Medieval, but with Street Lamps

Midnight in Sos del Rey Católico and the streets are deserted. This stone village in northern Aragón was built on a rocky hill in the 10th century as a Christian fortress to repel attacks from Moorish armies. The etymology of the word Sos is unclear. Some say it was the name of the hill on which the village was built, others say it’s of Basque origin and refers to the Celtic tribes that once inhabited this part of northern Spain. Five centuries later, in 1452, Continue Reading →

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Field of Dreams

A lonely football pitch on the high plains of Old Castile near Palencia. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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Facing History

Segovia’s Roman aqueduct is at its most spectacular downhill from here, where in the center of town it reaches a height of 30 meters and throngs of tourists gather to admire it. But in the quiet, little-visited southern part of town, the aqueduct, built at the end of the 1st century, passes through humble barrios where locals live with it right outside their front doors. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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The King of León

Every Wednesday and Saturday in the city of León, vendors set up stalls in the Plaza Mayor to sell meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and even socks and underwear. In the past, prices weren’t always fixed and haggling was the norm. Today however, you might have a harder time shaving off a few euros from your bill, but many abuelos still insist on negotiating the price of their cheese.

León’s most famous delicacy is  Continue Reading →

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Not in Cairo Anymore

Seville’s Plaza de España was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair, and is regarded as a shining example of Neo-Mudéjar architecture. While not strictly Islamic, it was good enough for legendary film director David Lean to use as a stand-in for the officer’s club in Cairo in his epic motion picture Continue Reading →

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Seaside Salad

The rocky, rugged coastline near Llanes, in Asturias, is home to samphire, an edible wild plant. “Half-way down, Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!” wrote Shakespeare in The Tragedy of King Lear, referring to the dangerous business of collecting it. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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Mudéjar Reflections

Seville’s Alcázar is Europe’s oldest royal palace still in use. Originally built by Almohad Berber-Muslims, the fortress was expanded by later Christian kings and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hidden underneath the palace are the Baths of Lady María de Padilla, above, which were used to collect rainwater. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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A Pirate’s Lair

This small rocky island, a one-time hideout for Turkish and Barbary pirates, sits in front a town founded by the Moors which is now the most popular vacation spot holiday resort in all of Europe. Where is it? Photo ©Mike Randolph

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Barring smoke

Two men relax in a sherry bar in Jerez de la Frontera. What once seemed so normal to see–people smoking in bars–now seems strange. This image was taken in 2008, before smoking was banned in bars throughout Spain. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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A Flowery Fiesta

Every October the Fiestas del Pilar are celebrated in Zaragoza for ten days. On the 12th, a parade of 400,000 people dressed in traditional costume wait their turn to show devotion to the Virgin del Pilar by leaving an offering of flowers. In the plaza outside the Basilica, the Virgin’s dress at the end of the day is decorated by some ten million blooms. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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Unfriendly Giants

A cabezudo takes time out from chasing kids around during Pamplona’s Sanfermines fiesta. Cabezudos (roughly translates to ‘big heads’) are popular in fiestas throughout northern Spain, and are always accompanied by gigantes, people dressed up in costume and, usually, walking around on stilts. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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The cabezudos (in this case, kiliki) run after children, trying to Continue Reading →

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Seeing Red

On my way to watch last week’s Spain-France World Cup qualifying match, I thought about my friend James and shook my head with a chuckle. Dear old James. Poor chap is afflicted with the most absurd superstitions when it comes to sporting events. You probably know the type. If his team loses, it was because he was there. Or maybe because of something he did. Or something he didn’t do. Who knows where he got the idea he could jinx sporting events? I don’t pretend to understand the man and besides, that’s up to his therapist to figure out, not me.

The day of the game, Continue Reading →

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Rock climber at rest

An Iberian ibex rests on a rocky perch in the Sierra de Gredos, a mountain range to the west of Madrid. These sturdy goats escape predators by running uphill and reaching places where other animals can’t follow. Their rock-climbing skills are outstanding. But their resting skills are pretty good too. Photo ©Mike Randolph 

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Rioja’s red vines

Autumn in La Rioja and the cool temperatures turn vine leaves the color of a young red wine. Some of these vineyards belong to the famous Bodegas Muga. Mostly, they are the Tempranillo varietal, which researchers have concluded Continue Reading →

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The coolest street in Seville

The narrow, serpentine streets of Seville were not designed that way by accident. Building houses close together on winding streets has an advantage that anyone who has been to Seville in the summer will be able to appreciate–avoiding the ferocious Andalusian sun. Direct sunlight never penetrates the alleys for long, if at all, and that helps keep the houses as cool as possible.

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