Thursday, March 24, 2016

Exploring the Spanish Basque capital Vitoria-Gasteiz

With one more long, rainy month of winter ahead, we head south to explore Spain and Portugal. Our first stop is Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Autonomous Community. (Vitoria is the Spanish name, Gasteiz is the Basque.) We have chosen Vitoria as our first destination for its proximity; our itinerary spaces out each city so we don't exhaust ourselves driving and have enough energy and time to see the sights and relax. It doesn't take us long to realize we've made a good choice: Two days is the perfect amount of time to get acquainted with this city's charms.

Strolling the streets of Vitoria-Gasteiz in northern Spain

Moving sidewalks help to climb steep streets in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Vitoria's medieval district is considered to be one of the most beautiful and well-preserved in this area of Spain. Four church towers dominate the skyline, and our stroll passes lovely examples of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical architecture. All that stone is livened up with splashes of color provided by the many murals around town.

Skyline of Vitoria-Gasteiz

An arch frames the courtyard of a municipal building
in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Memorial to victims of Franco's regime in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Colorful mural in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Basque man in bronze near los Arquillos in Vitoria-Gasteiz

On Day 2, we follow one of the routes suggested by the tourism office. Parque de La Florida contains a Giant Sequoia, which we former Northern Californians must see. We then take a leisurely promenade along Senda Street passing notable mansions, and continue several kilometers along wide, tree-lined paseos, eventually arriving at Basilica of San Prudencio in Armentia. This Romanesque church is one of the Basque Country's most emblematic.

Originally a house-hotel, Zulueta Palace was built in 1902
by Alfredo de Zulueta who made his fortune in Cuba.

Caryatids adorn the main façade of Casa de las Jaquecas in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Villa Sofia was designed by architect Julio Saracibar. The building is now
headquarters of Álava's museum department.

Vitoria's fine arts museum is housed inside the Augusti Palace.

Paseo Fray Francisco de Vitoria

Basilica of San Prudencio in Armentia is one of the most important
Romanesque churches in the Basque Country.

Detail of Basilica of San Prudencio in Armentia

A play structure in Parque de El Prado in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Back in the town center, we're ready to relax and enjoy una cerveza and un vino tinto before we embark on a search for the perfect pintxo. The lively Plaza de la Virgen Blanca is a perfect spot to unwind, bask in the company of the local vitorianos/gasteizterrak and watch the moonrise.

Moonrise, Basque-style

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