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Madrid day trip: Romanesque churches and a Gothic cathedral in Segovia

Madrid day trip: Romanesque churches and a Gothic cathedral in Segovia Jul 20th, 2011 at 9:00AM: Segovia is an easy day trip from Madrid and has plenty of medieval and Renaissance buildings to capture the imagination. Yesterday I talked about the Alcázar, the city's castle, and today I'm looking at Segovia's many churches. Most of the churches are Romanesque in style, like Iglesia de la Veracruz, which was actually built outside the city walls in 1208. The signage says this church...

Madrid day trip: the Alcázar castle in Segovia

Madrid day trip: the Alcázar castle in Segovia Jul 19th, 2011 at 10:00AM: As I mentioned yesterday, Segovia makes a great day trip from Madrid. One of the highlights of any visit is the Alcázar, or castle. Rising from the highest point on the promontory on which Segovia is built, it dominates the town and looks impossible to attack. The architects cut away part of the bedrock to make a dry moat cutting off the castle from the rest of the town, so to get in you...

Madrid day trip: Segovia

Madrid day trip: Segovia Jul 18th, 2011 at 9:00AM: Madrid offers a wide range of interesting day trips, from a Renaissance castle and Spanish Civil War bunker to challenging hikes. My personal favorite is the ancient town of Segovia just on the other side of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains. With a beautiful cathedral and castle, one of the best preserved Roman aqueducts anywhere, winding medieval streets, and delicious cuisine, it's a great...

Five overlooked art museums in Madrid

Five overlooked art museums in Madrid Jun 30th, 2011 at 9:30AM: Madrid is famous for its art. The Spanish capital boasts a "Golden Triangle" of world-class museums: the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. While these are all worth a visit, Madrid has dozens of other art museums that are generally overlooked by the casual visitor. Here are five local favorites. Museo Sorolla The house of one of Spain's most famous painters from the turn of...

Watching bullfights with my five-year-old

Watching bullfights with my five-year-old Jun 9th, 2011 at 9:00AM: One of the facts an immigrant has to accept is that your children aren't going to grow up in the same culture you did. When I want to give my five-year-old son a treat, I take him to dinner at El Brillante here in Madrid. You can't get more traditional than El Brillante--an old-school cafeteria/bar that hasn't had a remodel since forever, with hefty waiters who scream your order back to the...

Images of Paris in La Belle Époque

Images of Paris in La Belle Époque Jun 7th, 2011 at 9:00AM: Paris has always captured the imagination with its architectural beauty and interesting inhabitants. La Belle Époque from the late 19th century to the start of World War One is considered a high point of Parisian life, and this life was captured by an eccentric photographer named Eugène Atget. Atget started taking photographs of Paris in the 1890s. Working in the early hours of...

Hiking in a natural park near Madrid

Hiking in a natural park near Madrid Jun 6th, 2011 at 12:00PM: While Green Spain, the rainy north of the country, is Spain's popular place for hiking, there are lots of good hikes near the capital Madrid. The Comunidad de Madrid encompasses not only the city, but also several large parks, rivers, and mountains crisscrossed by numerous trails. Yesterday I headed to one of the most beautiful spots in the region, El Parque Natural de Peñalara, an...

The beauty of Spain

Apr 10th, 2011 at 2:00PM: Spain is a traveler's paradise. Modern pilgrims traverse the Camino de Santiago by foot in the north. In the west, kite boarders and wind surfers harness gusts of the Atlantic off of golden beaches. The east is home to the cosmopolitan Mediterranean ports of Barcelona and Alicante. The South holds the Alhambra, one of the finest fortifications in Europe. In every direction, character and...

Madrid daytrip: a Renaissance castle and Spanish Civil War bunker

Madrid daytrip: a Renaissance castle and Spanish Civil War bunker Feb 18th, 2011 at 1:30PM: Madrid has a lot to offer--tasty tapas, wonderful wine, and amazing art. There's so much to do in the center of town it's easy to spend your entire vacation there without ever seeing the outskirts. Yet several daytrips offer a different look at Spain. One possibility just opened up last year. Near the Metro stop Alameda de Osuna on the outskirts of town, the city government has recently...

Woman calls in fake bomb threat to keep boyfriend from leaving

Woman calls in fake bomb threat to keep boyfriend from leaving Feb 14th, 2011 at 11:15PM: In a time when everyone's on heightened alert against terrorist attacks, a woman in Chile called in a fake bomb threat to keep her boyfriend from flying off to a new job. MSNBC has reported that Grace Guajardo phoned in the threat to keep Rodrigo Gomez from departing on his Iberia flight bound for Madrid. The couple, who've been in a relationship for over eight years and have three children...

