The Guardians of Spanish Heritage – The Parador Hotels

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of These

Since 1928, the Spanish government at the initiative of Marqués Vega Inclán, King Alfonso XIII  opened the first Hotel Parador of Tourism in the heart of the Gredos Mountain range in Navarredonda de Gredos, Ávila.  For the last 82 years, the Parador Hotel Network has been rescuing ancient hilltop castles, intriguing historic fortresses, impressively enchanting monasteries, majestic medieval convents, princely palatial mansions, massive octagonal stronghold towers and noblemen´s manor houses. Additionally, they have been recruiting internationally renowned architect teams and restoration specialists to transform them into privileged paradises with 21st century comfort and hotels featuring superior amenities without losing their extraordinaire ambiances, fabled characters and historic circa details.

Furthermore, they are offering around the Iberian peninsula, expertise in the art of seducing palates with their  93 regional Tasters´ lunch and dinner cartes between 27 Euros – 32.50 Euros. My friend, and intercambio, Ana Maria Martin and I believe all 93 are worth visiting 365 days a year.  Noted for maintaining their original concepts, one of which states, to act as the guardians of Spanish national artistic heritage while promoting superior quality tourism and dynamizing those regions that are lesser known. Now in the 21st millennium, the Parador Network maintains the founding principles while adopting them to the guests of today at all 93 of their spectacular establishments. Hasta invierno.

The Parador Network’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tastings

The long story of Spanish olive oil production has taken an unexpected twist. Botanists, chemists, journalists, sommeliers, olive oil makers, chefs and restaurateurs have laboriously worked their way back to concentrate on the oils´ natural starting point, the fruit itself. The Parador Hotel Network is providing their guests with a finely tuned tasting profile.

A handful of olive oil varieties we sampled are:

  1. Almaszaras de La Subbética, S.C.A.
  2. D.O. Carcabuey, Córdoba

Olive Variety:  100% Hojiblanca

Production: Ecological Organic Method

Tasting Notes: Equilibrium, complexity with green apple, herbs & spearmint

  1. Almaszaras de La Subbética, S.C.A.
  2. D.O. Carcabuey, Cordóba

Olive Variety: Hojiblanca and Picuda

Production: Conventional

Tasting Notes: Lightly almond reflecting an unusual equilibrium with piquant and bitter notes

  1. Aceites Campo Liva, S.L.
  2. D.O. Pegalajar, Jaén

Olive Variety:  Picual, Hojiblanca, Arbequina & Frantoio

Production: Conventional

Tasting Notes: Green almonds, aromatic herbs and green Apple

  1. Rodau, S.L.
  2. D.O. Torroella de Fluvià, Girona

Olive Variety: Arbequina, Hojiblanca & Koreneiki

Production: Conventional

Tasting Notes:  Mature fruit, green apples & green almond

Monastic Splendour On The Silver Route

Ancient Architectural Gems

Ages before the construction of this majestic monastery, monks were already residing behind the Parish church of San Miguel in what was once called The Santo Domingo Viejo. The community’s relocation to the new monastery took place while Fray Alfonso Maldonado was friar in 1477. Historians have traditionally attributed their sacred miracles to Saint Vincent Ferrer, who resuscitated the sole male child the duke and dutchess had. The monastery was severely damaged in the War of 1812, in which Spain fought for its independence from Napolean. It was reconstructed and renovated in 1850. Over the years it was occupied by various religious orders. The Fathers of Heart and Maria and the Servitas, were the last theological  orders to occupy it.

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The remains of the fortifications were found during archaeological research while carrying out the restoration of the building and it was confirmed that the Parador de Santo Domingo was a former fortress. Additionally, the area possessed a Sefardic synagogue and a Hebrew faith graveyard.   Many artifacts had been found including a yad which is a pointer for reading, fragments of a hanukiyot which is a votive lamp and thus confirmed the existence of a significant Sefardic settlement in this area. The presence of human life in the area dates back into the remote past has been proven and a series of structures were partially built in caves.

Construction work on the monastery was directed by the master stone mason Pedro Gonzalez with the assistance of his son Francisco and the master craftsmans Maluenes, Dara and Garcia Escalante, who also collaborated on the two Plasencia Cathedrals.

The Monastery Complex

The 66 room Parador Hotel complex located in a small cosmopolitan city that flirts with all who encounter its treasures,  is centered around the church which is almost cathedral like in proportions. The temple is reached through a large 17th century neo classical façade. Access to visit the the monastery complex is located on the Westside at an 18th century portico.

The Cloisters & Chapel Houses

The stunning proportioned cloister is late Gothic.  The Profundis chapel was a most important room of its day and the star ribbed vaults date back to the 15th century.

