Friday, July 27, 2018

More of spring's trip in Spain

While we were in Bilbao we got some rather shocking news.  We have friends where the husband is a couple months older than me and the wife a couple months older than my wife.  My wife worked with him back when we lived in the Netherlands back in 1998.  The guy was visiting relatives in Germany and while mountain biking fell and a rock pierced his right eye.  In the US you would be given a prosthetic eye and sent on your way.  Apparently Germany is quite a ways ahead of the US when it comes to eye surgery because they were willing to try to save the eye.  (This happened in April.  Now, almost August, he is still undergoing surgery and healing.)

From Bilbao it was a short drive to Pamplona.  We were careful to inquire before heading there if there was any danger from bulls!  Of course there was none so off we went.  There was the autoroute sort of way and the curvy way; of course we went for the curves.  And we sure got them and the beautiful views that can go with them.  As usual our hotel was on the outskirts of town so when we decided to walk into town we expected a fair hike.  It turned out quite a bit more than that but it was interesting. 

One thing we didn't even know was that there is a huge fort in the middle of the city that has been turned into a park.  The word 'huge' isn't right; it's way more than that.
The photo is of only a tiny portion of the fort but it does give you an idea of the size of the walls.  We walked along one side of the fort headed for an exit from the city walls.  As we were walking we found a lot of people apparently just clustered around this church.
It was only after we'd passed it that we discovered that it is on the pathway of the running of the bulls.  Oh well, it was pretty touristy.  We found our way out of the town and headed back out to the hotel.  We had to cross this bridge, the Puente de la Magdalena.  It is one of the oldest in the city and is, of course, pedestrian only.
All around Pamplona we saw people with walking sticks and backpacks and such.  It turns out that Pamplona is on a walking tour that Catholics can take to gain favor.  Some of these tours are several hundred miles long. 

After tiring ourselves out in Pamplona we headed for Zaragoza.  We arrived on a Monday following a holy day so many things were still closed.  Our first tourist stop was the cathedral, La Basilica del Pilar.  It is absolutely enormous!  Wow.  There were plenty of tourists but it was nice to see people praying as well.  It is clearly a working church.  It is along one side of a paved square and I simply couldn't get far enough away to get the entire cathedral in one photo.
The Romans spent quite a lot of time here so in the middle of the city you find an ampitheatre.  Doesn't every city have one?
We also visited the local castle; the Aljaferia - the Moorish-Christian castle of the kings of Aragon.  This one is kind of interesting because it has been used by so many rulers.  It started out being built by the Moors and just kept being useful for whoever was ruling the area.  It sustained a lot of damage over the years but has been carefully restored. 
Finally we left Zaragoza and headed for Tarragona.  Tarragona is on the Mediterranean Sea and has a LOT of Roman ruins.  Of course there is an ampitheatre - and just near the beach as well.
From the top of the ampitheatre you can look out over the water and see the remains of a fort on the other side of the beach.  Amazing.
It is kind of crazy for me but right across the street were more Roman ruins:  the Circ roma combined with the Pretori roma.  The thing that continues to surprise me is that on the other side of the street is a little shop; it is the most natural thing in the world for these people to live next to a World Heritage Site.  Finally we walked around the old city walls.  In the distance we could see the aquaduct that had moved water.  It is in the center of the photo going almost straight up.  You can also see where some of the stone for all the Roman buildings was quarried.
My wife used her telephoto lens to get a closer view.

Finally we strolled around the old city which is actually just a neighborhood like any other.  All in all we were blown away by the Roman past on display in Tarragona. 

That's it for this time.  Next we'll visit Barcelona where our visit to Spain ends.  Until then, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Not Dead Yet!

Though I haven't blogged since May I really am alive and well.  Sorry about the erratic nature of my writing.  I don't have any good excuse, it's just a lack of discipline.  At any rate, here goes!  Back to April and Spain.

We picked up a rental car in Madrid and headed for Sergovia.  Why?  The aquaduct of course.
It really was quite amazing.  You walk downtown, turn a corner and there it is.  It's just amazing.  We were staying at a small hotel close to the outskirts of town and were able to follow the aquaduct almost the whole way back to the hotel.  It was chilly but not actually raining. 

The next morning was different.
Yeah, snow.  Happily it was just a bit and quite wet so it went away quickly.  We were headed north towards the Basque regions.  My wife had heard of cave paintings near a small town called Ribadesella which is a bit west of Bilbao.  So off we went.  Ribadesella is a very small place on the Bay of Biscay but quite beautiful.  Our hotel was outside of town on top of a hill.  We had nice views.
The reason for chosing this town was Tito Bustillo - caves containing ancient cave paintings.  The cave was quite easily accessible and had regular tours.  The tour was in Spanish but the guide was nice enough to add in some English for us.  No photos unfortunately but it really was very nice.  The town is proud of it's history and had a series of humorous signs showing it's history.  This is the pre-history one.
Most people go to this area for a different reason:  the beach.
It is supposed to be a nude beach but it was pretty chilly so the only people we saw were well covered!

Now we headed east towards Bilbao.  My wife is making hotel reservations looking for parking so we have another hotel on the outskirts of town in this case on top of a hill.  The hotel started as a cafe where the owners made their own wine.  They still make it and even gave us a bottle!  Pretty good stuff too.  Here is the view from behind the hotel.
 Bilbao has a lovely finicular railway going down to the downtown so that was pretty neat. 
It is s short ride but has great views and leaves you near a bridge that takes you into downtown. 

The big deal in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum.  We had read that the museum is more spectacular than the contents and I'd have to agree.  But we had to see it.  We also got to wander around the old town quite a bit and that was fun. 
In the photo above I found it interesting that the upper floors have windows that extend beyond the front of the building.  I haven't seen that often but it was all over Bilbao in older buildings like these and in newer ones as well.

I'll have to continue this another time.  But we are getting towards the end of our trip.  Take care and thanks for stopping by.