Topic Wiki

Introduction

Spain Overview

Catalonia:
Barcelona, Tarragona, Montserrat, Andorra, Girona, Besalú, Figueres

Mallorca/Majorca

Andalusia:
Granada, Jaen, Úbeda, Córdoba, Lucena, El Torcal de Antequera, Malaga, Torremolinos, Caminito del Rey, Ronda, Seville

Tenerife

Madrid Area:
Madrid, Segovia, Ávila, Béjar, Hervás, Plasencia, Cáceres, Toledo
« Last edited by cgr on October 15, 2023, 07:13:52 PM »

Author Topic: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra  (Read 13191 times)

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
As with my trip to Portugal I was looking for Western European country that would suit my interests (Jewish history, good hiking options, and general exploring) for a month from mid-November to mid-December. I narrowed down my list to Italy, France, or Spain, and while it was off-season in all these countries and therefore affordable, Spain was the cheapest of the three (and shockingly so). It also had additional pull for me since I had explored Portugal over the summer and learned a lot about Spanish Jewry- I’m fascinated by how the Iberian Rishonim were able to be both great in Torah and Science/culture simultaneously and traveling to Spain would give me an opportunity to expand on that. I originally planned on spending a full month exploring just mainland Spain, but after scrapping the north of Spain (Bilboa area- not a lot to do there in winter) and the west (Valencia area) since I did not find that many points of interest for me, I added Mallorca and Tenerife islands instead. This gave me an opportunity to catch some sun on this trip as well, since the weather in Spain is hit or miss at that time of year- could be balmy and sunny but could also be cold and rainy. I would have loved to have time to explore the Bardenas Reales desert, Tudela (birthplace of Benjamin of Tudela), and Zaragoza (Rabbeinu Bachya is believed to have lived here) as well, but they were too out of the way to schedule a visit to the region for just a single point of interest.

By the time I narrowed down my destination I had very little planning time left, as my schedule required me to travel within a specific timeframe. I usually like having a month before a trip to leisurely do my research and book things while prices are still low. While prices weren’t an issue on this trip because everything was so reasonable to begin with, some things were sold out by the time I narrowed down my preferences, and I was forced to go with whatever choices were left at the time. It also added some frustration as I had to spend many evenings on my trip researching for the upcoming days, instead of winding down and relaxing.

As is usual with my trips I did not check in any luggage while flying- I traveled with just a backpack (carry-on) and a small cooler bag (personal item) where I stored some kosher food and a small electric skillet. You might wonder how I packed so efficiently on a trip that took me from the snow-capped Pyrenees Mountains to a Canary Island desert off the coast of Africa… I packed a light fleece lined jacket and a sweater (both to be worn while flying), as well as a scarf and gloves (these take up almost no space and go a long way in keeping your body warm). For footwear I packed combat boots which are great in the rain, cold, and for hiking (and were worn while flying to save on space), as well as Toms which can be worn in warmer weather, are nice enough to be worn on Shabbos, and can be cajoled to fit into the smallest of spaces.

I normally don’t delve into pricing much on Trip Reports, but I will spend a bit more time on that in this TR because a) things were so cheap! and b) I got a bit better at the points game, and am feeling quite proud ;D

I don’t want to spend too much time comparing Spain and Portugal, but to quote from my Portugal Trip Report, which held true here as well:
I love anything history related, so this trip was especially fascinating to me as I got a chance to explore many of the cities and towns that were teeming with Jews prior to the inquisition. Kosher food was a struggle [outside of Barcelona and Madrid], and it was sobering to realize that 600 years ago I would have been able to find kosher food in [many of the towns in Andalusia, as well as in other regions].

There were plenty of times during my trip, especially when visiting art museums or palaces, that I found myself unable to “fargin” the [Spaniards] the beauty of their national riches because of their bloody history. It’s incredibly sad to drive through town after town, hearing and seeing how many Jews lived there before the inquisition, how their communities were thriving, only to be faced with the Jewish desert it is today...

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Spain Overview
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2023, 08:47:42 PM »
I’m including an overview of the basics I picked up on my travels. If you’re not planning a trip, feel free to skip this section and continue on to my adventures!

Research: I did a lot of research for this trip in the form of books, academic papers, podcasts, and YouTube videos. I also relied heavily on the “Paths of Sefarad, Network of Jewish Quarters in Spain” association which has recorded and where possible marked the various structures that are of Jewish significance. Some of these buildings across Spain are marked with a plaque bearing the associations logo (sefarad in color, zachor in relief):



Others are marked by the sefarad symbol embedded in the cobblestoned streets:



I also watched all of Dr. Henry Abramson’s “Sephardic Jewish History” videos. Fascinating!

In an effort to keep this about my trip and not about history I won’t be listing all the historical facts I picked up on the way in my report, although I do recognize that it can be helpful if you’re taking a trip and don’t want to do a deep dive yourself. Here’s a link to my IG where you can see some of the basics saved to the Highlights section. I did include a short list before each city of some of the famed Rishonim- note that some Rishonim moved around and are thus associated with more than one city, and more importantly some of the information is disputable.

Attractions/Museums: Many points of interest such as attractions, museums, and restaurants, were closed for a few hours during the day for siesta. Additionally, most attractions & museums were closed on Monday (I had to rework my route multiple times to ensure that I didn’t spend Mondays in a place where I would have nothing to do because of these mandatory closures). I have a bunch of GoCity Passes left over from this DDMS deal, and customer service was more than happy to switch two of my US cities to Barcelona and Madrid. I did not use the passes fully as there weren’t five attractions on either pass that were of interest to me, but it saved me a few bucks on those items that were of interest.

Tours: I reached out to some of the reputable tour guides in the cities that previously had large Jewish populations where I felt that I would benefit from a guide (mostly Barcelona, Córdoba, and Seville). Due to the last-minute nature of this trip none of my preferences were available, and I opted to skip the mediocre options rather than pay hundreds of dollars (Jewish tour guides are expensive in Spain!)

Kosher: Chabad of Barcelona has an app that is programed with the Spanish Kosher list and made my life a whole lot easier. Chain grocery stores like El Corte Ingles, Carrefour, Lidl, Aldi, and even some smaller ones had a surprisingly large selection of OU and MK (Manchester) certified items such as plant-based milk, condiments, and cereals. Whenever I landed in a new place, I would make a grocery order consisting of eggs, pasta, almond milk, cereal, mayonnaise, ketchup, fruits, and veggies. This made for hearty meals when paired with my wraps, cheese, and tuna packets from home. Many supermarkets and cafes, including Starbucks, sell freshly squeezed orange juice. See details on kosher restaurants and supermarkets that I visited in each location’s writeup.

Payment Options: Amex is not generally accepted. Many places insisted on cash, while others did not accept cash at all, supposedly due to the pandemic.

Transportation:
Navigation: I used Google Maps to navigate in Spain, and it worked well.

Public Transportation: Public transportation in Barcelona and Madrid was superb, and parking was a nightmare, so definitely don’t get a car if that’s your only destination. There are also congestion fees and environmental fees in some areas. At the time masks were required on planes and public transportation, but not in airports or train stations.

Rideshare: There is a mandatory 15-minute wait in Spain the first time you open a rideshare app in the country such as Uber, until you can use it. If you plan on using this as your method of transportation I suggest downloading and opening the app as soon as you land, so that you do not have to wait the additional 15 minutes once you’re actually ready to order a rideshare. Uber in Spain requires you to enter a passport number before using it. Cabify (the local version of Uber) does not require a passport number (although it is also bound by the 15-minute law). I found Cabify to have better driver availability and slightly cheaper prices than Uber.

Rail vs Car Rental: From my research it appears that most people use trains to navigate between cities- I assume that this is because most people travel during peak-season, when car rentals are expensive. In my case car rentals ranged from ridiculously cheap to normal (coming from NY) so it was a clear winner (no schlepping on and off trains, more flexibility with scheduling, and the ability to visit smaller towns that are not serviced by fast trains). Spain requires drivers with a US license to have an IDP. I got one at my local AAA branch in 20 minutes for ~$20, although it was not requested by the car rental agencies. One of the rental clerks did tell me that if I get stopped by police and don’t have one, I’d be in trouble. For me it was worth it as I’d rather be safe than sorry, and it wasn’t much of a hassle to get one.

Tolls: None of the car rentals on the mainland had toll tags available so the cash lane was my only option (they accept credit cards)- note that toll roads are expensive in Spain. There are no toll roads in Mallorca and Tenerife.

Highway driving:
-On the mainland, most bigger highways have speed limits of 100 kph and toll roads have speed limits of 120 kph. Once you’re away from the cities you’ll see cars going 200+ kph, with the “regular guys” doing 150 kph.
-Except for around the cities, the left lane is sacred in Spain- there’s none of that tri-state nonsense where cars sit in the left lane because they’re eventually going to pass a car. You pass and then you immediately get back into the right lane, just short of cutting off the car behind you.

Now let the fun start…

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Catalonia
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2023, 08:48:12 PM »
Catalonia: Barcelona, Tarragona, Montserrat, Andorra, Girona, Besalú, Figueres

Prior to my trip I was under the assumption that the official language of Spain was…. well, Spanish. Turns out that several regions in Spain have their own official language in addition to Spanish. The one I came across most on my trip was Catalan, spoken in the Catalonia region in northeastern Spain. It is also the official language of Andorra. Another quirk I noticed is that many locals pronounce gracias as “grathia”- apparently this is a common pronunciation in North and Central Spain.

My Catalonia driving route:



Barcelona

Famed Barcelona Rishonim: Rabbi Shlomo ben Avraham ibn Aderet (Rashba), Rabbi Aharon of Barcelona (Ra’ah), Rabbi Nisim ben Reuven Girondi (Ran), Rabbi Yitzchak ben Sheshet Perfet (Rivash), Rabbi Chasdai Crescas

I booked a multi-city ticket flying directly from ERW to BCN, with the return scheduled from MAD to EWR. This was slightly cheaper than either EWR-BCN round trip or EWR-MAD round trip, plus it allowed me to loop through the country instead of having to fly back to my starting point. 90% of the airfare was covered by my United Travel Bank which I top up annually with my Amex Platinum and Amex Aspire credits. Using Clear in conjunction with TSA Precheck allowed me to pass through security in under 8 minutes without needing to dig my passport out of my bag. This gave me plenty of time to relax in United’s C124 lounge (which still had no kosher food). Boarding was uneventful, and the Wi-Fi was surprisingly cheap- just $1.99 per hour- they also had an option to purchase a pass covering the entire duration of the flight, but that was $9.99 and since I didn’t need it for the first or last hour of my flight, it was cheaper to go with the hourly package. The KSML was provided by Fresko- the dinner did not look edible, so I skipped it.



The refreshment tray looked slightly better, but they’d gone overboard with ingredients in trying to make the dish tasty (exotic?), so after a bite I chucked that too.



The flight landed at 7:54AM instead of the scheduled 9AM, but the time savings was eaten up by the ridiculously long immigration line. There were only three booths open for hundreds of arriving passengers, and it took well over an hour to get to the head of the line (this is after all covid requirements had been lifted for entry). I hadn’t slept a wink on the plane and my Airbnb didn’t allow check-in til late in the afternoon, so I decided to head to the airport hotel (literally in the airport) to get some sleep and freshen up. Prices are a bit steep at the SleepnFly lounge ($80 for 3 hours) which is under Priority Pass, but there’s no discount on hotel rooms for Priority Pass members. The rooms were small but well appointed, soundproofed, with a comfortable bed and shower.

I had previously purchased a 48 hour Hola Barcelona card for public transportation, which turned out to be a bit more of a headache than anticipated. There are several public transport vending machines at the airport’s public transport hall and the Hola Barcelona card needs to be retrieved via the red machines (metro), which was not clearly stated anywhere. Additionally, the metro is not the best way to get into the city from the airport- the fastest way is via the Aerobus, which is not included with the Hola Barcelona card- that meant another line for another vending machine (light blue). On the upside the Aerobus leaves every minute so there was no wait time for that. The first stop on the Aerobus is Plaza Espana, where I switched to the metro to head to the old town.



While Barcelona is known for being a planned city with its perfect grid streets, that is not the case for the old town, and the streets and alleyways can be charmingly confusing- perfect to get lost in! The weather was a beautiful balmy 70F and mostly sunny throughout my stay in Barcelona. After dropping my bags at a UseBounce baggage storage location in old town, I headed to my first museum of the day, MUHBA El Call. MUHBA is Barcelona’s network of history museums, and El Call refers to the Jewish Quarter (also known as the Gothic Quarter). I tried joining a Jewish Quarter walking tour that was included with my GoCity Pass, but they were sold out for all the days that I was in Barcelona. Starting at the MUHBA El Call gave me an idea as to the Quarters layout and its history before venturing out for my self-guided walk. The museum is tiny, but entry is just €2. I spent about 45 minutes here learning about Barcelona’s Jewish history. Keep in mind that the museum is only open some days of the week, and they have weird hours.

I then headed into the Jewish/Gothic Quarter to explore. I spent some time just walking around and taking in the small streets and alleyways.



At 1 Calle Marlet there’s a copy of the tombstone of Shmuel Ha-Sardi embedded in the wall (note that in the translation the date is erroneous). The tombstone was used in the original construction of the house as building material but has since been removed and is exhibited in the Barcelona History Museum (more on that below), hence the copy at this location.



At 5 Calle de Marlet is the purported location of the main synagogue, which is today accessed via 9 Carrer de Salomó ben Adret (the street is named after the Rashba).



I reached out to management@sinagogamayor.com to schedule a visit to the shul (which some refer to as the Rashba’s shul), but I did not receive a response until after my trip- it appears that they were closed at the time but are currently open for visitors again. Note that only three of Spain’s shuls are considered authentic: one in Córdoba and two in Toledo. All others are based on assumptions and shaky evidence, including this one.



I then headed to Plaça Reial to grab a coffee and rest my legs.



My next stop was the beautiful Rambla del Mar walkway/bridge. The walkway rotates to allow ships to enter and exit the harbor- I stuck around to watch a rotation which was pretty cool. The walkway leads to a high-end mall which I did not explore.





I then headed back to the old town, to Palau Reial Major/ Palau del Lloctinent/ Placa del Rei. The debate between the Ramban (Nahmanides) and Pablo Christiani took place in this Church building in 1263 (I did not enter the building). The first auto-da-fé of the Barcelona inquisition took place in the square here in 1488.



Nearby is the La Muralla Romana, the fortification walls built by the Romans.



Another nearby building is the Barcelona History Museum MUHBA. My original goal in visiting this museum was to learn more about the city’s history, as well as to view the original tombstone of Shmuel Ha-Sardi as well as some other tombstones with Hebrew inscriptions on them that were excavated on Montjuïc, where the medieval Jewish cemetery was located. Unfortunately, most of the exhibits were closed due to the building’s rehabilitation, and only the basement levels, which display artifacts from the Roman and Visigothic eras, were open, so it was not that interesting for me.

My last attraction of the day was Casa Batllo, a townhouse designed by the famed architect Gaudi. I loved the quirky, mind-bending, and stimulating designs incorporated in his work at this location- no visit to Barcelona is complete without checking out some of his amazing projects. I spent about an hour here (this was free with my GoCity pass), and my ticket included a great audio guide. They have various ticket packages, some of which include tablets in addition to the audio guide, but based on what I was able to see it’s childlike and not worth the extra fee for adults. This was my favorite Gaudi townhome- if you’re planning on visiting the other townhome Gaudi designed, La Pedera/Casa Mila, I highly recommend visiting that first and leaving Casa Batllo for last, so that you're not underwhelmed there after having already seen the magnificence of Casa Batllo.



I then headed to Macabi, the only steady kosher sit-down restaurant in Barcelona. My research did bring up two other kosher options: 1) Shani’s falafel, located at stall 133-134 in the La Boqueria market- this is a food stand (it’s possible that they have a second location that does have regular seating). I was not able to ascertain who gives the hechsher at this place, so I skipped it 2) Xerta Restaurant- this is the only kosher Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, although they are only kosher on Wednesdays and an advance reservation is required (certified by Chabad). They do offer the option of booking a kosher table on other days of the week if the reservation is for 25+ ppl.

I enjoyed the food at Macabi, especially their tapas selection. Their location is superb, being located on La Rambla, the thoroughfare of the old town.







