Ancient and Modern: Lovely León, Spain by da-AL

Photo of da-AL at León book fair.
Rain can’t dampen the beauty of León’s historic district — especially when it’s got a late night book fair!

I love Spain! It’s no accident that one of my soon-to-be self-published novels is called, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.”

A dream to sightsee on foot, León, Spain, was the next to last stop of a fun-filled vacation that my husband and I began with a weekend in beautiful Barcelona and then a stop in wonderful Huesca. We crossed the French border into pretty saint-jean-pied-de-port, enchanting Espelette, and phenomenal French Basque Country cities Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz. Upon our return to Spain, we enjoyed delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián, and then the breathtaking city of Bilbao.

León, founded in 29 B.C., has so much fascinating architecture that the two days we visited weren’t enough to see everything. León’s gothic Santa María de León Cathedral was constructed mostly during 1205 to 1301, its north tower and cloister during the 14-century, and its south tower in 1472. Ever see Mother Mary pregnant? (Tap on photos to see them bigger and their captions.)

It’s an important cathedral on The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago) religious pilgrimage route.

Architect Antoni Gaudí welcomes company. He’s best known for Barcelona’s Sagrada Família Cathedral. In León, he designed Casa Botines from 1891 to 1892. In 1929, it became a bank but has since reverted to its original appearance. Downstairs featured a display of Francisco Goya’s political cartoons.

Photo of da-AL with employee and Susana, owner of 'a comer' restaurant.
Susana and her employee cook with love — ‘a comer’ restaurant is a must-eat-at!

Spain’s homestyle food (unlike typical restaurant fare most anywhere) is loaded with delicious veggies. I swooned when we happened into a tiny eatery that cooked like I was visiting someone’s gourmet granny — we ate there twice! Every single morning, ‘a comer’ take out restaurant owner Susana shops for the best of what’s in season, then cooks a new menu from scratch — thank you from the bottom of my stomach, querida Susana!

Photo of hosts Marco Tsitselis and Mariu Alvarez Garcia.
We’re so glad Marco and Mariu rented us a lovely room!

Our hosts, Marco and Mariu, made our stay at their home extra cozy and our visit to León extra memorable — many thanks to both of them!

It was time to hit the highway to Madrid!…

Breathtaking Bilbao, Spain by da-AL

The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, features many American artists, from Frank Geary’s architecture to Jeff Koon’s “Puppy” flower sculpture.

Sure Frank Gehry’s amazing architecture at the Guggenheim Museum helped put a failing Bilbao, Spain back on the map. Front, back, in, and out the Guggenheim Museum, Spain, turns perceptions upside down and inside out (tap or click each photo for more info)…

However, art and art-worthy architecture abound everywhere in Bilbao.

There's much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.
There’s much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.

Along the way to the museum, we stopped to see Azkuna Zentroa. Built in 1909, it now houses a building within a building balanced on unusual columns.

It’s part of the Spain half of Basque Country. That means that both Spanish and Euskara are spoken. Good food abounds, including pintxos, Northern Spain’s version of small delicious plates of tapas.

Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.
Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.

Our airbnb hostesses Iciar Ruiz (who owns her own design business) and her daughter, Alba, helped us decide what to see.

Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.
Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.

My love and I had just left the beaches of San Sebastián, toured the phenomenal French side of Basque Countrywonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette. Our adventure started with beautiful Barcelona. There was more for us to see…

 

Food and Seaside Dogs of San Sebastián, Spain by da-AL

Ever been around so much scrumptiousness that only way to enjoy it all without exploding was to have little tastes and do a lot of sightseeing? San Sebastián, Spain, is known for pintxos (Northern Spain’s version of tapas), which small delicious plates, and plenty to see. Our incredible vacation kicked off with beautiful Barcelona, then we visited wonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, enchanting Espelette, phenomenal French Basque Country. Dedicated readers of this Happiness Between Tails know that my upcoming novel is called “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” due in part to my love of Spain!

Now we were in San Sebastián, which turns out to be a great place for dogs too! We fortified our energy with pintxos for breakfast…

Pintxos for breakfast!
Pintxos for breakfast!

A big day was ahead — San Sebastián is known for the best churros and pudding-think hot chocolate, so why not?…

empty mug and plate of churros and hot chocolates
Sorry, all gone! Yum! San Sebastián is known for the best hot chocolate and churros in Spain.

We hiked to Mota Castle at the top of Monte Urgull…

Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull
Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull.

Where there were great views of the city and Bahía de la Concha…

View of Bahía de la Concha Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull
View of Bahía de la Concha Castillo de La Mota atop Monte Urgull.

