January 28, 2019
Day Trips from Madrid in Winter: Aranjuez

Day Trips from Madrid in Winter: Aranjuez

January 28, 2019
aranjuez madrid winter travel outfit royal palace gardens
The weather in Madrid is hardly ever frightful making it the perfect destination for your winter escapes. Apart from visiting the capital of Spain you can't miss some day trips like the beautiful town of Aranjuez. With its renowned Royal Palace and Gardens, Aranjuez is a magnificent touristic town located less than 50 kilometers south of Madrid.

Let's soak up Aranjuez's history, culture, gastronomy and legacy with a stroll around the town while listening to Concierto de Aranjuez a masterpiece that Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo dedicated to its magnificent gardens. Shall we?
aranjuez madrid winter royal palace gardens spain
These photos were taken right before Christmas when a group of gals and I went to visit our good friend and fellow blogger Johlene Orton. I had only been to Aranjuez once before, back in May 2013, and fell in love with the town. We took the train, cercanias, on a Saturday morning. It's 50 km from the center of Madrid which will take you 45 minutes by car or 45' by train if you take it from Atocha station. I always recommend public transport if you travel to Madrid. It's reliable and fast and you avoid the fuss of finding a parking spot. All you have to see in Aranjuez is within walking distance from the train station and a return ticket will only cost you 8€.
aranjuez madrid winter royal palace gardens spain travel outfit


aranjuez madrid winter royal palace gardens spain
THE ROYAL PALACE AND GARDENS
Aranjuez was the site the Bourbons chose to establish their spring residence. Philip II commissioned its construction back in the year 1561. The inside of the palace houses several works of art which will be the joy of art lovers. Be sure to take the guided tour inside the palace, you don't want to miss the jaw-dropping Sala de Porcelana (Porcelain Room) and the Gabinete Arabe (Arab Room), true masterpieces that are my personal favorites. Some people think that once you've seen a European Royal Palace you've seen them all, but I can assure you that Aranjuez's Palacio Real can change blow your mind.

Together with the breathtaking palace gardens, the town has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The gardens may not be in bloom at the moment but they are still stunning thanks to their great botanical variety.

The entrance fee to the Royal Palace is 9€ but you can visit the gardens for free. Find all the info about opening times and discounts here.

Read my spring guide to Aranjuez here
aranjuez madrid winter royal palace gardens spain chiquitren tourist train
WHAT TO SEE IN ARANJUEZ
If you like tourist trains you can take "Chiquitren" to explore Aranjuez. Tickets are available from the tourist booth in front of the Royal Palace.

Apart from visiting the Palace and taking a stroll around the gardens you must see the following sites:

  • The Royal Barge Museum. A museum of royal pleasure boats from the 17th to the 19th century.
  • Casa del Labrador. This 18th-century neoclassical building in the grounds of the Royal Palace houses a collection of royal objects. 
  • the bullfighting ring which dates from the 18th century.
Aranjuez is also a wine producing area so if you are a wine enthusiast, you can visit some wineries near this town. 

aranjuez madrid winter royal palace gardens spain
aranjuez madrid winter royal palace gardens spain
aranjuez madrid winter royal palace gardens spain
WHERE TO EAT IN ARANJUEZ
Johlene took us to a wonderful healthy restaurant called Planta. Highly instagrammable, healthy food and yummy desserts, the moment I walked in I was sold. I had an avocado on toast with egg, salmon, seeds and blueberries that I have recreated at home several times since.

Planta Restaurante
Instagram
Phone: +34 918 91 75 80
Google Maps

Read about healthy -and highly instagrammable- restaurants in Madrid here and here
planta restaurant aranjuez madrid spain vegan healthy
planta restaurant aranjuez madrid spain vegan healthy
planta restaurant aranjuez madrid spain vegan healthy
planta restaurant aranjuez madrid spain vegan healthy avocado toast
There are many more places in the region of Madrid that you've got to see including other World Heritage Sites like El Escorial or Alcala de Henares and charming towns like Chinchon.

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January 21, 2019
Affordable and Great Quality Fashion Brands you Can Find in Spain

Affordable and Great Quality Fashion Brands you Can Find in Spain

January 21, 2019
spanish fashion brands blogger style spain clothing wear
When you think about Spanish fashion brands, Zara is the first one that comes to mind. But there are many more clothing brands in Spain that locals can't get enough of and that you should know about. Some of you have asked me what do people wear in Spain? or what Spanish brands are popular in your country? So I've put together a list of my favorites. These brands reflect my style which is classy and feminine. Whenever I go shopping I look for things that are timeless but original, that the quality is good and that I won't have to break the bank to buy them.

