Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘medieval village

Part of the Estacion Inglesa experience was a field trip to the medieval village of Trujillo, in the Cáceres province of Extremadura, 40 kilometers away from the resort. For a history buff like me, this was a real treat.  

We started our tour in the Plaza Mayor where an equestrian statue of Trujillo´s famous son, the conquistador, Francisco Pizarro takes centre stage. The Spanish participants gave us presentations, in English, at each point of interest. From the presentation by the statue, we learned it is believed Pizarro’s ghost lives on in the statue.

Listening intently to the interesting presentation

I loved wandering the labyrinth of narrow streets in one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Spain. Old stone walls overhung with gorgeous flowers, impressive mansions, churches and monasteries, echoed the past as time stood still for me.

A monastery, now a secondary school. Note the faces above the door.

We learned about tenth-century cisterns built by the Moors, as explained by a participant.

At the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, we learned he was a poor, illiterate boy who sailed to the Americas in 1509 where he discovered new lands and made his fortune. A local boy done well! There is also a small museum attached which unfortunately was not open.

The birthplace of Francisco Pizarro

We ended our tour at the exquisite castle overlooking the town. Trujillo’s castle is of 10th-century Arabic origin later added to by the Christians. Magnificent views of the town are visible from the battlements as well as views of the rural countryside from the back of the castle.

Castillo de Trujillo
The Moorish entrance to the castle
Inside the castle walls
View of the village from the battlements
The rural countryside from the back of the castle
Our Lady of the Victory

A short climb took us to the hermitage of Our Lady of the Victory, Trujillo’s patron. She faces out toward the town above the castle entrance. By inserting a 50 cent coin, she will spin around in her alcove to bless you.

We had time to explore on our own, take pictures and do some shopping in the unique little shops around the plaza. I bought some smokey paprika, a specialty of the area, and some lovely tea. The area is well known for its cheeses and the national cheese festival is held here in early May. But I didn’t think cheese would travel well in the near 40 degree celsius temperatures, so refrained from purchasing any.

Stork’s nest in the clock tower means good luck

Local storks make their home in many of the towers around town. Black storks are common in the area.

Palacio de la Conquista

Some of the buildings are elaborately decorated, like the Palacio de la Conquista where carved images of Pizarro and his lover Inés Yupanqui (sister of the Inca emperor Atahualpa) along with their daughter Francisca and her husband Hernando Pizarro are displayed.

What a delight to visit a village mostly unchanged from the times of the conquistadors. I recall learning about these people and times at school in Canada many years ago, never for one minute imagining I would one day be able to visit.

A magical day I will never forget.

We read in the local paper about an artisans market, in a small town not much more than an hour away from where we live. Since we both love markets and small Spanish villages, we decided to take a drive and check it out. Alcalali proved to be a delightful, traditional Mediterranean village including original dry stone walls. The name, Alcalali, is an Arabic word meaning place where pots were made.

Pottery in the place were pottery is made with the old dry stone wall behind

Pottery in the place where pots were made, with original dry stone wall behind

faces

Pottery faces

The market was small but unique in that everything sold had to be hand made and by the person manning the stall. Local potters, weavers, wood carvers, almond candy makers, jewellers, leather and iron workers, and ladies who make lace were willing to chat and demonstrate their work. Some even gave lessons to the children. Throughout the displays, old fashioned table games and traditional delicacies could be found.

Wood carver

Wood carver at work

Lace makers

Traditional lace makers

Mortar and pestle to mash sugar, almonds, zest of lemon and cinnamon for making almond candy called turron

Mortar and pestle to mash sugar, almonds, zest of lemon and cinnamon to make delicious almond candy called turron

Pottery lesson

Pottery lesson

Playing a medieval game

Playing a medieval table game

In the centre of the village, a medieval tower built in the fourteenth century served as a watchtower and stronghold to protect the town from pirates and robbers that frequently attacked the village. It is now a museum with incredible views of the town and surrounding valley from the top floor. What I found very interesting was the medieval graffiti on the walls, most of it drawings of ships and weapons. Since Alcalali is an inland village, historians think the drawings were made by sailors imprisoned in the tower at one time.

The village church from the tower

The village church from the tower

View of the town and valley

View of the town and valley from the tower

Roofs from the tower window

Clay roofs from the tower window

Ancient graffiti

Ancient graffiti possibly drawn by prisoners

Alcalali is in an agricultural area, well known for its olive, grape, citrus fruit and almond production. The Arabs occupied the area for over five centuries and were masters in utilising the fertile ground of red clay, developing a thriving agricultural base. Many houses still have the large doors that allowed animals and carts inside, with rings in the entrance to tie up the mules. We enjoyed a visit to the old oil mill that has been turned into a museum displaying some of the original machinery for making olive oil,wine and raisins.  Pictures of when the mill was in operation helped to explain the process.

Museum in the old oil mill

Museum in the old oil mill

Olive picking tools

Olive picking tools used to knock the olives from the tree

Typical Alalali street

Typical Alcalali street including a house with large doors to allow animals and carts inside in the old days

Original dry stone wall

Original dry stone wall

No visit to a traditional Spanish village would be complete without sampling some of the local tapas in a friendly bar, which is just what we did before heading home. Another great day!

