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Zaragoza, Spain (1)

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Hello I'm Simon Calder and if you were going around the world in alphabetical order, this is one of the last city you'd reach Zaragoza an exotic name, for an exciting city. Midway between Barcelona and Madrid in the beautiful region of Aragón, and now formally on the map right there thanks to Expo 2008 bringing the world to the city at the end of the alphabet. Getting your bearings in Zaragoza is easy the heart of the city lies south of the river Ebro and its best access on the "Puente de Piedra" this being a stone bridge for the last two thousand years. Which was when the Romans laid down the original street plans, possibly just still followed today. And one of the "grandes" open spaces in Spain the "Plaza del Pilar" a bit like an airport runway with some beautiful buildings on either sides. But there's also a tangle of lanes in the old town where it's possible to get deliciously lost. For once I've decided to stay outside the city centre in the brand new Tryp hotel close to the Expo site, and with appropriately twenty-first facilities. The beds have pillows big enough to eat you and to give you an idea of how comfortable this place is Well, I'll be happy to sleep in the lobby. Time to explore. For there are very different views. For a couple of euros for the trip to the top of the north tower of the "Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar" Zaragoza's mighty cathedral. Hey, hold! There's another one over there! And for not been very much mistaken, the person down there is going to be taking me for a hike. "Welcome to Zaragoza Simon" "Well, thank you for taking me on a walk of the highlights. Tell me where we're heading first of all." "I think we are going to start with the second biggest church in Spain, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar." Look Simon, This is the most important part of the old church, it's the temple of Or Lady of The Pillar, you see the small statue of Mary on the right, on the purple coat and the pillar is inside the silver which you see coming out beneath. "Can we see and touch the pillar?" "Yes, we can but we have to go to the back." "You see, this is the only place where we can really touch and kiss the pillar." "And there is a strange smell, as well." "Yes, it smells of roses, doesn't it? They say it's the perfume of the Virgin Mary and it's a natural smell brought by the pillar." OK Simon, so before we leave the square, there's one other building I want to show you. It's the "Lonja", the old Stock-Exchange, a Renaissance building and the first public building in Zaragoza. This was a building built by the city. You see the coat of arms of Zaragoza, the lines of Zaragoza and on the other corner stones on top of the pillars. These are typical Aragonese Renaissance pillars. Independence Avenue was built in the 19th century following more or less the example of the French avenues. Just a minute Simon I want to show you this beautiful Renaissance façade. This is "Santa Engracia" church; used to be a hospital during the Independence War and was bombed by the French. But there's something else that I want to show you which is really the jewel of the Renaissance architecture here in Spain. You haven't seen the best yet. "Karen, it's been a lovely walk so far but it brought me into a modern savings bank. Why?" It might be astonishing but here we've got one of the jewels of the Aragonese Renaissance architecture. Fourteen paintings by Francisco de Goya, our local son and favourite painter. We consider him the son of the city because his whole family came from Zaragoza and lived in Zaragoza. It's a pity because nobody seems to find it so we don't have too many visitors here. " It's time for lunch! " " Yes, let's go. I'm hungry." All right Simon. Well, we'll finish our visit here. You wanted to go to lunch to a special place, I'm certain you'll be very satisfied in here. Thank you so much; it's been lovely. "Yeah, nice to meet you. Good bye. Have a nice night." "Bye, bye Karen. thank you." La Miguería the place to come for a quick, cheap and cheerful Aragonese lunch where the speciality is "migas", oh, "breadcrumbs", yes, drenched in olive oil. "Migas con uva", with grapes, with "longaniza", this long sausage..." "I might just have a glass of wine too. "Muchas gracias" Less than seven euros, about a find. From economy, to first class. I'm off to the palace. A fleet of double-decker buses give you a tip top, top deck trip to all the main tourist sites. Including this gorgeous 11th century palace which shows the strength of the Islamic heritage in Zaragoza. The "Aljafería". Fabulous! A slice of North-Africa in Northern Spain. It was created for the Moorish king of Zaragoza in the 11th century, a man called Jaffar who called it his "palace of joy". Even after the Christians reconquested Spain, much of the palace was preserved. But "Los Reyes Católicos", Ferdinand and Isabel, wanted to show who is now in charge, so they built their own palace on top of the Moorish original. And to top off your cultural afternoon, you should come here to the Troubador's Tower, which, of course, was the setting for Verdi's opera, Il Trovatore. Don't know about you, I've whet an appetite like Plácido Domingo. The Spanish have given many great things to the world, but when it's about eight in the evening, I way think that perhaps "tapas" is the greatest of the world. Bacon and asparagus. yes, lovely, "buenas tardes". Absolutely delicious. The only problem is it's getting very crowded in here. It's just that there's not much room, I think I'll try another place over there. Did I say "mushroom"? Well, here, at "La cueva de Aragón" you can eat anything you like as long as it is "champiñones". About the whole tapas business. It's extraordinary! Here we are at half past nine in the evening now and, and we're still eating snacks. What's going on? well, what's going on here now is people are going now, trying to have a small bite before their dinner, get a drink, like you're having wine, then come to the next bar, get another one, then two or three of them, then go home and have a real supper. Ten o'clock. Time for a real meal. After years of careful study, I've concluded a couple of things about Spanish restaurants: First of all, if it walks, swims or flies, you can probably order it. Secondly, if you're not that hungry, perhaps you've overdone the mushrooms, then, a couple of starters will be absolutely fine. Oh, "gracias". This! Look at it! It's a starter! This is "huevos rotos". "Muchas gracias". Which means "broken eggs", and might have been,and been cooked beautifully and they're on a bed of fried potatoes with some "jamón ibérico" on top. My goodness me, I only ordered a starter. It's a tough life. "Muchas gracias, señor, hasta luego". But someone has got to do it. Sunday morning, ten o'clock, another day, another cathedral. This is "La Seo del Salvador" and I'm about to pay my respects. There's a variety of different styles here but it's basically a 14th century Gothic cathedral commissioned by the Luna Pope, Benedict XIII who was born near here, to honour his city, he built this amazing structure, but he used Islamic craftsmen to do it. They were the best at the time. And the treats carry on outside, as well. This is the beautiful northeastern façade.

Video Details

Duration: 9 minutes and 59 seconds
Year: 2008
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Views: 221
Posted by: bontips on Sep 14, 2009

48 hours in Zaragoza with Simon Calder. (Part 1)

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