This book is a travelogue about the cities of northern Spain.
I travelled to Valencia, Barcelona, Pamplona, Burgos, San Sebastian, Valladolid, Segovia, Leon, Gijon, Oviedo, Santiago de Compostela, Pontevedra, A Coruna, and Vigo on board the fast, modern trains of the Spanish railways.
Here is an excerpt about Valladolid:
Valladolid has a bewildering array of churches, statues, palaces, and plazas. I started in the Plaza Mayor built after a fire in the 16th Century. The buildings are all painted in a rich red colour including the Ayuntamiento or City Hall, which takes pride of place on the northern side. This plaza was the first of its kind in Spain and formed the model for similar squares in Spain and most of South America.
Heading due south through an area of shops including the department store El Corte Ingles, you come to the area called Campo Grande on the far side of which is the railway station. The Campo Grande is a park with shade-giving trees containing a small lake with a jet of water. On the southern side is the Oriental Museum and the Iglesia de San Juan de Letran. The Museo Oriental has the largest collection of Oriental art in Spain. The Augustinian Fathers christianized the Philippines and then headed to China and Japan. As they worked in these countries, they collected the best art they could find and sent it back to Spain. These items including ceramics, sculptures and paintings form the basis of the collection in the 18 rooms of the museum.
To the east of the museum is the Plaza de Colon with a large statue of Christopher Columbus. Heading north again, I came to the Casa del Principe, the house of the prince, a residential building, built in 1906 and an outstanding example of art nouveau architecture. The tower sits above the front door, has five storeys, and is topped by a dome. To the east is the Casa de Cervantes where the writer stayed between 1604 and 1606 during his time in the city, during which period Don Quixote was first published. The inside attempts to recreate the atmosphere of a house inhabited by a seventeenth-century Spanish nobleman.
Close by on the Plaza de Espana is the colossal facade of the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz completed in 1963, which can’t be missed because of the large parabolic arches that reach high up on the facade. I will leave it up to you to decide whether the arches are ugly or not.
Heading up Lopez Gamez street brings you to the area near the Cathedral. Before visiting the cathedral, head right along R Hernandez to the Convento de las Salesas with behind it the Casa Colon. Christopher Columbus died in this house in 1506. The museum is spread over four floors and has many interactive exhibits. There are old maps that take you on a journey through Christopher Columbus’s trips to the Americas. The top floor describes Valladolid in the days of the great explorer.
The cathedral dates from the 16th Century and was built on top of the remains of its medieval predecessor. The main point of interest is the retablo mayor by Juan de Juni. Visitors can climb the 70-metre south tower for outstanding views over the city. The main layout was designed by Juan de Herrera in Renaissance style. The original design would have created the largest cathedral in Europe. It was initially planned as the Cathedral for the capital city of Spain, but only 40-45% of the project was completed due to a lack of resources after the royal court moved to Madrid, and because of the expenses incurred when stabilising the foundations of the church.
Around 400 metres north of the cathedral is the Iglesia de San Pablo. If you’re going to see one church in Valladolid, make sure it’s this one. I say this largely because of the carvings on the south-western facade, which are elaborate, beautiful, and numerous. The church was commissioned by Cardinal Juan de Torquemada between 1445 and 1468. Incidentally, the cardinal was the uncle of Tomas de Torquemada, Spain’s first Grand Inquisitor. The church was subsequently extended and refurbished until 1616 with various sponsors and notables asking for additions to the facade. King Philip II and King Philip IV of Spain were baptized in the church.