Back down in Parte Vieja, Old Town, we decided to walk to the steeple at the very end…

Old Town route to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
Old Town route to Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

Along the way, we tasted the best cheesecake ever, made with ricotta cheese…

Ricotta cheese cake pinxto pairs well with white wine!
Ricotta cheese cake pinxto pairs well with white wine!

We met many dogs…

Dog at the bakery
Along the way we saw dogs at the bakery.
steeple in the distance
We’re getting closer!
A dog under a chair.
And dogs under chairs.

Even at the beach!…

La Concha Beach
Dogs at La Concha Beach.

 

black dog
My dogs would love it here.
black and white dog
Does everyone in San Sebastián own a dog?
A fluffy dog
Yet another dog.
It's getting dark but the steeple is getting closer.
It’s getting dark but the steeple is getting closer.
dogs and street performers at the park
Dogs and street performers at the park.

The long walk was worth it!…

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
It was worth the long walk to see this!

Even Itzi Orbegozo, the kind hostess of our Airbnb, had a lovely dog, Kanika!

Airbnb hostess Itzi and her dog
Airbnb hostess Itzi and her dog.

We were off to breathtaking Bilbao

Phenomenal French Basque Country: Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, Biarritz, France by da-AL

Gorgeous fine sandy beaches, magnificent architecture, and like everywhere else in France — fantastic food!


Our vacation had started in beautiful Barcelona. From there we drove through wonderful Huesca (note: my upcoming novel is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”), pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette. We were headed further into French Basque Country

Now we overnighted in Saint-Jean-de-Luz where we strolled the beach, ate ice cream, and enjoyed several great meals, the one we ate at Zoko Moko our most memorable yet.

From our lovely stay in Saint-Jean-de-Luz made all the more memorable thanks to our delightful Airbnb hostess Florence.

We took a day trip to visit the coastal towns of Bayonne and Biarritz.

Everywhere was a feast for mind, body, and spirit of art and tradition, beauty and history, surf and great food. Our vacation had started in beautiful Barcelona. From there we drove through wonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette.

Next, we headed back to Spain, where we’d marvel at the food and seaside dogs of San Sebastián, Spain and breathtaking Bilbao

Enchanting Espelette, France, by da-AL

After a weekend of beautiful Barcelona, we drove towards French Basque country. We lunched in wonderful Huesca and overnighted in pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

The sun shone and we were back on the road. What better way to relax than to stop in the enchanting Basque town of Espelette?

We sipped hot chocolate at a sidewalk cafe…

We shopped for edible gifts from a kindly shopkeeper, including the special not-too-hot red pepper power the city is known for…

da-AL and her honey shopping in Espelette, France

And we strolled, admiring the town’s typically red-accented white buildings…

Everything, everyone, the weather — it was all so charming, that I could easily have stayed for a nap…

…but we had more places to visit! We were headed further into phenomenal French Basque Country (Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz).

Then, back in Spain (after all, my upcoming novel is titled “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”), we’d marvel at the food and seaside dogs of San Sebastián, Spain and breathtaking Bilbao

Wonderful Huesca, Spain by da-AL

Huesca Cathedral.

After a weekend in Barcelona, my husband and I rented a car. I love Spain (hence, my upcoming novel is called, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) so we had much to admire along the way to French Basque country.

Detail of Huesca Cathedral.

We stopped for lunch in Spain’s lovely city of Huesca. Their beautiful cathedral is in the historic district. Built on the remains of a mosque, it took 300 years to complete in the early 16th century.

Nestled in nearby ancient buildings are two restaurants. One is authentic Korean! As much as we love our kimchi, we decided that instead it was a lovely day for a modest yet elegant meal of traditional Spanish food on a pretty outdoor patio.

Huesca, Spain, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Huesca according to Wikipedia… is a city in north-eastern Spain, within the autonomous community of Aragon. It is also the capital of the Spanish province of the same name and of the comarca of Hoya de Huesca. In 2009 it had a population of 52,059, almost a quarter of the total population of the province. The city is one of the smallest provincial capitals in Spain.

Wall art across the street from Huesca Cathedral. Buster Keaton — or Jude Law?

Wall art and graffiti abound e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e in Spain! Here in the U.S., graffiti is seldom as welcome.

Our vacation had started in beautiful Barcelona.

Now that we’d enjoyed wonderful Huesca, we were off to France. There we’d see pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, enchanting Espelette, and phenomenal French Basque Country (Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz).

Then, back in Spain, we’d marvel at the food and seaside dogs of San Sebastián, Spain and breathtaking Bilbao