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If you’ve ever been to Madrid you will probably have noticed the tile street signs and tiles on house walls that show pictures and tell entire stories. Although people might not notice them that much, they are part of Madrid’s ancient history and belong to one of the oldest cultural goods of the area.

Pottery and ceramics have been a speciality of the whole community of Madrid since the Middle Ages.  With the foundation of the Royal Factory of Porcelanas del Buen Retiro, the school of ceramics, these handicrafts became even more established and built an important part of people’s daily life. The ceramic material forms one of the indigenous architectural elements since ancient times.

streets madrid

Archaeologists found pieces of ceramics from the 9th and 10th century corresponding to the period of Muslim occupation as well as pottery from the 16th to 19th century made in Alcorcón, a neighbouring village of the city.
Pottery significantly entered Madrid’s architecture at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th through Ricardo Velázquez Bosco and popularized thanks to his outstanding student Antonio Palacios. The first examples can be found inside the Palacio de Comunicaciones. Especially important was the use of tiles at the beginning of the 20th century in the design of the first railway stations.

When walking around the streets of the city centre you will automatically come across some art pieces of former times. There is a collection of about 500 street plates of the historic quarter, made in 1990 by Alfredo Ruiz de Luna Gonzalez. The street art of old Madrid illustrates streets, squares, crossings, costs and more. They all have a common layout, they are composed by nine old-style tiles.

street signs

signs like these can be found everywhere in the centre

Besides those smaller artistic features of the architecture, there are bigger and more obvious works of art spread all over the city as well, such as the bullring Plaza de Toros de las Ventas which is decorated with large tile murals, representing employees, breeders and masters of bullfighting.
But also restaurants and are partly covered in tiles that show pictures of former residents, their profession or stories about the building:
Restaurante Viva Madrid in calle de Manuel Fernandes y Gonzalez 7,  Villa Rosa on Plaza Santa Ana 15, or Antigua Huevería in calle de San Vicente Ferrer 32 just to name a few.

hueveria

this bar used to be a shop where people could buy eggs

Another great spot for this kind of street art is the huge park in the centre, the Parque del Retiro. Several buildings within the green gardens are lavishly decorated, like the Velazquez palace or also the Chrystal Palace. Their interior is used as exhibition rooms although their exterior also appears like a work of art.

palacios

Chrystal Palace on the left and Velazquez Palace on the right

You thought you have seen it all? If you go underground there is even more. Some old subway stations are a real eye-catcher with their colourful pictures of tiles. The ancient metro station walls are entirely covered in tiles and even old adverts are made of them. Retiro or old Chamberí station are just two stops to enjoy the subterranean art. While Retiro is still a normally used stop in the widespread metro network, Chamberí was taken out of the system. However, people can still go down to visit the beautiful station for free, from Thursday to Sunday or have a guided tour through the underground area for just a small amount of money. Besides that, when you look out the metro window between stations Iglesia and Bilbao, you also get a glimps of what used to be a regular stop on metro line 1.

metro

Chamberi, also called Anden 0, is one of the most historical stations

If you enjoyed reading this post come back for the next one to learn even more about Spain and its rich culture.

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Have you ever watched Game of Thrones? Or are you a fan of the fantasy series and think you know everything about it? Maybe this post will give you some new information. And if you have never seen a single episode of the show, after reading the following lines, you might want to give the series a chance or at least travel to some of these picturesque places.

GOT (as fans like to call it) is considered record holder of the Emmy Awards and analysing its audience numbers, it is the most successful series in the world. The production, based on the novels “The Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin, has achieved the cult status of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which it often gets compared to. And while the story around the highly competitive Iron Throne is of course fictional, many of the imposing locations are real! And above all, the filming locations are not that far away. The following places might give you a déjà vu. So lets us take you on a trip to Westeros and Essos.