We have been going on some amazing day trips lately as we explore the countryside in our part of Spain. There are markets in all the towns but I prefer searching out the more interesting markets. In this pursuit, we found a medieval market in a place called Benissa, one of the oldest towns on the Costa Blanca.

spices

Colourful spices to savour

Teas for everything

Teas for everything

An assortment of cheeses

An assortment of handmade cheeses

Making candy apples

Making candy apples

knight2

You never know when you may encounter a knight

You never know when you may encounter a serious knight

or a jester

or a not so serious jester

or a monk and a lady

or a monk and a lady

The market is for all ages

The market is for all ages

The Moors and Christians are both represented

The Moors and Christians, both represented

Another day trip took us through the Jalon Valley, passing gorgeous scenery, quaint villages, beautiful almond blossoms and stopping at a bodega where we sampled the local wine.

gorgeous scenery

Stunning scenery in the Spanish mountains

Almond blossoms

Almond blossoms everywhere

Bodega

A local Bodega offering free wine samples and wine for sale of course!

Buildings with character

Buildings with character

Water fountains

and interesting water fountains found in quaint villages

One sunny Sunday we went on a quest to find some large guns we had heard about near a place called Mazarron.  The guns were built in 1926 to defend the port of Cartagena and were disbanded in 1993.  The road leading up to the guns, once we found it, was somewhat treacherous but well worth it. The barracks, although built in the 20th century, are very medieval looking. The huge guns facing the Mediterranean were imposing but I was pleased to hear they had never been fired in anger.

The guns of Mazarron

Barracks

Barracks built in 1926

mewithgun

One big gun beside a watchtower.

Protecting the Meditereanean

Protecting the Mediterranean

bigguns

The guns of Mazarron

I hope you enjoyed our day trips with us as we look for out of the way and unique places.

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.

Helen Keller

I want to share an amazing experience I had a few years ago that I will never forget.

Imagine waking up each morning in your own villa, to fresh mountain air, dew glistening on terracotta-tiled roofs and the melody of Spanish songbirds. Imagine wandering around well-kept, lush grounds, as picturesque as a pastoral painting, a pond to contemplate by, a welcoming pool, shady trees and sunny meadows. This was not a dream. I actually enjoyed eight days in this four star resort, nestled in the mountains of Spain – for free!

I had come to this surreal spot as a participant in a program called Pueblo Ingles. All I was required to do to enjoy this marvellous place at no cost, was speak English all day to Spanish speaking professionals who wished to improve their communication English. That was not difficult for me, as I love to talk. I was only responsible for the cost of the flight to Madrid.

Everything else was included such as a fabulous buffet breakfast to please any pallet. Chocolate filled croissants piled high, wedges of Spanish Tortillas, exquisite hams and cheeses from the local farmers, fresh fruit, creamy yogurts, fresh baked bread, toasted or not, with the finest olive oil drizzled over or, for the brave, spicy Spanish tomato sauce, and the smoothest coffee I have ever tasted. The “work” of communicating in English began at the breakfast table where two English speaking and two Spanish participants were seated together. The first breakfast proved awkward as the Spanish tried to keep up with the various English accents – Canadian, American, Australian, British and Welsh.

Lunch and dinner comprised of two equally delicious homemade three-course meals, served by an accommodating staff, complimented with a carafe of local red wine. We shared stories, experiences, idioms and culture with the Spanish-speaking participants while we ate. In between meals, we conducted one-hour one to one lessons while going for walks, making phone calls, relaxing by the pool, or discussing business practices; all in English of course. The only rule was, no speaking Spanish. By the end of 8 days, the Spanish were able to follow our conversations quite easily. One gentleman from Pamplona said he was starting to dream in English.

A short walk from the resort was the medieval village of La Alberca where we were magically transported back to the 15th century. We followed the narrow cobblestone streets that wound their way past wine cellars, stone watering fountains, huge wooden doors, houses built the year Columbus sailed and a cathedral with a stork nest perched on top and a stone pig on the steps. Bright flowers spilled out of windows and balconies. The older folks, dressed in the local costume, nodded solemnly as we passed by. I had fun choosing a set of castanets and a package of saffron from a local vender to take home. Our visit included a medieval feast at The Cathedral restaurant and a chance to try drinking wine from a wine skin without spilling it down our front! The Spanish proved to be much better at this.

Every night at the resort the entertainment made us laugh so our sides hurt and, for those who were able to keep up with the fun loving Spanish, there was dancing until the wee hours. Thank heaven for the tradition of siesta.

From the moment I arrived, until the tearful goodbyes eight days later, I shared many interesting stories and conversations, formed amazing friendships and created wonderful memories. The warmth, sense of humour and eagerness of the Spanish participants, taught me more about Spanish culture than I could ever learn from books. I hope to return one day. If you are looking for an inexpensive, fun filled holiday, I suggest you check it out. To learn more about this program and the various sites, visit http://www.puebloingles.com/


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