Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Spain

Happy Easter!! Here is an article I wrote on Easter in Spain from my archives. Sally has kindly featured it on her site. If you haven’t read it before, you might enjoy the celebrations of Semana Santa. Wishing everyone a wonderful day!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Darlene Foster shares a post from her archives that brought back memories for me of our seventeen years in Spain. Easter is a big festival and is an occasion for all the family to take to the streets.

Semana Santa: Easter in Spain by Darlene Foster

The week before and including Easter is called Semana Santa here in Spain and is the largest religious festival of the year. Elaborate processions take place throughout the week in most cities and towns. During Holy week religious sculptures are taken out of the churches and paraded through the town to the main cathedral. Some of these precious sculptures,created by well known Spanish artists, are hundreds of years old. They are mounted on floats called pasos, surrounded with flowers and candles. Portapasos (or float-carriers) wearing traditional costumes, carry the heavy floats through the streets lined with spectators. No large trucks transport these floats, only…

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There are just so many things to see and do in Barcelona that it’s impossible to see everything in one visit. Every time I go, I discover something new and exciting. I took my out-of-town guests to this fascinating city last summer where we visited Mount Tibidabo, the highest point in Barcelona, and loved it!


The charming blue tram

Getting there was part of the fun. We first took a bus, then a pleasant ride on a quaint blue tram with a friendly driver that took us through Barcelona’s most affluent residential area. The well-loved blue tram has been in operation since 1901 and still has that old world charm with dark wood seats and ceiling.


Beautiful homes from the window of the tram. Note the gorgeous wrought iron fence and gate.

The tram only took us halfway up the mountain. To reach the top we had to board a vintage funicular. We entered the colourful contraption with trepidation but decided that if it had been pulling folks up to the top of the mountain for 116 years, it must be OK.


Dubious funicular to the top of the mountain

Once safely delivered to the top of Mount Tibidabo, we were greeted by a classic amusement park built in 1889. Overlooking the vintage rides and fast food kiosks, the impressive Temple of Tibidabo built in 1902, stands proud. Also known as the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is adorned with a golden bronze statue of Jesus with outstretched arms as if giving a benediction to all of Barcelona.


We had a quick look at the old Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and other childhood rides but decided not to go on them. Our prime interest was the church.

The interior of the church was impressive with many works of art, murals, statues, mosaics and stained glass windows.


Many awesome icons inside the church including a Black Madonna and Child.


I loved the details like this iron door infront of  a private chapel



Mosaic floor depicting the story of the loaves and fishes

An elevator took us up to the terrace offering amazing panoramic views of the city, port and coastline. As we walked around the entire circumference we enjoyed close-up views of large stone statues depicting the twelve Apostles posted at intervals, ornate bell towers and intricate carvings.

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An ornate bell tower on the terrace


One of the twelve Apostles overlooking the city


Another apostle, with a fabulous view.

Stone stairs took us to more levels until we reached the top under the golden statue of Jesus. It was amazing. The wind blew, the sun shone and we were delighted to have had this experience.


We worked our way to the top via the spiral stone staircases.


More intriguing details. In the foreground is the top of a gate made to look like a flowering plant.


After enjoying a nice lunch, I had yummy deep-fried artichokes with aioli dip and an iced coffee, we bought a few souvenirs and took the funicular, tram, and bus trip back to our hotel in time for another exciting outing.


Visiting Mount Tibidabo with good friends made it all the more enjoyable!

I am a guest on Sue Vincent´s blog where I share information and pictures of a unique sanctuary I´ve visited here in Spain. Sue´s blog is very interesting with many great posts. Check it out.

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Spain is well known for its fascinating cathedrals such as La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, The Mesquite in Cordoba and the Cathedral of Seville to name a few. Besides the well-known religious structures, there are many smaller places of worship tucked away in villages, mountains and locations not often frequented by tourists. I love discovering these as they have their own distinctive personalities and are certainly worth a visit.

Sue has graciously agreed for me to be a guest on her blog so I can tell you about a few of these lesser known churches in Spain we have discovered, not far from where we live. One of the most unique being the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Magdalena near Novelda, in Alicante province, only an hour drive from our place.

