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Vintage Trip To Aranjuez

Among the host of outings to go on in Madrid’s outlying area is one to Aranjuez, with its panoply of artistic, cultural and ecological heritage sites. Not for nothing was it listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Landscape in 2001.

The Strawberry Train – Experiencing a Bygone Age

For enthusiasts of both old times and new experiences, there is an alternative and highly original way of travelling from Madrid to Aranjuez, which is by taking the Strawberry Train. But, what makes this means of transport so different from the others? First, it runs on the second railway line to be built in Spain, inaugurated on 9 February 1851. The first line to come into operation was the Barcelona–Mataró line, opened in 1948. The aim of the second route was to connect Madrid to the coast, with Alicante as the final destination. In its early days, its importance lay in the produce it transported to Madrid from the market gardens in Aranjuez, prompting it to be known as the Strawberry Train.

Its other big draw is that the train operating this line was built in the early 20th century. Having been restored, it gives you the feel of what train travel was like in bygone days. It has a rakish engine with wooden carriages. And, during the journey, passengers are offered strawberries from Aranjuez by hostesses dressed in period costume. The Strawberry Train runs at weekends in May, June, September and October and leaves from the Railway Museum or Museo del Ferrocarril. The timetable is posted here.

Aranjuez, An Area of Courtly Recreation

Aranjuez’s fortunes changed when Philip II awarded it the title of Royal Site. It was turned into the Spanish monarch’s country residence, thus becoming a royal precinct, particularly during the reigns of Philip V (17th-18th century) and Charles III (18th century). It was precisely these kings who commissioned the creation of the areas which are now the city’s must-see sights. In line with prevailing tastes during the Enlightenment, the inner city was designed in a reticular layout which has survived to the present and never fails to surprise visitors.

Among the standout monuments is the Royal Palace, designed by the architects, Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera. It also features a later extension, including the wings added in 1775. The interior houses such curiosities as the Porcelain Study – the capital work of the Royal Porcelain Factory in Madrid’s Buen Retiro – and the Arab Study, inspired by the Hall of the Two Sisters in the Alhambra of Granada.

Also worth visiting is the Real Casa del Labrador (Farmer’s Lodge), set in the so-called Prince’s Garden, the work of Juan Villanueva and Isidro González Velázquez. Lastly, another notable landmark is the Church of San Antonio, commissioned by Ferdinand VI in honour of St Anthony of Padua.

Another standout feature of Aranjuez is its Royal Gardens. There are four in all, namely the Parterre, the King’s Garden,the Island Garden and the Prince’s Garden, situated on the Tagus riverbank and within the Royal Palace precinct. They were all designed as recreational areas for the Court and attest to a blend of French taste acquired from the Bourbons and Italian influences, yielding a stunning result which is worth strolling around and enjoying.

Wait – There’s More!

For those who aren’t satiated by monuments and gardens, another feature of Aranjuez is its huerta or market gardens, among the most important in Spain. Situated between the Tagus and Jarama rivers, the fertile soil produces such crops as asparagus – here known as pericos– and strawberries, introduced by the French Bourbons. The latter also patronised farming research and experimentation on this land, as evinced in the surviving Renaissance layout of the allotments.

Don’t fail to make a gastronomic stopover to savour the fruit of this land. A classical option is Casa José, one of the most celebrated restaurants in the Madrid Community.

Ready for a getaway with a period twist? Check out our flights here.


Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Eric Titcombe, M a n u e l, Andrés Gómez - Club Ferroviario 241

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The most beautiful village in England

It’s clear that to add the most before an adjective always brings a certain controversy. Even more if it’s about choosing the most beautiful village of a country. In this decision, several factors are kept in mind such as its artistic and historic heritage and the landscape that surrounds it. To this effect, its citizens, associations and institutions make an effort and put all their determination in embellish it, because it will affect favourably in attracting tourism and its develop.