I then picked up my bags and headed to my Airbnb, located less than 20 minutes by metro from the old town. I had originally planned on staying in the old town but scrapped that plan when I realized that it wasn’t walking distance to where Chabad hosts their Shabbos meals. When I first arrived, the host informed me that I’d have to place a call to an automated system to be buzzed into the apartment building- I nearly had a conniption at this because that would mean being locked in for Shabbos. Thankfully this was only needed for the initial entry, as the apartment had a lockbox outside the door with an old-fashioned manual key to the building as well. The apartment was decent enough, and exactly as pictured, but I was less than happy there. The building is old, and the apartment had that feel to it (not in a good way), additionally the walls were paper thin which meant that each time anyone on my floor exited their apartment, I woke up. The biggest downside was that the hot water lasted for less than 2 minutes. I had to devise a shower routine where I turned off the water, soaped up, and then turned it back on to rinse off… another weird aspect- the toilet flusher was a long metal chain, not a lever, and was located in the shower stall- took me a while til I figured that one out… After taxes and fees this ended up being my most expensive lodgings on this trip, at $123/night.

My first stop on Thursday morning was to La Sagrada Familia, another Gaudi creation. Construction on this humongous Church started in 1886 and has still not been completed (although they now estimated that it will be done by 2026). I did not check out the interior, but even just the outside is magnificent.



Next, I headed to the Mirador Torre Glòries (this was free with my GoCity pass), an observation deck which offers 360° view of Barcelona. It was rather boring, and the views aren’t that great- I was not able to see the typical areal Barcelona view of the perfectly square city blocks from here. I’d say if you’re not looking to kill time and have a GoCity slot to fill, skip this.

Next up was Parc de Ciutedella



and the Arco de Triunfo


Starting at Plaza de Catalunya (which has way too many pigeons) I did a bit of Rick Steve’s Walking Tour.

I then spent some time rambling along La Rambla (pun intended). I’d spent time here the previous day as well as it’s a central part of the old town, but now I just took the time to absorb and people watch. I noticed that most women are dressed either super tznius (they’d fit in well in KJ) with long skirts and tights, or the very opposite.



Next, I headed to Park Guell, another Gaudi project, for a 1-hour guided tour that I had booked in advance with my GoCity pass. I was excited about this because I loved Casa Batllo and La Sagrada Familia, but unfortunately it was boring and anticlimactic - I found Park Guell to be highly overrated with nothing much to appreciate, even though the tour guide was funny and spoke great English. Note that the park is located atop a hill, so if you don't take an Uber or the bus that stops directly in front of the entrance, you'll have a steep hike up (the Metro station is located below the hill).



Back on La Rambla, I checked out the La Rambla Marcet/ Mercado de La Boqueria, and open-air food market. I spent a few minutes trying to locate Shani’s falafel, but I was not successful. I marveled at the (very treif) meats displayed- I would come to see this in nearly all markets across Spain.



I had booked a 1-hour guided tour of the Palace of Catalan Music in advance- they also offer self-guided options, but it was just a few dollars difference. The interior is magnificent, even if the tour guides English was lacking.





Next on my schedule was the Picasso Museum, which was free on Thursdays from 4PM- 7PM. If you're aiming to get in during free hours, be sure to book tickets online in advance as the free tickets get snatched up. I booked this online as soon as my schedule solidified, and when I showed up there was a long line snaking up the block with visitors seeking entry- they were all denied as they did not have advance tickets and all the free spots had been filled. (It’s not a very expensive museum, but the free slot worked out great with my schedule). I spent about 45 minutes here and loved it! (I am a minor Picasso fan).



I then headed to the second townhome Gaudi designed, the La Pedera/Casa Mila, which was also free with my GoCity pass. In hindsight it would have been better to visit this townhome before Casa Batllo, as the architecture here is a lot simpler than at Casa Batllo, so it was a bit underwhelming after having seen that magnificence. It’s still a nice piece of architecture, but not as overwhelming. I believe La Pedera/Casa Mila offers night tours, so this can be visited after most other places have already closed.



I then spent some time strolling along Passieg de Garcia, a beautiful shop-lined avenue.



Dinner was back at Macabi, where the staff remembered my name and my affinity for tapas ::).

On Friday morning I decided to cook breakfast on a little burner and pot that I had brought from home. Since it was a 110V appliance, I had brought a transformer from home. I don’t know it if was the burner or transformer that was at fault, but suddenly there was a loud pop, the electricity went off, and the metal conduit in the burner started flaming. I quickly threw the whole thing into the sink and thankfully nothing else caught fire. It took me a few minutes to find the fuse box and switch the electricity back on (glad I didn’t trip the power for the entire building!) That’s the end of my 110V/transformer cooking career- lesson learned- from now on if it’s not 220V when needed, it’s not being used.

I had originally planned on taking the cable car (included in the Hola Barcelona Metro pass) up to Montjuïc (literal translation: Jew Mountain- as previously mentioned the medieval Jewish cemetery was located on this hill) on Friday, and I had researched the Museum of National Art of Catalonia (there are some paintings here depicting forced conversions), the Jardines del Mirador (gardens) and the Military Museum located in Montjuic Castle that currently has thirty tombstones from the above-mentioned cemetery on display. Unfortunately, my plans did not work out due to starting my day later than planned and being that it was Friday I did not want to cram in too much. Instead, I scrapped Montjuïc and headed to the El Corte Ingles on Avinguda Diagonal to check out their kosher aisle- turns out they no longer have that (even though they still list it on their website), so that was a dud. I headed to Macabi for lunch and to check out their Shabbos menu- they offer wine, challah, and several dishes for takeout on Friday, but they are not open on Shabbos for prepaid meals.

I had booked Shabbos meals with Chabad in advance, and while the walk from my Airbnb to Chabad was straightforward and easy to navigate, I wasn’t so enamored with the grid layout in the newer parts of the city. While it’s great for navigation, especially on Shabbos, the streets aren’t square- they’re hexagons, which are annoying to cross as it involves extra walking on every single block (it is great for cars though- they get to turn before the crosswalk is in their path).



The food was tasty, and there were about 100 people in attendance that week. I did not get to meet the Shliach and his family as they were in the US for the annual Shluchim conference that week. On the way back to my apartment I had a bit of an oops moment, as I had forgotten to put together a Shabbos belt using the building key so I did not have that with me. I figured that since it was a fairly large building someone would access the building at some point, and I’d enter behind them (the apartment key was stored in a lockbox on the apartment door, so the only issue was accessing the building, not the actual apartment)- it ended up taking longer than I would have liked, but after loitering outside for about 15 minutes, a resident finally showed up and I was able to enter the building.

Sunday morning, I headed to Centauro Rent a Car, located at the airport, to pick up my reserved rental. I had planned on starting my day early, but after having to wait 15 minutes to be able to access Uber (see the overview section for more on this mandatory wait), and then seeing that there were no drivers available in my area, doing research on the best local app, downloading Cabify, and again waiting the requisite 15 minutes to gain access, I was running well over an hour behind by the time I made it to the rental counter. Since I was taking the car out of the country to Andorra, I was required to purchase specialized insurance, which is mandatory for the full duration of the rental, even though I only planned to be in Andorra for one out of the three days that I had the rental for. The added insurance fee was €9/day, but it’s capped at €25 per rental, so it ended up being a little less per day. Thankfully they had my reserved Automatic vehicle in stock (for the beautiful price of $11/day- could’ve saved 50% by going for a Manual at $5/day ;)) and were quick to get me on the road. From what I was able to see in the lot their fleet is updated and well maintained.



Tarragona

Tarragona is a beautiful seaside town on the Mediterranean coast and is a UNESCO heritage site due to its large number of Roman monuments. It had a substantial Jewish population (perhaps as early as 300 CE), but due to massacres in 1349 and 1391, the community ceased to exist by the early 15th century. The one+ hour drive from Barcelona was comfortable, although the tolls were steep- approximately €12. The sky was clear, and the temps were slightly warmer than in Barcelona.
My first stop was at the Ferreres Aqueduct- there aren’t many parking spots here, but I was able to snag one. There are a few short hiking trails which provide access to the aqueduct bridge as well as to the support columns.



I then headed into Tarragona proper. While street parking is allowed on Sundays in all parking zones, I was unable to find a spot. After circling for way too long and debating if I should find a paid lot or circle around again, I found a free dirt parking lot. I don’t know how safe it is to park in those, but it worked for me. At my first stop I purchased the Tarragona Pass, which includes entry to four Roman monuments for €7.40. There’s also a more expensive pass that includes entry to two of Tarragona’s “Noble Houses” as well, but I didn’t have enough time to visit those. The four monuments included with the pass are only open til 2:30PM on Sundays, so I was short on time after my late start (and of course they’re closed on Mondays). I would have liked to visit the Roman theatre of Tàrraco as well, which is under different management as the other four monuments, but it was closed on Sundays.

The Colonial Forum of Tàrraco (monument #1)



Passeig Arqueològic/ Walls of Tarragona (monument #2)



Strolling through the streets of Tarragona.



Circ Romà (monument #3), with its beautiful views.





Amfiteatre de Tarragona (monument #4)



The Balcó del Mediterrani has beautiful sea views.



Plaça de la Font Tarragona



Montserrat

After another one+ hour drive, I arrived at Montserrat, a rocky mountain range. Many travelers come here to visit the monastery perched atop the mountain, but I skipped that. There are two motorized options for getting to the top- a cable car, and a funicular. I had planned on hiking up the mountain- approximately 4.5 miles, and then taking the cable car back down, but due to my late start I had to scratch that plan as I didn’t want to hike after dark. I instead decided to park my car at the funicular station (Aeri de Montserrat), walk two miles to the cable car station (Monistrol de Montserrat) and take the cable car up and the funicular down. I did not purchase these tickets and advance and they had plenty available on-site, although it’s possible that during high season these tickets do sell out and advance purchase is required. The cable car is slightly cheaper than the funicular, but the views from the funicular are spectacular.



Atop Montserrat there are various shops and cafes built into the rockface.



Andorra

Andorra is a tiny country (referred to as a micro-state) in the Pyrenees mountains, located between France and Spain. It is not a part of the EU, but for simplicity purposes uses the Euro as currency and does not require passport control when entering the country. Back in the day Andorra was known for its 0% VAT tax, so many Europeans would come here to shop. That is no longer the case across the board, but some items do still have a 0% VAT tax. During my visit gasoline here was cheaper than Spain by approximately €1 per gallon. The temperature here was between 30F and 40F, with colder temps in the North towards the French border, and warmer temps towards the South and Spain. The country is so small that you can mistakenly find yourself at the border on either side if you miss an exit…

The drive from Montserrat to Andorra La Vella, the capital of Andorra, was a little over two hours. The drive was rather annoying because after paying €20 in tolls, I was expecting to drive on a freeway with two or three lanes- instead the road was just one lane, with cars crawling along at half the speed limit, and no ability to pass since the oncoming lane was constantly full. This drive was done after dark so I couldn’t see my surroundings, the Pyrenees Mountains, which should be beautiful.

While there is an official border crossing set up between Spain and Andorra, the booths were not manned, and no stopping was required.

I checked into the Eurostars Andorra for the night. When I originally reserved the room, I notated on my reservation that I would not be partaking in the complimentary breakfast since I only eat kosher food, but I would appreciate it if they could comp the parking fee instead of breakfast. At check-in the receptionist was more than happy to comply- he inquired which size car I had and when I said a small one he said that being that I’m American he’ll have a look at the car himself- he came back and informed me that I was being assigned two parking spots, because there’s no way I’d fit in one 🤷‍♀️ (he was right).

My room was officially upgraded to a Junior Suite, but I’m pretty sure the hotel only has suites… the only downside at this hotel is that the bedrooms are a bit small. From this point on all my Eurostar hotel stays were reduced by 10% off the advertised price, as Eurostar sent me a 10% promo code each time I checked out of one of their hotels.

I had originally planned to explore Andorra la Vella a bit on Monday morning, and then do six hours of hiking and lookouts a bit closer to the French border (Estany de Cabana Sorda & Estanys de Tristaina). When I checked the weather forecast the night before, there was a notice issued that the first heavy snow of the winter was expected the next morning, and that hikers should stay off the trails as rescue teams would not be available. Being in an unfamiliar place with no knowledge of local weather patterns I decided to scrap the longer northern hike and stick to Andorra la Vella and the South (closer to the Spanish border, and less snowy). After catching up on work I spent some time strolling around Andorra la Vella- lots of shopping malls with beautiful mountains as a backdrop. I ducked into an electronics shop to purchase a 220V burner that hopefully won’t trip any breakers…





I then drove vertically up some tiny streets on the flanks of Andorra la Vella to the Rec del Solà Trail, which offers beautiful views into the city/valley. Unfortunately, all the surrounding dead-end streets were packed with vehicles and there was no parking nearby at all, so I had to turn around (quite a feat to execute a u-turn on these narrow streets) and head to my next stop, the Mirador Roc Del Quer lookout. I don’t know how much snow ended up materializing 30 minutes to the north, but even just a few minutes north of the city there was a lot more snow. Towards the mountain summit, where the lookout is, it was too foggy to see anything, but the drive up and down the mountain was beautiful (and fun! Still loving those switchbacks).





I then started the three-hour drive to my next destination back in Spain, Girona. Again, no official border crossing- just a sign letting me know that I’m back in Spain.



The drive down the mountains was beautiful, although tolls were steep at €12. The first half of the drive tested my patience, as once again there was just one lane, with trucks and slow drivers clogging up the road. Thankfully the second half passed quickly at 140/kmh as there were now two lanes, and as I’d come to expect of Spain, a clear left lane.

The towns I planned to visit in the time I had left in this region are to the west and/or north of Girona, and therefore closer to Andorra, but Girona was the only large city with a decent selection of hotels, so I opted to drive all the way to the east first to explore Girona, and then double back a bit to cover my remaining points of interest.

Girona

Famed Girona Rishonim: Rabbi Zechariah Halevi of Gerondi (Baal Ha'Meor), Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban, Nachmanides), Rabbi Yonah ben Avraham of Gerondi (Rabbeinu Yonah), Rabbi Yaakov ben Sheshet Girondi, Rabbi Nisim ben Reuven Girondi (Ran).

I checked into the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Girona for the night- this hotel was just $85 for the night, plus Hilton was running various promotions which netted me double points, as well as 2k bonus points plus 1k bonus points. I was upgraded to a corner suite at check-in due to being a Diamond member, but when I requested comped parking (the hotel has their own parking lot) in lieu of breakfast, they were not receptive to the idea. They did refer me to a free municipal lot across the street, and I ended up parking there (which was not so simple as “across the street” meant across a busy thoroughfare- think Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn- where the pedestrian crossing was located a bit of a walk from the hotel). They did grant my 1:30PM late checkout request, so I was able to leave my bags in the room while touring Girona. I noticed posters in the hotel (I would subsequently see those posters in many public spaces) detailing the law on minimum and maximum heating/cooling levels that Spain enforces in all public spaces since the Ukrainian/Russian war, in an effort to preserve energy.



Girona is a large metropolitan city- I had expected a quaint little town so it was a bit disconcerting, but once I reached the old quarter the traffic and the noise faded away and Girona’s old city charm took over.



The temps were noticeably lower than Barcelona- in the high 40Fs, and brightly sunny. The Jewish community started out here in year 898 when 25 Jewish families from Besalú (more on that later) settled in Girona. They had 3 shuls at its peak, but when 40 Jews were killed here in the 1391 riots the community declined until the inquisition was established in 1492.

I started my day strolling along Rambla de la Llibertat, a pedestrian-only street along the river with lots of restaurants and little shops.



The Pont de les Peixateries Velles bridge offers a cool viewpoint of Girona’s colorful houses along the river.



The Centre de la Plaça Indepèndecia de Girona is the main square of Girona’s old city.



I then stared my self-guided tour of Girona’s El Call/Jewish Quarter. It’s considered the best-preserved Jewish Quarter in Spain, although I could not figure out why Girona holds this title- Córdoba and Toledo seemed to be better preserved to me.

The houses at Carrer de la Força 5 & 15 supposedly have a mezuzah indentation in the doorway, but I was unable to find it- perhaps it’s been painted over recently.

I then spent one hour at the fascinating Museu d'Història dels Jueus/ Bonastruc Ca Porta Centre/ Sephardic Institute, which is a history museum of Girona’s Jews, and includes many medieval artifacts and letters.



They have a great Audioguide as well as a map of the Jewish Quarter which shows points of interests which came in very handy. The museum is located at the site of where Girona’s third shul was located, perhaps on land belonging to the Ramban.