So let's answer today's question: which clothing brands can you find in Spain of great quality at affordable prices?
spanish fashion brands blogger style spain clothing wear
All of the following brands have online stores. If you come to Spain you can find physical stores too and most of them are available at our biggest department store, El Corte Ingles which is similar to Bloomingdale's.

Read my guide to Fashion Shopping in Madrid
spanish fashion brands blogger style spain clothing wear
APPAREL
Inditex empire, to which Zara belongs, is the #1 Spanish fashion name in the world. It has big sisters like Massimo Dutti or Uterqüe which offer better quality but higher prices. Mango is another popular clothing brand from Spain but the quality is similar to Zara's.

El Ganso. Preppy style for him and her. Red, white and blue and the main colors. In this post I'm wearing a scarf and a shirt from the brand. There are El Ganso stores in many cities around Spain and corners in El Corte Ingles.

Lolitas & L. Women's apparel brand from which I love the knits. I love this cozy cardigan and this pom-pom sweater that I wear non-stop.

Adolfo Dominguez mixes trendy and classy style. It's a great option if you are looking for wedding guest dresses. There are AD stores all over Spain and corners in El Corte Ingles. They have clothing both for men and women.

Altona Dock. Surfer style inspired by Australia. They have clothing both for men and women. I have this gingham skirt with a bow that I know will always be one of my favorites.

Purificacion Garcia. A bit more expensive but great quality. Classy style. Their number 1 item are women's bags. Spanish gals including yours truly are crazy about them. You can find good leather bags prices starting at 110€. They have clothing both for men and women as well. There are PG stores all over Spain and it's also available in El Corte Ingles.

Highly Preppy. It's preppy with a twist. Their clothes are very original, more on the flamboyant side. The coat I'm wearing here is from Highly Preppy.

Bimba & Lola. Their accessories are extremely popular and all of their products are colorful and fun. They have stores all over Spain and it's also available at El Corte Inglés
spanish fashion brands blogger style spain clothing wear
spanish fashion brands blogger style spain clothing wear
SHOES
Unisa. All my pumps are from this brand. Their shoes are comfortable and modern.

Castañer. The king of espadrilles. They are on every fashion blog as soon as the temperatures go up. They have a collection for brides which I chose for my wedding.

Pretty Ballerinas. They make the prettiest ballet flats. They are a favorite among royals and it-girl Olivia Palermo who designed a collection with them.

Gioseppo. Comfy shoes, they have unique designs for sneakers. Spanish actress Elsa Pataky is the brand ambassador. My animal print sneakers that you see me wearing all the time are by Gioseppo.

There are stores of all of these in Madrid (and some other cities), in the rest of Spain you can find them at El Corte Ingles.
spanish fashion brands blogger style spain clothing wear
spanish fashion brands blogger style spain clothing wear

JEWELRY
Tous. My jewelry box is full of  Tous pieces. It's been the most popular jewelry brand for years thanks to its cute designs -the logo is an adorable bear- and affordable prices. Numerous international celebs including Jennifer Lopez and Kylie Minogue have been the face of their campaigns, the most recent being Gwyneth Paltrow. They have stores all around the world but the prices are higher than in Spain. The bag I'm carrying in this post is from Tous.

Uno de 50. The original idea was making just 50 items of each design making them very exclusive designs. They work with silver mainly and the designs are easy to recognize because they are so different from everything else.

Aristocrazy. Young and modern designs in precious materials like silver or gold.

Majorica. This jewelry brand form Mallorca focuses on pearls. My favorite pearl earrings are from Majorica.

All of these jewelry brands are available at El Corte Ingles.
Have you heard about these brands before? What's your favorite fashion brand?