While the first 4 seasons where mainly shot in northern European countries, season 5 of Game of Thrones added some Spanish locations in Andalusia. For example, the Royal Palace in Sevilla, the Real Alcázar. The former king’s palace from the 14th century took over the role of the water gardens of the peninsula Dorne in the south of Westeros, where Prince Oberyn Martell’s older brother, Prince Doran resided.
In real life, the Spanish royal family spends several weeks a year in this impressive building but the palace was used several times before as film setting, for example for  the movie “Kingdom of Heaven” by Ridley Scott.

sevilla ois

the Real Alcázar on the left and the shooting of a scene on the right

Another venue was the Andalusian city of Osuna, about an hour drive from Sevilla, whose bullring was converted into the Arena of Meereen. You might also remember that Daenerys had her first dragon flight starting from this arena.
Also seen in season 5, the Roman Bridge of Córdoba that helped Varys and Tyrion reach the city of Volantis.

osuna ois

the bullring of Osuna made a great arena of Meereen

Moreover, season 6 was partly filmed in Andalusia too, just like season 5. Castillo de Almodóvar del Rio served as the rose garden.
The city of Cáceres in the region of Extremadura became an important location as well. Cáceres was transformed into Altsass while the Castillo de Trujillo took on the role of Casterly Rock.

Another castle that was used as film setting is the Castillo de Zafra, a 12th – century castle in Castilla – La Mancha. In addition to that, the Castell de Santa Florentina in Barcelona and many buildings and streets in the old town of Girona, Catalonia were among the filming locations. The small town north of Barcelona became the Free City of Braavos in Essos. With its Arab Baths, Plaça dels Jurats and Carrer de la Claveria, it was just perfect for the story line. The Cathedral of Girona served as the Great Septe of Baelor and the Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants took on the role of the citadel in Altsass.

girona ois

do you recognize the Great Septe of Baelor?

But that’s not it! Some scenes of season 7 were again shot in Spain. The film crew travelled to the mountains of the natural park Bardenas Reales, a semi-desert in Navarra in the north of the peninsula and to the Basque Country.

flysch ois

the mystical looking Basque Country with these Flysch formations made a great film setting

Places that embody the island of Dragonstone in Game of Thrones are the monastery of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, located on a small island between Bakio and Bermeo, the secluded Playa de Muriola near Barrika and Playa de Itzurun near Zumaia, which is located in a beautiful bay, surrounded by green mountains that reach down to the sea. The spectacular cliffs with their flysch formations were just perfect for some of the scenes in season 7.

san juan ois

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe also known as island of Dragonstone

After reading all this, are you going to watch Games of Thrones now? The series is not over yet, there is still one season to come in 2019. While you’re waiting for the next season to air, come to Spain to have an exclusive behind the scenes experience.
Across Spain offers a unique Game of Thrones tour that includes some of the mentioned places. For more information get in touch with us!

When thinking about the Iberian Peninsula beaches, tapas and flamenco immediately come to mind however barely anyone associates Spain with castles, palaces and fortresses, although there are over 6000 of them spread across the country. Most people know the famous Alhambra fortress but there are so many more ancient castles that tell stories, give a historical overview and offer entertainment for everyone.

Whether it is a medieval castle that was built during the times of Christian Reconquest designed to give refuge to the town’s people, a Renaissance or Baroque construction or a fortified tower by the sea preventing attacks of pirates or the Berbers. It all can be found in Spain. To give you an overview, the following paragraphs will include some of the most important castles.

Fortress of Toledo

The construction of this Renaissance castle dates back to Roman times when Alfonso VI was ruler of the kingdom. With the Emperor Carlos V the building was reconstructed again, this time, by the architect Alonso de Covarrubias. The facades are Renaissance, with towers and crenellated defense, built according to Alonso de Covarrubias and later Juan de Herrera. After the last reconstruction, it has been housing offices of the Army as well as the Army Museum.

toledo

Toledo, the city of three cultures

Castle of Loarre

An important medieval castle is the Castle of Loarre, located in Huesca, in the north-east of the Peninsula.  Built on the order of Sancho Ramírez I of Aragon upon the remains of a Roman building, this castle served as a royal palace until the 12th century, when it was converted into the convent of the Order of St. Augustine.

loarre

built in the 11th century, this is one of the oldest castles in Spain

Fortress of Segovia

Located at the confluence of two rivers, the castle was built on a rock, which indicates its original military use. It served as a residence for Alfonso VIII.
In the 13th century the building acquired a Gothic aspect with the intervention of the architects Juan II and Enrique IV. The last architectural phase was in the year 1587, by the hand of architect Francisco de Mora, possibly in collaboration with Juan de Herrera, who designed the Main Court and the School of Honor. The building has numerous secret passages that go down to the river and communicate with some places in town.

