Category Archives: Spain

Valencia, Spain

Recently, we spent a wonderful (sunny) weekend in Valencia, Spain.  As the country’s third largest city, there is plenty to see and as the “home of paella” there is certainly plenty to taste.  Here’s a look at this friendly, vibrant city through our lens…

Mercado Central

Mercado Central

Mercado Central Interior

Mercado Central

As one of the oldest food markets in Europe, Valencia’s fascinating Central Market (Mercado Central) sells a tantalizing variety—from fruits to meats to wine and baked goods.  The striking building, with its domed ceilings, colorful tiles and ceramics, is worth seeing (even if food is not on your mind).

Plaza de laVirgen

Plaza de la Virgen

At the center of Valencia’s historic district is the bustling Virgin Square (Plaza de la Virgen), once the forum of Roman Valencia.  Surrounded by cafes and landmark buildings, it’s a great place to people watch.
[The photo above shows the Turia Fountain in the foreground, the Basilica of the Virgin of the Helpless on the left, Valencia Cathedral in the center with its bell tower, the Miguelete, in the upper right.]

Valencia Cathedral Altar

Valencia Cathedral Altar

Valencia Cathedral Aisle

Valencia Cathedral

Consecrated in 1238, Valencia Cathedral (Iglesia Catedral Basilica Metropolitana de Santa Maria) is an architectural beauty.  Designed primarily in the Gothic style, it also contains Romanesque, Baroque, and Neo-Classical elements.  The Gothic Chapel of the Holy Chalice (Gothic Capilla del Santo Cáliz), near the main entrance, is said to hold the Holy Grail—the chalice Christ sipped from during The Last Supper.

Museo del Patriarca

Museo del Patriarca

The Patriarch Museum (Museo del Patriarca), housed in the Royal College of Corpus Christi Seminary, was founded by Saint Juan de Ribera in the 16th Century.  The museum contains a wonderful collection of paintings, including works from El Greco and Francisco Ribalta.

City of Arts and Sciences

City of Arts and Sciences: L’Hemisfèric (foreground) & El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia

With a modern architectural complex located in a city founded in 138 BC, it’s no wonder Valencia is often described as a “city of contrasts”.  Simply striking on a bright, sunny day, the City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) contains several fascinating structures, including a cinema, planetarium, science museum, oceanographic park, and an opera house/performing arts center.

Playa de las Arenas

Playa de las Arenas—one of Valencia’s city beaches.

Being the birthplace of paella, it wouldn’t be a proper visit to Valencia without feasting on this delicious rice dish more than once.  However, in true k&mk fashion, we forgot to take a photograph.  Apologies.  I can assure you it was terrific.  We enjoyed seafood paella (paella de mariscos) at a restaurant along Playa de las Arenas (photo above) as well as traditional Valencian paella (paella valenciana) in the city center.  Muy bueno!

And just a few street scenes to close…

ValenciaStreet2 ValenciaStreet1 ValenciaStreet3

Muchos Gracias, Valencia!  We had a great time.

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Seville, Spain

To celebrate our anniversary, Kevin and I took a short trip to Seville, Spain last weekend.

Gardens of Catalina de Ribera

Gardens of Catalina de Ribera

As the fourth largest city in Spain, Seville is simply beautiful.  Rich in Gothic and Moorish architecture, tasty tapas, flamenco and bullfighting, Seville offers up a truly Spanish experience.  Here are some of the sights…

Metropol Parasol

Metropol Parasol in Plaza de la Encarnación

Euro 2012

Euro 2012 – Spain v France

Being in Seville for the Euro 2012 Spain v France Football Match was a real treat.  Hundreds of fans flocked to the Metropol Parasol (a huge, mushroom-like, wooden structure) in Plaza de la Encarnación to watch their Spanish team defeat France 2-0.  The cheers were endless…

Seville Cathedral

Seville Cathedral

As one of Seville’s main attractions, the Gothic Seville Cathedral is an impressive architectural feat.  Built on the site of the Great Mosque of the 12th century, it is the third largest cathedral in the world, behind St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

La Giralda - Seville Cathedral

La Giralda – Seville Cathedral

The original mosque’s minaret, La Giralda, converted into a bell tower, was preserved during the cathedral’s construction.  It is a beautiful Moorish structure that offers amazing views of the city from the top.

Tomb of Christopher Columbus

Tomb of Christopher Columbus

Inside the cathedral stands the monumental tomb of Christopher Columbus.  The authenticity of the remains inside the tomb, however, are still up for some serious debate between Spain and the Dominican Republic, despite DNA testing.