There is also a medieval mikveh onsite.



A stone from the 14th century commemorating the inauguration of a synagogue in Girona.



In recent years many gravestones from the local Montjuïc (Girona’s Jewish cemetery), which dates back to the 12th century, have been uncovered, and are now on display in the museum.



The museum gift shop sells kosher wine.

The structure that nowadays houses the Pabordia furniture shop was home to one of Girona’s richest Jewish in the 13th century.



According to legend the house on the corner of Carrer de la Força and Carrer de Manuel Cúndaro was inhabited by the Ramban.



The first shul built in Girona was located around the area of the Episcopal Palace.



On Carrer Sant Llorenç, 8 out of the 13 houses in the gated complex have mezuzah indentations. Unfortunately, the outer gate was locked so I was not able to approach the houses.

The second shul built in Girona was probably located at Carrer de la Força, 23.



I then headed to Banys Arabs, a medieval bathhouse dating to the 12th century. It’s a small place- I spent about 10 minutes here- but the entry fee is minimal, so it was worth it.



I then took a walk around the Muralles de Girona- medieval city walls- I started this walk from Banys Arabs, where it passes through a peaceful park.



I tried finding the Torre Gironella, which is a tower near the walls where Jews were given shelter by some of the local Gentiles during the 1391 riots, but I was unable to locate it. I did notice a large municipal lot near the walls here (this is on the side of the Wall that faces the city, not on the side that faces the park) so if you’re visiting Girona for the day by car this is a good place to find a parking spot.

I walked atop the walls at Torre del General Peralta, which offers some great views.



I then headed back to the Centre de la Plaça Indepèndecia de Girona to catch a local bus back to my hotel. It was very easy to navigate using google maps, and I was able to purchase a ticket on the bus for €1.40. As with many places in Spain no cash was accepted- the only way to purchase a ticket was via credit card (I say “was” because it was touted as a covid measure and might no longer be in affect).

After checking out of my hotel I headed to the town of Besalú, about 45 minutes away.

Besalú

The Jewish community in Besalú was established in the early 9th century and was one of the earliest in Catalonia. Besalú was not affected by the pogroms of 1391, but in 1415, after the Jews were forced to live separately in their own neighborhood, many began to leave Besalú. By 1435 all Jews had left the town. If you are visiting Besalú by car, note that there is a large free lot right outside the town (Aparcament gratuit on google maps) across from the visitor center. I specifically visited Besalú because of its Jewish history, but most visitors who make this stop do so because of the famed medieval bridge with its defense towers, the Pont de Besalú, and it did not disappoint.



Strolling along the bridge felt like something out of a movie.





The town is tiny, with a charming medieval feel.



Many of the streets are archways due to houses being built over them.



I noticed many indentations on doorposts in the Juderia- perhaps from mezuzas?



The Sinagoga de Besalú/ Pla dels Jueus’ (Place of the Jews- the site where the shul once stood) along with the Besalú Mikvah is located right along the riverbank.



The mikvah here is from the 12th century and is one of only 3 mikvahs preserved in Europe from that era. It is possible to schedule a tour of the mikveh (their public hours are 10AM to 2PM and 4PM to 7PM on Saturdays and Sundays) outside of official hours, but when I reached out to them (turisme@besalu.cat) they were not very accommodating. I decided to drop by anyway to see if I could convince someone from the tourism office to open it for me, but the office was locked so that was a bust.



Any ideas as to what these are? Art installation perhaps?



Another good vantage point of the Pont de Besalú is at the edge of town, at the Mirador de Besalú.



I then headed back to my car for the 25-minute drive to Figueres.

Figueres

Figueres is popular as the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, and houses the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí, which was designed by Dalí himself. I parked in the nearby Saba El Garrigal, which offers reasonable rates at €3/hr. I originally planned to spend two hours at the Museum, but it was smaller than I expected so I ended up spending only 45 minutes here. Even though I did not spend a lot of time here, it was highly enjoyable. Dali’s art is quirky and hilarious, and I highly recommend a visit if you have the time. Note that many of his paintings are nudes.







Since I was a bit ahead of schedule, I figured that I would have enough time to stop by Macabi in Barcelona to grab some takeout for dinner. Unfortunately, Macabi doesn’t allow phone orders, and it would be too time consuming to park the car, order, and then wait around til it was ready, so I skipped this and headed straight back to the airport to return my rental car.

My flight that night was to Mallorca through Barcelona’s Terminal 1, flying Air Europa. There are a few choices when it comes to booking domestic flights in Spain, such as Ryanair/Iberia, Vueling, and Air Europa. Based on my research, Air Europa is the only one that includes a personal item and carryon as part of the base fair. While all flight options were cheap (ranging from $9 to $30), when factoring in the carryon fee on other airlines, Air Europa came in cheapest at $24.

I was expecting a long line at security after the airport meltdowns during the summer, but it took all of a few seconds (per the announcement board the security line took 54 seconds). I then headed to the Priority Pass Sala VIP Pau Casals lounge to relax until my flight was scheduled to board. The flight was scheduled to take 45 minutes, but the actual flying time was about 20 minutes.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2023, 10:03:48 PM by cgr »

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Mallorca/Majorca
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2023, 08:48:38 PM »
Famed Mallorca Rishonim: Rabbi Shimon ben Tzemach Duran (Rashbatz).

For those of you that are not familiar, Mallorca (also sometimes spelled Majorca) is a small island off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea, and is part of the Islas Baleares archipelago, which includes Ibiza and Menorca as well.



While Ibiza is the most popular of the islands, and is more of a party destination, Mallorca is the largest of the islands. The views all over the island are spectacular.



I did notice that most drivers stick to the speed limits, unlike on the mainland (perhaps because the island is popular with bikers, and you never know when a large group of them will pop up on the roads, or perhaps Mallorcans are just more relaxed). There are no toll roads on Mallorca, and you can get by in English most of the time as the place is very popular with British and American tourists. Temps were a perfect 70F during my stay (although it did drop down to the 50Fs at night, which I found refreshing), and there was no rain other than on the mountains (more on that later) and a short sun shower one day that lasted a few minutes. If you plan on doing any hiking on Mallorca, do research in advance to see if you need any permits to access the trails- almost all the land is privately owned, and landowners have been fighting with the government for years about providing access to hikers, so some have instituted a permit system to limit the number of people that can access their land at any given time.

During this trip I spent most of my time in the west and north of the island.

My Mallorca driving route:



I landed at the Palma de Mallorca Airport late Monday night. For some reason I had envisioned the airport being one of those small island types (think Hawaii), but PMI is a large airport. There was construction going on at the time, so exiting the airport involved a lot of walking after landing.

I had previously reserved an automatic rental car for $6.50/day at Record Go Car Rental, which has a counter at the airport. At the time of booking, I was told that since my pickup time is after 11PM, I will incur a $40 late pickup fee. I arrived at the counter prior to 11PM, but there was a large sign posted at their desk that all pickups were being handled at the parking garage. When I finally got to the garage counter, there was a sign posted that pickups were being handled on a different floor… This whole spiel took well over 20 minutes, at which point it was after 11PM, but thankfully they agreed to waive the late pickup fee. The only automatic vehicles they had in stock were SUV’s, and while it was a decent sized vehicle, the pickup/transmission was far from smooth- comes with the mountainous territory I guess.

I then headed to my hotel for the night, the Alua Leo, a four-star hotel that cost $50/night (the Alua brand is popular in Spain and is part of the AMR Collection. At the time AMR was still in the Hyatt onboarding process, and this was the only hotel that was available for booking through Hyatt- they have since made their entire portfolio bookable via Hyatt). I spent over ten minutes trying to figure out where the entrance to the hotel was located, as there was construction on the block and the GPS address was off. Eventually the hotel staff were kind enough to help me figure it out. While I was only a Hyatt Discoverist member at the time, the staff graciously comped my parking (€10 value) in lieu of breakfast and upgraded my room to a sea view. While the rooms were tiny, the hotel was brand new, and everything was fresh and clean.



I ended up having to put in a few hours of work that night, so I revised my schedule for the next day to allow for some sleep, cutting out the shorter 2.2-mile Cala Deià hike I had hoped to do, and keeping just one longer one.

The next morning, I set out for my longest hike on this trip, the 14km Archduke’s Trail, which traverses over mountains towering along the coast. I used this link to plan my route, and had arranged a permit previously by emailing info@muntanyadelvoltor.com. Based on all the pictures online it seems that even up on the mountains it is usually sunny, so I wasn’t mentally prepared for any adverse weather, especially since the morning was bright and sunny. I arrived at my starting point and headed for the permit booth- the booth was empty, and the gate was locked, but I assumed that since I had made arrangements in advance I was entitled to climb over the locked gate and enjoy the hike. I figured if anyone on the trail asked about my permit, I would just show them my confirmation then. This did not turn out to be an issue- I guess they don’t always man the booth and you’re expected to climb over the gate? Or perhaps I was technically trespassing but was lucky enough not to get caught? I encountered no more than five people on the trail during the entire hike.



As I made my way up the mountain, the clouds started creeping in, but there were still patches of sunlight and I was feeling pretty confident that the clouds were temporary. The hike was accompanied by a constant soundtrack of bleating sheep, and once I hit a patch of levelled ground, I encountered a herd of wild goats.



By the time I made it to the first overlook, the trail was under full cloud cover, although I was able to catch a glimpse of the Mediterranean (imagine the views here in sunny weather! I’m sure it’s breathtaking).



Approximately at the halfway point, I started wondering if I would have enough time to make it down before sunset. I did not want to be stuck on a remote trail, in the fog, once darkness set in. I studied the trail map and decided that if I cut through straight ahead, instead of looping around with the marked trail, I could probably save myself some time. Big mistake. Trails and blazers are there to help hikers, and I learnt the hard way that leaving the trail is not safe, no matter how enticing it seems. The trail is marked by a low stone wall, and in some places (perhaps where it loops in and out of private lands?) there is a line of wire above the stone wall. To attempt my “shortcut” I had to climb over one such wall. I was able to slide between the wall and the wire easily enough, but after climbing a slippery slope straight up the mountain’s face, I realized that there was no way forward- the sea was on one side, and a massive cliff was ahead of me- the only way to continue (which the Archduke’s trailmakers figured out a hundred plus years ago) is to loop around the mountain. I started retracing my steps- unfortunately the only way down the steep slope that I had previously climbed was by sitting down and sliding as slowly as possible down the wet and rocky slope- it was simply too steep to walk (it’s always easier to hike up than down in terms of finding a foothold). I finally made it back to the stone wall, but weirdly enough I could not fit myself in between the wall and barbed wire- I managed to get over by playing some nimbo-limbo, but in the process my hand got stuck and the barbed wire cut a nasty 3” scar on my arm. (I was pretty sure at the time that it would leave permanent scarring, but as of now it does appear that it will eventually fade). The whole spiel ended up costing me thirty minutes, only for me to find myself back on the same trail I had left in search of a faster route. Lesson learnt: stick to the trail!





As I made my way above the tree line, the wind started howling in earnest, and I was nearly blown away. Thankfully the condensation ranged from fog to a mere drizzle, and the temperatures did not drop. Even with no sun the trail was beautiful, in a strange, eerie way. (This was the only cloudy spot on the island that day- looks like I got lucky).



The way down was slightly better, with the sun peeking through here and there.



The trail passes through the private properties of several sheep farmers.





I finally made it back to my car after a little over four hours, with plenty of time to head to Mirador Na Foradada for one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed.



You can see the clouds rolling off the coastal mountains I had just hiked.



I then headed to the town of Soller for the night. To get to this town, I had to pass a one-mile tunnel under the mountains- pretty cool! I made a quick stop at Eroski Soller, a supermarket, to stock up on food for my time in Mallorca. Thankfully they carried a decent selection of MK and OU products (mayonnaise, ketchup, pasta, soy milk, etc).

I had reserved parking in advance at the hotel I was booked at for the night, Hotel Soller Plaza. They do not have a garage on site but have a deal with a tiny local lot to use their space for guests. After circling for ten minutes and realizing that the garage is a ten-minute walk to the hotel, I decided to try to find something closer. This was no easy feat, because other than the main street outside the hotel, all blocks are either one way, which requires circling around town to loop back to a specific spot, or two-way streets that don’t fit two vehicles, meaning that someone has to back out to make room for the other car to pass. I ended up finding street parking on the avenue outside the hotel, with the meter starting at 10:30AM, which I figured wouldn’t be an issue for me, since I planned to leave early.

Being that this is a boutique hotel, and the front desk is not manned 24/7, they had called me in advance to inform me that if I checked in after 7PM my key would be in an envelope on the front desk with my name on it. They also informed me that if I left before 8AM, I would need to complete a paper form with my cc and passport information, since the staff would not be there to process it. I told them that I planned on leaving at 7AM the next day, so that I could get an early start on the trails, and that I would complete the form as instructed.

The room was great- neat and clean and exactly as pictured. I set my phone’s alarm for 6AM, plugged it in, and conked out.

I awoke to pounding on the door- it was the woman I had spoken to previously about the checkin/checkout process, and she was frantic. It was now 10AM (I must have been really exhausted, because my body’s alarm clock rarely lets this happen), and she was sure that something must have happened to me since I had not made an appearance. Turns out my phone was not properly plugged in, and the battery had drained overnight, so there went my 6AM alarm along with two of the early hikes I planned on doing… (Cúber to Puig de l’Ofre and a modified version of Torrent de Pareis). I decided to make the best of it- after a mad dash to my car to top up the meter (I did find out after that most of Spain’s cities use ORA for parking meters, which has an easy-to-use app that allows for remote top-ups), I spent some time strolling around the picturesque town of Soller.



At 12PM I headed back to the hotel for checkout, and they were kind enough to refund the €10 parking fee since I had not utilized their parking spot.

I then headed to Camí de Cala Boquer, a 5.6 km out-and-back trail. There’s plenty of parking at the trailhead, but to access the trail I had to walk down a private driveway and hop over a locked fence. I was sure I was trespassing at first, but after waiting around a few minutes I saw several hikers taking this route and figured that it was the legitimate trail entrance. This is a scenic, mostly flat trail, with beautiful vistas.



The trail smelled deliciously of rosemary, and I bumped into my sheep and goat friends again.





The trail ends at the sea.



On the way back, the rock formations tower up ahead.





If you look closely, you can see the wild mountain goats high up on the rocks.





I stopped a lot on this trail to admire the views, and it took me just under 2.5 hours.

I then headed to Mirador de Es Colomer, a great lookout with views of the Formentor peninsula. The two-lane road up to this overlook is twisty and there’s almost room for two vehicles, so it’s not too bad.



I then made my way to Panoràmica cap al Cap Formentor, which lies on the Formentor peninsula, for sunset. The views here are incredible, although it does get crowded and there’s very little parking. I’m also not sure why this is considered a great sunset spot, because the sun sets from behind, not ahead, from this vantage point. I ended up climbing the hill across the parking lot to have a better view, and it was well worth it.



Aren’t Mallorca sunsets just incredible?



I had originally planned on sticking around the Formentor peninsula for another night and had booked a VRBO property near the Albercutx Watchtower, so that I could view sunrise on Friday from this side of the island. About a week before check-in the host cancelled suddenly, so I started researching hotels. Usually there are some good hotel options in Pollenca, near the Formentor peninsula, but they were all under renovation at the time, so I was out of options. I decided to head back to Palma, the capital city, and check in to the Eurostars Marivent (with a 10% discount off the advertised rate, as mentioned in Andorra) on Thursday night instead. In retrospect, I could have done a better job in choosing a hotel in Palma, as it would have been easier to stay either in Palma center, or near the shul area. That would have put me 20 minutes closer to the airport and I would have spent 10 minutes less on each bus heading in and out of the city center.

My room was upgraded to a sea view room with a porch, and I was able to see Ibiza Island. The room was a decent size and otherwise ok.

Showing off my newly acquired Mallorca parking skills:



I then decided that even though my car rental wasn’t due back until the next morning, it would be easier to drop it off at night rather than spend two hours during the day on the return. The dropoff process was painless, but after the trip I noticed that I was charged $256 for a scratch. I sent in pictures showing that the scratch was there beforehand, but I did not receive any response. I first disputed the charge, but Chase sided with the car rental agency, without providing me with more information. I then decided to file a claim with Chase’s CDW insurance, even though I was missing most of the documentation required. I explained that I had been trying to get the documents, but the car rental agency was unresponsive. A week and half later Chase approved my claim, including the tacked-on admin fees, without requesting any additional paperwork.

