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Friday, 20 December 2013

El Camino Levante - Day 12 Arévalo to Medina Del Campo

Well today started off interestingly!  Wet, windy and a bit wild, but we were ready to go and wrapped up.  The dog jackets at the ready and then... where is the path?  Well, for those who are following on behind me - beware!  This part of the Camino is not at all as outlined in either the guide or on the maps!  I was very grateful on such a day that I had the back up vehicle - because we found the arrows as directed to the industrial estate and then they continued along a tar road, and on and on and on along the tar road... and not turning toward the village of Tornadizos de Arévalo as suggested.  I therefore thought it might be a different camino or a cycle route and we decided to scout the area by car.  Having started in the dark (all the darker due to the clouds and rain) it a dull light started as we searched initially with headlights and then by early daylight.  We drove back and forth and then headed out along a dirt lane - as outlined on the map and the original route - and although we ended up in Tornadizos, there were no arrows in sight!  The route seems to have changed to be entirely along the tar to the next village of Palacios de Goda (Akina and I in our wet and cold weather gear pictured below) and in the end, that is where we started officially on the route.  

Dressed for the rain and wind - the first time my waterproof trousers have made an appearance... gosh that
brings back humorous memories from Duke of Edinburgh Award days - private joke! 

We did follow the mapped route although it is no longer marked with arrows - so if you do want to follow it from Tornadizos to Palacio, you will be able to do so.  The route is clear and there are no blocks or private signs, so it is passable, but it is not marked as El Camino...  The first part from Arévalo and the industrial estate is still along the tarred road and you will have to take a left turn up to Tornadizos - but at least it means you can walk more off road than the currently arrow marked route.  I have posted a photo of the map below and marked with my own black and arrowed route where the official yellow painted arrows take you if you follow those.

The wild and windy way
Akina totally untroubled
by her jacket - she can run just
as fast!
The guidebook is correct but a bit confusing as it says to "pass" the village of Tornadizos... so it does take you along the tar road, however, what is should say is "pass the sign" to the village of Tornadizos! It then says that the road will go off to the left after about 2km and this will take us to Palacios.  However, as I said, you "can" walk it on a nicer track - but you will have to navigate yourself by looking at the google map or working out the roads on your map rather than following the guidebook or the yellow marked guidebook route.

Akina in Honquilana
Adobe brick houses
Once on the right track - so to speak (!) the way was glorious and open and "windy"!  There was tumbleweed blowing across the fields and Akina thought it was great fun to race after them as they looked like animals to chase.  It was a good test for her dog coat and it works perfectly - it did not shift position or restrict her movement in any way.  I was so delighted as this had been my biggest worry, that it would keep them warm, but restrict movement and thus there fun!  There was a place on route called Honquilana which did not exist on the google maps and when we found it - it hardly existed in real life!  An amazing dead village that was once all adobe buildings - you could see the intricacies of the little bricks that had been made with clay and straw, but now abandoned, the rain and weather is eating them away.

I was very grateful for our coffee break and warmed myself, hands around a mug and a wonderful bocadillo to add strength for the next leg.  Kaishi came with me on this and it was the weirdest thing.  We were walking below pylons and as I reached out to touch her I got a shock - as did she!  I thought maybe it was her jacket, but I tried it later without that and it was the same.  Three times I touched her and three times we tingled in shock - and quite a sharp one too.  As we passed from under the electric lines, no shocks - back under - shocks.  All this was due to the rain, as doing it in the dry (as I later experimented) did not yield the same effect.  I can't say this is a scientific experiment - but it had me wondering how those who say living under pylons has no effect can argue this - because there certainly "is" some effect - whether that's harmful or otherwise I do not know, but it in the rain it is certainly enough to give an electric shock of dog fur!!!!  Just before the next village we met a rather large and rather dead snake - looking at the time remarkably lifelike until we got close!  It was the flat front third where a tyre had gone over him (or her) that gave it away - poor snake.

The enormous arrows of San
Vicente de Palacio
As we entered San Vicente de Palacio, we were nearing the end of our trek for the day.  This is a place with strangely huge arrows!  Some taking up whole curb stones!  They converged from two different directions so I guessed another one of the caminos passes or joins here - the Sur Este?

Evening at the "camp" site
From here it was a short walk to the main highway.  Our track ran next to it along a sand path, and through some rather dodgy looking areas with some interesting signs painted on the walls - rather threatening ones at that!  We decided at this point to take our "ox wagon" into Medina del Campo and bypass walking onto the main and busy highway at the end of what could have been a very long walk today if we hadn't had the diversions and corrections to do and which we had made with the vehicle.  As you enter the town, Hotel San Roque is at the entrance of the town.  It looks a little run down but might have been more welcoming than the one I chose (!)  It also means you finish walking a little earlier in the day.  I had chosen the Hostal El Orensano who had seemed friendly on the phone, but at 28 Euros with unfriendly service on arrival and a severe "no" to paying extra for Michael to use the bathroom, I was not impressed.  Even less so when the key to my room did not work - having hiked up several flights of stairs with Camino tired legs.  I had to go back and they huffed and puffed as a lady came to see what was up.  She just moaned and pointed and kept saying the same thing over and over about the key - but I could not open it (note she did not try herself?!) and then she opened up a different room with another key she had brought.  It was freezing and the heating (as usual) was not on - but the beds had thick blankets and the bathroom ran VERY hot water - so it made up for it!  I needed this as the waterproof trousers - however good at keeping out rain, also keep "in" perspiration!  Warm when wearing them, the moment you take them off you get very cold!  However, they were perfect for the walk.  As a note to other pilgrims, do remember to buy them several sizes "too big" because I was very glad of it when trying to put them on (and sometimes off) in the windy and wet weather as being large and with zipped bottoms I could do so over not only just all my extra warm clothes, but without having to take my walking shoes off - very happy!

