Tag Archives: Infiesto

Part 2 – Northeast Spain….Infiesto to Barcelona

A continuation of our 3 week road trip this summer in Spain.  Be forewarned – this is a long one, but the pictures from Barcelona at the end are worth it. Promise.

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Part 2 – North – Infiesto to Barcelona

The morning after the Spaniards’ wedding, which was the catalyst for this whole trip, we got back in our rental car and headed east toward Bilbao.  Luckily, we consulted with our hostess before we left and she recommended an excellent stop along the way, Santillana, which was about midway between Infiesto and Bilbao.  The views along the way were incredible and when we reached Santillana, we discovered a historic town, where we had an excellent lunch and stretched our legs along the cobble-stone streets before getting back on the road.

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I have no idea where I found out about the Vizcaya Bridge, but I’m quite glad I stumbled upon it in my research before our trip.  Just north of Bilbao, the bridge spans the Nervion River.  It is a UNESCO site in the Industrial Heritage category, the only one in Spain. Designed by Alberto Palacio, one of Eiffel’s disciples it is essentially a gondola over the water that carries 6 cars and something like 200 people.  The gondola trip takes 90 seconds and costs 35 cents for pedestrians.  However, if you want to take an elevator to the top and walk across, it costs 7 Euro and can take almost an hour, in my experience.

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I wasn’t sure how my main photographer would do with the elevation, but it seems the desire for a good view prevailed over his fear of heights, as always.

We continued inland and reached Bilbao late in the afternoon.  We checked out the old quarter, or Casco Viejo that evening and meandered along the waterfront.  With the Guggenheim being the only main attraction we wished to see, we only scheduled one night in Bilbao.

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Bilbao riverfront

The next morning we walked to the Guggenheim, enjoying the riverfront along the way.

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Just down the street from the Guggenheim, quite a contrast in architecture.

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On our way back to pick up the car, we saw an unfortunate bike accident where a lady went head first into the pavement and wasn’t moving.  My first thought was to call 911, but then of course realized that wouldn’t work in Spain and made a mental note to look up the proper number (112 in case you were wondering).  Luckily, there were many other better equipped people who rushed to her aid.

We continued south east and stopped for lunch in Puente de la Reina, where they have a medieval bridge.  This was a spontaneous stop, something we would not have seen had we been stuck on a bus, or plane or train.  The town is just south of Pamplona, which is famous for the Running of the Bulls, which was only two days away.  We decided to skip Pamplona to avoid the crazy crowds and spend more time in Barcelona.  Though we did see a fair amount of people headed there or returning from the festival.

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I spent an incredible amount of time planning this trip, having 3 companions and a set amount of time, it was quite different than what I am used to.  When I asked my parents where they wanted to go, mostly I got vague answers that centered around museums and art.  But when I asked Riki, he said the desert.  And I thought he’d gone mad, until he showed me the pictures.  Even then I didn’t really believe a desert could be located so close to the French border.  But it is, and that is how we ended up in Olite.

Olite is a tiny town with an incredible palace.  The palace is almost entirely reconstructed since a fire in the 1800s, but it is still an amazing site to see and in typical fashion, my photographer was the last one out at closing time.

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That evening, as we sat on the main plaza right in front of our hotel, we were inundated with rain and privy to an amazing lightning storm (so much water that our room’s windows started leaking).

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Back to dry the next day however

“The light will be better” is a phrase I have grown accustomed to.  And a phrase that has changed many a plan around.  This was no exception.  Our overnight in Olite allowed us to get up early and head to Bardenas Reales, the desert Riki wanted to see, “when the light would be best.” And come to think of it, so would the temperature.  The landscape is incredible and the abrupt entry into a desert environment is daunting.  The unfortunate thing is that this vast expanse of arid land was man made by deforestation.  A unique habitat was created however, and is now protected.  Evidence of the massive rain storm was scarcely visible when we arrived and even less so by the time we left a few hours later.

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The bridesmaid bouquet made its final appearance in the desert.

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We stopped briefly in Tudela for a supermarket lunch, as it was not yet 1:00, so none of the restaurants had food yet.  Then we high-tailed it straight to Barcelona, where we promptly ditched the car for three days in favor of walking and public transit to avoid the maze of one way and forbidden streets.

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Crossing the Prime Meridian

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This being my third trip to Barcelona, it would seem I would be an expert.  But, no.  Barcelona is changing rapidly and I’m not sure it’s for the best.  They simply have too many tourists.  The city stopped issuing licenses for new tourist accommodations last year, but that just drove the prices up.  The tourists are still coming, and it’s obvious why.  Barcelona is a cool place, set right on the water, with an expansive beach, it offers unique architecture, delicious food and loads of culture.  A perfect combination that they are worried will turn them into a Spanish Venice, so dependent on tourism that the locals and their businesses are driven out.