Monumental 1577 Staircase In The Tapas Bar

The monumental staircase commonly called the Staircase of Air is especially noteworthy.  It was built by Plasencia native Juan Alvarez in 1577.  This architectural wonder rises without pillars, hanging almost in the air in a faultless study of thrust and executed with exceptional mastery.

The Wine Cellar, Bar De Copas & Chillout Lounge

The Hotel Parador ’s wine cellar, which dates back to the 15th century has been adapted to the needs of the 21st millennium guest however, it has been preserved virtually in its original state, with its embedded earthenware jugs, stone, bricks and ceiling vault. The perfect place to enjoy a wine or cocktail and enjoy the conversational background music.

Room 320 & Room 222

Firstly, Director Felix Lobo showed us  ROOM 320, which houses the original walls of the Convent of Santo Domingo. The VIPS unique suite consists of  78 m2  and is divided into two large rooms each of which has its own cosy lounge to ensure maximum unwinding. The deep cherry red and white upholstery, period furniture and the fireplace all add to the warmth and romance of this suite. Our hotel ROOM 222 was absolutely a perfect place to spend a couple of nights. The wide ranging balcony views over the Gredos Mountain Range, pool, gardens and courtyard are divine.

Chef Luis Mora

  • Mar :  What is your culinary philosophy ?
  • Luis:  Adapting quality traditional products of the zone with modern concepts,  reinterpretation and author creativity.
  • Mar:  Where have  you studied ?
  • Luis:  I have been learning all my life as I was born into a family of chefs . My formal studies have been with the Parador Network.  I have worked in the Parador Hotels of Chinchon, Antequera, Málaga, Hostería Del Estudiante in Alcalá de Henares and since October 2000 in the Parador of Plasencia.
  • Mar: Your dream trip.
  • Luis:  The profound depths of Spain in all its regions.
  • Mar:  Tell us about autumn.
  • Luis:  Venison and wild hoofed game varieties, lamb, saffron, wild mushrooms Bolteus Eduli, Niscalos, chestnuts for desserts and red wine Tentudia from Almendralejos, Badajóz. I also employ some historic Sefardic ingredients.
  • Mar:  Your inspiration is derived from ?
  • Luis:  I read a lot, plus collaborate recipes with Juan Marí Arzak and Dani García.

Chef Luis Mora Savours Spanish Culture

  • White wine:  Sánz Clásico Rueda 2009
  • Red wine:  50% Cabernet Sauvignon & 50% Tempranillo Tentudia 2005
  • Torta del Casar sheepcheese & straight out of the oven assorted breads
  • Palate cleanser French greenbean slaw & prawn salad
  • The exquisite black cherry gazpacho
  • Divine roast lamb with criadillas, Plasencia´s local potatoes
  • Tecula Mecula:  an ancient Roman almond gel concoction translating: For you, for me
  • Sweet ripe stuffed fresh figs:  D.O. Almohain, Cáceres
  • Cañas: pastries with white chocolate filling
  • Cherry sherbert

Hotel Parador Santo Domingo Convent

Plaza San Vincente Ferrer  S.N.

Plasencia, Caceres 10600

www.parador.es

Fabled Castle Dropt From Heaven

Located in the county of La Vera, Cáceres, snuggly nestled in the Gredos Mountain Range, the XV century restored castle of Emperor Carlos V, the royal gem of the Renaissance awaits you.

Emperor Carlos V was the most powerful man in the world during his reign and resided in this historic 15th century castle for a few months before retiring to the Yuste Monastery,  8 km away in Cuacos. This renovated four star hotel is a fortified 15th century castle which dates back to the Counts of Oropesa and was built over the ruins of a fortress that had been reconstructed  centuries later and was inhabited by King Alfonso XIII.

It has all that a castle should have, a Blue Room with a fireplace and 15th century tapestries, a Salon of Portraits, a Patio of Arms,  robust corner towers, migrating storks, embrasures, machicolations, turrets which are the small projecting armed structures for gunners, and heraldic shield crests.  The Italian Renaissance prevails throughout and the dining room views lookout onto a beautiful courtyard.  The grounds include walking paths with delightful gardens chock full of orange trees, ancient eucalyptus trees, palm trees, lilac bushes and a lovely swimming pool.

Without sacrificing the original structures, one enters across a drawbridge between two cubic fortress towers. The courtyard is a sanctuary covered in ivy, shaded by palms depicting the region’s micro climate and houses a fountain, creating the privileged paradise for after dinner conversation through late autumn.  Conquering visitors’ emotions, this is a nobleman’s castle in every sense of the word.

Nobel Room 219 With Balcony Over Gardens

Our room, one of the best in the house, can be found nestled amidst the gardens, complete with balcony, providing royal refuge in this privileged paradise of sweet dreams.