SEGOVIA

the Alcázar of Segovia was used as setting for several tv series and movies

Royal Palace of La Almudaina

La Almudaina was the seat of the independent kingdom of Mallorca during the reigns of Jaime II, Sancho I and Jaime III. The gothic castle is the result of the modification of the Muslim fortress in 1281. Inside the building, there are various tapestries and furniture of different historical monuments. As for now, it is used by the King of Spain as a residence for official ceremonies during the summer.

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Furthermore, watchtowers can be found all along the coast of Spain. The tower in A Coruña helped defending the land from English pirates while the castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante repelled French, English and Arab enemies.
The Torre del Oro in Sevilla is probably the most famous tower in Spain. Formerly covered with golden tiles and located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, it was built in 1220 and forms part of the wall of the city.

torres

the Torre del Oro on the left, above the Hercules tower of A Coruña and in the right corner the castle and tower of Santa Barbara in Alicante

Castle of San Fernando

Located on the Costa Brava, close to Girona, Catalonia, this castle is considered the largest bastion fortress in Europe. It was built with the intention to reinforce the frontier to protect Spanish territory from foreign troops. One of the castle’s highlights is its courtyard, with a total area of 12,000 squaremetres. The inner enclosure is formed by five bastions of different sizes and it includes a stable with space for 450 horses.

kronenburg

the crown shapped complex is the biggest fortress of the 18th century in Europe

Castle of Ponferrada

What makes this medieval fortress in Castilla y Leon in the north of Spain so special are the tunnels that let the castle of Ponferrada communicate with the castles of Cornatel, the monastery of Carracedo and the castle of Monforte de Lemos. These are the places where the Templars that lived in Ponferrade fled when they were defeated.

letztes

If these breath-taking pictures have caught your attention don’t miss our next post with more picturesque places to discover in Spain!

The third biggest of the Balearic Islands is so much more than just a famous party island. On the last weekend of May, on May 25th to be exact, it is the official season opening of the island which attracts hundreds of tourists. From families to couples, there are offers and possibilities for everyone’s taste.

ibiza 1

source: Ibiza Spotlight

Location

Ibiza is located in the Mediterranean Sea, about 150km away from Valencia on the east coast of the peninsula. Together with Formentera it forms the Pine Islands (Pityuses) that are part of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands.  Therefore, Ibiza can easily be reached by plane from Barcelona and Madrid in about one hour.

History

The island is known for its mild, Mediterranean weather which is perfect for spending the summer there. That’s what makes it so popular among tourists from all over the world.
After a big hippie movement in the late 1950s, Ibiza became a well-known vacation destination. There was a big tourism boom around 1970 when a lot of nightclubs and bars were installed and rave parties were trendy. Today, many famous DJs and producers hold weekly or annual shows in the biggest clubs of the island.
But the government is constantly promoting family friendly, cultural tourism as well. By introducing a “sustainable tourism tax” in 2016 they are trying to protect the UNESCO world heritage site from mass tourism, take better care of the locals and make Ibiza a more quiet holiday spot for families and couples.

ibiza 2

source: Expedia

What to do in Ibiza?

There is a wide spectrum of activities to do, sights to see and new things to try. If you like boat cruises, a sailing tour with a catamaran to Es Vedra, the third most magnetic rock in the world could be suitable. Additionally, one can try snorkelling to see the special Neptune grass, a kind of seaweed that only exists in Australia and the shallow areas of the Mediterranean. But also water ski, Jet Ski or a banana boat ride give you a rush of adrenaline.

ibiza 3

source: Ibiza Spotlight

Of course, there is more to see than just the ocean. Ibiza has amazing cliffs, coasts and bays but the UNESCO world heritage site also has a lot to offer when it comes to cultural tourism, like the port of Ibiza or places like Santa Eulalia, Punta Arabi, Cala de Portinatx, San Antonio or the romantic medieval part of the capital city Ibiza, called Dalt Vila. Here you will find the historical heart of the city, with an ancient castle, city walls from the 16th century and the highest point of the city with the best view over the port. In the narrow streets you can easily lose yourself, stroll around and have a drink to enjoy the nightlife. Ibiza is famous for its clubs and bars and if you come to party you shouldn’t miss out on clubs like Ushuaïa, Pacha or Privilege, the world’s largest nightclub with a capacity of 10.000 people.

