Dining on prize-winning tapas during brief visit to Valladolid

  Visiting Spain: Dining on prize-winning tapas during brief visit to Valladolid Trying to take photos between the cars passing by, I didn’t stop to count the stone lions in front of the University of Valladolid. Good thing I didn’t. “It’s considered bad luck if you count the lions,” said guide Nuria. “If you count them while you are a student here, you will never graduate from the university.” So how many are there, I asked Nuria. …

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Seeing the strange and beautiful in Salamanca, Spain

  Shore Excursion: Seeing the strange and beautiful in Salamanca, Spain Craning their necks, a crowd of people gathered outside the University of Salamanca searching for a tiny frog somewhere on the university’s walls. A street vendor stood ready to help onlookers find the tiny critter and to sell them a postcard photo and souvenir of the elusive amphibian. Now celebrating its 800th birthday, the University of Salamanca has many treasures and tales and the frog is …

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Windmills of La Mancha said to be inspiration for Don Quixote

Visiting Spain: Windmills of La Mancha said to be inspiration for Don Quixote Across the crest of the hill, they march like giants. Their long arms seem to stretch to the heavens. No wonder the delusional Don Quixote pulled his sword to fight these windmills. I almost expected to see the Man of La Mancha astride his rickety horse with his poor old sidekick Sancho Panza watching in disbelief. “This is the land of Don Quixote,” our …

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‘Holy Toledo’ has long history, interesting legends

  Visiting Spain: ‘Holy Toledo’ has long history, interesting legends Once upon a time, two lovers were separated by war. To pray for her soldier’s safe return, the young lady would visit an image of the Virgin Mary and pray every night. Afraid that she might fall asleep during her long vigil, the lady asked her maid to stick her with a pin if she faltered in her prayers. Then the lady would present the pin to …

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Spanish birthplace of Saint Ignatius preserved as popular pilgrimage site

  Shore Excursion: Spanish birthplace of Saint Ignatius preserved as popular pilgrimage site Gravely injured when a cannon ball crushed his legs, the warrior endured several excruciating surgeries without anesthetics. Warned to prepare for death, the nobleman spent his bedridden time reading whatever was at hand. “The only books he had were about the lives of the saints and Christ,” said Mikel Mugalari. “Then a miracle happened. He didn’t die. He had a conversion. He decided to …

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Extremadura region of Spain produces famed smoked paprika

  Visiting Spain:  Extremadura region of Spain produces famed smoked paprika When Christopher Columbus returned to Spain from his second voyage to the Americas, he brought a very special chili pepper that he served to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Even though the unusual plant was a bit spicy for the royal tongues, Spanish monks recognized its tasty value and jealously guarded the culinary treasure behind cloistered walls. However, the secret began to slowly leak out. Today, …

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Hemingway, bulls and much more highlight historic Pamplona

  Visiting Spain: Hemingway, bulls and much more highlight historic Pamplona When Ernest Hemingway attended his first fiesta in 1923 in Pamplona, Spain, he was inspired to write his literary masterpiece, “The Sun Also Rises.” Today, visitors from around the world attend the annual San Fermin Fiesta for eight exciting days in July in honor of the patron saint of Navarre in Northern Spain. The event is better known as the “Running of the Bulls.”  But Pamplona …

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Recipe for traditional Spanish migas

  Visiting Spain: Recipe for traditional Spanish migas Roaming from place to place to tend their flock, Spanish shepherds created a tasty inexpensive dish prepared over an open fire in a single pan. The basic ingredient was easy to find – stale bread. Nothing went to waste in the humble life of a shepherd and the dish known as “migas” was comforting, filling and simple to prepare. Today, migas – which literally means “bread crumbs” –  is …

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Writer Maimonides honored in his Cordoba hometown

  Visiting Spain: Writer Maimonides honored in his Cordoba hometown The tips of his shoes and the hem of his robe gleam golden. Although the rest of the bronze statue is a deep dark brown, those golden glows are from the many admirers who have touched their hands to this tribute to Moses Maimonides. “He was a very important philosopher, rabbi and writer,” said tour guide Juan Torres Carmona. “He was born here in Cordoba during the …

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Learning about Iberian ham from a Spanish champion in Salamanca

Shore Excursion: Learning about Iberian ham from a Spanish champion in Salamanca Anselmo Perez didn’t eat much Iberian ham when he was growing up. “We couldn’t afford it,” he said. Now, Perez can eat as much of the exquisite delicacy as he wants. And he can have it carved by one of Spain’s champion Iberian ham carvers – himself. “I eat it every day,” he said. “Iberian ham is good for you.” And it is important that …

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