After dropping off the rental I took the airport bus back to the city, and public transportation back to the hotel.

Palma

I spent Friday exploring Palma, which is the capital city of Mallorca. It’s fairly hilly, but still walkable. I started my day at Plaça d'Espanya, which is a large square with many pedestrian streets branching off it. I chose to walk down Carrer dels Olms til La Rambla and then spent some time at Plaza Major relaxing and people watching. I then headed to the Centre Maimó Ben Faraig, which I believe houses a museum on Mallorca’s Jewish history, but it was closed at the time. I purchased this
walking tour audio guide, and while I really enjoyed learning about Mallorca’s Jewish history, it’s more of an overview, and doesn’t delve very deep.

The entrance to Call Maior (the Jewish Quarter).



It is said that the main streets of the Jewish Quarter, Escoles and Seminari, are so named because they housed Palma's yeshivas.



The site that used to house Palma’s shul from medieval times.



Approximately 300 of Palma’s Jews were killed during the 1391 riots, and after that the community steadily declined, until 1435 when all Jews on the island were forcibly converted at this Church.



All their shuls were confiscated by the Church at this time, including the Mt. Zion synagogue, which retained its name and is now the Mt. Zion Church.



Until the 17th century the inquisition was largely silent in Mallorca, since all Jews had been forcibly converted in 1435, but in 1677 a large group of Jews were caught observing Yom Kippur, and 237 of them were charged with the crime of Judaizing. A year later 5 of them were burned at the stake. Seeing that things were no longer safe in Mallorca, a large group of Jews tried fleeing Mallorca for England in 1688. They were caught, and after 3 years of brutal trials, during which many of them died, 3 of the survivors were burnt at the stake. One of these was Rafael Valls, the secret rabbi of the community. His legacy lives on today through his famed grandson, Rabbi Yossi Wallis of Arachim. At this point the community of Mallorcan Anusim split in two, and the descendants of those that tried to escape, approximately 15 families, became known as the Chuetas/Xuetas. They were strongly discriminated against by the general population, and in an effort to fit in with their neighbors and lessen suspicion, became devout Catholics, but they did not marry out of their community. Today there are approximately 18,000 Chuetas on the island, distinguishable because there are just 15 Cheuta surnames. They are still discriminated against, but there have been intermarriages in the last 20 years with the general population. While the average Chueta has no knowledge of their history or where they come from, many have moved to Israel in recent years and converted. If there’s one reason to pay for an organized Jewish tour in Palma, it is to meet a Chueta family, although many of them shy away from the attention and don’t like being in the limelight. (After my trip I heard good things about this tour group, although I do not have any firsthand experience).

Many islanders, including Chuetas, stick their "kvittlech" into the walls of the Mt. Zion Church to this day.



Paseo del Borne, a large pedestrian street.



Just another beautiful Palma intersection…



Catedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca- this is a large and popular Church in Mallorca. I do not enter Churches, so I just viewed the exterior.



I then visited the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, where I spent about 45 minutes. This is more of a castle type palace rather than a glitzy royal palace. I purchased an audio guide app along with my ticket, but if you don’t have a smartphone then they also have devices for rent for €1.





My last attraction of the day was to Castell de Bellver, where the Jewish population sheltered during the 1391 massacres. There’s a steep walk to get here.





The castle now houses a history museum, which I didn’t find too interesting, but the views from the castle are great.



If Jewish artifacts of interest to you, The Royal Archives of Majorca has two rare parchment ketubos in their archive. Inquire in advance to see if a viewing is possible.

I had reached out in advance to Karen at the local shul, Comunidad Judía De Les Illes Balears, to inquire about Shabbos meals. While there were no communal meals available that week, she did offer to provide me with Challah and wine, which really helped as I could cook the rest of what I needed myself. She was incredibly accommodating with the timing of the pickup to fit my schedule, and even offered to pick me up from Castell de Bellver (which I declined as I was looking forward to hiking into the city, but of course that also coincided with the heavens opening up for a short but annoying rain shower). You can reach out to the shul via their website here: https://www.cjib.es/en/contact/



I made a quick stop on the way back to my hotel to drop off my laundry at a laundromat across the street from the hotel, and between broken Spanish and google translate I triple confirmed with the woman at the counter that it would be ready at 7PM on Saturday.

Shabbos passed uneventfully, and right after the zman I rushed over to the laundromat to pick up my laundry. To my horror the doors were locked, and the lights were off. No amount of banging produced any results. I tried the number listed on Google maps, but there was no response. I then tried the various numbers posted on the sign outside, until thankfully someone answered. It took a few minutes to get someone on the line who spoke a bit of English- turns out I had reached the proprietor at his home- his employee had told him that I would come by at 5PM to pick up the laundry. He waited patiently until 5:30PM, and then locked up shop. I explained to him that I had a flight out early the next morning and was leaving Palma at 8AM, and I couldn’t really wait til he opened the shop at 10AM. He wasn’t too happy about this, since he lives 45 minutes from the shop, but eventually offered to come by the shop that night so that I could get my laundry. He arrived as promised, and I ended up tipping him €40 for his troubles (at this point I was seriously doubting myself- had I made a mistake and told the woman on Friday that I would do pickup at 17h instead of 19h? When I finally got my laundry back the paper was clearly marked with a note that pickup would be at 19h…)

Sunday morning, I took the airport bus from the city center. I was once again flying with Air Europa due to their carry-on policy, although this flight was more expensive at $55. There were flights later in the day for about $20, but the financial savings weren’t worth it to have to rearrange my schedule for Sunday, when I had a jam-packed day planned on the mainland. Security was a bit of pain, as they insisted I remove my cap- I explained to them that I cover my hair for religious reasons, but they weren’t too convinced and tried to argue with me (perhaps wearing something more obviously religious like a tichel would have gone over better…), although they did eventually let me pass with my cap on. They did insist on unpacking my bags twice, which was a pain. Thankfully the security lines were short, so it didn’t result in any irate backups. I then headed to the Priority Pass Sala VIP Formentor lounge to relax until my flight started boarding.

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Andalusia
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2023, 08:49:02 PM »
Andalusia: Granada, Jaen, Úbeda, Córdoba, Lucena, El Torcal de Antequera, Malaga, Torremolinos, Caminito del Rey, Ronda, Seville

My Andalusia driving route:



The route turned out weird for multiple reasons. First, I was aiming to visit towns and cities in both the North and South, as well as East and West, of the region. Secondly, all museums in the region were closed on Monday, which means that it would have been a waste of time to be in Granada, Córdoba, or Seville on a Monday where I wanted to visit museums. Thirdly, this car rental was going to be a one-way rental, as I wouldn’t be driving back to my starting point, and so I was trying to find the pair of two cities that had the cheapest one-way fees. Fourthly, I had to start in a place that had an incoming flight with good timing from Mallorca, and my final city on this route had to have a good outgoing flight to my next destination. I went through tens of iterations to create this route, and ultimately this one worked best when taking everything into account.

Granada

Pre-Rishonim: Shmuel ibn Nagrellah/Shmuel Hanagid

Famed Granada Rishonim: The Ibn Ezra lived here for a short time, as well as Yehuda ibn Tibon, translator of Rabbeinu Bachya's "Chovos haLevavos" from Arabic into Hebrew.

I landed in Granada on schedule at 12PM on Sunday. The airport is tiny, and all passengers disembarked on the tarmac and walked over to the terminal. The temperatures were perfect- in the low 70Fs, and sunny. Generally, it is possible to rent a car at the Granada airport, but on Sundays none of the car rentals at the airport are open (perhaps in summer when things are busier this is an option?). My only choice was to head into the city, where I pre-booked an automatic car with Enterprise. There are buses from the airport that leave every 2-3 minutes to the city center and cost €3. I then transferred to a local tram to get to the car rental location. I had originally booked the vehicle using DDF Enterprise code XZ01JCL which gave me a nice discount and was especially appreciated after the high one-way fee I would be paying. I had reserved my car rental for pickup at 1PM- at 12:55PM I received a phone call from the rental agency that if I wasn’t there in five minutes for my pickup, they would cancel my reservation. Turns out this location closes at 1PM on Sundays- I had not checked the closing time in advance because I figured that they close in the evening, and in no way would I be cutting it close to closing. I informed them that I was five minutes out, and that I definitely intended on taking the rental. I arrived at 1:01PM, with the staff standing outside and waiting for me to sign the paperwork. At first the clerk wanted to charge me a €50 late fee, but then she decided to be accommodating and agreed to waive the €50 and instead charge me a €30 upgrade fee. I tried reasoning with her that I had neither requested nor wanted an upgrade, but she insisted it was either that or the €50 late fee. It was clear to me that this was the only automatic vehicle they had on hand and had decided ahead of time to allocate it to me, as it was already prepped for me, but I decided not to fight it out with her, and instead deal with corporate about the charge after the rental was returned. Including the upgrade fee and one-way fee I originally paid $46/day for this rental. After my trip I had to reach out five times over three months for them to understand the issue and do something about it, but I was ultimately refunded the €30 upgrade fee as well as another €30 for my troubles, for a total refund of €60. This refund reduced the daily average of the car rental to $33/day.

Granada is a charming town and is especially meaningful from a historical Jewish perspective. The famed Alhambra was originally the site of a fortress built by Shmuel ibn Nagrellah, Vizier to the Moorish King, in the early 11th century. At the time of the inquisition there were ~20,000 Jews living in Granada- no trace of this once vibrant community remains.

My first destination of the day was to the Alhambra complex, which houses a castle, palace, and magnificent gardens overlooking Granada. The Alhambra became the site of the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabela in 1492, and the infamous Alhambra Decree, expelling all Jews from Spain who did not convert, was signed here on March 31, 1492. It is also the site where Christopher Columbus received his endorsement from the King and Queen to explore a maritime route to India. There is parking on-site, although the lots do get pretty full, and I had to circle for a minute or two to find spot. I had booked entry tickets in advance, as they are known to sell out, but I did not reserve a guide, which in retrospect would have been worth it. Note that the tickets to specific sites within the Alhambra are timed.

The place is huge, and there are so many nooks and crannies to explore, that it got overwhelming just remembering what I had covered already. I downloaded the free audio guide app they have, but it is very limited and does not have a lot of information. I spent a total of three hours here, although ideally it would have been better to spend 4 or 5 hours here for a more relaxing experience, with more time to absorb the information. Be prepared for large crowds- this was in the off-season, and it was packed.





The Generalife section is comprised of beautiful, landscaped gardens, accompanied by heavenly smells.





The Nasrid Palaces’ Moorish architecture with its detailed designs is incredible, although the crowds were a real downer. I had a hard time immersing myself in the beauty with all the noise and jostling.







The Palace of Charles V is the most recent addition to the Alhambra- the interior, which is a gallery, appears to be unfinished.



The Alcazaba is a military fortification/castle, with sweeping views of Granada.





I then hiked down into the city, to Plaza Nueva de Granada.



Carrera Del Darro is considered Spain's best preserved Moorish Street, and just walking around Granada is a magical experience.



Away from the main tourists haunts the streets are mostly empty.



I then dropped by the Museo Sefardí- I had reached out in advance and had not received a response, so I knew it was unlikely that they were open. There was a sign posted on the door that visits were by appointment only and can be scheduled via email at museosefardidegranada@gmail.com.



I then walked around the area that used to house the Barrio Realejo- the Jewish quarter, on and around Calle Pavaneras.



I bumped into this statue of Yehuda ibn Tibon, a physician and translator of Rabbeinu Bachya's "Chovos haLevavos" from Arabic into Hebrew.



My final stop of the day was to the Palacio de los Olvidados/Palace of the Forgotten, an exhibit on the Spanish Inquisition. While it was very interesting, some of it was too gory for me to absorb, and I skipped the more detailed explanations. Probably not suitable for younger children.





I then hiked back up the steep hill to the Alhambra parking lot to collect my car, stock up on groceries, and start the one-hour drive north to Jaen.





Jaen

Jaen is not a popular tourist destination, but from a historical Jewish perspective it holds significance as the birthplace of Chasdai ibn Shaprut, who later moved to Córdoba. He first rose to fame as the Caliph’s physician and was eventually appointed foreign minister. He was a great supporter of the Yeshivas in Sura and Pumbedisa, and redeemed Rabbi Moshe Bar Chanoch from captivity (who according to legend was one of the four scholars from the Sura Yeshiva captured by pirates in Europe). This allowed him to establish his own Yeshiva, and this is where the center of Torah starts shifting from Babylon to Spain. (I listened to this fascinating lecture from Dr. Henry Abramson on my drive to Jaen).

I checked into Hotel Condestable Iranzo for the night. There weren’t many options to choose from in Jaen, and this was a “best of the worst” scenario. While the rooms were dated, it was clean. The biggest downside was the paper-thin walls which allowed me to hear all the comings and goings of all the hotel guests. The hotel does not have their own parking, but there’s a garage across the street, and rates were very reasonable.

Monday dawned bright and sunny, with temps in the low 50Fs. My first stop of the day was to Plaza Santa Maria, where the Court of the Inquisition of Jaen was located. Jaen’s inquisition processed the third highest number of inquisition cases (after Seville and Córdoba) which gives some indication as to the number of Jews living in this region at the time.



While I did not enter the Jaen Cathedral, the interior boasts motifs that show that many of its parishioners were originally Jewish.



The Palacio del Condestable Iranzo, where inquisitors were housed when adjudicating cases in Jaen.



St Lorenzo’s Arch



The Real Monasterio de Santa Clara, today a convent, was the location of the medieval synagogue. It was sold to the church after the 1391 riots.



Calle los Huérfanos and surrounding streets, which used to house the Jewish quarter of Jaen.





In Plaza del Dr. Blanco Najera there is a large menorah to honor what was once the Jewish quarter. There’s a memorial plaque written in both Castilian and Ladino.



A memorial to Chasdai Ibn Shaprut, who was born in Jaen.



At the entrance to the Sabetay Djaen building (part of the Municipal People’s University) there is a display case that showcases a replica of a “yad” pointer of the 14th century which was found during an archaeological dig under the building.



There is some who are of the opinion that St Andrew's Chapel was a synagogue as well, since it is not very tall or beautiful, (by law, synagogues could not be taller than churches, or ostentatious) as well as the building facing East and some other clues.



The IMEFE Central Services/ Torres de Navarra´s Palace has a tiny exhibit on the first floor of Chasdai’s life. Not much to see here.



The Convento de Santo Domingo housed various inquisition employees.



Chasdai’s house is located at Plaza de la Magdalena 6 and is noticeable by the large Star of David on the façade. The interior is not open to visitors.



I did notice quite a few houses in Jaen that have a Star of David displayed- possible that those are all houses that have been verified as previously belonging to Jews, but I’m not sure.







My last stop in Jaen was to the Castillo de Santa Catalina. There’s free parking up here (it’s quite a fun drive up to here from the town) with incredible views up top.





The castle itself wasn’t that interesting, but they had free entry that day, so I checked it out.





There is also a Parador (government owned luxury hotel located on historical property) here, which for some reason didn’t come up when I was originally searching for a hotel in the region. From the glimpse I got it looked really nice.

I then drove 40 minutes to the town of Úbeda.

Úbeda

The main goal of my stop to Úbeda was to visit the Sinagoga del Agua, which is supposedly the site of a medieval synagogue and mikveh. Note that many historians scoff at this, as there is no documentary evidence to back up the fact that this was indeed a synagogue, although I found the anecdotal evidence compelling (keeping in mind that there is a possibility that this is all a hoax to draw tourists to Úbeda).

I parked at the municipal Redonda de Miradores Park, where parking is free.

The town’s main square, Plaza de Sta Lucia.



Casas Judías Úbeda was once the residence of a Jewish family- it’s been defaced and there’s nothing to see here.



Plaza 1º de Mayo was the site where the inquisition performed the auto-da-fé in Úbeda.



Advance reservations are required at the Sinagoga del Agua via http://sinagogadelagua.com/en/home-2/. There is a requirement of at least two reservations per booking, so I paid for one adult and one child to meet that requirement. I was not aware that the tour would be entirely in Spanish, which prevented me from understanding half of the details and from asking too many questions. They have a pamphlet available in English, and while my tour guide spoke English, he did not translate more than a few sentences for me. The Spanish tour seemed fascinating though, based on the little I understood and the groups’ reactions.