ibiza 4

source: Ibiza 5 Sentidos

Besides the clubs and parties, Ibiza is also known for its numerous hippie markets. Vendors sell bags, fabric, jewellery, dreamcatchers, and most importantly handicrafts and local products. It is definitely worth a visit, even if one isn’t interested in that kind of art.

Since the island isn’t that big it’s also a nice idea to take part in a quad or vespa island tour and visit the nicest beaches of the area. Another option would be to do an excursion to the neighbouring island Formentera. The beaches there are usually a little more quiet and the main village, San Francisco is beautiful as well.

Hotel recommendations

A great holiday includes the most comfortable hotels possible, so we tried to summarize the best offers for families, couples and single travellers in a few sentences.

Hard Rock Hotel
This well-known establishment offers more than 400 ultra plus rooms and suites for your pleasure. They all have 24-hour room service and terraces with blissful views of the Mediterranean. What sounds so suitable for couples is also a great family resort. The hotel offers a wide range of kids and family activities, such as the Roxity Kids ClubTM.

ibiza 5

source: Pinterest

Palladium Cala Llonga Hotel
Palladium Hotel Cala Llonga is an adults-only hotel offering an ideal setting for couples to escape the hectic work life and spend a relaxed and romantic holiday. With features like a wellness room, massage service and a candle-lit chill out zone, the Palladium Hotel is the perfect accommodation for a wonderful vacation as a couple.

ibiza 6

source: Travel on spot

Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel
This hotel combines luxury, celebration, exclusivity, design and technology in one. With its daily pool parties, 181 luxurious rooms and suites and access to the services and events of Ushuaïa club, it’s the ideal hotel for the typical singles lifestyle.

 

Across Spain has a special focus on this beautiful Balearic Island. Whether it’s family packages that offer fun for old and young or a nice couple’s get away, a romantic honeymoon or a crazy singles party lifestyle, there are offers for everyone. They are easily combined with a stay on the mainland, either Madrid or Barcelona or just the full island experience as well. What are you waiting for? Get in touch with us to find out more about your next holiday destination.

ibiza 7

Every spring, the region of Caceres in the province of Extremadura, is shining in white because of the many blooming cherry trees. From the 23th of March until the 7th of April there are going to be lots of celebrations dedicated to this unbelievable occurrence.

This natural phenomenon happens annually for about 10 days around mid-March till beginning of April, although the exact date can never be known since the blooming of the trees depends on the weather conditions.
Nevertheless, the people in the Jerte Valley, including villages like Piornal, Cabrero, Jerte, Navaconcejo or Casas del Castañar celebrate this incredible sign of spring like nobody else.

The event is supposed to reflect the past and the future of the region. This is why many wineries or the local smith show how they used to work 50 years ago. There are also several families that open the doors of their ancient houses to demonstrate live how it was many years ago.

cherry trees extremadura

source: pinterest

But the real attraction throughout the days are the millions of cherry trees that slowly start to bloom in a beautiful white colour. At the beginning of the blooming process it is the perfect time to do some hiking, climbing or cycling through the valley. At this time of the year, the snow in the mountains starts melting but at the same time the cherries start blooming, which creates a picturesque landscape.
Only a few days later the area is covered in white from all the blooming trees. This marks the highlight of the festivities.
Unfortunately, this magical moment only lasts a small number of days until the petal rain starts, which is a nice farewell to such an original event.

cherry trees

source: viajarporextremadura

In Cabezuela del Valle, the Museo de la Cereza (the cherry museum) can be visited. Located in an old house typically for this region, the history of cherry cultivation is shown through interactive resources and recreations of some agricultural processes, as well as information about the Cherry Blossom Festival.

The mixture of the beauty of nature and the hospitality of the inhabitants of the villages make an incomparable celebration that welcomes many visitors every year. If you are interested in experiencing this event do not hesitate to contact us!

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