After curling up in bed to get warm for a few hours and sleeping off the long walk, I met Michael who had managed to find a lovely woodland out of town (after quite a bit of searching) where he could really let the dogs run and play.  Initially there was the odd cyclist and bicycle rider, but once the end of the afternoon rush had gone by they could have some chill out time and a private stay over night.

Plenty of room to run and play - all together
We headed into the centre of town which initially had appeared rather insalubrious but on closer inspection revealed a very old town, and in fact the place of Isabella Catolica's death and where she wrote her last will and testament.  The main square was delightful with a lovely old ayunatmiento, next to Isabella's palace apartments.  We wished we had known about this gem as we might have chosen to take a tourist day and explore more.  The palace gave tourist tours and it was a shame to miss out on that.  We did however find a number of restaurants that seemed to be serving rather inviting menu del dias and decided upon one serving rabbit.  And wow - it was one of the most delicious dishes of the trip and if you are in the main square, check out the restaurant and see if they are serving their rabbit and lentil dishes.  It was such a find and yet had not looked much from outside.  The service was friendly and welcoming and the other patrons were also friendly - asking us if we liked soccer as there was a match on and they wanted the TV on - which was no problem and we had a bit of a banter for a moment.  The restaurant was the "Restaurante Gloria" and it can be found on the Plaza Mayor, 27, Medina del Campo.  www.restaurantegloria.es or call them on 983 801 006.

Wikipedia on Medina del Campo:  Now a very important historical site in Spain

Medina del Campo gained much importance for its Fairs during the 15th century and 16th century. The main purpose of the early fairs was banking, wool and textile sales, the book market and an enormous variety of goods and trades. As the population grew, the town was developed towards the plain of Zapardiel brook. Since then, thePadilla Street became the business centre of Medina.
In 1489 a great trade agreement, that would last for 96 years, united the kingdoms of Spain and England with the reduction of trade tariffs, the recognition of France as a common enemy, and the marriage of Catherine of Aragonto King Henry VII's son, Prince Arthur (and later to King Henry VIII) - this was known as the Treaty of Medina del Campo (1489).
Between the 17th century and the 19th century decline set in; but the town took off again at the end of the 19th century, thanks to the arrival of the railway, the opening of the military district (the quarter of Marques de la Ensenada), and the opening of the hydrothermal establishment of Las Salinas. Also adding to the growth were the strong commercial sector, such as the furniture trade or the opening of shops on Sundays (which is not customary in Spain), and finally proximity of quality wines with the Denominación de Origen of Rueda.

Almost all the buildings of artistic interest date from the 16th century; examples are the country house known as Casa Blanca, the Palacio de Dueñas (Don Rodrigo de Dueñas Manor House) and the Hospital of Simón Ruiz. These buildings were promoted by rich merchant bankers who prospered thanks to the General Fair of the Spanish Kingdom held in Medina del Campo during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Museum of the Fairs was created to exhibit items connected to this open market, and it is a popular visitor attraction.
The word "Medina" which means "city" in Arabic (Arabicالمدينة‎. Medina del Campo was founded on the hill called La Mota in the 11th century, in the same place where the Castle is, and remains of a wall still survive. At the moment, the Mota hill is a suburban area, however in the Middle Ages it was the town centre.
In addition, this hill has archaeological remains such as a stronghold, a medieval village and a Celtic walled settlement dated from 4th century BC (Iron Age).

Castle of La Mota[edit]


Front view of Castle of La Mota.
The word Mota refers to an artificial mountain built to defend the castle better. The Mota fortress had a military function and it also was a royal dungeon, among its most notorious prisoners being Cesare Borgia. The castle was built between the 12th century and 15th century. It has a moat with its own drawbridge (today fixed), an outercurtain wall (for artillery), an inner curtain wall (with arrow slits for archers and guards) surrounding a large courtyard(with a chapel), and a great square tower (which is the Keep).
The castle was abandoned and collapsed, but was restored after the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). It was the first monumental building in Medina designated as a Heritage Site (Bien de interés cultural).

Walls[edit]

Medina was a walled village, and its stronghold was a very important building around the town to protect the people from attacks. The walls date from the 11th century, and they were enlarged three times, as the population was growing. At present, there are only remains.

St. Michael's Church[edit]

This church was built beside the wall gate of the old town, opposite the original city hall, which no longer exists. Probably, its entrance hall was the meeting point of the council.
Route changes through to Medina del Campo
The oldest part of the church is of MudéjarGothic style; but was renovated several times. The greater chapel has large dimensions, with Gothic ribbed vault roof and an interesting altarpiece dated from the 16th century.
In the choir, which is in the west facade, we can admire the magnificent baroque organ, dated from the 18th century, a recently restored masterpiece.

