by Don Juan Carlos and Dona Sofia (the king and queen of Spain) on 14 May 2006. We were taken by our friends, Vincente and Maria, to spend a day in Valencia: we drove through the ultra-modern part of the city, took a leisurely stroll along the beach, had lunch at a typical tapas bar and sat people-watching over coffee in the historic quarter renowned for its Gothic and Renaissance monuments. The vicinity of Ontinyent has excellent hiking trails.
Vicente, a marathon runner, took me on a hike at Agres in Alicante State, taking the Puyada a les caves track. The track was well marked, but zigzagged up to the summit at 1100 metres where there is a large cave used in olden days as a natural refrigerator for food storage. On the way back, Vicente showed me his favourite local bar which has a patio overlooking the mountains and valleys. We drank our coffee while being entertained by flocks of flying birds. Another highlight was being invited by Vicente’s parents for a family Sunday lunch at their country villa. Valencia is the birthplace of paella, so it was wonderful to enjoy a home made paella by the very best of cooks! What a highlight … and an appropriate time to say “good bye” to Spain.
A few details …
* H10 Marina Barcelona: http://h10-marina-barcelona.hotel-rez.com
* Restaurant Can Pineda: Sant Joan de Malto 55, Barcelona, tel :93 308 30 81
* Frontecruez Palacio Eugenia de Montijo: www.eng.fontecruzhotels.com
* Antigua Casa de la Bodega in Manzanares: www.antiguacasadealbodega.com
* Hotel Frontecruez Granada: www.eng.frontecruzhotels.com
* Hotel Kazar in Ontinyent: www.hotelkazar.com
Intrepid traveller Maria Wu
lives in Toronto between her travels.