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spanish fashion brands blogger style spain clothing wear
January 14, 2019
Parador de Gredos: a Luxury Hotel in the Spanish Mountains

Parador de Gredos: a Luxury Hotel in the Spanish Mountains

January 14, 2019
sierra parador gredos travel outfit winter spain luxury hotel
Parador de Gredos is a luxury hotel in Sierra de Gredos mountain range. It's located near the town of Navarredonda de Gredos. This is the first Parador ever created and opened its doors in 1928. This former hunting lodge and inn established by king Alfonso XIII, is the perfect starting point for hikes and excursions to unique spots such as Puerto del Pico -one of the best preserved Roman roads in Spain-, Laguna Grande de Gredos -a mountain pool- or Cinco Lagunas- a beautiful cirque. It's also close to historic towns like Arenas de San Pedro.

We chose this Parador to spend the first days of 2019 and today I'm going to tell you all about our trip. Let's find out what you can do, see and eat in Sierra de Gredos. It surely is one of the best experiences you can have in Spain.
parador gredos sierra decor luxury hotel spain
parador gredos sierra room habitacion luxury hotel spain
parador gredos sierra room habitacion luxury hotel spain
DAY 1
Breakfast in Paradores is by far our favorite compared to any other hotel we've ever been to. There's a wide variety of products and the quality is excellent. Home made cakes baked daily, fresh fruit, a vast array of cheese and cold meat... Plus, they always include a few things that are typical of the area. A copious breakfast is very much needed when you spend a day in the mountains.

Our plan for the day was to visit Arenas de San Pedro. The only way to get there is a winding road so be prepared if you suffer from car sickness. The 39 km will take you 43 minutes but the landscape is totally worth it. We stopped several times to take photos from vantage points. The town of Arenas de San Pedro is known for its cultural and historical heritage, and for Cuevas del Aguila, one of the marvels of El Tietar Valley where you can see stalactites and stalagmites.
valle tietar puerto pico sierra gredos avila
The first thing we did was taking a tour of the Medieval Castle. Oddly enough, the castle is in the middle of the town instead of being isolated on top of a mountain. Then, we saw the very well preserved medieval bridge and finally we reached the highest point in town from which you get lovely views of it, Palacio del Infante Don Luis de Borbon. The palace is neglected which made me feel really sad because the building is a lovely neoclassic building which could be beautiful if they took good care of it. At 1pm we started hearing Christmas carols, they are heard all around town for one hour every day. It was a wonderful moment: breath-taking views of the town in front of us, the sun keeping us warm and listening to Christmas songs...
arenas san pedro bridge puente medieval avila valle tietar sierra gredos
palacio infante arenas san pedro valle tietar sierra gredos avila
We had lunch at El Marquesito. We had taken a quick look at TripAdvisor and it came up as the #1 restaurant in Arenas de San Pedro. The sign on the door says "cooking with love feeds the soul", just with that first impression we knew we had chosen wisely. The place is like a life-size doll house with floral wall-papers in pastel colors. The ambiance makes you feel as if you were at your grandma's house eating a good old home-cooked meal. The staff was kind enough to find us a table even though the restaurant was full and we didn't have a reservation. The food was good, traditional and tasty. We had the 15€ menu which was well worth the price.
marquesito restaurant arenas de san pedro avila sierra gredos
Our next stop was Candeleda. The place is famous for typical houses with wood beams on their facade, similar to Tudor houses. Unfortunately, the town was a disappointment. We could only find one spectacular house. A few years ago we visited La Alberca and Mogarraz in Sierra de Francia which are far more beautiful and have many of those houses.
candeleda avila spain flower pot house wood beams casa macetas sierra gredos
It's worth stopping at Rio Pelayos on the (winding) road between Arenas de San Pedro and Candeleda. Picture this: trees covered in moss, a stone bridge, water flowing..., the landscape is stunning.
rio pelayos sierra gredos valle tietar avila
On our way back we stopped at one of Arenas de San Pedro's landmarks, Saint Peter's Sanctuary (Santuario de San Pedro) where they had an exhibition of nativity scenes from all around the world. The exhibition won't be back till next Christmas but it's totally worth it. The nativity scenes are influenced by the culture of the country which makes them so special. The ones from South America have bold colors like traditional Andean clothing. Others were made with chestnuts or pine cones. It's one of the most original things we've seen in a while. Just looking at the photos again I'm already feeling nostalgic about the Christmas holidays!
santuario arenas san pedro belen exposicion navidad
DAY 2
When we got back to the hotel after Day 1, we realized we hadn't enjoyed all the Parador had to offer so our plan on Day 2 was to do exactly that. After breakfast, the first rays of lights came through the windows, it was freezing outside but it was glorious inside. Because of the cold we were reluctant to take advantage of the sunny terrace, so we got our books and read in one of their beautiful living rooms. One of my favorite things about Paradores are their common areas. The decor is beautiful and you feel at home. While we were reading, we heard a little kid crying and saying he doesn't want to leave this hotel ever. Who can blame him?
sierra parador gredos common areas salones luxury hotel spain
sierra parador gredos common areas salones luxury hotel spain
From the Parador garden, you can walk through the spectacular pine wood at Navarredonda de Gredos. Breathing fresh air, hearing the sounds of the forest and seeing beautiful horses, we wonder if living in Madrid is such a great idea... Maybe we should start a new life in the countryside?