Las Reales Carniceríash[edit]

This is an ancient market-hall, in Spanish called Mercado de Abastos, on the left bank of the Zapardiel brook, was built under the Catholic Monarchs in 1500 inRenaissance style. Later, in the reign of Philip II, it was used for the sale of meat to the population. It is the only historic building of this type in the world still used for its original purpose.

La Calle Padilla (Padilla Street)[edit]

This lane connects the Main Square with St. Michael's Bridge (also called Puente de las Cadenas). This street was named in honour of Don Juan de Padilla, a communard leader of the Castilians in the 16th century (see Castilian War of the Communities); but earlier was named "Rúa Nueva" (New Road). Padilla Street was the downtown area where numerous banks and jewellery shops settled, and actually some of them still mains.
Whereas the financiers settled in Padilla Street, the other merchants were distributed in the Main Square according to Ordenanzas de Feriantes (Lodging Ordinances).

La Casa del Peso (The House of Pounds)[edit]

This building stands in the Main Square and is built over five elegant arcades with long balcony. It was established in 17th Century in order to keep the "Peso Real"(Royal Weight) and to guarantee the official weights and measures.

Royal Palace[edit]

This mansion was the residence of the royal family in the time of Fairs. In this palace many historical incidents happened during the 14th and 15th Centuries. The most important episode was the will and death of Isabel la Católica (Queen of Castile), 26 November 1504 (for this reason it is also called Palacio Testamentario,Testamentary Palace).
The Palace was started in the 14th century and was enlarged both by Don Fernando de Antequera (Lord of Medina del Campo and, afterwards, King of Aragon), as well as by the Reyes Católicos. It was restored three times, in 1601, 1603 and 1673. It was at one time much larger than the present-day building.















Friday, 29 November 2013

El Camino Levante - Day 11 Gotarrendura to Arévalo

Sadly the camera battery did not charge properly overnight and so I have fewer pictures of the day's walk - there was very sad face when I saw the dead battery sign on the camera!

The hermitage with the moon above,
just stunning!
The skies this morning were beautiful
as we walked from Gotarrendura
When I set off it was dark but with almost a full moon so it was easy to see and I could make out the arrows even in the darkness.  The guidebook says that the road we take may soon be swallowed up by crops unless measures are taken and that the waymarks that line it are buried in the fields.  However, not only does the way run parallel to the main road (so it's not possible to get lost) but I found that there was a tractor track - well used and easy to follow - all the way.  At the end of the stretch where you come out onto a round-a-bout at Hernansancho, there seems to have been a way, once, that headed further to the left and off the main road as I am sure I could see arrows there, but the new arrows take us over the road and through the town.  There is an amazing private gas station on the right at the round-a-bout which sold all sorts of things (including coffee) and which was very welcoming.  It was covered in pictures of sunflowers (the popular crop around here) and was the most delightful gas station I have ever seen!  If I had had my camera I would have photographed it - but the phone camera was not up to it at that time of day.
Bring out yer dead??

I met the support vehicle with its coffee and breakfast and warmed up before heading off again past a little hermitage - with the perfect moon suspended above it!  Cressa and Kaishi danced about and had the time of their lives chasing each other across the open fields.  As we had had access to a fridge at the Albergue, I had made fresh bocadillos and was well set up for the day's walk - good job as the day was one of tiny little villages without anything open!  Quite unusual in Spain to not even find a bar open.

We passed through fields of sunflower stalks with the odd faded sunflower still hanging.  I could imagine how amazing it must look when they are all in flower and moving in unison with the sun during the right season.  As we came to a little place called El Bohodón, it also exuded that Medieval feel, but being deserted and completely quiet, it was as if it was one of those Medieval towns robbed of its citizens by plague.  There was one old man squeaking towards us with a wheelbarrow and I half expected him to shout out any moment - "Bring out yer dead"!  He refrained.  In fact he refrained from even making a sound - yet I could see that ever burning question on his lips as he turned his head to look at us - yet all the while wheeling his barrow forwards - "Que raza?!"
Kaishi huddling agains the breeze by
the marker wishing us a Buen Camino!

As we walked on it was like a kind of Tombstone movie set... leaves whipping around us and desolate plains.  Where was Clint, with his cigar almost burnt out?

Arrow on the telegraph post
only seen if you turn to face the
way you just came!
Finally, we had coffee in Tiñosillos where we also found some lovely little lemon cakes.  I got a stamp at the ayunatmiento, willing but cheerless!  And once refreshed set off again to the end of the village... where immediately the arrows disappeared! Typical and just what we needed on one of the longer walking days!  We wandered up and down and a loose, overly "in the face" Labrador got far too up close and personal with Akina... the guy with it, letting it happen and doing little to help out.  I kept her moving but she was not happy - she likes to meet at a distance and take her time.  I was by now feeling exceedingly grumpy as we were wandering up and down the last houses - the guidebook telling us that the route took us between some houses.  In fact there were no markers to show this, but once we had found our way around the back via some markers that were more obvious when we walked in the opposite direction (!) we could have reached the route down one of the roads than ran between the new housing complexes.  The photos here show the building to look for and this is where you turn - there are (currently) recycling bins there, the sign on the wall and its yellow walls.

