Cycling the History of Rioja

Cycling Historic Rioja One of the great things about cycling around the Rioja region, is that it is not simply about the wine. In fact, even if you don't drink wine, there is still so much to enjoy in the region, in terms of both scenery and some incredible historic sites.

The Ebro valley was one of the earliest parts of the Iberian peninsula to be conquered by the Romans, and the monuments in Rioja reflect 2,000 years of often turbulent history. There are, of course, far too many to list here, but we can outline some of our favourite and most interesting sights.

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The Different Languages of Spain

Languages of Spain Spain is one of the most culturally diverse countries in Europe. There are seventeen autonomous communities in Spain, most of them with their own distnictive festivals, food and traditions; many of them also have their own language.

Our cycling holidays visit many of these regions, so here we look at the various languages in Spain; how they are related and how common they are in everyday usage, to ensure that you are well prepared.

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Cruz de Hierro - The Highest Point on the Camino de Santiago

Cruz Hierro Unlike Pico de Veleta, Alto d'Angliru or Lagos de Covadonga, the climb up to the Cruz de Hierro (Iron Cross) is not particularly challenging.

However, it is symbolically important as the highest point on the Camino Frances route of the Camino de Santiago. Like many places along the Camino de Santiago, it has its own tradition and legend, and it also offers fantastic views of the rolling hillside that characterises this region.

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Cycling in Spain - Salamanca

Salamanca Old Town Salamanca is a city of around 200,000 people in the Castile y Leon region of the country. It came to prominence in Roman times and, by the 12th century, had become one of the most important cities on the Iberian peninsular. Around this time the old cathedral was built as well as the University of salamanca, which soon became one of the most important universities in Europe.

Modern day Salamanca still boasts many of the historical buildings from this time, and the Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amongst the most impressive structures are several of the original university buildings, as well as many churches and convents of differing architectural styles.

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Xativa - Castles and Popes

Xativa Xativa is a town situated in the Valencia region of Spain, roughly equidistant between the two biggest cities in this part of Spain - Valencia and Alicante.

Like many of the towns in the area, Xativa grew to prominance in Roman times, where it had an important linen industry. It remained an important town throughout the Middle Ages, notably due to the fact that it was the birthplace of two popes.

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Guernica - The Immortal Town

Gernika Guernica (Gernika in Basque), is situated in the north of Spain, about 30 kilometres to the east of Bilbao. It is a small market town which, although having a prominent role in the development of Basque cultue, is fairly unremarkable. The town, however, has been immortalised by Picasso's horrific depiction of the bombing of the city during the Spanish Civil War.

Modern day Guernica retains a keen sense of its importance in the long history of the Basque country, and also in the modern history of Europe. In recent years, the town of Guernica has become a symbol for peace...

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Five Lesser-known Spanish Towns for History Lovers

Cities for History Lovers Spain is one of the most incredible countries to visit for history lovers. There are many cities with a great variety of historical influences; from the Moorish cities of Seville and Granada, to the impressive architecture in Barcelona and Valencia.

However, there also many towns and villages, much less visited than the big cities, that are of real historical interest. Here we look at five our favourites, which offer different aspects of Spanish and European history.

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Medina Azahara, Cordoba

Medina Azahara Medina Azahara is one of the many places of interest that we visit on our Historic Andalucia cycle tour. It may not be as well known as the Alhambra Palace in Granada, but Medina Azahara is a must visit for history lovers...

Situated just a few kilometres from Cordoba, Medina Azahara (meaning beautiful town in Arabic) was built in the 10th century as the capital of Muslim Spain.

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A History of The Catalan Independence Movement

Catalan Independence Anyone that has visited Catalonia will have noticed that there are significant cultural differences between the region and the rest of Spain, most notably the language. Catalans have also been considered outsiders by many Spaniards; a situation exacerbated by the prohibition of much of Catalan culture under the dictatorship of Franco.

Today, Catalan independence is back in the headlines, with effectively a vote for a referendum taking place in November 2012. While the motives now appear to be primarily economic, with social and cultural concerns not perhaps at the forefront of the movement, this was not always the case. Here we look at the popularity and success of Catalan nationalist movements in the period before the Civil War. We see that the movement had much popular support, from a wide base, and we look at some of the reasons why they did not follow this through to full independence.

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Semana Santa in Seville

Seville Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a big deal throughout Spain. In many English speaking countries, it is an excuse to have a few days off work and eat a bit of chocolate; in Spain, however, it is a week of processions, music and street parties.

Although it is celebrated throughout the country, the biggest and most famous is in Seville, the capital of Andalucia.

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Dia de los Reyes (The Day of the Kings)

The Dia de Los Reyes is an important festival in Spain. Celebrated on the 6th January, it is of course a festival marking the three kings that brought gifts to the baby Jesus. The day is nearly as important in Spanish culture as Christmas, especially for children; as it is on the Dia de los Reyes that presents are exchanged in Spain.

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Las Fallas Festival - Valencia

Valencia Las Fallas is one of the biggest festivals in Spain. The party starts in Valencia during the middle of March and takes place throughout the region.

The week long celebrations consist primarily of noise; but it is also a great chance to sample Valencian food at its finest, and to enjoy the great atmosphere in the city.

Have a read of the Cycle Fiesta guide to Fallas - to ensure that you don't miss a thing!

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