The big red arrow will show you where we are.
Our neighborhood for 2 of our 3 visits to Madrid during this trip
The Plaza del Sol in Madrid, about 2 weeks before a long occupation by political protestors.
Nothing will surprise you after a while in the Plaza del Sol.
Routine scene, Plaza de Sol.
Guernica, the famous Picasso painting motivated by Hitler's bombing of the northern village of Guernica. Franco sanctioned bombing the village in his own country to impress Hitler.
If you are familiar with Spanish history, this scene will strike you as it did me. During the Franco era, the policia terrorized the population. Many old people still fear them. Clearly, things have changed for the better.
Puerta de Alcalá, Madrid
If you like ham, you'll be in Hog Heaven in Spain, where it is a national obsession.
The Royal Palace
Now out in the country, our first stop was in the La Mancha province, famous for Don Quixote
Sancho Panza y Don Quizote live on.
Might this be the windmill Don Quixote vanquished?
This section of Spain is covered with thousands of square miles of olive groves, (unfortunately to the exclusion of nature). Spaniards are uncommonly fond of olive oil.
Now we go to Granada
One of the main reasons to visit Granada is to tour the Alhambra, the famous fortified Moorish city.
In La Alhambra
Detail, La Alhambra. The Moors were no slouches at architecture.
Looking out at the city from La Alhambra
Looking back at La Alhambra from a residential neighborhood.
On to Cote Doñana, a famous coastal wildlife refuge.
El Rocío, headquarters for visiting Cote Doñana.
Cathedral, El Rocío.
All the streets are sand in El Rocío.
Cote Doñana National Park, looking for birds.
Red-headed Pochard family.
Corn Bunting, a very common and very vocal bird.
Now to Zahara de la Sierra in the hill country just to the north. One of the most classically beautiful villages I've ever seen. We stayed 3 nights.
The mountain-top villages of the hill country of SW Spain were built to defend against the Moors. Each has a fortification at the summit.
Streets, Zahara de la Sierra
Our hotel from the heights, Zahara de la Sierra
From the top of the fortifications, Zahara de la Sierra
Zahara de la Sierra
We were there for Easter. Although Spain is one of the least religious countries in Europe, old rituals persist.
Hiking in one of the Natural Parks near Zahara.
From our hotel window, Zahara.
We drove to Gibraltar to try to catch part of the Spring bird migration. We saw no birds, but had good views of the rock. This is near the tip of the peninsula as it juts into the Mediterranean Sea.
Eurasian Hoopoe, named for its call: "hoo-poe, hoo-poe, hoo-poe . . . ."
Flamingos in the morning commute, Cote de Doñana
Greater Flamingos grazing in the fields of Cote Doñana.
Great Reed Warbler
A Cattle Egret in full breeding plumage (for the rest of the year they are pure white.)
The nests of the White Stork adorn practically every chimney in this area (and throughout much of Europe)
Cows rule in Spain, even in National Parks. If there is grass to be eaten, a cow will be there to eat it.
Black Stork family, Monfragüe National Park.
European Bee-eater near Trujillo, Extremadura Region.
Saturday pétanque games in Pola de Lena, Asturias. Our stay in Asturias will be covered in a future album.
Now we are in the far north, visiting Picos de Europa National park
If you don't associate Spain with mountains, you haven't been seen the Cantabria Range in the north.
Picos de Europa above Fuente De.
Picos de Europa
At the top of the tram, Fuente De, Picos de Europa
From the tram we took an all-day hike through the high country and back down to the car.
Picnic in the Picos de Europa.
Thousands of acres were covered closely with these Spring wildflowers.
Another hike, Picos de Europa
After 4000' of climbing in the fog, we reached this high meadow, Picos de Europa. It was worth it.
Dinner in a fine Basque restaurant. We couldn't afford many of these. Indeed, we couldn't afford the entire trip given the current monetary exchange rate.
The scenic coastal village of Lekeitio in the Basque region.
These were the only locals I met who were impressed with my command of the language.
We had to visit Pamplona to run with the bulls.
Oh, what a shame, the bulls weren't running just yet, but we walked the route, and there was this cool statue, which was frightening enough.
Now for a bit of nostalgia. We crossed the Pyrenees to retrace part of our bike tour of 1983. Here we are getting some breakfast on the French side.
The village of Larrau, which played an important role in our bike touring adventure in 1983.
Entering Larrau, 1983, in a downpour.
Main street, Larrau, 2011
The same street as in the previous photo, 1983, when a Basque festival was just getting started.
View of the Pyrenees along the route we rode in '83
Col d' Erroïmendy, nearly back into Spain, 2011
Col d' Erroïmendy, 1983. As you can see, we couldn't see anything in dense fog.
Another scenic hilltop village on the Spanish (dry) side of the Pyrenees. 2011. Ordesa National Park in the background.
The same village, 1983
To continue the nostalgia tour, we headed for Torla and the National Park of Ordesa, where we ended our 5-week bike tour in '83.
Gateway to Ordesa National Park.
Torla, gateway community to Ordesa National Park
Torla in 1983
On the hike up the main valley of Ordesa
Ordesa National Park
Climbing the trail with help from chains (clavijas), 1983
Hiking to the summit of Punta Custodia, a minor peak in Ordesa National Park
The summit of Punta Custodia, 2011
Summit of Punta Custodia, 1983
Panorama from the summit of Punta Custodia. Use the magnifier if you have a big enough screen!
A marmot surveys his domain
European Dipper. How cool is a bird that swims under water in fast-flowing glacier-fed mountain streams to find insects?
The spectacular Cañón de Esquain on the SE corner of Ordesa National Park, famous for large raptors.
Searching for Lammergeiers, Cañon de Esquain.
The village of Esquian, Ordesa National Park. The village is largely abandoned, with more cats than people now. This is perhaps the best place in Europe to find Lammergeiers.
The Lammergeier, a huge and quite rare (in Europe) raptor. The name in Spanish is QuebrantaHuesos, or "bone breaker". This bird carries animal bones high into the air and drops them onto rocks to break them so as to consume the marrow.
The river through Escalon, one of the most scenic towns we stayed in on the entire trip.
Heading back to Madrid, we made another nostalgia stop. We spent some unplanned time here in 1983 at the end of our bike tour. Fond memories necessitated a return.
In the church square, Tardienta, 2011
Tardienta church square, 1983. OK, so we might look a little younger. Comments to the contrary would be appreciated.
The church supports many stork nests.
Next to another National Park, called "Cañón de Río Lobos". Objective: more birds.
Our hostesses in the tiny village of Nafria de Ucero where we stayed to visit Cañón de Río Lobos.
Our accommodations, Nafria de Ucero.
Watch for these signs if you want to stay where you'll meet the people and have a more genuine experience. A really nice alternative to hotels.
Scenic countryside near Nafria de Ucero.
Sidewalk café. The waiter was Cuban, so we got to practice a slightly different flavor of Spanish (there are many)
The old monastery in Cañon de Río Lobos.
Eurasian Griffon on the wing. A common sight in these parts. This bird dwarfs the American Eagle, with a wingspan of 8.5ft.
Eurasian Griffons look out from one of the many caves in this limestone canyon.
Eurasian Griffon - if one of these is perched on your shoulder, you should worry.
Exploring one of the caves in Cañon de Río Lobos.
Some of the caves were serious propositions, and we couldn't go far without getting seriously dirty. This is just the mouth of a long one.
Edible Frog (Yes, that's its name!)
A female Blackcap with lunch for the youngsters.
Sunset near Nafria de Ucero.
On the drive back to Madrid, the poppies were out in profusion
Emptying the Hertzmobile at the Madrid airport. This Cooper Mini was new when we picked it up. Not quite so new when we returned it.
What photo album of Spain would be complete without a bullfighting poster?
This woman is a professional. Don't try this at home.
The next album will feature the highlight of our trip, two weeks spent in the mountains of Asturias in private language instruction with a heavy dose of hiking and exploration. Stay tuned, and thanks for your comments!