You are going "left" here - but the photo is taken as I turn right because
I had to turn round and walk back the way I had come.  This building and
its sign will be on your left as you come through the town of Tiñosillos,
but you can't see this sign unless you turn round to look!
Once we were on the right track - we made our way through the most incredible forest.  All pines but each with a little collection cup for resin.  The smell was heavenly and the trees themselves kind of ghostly and peaceful.  Looking up more information on this fascinating industry I found the following with the very interesting reason for the names of the different sources - as is often the case with some or our interesting English words, they originate from our seafaring history - in this case the Navy:


The resin harvested from various species of Pinus is undoubtedly the oldest and most important of the non-wood products from conifers. This subject has been discussed in-depth in a previous paper in this series (Non-Wood Forest Products Series nr. 2: Gum Naval Stores: turpentine and rosin from pine resin, Coppen and Hone 1995). Therefore, only a brief review will be given in this paper on pine resins, complemented by a review of resins obtained from other conifers. Resins obtained from non-coniferous trees are described in Non-Wood Forest Products Series nr. 6: Gums, resins and latexes of plant origin, Coppen 1995b.

Sources

Resin products from pines are commonly called naval stores. This term dates back to the days when the British Royal Navy used large quantities of resin products from pines to waterproof ships (Mirov and Hasbrough 1976). Today, three classes of naval stores are recognized based on their source (Coppen and Hone 1995):





1. Gum Naval Stores - These are obtained by tapping the trunks of living pine trees. This is the traditional source of resin and is a labour intensive process.
2. Sulphate Naval Stores - Are obtained during the conversion of pine wood chips to pulp via the sulphate or Kraft pulping process. Sulphate turpentine is condensed from the cooking vapours. A product known as tall oil is obtained from alkaline liquors and fractionated into products such as tall oil rosin and tall oil fatty acids.
3. Wood Naval Stores - Are obtained from resin saturated pine stumps long after a tree has been felled.


More interesting facts I discovered in my research are as follows:


At the beginning of the American Civil War, when Union forces were cut off from their normal turpentine sources in south-eastern United States, turpentine production was started in the pine forests of the California foothills. All went well if the resin was taken from ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa, but what turpentiners did not know was that the resin of Jeffery pine, P. jeffreyi, contained heptane, the same inflammable product found in petroleum. Even a trained forester or botanist can have difficulty separating these two species. Firing up primitive turpentine still loaded with pitch from Jeffrey pine was like building a fire under a gasoline truck. Heptane had to be distilled very carefully.
In 1890, a California druggist named D.F. Fryer, distilled heptane from Jeffrey pine in his laboratory and sold it as "Abietine" (oil of fir). In the 1900s, chemists determined that Jeffrey pine turpentine is 95 percent n-heptane (C7H16).
In 1924, the gasoline industry began tests that would ultimately result in smoother gasolines. A supply of heptane was needed for the research. Heptane from Jeffery pine was used in these tests for about two years, then a less complicated method of testing motor fuels was discovered. However, it was with the help of a pine tree that Dr Graham Edgar, then Research Director of the Ethyl Corporation, devised his now famous "octane" scale for measuring knocking qualities of gasoline (Mirov and Hasbrouck 1976).

Historical aspects

Pine resin has been an important commodity at least since biblical times, as attested to by the story of Noah receiving instructions from God to "pitch the ark within and without with pitch". The Roman statesman and poet Ausonius wrote about the tapping of pines for resin in Aquitania in the south-eastern part of France. The pine he referred to is Pinus pinaster.
The importance of pine resin to the British shipbuilding industry has already been mentioned. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when America was a series of British Colonies, the capacity of two indigenous pines: Pinus elliottii and P. palustris, to produce resins of excellent quality and quantity was recognized and naval stores became an important export commodity from the South Carolina and Georgia colonies. The tapping of resin from these pines was, until recently, a major industry in south-eastern United States when high labour costs reduced its profitability. Today, resin is produced in this region either via the sulphate pulping process or by extraction of resin from saturated pine stumps.


A question that came up for me was - does it damage the pines.  The article says the following:

If done properly, using methods which involve removal of bark only, tapping trees causes no damage to pines and they may be tapped for up to 20 years or more. Even the more traditional methods of tapping which involve some removal of woody tissue may not affect tree survival and trees can be seen in the wild with old tapping scars that seem otherwise quite vigorous. The risk of damage is heightened if excessive wood tissue is removed (Coppen 1995a).
http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0453e/x0453e10.htm

The day had grown hot and I was hungry and thirsty.  The pines stretched on and on, I could not imagine how many thousands there must be and the work involved in collection - I only saw one man in the distance through the trees who seemed to be working on a section of the trees.  There were some resting and without cups, but most were being tapped.

