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The Medieval Streets of Cáceres


Europe


Samuel Garza

Samuel Garza

 

 

 

 

I traveled from Madrid to Caceres, which was my first trip to the Extremadura region of Spain. My friends in Madrid told me that visiting Extremadura is the perfect place to see old Spain. Like many areas of Spain, there have been settlements in or around Caceres since prehistoric times.(1) The city was founded by the Romans in 25 B.C. and the city still has it’s ancient walls and and much younger medieval streets and churches. I arrived via train and on my journey I saw a countryside filled with grazing cattle and pigs. In 1986, Caceres was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alfonso IX of Leon conquered the city from the Moors in 1227.(2) Soon after, the town grew in prosperity due to free trade that the town’s merchants implemented. Due to family dueling and bitter rivalries, King Fernando and Isabel ordered many of the town’s watch towers to be demolished.(3)

Caceres was untouched by the Spanish Civil War and stands gloriously as it once did. I was so excited walking around the city late in the evening and also early in the morning taking photos and drinking coffee in one of the many cafes sprinkled throughout the town. Caceres is known for it’s wine, which is a full bodied red that does not disappoint. You can also taste amazing goat and sheep cheese that pairs well with your Extremadura wine. A must try is Caceres’ famous stews, pork, and lamb. The food here was amazing.

Below I have provided a gallery of photos that hopefully express the beauty of the streets of Caceres. This is a city to get lost in, to wander with pure excitement, and to get lost and to use your camera like there is no tomorrow. Caceres was a wonderful city to visit and I learned enough about it’s history in just a few short days to want to return to the Extremadura region in 2016.

Plaza Mayor

Upon my arrival, the town square was buzzing with activity. A tent was erected in the middle of the square and inside the locals were tasting food and wine. I also came across a book sale (pictured below) but I decided against buying a few books due to lack of space and I just didn’t want the added weight.

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San Francisco Javier Church

I made several attempts to enter the church and each time I was met by a locked door. I couldn’t find the hours the church was operand and the tourist office nearby had no clue. Anyways, the exterior of the church is beautiful and worth seeing.

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Plaza De Santa Maria

Walking further into the winding streets of Caceres, I wandered into Plaza De Santa Maria. The plaza has several important building and it is ideal for setting up your tripod and capturing some beautiful images.

Iglesia de Santa Maria on the left.

Iglesia de Santa Maria on the left.

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Arco de la Estrella

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In 1726, Manuel Churriguera built this beautiful low-arched gate. The gate connects Plaza Mayor with the old town. It’s a beautiful structure and worth taking a few pictures early in the morning with less people crowding your shot.

Iglesia de San Mateo

Nestled in the center of the old town, is San Mateo church. Construction began in the 14th century and was completed in the 17th century.

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How to Get There

I arrived in Caceres from Madrid via train. The travel time is 2 hours and 50 minutes one way for around €58 round trip. I highly advise that you buy your tickets at the station. You can also travel via bus. The bus trip will take 4.5 hours at a cost of around €20.

Where to Stay

I stayed at the Hotel AH Agora, which is a few blocks away from Plaza Mayor.  There are plenty of places to stay, but book your rooms in advance to get better prices.

Address and Phone Number:  AH Agora/Parras, 25/Cáceres, 10002, Spain/Phone: +34927626360

View more photographs of Caceres, Spain by Samuel J. Garza.


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JUEVES SANTO IN TOLEDO, SPAIN

Experiencing a Jueves Santo in Toledo, Spain will shake every emotion inside of you.  This is what happened to me when I was invited to experience Toledo’s Jueves Santo by my good friends from Madrid, Kiko and Beatrice.  I met my Spanish friends while living in Madrid in 2014. Beatrice was born and raised in Toledo and she knows everything about the city.  I felt blessed to have her and her husband take me around the town during this historic night.

Churches

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During Jueves Santo, dozens of churches are open to the public that are otherwise closed.  Several of the churches belong to monasteries.  In fact, many of the monasteries were built centuries ago.  While visiting the churches, I was surprised to see several of the nuns sitting in dark rooms behind glass windows looking at all the tourist flood into their church.  They seemed to be excited to see us because they were all staring through the glass window.  Beatrice informed me that many of the nuns have been in the monasteries for decades and Jueves Santo is one of the few times they can see the outside world.