The short history of the synagogues is as follows: In 2007 a developer looking to build new apartments started demolishing some structures and came across what he believes to be the location of the Úbeda shul. His evidence is made up of the following:

The women's gallery



A Genizah urn (the urn opens to a large pit in the ground, and many Hebrew fragments were found buried here)



A purported Mikvah located in the basement.



The house of the inquisitor at Calle las Parras 8



Gate of Granada



Plaza de Vázquez Molina



On Calle Juego de Bolas, which used to house the old Jewish quarter, there are supposed to be two houses where a Star of David is visibly engraved on the lintel. I was unable to locate it- perhaps it’s been painted over recently?

My final stop in Úbeda was at the Mirador del Alcázar overlook.



I then headed out to Córdoba, a drive that took an hour and 45 minutes. I noticed on the drive that Spain’s DOT had come up with a brilliant and novel way to deal with potholes. Instead of fixing it, just lower the speed limit! The speed limit would drop from 120kmh to 70kmh with no warning, the road would be in terrible shape, and then once it was back to steady ground, the speed limit was restored to 120kmh. Bizarre.

Córdoba

Pre-Rishonim: Chasdai Ibn Shaprut, Rabbi Moshe bar Chanoch

Famed Córdoba Rishonim: Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam, Maimonides) as well as R’ Yehuda Halevi, author of the Kuzari, who passed through here on his travels.

Visiting Córdoba was definitely one of the highlights of this trip. It’s a beautiful medieval city and I highly recommend setting aside time to just wander around. I purposely took longer walking routes because rambling along the streets was such joy.



The weather was a perfect 60F and sunny during the day (although it did drop down to the high 30Fs at night).

The streets away from the main haunts were quiet and not crowded with tourists.



All over town there are woman trying to coerce tourists to purchase rosemary leaves, and they get quite pushy at times. Just ignore them.

The city is full of orange trees, which adds a certain artistic vibe.



During my research for kosher food in Spain I came across a restaurant in Córdoba, Casa Mazel (https://casamazal.es/carta-kosher/), which advertises that they offer kosher meals. I reached out to them to inquire, and they informed me that it’s prewrapped meals that they can warm up with advance notice, under the supervision of the SKS out of Marbella (http://www.spainkosherservices.com/). I asked around and was unable to find more information on the hechsher, so I did not end up ordering meals here.

I checked into the Eurostars Azahar hotel for the night, again taking advantage of a 10% Eurostar loyalty coupon. The room was great, although the shower wasn’t fun as the water came in hot and cold bursts with no advance warning. The hotel does not have parking on site, but they offered a discounted rate at Córdoba Parking SA. Note that most of Córdoba is a pedestrian only zone, so I had to register my plate with the hotel to prevent any parking/driving violations. There was still some daylight left, so I spent about an hour ambling around Córdoba.

The Rambam statue (if you look closely, you’ll notice that the beard, book, and shoes are discolored. That’s because locals touch these three spots when passing through. I’m not sure what the significance is).





Pl. de Judá Levi



The Mezquita, which has housed both a mosque and a cathedral. I just walked around the courtyard here.



Roman Bridge of Córdoba



I then headed to the Torre De Calahorra, which is a tower located at the end of the Roman Bridge, that houses the Córdoba history museum. They reiterate over and over that when Córdoba was the capital of Al Andalus (Muslim Spain) in the 10th and 11th centuries, it was considered one of the most advanced cities in the world, and that Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexisted peacefully in Córdoba in ways not seen before or since. Sure sounds like paradise… I finished up my visit here just as the sun was setting, and the views from atop the tower lookout were spectacular.



My last stop of the day was at the Cruz del Rastro park, which is along the river facing Córdoba. This park commemorates the attack on the Jewish quarter of Córdoba that occurred in 1473.



My first stop on Tuesday was to the magnificent Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.



This castle/palace was built in the 14th century on the site of previous Moorish palaces, and while the interior is just an old drafty castle, the gardens are beautiful.



The Alcazar has a rather dark history, as it was donated by Ferdinand and Isabella to the inquisition in 1482, and served as the seat of the Inquisition Tribunal- the first auto-da-fé in Córdoba was held in 1483, and in 1504 107 people were burnt to death during one of the largest auto-da-fés.



I had reserved Alcazar tickets for 8:45AM in advance (they include all day entry to the Baths of the Caliphal Alcazar as well) and it couldn’t have worked out better. Tickets often sell out, and the crowds start piling in after 9AM, so I got to have the place to myself for a bit. I spent about 45 minutes here.



The castle turrets are accessible as well and offer beautiful views of the gardens and the city.



I then headed to the Baths of the Caliphal Alcazar, which is located across the street.



Next, I headed to the Judería de Córdoba, to explore some of its Jewish history.





The Córdoba Synagogue, which was built in 1315, is the only synagogue in Spain from that era that was not turned into a Christian place of worship at some point. This is one of the only three shuls in Spain that have been verified by documentary evidence to have indeed housed a shul (the other two are in Toledo). A mikvah has recently been discovered on the premises as well, but it is not yet open to visitors.





The Almodovar Gate or ‘Gate of the Jews’





Calleja de las Flores- flower street



The Casa de Sefarad is a small but interesting history museum on Córdoba Jews. The museum is housed in a building dating to the 1300s.



I then headed to Córdoba’s Archaeological Museum. They generally charge an entrance fee to non-EU citizens, but they allowed me to enter free of charge.



There are two Jewish headstones on display here, one of Yahuda bar Akon who died in 846CE



and the other of Rabi Amicos who died in the 12th century.



There’s also some Judaic-themed jewelry that was discovered in the region on display.



Unfortunately these two tombstones, some minor artifacts, and the shul are all that remains of Córdoba’s once vibrant Jewish community.

Plaza de las Tendillas



Templo Romano





Plaza de la Corredera



I then drove 20 minutes out of town to the Medina Azahara Conjunto archeological site. This place is a gem for anyone interested in Al Andalus history. It has an interesting museum on site, and I found the archeological site to be fascinating. Although the official website recommends spending three hours here, I managed to cover it all in two hours without rushing.



The city was built by Abd al Rahman III in 936, with the intention that it would be a royal city on the outskirts of Córdoba. It didn’t last long as various civil wars broke out.



After this I headed to the city of Lucena, approximately an hour from Córdoba. I was running low on gas and noticed that very few of Spain’s gas stations operate for 24 hours. Most of them do not have self-pay pumps, so once the convenience store closes, there is no way to activate the pump.

Lucena

Famed Lucena Rishonim: Rabbi Yitzchak ibn Ghiyat, Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi (Rif), Rabbi Yosef ibn Migash (Ri Migash), Abraham Ibn Daud. The Ibn Ezra and R' Yehuda HaLevi both spent time in Lucena as well.

The town of Lucena boasts a fascinating Jewish history- according to legend the reason why it has no Jewish Quarter is because the town was inhabited entirely by Jews from 9th to the 12th century. There are many Gaonic letters between the Yeshiva in Sura and Lucena dating to the 9th century- Lucena’s Jews are mentioned as being the richest in all of Spain. Most of the city was destroyed in 1148 when the Jews refused to convert to Islam under orders of the local Muslim ruler, and the community was transplanted to Toledo.

I arrived in Lucena late in the evening and checked into the Doña Lola Alojamientos Boutique hotel for the night. The staff here was helpful with my various requests such as a mini fridge for my food and detergent for the hotel’s washing machine, and the room was clean. The only downside was that the hot water lasted for less than two minutes. The parking garage located in Lucena’s main square, near the hotel, offers discounted rates of €8 when showing the hotel’s booking confirmation.

After checking in I headed to the Municipal Public Library, which used to house an exhibit on Lucena’s Jewish history, but that has since been terminated. The street signs are displayed in Hebrew as a remembrance to the town’s history.



Wednesday dawned sunny with temps in the 50Fs. After a short stroll around town, I noticed that there are virtually no tourists in Lucena- I could also tell by the stares I was getting that I was noticeably out of place. My first stop was to the San Mateo church which I viewed from outside- this housed the old synagogue until 1240.



El Coso Square



My main goal in visiting Lucena was to stop by the Necrópolis Judía- this was Lucena’s Jewish cemetery and was in use from the 8th century til about year 1050. It was rediscovered in 2006 when a new road was being built in the area. This is one of the only Jewish cemeteries in Andalusia from pre-inquisition Spain. I reached out to the tourism board at lucena@tuhistoria.org to schedule a tour- the fee was €35 and can be scheduled on most days between 11AM and 1PM. My guide informed me that she works at the Castillo del Moral/ Archaeological Museum, and that I should meet her there in time for the tour. I decided to stop by the museum a bit earlier to look around the place. There are some interesting Jewish artifacts here, such as headstones recovered from the cemetery, but the signs in English were poorly translated and difficult to read. The entry fee was waived as it is included with the cemetery tour.



Views of Lucena from the Castle’s tower:



Once I was done at the museum my guide and I headed out to the cemetery. It’s on the edge of town, approximately a 15-minute walk from the town’s center.



My guide was very knowledgeable about Lucena’s history as well as the details of the cemetery. There are several informational boards at the entrance to the cemetery that provide the history of the place as well. Approximately 400 gravesites were unearthed during the dig, and then reburied on site by organizations in the US and EY.



The cemetery is a lot larger than the currently gated area, but the local government has agreed to suspend further excavations in deference to Jewish law. It is assumed that the entire hill opposite the highway is part of the original cemetery.



I found the experience to be very moving, and my guide gave me some time to say Tehillim. After that she pulled out a Netila cup from her bag so that I could wash my hands prior to exiting the cemetery. She even knew not to take the cup from me until I had placed it on the ground.

I then drove an hour along a beautiful scenic route to El Torcal de Antequera National Park.

El Torcal de Antequera

I had originally hoped to do a longer hike at El Torcal de Antequera National Park, but I had spent more time than anticipated at the Lucena cemetery, which put me behind schedule. I was debating whether I should skip the park altogether but decided to push in a short 30-minute hike instead of a longer one. Boy, am I glad I didn’t skip this! The drive was spectacular,



and the views in the park are otherworldly! I opted for the green trail, which is a short loop- all trails are signposted and are also programmed on Google Maps. Note that the trails here get slippery after rain, as it is mostly bedrock.





It’s hard to capture just how towering these formations are- can you spot the hiker in the valley?



After a quick stop at the visitor’s center, I started the 1-hour drive to Malaga. Google Maps recommends taking a toll road to Malaga from here, but I noticed that the other options that avoid the toll roads don’t take longer, so I opted for a different route. Somewhere along this drive I received a camera speeding ticket- I wasn’t aware that there were speeding cameras on the roads in Spain, but after my trip I received an email from Enterprise that I received a €100 fine for going 109kmh in a 100kmh zone☹. Spain’s DGT offers a 50% discount on fines paid within 20 days- since I didn’t want my driving privileges suspended in case of future trips, I decided to pay the fine within the 20-day grace period to receive the discount. I tried paying the violation via the DGT website several times, but each time I received an error. After digging around on reddit, I saw some users post that the workaround for this is to change the PC’s time zone to Madrid- it worked like a charm! Additionally, Enterprise had informed me that they will be charging a €25 admin fee to get the ticket reissued in my name, but they never ended up charging me for that.

Malaga

Shlomo ibn Gabirol, who some attribute the composition of "Adon Olam" to, was from Malaga.

Since it was wintertime, I was debating whether to stop by Malaga or skip it altogether, but I had a half a day in the region regardless, and since I wasn’t going to be spending Shabbos near a Jewish community I would need to stock up on kosher food beforehand, for which Malaga was the best option. It also turned out to be a good area to redeem my Amex Hilton Aspire resort credit, but more on that later.

My first stop in Malaga was at Plaza de la Merced, to relax a bit and eat lunch. There’s a statue of Shlomo ibn Gabirol here.



I then headed to the Teatro Romano de Málaga- an amphitheater built by the Romans. Entry was free that day, and the interpretation center was interesting.



I then headed directly above the amphitheater to Malaga’s Alcazaba.



I purchased a combo ticket here for the Alcazaba and for the castle that overlooks the city. I used the online audio guide at the Alcazaba. While the Alcazaba is nice, it’s not very grand. I spent about 30 minutes here.



I then walked up to the castle, Castillo de Gibralfaro- note that is a steep 20-minute uphill climb.



The views from up top are great though.





I then headed to Playa de la Misericordia for a few minutes to watch the sunset.





I had reached out to the kosher shop in Torremolinos, [https://koshertorremolinos.com/]CashKash[/URL], in advance via Whatsapp at (+34) 665 17 84 18 to confirm that they would be open that night. The shop carries CY milk as well as some frozen dairy and meat products (I believe it’s sefard shechita) and many shelf stable items, mostly from France and EY. They also have wine and fresh challah and bread. The owner mentioned to me that they have a seasonal restaurant in the summer, and that it would be open in December for Chanukah as well.

After stocking up on food, I headed to the Higueron Hotel Malaga Curio Collection by Hilton for the night, which I had booked with my $250 Amex Hilton Aspire resort credit. Rooms were cheaper than $250 since it was off-season, but it was the end of November and I started worrying that I might not have an opportunity to use the credit before the year’s end, when it expires. In an effort to max out the credit I booked the double points package which after tax came out to $249. With all the various Hilton promotions I ended up getting double nights + double points + 2k bonus points + 1k bonus points on this stay. Checking in was complicated, as the resort is huge and has different entrances for long-term guests, residents, etc. and many of the employees from one area did not know how to navigate to the hotel parking garage. I eventually figured it out and was able to park in the dedicated Diamond area, and then check in immediately at the Diamond desk, where I was given a coupon for two complementary drinks and upgraded to a King Suite with Sea View. I had requested kosher food in advance, which should technically be doable in the area, but they were not forthcoming. The room was spacious with a separate bathroom, shower, and a large bath in the bedroom. The room also had a large terrace with comfortable patio furniture overlooking the grounds, but I wasn’t able to appreciate it fully since it was dark by the time I made it to the hotel, and the next day was my first rainy one in Spain.



Thursday dawned gray and drizzly, but I decided to press on with my schedule in the hopes that it would clear up by the time I made it to my scheduled hike of the day. My first stop was at the Colomares Monument- when originally researching this I had thought it was more of an exhibit dedicated to Columbus’ explorations, but it turned out to be some sort of Instagram photo spot. I was the only person there (probably due to the rain) and I spent a few minutes wandering around disinterestedly.



Next, I headed to Casa de los Navajas. Again, I thought it was something else- I was expecting a mansion of sorts, but it turned out that just two rooms were open for visitors. Entry was free though.



I then started the 1-hour drive to Caminito del Rey, for my scheduled hike.

Caminito del Rey

When researching the Malaga area, I came across the Caminito del Rey hike. It is touted as one of the must dos in the region and was once considered one of the most dangerous footpaths in the world.



The hike is a one-way 7.7km walk, with about half of it on a narrow footpath along the gorge walls.



There is no parking at the actual entrance, but there are several parking lots further away, with shuttle service running between all lots as well as to the entrance and exit points. Tickets are required to enter the footpath, and the self-guided option sells out quickly (the guided option talks about the area’s geology etc and is not done at your own pace, although I did see people along the way get bored and leave their group), so I had to stretch my schedule a bit with fillers to end up here on Thursday afternoon when there was a self-guided slot available. I reserved parking and the shuttle bus in advance, although those can be paid for on the spot. I arrived at the parking lot about an hour before my scheduled time, but they let me start earlier instead of making me wait for the ticketed time. At the entrance you’re given a helmet and a spiel about safety. There are rangers posted every kilometer or so along the trail to ensure that hikers are proceeding safely. It was foggy and drizzly when I started, and while the weather did not clear up fully, it stopped raining and I got to see patches of blue sky here and there.



The most fun part of the hike for me was at the beginning and towards the end of the trail, which is where the hike is on a narrow footpath high up on the gorge wall.



The middle section is just a forest with no spectacular views. The hike took me about an hour, and is very easy and flat, so I’m not sure why the official website states that it usually takes 3-4 hours.



After the hike there is a popup market of sorts with toilets, food, and souvenir kiosks.

I then started the 1-hour drive to Ronda, where I was to spend the night.

Ronda

My drive to Ronda was a challenging one, with fog reducing visibility to almost zero. The town of Ronda is incredibly picturesque, but I’ll hold off on describing it until the fog lifted and I was able to actually see its beauty. Ronda is also popular for its bullfighting history, and there are still several bullfighting events held here each year (bullfighting season is in September).

I checked into Hotel Catalonia Ronda for the night- this location can’t be beat as it is right across the bullfighting museum, and near the beautiful Ronda bridge- the room I was assigned at first had a weird smell, and the front desk was more than happy to assign me to a new room with no fuss, this time with an upgrade that had great views of the bullring.





I also received 2 complimentary drinks at the bar for being a member of the hotel chain and parked at their partner garage for discounted parking.

Since I had finished the Caminito del Rey hike earlier than expected, I had time to visit the Bullring of the Royal Cavalry of Ronda. This is the oldest bullring in the world and is one of only five bullrings still in operation. The audio guide here is great, and a must-listen to understand bullfighting culture. There is no mention of humanitarian measures in the museum or the bullring- tradition takes precedence over left-wing posturing here.



Thankfully Friday dawned in the crispy 50Fs and sunny, and I was able to explore Ronda’s beauty. The town of Ronda is perched atop a cliff, with a river running through the town, creating a deep chasm and dividing the two sides. Originally the town was built on just one side, but when the population expanded and more space was needed residents started inhabiting both sides, and the iconic Ronda bridge was constructed.

Mirador De Cuenca



The El Tajo de Ronda lookout



Mirador de Aldehuela



Mirador Puente Nuevo de Ronda



You can see some of the lingering fog rolling through the valley.



After saying goodbye to the amazing views, I headed north for the 2-hour drive to Seville.

Seville

Famed Seville Rishonim: Rabbi Yom Tov ben Avraham (Ritva), and Rabbi David Avudarham.

The drive from Ronda to Seville was so beautiful that I didn’t even mind that I was stuck behind a truck on a one-lane road for most of the way. There had been politically motivated attempted bombings in Spain over the previous days, so I had to pass two police checkpoints on my way into the city, but those were uneventful.

The weather was a balmy 60F degrees and sunny on Friday and Shabbos, and while Sunday started out cloudy it quickly cleared up as well. Similar to Córdoba Seville is full of orange trees, but the smell is slightly less inviting, as horse-drawn tourist buggies abound.



Seville had one of the largest Jewish communities in Spain at the turn of the millennium. The horrific riots of 1391 started in Seville, and approximately 4,000 out its 7,000 Jewish inhabitants were beaten to death. The inquisition was also very active in Seville, with 700 men and women burned at the stake between 1481 and 1488 (prior to the expulsion).

I booked the Meliá Sevilla for my time in Seville. It’s not very centrally located, but it wasn’t too much of a hassle. I requested a low floor in advance so that I wouldn’t have to climb too many steps on Shabbos, and they were able to provide one for me on the second floor. The first room I was assigned had a very strong smoke smell, so I was reassigned to another one on the same floor. After dropping my bags off in my room, I headed out to Enterprise to return my car rental. The drop-off went smoothly, and the attendant was even able to issue a partial refund since I had returned the car with more gas than originally provided.

I then spent some time walking around the city and exploring what was once the Jewish quarter.



The two largest synagogues were turned into churches after the 1391 riots:

Iglesia de San Bartolomé



and the Iglesia de Santa María la Blanca



The Seville Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. I didn’t go inside.



Plaza del Triunfo



Puerta de jerez



Plaza de Espana- this is one of the top attractions in Seville, and it is indeed worthy of the crowds. It was originally constructed in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exhibition- today the building houses various museums.





I then headed back to the hotel to prep for Shabbos.

I had done some research on museums in Seville that have free entry on Saturday, and the Military Historical Museum of Seville ended up being my best choice, as it was located not far from my hotel in Plaza Espana and was easy to navigate to. I didn’t end up enjoying the experience- perhaps because it was Shabbos, or perhaps because I don’t love military history. I then spent some time strolling around Plaza Espana and soaking it in.

I had hoped to start my day Sunday at the Centro de Interpretación Judería de Sevilla, but after emailing them at infosefarad@gmail.com I was informed that they were temporarily closed. Instead, I headed to the Royal Alcázar of Seville, where I had reserved a general entry ticket as well as a Royal Apartments tour in advance (this also includes free entry at the Bellver Museum, Antiquarivm, Triana Ceramic Museum and San Jorge Museum, but I did not visit those). At the Puerta del León, which is the entrance to the Alcazar, the line stretched all the way into the square. At intervals different timeslots were announced, so standing in line was fruitless. After a few minutes of waiting, I noticed that my ticket indicated that I must be at the apartments 15 minutes prior to the tour starting, which means that it wouldn’t make sense to wait until my timeslot was announced. I inquired and indeed the announcements were only intended for those with general entry tickets- those with royal apartment tours were able to enter without waiting in line.



The tour of the apartments is 30 minutes, and pictures of the interior are not allowed. The guide’s English was bad, and I was barely able to understand half of it, let alone ask questions. The apartments are nicely decorated, and each room is done in a different style. The upper stories of the Alcázar are still used to this day by the Spanish royal family when they visit Seville. Once I finished my tour of the apartments, I explored the rooms and grounds that are open to all visitors, which were packed.





There is an online audio guide available, but it wasn’t very informative. I ended up spending about 1.5 hours at the Alcázar, including the gardens, but would probably have been here longer if not for the crowds.



Torro del Oro



I then visited the Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, which is Seville’s bullring and museum. I had already visited one in Ronda, but I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do one in Seville as well. The audio guide here is informative but is hosted on Dropbox which makes it a pain to access🙄. The bullring here was a lot fuller than the one in Ronda, and weirdly enough it looks bigger even though the one in Ronda has the biggest rink (although this one has more seats). Bullfights are still held here annually.





I then headed to the Museo Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, which is a mansion that was owned by an eccentric old woman that collected all sorts of odd artifacts. There’s a guided tour of the second floor, and I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would because the guide was funny and informative.



I then stopped by the iconic Mushrooms of Seville.



I hadn’t used any public transportation or cabs during my time in Seville, but when trying to figure out the best way from the hotel to the airport, I noticed that Google Maps had a €4 discount when hailing a Cabify through them. It ended up being worth it to take a Cabify rather than public transportation, as the cab wasn’t that much more expensive, and it was a lot less of a hassle.

For this flight I was unable to find one on Air Europa for my desired timing, so I ended up flying with Rynair and prepaying for a carryon bag, for a total of $85. The flight was also more expensive because I did not want to leave Seville before 5PM, to allow for a full day of touring.

After a quick security line (where I once again got looks for not uncovering my hair due to religious reasons), I headed to the Sala VIP Azahar Priority Pass lounge. The lounge is small and was rather crowded. To board there was a short bus ride from the gate to the plane, and then I was off to Tenerife!
« Last Edit: September 04, 2023, 10:07:42 PM by cgr »

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Tenerife
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2023, 08:49:28 PM »
For those of you that are not familiar, Tenerife is the largest of the Spanish Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. I’m not sure exactly how I came to the decision to visit Tenerife over the other Canary Islands- it was a last-minute decision so perhaps I never realized that I made one at all, but on the flight over I got a glimpse on the entertainment system of some of the other islands, and they all look spectacular.

My Tenerife driving route:



I landed at Tenerife South Airport and after a long walk from the tarmac to the airport in pleasant 70F weather, I headed to Thrifty car rental to pick up my one-way rental. I could have saved $120 by booking a rental with return at TFS, but it would have cost me the same $120 to fly out of TFS rather than TFN, and it was a lot more convenient not to have to drive back down south once I was in the north of the Island. Car rentals on Tenerife are expensive, and I ended up paying $66/day (incl the one-way fee). The pickup process was painless and took less than 10 minutes at the in-airport rental counter. Thrifty and Hertz share cars here, and I got a nice SUV- it was the smoothest rental vehicle I’ve ever had.



There are no tolls on the island, and driving is very different than that of the mainland. Most drivers amble along slowly, even in the left lane (when there is one). The southern part of the island is not very lush and is more arid, while the north is more tropical. Interestingly enough gas was a lot cheaper on Tenerife than on mainland Spain.

My first stop was to Lidl and Aldi to stock up on food. Unfortunately, there are very few brands from the mainland here, so I was unable to find items like ketchup, mayo, and soy milk with a hechsher. I headed to the Ritz-Carlton Abama to check in for the night. I had booked this hotel using 48k Marriott points (the hotel was retailing for €400+/night). The service at this hotel is next level- before my trip I received an email from the concierge to see if I had any special requests. When I arrived, they had a cold welcome drink waiting for me at the front desk, they upgraded me to an ocean view, and then walked me to my room to get me settled in. The resort is immense, but I did not get a chance to explore all the various pools and grounds since I arrived late and checked out early. The only downside here was the crappy internet.

Monday morning dawned bright and sunny, and I got a chance to appreciate the beautiful resort views.





My goal for the day was to visit Teide National Park in a leisurely fashion. While I had a basic idea of some hikes that I wanted to cover in the park, my plan was to drive along the TF-21 and pull over at every overlook that caught my fancy. When I first started my day, the park was mostly empty, but by noontime it was packed and it was hard to find parking at some overlooks- I believe the further into the park, the less crowded it is. Temperatures here also vary greatly based on elevation- at my first stop (approximately 6k feet above sea level) it was 40F and the wind was brutal (although the sun was out in full force so that lessened the intensity a bit), and at my last hike of the day which was nearly at sea level, it was in the low 60Fs.

The drive to Teide National Park was magnificent, with sparse vegetation and black volcanic rock.



Further into the park the region is arid, with very little greenery. I drove North to the furthest point of the park that I wanted to visit first, and then meandered back down south. My first stop was at Minas de San Jose, where I took a short stroll on volcanic sand to view the magnificent Mars-like landscape. The wind here was so intense that my car was rocking incessantly.



I then proceeded to Mirador El Tabonal Negro.



Next, I stopped at the base of Mount Teide, Spain's highest peak, topping out at over 12k feet above sea level. Mt. Teide is also the world's third largest volcano, although it hasn’t erupted since November 1909. I had originally hoped to secure a hiking permit for the summit, but since my planning was so last minute, I was unable to get one (there was nothing available for the next two months by the time I checked). I instead decided to take the Teleferi Teide (a cable car) to get to the mountaintop, and then do some other hikes at the top that are accessible without a permit. Apparently the wind is not normally as intense as it was that day, even at the summit, and the cable cars were closed for safety reasons (the ticket agent showed me his anemometer that he was using to determine if it was safe to reopen, which showed a reading of 90kmh winds).

The Centro de visitantes de Cañada Blanca visitor center has some interesting exhibits on the history, flora, and fauna of the park. Right across from the visitor center is the magnificent Roques de Garcia trail.



It’s an approximately 3.5 km loop trail, and it took me about an hour to complete. The lookout near the trail and the first few minutes are crowded, but further into the trail it’s mostly empty.



Mt. Teide in the background

I started the trail where it’s mostly flat ground, then headed down into the valley, and then had an intense climb up at the end (at Mirador La Catedral). My assumption is that it’s easier to do this in reverse by first heading steeply down, and then having a constant but gentle climb upwards.





Spot the hikers for scale:



Zapato de la Reina



Boca Tauce



My last hike of the day was in the Montana Samara area- this region is very different than that of the park interior and is both a lot warmer and with more greenery. There are pines growing out of the volcanic sand, with great views of Mt. Teide.





I chose a 4 km trail at the Mirador de Samara parking lot (trail #13), and it took me approximately one hour. The trail here was mostly empty, and the views incredible.





Since I had planned on spending a few hours on Mt. Teide, but I was forced to cut that out of my schedule due to the wind, I ended up having a bit extra time, and headed to a black sand beach, Playa de los Guios, on the coast. The temps here were a lot warmer than in the park- about 75F. The beach is tiny and wasn’t that interesting.



After a quick stop at a local supermarket that carries imported goods (finally found some kosher soy milk and ketchup- yay!), I headed out to Mirador Punta de Teno, which sits on a small peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic. The views are supposed to be magnificent, and I was hoping to make it here in time for sunset. After driving on winding, narrow, one-lane roads, I came to a police checkpoint. The officer informed that the road was closed due to heavy rains over the weekend, and that even once the road was repaired, it would only be open from 7PM til 10AM on weekdays for non-residents. Apparently the locals were upset about tourist overcrowding, and the Pointe is no longer open to visitors on a regular basis. I decided to make it an early night and headed to the Luz Del Mar, where I prepaid for a room via Booking.com- my most expensive hotel booking on this trip at $100/night. I usually prefer staying at hotels more superior to this, but there was nothing available at any other hotel in the area by the time I reserved a room. At check-in I was informed that the hotel had canceled my booking, but Booking.com never passed that message on to me. The receptionist then proceeded to tell me that they had “assumed” that Booking.com wouldn’t inform me of the cancellation, and that I could have the room for $120. Being that I didn’t have much of a choice, I paid for the room. After my trip I reached out to Booking.com to get this resolved- they immediately refunded the original $100, and while it took them a while to cough up the difference that I had to pay because of their lack of communication, they did eventually refund the additional $20 as well. The hotel has plenty of parking outside, and since I was imagining the worst based on the pictures online, the rooms were actually ok, and the views were nice. All the rooms have a small kitchenette and terrace, and most importantly it was clean (even though their taste in décor is questionable). Weirdly everything was in German, from the room brochures to most of the guest.



My plan for Tuesday was to visit the lush mountainous interior of the Island, and while the sky was clear along the coast, unfortunately the interior was cloudy and foggy.

The roads to Altos de Baracán were deserted, and the winds were howling at the viewpoint.





I then tried navigating to the Los Gigantes Viewpoint, but the Google Maps destination took me on a road to nowhere…



Mirador La Cruz de Hilda



The roads here are a blast. I had to constantly pull over to the side to make room for oncoming traffic.



There are many overlooks along this road such as the Masca and Cherfe viewpoints, but most of the “parking lots” (fits about 2-3 cars) were full. It was a legal holiday, so it’s possible that this is not always the case. Because of the intense fog here there was not much to see, and I decided to head to lower terrain closer to the coast where the weather was better.

At the Arenas Negras hiking area I proceeded down a long dirt road to a campsite/playground, where most of the trails branch out of.



I opted for the Chinyero trail, which is 4.8 km out and back. This is a very easy flat trail, and it took me about an hour to complete.



The weather was a bit bipolar here- under the tree cover it was cloudy and drizzly, but on the open trail it was sunny. Best of all the trail was empty of other hikers.



I then attempted to head back to the Masca/Charfe viewpoints, but it was still too foggy to see much, so I headed back to the coast and the sun. I hiked for about an hour along the Paisaje Protegido de la Rambla de Castro- there are many trails and overlooks here along the coast.









After relaxing for a bit at one of the overlooks, I headed to the town of La Orotava, which is renowned for being picturesque.



I relaxed and people watched at Constitution Plaza



and then headed to Victoria Garden for some great views.



My last adventure of the day was to Beach Bollullo, a remote black sand beach, for sunset (the other side of the island is renowned for spectacular sunsets, but I did not get a chance to visit that side). The drive down to the beach is pretty crazy, with just one lane. Every time there's an oncoming car crisis ensues as someone has to back up and maneuver into the closest available niche. At the end of the road there’s the Restaurante Bollullo Beach which supposedly collects €3 for parking, but I did not see any attendants there at the time, so I just parked and headed down to the beach.



I then drove to the capital city of Santa Cruz and checked into the Hotel Colón Rambla. I had prepaid for parking online, and the hotel has their own garage which was very convenient. They upgraded me to a balcony room which was nice, although the walls were paper thin which was definitely a downside.
Wednesday was my first really miserable weather day on this trip and unfortunately, I wouldn’t see the sun again for another week, other than a short appearance on Shabbos. I attempted to walk around Santa Cruz for a bit, even with the rain, but I wasn’t too energized. There are many pedestrian-only streets in Santa Cruz, and it’s probably a charming city when sunny.

Parque Garcia Sanabria



Plaza de España



I decided to forge ahead with my original plans, in the hope that the day would clear up. The Espigón de Playa Las Teresitas beach was deserted, and eerily beautiful in a way.



I pulled over on a random spot on the road to take in the beautiful views.



At El Bailadero Viewpoint the fog was so thick, there was literally nothing to see. I had to drive the requisite switchbacks to make it up the mountain, which was less than fun in the pouring rain.

At Mirador de la Luna the visibility was slightly better.



At Pico del Ingles I could just about make out the coastline.



And at Mirador Cruz del Carmen the rain was so intense that I didn’t even make it out of my car…

I was scheduled to fly to Madrid in the evening, and I decided to head to the airport early since the outdoors weren’t offering much entertainment, and dry socks would be welcome. It took me a while to get to the Thrifty Car Rental drop-off at Tenerife Norte Airport- the Google Maps location is wrong and sent me to a military police headquarters, where no help was forthcoming, and I was turned away. I finally managed to find it after calling Thrifty and having them guide me to their location, which is literally right in front of the terminal entrance. The agent doing intake managed to find a scratch on the vehicle and promptly charged me $450 for the damage, but thankfully with my Chase Sapphire card I was able to file an insurance claim and received reimbursement in no time.

Once the rental was taken care of, I headed to the Sala VIP Nivaria Priority Pass lounge to relax until my flight. The lounge is comfortable and has a large outdoor terrace, where I was able to observe the sky gradually clearing and the sun making short appearances.

My flight to Madrid was with Air Europa, due to their carry-on-inclusive policy. I had an interesting experience when booking this flight- when I first researched prices using Google Flights, it was available for $35. I wasn’t ready to book it at the time, and by the time I was, it had climbed to $118. I started checking the flight on individual sites such as Priceline, Expedia, and Skiplagged, and indeed Skiplagged was showing the flight for $35 again! I quickly clicked through to book, worrying that it would jump again, and in the process of rerouting me to the booking site the price increased to $55, with a message popping up that "your location has been readjusted to Spain". Better than $118, but still not $35. I quickly TeamViewered to my home computer in the US and lo and behold I was able to book it through Skiplagged for $35!! (This was not a Skiplagged flight- it was just available through their search engine and not via others). This got me wondering how many flights I overpaid for- perhaps the $30 flights were priced at $7 in the US via different booking agencies... definitely lost my trust in Google Flights after this.

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Madrid Area
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2023, 08:49:49 PM »
Madrid Area: Madrid, Segovia, Ávila, Béjar, Hervás, Plasencia, Cáceres, Toledo, Madrid

My Madrid area driving route:



Madrid

My flight landed 40 minutes early at Madrid airport, and in an effort to save even more time I took a 20-minute Cabify for €16 to my hotel. There’s an official rideshare pickup spot at the airport, but most cabs have come up with alternative pickup spots closer to the terminal, so don’t be surprised if your driver messages you asking to meet somewhere closer than the official pickup spot. Public transportation is very easy here, but it was estimated to take 40 minutes to get to my hotel, and I was more than ready to check in and take a hot shower.

I had booked the NH Collection Madrid Palacio de Tepa hotel using my Amex Platinum THC credit, and while it didn’t cover the full price for two nights, it lowered my costs substantially to under $100/night. The hotel location is amazing, and reception ‘upgraded’ my room from a Deluxe Single to Deluxe Double🙄 (I was expecting more from Amex). The rooms are spacious, with a foyer and small living space of sorts before leading to a raised bedroom. Since I had booked using my Amex Platinum, I received a $100 credit, but it was only valid for the bar, restaurant, minibar, breakfast or laundry. Since I wasn’t planning on getting drunk, I decided to send in my laundry at their overpriced rates. Even that only racked up a bill of $91, so I went for freshly squeezed orange juice with the remaining $9 credit, and proudly managed to use it up to the last cent😊.

Since I had landed a bit earlier than planned, I realized that I still had time to make it to the only kosher restaurant in old town Madrid, Barganzo, before closing. The restaurant was located a short walk from my hotel, with streets decorated for the holidays.



Upon arrival they informed me that they had no open tables (indeed the place was packed- reservations are a must here), and that they could prepare my food to go. I agreed, and by the time my food was ready a table had opened up, so they quickly plated it to stay.


Kubaneh with sauces


Mushroom pita


Mushroom hummus with pita

Thursday morning was another gray and rainy day, with temps in the 50Fs. I had booked a tour of the Royal Palace using my GoCity pass, and I waited twenty minutes in the rain for the guide to show.



The tour was rather disorganized at first, with the tour group being huge, and long delays at the palace entrance to secure our slot. Additionally, the tour of the palace interior was not very informative. The palace is the largest one in Europe, with over 3,400 rooms, and is magnificent.



No photos are allowed in the palace, except for the foyer.



One of the dining rooms has a table that could seat 145 people when not extended (made me think of how easily the weekly Shabbos table bickering about who gets to sit where would be solved if I had that one…).

Note that the palace also has extensive grounds, such as the Campo del Moro Gradens, but due to the rain and the delay in starting the tour, I did not get a chance to visit that. After the Royal Palace I was booked on another GoCity walking tour, with the same guide as I had at the Royal Palace. At first I was disappointed because the palace tour had been so disorganized, but turns out it was mostly due to the largeness of our group. On the second tour it was just me and two others, and with the small group our guide turned out to be fun and informative. We toured the Cibeles Fountain, Calle Gran Vía (think Fifth Avenue in NYC), Plaza Cibeles, Puerta de Alcalá, and Retiro Park.



After being out in the rain for the better part of the day, I was looking forward to being indoors, and headed to the Prado Museum, where I had booked a ticket in advance, as they often sell out. Most of the paintings are Christian, but magnificent. There’s an early version of the Mona Lisa, as well as fifteen Jewish-related paintings, and a large painting of an auto-da-fé.



I spent over two hours here and would have spent even more time here if my schedule allowed it.


A painting depicting Tomás de Torquemada's argument to the King and Queen to expel Spain's Jews in 1492.

I then took a short stroll along Paseo del Prado, before heading back to my hotel to get some work done. Later in the evening, I headed out to Restaurante Rimmon, which is located about 15 minutes from the old town via public transportation. I purchased a 10-ride metro card, and for the remainder of my time in Madrid never waited more than two minutes for a train to arrive.

The food at Restaurante Rimmon was incredible, with generous portions. Note that reservations are required (Whatsapp at +34 639 74 93 19).





Friday morning was another gray and rainy day, and I headed to Liria Palace for an indoor tour. The tour is via audio guide, which I assumed meant that I would be able to do it at my own pace and skip the parts that I found uninteresting, but instead a guide is sent along with each group, to ensure that the group stays together. While the rooms are richly decorated and beautiful, the audio was mostly about art, and at the forced slow pace I found the tour to be rather tedious.

Since I had only booked two nights at the NH Palacio de Tepa hotel, I checked out on Friday at 12PM, and headed to the Thompson Madrid for the next two nights. I had booked this using a Hyatt Category 4 certificate (I believe they’ve since jumped up to a Category 5) for one night, and 18k Hyatt points for the second night. This hotel regularly goes for $500+/night, so this was a great redemption. I even managed to score some loyalty points with a Hyatt promotion that was running at the time. My room was ready at 12PM (even though check-in isn’t officially til 3PM) and I was upgraded to a City View, but it was rather disappointing as it faced an empty construction lot. The Thompson Madrid is also in a great area, and I really enjoyed staying in the hock. The streets surrounding the hotel are mostly pedestrian, which I found cool. The rooms are a lot smaller than that of the NH hotel, but thankfully the hotel staff knew all about Shabbos (they had previously hosted a large group from Israel that had educated the staff on the details), and they assigned a bellboy to help me navigate the stairwell (lights go on automatically) and open my room door on Shabbos.

After getting settled at my hotel I headed to the Kosher Sefarad Shop- they have a nice selection of CY cheeses, breads, shelf stable items, wine, and chicken/meat (sefard shechita). The proprietor also informed me that at the Panadería Orio bakery on one block over the breads are kosher. The staff there is familiar with the concept and pointed out to me which breads and rolls were acceptable.

My last stop before Shabbos was at Plaza Mayor, where the auto-de-fe’s of Madrid took place.



Unfortunately, nothing remains of Madrid’s two Jewish quarters.

I did not feel the need to push too much into my schedule in Madrid, since it’s an easy stopover city and I can always stop by for another day enroute to somewhere else in Europe or Asia.

There is a Sefard history museum being planned by the Jewish community of Madrid, with a planned opening date of December 2025- you can read more about it here.

Friday night I headed to Chabad for the meal- the streets of old town Madrid twist and turn so keeping track of where I was turned out to be rather complicated, but I managed it. The Rabbi was friendly and welcoming, and the company was great.

Shabbos morning was my one blessedly sunny day in Madrid and having researched some free museums in the area previously, I headed to the History Museum of Madrid. It’s an interesting museum of the history of Madrid from the 15th through the early 20th century, told via artwork.

On Sunday Morning, another gray day, I headed back to the airport to pick up a rental car at Recordgo. I had calculated that it was cheaper to take a cab to the airport for €15-€20 rather than pay the additional €100 that I was being quoted for city pickup. The paperwork was easy enough, but once that was done, I was informed that since I had rented an Automatic vehicle, and the only ones in stock were located in Terminal 4, I would need to wait five minutes or so til they transferred it to Terminal 1, where I was. Seemed simple enough. I ended up having to wait over 40 minutes, even though I begged them multiple times in between that I would go to T4 myself to pick it up, because the guy bringing the car over noticed that the fuel tank wasn't full and decided to detour and fill it up. I'd rather have a quarter tank less than wait 40 minutes, so this was upsetting. After all this, when I finally received the vehicle, two of the tires had low tire pressure and I had to pull over to get them filled. On the upside I paid less than $10/day for this rental, and the vehicle was a Jeep which came in handy as I ended up parking in some questionable places with more pothole than road.



Segovia

I drove the one-hour route from Madrid to Segovia on a comfortable toll road, and while tolls were not cheap at €9, I did not want to get stuck behind a slow-moving truck on a narrow country road in the rain. Unfortunately, it was hard to take in the views on the drive properly because of the driving rain, but I did get glimpses of beautiful snow-capped peaks in the distance. I parked my Jeep in a large, free, potholed, municipal lot outside the city walls, and even though the sun did not make an appearance during my time in Segovia, the rain ceased as soon as I stepped out of my car, and the temperature was a comfortable 50F.



Segovia’s Jewish history dates to 1187 and is home to the sad tale of Abraham Senor. He was appointed Chief Rabbi of all Castilian Jews in 1476, until the post was abolished in 1492. He tried offering large sums of money to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in an effort to abolish the Decree of Expulsion, but with no success. In 1492, at the age of 80, he converted to Christianity rather than leave Spain. He died a year later in 1493. The Centro Didáctico de la Judería de Segovia, a museum on Segovia’s Jewish history, is located in Abraham Senor’s house. It was interesting yet small, and I spent about 30 minutes here. They also offer guided tours of Segovia, but it did not work with my schedule.



The Casa del Sol - Museo de Segovia is a general history museum of Segovia, with a lot of archaeological finds, which I did not find particularly interesting. It is housed in a building that was Segovia’s Jewish slaughterhouse from 1452 til the expulsion.



Across the city walls and up a hill is the Cementerio Judío, the Jewish Cemetery of Segovia, where unfortunately very few traces of gravesites remain. According to legend the Jews of Segovia took the gravestones with them when going into exile, as a memorial.





At Calle de la Judería Nueva 12, there’s one house that is referred to by locals as “House of the Jew” because of the crest on the façade, that survives to this day. The house belonged to the Madrigals, a Jewish family of Segovia.



Puerta de San Andrés is a portion of the wall where tourists can pay a €1 fee to walk on top of the walls. There’s a good view of the Jewish Cemetery from here, and according to records there was a shul located near this part of the wall, although no trace remains.





Plaza San Geroteo is the location of the Nueva Sinagoga Mayor, which was built in 1476 after the community was forced to hand over their existing shul to the Church (more on that below) in 1412- it was located on this lot from 1419 until 1476, and which point the existing building was constructed. It’s only open for visitors in September, on European Day of Jewish Culture, so I did not get to view the interior.



Plaza Mayor



The Corpus Christi church was originally the main synagogue in Segovia in the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1412, the Church decided to confiscate this shul and turn it into a church, so they accused some Segovian Jews of desecrating a consecrated Chrisian object in shul. The punishment for this was that the “guilty” were dragged through the city and dismembered, and the shul was confiscated from the Jewish community and turned into a church. The structure on site today was rebuilt in 2004, after it burnt down.



Walking around Segovia’s charming streets and alleyways was a great experience.



Muralla de Segovia



The Aqueduct of Segovia was built by the Romans in the first century CE to channel water from the mountains into the city. It’s an imposing structure and a lot longer than I expected.



Being that there was still a few hours of daylight left, I decide to drive 15 minutes to the Royal Palace of La Granja of San. I found street parking easily near the palace, and while they advertise that entry is free on Sunday afternoons, this only applies to EU citizens. The gardens looked magnificent, but the rain had started up again as soon I left Segovia proper, so I ended up skipping the grounds and only touring the inside. The palace is richly decorated, but for some reason it lacked magnificence. Photos of the interior are not allowed.



I was thinking of touring the Riofrío Royal Palace as well, but after my slightly disappointing experience at La Granja of San, I decided to skip it and head back to Segovia for an early night. I had reserved a room at the Hotel Eurostars Plaza Acueducto (taking advantage of my 10% Eurostar loyalty coupon again), and while they have a parking garage next door, I was able to find parking in a blue meter zone across the street. Blue zones are generally free on Sundays, and I was planning to be on my way by 9:30AM when the meter kicked in on Monday AM. The hotel was very basic, and the shower was less than perfect with a tiny stream of water, but the location is great.

I started Monday morning, another day of the gray variety, at the Segovia Alcazar.



If you get lucky, there are a few metered parking spots right outside the entrance.

In a certain sense this was my favorite Alcazar in Spain- the place has a medieval feel- drafty and dimly lit, which is probably how most of the castles were back then.



I was the only palace visitor for the first 30 minutes after opening, and I got to absorb the Arthur and the Roundtable vibes😊



I had booked timed tickets to visit the Alcazar’s tower at 11:15, but I was done exploring the palace earlier and requested entry before my time slot. At first the ticket agent told me that he cannot let me up before my slot, but after five minutes he came to find me and allowed me to go up- it never hurts to ask. The views from atop the tower are nice, but if you’re not able to climb steps in narrow confines, it’s not a must.

The castle moat:



Just as I headed out of the Alcazar, hordes of tour buses started arriving, probably because no other tourist sites in the region are open on Mondays.

Ávila‎

Famed Ávila‎ Rishonim: Moshe de Leon/ Moshe ben Shem-Tov, publisher of the Zohar

The next town on my list for the day was Ávila, a picturesque walled city‎ located an hour to the south and west of Segovia. The drive was beautiful, with rolling fields and mountains in the distance. Unfortunately, there is no toll road to Ávila‎, so I was stuck behind two trucks for the majority of my way. Sigh.

Before heading into the city I stopped at the Viewpoint of Ávila, which overlooks the city and its walls. Due to the gray weather and angle of the viewpoint my pictures here do it no justice, but it is a site to behold.



I found parking easily outside the city walls- I did not want to drive my jeep into the old city because I was worried that the streets would be too narrow, but it turned out to be quite spacious and it would definitely have been possible to park my car within the walls (reminder: this is during Spain’s off-season, so if you’re traveling during peak season finding parking this easily may not be the case).

Puerta de la Adaja en la Muralla de Ávila



(don’t be fooled by the blue sky- it lasted for all of a few minutes, and the sun did not peak through).

According to legend the Jews left Ávila through Malaventura Gate, never to return after the expulsion of 1492.





The Garden of Moshe de Leon commemorates this great figure, who spent his last years in Ávila before he died in 1305.



Sinagoga de Don Samuel/ Synagogue of the Pocillo- this is not open to visitors.



In 1478 various restrictions were placed on the Jews of Ávila, and they were forced to settle in the Barrio de Santo Domingo neighborhood. Ironically, Queen Isabel I was worried that the Jews would leave en-masse and cause financial and economic ruin to the area, so she granted them a charter of rights- the first case of habeas corpus to a Jewish community throughout European history (sadly that didn’t last too long).

The Mercado Chico is the old city of Ávila’s large town square and originally bordered the Jewish Quarter. In 1491 Jews were accused of murdering a child, and two Jews were burned at the steak in this square as a result. Some historians also consider this event the trigger for the signing of the expulsion decree.





The Synagogue of Belforade was located in what is now the Chapel of Our Lady of Las Nieves. There is supposed to be a mezuzah slot on the doorjamb, but I was unable to locate it.



The Mayor Synagogue of Mosén Rubí- this is questionable if it was a shul before (the legend for this being a shul is a Star of David on one wall), but I have my doubts as shuls in Spain were not built on this scale in medieval times. Perhaps it was swallowed up by larger buildings that were added on during later times.