La Sagrada Familia is changing as well, but let’s be honest, it’s about time.  They plan to be finished in 10 more years (144 years after construction began).  The ticket process has  changed since my last visit (which was only two years ago).  I had assumed we would go there early in the morning, wait in the long line and get our tickets for later in the morning.  So when no line awaited us as we approached the entrance I was a bit confused.  And when the sign said the next entry wasn’t for 5 hours, I was annoyed that I didn’t check before.  It seems they have gone digital and almost everyone buys their tickets online ahead of time.  We got incredibly lucky though, a group of 4 had canceled and we were able to enter 45 minutes later, which gave us time to grab breakfast before our scheduled entrance.

  This was my third visit (my first being almost 10 years ago) and it’s incredible to see the difference.  On my first visit, the nave was completely covered in plastic sheets and we could only walk in a single file line around the edge.  The facades were not nearly as complete and the towers not as tall.  Now we were able to wander the nave with our audio guides with 1000 other people gawking at the columns, glass and structure.

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La Sagrada Familia Facade
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Stained glass in the nave
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More stained glass
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La Sagrada Familia
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And more
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Construction up above
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Lord’s Prayer in many languages
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Statue
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La Sagrada Familia Nave
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More stained glass
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Incredible colors

One of the most interesting parts of La Sagrada Familia is going to the museum in the basement to see all the models and how Gaudi designed the building.  It is too bad he won’t get to see the completion, but he would have had to live to 174 years old.

We followed up our visit to La Sagrada Familia with another Gaudi creation, Parc Guell.  However, things have changed there as well and all the tickets for that time were sold out already and we couldn’t get in for another 5 hours.  So we walked around the outside, toured the Gaudi house museum and went home for a quick siesta before hitting the streets again to wander.

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Gaudi house museum with Barcelona beyond
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Barcelona street

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Barceloneta – by the water

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My parents spent their last day in Barcelona at more Gaudi buildings, where Riki and I had already been on our last trip.  We spent the day wandering, taking pictures (him), shopping (me) and laying on the beach because the water was too chilly to swim (for both of us).

Coming soon: Part 3 – South – Granada, Cordoba and up to Toledo

 

Part 1 – On the road to Northern Spain….Madrid to Infiesto

When I asked Riki to get together pictures from our trip to Spain this summer, he gave me a thumb drive per usual with some selected photos.  But since this thumb drive contained over 1300 photos from just the first week of our trip, it has taken me awhile to get this blog together.  That, and I’ve been busy learning German.  Our 17 day road trip around Spain with my parents began and ended in Madrid, and so will this blog.  However, it will be in 3 parts due to the enormous amount of pictures.

This part will cover our first week, up until the wedding in Infiesto.  The next will cover from Bilbao to Barcelona and the last will be the south; Granada, Cordoba and then back to Madrid, via Toledo.  The photos are organized in mosaics for space reasons – just click on a picture to make it larger.

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17 days, about 1800 miles/3000 kms give or take a few.

We met up with my parents at the Madrid airport, having flown from Zurich and they having flown from the US.  From there, we took the train to Atocha Train Station and walked to our rented apartment, which turned out to be tiny and  not air-conditioned, but very well located.

A master of all things free, I had researched the free hours of the Madrid art museums and we were able to visit the Reina Sophia, Thyssen Bornemisza and the Prado all for nothing.  As the master of good views, Riki had researched the Belles Artes building and we were able to get great views of downtown Madrid from the top, though not for free.

Our trip coincided with Gay Pride week so the city was decorated with rainbows and we witnessed a festive parade in one of the squares.  The rest of our two days in Madrid were spent enjoying the heat, wandering the lively streets, and eating.

Though we really enjoyed Madrid, I was anxious to get on the road and see the rest of the country.  We picked up our rental car, packed it to the gills with our luggage and headed about an hour outside of Madrid to Segovia, a UNESCO site and home to a 2nd century Roman aqueduct.  It also has an incredible Alcazar (fortress) that we climbed for nice views (another Riki find).  It was here that we first witnessed the huge white storks, which nest on the tops of trees and buildings.

After lunch, we got back in the car and headed to Ávila, another UNESCO site, about an hour away.  Ávila is known for its 12th c. walls and we walked over a kilometer of them and through the small city before getting back in the car.

From there, we drove about another hour to Salamanca, another UNESCO site, where we would spend two nights.  Salamanca is a university town and full of small walking streets, and the mandatory Plaza Mayor.  It is an incredibly beautiful city and we were lucky enough to have two charming friends here.  We ate delicious food and even bought 2 kilos of jamón ibérico, the maximum allowed to export to Switzerland.  If only we were allowed to take the whole leg.

Our next stop was León, which is known for its Gothic cathedral with incredible stained glass.  Since Riki didn’t actually go in the cathedral, I don’t have pictures, but I have an abundance of street art and graffiti shots he took while my mom and I toured the church.  We had lunch here and then continued onto our main destination, Infiesto, the wedding location.

So the whole point of this trip was to see my Spaniard get married in Infiesto, Asturias.  But Riki doesn’t have a single photo on his camera from the town or the event.  So I had to steal some from the phone.  Infiesto is a tiny place, set in an amazing location.  The wedding was great fun, with a great view, amazing food and definitely a worthy cause.