Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Paris and Northern Spain: Day 9

by Kathy 13. November 2010 21:27

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<< Day 8: Tolosa—Basque Town Extraordinaire | Day 10: Zaragoza to Barcelona >>


Zaragoza—Cathedrals and Roman Ruins


In a corner café, we sat elbow to elbow with the locals, sipping our cups of espresso (and hot chocolate) and eating pastries. The children wrote in their journals, and Ben and I nodded and exchanged smiles and hellos with the people around us.  The town of Tolosa was just as enchanting in the morning light.

When checking out of our hotel, we told the desk clerk how much we had enjoyed our stay in Tolosa. She responded that twenty years ago the town was much more industrial, with many paper mills; she added that the town has changed a lot, and she thinks that it is now much nicer.

Here is Genevieve in our rental car outside the hotel:

Tomorrow we needed to be in Barcelona, along the Mediterranean Sea, for a family gathering. Our goal today was to drive about 2 ½ hours to reach the city of Zaragoza, which was almost half way between Tolosa and Barcelona.

Our route out of Tolosa crossed over the Oria River, where we caught one last view of the arches that span the Tinglado marketplace:

We threaded our way through the narrow streets on the other side of the river:

On the outskirts of town, the clouds were resting low on the hillsides:

Around a few curves was a paper mill:

Our two-lane road crossed a small series of mountains. Here are some buildings we saw along the way:

We eventually connected with a larger highway that ran above the clouds.

We were taking this highway south, all of the way to the city of Zaragoza.

The freeway signs were in the Basque language:

While the Basque language has been influenced by Spanish and French words over the years, it is not related to any Indo-European language, and its origins remain a mystery.

We joined the lines of cars waiting to pay a toll for the privilege of driving on the expressway.

The tolls on Spanish highways are very expensive—1.9 Euros here, 3.2 Euros there, 4.85 Euros there again, and 7.65 Euros further down the road. The cost added up. We paid over $24U.S. in tolls in less than an hour of driving. I can only imagine the uproar back home if Californians were faced with paying comparable fees. (But perhaps road repairs would be well funded, and people might drive less.)

This tall sculpture was on guard at the northern edge of Pamplona:

Pamplona is famous for its annual running of the bulls, and Ben had experienced that event many years ago.

Continuing south, we passed a long expanse of the Aqueduct Noain.

The aqueduct was completed in 1790 to bring water to Pamplona from about 10 miles away (the springs of Subiza). Today, it is no longer used to transport water. Some of the arch supports had to be removed when the railroad, and later the highway, were constructed under the aqueduct. In the photo below, you can see where one of the arch supports is missing where the railroad tracks go underneath (about 1/3 over from the left side):

Genevieve missed the sight of the aqueduct, lost in her own dreams.

Sebastian was still awake, and was quick to show me “Kitty”, his faithful companion since he was an infant (slowly but surely being loved to death).

The mountains of the north gradually flattened out as we continued our southward journey, leaving the Basque area. Before reaching the plains, we traveled through a series of rolling hills. Some of the hilltops had towns on them:

And occasionally, there were the remnants of an old castle:

One stretch of hills was covered with wind turbines and electrical towers:

Along with the wind turbines were some fields of solar panels:

There was no sun today, however. The rain was still pouring when we reached Zaragoza. Here is a modern pedestrian bridge that leads from the city’s train station and crosses the busy ring road:

A tall obelisk stood in the middle of Plaza de Europa, located in a traffic circle:

We easily found our hotel in the heart of the city—Hotel Sauce.

The receptionist did not speak English, but she was friendly and very patient with our Spanish. We had a double room on the top floor. Here are Genevieve and Sebastian peeking from the window:

The view down the street:

To find a good lunch spot, we headed away from the Plaza del Pilar area, and took some narrow alleys to reach the Bodeguilla de Santa Cruz.