Lomo Synagogue/ Antigua Sinagoga del Lomo- this is now a private home.



Muralla de Ávila



Puerta del Alcázar



Plaza del Mercado Grande in the new part of Ávila.



My last planned stop in Ávila was to the Sefarad Garden, which is located on the site that Ávila Jewish cemetery, as a commemoration. This totally slipped my mind, and I only remembered that I wanted to visit this after I was already in the next town…

Béjar

My next destination was to the town of Béjar, located an hour and a half to the west of Ávila. By now the rain was coming down in droves, and while I got glimpses of the beautiful Spanish countryside, the rain was too intense for me to appreciate it fully. Parts of Béjar lie in the valley, and many streets were blocked off due to flooding. The place was a ghost town, and other than the cops blocking off various streets I did not see a single human. I was able to find street parking easily, but the rain was so miserable, and I wasn’t feeling too charitable towards getting drenched, so I skipped my planned walk of the old town (there should be mezuzah slots on many doorposts). The town was on my way to where I wanted to head to next, so stopping here didn’t feel like much of a waste. The area has some good hiking spots, but it wasn’t really an option in this weather.

The Medieval Walls of Béjar



I had also hoped to stop by the Museo Judío David Melul, but it was closed on Mondays.

Hervás

Next up was Hervás, approximately 30 minutes to the south from Béjar. Jews first settled here in 1391, when the local Duke offered them protection from the massacres in surrounding towns and villages. Even though it was raining cats and dogs during my entire time in Hervás, and I did not see a single human throughout, I found this to be one of the most charming Jewish Quarters I’ve seen in Spain.



Hervás has an interesting history- approximately half of its Jews left for Portugal in 1492, while the other half remained and converted to Christianity. Their Rabbi, who had left for Portugal, came back after several years, and created Our Lady of the Assumption Brotherhood- this appears to be an underground organization which assisted Anusim in keeping halacha, including the production and distribution of kosher wine. If anyone has more information on this, and how they were able to operate in secrecy, I’d love to hear more!



The Jews lived on the streets of Calle Abajo, Calle Rabilero, and Calle Sinagoga



According to legend the shul was located on Calle Rabilero 19.



By now I was drenched to the bone, and after a quick stop at the bridge, the Puente de Piedra del río Ambroz on the edge of town to view the swollen river, I headed back to the warm confines of my car.

Plasencia

After my soaking experience in Hervás I drove 30 minutes to the south to the town of Plasencia, where I had booked the Palacio Carvajal Girón hotel for the night. The hotel has parking available on site, but they have a grand total of three spots so it’s best to request a parking spot when making a reservation. The rooms are nice and spacious, and I was upgraded to a terrace room. The water pressure in the shower was great, which was really welcome after a long, wet day.



Tuesday morning dawned a bit warmer, at 60F, but still gray and rainy. At this point, after having been out in the rain with wet socks most days since Thursday, my throat was starting to tickle. I finally broke down and purchased an umbrella (I despise these contraptions and do not believe in their ability to keep one out of the rain, but I had to do my hishtadlus to fend off my oncoming cold)- thankfully me owning an umbrella was enough for the rain to cease for the rest of my time in Plasencia.

I spotted some orange trees, something that I hadn’t seen since Seville, a sure sign that I was heading south.



The Antiguo Cementerio Judío is located at the site of the Jewish Cemetery. There used to be commemorative placards here, but they have fallen into disrepair and are not being maintained.



The site of the Sinagoga vieja de la Mota currently houses a hotel, the Parador de Plasencia.



The Puerta de Trujillo was used by Plasencia’s Jews to enter and leave the city.



The Sinagoga Nueva was located at Calle de Trujillo 12 and was operational right until the expulsion in 1492.



Embedded in the flagstones of Calle de Trujillo are the names of influential Jews who lived here from 1482 to 1492.



Jews who refused to convert in 1492 and chose expulsion instead were marched down Calle Zapatería, past Plaza Mayor to the towns exit.



Puerto del Sol



Walls of Plasencia



The Acueducto de Plasencia, which was constructed in the 16th century.



There is a possible mikveh that was recently discovered, restos de la antigua judería, located in the Jewish Quarter. I was unable to glean more information on this and did not visit.

Cáceres

I then drove an hour south to Cáceres. The approach to the town is magnificent, with lush green fields, grazing cows, and the city rising out unexpectedly.

Cáceres had two Jewish Quarters, the Judería Vieja (Old Jewish Quarter), and the Judería Nueva (New Jewish Quarter). The Palacio de La Isla is located on the site where the shul of the Judería Nueva was. Today it houses the municipal library.



The Palacio Galarza was home to a Jew, Rabbi Ergas Cohen.



Plaza Mayor, Cáceres’ main square.



Calle Paneras, which housed the Judería Nueva.


The building pictured is significant to the town’s Jewish history, but I can’t for the life of me remember how.

The Arco de Cristo provided access to the Jewish district.



The Ermita de San Antonio was once a shul.



The Rincón de la Monja and Barrio de San Antonio streets were part of the Jewish Quarter, and some houses still bear the telltale signs of mezuzah indentations.



An olive grove commemorating the Jewish Quarter of Cáceres.



I then stopped by the Cáceres Museum, where there is a menorah and yad pointer on display, but the staff was away for their daily siesta, and reopening was scheduled for two hours later. Not wanting to sit around Cáceres with nothing to do for that long, I proceeded onto my next destination.

Toledo

Famed Toledo Rishonim: Rabbi Meir ben Todros HaLevi Abulafia (רמ"ה), Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel

After a two-and-a-half-hour drive east from Cáceres, I arrived at my final destination on this trip, Toledo. At its peak, Toledo boasted ten synagogues and five yeshivas. The community was severely diminished after the 1391 riots but continued having a Jewish presence up until the expulsion in 1492, at which point there were five shuls in Toledo. Two of these shuls survive to this day, both of which are verified by documentary evidence (there are only three verified shuls in Spain, two in Toledo and one in Córdoba).



I checked into the Eurostars Toledo for the night, and while overall it was good value for my money, especially with the 10% loyalty discount, the internet was so so, and the location wasn’t the best, being located far from the old town of Toledo. While the hotel has its own garage onsite it wasn’t too helpful during the day, when I wanted to be parked closer to the old city. In the morning I ended up parking at the Toledo Ave Station, where there are both paid and free municipal parking lots, a 10-minute walk from the old city.

On Wednesday, my last full day in Spain, I was finally blessed to have good weather. The temps were in the low 60Fs, and the sky was showing patches of blue for a change.

At Mirador del Valle there are some great views of the city.



Alcantara Bridge



Puerta de Bisagra



Plaza Zocodover is one of the main Plazas in Toledo, and auto-da-fés were held here in the 16th century.



The Inquisition in Toledo operated out of the Iglesia de San Vicente.



The La Puerta del Cambrón was known in Muslim times as the Bab Al Yahud, or door of the Jews, because it led to the Jewish Quarter.



San Martin's Bridge





I then stopped by the Casa del Judío, which used to house a Jewish Museum of sorts with a possible mikveh in the basement, but they were closed, and seemed to be under construction.

All that remains of the Sinagoga del Sofer, which was built in 1190 and destroyed in 1391 after the attacks on the Jewish Quarter, are some of the foundational stones.



The Ibn Shoshan Synagogue was built in the late twelfth century by Yoseph ibn Shoshan, the son of King Alfonso VIII's finance minister. According to some historians it is the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. Today it goes by the name Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, as it was seized by San Vicente Ferrer, the preacher behind the 1391 massacres, and used as a Church for many years starting in 1411. According to legend the shul was built with earth brought over from Yerushalaim. The information boards inside are in Spanish only.



The interior layout is more reminiscent of a mosque than a shul, as was common at the time in Muslim-ruled Spain.



Next, I planned on visiting the Synagogue del Transito, the private family shul of Shmuel Halevi Abulafia, but I was informed that it was closed until 3PM for a private function.



I instead hopped over next door to the El Greco Museum, which was Shmuel Halevi Abulafia’s house, and now houses an art museum. Entry was free that day, but I did not spend too much time there as most of the art was religiously inclined and not to my taste.



Having time to spare until the Synagogue del Transito reopened to visitors, I ambled around the Barrio de Santo Tomé, which housed the Jewish quarter. Toledo’s vibrant Jewish history dates back to 589 CE, and while the community faced many trials in 1391, the Abarbanel chose to settle here after being forced to flee Portugal in 1483, after falling out of favor with the Portuguese King. During his first six months in Toledo, he wrote his commentary on Yehoshua, Shoftim, and Shmuel. Not long after this he rose through the ranks in service to Queen Isabela, and when the Decree of Expulsion was issued at the Alhambra in 1492, he tried everything in his power to persuade the Monarchy to change course. When his efforts proved futile, he left Spain forever.



A fragment of a Sefer Torah dating to the 15th century was found in this neighborhood and is currently housed in the Museum of Santa Cruz de Toledo.



I then spent some time in the park across from El Greco, which has some great views. The sun was shining, and it was great being outdoors for a change.



At 3PM I headed back to the Synagogue del Transito, which also houses the Sefard Museum. Because of the late reopening, entry was free that day.



This is considered by some to be the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval synagogue in the world. It was built as a private family shul by Shmuel Halevi Abulafia in 1357. He was treasurer to King Pedro I, and many of the dedications on the wall mention the King- unfortunately he had a falling out with the king, and was arrested in 1360 on corruption charges, imprisoned in Seville, and tortured to death.







The Alcazar of Toledo.



I was hoping to have some time to stop by the town of Alcalà de Henares, the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes (I’m a huge fan of Don Quixote), but I did not want to rush my time in Toledo, so I ended up scrapping that idea.

Madrid

After a great day, I headed out for the one-hour drive to Madrid, where I had a flight scheduled back to EWR for the next morning. I had reserved the Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport, which was a good location being next to the airport for an AM flight when I still had to return my rental car and didn’t want to be too rushed. They reduced my parking fee from €20 to €12 for being a Diamond Elite member, but they refused to waive it even though I explained to them that I would not be partaking in breakfast due to my kosher dietary restrictions. The hotel is slightly dated but otherwise comfortable- I didn’t receive an upgrade even with my status, but the room had a few personal touches such as a card, drinks, etc.

Being that it was not yet late, I decided to head into Madrid proper to Restaurante Rimmon for a good meal. On my way over, while driving under an underpass, I noticed someone flashing their lights at me. I slowed down and noticed that the underpass was flooded, and three vehicles were already floating around there. I have no idea why there were no cops present to block the road, but I did a quick U-turn and hightailed it out of there (this is when I realized the first downside to roundabouts- Google Maps has no idea how to properly reroute you- they just send you to the next roundabout and expect you to go full circle to end up back where you started, even though in this case it was not an option). I finally made it to Restaurante Rimmon without further incident, and as expected, the food was delicious.





Thursday morning, I made it to the airport and dropped off my car at Recordgo with no further drama. From when I entered Terminal 1 til I was past security and immigration took all of 10 minutes. I had some time to relax at the Aena lounge for a bit before my flight boarded. Weirdly the Wi-Fi prices on this flight was $23.99- more than double than I had paid for my flight from EWR to BCN, but I ended up getting a refund for the full charge because the internet was spotty and didn’t work well (I’m surprised they gave me a full refund- I was expecting about $5 based on the amount of time it was down for). After an uneventful flight we landed one hour earlier than scheduled at EWR. While there was a bit of a line at the global entry counter, it was blessedly fast when compared to the regular immigration line- there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being able to breeze through while thousands of others are stuck.

Even with the incessant rain during my last week in Spain, this trip was truly remarkable, and I enjoyed every minute. I found that traveling during the off-season was more than worth it, even though the weather was not perfect at all times.

While visiting Spain’s once thriving and now sadly empty Jewish communities was difficult (The poem A Lament for Andalusian Jewry by Avraham ibn Ezra comes to mind), it was an incredible adventure.

I hope you enjoyed!
« Last Edit: September 04, 2023, 10:19:35 PM by cgr »

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2023, 08:56:50 PM »
Submit complains about the number of pics included in this TR here ;):

MOAR PICTURES MOAR BETTERER

Offline EliJelly

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Jan 2019
  • Posts: 3398
  • Total likes: 3904
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
    • View Profile
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2023, 09:03:32 PM »
Whoa!!... A whole book spilled here in one shot.. Thanks for the effort!! Looking forward to read it through!

(Allow the page to load before scrolling)

Offline rcarentals

  • Dansdeals Platinum Elite + Lifetime Silver Elite
  • *****
  • Join Date: Jun 2011
  • Posts: 695
  • Total likes: 79
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 2
    • View Profile
  • Location: US/Australia
  • Programs: Hertz 1# Plat, Sabre, Travel Agent
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2023, 09:16:06 PM »
As someone who charges people a lot of money to plan their trips... i am very impressed with your research and trip report.
This is NOT your average. I love that you've included some of your research sources, including the YouTube and https://redjuderias.org. I imagine Spain is an absolute rabbit hole for history buffs.
Your pictures really bring it to life - and you've just moved Spain much higher on my personal to-visit list.
Do not boast for tomorrow, Because you do not know what the day will bear.(Mishlei C27.V1)

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2023, 01:16:46 PM »
As someone who charges people a lot of money to plan their trips... i am very impressed with your research and trip report.
This is NOT your average. I love that you've included some of your research sources, including the YouTube and https://redjuderias.org. I imagine Spain is an absolute rabbit hole for history buffs.
Your pictures really bring it to life - and you've just moved Spain much higher on my personal to-visit list.

Thank you! I mostly write TRs for the memories but it's nice to be appreciated:)

Online Spoon

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Dec 2019
  • Posts: 1129
  • Total likes: 237
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: NY
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2023, 01:47:53 PM »
Great TR and Pics (as usual)!




Sad to see how little remains from 800 years of living there.

Offline mme

  • Dansdeals Gold Elite
  • ***
  • Join Date: Jul 2019
  • Posts: 173
  • Total likes: 64
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: ny
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2023, 08:20:15 PM »
Wow! I felt like i was in Spain for the last hour i read this report! what an amazing trip and TR.
This was just added to my bucket list. Thank you!

Offline yelped

  • Dansdeals Lifetime 10K Presidential Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Mar 2015
  • Posts: 11825
  • Total likes: 4370
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 43
    • View Profile
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2023, 01:25:34 AM »
This was an amazing read and ,yes, it is so sad how the Jews were just ripped out of the country.

Offline sam28

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Jun 2010
  • Posts: 1888
  • Total likes: 138
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2023, 01:27:27 PM »
wow wow thanks for the rite up how long did it take you? so detail all the pictures and hope to make time to finish it. keep it coming we love your TR.

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2023, 04:54:48 PM »
wow wow thanks for the rite up how long did it take you? so detail all the pictures and hope to make time to finish it. keep it coming we love your TR.
Thanks. Longer than I wanted it to... didn't keep track of the hours.

Offline tmendy226

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Oct 2012
  • Posts: 1050
  • Total likes: 136
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 1
    • View Profile
  • Programs: Delta Diamond, Hertz PC, Flying Blue petroleum, SPG Gold, National Executive, Hilton Gold
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2023, 10:47:46 AM »
Wow! Really fascinating report!
Thanks for taking all this time to write it up and post all these pictures!

Offline Thechy

  • DansDeals Copper Elite
  • *
  • Join Date: Nov 2011
  • Posts: 12
  • Total likes: 3
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
    • View Profile
  • Location: north pole
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #17 on: September 13, 2023, 02:57:04 PM »
Thank you for a great trip report and awesome pics. When I visit Spain I'll be sure to look up the sights and museums.......

Offline shwarmabob

  • Dansdeals Lifetime Platinum Elite
  • *******
  • Join Date: Dec 2014
  • Posts: 1313
  • Total likes: 203
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 0
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #18 on: September 14, 2023, 02:33:50 PM »
great TR and pictures!
Did you use a tourist pass in Madrid for the metro?

Offline cgr

  • Dansdeals Presidential Platinum Elite
  • ********
  • Join Date: Aug 2017
  • Posts: 4487
  • Total likes: 1555
  • DansDeals.com Hat Tips 7
    • View Profile
Re: A Month in Spain (Mainland, Mallorca, Tenerife) and a Day in Andorra
« Reply #19 on: September 14, 2023, 04:21:05 PM »
great TR and pictures!
Did you use a tourist pass in Madrid for the metro?
No, I purchased a 10-ride metro card.