In Spain, the association Los pueblos más bonitos de España makes its selection choosing between the most isolated, in the mountains, or the historical, or the beautiful villages bathed by the Mediterranean Sea or the Cantabric Sea. Towns like Ronda in Málaga, Vejer de la Frontera in Cádiz, Cangas de Onís or Cudillero in Asturias, Altea in Alicante, Albarracín in Teruel, Úbeda in Jaén, Priego de Córdoba in Córdoba, Comillas in Cantabria, Laguardia in La Rioja or Alquézar in Huesca never miss these rankings.

In France, the association Les plus beaux villages de France has its own list, where villages like Pesmes, Eguisheim, Yvoire, la Grave, Saint-Suliac, Parfondeva, Josselin, Monte Saint-Michel o la Roque-Gageac are the highlights.

In Italy we have a multitude to choose amongst the little villages distributed all over the Tuscany, the colorful towns in the South, Vernazza or Manarola in Cinque Terre, San Gimignano or Tropea in the Calabrian coast, not to mention its fairytale charming villages that spread Germany or Switzerland.

In England also exists this interest to get declared the most beautiful town. Per se, the picturesque English countryside is an excelent frame, with beautiful landscapes and splendids medieval towns with an enormous historical value.

In the area of Cotswolds there are huge pile of them, so it is difficult to decide for one. Perhaps a good candidate to gain such valued title seems to be Knaresborough. It’s a town with medieval origins that was, for a long time, a spa town for the burgeoisie, in the county of North Yorkshire, at the north-east of England.

It keeps excellent historical monuments, like Knaresborough Castle, the viaduct over the Nidd river, passages that surround you in mistery and its houses, squares and stone stairs, which weave a path through the river until the peak of the hill.

We can also approach to Shanklin, a little village in the east coast of the Wight Island, that was an usual beach destiny during the Victorian epoch. What makes it so special are its vegetable roofs which give particular charming and a kind of rustic air.

Its sand beaches that continues beyond Desando and Shanklin, the Victorian pier, the picturesque defile that leads until the old beach and its old quarter, where the old methods of building roofs are preservated, make this town a solid candidate of the most beautiful town in England.

But, apparently, the prize is shared between Bibury and Castle Combe. The secret of the charming of Bibury, in Gloucestershire county, lies in its stone houses and its loftly roofs. Also the natural landscape of the town, surrounded of streams and ponds.

That’s how the poet and artisan William Morris thougt it, who baptised it years ago as the most beautiful town in England. And so The Huffington Post, that named it in the ranking of "The Most Charming Towns In Europe You'll Want To Visit ASAP".

On the other handm Castle Combe has been the setting of lots of movies, such as Steven Spielberg’s War Horse or Matthew Vaughn’s Stardust, among others. And it’s not of coincidence. Castle Combe is placed very close from the Cotsworlds Capital, Cirencester, a series of hills that crosses the south-east and west zone of England.

All the zone stands out for its natural beauty and this town has shown worthy of be one of the most beautiful places. Without any discordant in its architecture and by its charming and the peace that one can breath, Castle Crombe conquers everyone that visits it.

But, as there’s no accounting for taste, the best way to choose is go to England, take a look and decide for oneself.

Picture Castel Combe by Saffron Blaze

Makes you want to go, right? Do it! Check out our prices here!

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Ateneo Macondo

El Ateneo Macondo es un centro cultural donde se realizan cursos, talleres y eventos. Una de sus peculiaridades es su organización: abierta, horizontal y asamblearia. 
Si te suena a comunista no vas desencaminado y es que los del Macondo conciben las acciones culturales como oportunidades de transformación social. Así que no se queda en un centro donde realizan actividades. Detrás hay un transfondo social y político.

Si estás de paso seguramente no tienes tiempo de participar en su asamblea pero seguro que puedes aportar alguna idea aparte de, por supuesto, participar en alguno de sus numerosos talleres (danza, manualidades, ecología, música, arte…) exposiciones o charlas.

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