Places I have visited in Spain: -Segovia (Castila y Leon)
-Pedraza (Castila y Leon)
-Toledo (Castila y La Mancha)
-Avila (Castila y Leon)
- El Escorial
- Valle de Los Caidos
I recently posted a video compilation of the places I have visited so far in Spain! It will give you a good idea of the beautiful places I have seen in just 3 minutes
Pedraza is a tiny little town by Segovia so it isn't on the map!
Before leaving to Madrid this semester, I cannot tell you how many times I was warned by alumni, advisors and just everyone who had advice to give me to appreciate the country you are studying in first before jet setting to a new one every weekend. This is pretty hard for most study abroad students because there are only so many weekends in a semester and a semester can only last for so long. In my case however, I came to Madrid knowing that I have about a month and a half after my program ends to just travel around Europe without having to worry if I’ll make it back in time for my class on Monday morning.
With this in mind, I decided to spend the rest of January and most of February exploring different parts of Spain and the cities easily accessible from Madrid. While it would have been nice to be in a different country every weekend, I genuinely enjoyed getting to know Spain. I always tell my Spanish friends that Spain is my most favorite country in the world for many reasons, (some of which I am still discovering every day) and doing this has definitely taught me to appreciate this País so much more. There is just something about seeing and living in places that you have been studying about for so long. Spain has always had a special place in my heart even before studying abroad here. Maybe it’s the million and one times I have had to give presentations about it in my years of Spanish classes or the many times I have stared at pictures in textbooks, still trying to figure that out.
That being said before embarking on my first trip out of the country continent, I visited 4 different cities (7 different places). Spain has 17 different Autonomias and my goal is to visit at least half of them.
Segovia was the first city that I visited outside of Madrid and boy did it give me high expectations of cities in Spain. Segovia is one of the cities in the Iberian Peninsula with the largest Roman aqueduct that has been conserved since it was built. Upon arrival, I was in awe. Mind you I had barely been in Europe for 2 weeks and seeing something of this grandeur just amazed me because I had seen nothing like it in my life. For lunch, I had the famous cochinillo (which for the Filipinos out there is basically lechon).
Casually sitting by the aqueductThe Cathedral of Segovia
Sopa Castellano appetizer and Aqueduct selfies
After a day in Segovia, we stopped by the very small town of Pedraza. The whole town only has one gate to enter and exit the town, so basically if you get locked in after the gate closes there is no way out, ahhh! There is not much to do in the town itself but look. I mean I was able to get around the whole town in about 30 minutes or maybe even less. Most of the people that live there are older and are retired.
Pedraza's Plaza Mayor
Toledo is known to be a city of 3 cultures because of its Christian, Arabic and Jewish influences. The center of the city is situated in between the valleys because in the past this made it harder for enemies to reach the castle (reaching the castle meant conquering the kingdom). I loved walking around here because there was so much history at every corner. I mostly loved it because I found a pastelería that sold macarons for such a cheap price. I may or may not have bought a dozen and devoured them immediately.
A beautiful view of Toledo
Macarons and Selfies with friends
Why are cathedrals in Europe so pretty?
Avila is a little town about 2 hours away from Madrid. Most of the city is encased within castle walls which in the past was built to make it harder for enemies to attack. I went to Avila during Carnaval season so the streets were full of life and there were little kids running around everywhere in cute little costumes. The town itself is not very big and I was able to walk around the main area within the castle walls in about an hour and a half. The popular dish here is the chuleton (a typical dish in Avila of vaca or ternera) which I did not order (I just had cochinillo the day before so way too much meat for me) and yema. The yema was delicious. "Yemas" in Spanish means "egg yolks" and also refers to a very rich and creamy, traditional Spanish dessert made very simply of egg yolks, granulated sugar and water, then coated in powdered sugar. Although I wish I got the chocolate covered ones.
Looking at the city of Avila from a rock
One of the churches I visited
The Escorial is a vast building complex located in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, near Madrid, in central Spain. The building is the most important architectural monument of the Spanish Renaissance. Before coming here, I had never heard of El Escorial before, which is unfortunate because it was beautiful. The town itself was pretty small but what definitely took my breath away was the Monasterio de El Escorial. In other words, the palace. The palace was huge. I even toured around the palace (sans tour guide, I swear I can never pay attention during guided tours) and got to see all the rooms, the mausoleum, La Biblioteca (the famous library), and so much more.
Easily one of my favorite pictures of El Escorial
The view from the other side
One of the ceilings in the palace (no pictures allowed but I had to)
Valle De Los Caidos
Valle de los Caidos is a very controversial landmark among the Spaniards. Literally translated it means “Valley of the Fallen”. However, what was supposed to represent the millions of fallen people during the civil war was turned into the main symbol of Francoism in Spain as it is where former dictator Francisco Franco was buried as well as Jose Prima de Rivera a Falangist during the Franco era. Some Spaniards feel so strongly towards this valley that if you ask them to visit it with you they will immediately tell you ni muerto meaning not even when I am dead. Nevertheless, it is one of the most phenomenal things I have seen in my life to date. The valle as well as the basilica with the cross that sits atop the hill is larger than life. At first glance I had to take about 10 minutes to just stare and appreciate the intricate beauty and grandeur of the Valle.
Looking up at the beauty that is Valle de Los Caidos
Overlooking the Valle
Zaragoza is in the Aragon region. It is about 3 hours away from Madrid but a world of difference. Read more about it in my 7 Hours in Zaragoza post
Zaragoza's Plaza Mayor at night
This week I will be visiting 2 more cities in Spain, stay tuned or keep up with my Instagram to see where I am going next!
Hasta la proxima vez,