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Welcome to my travel blog. Hope you have a nice stay!

Northern Spain

Northern Spain

In June, 2012 our daughter Laura joined Lil and me on a road trip through Spain.. Since we had visited Andalucia on a previous visit, this time we went mostly to small towns of northern Spain. We flew to Madrid for one night and then took the train to Salamanca where I taught a short course on the auditory system for three days at the University. After the teaching stint, we rented a car and went in a clockwise direction to Segovia, Burgos, the small towns of Santillana del Mar, Hondaribbia, Sos del Ray Catolico, Ainsa, and then to Tarragona, Barcelona and back to Madrid with a stop in Siguenza

Madrid

We only stayed in Madrid for one night since we had previously visited the city when we toured southern Spain. We met an old friend Nell Cant from our Ann Arbor days (she was the previous instructor in the course at Salamanca) and went out for tapas in an area of Madrid supposedly famous for them. Oddly we had also run into Nell unexpectedly on our last trip to Madrid in a cafe.

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Break dancing at the Plaza Mayor

Break dancing at the Plaza Mayor

Madrid steet scene

Madrid steet scene

Meeting with an old friend Nell Cant in Puerto del Sol in Madrid

Meeting with an old friend Nell Cant in Puerto del Sol in Madrid

Palacio Real of Madrid

Palacio Real of Madrid

Queen Isabella

Queen Isabella

Panorama of the Palacio Real of Madrid

Panorama of the Palacio Real of Madrid

Almudena Cathedral near the Royal Palace

Almudena Cathedral near the Royal Palace

Fountain on the grounds of the Royal Palace

Fountain on the grounds of the Royal Palace

Detail of the ceiling in the Royal Palace

Detail of the ceiling in the Royal Palace

Puerto del Sol

Puerto del Sol

Salamanca

The University of Salamanca is the oldest and most prestigious university in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. The town is very pleasant and is famous for a large and lively Plaza Mayor which is a great place to relax and have a cerveza. I spent most of my time jn Salamanca in class while Lil and Laura explored the city. In the afternoon and evening though we sampled all of the tapas bars in the area with the help our host, Doug Oliver, and the students in the class.

Meeting Doug Oliver, organizer of the course, in the Plaza Mayor

Meeting Doug Oliver, organizer of the course, in the Plaza Mayor

Facade of the Cathedral of Salamanca, built 1513 and 1733

Facade of the Cathedral of Salamanca, built 1513 and 1733

Detail of the facade around the door to the left with an astronaut with moon boots. The figure was added in a restoration in 1992.

Detail of the facade around the door to the left with an astronaut with moon boots. The figure was added in a restoration in 1992.

Plaza Mayor at night

Plaza Mayor at night

A 360 deg panorama of the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca at night

A 360 deg panorama of the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca at night

Interior passageway of the Plaza Mayor

Interior passageway of the Plaza Mayor

View of Salamanca from Cathedral

View of Salamanca from Cathedral

New Cathedral of Salamanca

New Cathedral of Salamanca

Courtyard of the Convento las Duenas, a Domincan convent, in Salamanca

Courtyard of the Convento las Duenas, a Domincan convent, in Salamanca

Segovia

We drove to Segovia after my teaching in Salamanca was finished. On the way we stopped to take some pictures of the walled city of Avila. Segovia is famous for the Alcazar (or fortress) and for a well preserved and large old Roman Aqueduct that runs through the city.

The cuisine of Segovia is famous for roast suckling pig. By tradition the dish is brought to the table and the pig is cut by using a dish, rather than a knife, to show how tender it is.

Avila

Avila

The walled city of Avila

The walled city of Avila

Narrow street in Segovia

Narrow street in Segovia

Sunset view in Plaza Mayor of Segovia

Sunset view in Plaza Mayor of Segovia

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Having the specialty of Segovia, roast suckling pig. Note that the waiter is about to cut the pig with a dish.

Having the specialty of Segovia, roast suckling pig. Note that the waiter is about to cut the pig with a dish.