Capacity Data For Bookings

The three story castle houses 52 renovated rooms which seduce and house the treasures of royalty in its salons and communal spaces. Emperor Carlos V dwelled in the castle from November 12th, 1556 until February 3rd, 1557 prior to his retirement. Debonaire Maîtré Julian Sevila informed us that the hotel is fully equipped for those requiring handicapped railings, business conventions, christenings, celebrations and weddings with a capacity for 250 people. The restaurant ‘s capacity holds up to 80 people and special breakfasts for up to 60 people.

Chef Juan Antonio Ramos De La Calle

  • Mar:  Tell us about the  specialties of the house.
  • Juan:  Firstly, designation of origin, La Vera is renowned for their goat cheeses and the 4 varieties  I believe you both would enjoy are:  QUESUCO BLUE VEIN which has a very creamy texture and is similar to Asturian Picón Azul, PIMENTON which has a paprika cayenne rind and is a semi soft variety, the French style roll or RULO and the ECOLOGICAL mild semi soft.
  • Mar:  What is your culinary philosophy  ?
  • Juan:  It has always been clear. To cook with what the environment produces, a united team, to teach, the content, the affection, new technology and the traditional with the regional and seasonal, the product and the textures. I am sort of an Extremaduran Santi Santamaria.
  • Mar:  Where are you from Juan Antonio ?
  • Juan:  Across the street,  I was born in the historic town of Jarandilla de La Vera.
  • Mar:  What are the autumn products you employ in your menus?
  • Juan:  Partridge, quail, rabbit, wild mushrooms, Boletus Eduli and Niscalos, boar, fresh figs, La Vera paprika varieities, Iberian acorn fed ham, codfish, fresh river carp, fresh trout and herrings.
  • Mar:  Dream trips?
  • Juan: China culturally and Seychelles to relax.
  • Mar:  Where have you studied and in which Parador Hotels have you worked to date?
  • Juan:  I studied at the Gastronomic Institute in La Bañeza, Leó close to Astorga. I have worked in various Parador Hotels including, Valle de Aran, Málaga, Zamora City and since 1998, in my home town of Jarandilla de La Vera.
  • Mar:  Which celebrities and/or famous well knowns have you cooked for?
  • Juan: I have cooked for the various members of the Royal Family, former Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez,  government officials, singers Shakira and Alejandro Sanz who have homes here in Jarandilla de La Vera.
  • Mar:  Tell us about innovation and the road to success.
  • Juan:  A lot of  Innovation, fusion of ingredients, evolutionary technology, textures, colors, research, experimentation and “A to Z” styles.
  • Mar:  This is a stunning area, however, what products do you miss the most ?
  • Juan:  A larger assortment of Ribera del Duero red wines and shellfish. We can obtain the ocean´s fresh catches however, we have to utilize them much more promptly.
  • Mar:  Do you listen to music in your kitchen while preparing?
  • Juan:  I am a flamenco guitarist and this inspires me.

The Emperor’s Table

  • White wine Lar de Barros 100% Macabeo Grape 2009
  • Assorted designation of origin cold cut Deli Meats and Cheeses
  • French style onion soup created with fowl stock
  • Warm smoked herrings with scalded eggs
  • Stuffed aubergines stuffed with hake and baked apple sliced
  • Seared on flame tender mouthwatering octopus
  • Quail in port wine and spiced pear
  • A buñuelo, fusion between a Doughnut  & French toast bread,  pine nuts & creamed goat cheese filling

Parador  Hotel & Restaurant Carlos V

Avda. García Prieto 1

Jarandilla de La Vera,  Cáceres 10450

Multilingual Website:  www.parador.es

Madrid Central Reservations:   91. 561. 6666

Headquarters at   Calle Requena 3

Metroline 5 / Ópera

Greenland

This is as close to Greenland that we will probably come for many years.   Maybe in the summer it would be cool to check it out the icebergs and glacier.  Greenland’s coast looked great with it’s many valleys, bays and villages.  We passed over the southern most edge of Greenland on our way to Canada.  Our flight into Europe from Canada was apparently on this same course.  I guess we flew over when I saw the amazing green auras.  The northern lights were moving rapidly around the sky in shades of green from as far as I could see.  I suspect those lights are why this place was named so.

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Caltagirone

We stayed in this picturesque,  hilltop city for a few days while we explored the west side of Sicily.  The town is known for a few things.  For many centuries it has produced quality ceramic tiles, masks, sculptures and vases.  The town center displays them with masks on the walls next to a long staircase with each stair featuring a different style tile pattern. It is also known for the high concentration of Roman Catholic churches, there are over 100 of them in this quaint town. Most of them are used once or twice a year on big holidays or the church patron’s day.

We stayed in a little apartment on the one side of town.  It was decorated in an older style of Italian furnishings.  We used this as a place to sleep while we did day trips to Syracuse to the south, Agrigento to the north and to an ancient Roman villa of Casale.

We enjoyed many home cooked Italian meals.  They were simple yet very enjoyable.  I must have gained 10 lbs in the week were there.  All the women loved the girl and always wanted to hold her, feed her and show her things.   We spent many of walks just visiting with the locals.

In this little town our friend’s parents live.  We visited their country house and it was beautiful.  We played soccer on the field, swam in the pool and wandered around the grounds admiring the orchirds, chickens and ducks.  The dog was happy to have us around and followed us everywhere trying to get us to play with him.

Taormina, A Legendary Town

Taormina has been in existence for over 2500 years. It sits high up on the hills above the salty Iaoian Sea with a ancient Saracen Citadel above it.   The citadel is not in good condition but The Greek Theatre is.  It was started by the Greeks and expanded by the Romans over the next 5 centuries.  It’s incredible location overlooking the ancient port of Nexos makes a beautiful stage backdrop.

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Our journey into Taormina took us past Mount Etna, a 10,000′ + active volcano’s with lava flows we can see from the road.  We drove 1/2 hour through a couple long tunnels to get to the beach house.   We stayed in a beautiful 4 story beach house overlooking one of the prettiest bays in the area.  The water was definitely salty but very warm.  It was a great place to swim and the girl loved to play in it.  The beaches were not sandy like we are used to but a rocky beach which was a nice change. We wandered up into the city and enjoyed the walk through town.  The view from there was spectacular.   There we saw one of the narrowest streets in Italy. You shoulders brushes the walls as you walk.   We spent many hours sitting on the porch, enjoying the view. While in Toarmina for those few short days we visited a few restaurants and bars.  The one restaurant just down the street was wonderful.  We had a great time and the food was excellent.  We also checked out a bar in a little village about Taormina.  It was a 4 story bar with an amazing view of the lava flows and Catania.  The bar was nice and has occupied the place for over 150 years.  The decor of the place caught me a bit off guard and we thought it was funny. After visiting that place we decided to take a drive up the mountain.  It was very dark and cold, so we didn’t even feel like getting out of the car.  We couldn’t see anything and we didn’t have a light to help guide us up to the lookout.  We headed back down the mountain and home to relax in the warmth by the sea.

Fiery and Fabulous Florence

Florence, or as the Italians call it “Firenze”, was like something out of a vivid dream where you were taken into the past, yet it still exists today with it’s epic churches, ornate palaces, an ancient fortress and striking, historic homes that blend one or more of these elements, oftentimes adding a modern twist. The days were unseasonably hot for October and because of that the evenings were just barely comfortable. Staying near the train station made for easy access to everything and all of the amenities but the humidity forced us to take shelter between noon and 6 p.m. The early evenings cooled down the air just enough to allow us to begin our explorations of the city center and try the local cuisine.

Everything is picturesque and it’s not too difficult to imagine what things must have been like centuries ago in this bustling, artistic city centre.  We began our trek through Florence, as soon as the temperature would abide, by wandering up and around to the other side of the river to a local eatery for an ultra-creamy gelato, (the kind only Italy is best known for), and a crisp, tasty proscuitto panini, consumed in just that order.  After a quick cappuccino on ice, we followed the river up to the next bridge and in towards the Duomo.

The Duomo itself causes you to just stop and take a deep breath while absorbing the complexity of it all.  The tile work is intricate and mesmerizing.  Inside you’ll find perhaps the most beautiful tile work seen anywhere in Europe, maybe the most beautiful on Earth.  Nearly in shock, we wandered inside and around the plaza looking for treasures in the surrounding marketplace and little shops.  Finally, hunger once again got the best of us and we began to look for places to have dinner.  The aromas wafting out of the pizzerias was irresistible and we unconsciously set our minds to having one.  It did not disappoint.  Some friends had warned us that there wasn’t any good food in Italy.  We were a bit worried because we are picky eaters but we let our noses do the choosing in Florence and didn’t have a bit of trouble, especially when we went a little out of the way and off the beaten track.

Also, we still can’t figure out why people don’t like traveling with children.  All throughout Europe, but especially in Italy and France, the owners, waiters, waitresses and other patrons made an extra effort to interact with us and it made what might have been just another trip to Europe a magical experience for us all. Our little one year old was always happy and kept herself busy entertaining the owners and staff, and vice versa, so we used that time to relax and enjoy our first of many flavorful pizzas in Italy.

The Italian people are so loving towards children that we sometimes couldn’t hardly get a block down the street without someone wanting to hug or kiss our little girl.  It really took some getting used to, but we’re learning to trust.  Certainly perfect strangers wanting to pick up, hold, and take your child around the restaurant, bar or hotel isn’t commonplace in the US or Canada, but it is here and when in Rome… or rather, Florence, do as the Florencians do!  It also afforded us both a moment to eat… together!  We always kept a watchful eye on her, of course, but somehow it made us feel a renewed sense of caring in people, which, these days is refreshing to say the least.