It's 14:30, time to go back to El Parador for lunch. Artisan cheese, patatas revolconas (potatoes with chorizo) and cochinillo (grilled piglet) are the delicacies you must try in this region.
sierra parador gredos menu gastronomia comida food typical
sierra parador gredos menu gastronomia comida food typical
Our evening consisted of taking photos around the hotel and playing board games. A game of Parchisi (I hadn't played since I was a kid!) feeling cozy by the chimney followed by a chocolate con churros never felt so good.


One of the main attractions of Parador de Gredos is the rooftop terrace from which you can see the stars. In summer, they organize an event where you can see the jewel of the crown, the Milky Way. Too bad it can't be seen in winter. Even if it was cold, we lay on a sunbed each and gazed at the stars for a while. The perfect final touch to a magnificent stay at Parador de Gredos.
sierra parador gredos stars night astronomy estrellas astronomia
GETTING THERE
From Avila: 65 km (52 minutes by car).
Parador de Gredos is north of Sierra the Gredos and Parador de Oropesa is on the south of the mountain range so if you want to do the whole tour I recommend you see both of them on the same trip. Only 85 km (1 hour and 15 minutes by car) separate them.

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sierra gredos avila mountain range spain hike nature historic town
parador gredos sierra avila luxury hotel spain navarredonda nature mountain hike unique

January 6, 2019
Oropesa, a Hidden Gem Near Toledo, Spain

Oropesa, a Hidden Gem Near Toledo, Spain

January 6, 2019
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
Toledo is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain due to its impressive amount of heritage sites. If that wasn't enough, the region has even more to offer like the charming town of Oropesa.

Oropesa is one of the oldest inhabited sites in Spain, dating back to 1761 BC when the legend says that Hercules founded the town. For centuries, Oropesa has served as refuge for monks, nobility and travelers. The main tourist attraction is its 14th century castle now part of El Parador de Oropesa, a luxury four-star hotel. This Parador was once the home of the Alvarez de Toledo family, counts of Oropesa. The count, Francisco de Toledo, served as the viceroy of Peru from 1569 to 1581. In 1930, it was converted into the first historic Parador of this government-owned hotel chain. Apart from a walk through history, from the Parador you get spectacular views of the Sierra de Gredos mountain range.

Read more about castles in Spain you can stay in here

We arrived in Oropesa on the morning of December 26. We had spent Christmas in Don Quixote's land and the weather was spectacular: not a single cloud in the sky and surprisingly mild temperatures even for the Spanish winter.

Read more about Don Quixote's trail here
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
We started by exploring Oropesa. The region is famous for its craftsmanship, embroidery, ceramics and tiles in particular. The latter is present in many facades around town. You can also find many instances of Catholic heritage including churches and monasteries or convents.
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
We had lunch at the Parador. We often chose this type of hotel to eat because we know the quality is going to be excellent and they always have typical dishes of the region. They offer a 32€ menu which includes a starter, a main dish and dessert. Typical dishes here have pastoral origins like migas (bread crumbs), lamb, stewed partridge or artisan cheese.
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel food
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel food
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel food
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel food
Before the sun went down we visited the castle and learnt a bit more about the history of Oropesa.
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel

After a busy day exploring the town, an inviting door leads you back to the Parador. All that's left to do is read or relax in one of the Parador's common areas or go back to your room for a good night's sleep on a hand-painted canopy bed. We'll never be royals but thanks to Paradores can get a feeling of what it would be like...
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
parador oropesa toledo spain history castle luxury hotel
GETTING THERE
Madrid - Oropesa: 156 km (1h 40min by car), highway A-5
Toledo - Oropesa: 118 km (1h 8 min by car), highway A-5