The Alcazar

The Alcazar

The Alcazar

The Alcazar

The Alcazar

The Alcazar

Street lamp in alleyway

Street lamp in alleyway

Courtyard of the Alcazar

Courtyard of the Alcazar

Touring the Alcazar

Touring the Alcazar

View from the Alcazar

View from the Alcazar

View from the Alcazar

View from the Alcazar

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View from the Alcazar

View from the Alcazar

Courtyard of the Alcazar

Courtyard of the Alcazar

Narrow alleyway of Segovia

Narrow alleyway of Segovia

View of Segovia from the Alcazar

View of Segovia from the Alcazar

View of stork’s nest from the Alcazar

View of stork’s nest from the Alcazar

Stork’s nest from the ground

Stork’s nest from the ground

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Gates of Segovia

Gates of Segovia

The Aqueduct runs right through the center of the city

The Aqueduct runs right through the center of the city

Closeup of the aqueduct

Closeup of the aqueduct

Aqueduct

Aqueduct

Street lamp and aqueduct

Street lamp and aqueduct

Aqueduct

Aqueduct

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Burgos

Our next stop was Burgos which is well known for a large and beautiful cathedral.

Burgos cathedral at sunset

Burgos cathedral at sunset

Burgos Cathedral at sunset

Burgos Cathedral at sunset

Burgos Cathedral at sunset

Burgos Cathedral at sunset

Spanish tile

Spanish tile

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Stained glass in cathedral

Stained glass in cathedral

Stained glass in cathedral

Stained glass in cathedral

Sculptured trees in Burgos

Sculptured trees in Burgos

Plaza Mayor in Burgos

Plaza Mayor in Burgos

Santilanna del Mar

It is commonly said of our next destination, Santillana del Mar, that there are three falsehoods in the name: it is not holy (Santi), nor flat (llana), nor on the sea (del Mar). Nonetheless it is a very pretty city, but our main reason for coming here was to see the paleolithic cave drawings of Altamira, which is close to Santillana. Unfortunately they now do not allow people to enter the caves for fear of damage from the carbon dioxide and water vapor of large number of tourists. There is now a nice museum in which they built a replica of the cave with copies of the cave art. Just the month that we were there, a publication came out in Science that dated the cave drawings in Altamira to over 36,000 years ago using a new technique for carbon dating. They did not allow photos in the museum when we were there so the images of the rock art are from coasters that we bought at the gift shop. The Altamira caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Examples of the cave art

Examples of the cave art

Hide and go seek - a game without borders

Hide and go seek - a game without borders

Plaza Major

Plaza Major

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Father daughter inside joke

Father daughter inside joke

A guillotine in the museum of medieval instruments of torture

A guillotine in the museum of medieval instruments of torture

More instruments of torture

More instruments of torture

On the drive we passed the harbor of Castro Urdiales with its castle on the hill

On the drive we passed the harbor of Castro Urdiales with its castle on the hill

Castro-Urdiales

Castro-Urdiales

Bilbao

Bilbao is now best known for the sleek and modern Art Museum designed by Frank Gehry. The museum dominates the riverfront.

Bilbao Museum of Art

Bilbao Museum of Art

Frank Gehry handiwork

Frank Gehry handiwork

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On the drive we passed the pretty harbor of Castro-Urdiales with a castle on the hill

On the drive we passed the pretty harbor of Castro-Urdiales with a castle on the hill

Harbor view of Ondarroa

Harbor view of Ondarroa

Hondaribbia

The small town of Hodaribbia lies nearly on the French border. On the day we were visiting they were having a medieval festival which gave the historic and picturesque town a special flavor. Many people were dressed in period costume and there were many booths set up to demonstrate and sell unique items.

The Plaza Mayor in Hondaribbia is one of the most colorful we’ve seen

The Plaza Mayor in Hondaribbia is one of the most colorful we’ve seen

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Medieval Festival participant

Medieval Festival participant

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Medieval clowns

Medieval clowns

Parade through the town with two giant puppets leading the way

Parade through the town with two giant puppets leading the way

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Even the children get into the spirit

Even the children get into the spirit

Sos del rey Catolica

The medieval town of Sos is a quiet and uncrowded gem. We stayed here for two nights and had fun wandering and climbing its narrow alleys.

Ray of sunlight on Sos

Ray of sunlight on Sos

On the rooftops of Sos

On the rooftops of Sos

Looking over the rooftops to the surrounding countryside

Looking over the rooftops to the surrounding countryside

Narrow alleyways in Sos

Narrow alleyways in Sos

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Home of Ramon y Cajal : Petilla de Aragon

Hill town of Petilla de Aragon, the birthplace of Ramon y Cajal

Hill town of Petilla de Aragon, the birthplace of Ramon y Cajal

On the way out of Sos, we were driving along and I saw a sign with an arrow and with the words “Ramon y Cajal”. For those of you who are not neuroscientists this may not mean much, but he is widely considered to be the ‘father’ of modern neuroscience. Of course I knew he was Spanish but I didn’t know where he was from. So we drove down the small two lane road that kept getting narrower and narrower. It finally dead ended in a tiny hill town called Petilla de Aragon which it turns out is Cajal’s birthplace. They have preserved the house that he was born and lived in. Unfortunately we were not there on a weekend, which is the only time that the house is open for visitors. We asked around to see if someone could let us in but to no avail. Cajal won the Nobel Prize in 1906, sharing it with his biggest rival Camillo Golgi. It is truly remarkable that he could achieve so much coming from such a tiny village, so small that the only road in deadends on the town.

House where Cajal was born is now a museum, but only open on weekends

House where Cajal was born is now a museum, but only open on weekends

Ainsa

The next stop was a small mountain town in the Spanish Pyrenees near the French border.

At our BnB

At our BnB

View of the mountains from Ainsa

View of the mountains from Ainsa

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

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Plaza Major

Plaza Major

Small mountain village

Small mountain village

In the Pyrenees Mountains

In the Pyrenees Mountains

Small mountain village

Small mountain village

Mountain village in Pyrenees

Mountain village in Pyrenees

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Tarragona

Before going to Barcelona we made a side trip to Tarragona which has a famous old Roman amphitheater.

Ruins of ancient Roman amphitheater

Ruins of ancient Roman amphitheater

Roman amphitheater in Tarragona

Roman amphitheater in Tarragona

Ruins of ancient Roman amphitheater

Ruins of ancient Roman amphitheater

Barcelona

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and one of the most popular tourist destinations. We spent most of our time on an architecture tour, visiting the famous buildings designed by the architect Gaudi. The most famous of these is the reknown cathedral known as the Sagrada Familia, which is still not finished.

Closeup of Casa Batllo

Closeup of Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo

Lil and Laura in front of the Sagrada Familia

Lil and Laura in front of the Sagrada Familia

Detail of outer wall of Sagrada Familia

Detail of outer wall of Sagrada Familia

Detail of outer wall of Sagrada Familia

Detail of outer wall of Sagrada Familia

Interior ceiling detail

Interior ceiling detail

Interior ceiling detail

Interior ceiling detail

Let there be light.

Let there be light.

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Spiral staircase

Spiral staircase

Night view of the fountain at Placa de Catalunya

Night view of the fountain at Placa de Catalunya

On Las Ramblas at night

On Las Ramblas at night

Tintin in Museo de la Xocolata

Tintin in Museo de la Xocolata

Bullfight in the Museo de la Xocolata

Bullfight in the Museo de la Xocolata

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Parc Guell

From the Castillo de Montjuich

From the Castillo de Montjuich

On the rooftop of the Juan Miro Museum

On the rooftop of the Juan Miro Museum

Siguenza

On the drive back to Madrid to catch our flight home, we stayed for one night in Siguenze, a moderately sized town famous for an old cathedral and an old fort.

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Doorway of Siguenza Cathedral

Doorway of Siguenza Cathedral

Siguenza Castle

Siguenza Castle

Backpacking in the Grand Tetons

Backpacking in the Grand Tetons

Pub hopping through Ireland

Pub hopping through Ireland