Avila, Spain – travel tips and photography

The month of June and July are all about Spain on my blog and on my store site. The third city is Avila.
Avila, Spain
Every time I have visited Avila I have taken the train from Madrid. As the train approaches the city, from quite a distance you get a view of the fortified walls of the old city, which is an impressive site as it is one of the best-preserved medieval fortified cities in Europe. And for those going to Europe with visions of castles and fortresses, this city will not disappoint.

I have been to Avila many times and each time I am always surprised at how chilly it is. I once visited Avila in the middle of August, one of the hottest months in Spain, and while Madrid was sweltering I arrived in to goose-bump weather and ended up having to buy a sweater in Avila. (This is always a good trick to use if you want an excuse to buy a new sweater though).

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What to See in Avila, Spain:

The city of Avila has a long history of battles, conquerors, and prosperity that reach as far back as pre-Roman times. The fortified city’s walls were built in 1090 and include nine gateways and over eighty towers. Today there are various sections of the wall that you can walk along and towers you can climb up (there is a small fee to do so). On every visit to Avila I make a point of walking along every accessible point on the wall and, to the joy of my family, I also go up every tower that you can – I insist that they all have different views. (In hindsight this is a great town for kids!).

Aside from the old city wall there is the Gothic Cathedral that should be visited. The cathedral is actually attached to the city wall and it was built between the 12th and 14th century. You can walk right up to the Cathedral from one of the wall walkways. Some of the best views of the newer sections of town can be seen from two towers right by the Cathedral. (Note that this is also one of the highest points of the wall and includes a very steep staircase, but I would encourage even those afraid of heights not to miss out on this)!

The city is a maze of cobbled stones streets, medieval and Renaissance architecture, and palaces. There are also numerous cathedrals and convents, most notably the Convent of Santa Teresa de Jesus.

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Storks in Avila, Spain

And apart from the architecture, cathedrals, and history there are storks. While walking through Avila you will hear a faint clapping sound which is actually storks clapping their beaks together. Storks are a prominent sight in Avila and many other Spanish cities; their enormous nests sit on top of towers and roofs and you can also see them dotting the old city wall. You can get very close to some of the nests while climbing the old city wall. (The advantages of climbing the wall… just keep growing)!

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There is a lot to see in Avila and I highly recommend it!

— For more information visit the official Avila tourist website by clicking here.

* And for photographs, books, and cards of Avila, Spain go to The Monica Store by clicking here.

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How to get to Avila, Spain:
1 – Avila is an hour and a half train ride from Madrid. Take the train from Chamartin.
— For schedules and fares click here for the RailEurope site.

Travel Tips for Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Alcala de Henares, Spain

Summer is here and that means travel, and for many that includes a trip to Europe. Spain is a popular vacation spot attracting over half a million tourists a year. I have traveled to Spain multiple times and visited over twenty cities within Spain.

The summer of 2010 is going to be all about Spain starting in alphabetical order with the cities I have visited. I hope to give some background of each place, along with a few travel tips, and of course photos. Enjoy! and please remember to visit my store site where you will find more photographs and fun facts about each location.

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Travel Tips for Alcalá de Henares.

Alcalá de Henares is just a short train ride from Madrid; see below for specific information about how to get there.

The city is mainly known for its university. The old Alcalá University has magnificent buildings and you can tour parts of them to see the magnificent courtyards, stairways, and architecture. The tour includes historical antidotes, many of which include hilarious old customs and student traditions.

The University was originally founded in 1496 by Cardinal Cisneros and named the Universidad Complutense. This University eventually moved to Madrid and the buildings in Alcalá became the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in 1977. The University is highly regarded for it’s Spanish language and literature programs.

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Alcalá de Henares is also known as the birthplace of Cervantes and you can visit the original house today.

Other main sites include the main square, Cervantes Square that is a large open square that acts as a divider between the Medieval and University portions of the city.

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Another site that I think should not be missed is the Laredo Palace. This palace was built in 1882 for Manuel Jose de Laredo. The building has interesting architecture with geometrical patterns on the façade and decorative motifs in the rooms that are similar to the Alhambra along with paintings by Laredo himself.

Alcalá de Henares historical center is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. With cobbled streets, medieval buildings and historical sites, Alcalá de Henares is a pleasant and easy day trip.

***To see more photos of Alcalá de Henares visit The Monica Store.

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Links and Useful information about how to get to Alcalá de Henares:

1 – Alcalá de Henares can be reached by the Cercanías trains with several departures every hour from Atocha railway station.

2- For train times and fares visit the Renfe Cercanias Madrid site click here.

3 – For more information about the main sites and what to see visit a helpful tourist information website by clicking here.

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Interesting Facts:

1 – Spain has thirty-six cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For the complete list click here.

2 – Alcalá de Henares is often just referred to as “Alcalá” which comes from the Arabic word al-qal’a, which means fortification.

3 – Christopher Columbus had his first meeting with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella at the “Casa de la Entrevista” in Alcalá de Henares.