We were welcomed heartily by the man behind the bar area. We ordered various tapas, which were so good that we ended up ordering more. Here we are, waiting for the food to arrive:

We then strolled down the main street toward the Plaza del Pilar:

The Plaza was immense, with the impressive Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a Roman Catholic church, on the north side:

Genevieve and Sebastian loved the freedom of running across the wide open spaces in the Plaza:

We walked from one end of the Plaza to the other. Looking back:

Another view of the Basilica, with its domed and tiled rooftops:

We caught a bride holding hands with one of the many statues in the Plaza:

At the far end of the Plaza was this large round globe sculpture:

Beyond that was the Fuente de la Hispanidad, which celebrates the Hispanic world with an elevated map of Latin America. Here is Sebastian dipping his hands into the top part of South America, which has water running down the jagged top edges (with Panama and the rest of Central America extending off to the upper right):

The tall backside of the fountain appears as a blue-block structure that seemed incongruous with the rest of the Plaza:

Beyond the fountain was the 17th century Church of San Juan de Los Panetes, with its octagonal brick tower that leans distinctly to one side.

The church was closed to the public.

Keeping the Plaza del Pilar clean was a little green street sweeping machine:

After exploring the Plaza area, we retraced our steps and entered the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

This building is named after the pillar that stands in the center of the church. The Virgin Mary supposedly appeared here to St. James in 40 A.D., while he was praying by the river about his mission to spread the Gospel in Spain. He claimed that Mary gave him a column of jasper and a small wooden statue of herself, and told him to build a church here in her honor. This apparition is unique because it is the only one to have occurred while Mary was still alive, before her accension, and it resulted in the construction of the first church dedicated to Mary. Countless people have come (and continue to come) here in pilgrimage, standing in line to touch a portion of the pillar (the jasper column) given by Mary.

We didn’t snap any photos of the pillar out of respect for the line of people waiting to touch it.  But here is a picture that we extracted from Wikipedia:

We had read that the views from the Torre (tower) in the northwest corner of the church were incredible. The idea of climbing narrow spaces was a magnet for Genevieve and Sebastian, and we eventually found the tower entrance outside the back of the church. After paying a small fee, we boarded an old-fashioned elevator with a metal grate door and started up through the tower.

Inside the elevator:

Looking down the elevator shaft:

We then started climbing up into the tower top.


Genevieve and Sebastian, almost at the top:

Wow! The views were indeed breathtaking!

The River Ebro, looking east:

Looking west, down onto the Plaza del Pilar, we could see the raised design of the Fuente de la Hispanidad, with the long shape of South America filled with water.

At the eastern end of Plaza del Pilar was the tall tower of La Seo Cathedral, which was constructed on top of both Moorish and Roman ruins.

From way up here, we could see the colorful tiles on the church roof:

Sebastian, Ben, and Genevieve, at the top of the tower:

After we had soaked in our fill of the glorious, panoramic views, we headed back down the winding staircase:

I must add, however, that those stairs can be slippery! In a maneuver that I am grateful was not captured on film (but which involved a spectacular “save” at the end), I acquired some scrapes while descending.

Genevieve and Sebastian walking back to the hotel on the wide, clean sidewalks:

On the way, the ice cream (helado) shop enticed us!

Sebastian finished his ice cream cone back at the hotel:

The view from our window showed some sunny blue skies—a rarity on this trip!

After a brief rest, we headed out again—this time to see the Roman ruins at the Ceasaraugusta Theater Museum. The museum was only a short walk from our hotel.

The historic area of Zaragoza sits on the former site of a Roman city named Ceasaraugusta, the only Roman city to bear both the first and last name of its founder, Ceasar Augustus. The city is believed to have been founded in 14 B.C., and it thrived during the 1st and 2nd centuries. In 1972, the remains of a large Roman Theater were uncovered by a construction crew that was preparing a piece of ground for a new building. Of all the structures that remain of Ceasaraugusta, the Theater is the best preserved. It is believed to have been built in the 1st century A.D.  

After the Theater was discovered in 1972, the area was excavated and a museum was built in 2002.

The museum interior had some models of how archeologists believe the Theater originally appeared. Here is Genevieve with a small-scale model:

And here she is with a larger-scale model:

Archeologists believe that the Theater had retractable sheets of velum over the top to shield the spectators.

The museum also had some pieces of sculpture and architectural details that had been uncovered during the excavation.