The next day began with a quick grocery trip and transitioned into seeking refuge in artsy studio apartment we rented for the remainder of the hellacious heat of the day, until the evening’s reprieve.  On our way to dinner we did a bit of last minute clothes shopping, and found prices in line or just slightly above those found in US, depending on what you were looking for, and then embarked on our twilight trek towards the Fort.  It’s tall tower is a Florence landmark and can be seen throughout the city.  Underneath it sits the famous, stunning statues of Neptune and David.

Being so lifelike, had they begun to move one would have just thought it was another talented street performer who somehow made themselves a bit larger than life. Someone had mentioned that they are replicas, due to their popularity there is a fear of vandalism, but certainly some of the other statues in the area are the genuine articles.

The Neptune and David statues are in a busy, open courtyard where people gather in large numbers to listen to the nightly entertainment, which, of all things, is comprised mostly of American music! We began to wonder when the rumored impromptu opera was going to begin, but, alas it did not. Perhaps the heat kept the tenors away?  However, there was a high end karaoke machine, accompanied at times by live musicians, which allowed for an extensive repertoire of the Beatles, and a plethora of American bands, to be performed.  They won out the night and the crowd.  There are certainly other types of art and music events held at this plaza on a regular basis, but the evenings we were there it was rock and roll all the way with talented vocalists from all over the globe.

On the edge of the plaza is an Italian restaurant, frequented by locals and expats which is always a good sign when choosing a place to chow, where we had a wonderful spaghetti pasta with meat sauce that was identical to Mom’s recipe!  There was no difference what so ever.   Everyone always enjoyed Mom’s pasta sauce.  She makes it for us, OK, me… religiously when we go back to Canada to visit.

Our last full day in Florence consisted of wandering about checking out the statues in the daylight, heading across the river on the ancient, two level bridge for another wonderful meal while listening to string instruments being played in the street.  It was a hot, beautiful time in Florence.  We will definitely hit the museums next time and plan to get reservations months, if not years, earlier as we missed seeing the original David and some others… but we had to have a reason to come back, and what a great reason it is!

The Duomo, originally designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, is an amazing work of art inside and out. The inside of the dome is a beautiful mosaic with 44 wonderful stain glass windows.

The Duomo is one of the centerpieces of Florence. Below the Duomo is the evolved remains of many versions of former churches.

The Duomo in Florence, Italy is a beautiful structure made from Green and Pink marble panels bordered by white. The building was started at the end of the 12th century and continued for many years. The dome is a landmark and is recognized throughout the world as a symbol of Florence.

The Arno River that cuts through the center of Florence is beautiful and was the source of water for the city. This day we are seeing pickup soccer happening on a pitch right at the water’s edge. The two story bridge with the shops underneath is known the world over and is located just downstream.

We checked out of our place on Tuesday morning and took another high speed train down to Rome.  Our flight left that evening for Sicily.  We wanted very much to check out some of the sites but the distances were too great in that hot weather.  We instead decided on having a beer and gelato then doing some more treasure hunting.

We hopped onto another train to take us the 30 min drive into the airport.  We made the trip in plenty of time to wander around the airport a bit.  We particularly thought the wine bar was a good idea for all airports.

Our plane took off without a hitch and we were in Catania in just over an hour.

Agrigento – Greek Temple in The Valley of Temples

One Sunday afternoon from our base in Caltagirone we set out to Agrigento and it’s famed Valley of the Temples.  The weather was hot but it was overcast which was nice.  We strolled around this hilltop in a valley that was covered with ancient Greek temples and other ruins.

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We wandered through them marveling at how well they were preserved. It is said that the Tempio Della Concordia is one of the best preserved Greek temple in the world.   In total there are over 20 ruins that run the length of the hill.  We explored and touched the stones and pillars of Tempo Di Ercole.  The dimensions were impressive and with a prominent spot on the ridge had a beautiful view towards the sea.

These temples had a spectacular setting.  Aligned East West on a cliff looking out to sea.  Over the years they have been converted to Mosques and Churches depending on who was in power.  Some were toppled by earthquakes over the centuries and the stone was used in new buildings.

They now are closely protected, like other ruins in Italy, structural  enhancements have been made to reduce further degradation and collapse.

We left after the moon started to rise.  They were getting ready to close the park to prepare it for a wedding and ballet concert.  People were in for a magical night.  We just had a great experience connecting with the ancient world.  We had visited Greece and didn’t have to leave Sicily.