Although I love scouring old sites, this delightful example of Spanish Art Nouveau, was built between 1918 and 1946, so…

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After spending a morning at the amazing Mezquita, enjoying a delightful lunch and checking out the cute shops we ventured to the Alcazar, a medieval fortress of the Christian Kings, rebuilt in 1328 by King Alfonso XI. The word Alcázar means palace in Arabic. It was the residence of the Christian Kings when they stayed in Cordoba and was one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Significant historic events were planned in this palace including the discovery of America. It was also the headquarters of the Inquisition and later served as a garrison for Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops in 1810. This intriguing place with a colourful history is now a World Heritage site.


Battlements surrounding the Alcazar


King Alfonso XI greets visitors to the Alcazar


The round tower is the Tower of the Inquisition, added in the 15th century. The Main Tower in front was a place for the Inquisition to carry out its public executions.


The gardens are a relaxing place to wander, with a wide variety of plants and trees overlooking stone fountains and large ponds


Well kept gardens

The Moorish style Royal Baths are situated in the basement and are thought to have been built by Alfonso XI. The skylights in the shape of stars provided light and ventilation. The walls were made from hardened clay and some of the original marble floor slabs are still visible.


Outside entrance to the Royal Bath House


Entering the bath house in the basement


Star shaped skylights for light and ventilation


Inside the bath house. I may be touching a wall Queen Isabella touched.

Interesting 16th-century frescoes hang in a hall which housed the former chapel of the Inquisitions. A collection of Roman mosaic art and a sarcophagus from the 2nd and 3rd century that once belonged to a wealthy Roman Mansion, discovered under Corredera Square in 1959, are also on display.


Interesting 16th-century frescoes


2nd or 3rd-century sarcophagus

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Roman mosaic art discovered under a square in Cordoba

The Alcazar was yet another remarkable place to wander around and take in the history as we stepped back in time. Seeing places like this makes the history we learned in school come alive. It is no longer just stuff from textbooks but actual events and places. Queen Isabella walked these hallways, touched these walls and probably bathed in the bath house while deciding whether to fund the voyage of Christopher Columbus, which ultimately changed history. This is why travel means so much to me.

More to come as we visit the Jewish Quarter and a cool museum in Cordoba.

Thanks for travelling with me.


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


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.


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


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


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 built in 1926


One big gun beside a watchtower.

Protecting the Meditereanean

Protecting the Mediterranean


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

Our trip to the province of Asturias in the Northern part of Spain was most enjoyable. We discovered this part of Spain is quite different from the Mediterranean coast where we live. As the plane descended we were amazed at the green rolling hills, scattered with red-tiled roofed, farm houses and dotted with cows in the fields. I thought perhaps we had arrived in Switzerland. Asturias is also well known for its dairy produce including excellent cheeses and yoghurt. It is a province of  varied landscapes, from the imposing Cantabrian mountains to the beaches and seascapes of the Bay of Biscay, with verdant meadows, quaint villages and historic cities in between. It was a visual smorgasbord for me.

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Christmas tree in our hotel, made of milk bottles, representing the prominent dairy industry

We stayed in Oviedo, the capital city. Our hotel was an easy 20 minute walk to the down-town and historic centre. We fell in love with the city immediately. It was just before Christmas and the city was well decorated for the season. The friendly people made us feel very welcome and proved to be extremely helpful  when we got lost. I was intrigued by the many bronze sculptures scattered throughout the pedestrian shopping areas.

The Traveler

The Traveller


Statue of La Regenta by the Cathedral San Salvadore


The sign on the building says AÑO 1679


Madonna icon inside a church

We drove to Gijon, a seaside town with a Roman history where we found a great outdoor market and hubby did some Christmas shopping.

Another day we drove through the Picos Europa, a majestic mountain range with limestone structures, jagged peaks and deep gorges. The scenery was breathtaking. We passed medieval bridges, old churches,  raised granaries called “horreos”, and stone houses covered with reed used as shepherds huts called “teitos”. Horses and cows grazed in the meadows and goats scrambled on rocks as we sped past.








We stopped to get a closer look at an old church with a stork´s nest on top of the bell tower, a sign of good luck for the local parishioners.


I was not surprised when I found a  book store in Oviedo called Cervantes.


I also discovered that Oviedo is the starting point of the Original Way or Camino Primitivo  which was the first Camino route to Santiago de Compostela, in the 9th century as most of Spain was under Moorish control. You can imagine my delight when I found the clam shells embedded in the streets showing the way, as well as this sign.


It was fun to see another part of this unique and diverse country and we plan to do more exploring.


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