With its numerous chapels, a great deal of time can be spent inside the cathedral viewing notable works of art, reliquaries, stained-glass windows, as well as the Gothic altarpiece of the Capilla Mayor (high chapel)—referred to by many as the largest altarpiece in the world.

Plaza de España

Plaza de España

Plaza de España

Plaza de España

Originally designed for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929, the recently refurbished Plaza de España (Spanish Square) is currently home to several government offices, including Seville Town Hall.  This semicircular complex of buildings with brightly tiled sections and ornately decorated bridges was featured in the film Star Wars Episode II:  Attack of the Clones.

Real Alcázar of Seville

Real Alcázar of Seville

The Real Alcázar is a royal residence once used as a military fort by the Moors in the 9th century.   With Spanish, Christian, and Moorish architectural influences, this palace offers a myriad of design elements to stimulate the senses.

Puerta del Leon

Puerta del Leon (The Lion Gate)—Main Entrance to Palace.

Palacio de Don Pedro

Palacio de Don Pedro  (Palace of King Peter I)

The Palacio de Don Pedro was the palace of King Peter I in the mid-1300s and is considered one of the most important Mudéjar style buildings in Spain.  The upper floors currently serve as the official Seville residence of the Spanish royal family.

Patio de la Montería

Patio de la Montería (Hunting Patio/Courtyard)

Alcázar Designs

Design elements of Alcázar

Palace Gardens

Palace Gardens

Baños de Doña María de Padilla

Baños de Doña María de Padilla (Baths of Lady Maria of Padilla)

The Baths of Lady Maria of Padilla are rainwater tanks named after the mistress of King Peter.

Plaza de Toros

Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza (Bullring)

Matador

All Hail the Matador!

Plaza de Torres

Plaza de Torres – Main Entrance

The Plaza de Toros (full name – Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Cabelleria de Sevilla) is considered the oldest bullring in Spain as well as one of the finest.

Torre del Oro

Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold)

The Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, served as a watchtower in the 13th century.

Here’s to a great anniversary in hot, sunny, summery Seville.  Muchas Gracias!

Madrid, Spain

Last weekend we visited Madrid, Spain.  As Spain’s capital and largest city, Madrid is a vibrant, yet relaxing, place to enjoy all things Spanish.  Madrid is that “feel-good-living” kind of city, with its numerous cafes, energetic street-life, and beautiful plazas that keep you humming along.  Even with the recent cold snap weaving through Europe, the madrileños (residents of Madrid) carried on as usual and seemed unfazed by the sliding temperatures, but I can’t say the same for us—hats, gloves, scarves, and warm beverages were part of our routine.  Cold weather aside, here are some of the highlights from our visit…

Museo del Prado

Museo del Prado (northern side)

The Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) ranks at the top of our list as one of the best museums we’ve been to.  The collection is superb.  There are enough masterpieces here to keep you occupied for hours—from Goya’s The Third of May to Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights to Velázquez’s Las Meninas (now one of my favorites).  It will not disappoint.

Palacio Real

Palacio Real

The Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real de Madrid), commissioned by King Philip V in the 18th century, is arguably the most lavish in Europe.  It has a mere 2,800 sumptuously decorated rooms—the 20 or so we saw during the tour almost knocked our hats off!  While the royal family no longer lives at the palace, it is still used for state functions, ceremonies, weddings, etc.

Plaza de la Armería

Plaza de la Armería from inside Palacio Real

Almudena Cathedral

Almudena Cathedral

Almudena Cathedral (Catedral de Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena) is a Catholic Church, facing the Palacio Real.  It is a relatively modern building—started in the 1880s and completed in 1993.  Its colorful, contemporary ceiling (photo below) and bright-white interior is very different from other cathedrals in Europe whose interiors are much darker.  The Cathedral was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993.

Almudena Cathedral Ceiling

Almudena Cathedral Ceiling

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor with Philip III

Plaza Mayor, Statue of Philip III

Built in the 17th century, the massive, traffic-free Plaza Mayor is one of the main squares in Madrid.  The lively street performers offer some interesting entertainment making it an ideal spot for people-watching.

Puerta del Sol

Plaza de la Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun)

Plaza de la Puerta del Sol is the hub of Madrid and the official center point of Spain.  It once served as one of the gates to the city wall that surrounded Madrid in the 15th century—complete with a sun carving.  It is often bustling with people, but rather calm on this particular Saturday morning.

Symbol of the City

Symbol of the City

This sweet statue of a bear nuzzling a strawberry tree (madroño) is the official symbol of the city and can be found in Plaza de la Puerta del Sol.