In the valley of the Temples near the sea is where the Greeks built many temples over 2500 years ago. Near this ruined one is the best preserved temple of all.

The Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum Map

The Louvre Museum is located in central Paris in an old palace that holds Napoleon’s Luxurious apartment. The museum is so huge that it is divided up in several ways. It is spread across four or five floors depending on how you look at it, The Pyramid Hall, Lower Ground, Ground, 1st and 2nd Floors. Those floors are then divided up into sections called, Richelieu, Sully and Denon. The museum collection includes Oriental, Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Paintings, Sculptures, Prints, Drawings, Objects d’art and Arts of Islam.

The Louvre Museum Map
The Louvre Museum Map

Denon

This section holds:

  • Italian and Spanish Paintings
  • 19th-Century French Paintings
  • Apollo Gallery, Crown Jewels
  • Italian, Spanish and Northern European Sculptures
  • Geek Etruscan and Roman Antiquities
  • Roman Egypt, Coptic Egypt
  • Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas

Richelieu

This section holds:

  • 14th – 17th-century French Paintings
  • German, Flemish and Dutch Paintings
  • Northern Schools
  • Medieval, Renaissance, 17th and 19th-century Decorative Arts
  • Napoleon III Apartments
  • French Sculptures
  • Mesopotamia, Antique Iran Islamic Art

Sully

This section holds:

  • 17th, 18th, 19th-century French Paintings
  • 17th, 18th, 19th-century Drawings and Pastels
  • 17th, 18th-century Decorative Arts
  • Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities
  • Phoraonic Egypt,
  • Ancient Iran, Arabia, Levant
  • History of Louvre, Medieval Louvre

The Collections

Oriental Antiquities

This department presents the civilizations of the Ancient Near-East, Which go back to 7000BC and succeeded one another in Mesopotamia, Iran and the countries of the Levant, an immense territory stretching from the Mediterranean to India

Egyptian Antiquities

Created by Jean Francois Champollion, this department illustrates the art of Ancient Egypt from two different view-points; a chronological circuit, from the earliest times to Cleopatra, and a thematic circuit illustrating certain aspects of Egyptian civilization. Two sections devoted to the Coptic Egypt and Roman Egypt complete the display.

Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities

This department includes works from three ancient civilizations: Greece, Etruria and Rome. On the ground floor, a chronological circuit, based on marble statuary, contains works starting from the third millennium BC up to the 6th century AD. The collection on the first floor is organized according to the techniques and materials used: bronzes and jewelery, silverware, glassware, figurines and terracotta vases.

Sculptures

European Sculpture, from the Late Middle Ages to the mid-19th century, is to be found in this department. The collections, which mainly include French works, also contain many significant pieces from Italy, Spain and Northern Europe.

Objects d’art

The collections in this department come from every era: items from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, decorative arts from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Crown Jewels, 19th century items and furniture, Napoleon III apartments, etc.

Arts of Islam

Works of various Mediterranean countries, from Iran, Central Asia and India, which formed the lands of Islam are exhibited in this department. Some of the works are from the royal French collections. Most of these are ceramics, metals, ivories, woods, carpets and paintings dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries.

Prints and Drawings

Access to the Graphic Arts Department, consisting of the Drawing Cabinet (more then 100,000 works), the Edmond de Rothschild Collection and an engraved copper plate collection, is by prior arrangement only. The very fine but extremely fragile works are on display in regular temporary exhibitions and on a rota basis in the museum’s main exhibition rooms.

Learn more about the Louvre Museum in Paris by visiting their website.

Museum Details

Reservations must be made in advanced for groups of 7 or more. The museum is open every day except Tuesday and certain public holidays. The main exhibitions are open from 9am to 6pm. On Wednesday and Fridays the museum is open till 10pm.

The price per person is 9 euros and entrance after 6pm is 6 euros. Free admission for everyone under 18. Free admission for those under 26 on Friday evenings only. On the first Sunday of every month the museum is free of charge to everyone.

The museum has an 420 seat auditorium that features Archeology, art history, literature, cinema, and music: symposiums, lectures, films, concerts and performances for young people.

Food and drink available at the museum is located under the pyramid. There is a gourmet restaurant, Le Grand Louvre, a few cafes & tearooms, and a cafeteria.

General Information Call : 01 40 20 53 17

Cardona – Medieval Castle

The Castle Walls & Towers

Cardona Castle’s history and mystique certainly make it the most amazing medieval fortress in Catalonia.

Sometimes the most romantic, exciting thing you can do is to plan as little as possible while on vacation. We decided, on this tour, until we got a feel for the region or city we were in, we would fly by the seat of our pants as much as possible. A good example of our “going with the flow” would be our stay at Cardona Castle. We saw another castle on the scenic drive to Andorra from Barcelona. It was sitting there in the mist on the side of the road, beckoning us to take that exit. Fortunately, or not, we drove past it, but we knew from that moment that a castle was certainly on our list of things to experience while in the Europe.