The castle in Arévalo - yet another "Hollywood" set!
The Roman Bridge
I finished my bocadillo and pretty much all my water before I met the support vehicle in a clearing as we neared the main road into Arévalo.  It looked like they would find a fabulous place to camp tonight and one where the dogs would be able to run and play without being disturbed or having to go two at a time.  It wasn't always possible for them all to play together as they can play a little too far and wide, not recommended if there are roads nearby or where there might be private property.  The last part of the journey takes the pilgrim all along the main road for a number of km's.  Not my favourite thing, and certainly not with the dogs.  It being a 27km day I elected to taking the dogs and myself the main part of the main road and into the busy town itself, by car (hitching a ride on our oxwagon as we call it!)...  The town seemed very uninviting - or certainly it seemed that way initially.  The hostal I had booked - Hostal Del Campo, was not particularly friendly or helpful but the room was (as every) very clean and on this occasion quite warm and the bed comfortable with a little balcony.  I could wash and dry clothes and enjoy the late afternoon sun coming through the windows.  Usually the hostals allow you to drop off your stuff and come down with your passport or NIE after settling in, but here, I had my paperwork demanded of me "immediately" so I had to walk back to the car (which was parked a couple of streets away) to pick it up.  When I did hand it in, the guy took a very long time writing out the details and it was not exactly "service with a smile"!  The experience was the exact opposite of Gotarrendura.  In fact, it was to be like this for the next few days - so for others following this route, stay and enjoy Gotarrendura, as it might be the last friendly place for a while!

Friendly police station is
housed in here - I got my stamp
from them
We decided on this occasion, as I had started very early directly from the accommodation and arrived earlier than expected, to go out and have some lunch and check out where we might eat for the night.  A soup would be perfect - especially as the weather was turning a little, although sunny there was a slight bight to the wind.  We headed into town and checked out the castle and Roman bridge before parking up and exploring on foot.  I hoped to find the police station for a stamp.

The palace area - all restored, where
Isabella was born 1451
Monument to the suckling pig - rather sad really as
the bronze statue is of a splayed out piglet!  
As we walked around we were aware of how old this town must be and its historical significance.  In places there are still Medieval allies, which reminded me of St John's Alley in the town where I grew up, Devizes in Wiltshire.  The name comes from Celtic word arevalon, meaning "place near the well."  The city is the capital of La Moraña and as we discovered from this statue and some of the plaques on the walls, Queen Isabella I of Castile (yes the same Isabella) was brought up here as a young girl. The government of Spain has declared this city a Historic-Artistic site due to its many examples of Mudejar art and a number of artists have also lived here - their monuments can be found in the Plaza Mayor near the police station and ayuntamiento.

Fabulous gargoyle along the street
heading toward the palace
One of the Medieval side
streets that reminded
me of Devizes
The area seems to be famous for the dish of suckling pig (cochonillo).  So much so that there is even a monument to it in the main street through the town!  We had heard of one restaurant with great reviews for it but they were closed that evening and we had missed lunch.  On average it seems to be around 26 Euros (between two) but most in Arévalo was around 16 Euros.  It seemed like an appropriately Medieval dish (given the route we were on) and no doubt it has been popular since the Caminos took the original Pilgrims to Santiago.  Near this monument we found a restaurant for lunch - we just wanted soup, but apparently this was not allowed in the bar.  We had to go into the outside eating area and then we were given bread (nothing unusual there) and brought out soup.  It was OK but not out of this world - the thing that was out of this world, or rather "out"rageous was the price and they charged for the bread!  The cost came to almost the same as two menu del días (20 Euros on average) and the service was definitely not with a smile!  Michael gave them a rather uncomplimentary review (justified) and we wondered how it is possible to be happy giving bad service these days when the internet and public reviews are just so easy.  Anyone can be a food critic - not just the big names known in the world of fine dining and Michelin Stars.

Slightly grumpy we headed back toward the Police Station, which we had found earlier but at lunch, and found another wonderful and friendly policeman to stamp my passport.  From here we headed off to have our afternoon rest and arranged to meet later for dinner.  On the way back we found a wonderful little hotel with a very friendly waitress who had learnt her English in Scotland (it was impressive how good she was as she claimed not to have understood a word) and booked for the evening.  It was hard to get her to speak Spanish as (is often the case in some of these towns) they want a chance to practice English as they don't always see English tourists, but we managed to twist her arm for part of the time.  When we returned later we were led to a dining room with a huge blown up photograph and one end of the running of the bulls through the town and the hotel, as it would have been, from around 100 years ago.  It reminded us of a similar photograph in Teruel and it was wonderful to sit and look at the different expressions on the faces, frozen into a moment in time from long ago.  The clothes were amazing and there were so many people from different walks of life all present together - ladies in fine clothes, men in cloth caps, breadsellers (with baskets of long loaves on their backs), children playing and people dancing...  Many carried umbrellas used as parasols and there weren't enough men to go round (even back then!) so there were ladies dancing with ladies as well as couples young and old taking a turn around the square.

As we headed for the car, there was a further bite to the wind and checking the forecast it told us of rain and storms to come over the next days.  I braced myself and decided to put my waterproof trousers in easy reach in my backpack!

Queen Isabella - info from Wikipedia.  This was her birthplace and where she had a palace.  We were to head to the place of her death and where she made her last will and testament the next day - Medina del Campo.    

Isabella I (SpanishIsabel IOld SpanishYsabel I; 22 April 1451 – 26 November 1504), also known as Isabella the Catholic, was queen of Castile and León (Crown of Castile). She and her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon, brought stability to the kingdoms that became the basis for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. After a struggle to claim her right to the throne, she reorganized the governmental system, brought the crime rate to the lowest it had been in years, and unburdened the kingdom of the enormous debt her brother had left behind. Her reforms and those she made with her husband had an influence that extended well beyond the borders of their united kingdoms. Isabella and Ferdinand are known for completing the Reconquista, ordering conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects and for supporting and financing Christopher Columbus1492 voyage that led to the opening of the "New World". Isabella was granted the title Servant of God by the Catholic Church in 1974.


