Leon and Tordesillas Spain on 13 October 2014

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October 13th 2014
Published: October 14th 2014
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Leon and Tordesillas Spain on 13 October 2014

Our day started with a Skype call to Sheryl and my sister-in-law Kerry and niece Louise was also there. It was wonderful to see them as well as speak to them.

We left Ourense at about 10.00am and after 30 minutes drive, we got to altitude of 800 metres and the fog was very thick. There was ongoing rain as well. As we couldn't get to Adelaide in time for Brian's funeral, we slowed our hurried drive to Madrid. We decided to visit Leon which was 60 kms north from our SE direction to Madrid.

Leon was founded as the Roman military encampment around 29 BC. In 910 saw the beginning of one its most prominent historical periods, when it became the capital of the Kingdom of Leon, which took active part against the Moors, and came to be one of the fundamental kingdoms of medieval Spain. In 1188, the city hosted the first Parliament in European history under the reign of Alfonso IX, due to which it was named in 2010, as the cradle of Parliamentarism. It has been included in the Memory of the World register by UNESCO in 2013.

When we drove into Leon, it was the Monday after Spanish Day so they were having a public holiday. Most of the Spanish Day celebrations were in Madrid rather than other Spanish cities. We found Leon to be reasonably quiet but the Tourist Office was opened so we got our map and looked around.

As well as the cathedral with its superb stained glass there were three other attractions we particularly went to see:

· The collegiate Church of San Isodoro' (11th century) and the adjoining Pantheon of the Kings of León. The ceiling paintings in the latter are breathtaking.

· The former Hospital de San Marcos is reckoned by many to be Spain's very best Parador.

· The Casa Botines is one of the few buildings by Gaudi to be found outside of Barcelona.

Other attractions include the Roman Walls. We also spotted the gold fan-shell on the footpath which reminded us that Leon is on the Pilgrim's path, the St James Way. This is the symbol for the pilgrimage.

We had lunch there before heading to Tordesillas where we stayed the night. Our accomodation was at one of the Paradores Hotels. This group of hotels includes accommodation in Castles, Palaces, Convents, Monasteries, Fortresses and other historic buildings. The Parador hotels are throughout Spain.

The building is often part of the heritage of Spain although there are some modern hotels in a spectacular location. As the state maintains the buildings, it tries to locate Paradors in areas where it is not in competition with the private sector and many are in smaller medieval towns and villages first inhabited long ago. Tordesillas is a medieval town. The Spanish Paradors were set up by the government to use the income from Spain Hotels to make a contribution to the upkeep of the buildings owned, and to help beautiful regions with few economic resources.

The one we stayed at in Tordesillas was a manor house. It had an inside and outside pool, sauna, spa and a couple of restaurants. Booking it on www.bookings.com gave us exceptional value, with almost 50% off the retail price.

Tordesillas is famous for its festival Toro de la Vega in which a bull is slaughtered by people on horseback and on foot. The "Virgen de la Peña" Patron Saint's Day is celebrated on Sunday. The following Tuesday there is a well-known local tournament called, in Spanish, "Torneo del Toro de la Vega" (The Meadow Bull Tournament), The bull is driven by horsemen. When it reaches the meadow across the river it is finally speared and stabbed by many competing lancers. The person who delivers the fatal blow ( this can be with a rifle ) is entitled to cut off the bulls testicles impaled on the tip of his spear and parade them through the town. The city then awards him a gold medal and a commemorative forged iron spear. Animal Rights groups have repeatedly tried to stop this from taking place.

Tordesillas is located on the Duero River, but the river is not navigable up to Tordesillas.

The Plaza Mayor is the historic and attractive central community space framed by the 17th century colonnade and porticos creating the arcade that encircles it.

Nearby is the Church of Santa Maria, built from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

The massive 15th-century Church of San Antolín is of special interest.

We had a quick walk around this small village before getting cold. We returned to our hotel for dinner, mainly because we couldn't find any other restaurant opened on this public holiday.

The next morning we headed straight to Madrid.

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