Three art fairs in Madrid this month

Three art fairs in Madrid this month Feb 10th, 2011 at 2:00PM: Madrid has always been a favorite destination for art lovers, and in February you have three more reasons to go. Later this month the Spanish capital will host three contemporary art fairs. Art Madrid is the biggest, with 45,000 visitors last year. Now in its sixth year, Art Madrid is hosting 89 exhibition spaces that will showcase the collections of 60 art galleries from across Spain and...

It's still Christmas in Spain!

It's still Christmas in Spain! Jan 6th, 2011 at 10:30AM: Well, Epiphany actually, but in Spain this is when we give presents. Christmas in Spain is a time for big meals and family fun, as well as church services for those who are so inclined. Santa passes Spain by to deal with the Anglo and Germanic countries, and Japan from what I hear. Spanish children wait for Los Reyes, the Three Kings, who come on their camels bearing gifts for good little boys and...

Smoking ban takes effect in Spain today

Smoking ban takes effect in Spain today Jan 2nd, 2011 at 9:00AM: Starting today in Spain, it is illegal to smoke in any enclosed space where the public gathers. This includes bars, cafes, and restaurants. It will also be illegal to smoke in school playgrounds and near hospitals. Smoking will even be banned from TV shows. Spain joins a host of countries that have recently toughened up anti-smoking laws, including Finland, Egypt, and Syria. Countries with...

¡Feliz Navidad! More Christmas traditions from Spain

¡Feliz Navidad! More Christmas traditions from Spain Dec 25th, 2010 at 10:30AM: Merry Christmas from Madrid! Last year I covered some of the big Spanish Christmas traditions. This year I'd like to talk on a more personal level about how I and my in-laws celebrate. I'm married to a Spaniard. A Castilian to be precise, as regional identity is important here. Living in Madrid we have a very Castilian Christmas. My five-year-old son is pretty much Castilian too, although he's got...

Favorite hiking spots near Madrid

Favorite hiking spots near Madrid Oct 29th, 2010 at 11:30AM: While most people come Madrid to sample the cuisine and see the art museums, Spain has much more to offer. Just an hour from the capital Madrid is the Sierra de Guadarrama, a chain of rough mountains wreathed in pine forest. While the strange rock formations of La Pedriza are perhaps more impressive, the Sierra de Guadarrama is the favorite getaway spot for madrileños because it's so easy...

Top five cities for taxi drivers (and the bottom end, too)

Top five cities for taxi drivers (and the bottom end, too) Aug 7th, 2010 at 5:00PM: When you step into a cab, you never know what you're going to find. The driver could be knowledgeable, helpful, pleasant and safe. Or, he could lead you into a fender-bender in minutes. It's a real roll of the dice, of course, though some cities' cabbies are certainly better than others – at least that's what hotels.com found. In a study of world's taxi drivers, hotels.com found that...

Bargain hunting in Madrid's famous Rastro market

Bargain hunting in Madrid's famous Rastro market Jun 28th, 2010 at 3:30PM: Shopping is a fun part of any trip, yet sometimes it's hard to find something truly unique, something that tells a bit about the culture but stands out from what 10,000 other tourists bought that year. Finding a good souvenir can be a real problem. In Madrid, you'll never have that problem. At El Rastro, a giant open-air market that happens every Sunday from about 7am to 2:30pm, you can find...

Flying above Madrid in a cable car

Flying above Madrid in a cable car Jun 26th, 2010 at 11:00AM: Madrid's museums and bars are a great place to spend a trip, but if you need a quick vacation from your vacation, check out the cable cars between two of Madrid's best parks. Known as the Teleférico, they go from Parque del Oeste to Casa De Campo, Madrid's largest park. Built by a Swiss company and inaugerated in 1969, the system has two sets of cables, one set for going up and the other...

Giant photography exhibition opens in Madrid

Giant photography exhibition opens in Madrid Jun 13th, 2010 at 11:00AM: Madrid is known for its fine art museums displaying paintings by Spanish and Dutch Masters, but every year it also hosts one of the largest photography exhibitions in Europe. PHotoEspaña, the International Festival of Photography and Visual Arts of Madrid, has been going strong since 1998 and is a major event here, with exhibitions and workshops in dozens of museums and galleries around...

Madrid book fair opens today

Madrid book fair opens today May 28th, 2010 at 1:00PM: Madrid is one of the art capitals of the world, with amazing museums like the Reina Sofia and El Prado. What many visitors don't realize, however, is that it's a major hub for publishing too. Many of Spain's large and small presses are based here, and the countless bookshops are a bibliophile's delight. Now book lovers are getting an extra treat, because today is the opening of the 69th annual...

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