Streets

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After visiting several churches we made our way through the beautiful streets of the city.  Beatrice shared stories of her youth and pointed out the best places to eat and drink.  I interjected several times and asked her about Toledo’s culture and economy.  I have had many conversations with them about Toledo before, but I can never learn enough about this historic city and Beatrice is a treasure trove of information.  One of the many things that makes Toledo worth visiting it that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Beatrice pointed out several statues like the one above of Pope John Paul II and several historic building that deserve a post all on their own  We kept walking through the large crowds and made our way to the Jewish Quarter to visit one last church before we joined the crowds for the procession of Jueves Santo.  Monasterio de S. Juan de los Reyes was founded by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I to commemorate the birth of their son and also to their victory of The Battle of Toro.  The monastery was completed in 1504.

The Jewish part of town was illuminated with graphics on the cobble stone streets.  The streets were also empty in this area because everyone was in the center of town waiting near Toledo’s main cathedral for the processions to start.

Procesiones/Processions

Beatrice knew exactly how much time we could spend wandering around the city tasting wine and visiting more historic sites.  Eventually, we made our way towards the cathedral in search of a spot to stop and watch the procession.

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View the video below to feel the powerful experience of watching the processions and feeling the passion from the people of Toledo.

 

 

Dinner

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In pure Spanish style, we had dinner around 11:30 p.m. along with droves of Toledanos at a popular restaurant called La Abadía.  Having a late dinner is something that I have come to cherish over the past seven years.  I prepare for late dinners with with Zantac and Tums.  Beatrice and Kiko ordered the meat platter along with a delicious red wine from La Mancha.  The beef, sausage, and chicken were delicious.  I kept telling Beatrice and Kiko that I had my own plate to eat, but they insisted that I keep trying the meat.  How could I resist?

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I ordered a dish well known in Toledo, which is Perdiz (Partridge).  The meat melted in my mouth along with the tasty creamy sauce which did not detract from the quality of the meat.  The soil in La Manch is rugged and this region is not known for its fruits or vegetables.  No, La Mancha is all about the meat.

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I couldn’t have asked for more of an authentic experience.  In my humble opinion, this is what travel is about.  It’s not about checking boxes off a bucket list and it’s not about country counting.  Travel is about the personal experience and sharing that experience with others.  I am grateful to my friends Kiko and Beatrice for sharing this amazing evening with me.  Witnessing the passion, history, and culture of this city makes me want to come back for more.

Visit Toledo, Spain.  You will cherish the experience.

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[Video] One Night in Perigueux

Where to Eat Restaurant o2 (Facebook Page) 2 r Lanmary/24000 Perigueux, France How to get to Perigueux From Paris: I took the train from Saint-Lazare station in Paris and arrived three hours later in Perigueux. From Bordeaux: Bordeaux is one 1/2 hour train ride from Perigueux. ©2016 World Travelers Today

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5 Reasons to visit the Musée de l’Armée


Historical Highlight


If you travel to Paris in search of knights in shining armor, a majestic cathedral, and world class tour guides, then you can get all three at the Musée de l’Armée. The museum was built in 1905 and it is located in the inspiring location of the Hôtel National des Invalides. The museum can be seen throughout Paris with it’s distinctive golden dome, which covers the tomb of Napoleon I.

I couldn’t possibly describe all the amazing things to see and do at the museum, but here are World Travelers Today’s 5 Reasons to visit the Musée de l’Armée.

#5 CATHEDRAL OF SAINT-LOUIS DES INVALIDES

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Cathedral of Saint-Louis Des Invalides.

The cathedral was built in 1676 by Jules Hardon-Mansarat. The design combined a royal chapel, Dôme des Invalides, and a veterans chapel. According to my awesome guide, the design was to allow the King and his soldiers the ability to attend mass together.

During my visit, I was fortunate to see an orchestra rehearsing for their show in the cathedral during my visit. They were inspiring and set the tone for an amazing day at the museum.

Vistors should know that the church is free to visit during operating hours, but purchased tickets are needed to enter the museum. The cathedral is packed with history and ornate decorations and is a must see during your visit.

