Monday, December 24, 2007


Get ready for take off! We're about to go on a castle tour!!!

I read somewhere that at one time there were more than 10,000 castles in Spain! That number now stands at about 2,500. We rented a VW Golf during which time we drove over 1,000 miles from Madrid to San Sebastian, stopping to see some of those castles along the way. The castles we saw were in various states of condition; some had been restored, others left in ruins.

Me with our rental car in front of Coca Castle. Built around 1400 and still standing!

More pics of Coca Castle:
Castle wall

Osma Castle: Osma castle is located in the province of Soria. It was a medieval castle built on a hill around 912. It's pretty much all ruins now. Photo credit: Tim Cannon.

Olite Castle:

Photo credit: Tim Cannon

Photo credit: Tim Cannon

This castle has been restored with a lot of free interpretation; it had the most "fairy tale" look and feel out of all the ones we saw.

Here are some pics I took at Olite:

Olite castle was home to the king of Navarre until the 13th century, when Spain was united into one kingdom. Whereas Coca castle is Moorish in architecture and Osma is medieval, Olite is gothic.

Peñaranda Castle:
Dating from the 14th century, this castle on the hill had the most amazing views!

We took a walk into this tiny town and it was just charming!

Entering the town hall courtyard.

This is a well in the town hall courtyard.

Along the castle tour we drove by so many open fields with the most vibrant wild flowers!

This is Peñafiel Castle, located in the Valladolid region. The fortress is shaped like a ship, and I believe dates from the 13th century.

Javier Castle:
This castle is located in the Basque region of Spain. During the 10th century, it served as an Arab fortress. This castle is most famous, however, because it is the birthplace of St. Francis Xavier. Today the grounds are still maintained by Jesuits.

More of a palace than a castle, this was the home of the Duke of Alburquerque. Cuellar is located in between Segovia and Valladolid.

And now, my favorite castle:

Located in Soria, this is supposedly the largest and oldest castle (built around 756 A.D.) in Western Europe. It originally served as a Muslim fortress. Like Coca Castle, Mudejar architecture is prominent. The place is all ruins now, but nonetheless breath taking. It's a fun place to explore and brought out the kid and adventurer in me!

Gormaz castle walls.

Pretty steep and windy! (Also could be read: pretty, steep, and windy LOL!)

Inside the walls, I took time to reflect.

A view of the fields below.


We spent many hours here.

Gormaz at sunset.

Tim in deep thought.

I miss Spain this much!

Next stop: Pamplona

Back to Madrid

After spending a couple of days in Valladolid, we took a bus to Madrid. If you haven't noticed, we spent a lot of time there! Madrid acted as our homebase in between travel destinations and each time there was always something new to see! I probably visited Madrid at least 5 times this summer. Anyhow, here are some more pics of Madrid that I haven't shared yet:

A statue of Pope John Paul II. Anyone who visits Spain is constantly reminded of its Catholic roots and history, as portrayed through its architecture, art, celebrations, and museums.

A typical Spanish park, great for romantic walks or just reflecting on your own.

A beautiful building downtown.

Sunset at the Royal Palace.

This sculpture portrays some gypsies dancing.

El Oso y el Madroño (The bear and the strawberry tree).
Located in the Puerta del Sol, this statue weighs almost 20 tons!
It is the official symbol of Madrid.
This is also a great place to people watch!
A lion at the Parque Buen Retiro (Park of the Pleasant Retreat).
The park itself is over 350 acres and is a favorite summer retreat for Madrileños.
The Crystal Palace is one of the many beautiful buildings within the park, which also features a large artificial pond.

I haven't posted any door pics lately! This was actually taken at the University of Alcala, which is near Madrid. Alcala de Henares is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes.

A courtyard at the university.
Well, after seeing more of Madrid, we went to lunch with our friend Marc who had been living in Madrid for the past year. I sent some luggage home with him too! After that we picked up our rental car and then it was off to see some castles!

Friday, December 21, 2007


After visiting Frankfurt and Heidelburg, I flew back to Spain to meet up with Tim again. I had a 12-hour layover in Brussels and since I had been there just a few weeks prior I took a train into town and checked out a few more sites (not to mention loaded up on FRESH Belgian chocolates and snacked on Belgium waffles with ice cream and strawberries!)

Instead of flying to Madrid, I flew into the city of Valladolid. The capital of the province Castilla Leon, Valladolid is a small city about 125 miles northwest of Madrid.

Statue in front of the town hall.
V-did (as I called it) is rich in royal history:
Isabella and Ferdinand were married in Valladolid (pronounced Vie-uh-doe-leed)... Philip II was born here in the room above...
Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid in 1506...

This is also the place where Miguel de Cervantes published his first edition of Don Quixote in 1604...
and the Plaza Mayor in Valladolid (as seen in the reflection of Tim's sunglasses) was used as the template for other plaza's across the region, including Madrid's.

Valladolid is rich in architecture and scultures...

Check out the detail in this cathedral's entrance!

A closer look at the cathedral entry

Kinda creepy, but way cool!

A fun fountain in Valladolid

A bronze sculpture in town. (If you wanna see the other side then you'll just have to visit!)

An official Spanish postal mail box. I'd be scared to pay my bills hahaha!

This is Tim back mapping out the road trip for our castle tour before we picked up the rental car.

One of the things I'll remember about Valladolid are all of the roses.
It's got the most beautiful rose garden right in the middle of downtown.