From the large viewing windows, we could look out onto the Theater remains:

We also walked through the Theater on a wooden platform path:

Here is the stage:

The seats closest to the stage, in the orchestra, were reserved for senators, priests, magistrates and other high officials. The seats above them held the knights. The next set of seats held colonists, residents, and freedmen. Women and slaves had to stand in the upper tiers, unless there were any free seats remaining.

As we walked through the Theater, each section had an explanation with an illustration to show how the original might have looked. Here is Genevieve in front of an area that is believed to be the exterior façade of the Theater:

The central area:

Other parts of the Theater:

During its heyday, the Roman theater depicted all aspects of Roman life, and was attended by men, women, slaves and senators. Comedy and mime appealed to a wider audience because they were easier to understand, while tragedies required an audience that was familiar with Greek culture.

Genevieve and Sebastian put their faces against some theater masks and looked at their reflections in a mirror.

The Theater Museum had detailed, interactive exhibits covering the history of the Roman Theater site, from the time it ceased to be a theater to the present day. We learned that Theater attendance had gradually declined over the years, as it was competing for an audience with the more exciting circus and amphitheater.  In the 3rd century A.D., the city residents began taking stones from the Theater to reinforce the city walls against attacks from barbarians.  Performances in the Theater came to an end when the orchestra and first layer of seats were filled in with dirt, creating a large flat area.  Later in the 3rd century, people began using the Theater as living quarters. During the following centuries, it was used as rubbish dump, and eventually became part of the Muslim Quarter, then part of the Jewish Quarter, and finally part of the Christian community.

We all thought that the Theater Museum was fascinating, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

Our next quest was to find a dinner restaurant. After much walking, and circling through a section of twisting streets, we located the restaurant that was highly recommended in our guidebook; but it was packed with no empty tables. Another lively restaurant down the street had a free table; however, after we were seated, no one ever came to take our order. After 15 minutes, we left.

Here is some graffiti art that we passed in our restaurant search:

The next restaurant we tried was empty (which should have been a big red flag in light of how packed all the other restaurants were). The man at the door did not return my “Buenas tardes”, although Ben (behind me) got a nice greeting. When I sat down at an empty table, the man rushed at me and started yelling—apparently because he needed to put silverware down first. Yikes! We skedaddled.

We finally found a welcoming place called Café Tertutia, which was more like a pub, with a large bar area and the World Cup playoffs on TV. For us, there was a free table and delicious plates of tomato and avocado salad, calamari, and a dish with fried eggs, potatoes and shrimp. Over dinner, we watched an exciting soccer match between the U.S. and England.

Sebastian and Genevieve were tired but content:

We had originally chosen Zaragoza for its location as a “good stopping point” on our way to Barcelona. However, we had been surprised at all of the wonders that this city had to offer—beautiful cathedrals, amazing views, and a rich history that included Roman ruins. We would be heading to Barcelona tomorrow morning. But Zaragoza was definitely a city that would leave us wanting more.


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Comments (2) -

11/13/2010 10:57:00 PM #


do you keep a travel journal as you go along?  i'm always surprised at how thorough your notes are.  and as you usual, i love the photographs and how inclusive you are with the kids.  our "bankie" doesn't look like it's long for this world after four short years.  she might have two or three left, piece by piece.  i'm impressed kitty has made it this long.  charlie would not have been so kind or responsible.  good job sebastian...

becky United States | Reply

11/14/2010 9:52:41 AM #


Hi, Becky!  Yes, I keep a small notebook to jot down tidbits of information (such as the toll road costs).  Most of the time, however, I just rely on the many photos we took to jog my memory of what happened.

Kitty is indeed a world traveler--we don't leave home without her!  Actually, we were concerned about losing Kitty when Sebastian was an infant, so we started with 3 Kitties and rotated them so that they would wear evenly (hiding two of them out of sight).  We did lose one, but Sebastian never knew.  And then one day, when he was about 3, Sebastian discovered that Kitty really was "twins."  (We thought he would be traumatized, but we played it up as an exciting discovery.)  From then on, he has had "Kitty" and "Kitty Number Two" to snuggle with at night.  Kitty Number Two is in much better shape now because she gets less love.  Only the original Kitty comes on our travel adventures.  I imagine that Sebastian will not include her on his packing list at some point.

Kathy United States | Reply

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
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   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin