75 Chapters
Medium 9781628870046

5. SIDE TRIPS FROM MADRID

Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub

5

SIDE TRIPS FROM MADRID

Madrid is surrounded by legendary cities whose names echo down the ages in story and song. These were the frontier fortresses in the prolonged battle between the cross and the crescent for the body and soul of Iberia. As you approach these central Spanish cities, imagine that you are leading an invading army. After a long march across a flat plain with no place to hide, you finally reach the outskirts of Toledo, Cuenca, Segovia, Ávila, or Zamora. (Unfortified Salamanca is another story.) You crane your neck to look up at the walled fortress city high on the hill. Its defenders have been watching your approach for days, and their swords are ready. . . . It is the tale of central Spain written over and over—only the names of the invaders and defenders changed.

Whoever seized the plains of La Mancha or the hilltop cities always acted audaciously. Roman engineers channeled water from distant mountains to make Segovia bloom. Centuries later, a string of rulers named Alfonso and Sancho and Fernando plotted power in the name of a Christian god and fortified every high spot, giving the region its enduring name, Castilla, or land of castles. They carried the battle of the Reconquista from castle to castle across the searing center of the Iberian peninsula, mustering the military might, religious fervor, and brilliant scholarship that made them the most powerful rulers in this corner of Europe—and ultimately kings of Spain.

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Medium 9781628872163

7 CÁDIZ

Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub

A Cadiz streetscape.

R esidents of this seaport city on the Atlantic coast are a forward-thinking lot, yet they still call themselves Gaditanos, a reference to the Phoenician trad ing post founded here about 1100 b.c. As Western Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city, Cádiz fell under the successive sway of Athens, Carthage, Rome, and finally the Visigoths and Moors. Most traces of that storied past were obliterated in the 1755 earthquake that also leveled Lisbon. The Cádiz of today was conceived as an Enlightenment city with long, straight boulevards and now-abandoned fortifications to protect the galleons of New World trade that Cádiz monopolized when ships became too big to sail upriver to Sevilla. Its stately pastel buildings seem to bleach in the sun along the seaside paseos. Reasons to visit include a thriving local culture, great beaches, vibrant music scene, and wonderful seafood restaurants.

Essentials

Getting There Fifteen daily trains arrive from Sevilla (trip time: 2 hr.; 16€–24€ one-way), 12 of them stopping at Jerez de la Frontera and El Puerto de Santa María along the way. The train station is on Avenida del Puerto, Plaza de Sevilla 1 ( 90-242-22-42; www.renfe.com ), on the southeast border of the main port.

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Medium 9781628871487

7 ANDALUCÍA

Harris, Patricia FrommerMedia ePub

Flamenco dancer in Sevilla.

Much of what the world imagines as Spain is, in fact, Andalucía. It was the cradle of flamenco, the stomping grounds of the amorous Don Juan, and the tragic setting for Carmen. It’s the region where bulls are bred and matadors are more famous than rock stars. Nothing in Andalucía is done halfway. The flowers are brighter and the music is both more melancholy and more joyful. Although Andalucía is often a stand-in for Spain in the popular imagination, it was, in fact, the last stronghold of the Moors, who held al-Andalus for over 7 centuries. Consequently, Andalucía shines with all the medieval Muslim glories of Europe: the world-famous Mezquita (mosque) of Córdoba, the Alhambra Palace of Granada, and (in their own way as Christian-Muslim hybrids) Sevilla’s imposing Alcázar and looming Gothic cathedral. Its smaller towns can be haunting in their beauty: the whitewashed mountain villages, the Renaissance grace of Ubeda, the drama of gorge-split Ronda, the languor of sherry-besotted Jerez de la Frontera, and the brilliance of gleaming Cádiz. Spend a week or a month, and you’ll have only skimmed the surface.

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Medium 9781628873085

7 ESTORIL, CASCAIS & SINTRA

Ames, Paul FrommerMedia ePub

7

Estoril, Cascais & Sintra

Lured by Guincho (near the westernmost point in continental Europe), the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell), and Lord Byron’s “glorious Eden” at Sintra, many travelers spend much of their time in this region, just west of Lisbon. You could spend a complete day immersed in the wonders of the library at the monastery-palace of Mafra, dining in the pretty pink rococo palace at Queluz, or enjoying seafood at the Atlantic beach resort of Ericeira.

However, the main draw in the area is the Costa do Estoril. This string of beach resorts, with its sunny climate and gentle waves, attracts Lisboans, expats, and visitors. Estoril is so close to Lisbon that lodging there and darting in and out of the capital to see the sights is easy. An inexpensive train leaves from the Cais do Sodré station in Lisbon frequently throughout the day and evening; its run ends in Cascais. So why not stay one or two nights on the coast to really perfect your tan?

The region gained fame as a magnet for deposed royalty. Exiled kings, pretenders, marquesses from Italy, princesses from Russia, and baronesses from Germany—all came here to lick their wounds in the sun. Umberto II, the last king of Italy, forced into exile for life, chose Estoril. Other nobles who settled here include Don Juan, the count of Barcelona; his son, Don Juan Carlos, who was named successor by Franco; Joanna, the former queen of Bulgaria; and Carol II of Romania. Not long ago, Estoril was known as Costa dos Reis (Kings’ Coast).

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Medium 9781628871326

8 The Arts & Entertainment

Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub

A scene from a Tchaikovsky opera at Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

Best Concert Acoustics

L’Auditori, c/ Lepant, 150 (p 124)

Best Jazz Club

Harlem Jazz Club, Comtessa de Sobradiel, 8 (p 127)

Best Flamenco, Flashy Dresses & All

Tablao Flamenco Cordobés, La Rambla, 35 (p 126)

Best Opera House

Gran Teatre del Liceu, La Rambla, 51–59 (p 124)

Best Summer Arts Festival

Grec, Montjuïc (p 128)

Best Sporting Event

Fútbol Club Barcelona, Av. del Papa Joan XXIII (p 129)

Best Theater Performances

Teatre Mercat de Les Flors, c/ Lleida, 59 (p 130)

Best Impression Made by a Concert Hall

El Palau de la Música Catalana, c/ Sant Francesc de Paula, 2 (p 124)

Best All-Around Live Music Venue

Luz de Gas, c/ Muntaner, 246 (p 128)

Best Hipster Live Music Shows

Sala Razzmatazz, c/ Pamplona, 88, (p 129)

Best Unexpected Theater/Music

La Casa dels Músics, c/ Encarnació, 25 (p 124)

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