At the time of her birth, her older half-brother Henry preceded her in the line of succession. Henry was 26 at that time and married but childless. Her younger brother Alfonso was born two years later on 17 November 1453 and displaced her in the line of succession.[2] When her father died in 1454, her half-brother ascended the throne as Henry IV. Isabella and Alfonso were left in Henry's care.[3] She, her mother and her brother Alfonso then moved to Arévalo.[4]
These were times of turmoil for Isabella. Living conditions in their castle in Arevalo were poor, and they suffered from a shortage of money. Although her father arranged in his will for his children to be financially well taken care of, her half-brother Henry did not comply with their father's wishes, either from a desire to keep his half-siblings restricted or from ineptitude.[3] Even though living conditions were lackluster, under the careful eye of her mother, Isabella was instructed in lessons of practical piety and in a deep reverence for religion.[4]
When the King's wife, Joan of Portugal, was about to give birth to their daughter Joanna, Isabella and Alfonso were summoned to court (Segovia) to come under the direct supervision of the King and to finish their education. Alfonso was placed in the care of a tutor while Isabella became part of the Queen's household.[5]

Isabella in the Rimado de la Conquista de Granada, from 1482, by Pedro Marcuello
Some of Isabella's living conditions improved in Segovia. She always had food and clothing and lived in a castle that was adorned with gold and silver. Isabella's basic education consisted of reading, spelling, writing, grammar, mathematics, art, chess, dancing, embroidery, music, and religious instruction. She and her ladies-in-waiting entertained themselves with art, embroidery, and music. She lived a relaxed lifestyle, but she rarely left Segovia as Henry forbade this. Her half-brother was keeping her from the political turmoils going on in the kingdom, though Isabella had full knowledge of what was going on and of her role in the feuds.
The noblemen, anxious for power, confronted King Henry, demanding that his younger half brother Infante Alfonso be named his successor. They even went so far as to ask Alfonso to seize the throne. The nobles, now in control of Alfonso and claiming that he was the true heir, clashed with Henry's forces at the Second Battle of Olmedo in 1467. The battle was a draw. Henry agreed to recognise Alfonso as heir presumptive, provided that he would marry his daughter, Joanna.[6] Soon after he was named Prince of Asturias, Alfonso died in July 1468, likely of the plague. The nobles who had supported him suspected poisoning. As she had been named in her brother's will as his successor, the nobles asked Isabella to take his place as champion of the rebellion. However, support for the rebels had begun to wane, and Isabella preferred a negotiated settlement to continuing the war.[7] She met with Henry and, at Toros de Guisando, they reached a compromise: the war would stop, Henry would name Isabella his heir-presumptive instead of Joanna, and Isabella would not marry without Henry's consent but he would not be able to force her to marry against her will.[8] Isabella's side came out with most of what they desired, though they did not go so far as to officially depose Henry: they were not powerful enough to do so, and Isabella did not want to jeopardize the principle of fair inherited succession, since it was upon this idea that she had based her argument for legitimacy as heir-presumptive.
At the age of six, Isabella made her debut in the matrimonial market with a betrothal to Ferdinand, son of John II of Navarre(whose family was a cadet branch of the House of Trastámara). At the time the two kings, Henry and John, were eager to show their mutual love and confidence and they believed that this double alliance would make their eternal friendship obvious to the world.[9] This arrangement, however, did not last long.


Just three months after entering Granada, Queen Isabella agreed to sponsor Christopher Columbus on an expedition to reach the Indies by sailing west (2000 miles, according to Columbus).[83] The crown agreed to pay a sum of money as a concession from monarch to subject.[84]
On 3 August 1492 his expedition departed and arrived in what is now known as Watling Island on 12 October. He named it San Salvador, after Jesus the Savior.[84] He returned the next year and presented his findings to the monarchs, bringing natives and gold under a hero's welcome. Although Columbus was sponsored by the Castilian queen, treasury accounts show no royal payments to him until 1493, after his first voyage was complete.[85] Spain entered a Golden Ageof exploration and colonization, the period of the Spanish Empire. The Portuguese did not recognize that South America belonged to the Spanish because it was on Portugal's sphere of influence and the Portuguese King John II threatened to send an army to claim the land for the Portuguese. In 1494, by the Treaty of Tordesillas, Isabella and Ferdinand agreed to divide the Earth, outside of Europe, with king John II of Portugal.
Isabella was not favorable towards Columbus' enslavement of the American natives and attempted to enforce the recent policies of the Canaries upon the 'New World', stating that all peoples were under the subject of the Castilian Crown and couldn't be enslaved in most situations. The principles she established would have very little effect during her lifetime, however.[86]

Expulsion of the Jews[edit]