Stories

So, upon our return from Andorra we found ourselves making last minute reservations at www.parador.es which has an English version, and got quite the deal for under 30’s that night as well. Now Naia isn’t under 30 anymore… but Dan was still 29, until the end of November and needless to say, we took them up on their offer. So, it was not only one of the most hearty, history-rich fortresses around, it was affordable as well, and with the exchange rate, it was certainly a welcome gift from the powers that be. Winding up the long drive to the top allows you to see 10 miles around or more and, as expected, the sunset was spectacular. The building itself dates from the second century and it was strategically built next to a watch-tower over the Saline Valley. It belonged to the most powerful dynasty ruling between the tenth and seventeenth centuries. The Folch dynasty, heirs of Charlemagne, built this fortress, within the area that was known as “Marca Hispanica” (Border between the Spanish territories and the Muslim ones.) The Folch family ruled all the region and they owned at one point a total of twenty ports. Not too shabby for the good ol’ days, or now!

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The fortified, 9th Century fortress, within which the Parador (hotel) is located, conceals a 2nd Century tower and an 11th Century church. Inside the solid stone walls are comfortable, nicely decorated bedrooms, some with four-poster beds. The sparkling clean, marbled bathrooms are spacious, modern and well equipped for the tired traveler. Donned with an ample sized bath/shower as well as hair dryer and other amenities, like quality, yes actual quality shampoo/conditioner/lotion samplers we would actually use, the proprietors pulled out all of the stops. And why not? Frankly, we feel that doing something for the sheer enjoyment and use of the guest is the mark of a sharp hotel owner. The fact that they’re not wasting money on something you won’t use, because it’s not high enough quality, is smart. Also, it proves that they aren’t just for show either. The furniture in the drawing room was inspired from medieval times and helps to set the tone of the hotel. Throughout Cardona the antique furniture and rich decor works quite well with the castle itself. The reception is a beautiful space where there is internet access and cozy couches to regain your strength from a hard day of exploring the area.

When the sun went down, our stomachs woke up and hunger set into full gear, motivating us to take a quick shower to wash off the dust of the day’s explorations before we sought out our dinner. Someone was using the elevator, so we took the steps and couldn’t resist letting our minds wander once again to imagine what it must have been like to live back then… to hear the footsteps of soldiers in the stairwell… the sounds of children playing… Suddenly, we snapped out of our fantasyland when we heard the clinking of silverware and waiters popping corks, instantly causing us to be transported to the present. Upon arriving to the enormous dining area it is easy to imagine a grand ball taking place in the festively decorated dining room. We sat in the back corner and had the pleasure of simply feeling the room full of happy people eating the lovely fare and making merry. The holiday season was upon us and many people there were taking a long weekend break just before the Christmas rush set in at home. The Catalan cuisine is heavily influenced by an assortment of fresh forest mushrooms and a wide variety of homemade sausages and olives, all found locally. The dishes were deliciously prepared and gratefully enjoyed. The “butifarra con mongetes”, (sausage with beans), was lovely, as was the rest of the meal. The service was good and the staff was very friendly and it was quite apparent they were genuinely happy to be there, another trademark of excellent management and care taking of employees. Most staff we encountered at Cardona spoke English at least well enough to have short conversations and give directions and recommendations, which is always a plus as well.

Feeling happily, perfectly satiated, we retired for the evening as Asha was falling asleep in Dan’s arms and it was certainly time for us to examine the insides of our eyelids as well. The mattress and pillows were refreshingly comfortable and morning came too quickly. We were up early and went to the buffet breakfast, which offered a plentiful array of fresh juices, breads, fruits, yogurts, deli meats, sausages, eggs, muffins, croissants, jams, jellies, and more. It was tasty and we ate heartily before we embarked on a “special mission” to get pictures from all over the castle.

Dan’s second, OK… his third big love is History. He got “that look” when he found out that Cardona’s role in the War of Spanish Succession was amongst the most important to be played by any Catalan town. We spent about an hour or so going all over the castle taking pictures from the inside and outside. Out of windows, doors, off the top of balconies, snapping from all directions, trying to capture the feeling of the castle in shade and light. Showcasing her beautiful, if slightly rugged, charisma and class. The strategic and military importance of its fortifications enabled a resistance to be mounted in advance of Bourbon forces on several occasions during the conflict. The scene of this resistance was the town of Cardona itself and the castle.