Plaza de la Villa

Intimate Plaza de la Villa with Don Alvaro de Bazán Statue and Old Town Hall Building.

Plaza de Santa Ana

Plaza de Santa Ana - Sergio Parra Photography Exhibition: "Camerinos"

Even though we didn’t get to see everything we would have liked to during this short visit, we still had a wonderful time.  I guess we’ll just have to return someday and pick up where we left off.  Muchas Gracias, Madrid!

Notable Eats:
We know paella is a Valencia thing, but when in Spain we have to have it.  The best paella we’ve had in a long time can be found at –
La Paella de la Reina
(Calle de la Reina, 39)

Barcelona, Spain – Part II: Antoni Gaudí

As I mentioned in the Barcelona post, this post will feature the works of Antoni Gaudí i Cornet—the famous Spanish Catalan architect best known for his Modernist style.

Antoni Gaudí’s (1852-1926) architectural wonders lure many visitors to the city of Barcelona.  A large number of his most famous works are scattered throughout.  His signature style, almost devoid of straight lines, is so unique it’s mesmerizing.  He gained much of his inspiration from nature, which is clearly visible in his work.

Here’s a taste of some of Gaudí’s best…

Casa Batlló (commonly known as “House of the Dragon”)
This building, originally designed for a middle-class family, is one of Gaudí’s more colorful works. It was built in 1877 and remodeled from 1904 to 1906.  Its blue, green and purple tiled facade and sculpted, curved balconies that look like masks, make this structure stand out from those around it.  The arched roof resembles the scales of a dragon, as Gaudí based this work on the legend of Saint George and the dragon.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

La Pedrera (meaning “the quarry”)
La Pedrera was built between 1905 to 1910 as an apartment and office building.  Commissioned by the Milà family, it was formally known as Casa Milà.  Its grey, stone facade virtually ripples down the street and its rooftop is a fanciful forest of giant chimneys.  The attic houses a small museum where models of Gaudí’s work help explain the methodology of his genius.

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

[La Pedrera photo above by Jordiferrer.  Available under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license and GNU Free Documentation License.]
(Kevin and I somehow forgot to take a photo of the exterior.  Shocking, I know.)

La Pedrera Chimneys

La Pedrera Chimneys

La Pedrera Roof

La Pedrera Rooftop

Park Güell
When Park Güell originated in 1900 it was to become a residential housing development, but the project eventually flopped.  Over the years, the site converted into a public park or, as some might say, a grand museum of Gaudí’s colorful and imaginative ways.

Park Güell

Park Güell

Park Güell Entrance

Park Güell Entrance

The tale of Hansel and Gretel seems to be the inspiration behind this design.   The gate house to the right of the entrance is made of gingerbread, I think.

Hall of a Hundred Columns

Hall of a Hundred Columns - Park Güell

The “Hall of a Hundred Columns” was originally designed as a market space for the “never-to-be” residential development.

The Tube - Park Güell

The Tube - Park Güell

Long tube arcade.  Just fascinating.

And finally, Gaudí’s most famous work, his unfinished masterpiece…

La Sagrada Família (The Holy Family Church)
Gaudí became the main architect in 1883, one year after construction began, and worked on the church until his death in 1926.  He spent the latter part of his professional career carrying out this ambitious plan.  When the church is complete, in some 25-30 years, (yes, I typed that correctly) it will be a grand achievement.  La Sagrada Família is solely funded by private donations, so you are assisting the ongoing construction by paying the entrance fee (which is probably why it is taking so long).

La Sagrada Família

La Sagrada Família

When finished, the church will have the capacity for 13,000 people.  It will include 18 towers dedicated to the 12 apostles, the 4 evangelists, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ (8 are now built) and will also have three facades: the Nativity Facade, the Passion Facade and the Glory Facade (Resurrection).  Of the three, the Glory Facade is the only one that has yet to be finished.  On the 7th of November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated La Sagrada Família, so it is now a holy place of worship.

La Sagrada Família Altar

La Sagrada Família Altar

La Sagrada Família Ceiling

La Sagrada Família - Ceiling

Here is a prime example of Gaudí’s use of nature, as these columns look like trees.

La Sagrada Família Passion Facade

La Sagrada Família - Passion Facade

Passion Facade Sculpture

Passion Facade Sculpture

Gaudí used real people and animals as models for the majority of his sculptures.

Whether you like Gaudí’s style of architecture or not,  his work is something to see.  There is no doubt that Gaudí was a genius in his field.  Even after all these years, his designs still inspire awe.  It was a great Gaudí day.