With the institution of the Roman Catholic Inquisition in Spain, and with the Dominican friar Tomás de Torquemada as the first Inquisitor General, the Catholic Monarchs pursued a policy of religious and national unity. Though Isabella opposed taking harsh measures against Jews on economic grounds, Torquemada was able to convince Ferdinand.[citation needed] On 31 March 1492, the Alhambra Decree for the expulsion of the Jews was issued (See main article on Inquisition).[87]The Jews had until the end of July, three months, to leave the country and they were not to take with them gold, silver, money, arms, or horses.[87] Traditionally, it had been claimed that as many as 200,000 Jews left Spain, but recent historians have shown that such figures are exaggerated: Henry Kamen has shown that out of a total population of 80,000 Jews, a maximum of 40,000 left and the rest converted.[88] Hundreds of those that remained came under the Inquisition's investigations into relapsed conversos (Marranos) and the Judaizers who had been abetting them.[89]

Later years[edit]

Crown of Castile
Royal dynasties
House of Trastámara
Royal Coat of Arms of the Crown of Castile (15th Century).svg

Henry II
Children include
   John I
   Eleanor, Queen of Navarre
John I
Children include
   Henry III
   Ferdinand I of Aragon
Henry III
Children include
   John II
   Maria, Queen of Aragon
John II
Children include
   Henry IV
   Isabella I
   Alfonso, Prince of Asturias
Henry IV
Children
   Joanna, Queen of Portugal
Isabella I with Ferdinand V
Children
   Isabella, Queen of Portugal
   John, Prince of Asturias
   Joanna I, Queen of Castile
   Maria, Queen of Portugal
   Catherine, Queen of England
Joanna I
Children include
   Charles I
   Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor
Isabella received the title of Catholic Monarch by Pope Alexander VI, a pope of whose behavior and involvement in matters Isabel did not approve. Along with the physical unification of Spain, Isabella and Ferdinand embarked on a process of spiritual unification, trying to bring the country under one faith (Roman Catholicism). As part of this process, the Inquisition became institutionalized. After a Muslim uprising in 1499, and further troubles thereafter, the Treaty of Granada was broken in 1502, and Muslims were ordered to either become Christians or to leave. Isabella's confessor, Cisneros, was named Archbishop of Toledo.[90] He was instrumental in a program of rehabilitation of the religious institutions of Spain, laying the groundwork for the later Counter-Reformation. As Chancellor, he exerted more and more power.
Isabella and her husband had created an empire and in later years were consumed with administration and politics; they were concerned with the succession and worked to link the Spanish crown to the other rulers in Europe. By early 1497 all the pieces seemed to be in place: John, Prince of Asturias, married Archduchess Margaret of Austria, establishing the connection to theHabsburgs. The eldest daughter, Isabella, married Manuel I of Portugal, and Joanna was married to another Habsburg prince, Philip of Burgundy.
However, Isabella's plans for her two eldest children did not work out. John died shortly after his marriage. Isabella, Princess of Asturias, died in childbirth and her son Miguel died at the age of two. Queen Isabella I's crowns passed to her daughter, Joanna of Castile, and her son-in-law, Philip of Habsburg.[91]
Isabella did, however, make successful dynastic matches for her three youngest daughters. The death of Isabella, Princess of Asturias, created a necessity for Manuel I of Portugal to remarry and Isabella's third child, Maria, became his next bride. Isabella's youngest daughter, Catherine, married England's Arthur, Prince of Wales, but his early death resulted in her being married to his younger brother, Henry VIII of England.
Isabella officially withdrew from governmental affairs on 14 September 1504 and she died that same year on 26 November in Medina del Campo, but it is said that she had truly been in decline since the death of her son Prince John in 1497.[92] She is entombed inGranada in the Capilla Real, which was built by her grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (Carlos I of Spain), alongside her husband Ferdinand.
Isabella was short but of strong stocky build, of a very fair complexion, and had blue eyes, and had a hair color that was between reddish-blonde and auburn. Her daughters, Joanna and Catherine, were thought to resemble her the most. Isabella maintained an austere, temperate lifestyle, and her religious spirit influenced her the most in life. In spite of her hostility towards the Muslims inAndalusia which now is Spain and Portugal, Isabella developed a taste for Moorish decor and style. 

For more - as usual - just search on Wikipedia - there is no shortage of information on her!

One of the scary things we learnt is that her personal confessor was the infamous "Torquemada" Spain's first "Grand Inquisitor" and subject of some hilarity in Mel Brooks' film "History of the World, Part I".  For more accurate historical information - check out Wikipedia and the history books!


Tomás de Torquemada, (Thomas of Torquemada), O.P. (1420 – September 16, 1498) was a 15th-century SpanishDominican friar and the first Grand Inquisitor in Spain's movement to restore Christianity among its populace in the late 15th century. As well as being Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada was also the confessor to Isabella I of Castile. He is notorious for his zealous campaign against the crypto-Jews and crypto-Muslims of Spain. He was one of the chief supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. About 2,000 helpless heretics wereburned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition between 1480 and 1530.[1]
Torquemáda's manual of instructions to the Inquisition (Copilación de las Instruciónes del Offico de la Sancta Inquisición) did not appear in print publicly until 1576, when it was published in Madrid.

Establishment of the Holy Office of the Inquisition[edit]

Torquemada's concern towards Spanish Jews grew as he perceived them as gaining increasing religious influence on, and economic domination of, Spain; he became convinced they were trying to undermine the sovereign couple’s power and, even more importantly, Roman Catholicism. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella concurred, and soon after their accession to power petitioned the Pope to grant their request for a Holy Office to administer an inquisition in Spain. The pope granted their request, and established the Holy Office for the Propagation of the Faith in late 1478.