Yes, before Naia could set up the first shot, Dan was heading up, up, up the stairs to the top of the tower with Asha, a giggling, one year old little explorer, on a quest to figure out which way the intruders must have approached. He continued on, musing about what it must have looked like and how the residents would have taken refuge in the castle and fought alongside the soldiers to defend it. He went on to tell us of three challenges that stood out as being particularly important amongst the events that took place here during the War, such was their magnitude: The siege in November and December 1711, the battles in August and October 1713 and the final capitulation of the castle, on September 18th 1714, a week later than that of Barcelona, when the rest of the country was already under the control of the Bourbon army. Looking out from the castle and it’s archer’s positions, you can just imagine, it must have been an amazing, harrowing time. We were seeing in our minds’ eyes showers of arrows zipping by us, hoping we wouldn’t be the unfortunate targets whose marks were hit.

The story of these three episodes goes something like this… Following the orders issued in Calaf by the French Duke of Vendome, Lt. General the Count of Muret went to Cordona with 25,000 troops. He took the town on November 17th, 1711, but not the castle, which was bombarded with cannon fire for thirty-four days. Imagine being shelled for thirty-four days and you will understand why we were taking all of the pictures. It is a fortress, indeed. During one of the fiercest engagements over the control of the castle, which took place at La Querosa and Els Escorials, Colonel Pere Muntaner-Damon i de Sacosta, who was in command of the castle’s troops, lost his life. Miraculously, despite this potential wrench in their plans, the troops held on for more than a month, until December 18th when the siege was finally lifted, thanks to the arrival of a large allied force commanded by Marshall Guido von Starhemberg and English General James Stanhope.

In August and October 1713, coinciding with the siege of Barcelona (1713 – 1714), Catalan troops under Manuel Desvalls, Military Governor of the castle, resisted two new offenses by the Bourbon forces under the Count of Montemar. Finally, on September 18th 1714, Manuel Desvalls i de Vergos was obliged to surrender the fortress, under the same conditions as those agreed for the capitulation of Barcelona on September 11th 1714.

We would like to return to Cardona Castle in the future to experience some of their seasonal offerings and to hear more of the stories of the many battles and those heroes and heroines of history we so often take for granted. Until next time, via con Dios Cardona!

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Some of the hotel rooms have charming canopy beds. Pits, towers, walls and gothic features come together with a predominantly comfortable décor and Catalan-inspired mediaeval furnishings. Book Now!

  • Address: Castell de Cardona, s/n
  • Town/City: 08261 Cardona, Barcelona
  • Telephone: 00 34 938691275
  • Fax: 00 34 938691636
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • Constuction style: Castle
  • Credit cards: American Express, Diners, JCB, Visa, MasterCard
  • Director: Jaime Sebastián Sánchez
  • Chef: Manuel Cubilla Moga

GENERAL SERVICES

  • Air Conditioning
  • Bar
  • Bureau de Change
  • Conference Suite
  • Credit Cards
  • Distance to Airport: 100 km.
  • Distance to Port: 100 km.
  • Distance to Train Station: 32 km.
  • Heating
  • Life
  • No animals allowed
  • Restaurant
  • Satellite Dish
  • Shop
  • BEDROOMS
    • Canal plus
    • Double Rooms (double beds): 5
    • Duplex: 2
    • Minibar
    • Places: 106
    • Rooms with Lounge Area: 3
    • Safety Deposit Box
    • Single Rooms: 2
    • Telephone in bedrooms
    • Television
    • Twin Rooms: 42
  • REST AND RELAXATION
    • Gym
    • Sauna

Dining & Food

Catalan cuisine is served in the dining room including aubergine terrine with pig’s trotters, selections of sausages and especially barbecue dishes with the braised lamb shoulder a highlight.

Eat like a true king at the Parador’s medieval dining room: Aubergine terrine with pig’s trotters, selections of sausages and specially barbecue dishes with local braised lamb shoulder a highlight Patatas enmascaradas (potatoes served with butifarra sausage and garlic) are a speciality. Hungry?

Activities

  • Solsonés Route (15 to 40 km.)
    • Romanesque architecture.
    • Museums.
    • Cardener fountain.
  • Cardona town.
    • Salt Mountain.
    • Cardonal Mediaeval Centre.
    • Salt Museum.
    • Romanesque architecture.
  • Montserrat (45 km.)
    • Montserrat Monastery.
    • Museum.
  • Parador.
    • Romanesque church from the 13th century.
    • Cloister.
    • 2nd century Minyona Tower.
    • Walls.
  • Bages Route (15 a 45 km.)
    • Romanesque architecture.
    • Museums.
    • Planetarium
  • Berguedá Route (30 a 60 km.)
    • Pyrenees.
    • Romanesque architecture.
    • Museums.
    • Llobregat fountains.

Local Festivals

  • Carnival: February, Solsona, 22 km.
  • Cardona annual festival: second Saturday in September, Cardona.
  • La Patum: Corpus, Berga, 31 km.