 

#4 The Museum has over 500,000 historical items. Repeat, over 500,000!

The have canons! Loads of big canons!

They have cannons! Loads of big cannons!

Département Ancien (Medieval Armor)

The medieval armory was one of my favorite sections in the museum. It has thousands of swords, shields, armor, and cannons. However, there is only a certain amount of space to display all the important historical items so most of the space is carefully filled with amazing artifacts like the huge cannon above.

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Windows so visitors can watch curators attend to thousands of pieces of armor in the museum.

The window displays allows visitors to see what a real arsenal would have looked like. Visitors can see what options soldiers had for weaponry before battle. The windows also provide visitors a behind the scenes view of artifacts that would have been otherwise hidden behind closed doors due to the lack of space in the museum. I think this is genius.

 

The Armor of King Francis I (1515 – 1547)

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The armor of King Francis I of France.

The armor pictured above was a gift presented to King Francis I. He never wore the armor but the design and detail of the armor is stunning. There are several imbedded pieces like the Fleur-de-lis which represent the French monarchy. The armor is usually displayed on the first floor on a horse.

You cannot possibly see all 500,000 items that the museum holds, but you will no doubt see some of their most famous pieces like King Francis I armor. Take your time walking through the many historical time period sections and don’t be afraid to ask staff questions.

 

#3 The World War I & World War II displays.
Département Moderne

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Visitors will learn that this area of the museum has more to offer than the displays of the two world wars. You will also learn about France’s military history from 1871 – 1945. However, the world war displays are incredible. The rooms are filled with hundreds of pieces that show visitors French uniforms, the first machine gun tripod, and a video of the time period. There is also an American volunteer display. I was fascinated to learn that many of the Americans wore mixed uniforms. For example, they could be wearing French pants with a British coat. I had no idea Americans were volunteering to fight before the U.S. officially joined sides with the allies.

Once you walk through the World War I section, you will see the artifacts from World War II. The French call this period the “Black Years” and especially with the defeat in 1940 and the subsequent occupation of their country by Germany. There is a display explaining the French Resistance, which I highly recommend you taking the time to learn more about.

Take your time walking through this section. There is so much to see and read about. There is also a very creative video that helps visitors learn more about France’s role in this time period.

 

#2 The Museum’s Staff

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Beatrice Six, In charge of Protocol

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the museum’s staff and facilities. My personal guide was Beatrice Six. Beatrice, was kind, professional, and informative. She has a passion for her work and her goal was to ensure I learned about every item I asked about. Her charm and patience was much appreciated. However, you don’t have to hire a guide at the museum. Another option for individuals or groups is to purchase digital guides for €5.00 per person.

Follow this link to learn more about booking tour guides at the museum.

 

#1 DÔME DES INVALIDES, TOMB OF NAPOLEON I

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Napoleon I’s tomb lays under the Dôme des Invalides which is a prominent monument in the Parisian landscape. The story of how Napoleon’s remains came here is a lengthy one, so I’ll leave it to you to find out the details during your visit. However here is the short version. Napoleon died on May 5, 1821 and was buried on the island of Saint Helena. In 1840, King Louis-Philippe decided to transfer Napoleon’s remains from Saint Helena to Paris. After extensive renovations under the dome, Napoleon was finally laid to rest under the dome in 1861.

Tomb of Napoleon I.

Tomb of Napoleon I.

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Learn more about the tomb by visiting the museum. There is so much see and learn about by visiting this amazing French treasure. Ensure a visit to the museum is on your list when you visit Paris.

 


 

The museum offers visitors a window into the past of not only France’s history, but also the rest of Europe. The museum’s cathedral, 500,000 items, the World War I /World War II sections, the museum’s staff, and Napoleon I tomb are a few of the many reasons to visit. I found the museum with ease and it was not overcrowded with tourist so take the time to checkout what this amazing museum has to offer.

UPDATE: In December 2015, the museum opened a new section for small arms. Ensure you check out the new section and provide your thoughts in the comments below.

Visit the MUSÉE DE L’ARMÉE – INVALIDES

Visit the museum’s website for more information and to plan your trip.

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