Grand Inquisitor[edit]


The Gothic entry way of IE UniversitySegovia, was formerly at theDominican convent of la Santa Cruz (the Holy Cross), where de Torquemada served as a prior.
The Pope went on to appoint a number of inquisitors for the Spanish Kingdoms in early 1482, including Torquemada. A year later he was named Grand Inquisitor of Spain, which he remained until his death in 1498. In the fifteen years under his direction, the Spanish Inquisition grew from the single tribunal at Seville to a network of two dozen 'Holy Offices'.[3] As Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada reorganized the Spanish Inquisition (originally based in Castile in 1478), establishing tribunals inSevillaJaénCórdobaCiudad Real and (later) Saragossa. His quest was to rid Spain of all heresy. Jewish conversos andmarranos (Jews who had converted to Christianity but continued practicing their religion in secret) fell prey to his fanatical hunt for heretics. Torquemada and his followers accused the marranos of proselytizing to Christian communities, and he urged all Catholics to spy on them. The Spanish chronicler Sebastián de Olmedo called him "the hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the savior of his country, the honor of his order".
In 1484, he promulgated 28 articles for the guidance of inquisitors, whose competence was extended to include not only crimes of heresy and apostasy but also sorcerysodomypolygamyblasphemyusury and other offenses; torture was authorized in order to obtain evidence. These articles were supplemented by others promulgated between 1484 and 1498.[citation needed] Torquemada headed an organization which imprisoned, tortured and burned even suspected nonbelievers at the stake, in numbers estimated at about 2,000.[citation needed]
Torquemada’s hostility to Jews probably influenced the decision of Ferdinand and Isabella to expel from their dominions all Jews who had not embraced Christianity.[citation needed] Under the edict of March 31, 1492, known as the Alhambra Decree, approximately 200,000 Jews left Spain. Jewish settlements in Spain pre-dated Catholicism; in the centuries before the expulsion, Jews had lent money to the King, many had served in the army fighting the Muslims, and others had served in government. Besides evicting the Jews, any right to collect debts from the crown was declared void. Following the Alhambra decree of 1492, approximately 50,000 Jews took baptism so as to remain in Spain; however, many of these—known as "Maranos" from Corinthians II, a contraction of anathema—were "crypto-jews" and secretly kept some of their Jewish traditions.[4] Accusations against the Spanish Inquisition for its extremism are supported by a papal bull of Pope Sixtus IVdating from early 1482 (even before Torquemada's appointment as Grand Inquisitor), affirming that
Many true and faithful Christians, because of the testimony of enemies, rivals, slaves and other low people — and even less respectable accusers — without tests of any kind, have been locked up in secular prisons, tortured and condemned like relapsed heretics, deprived of their goods and properties, and given over to the secular arm to be executed, at great danger to their souls, giving a pernicious example and causing scandal to many.[5]
Some claim that Torquemada made the procedures of prior inquisitions somewhat less brutal by moderating the then-widespread use of torture, limiting its use to suspects denounced by two or more "persons of good nature."[citation needed]; and by cleaning up the Inquisitorial prisons. The use of torture was intensified only if the accused refused to confess. Torquemada indeed showed no mercy to those who reappeared before the Inquisition as "relapsos" (relapsed heretics).[citation needed] Many were sentenced to life imprisonment. However, ringleaders or relapsos were usually publicly beheaded or burned at the stake. The condemned were made to wear a sanbenito, a penitential garment worn over clothes and of a design that specified the type of penitence. One type, worn by those sentenced to death, had designs of hell’s flames or sometimes demons, dragons and/or snakes engraved on it. Another type had a cross, and was worn instead of imprisonment, then hung in the parish church.[clarification needed]
Every Spanish Christian over the age of twelve (for girls) and fourteen (for boys) was accountable to the Inquisition,[citation needed] which at first held jurisdiction over only those who had converted to Christianity from Judaism or Islam but were suspected of secretly practicing their old rites, thus corrupting "the pure doctrine and faithful practice of the Christian faith."
Forced conversions by large numbers, often ordered by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, took place under significant government pressure. The Treaty of Granada (1491), as negotiated at the final surrender of the Muslim state of Al-Andalus, clearly mandated protection of religious rights,[citation needed] but this was reversed by the Alhambra Decree of 1492.
At the gate through Isabella's Palace
Anyone who spoke against the Inquisition could fall under suspicion, even Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross. Although the Inquisition is often viewed as being directed against all Jews and only Jews, it actually had no jurisdiction or authority over unconverted Jews or Muslims and never claimed to have any;[citation needed] only baptized Christians — in other words, persons claiming to be Catholics — faced possible investigation. Furthermore, of those called to appear before the Holy Office, most were released after an initial hearing without any further incident.
There is some disagreement as to the number of victims of the Spanish Inquisition during Torquemada's reign as Grand Inquisitor. Some scholars[specify] believe that he was responsible for the death of 2,000 people. Hernando del Pulgar, Queen Isabella’s secretary, wrote that 2,000 executions took place throughout the entirety of her reign, which extended well beyond Torquemada's death. In modern times, his name has become synonymous with the Spanish Inquisition horror, religious bigotry, and cruel fanaticism.
Above taken from Wikipedia...