“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain!” ~ George Orwell
After our wonderful stay in Logroño, we headed towards the city of Zaragoza between Madrid and Barcelona. The drive was such a beautiful scene – clear blues skies, mountains afar, green landscape, and driving through small, old villages. Our stay was short but we did make sure we made the best of it by visiting as much as we could and taking in as much of the culture as possible.
Even though Zaragoza has over 2000 years of history, I found that it was a bit more modern looking than the other cities visited. It is a beautiful city too and the people were so courteous. Everywhere we stopped we were very well received. Spaniards were friendly and always offered suggestions as where to eat or what to visit. Among their suggestions were La Lonja Palace, The Aljafería Palace, San Salvador Cathedral and Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar (The Pilar Basilica), all a part of Zaragoza’s historic medieval styles, as well as renaissance and baroque elements.
The one that piqued my curiosity the most was The Pilar Basilica. It was October when we visited Spain and there are many celebrations during that month. In Zaragoza it was “Las Fiestas del Pilar,” in honor of the Virgin. The festival includes parades, music, food, concerts, exhibitions, arts & crafts, and fireworks. The celebration lasts nine days and the festival begins with the offering of flowers to the Virgin in a procession. People from all over the world come to partake in this celebration dressing in their native costumes. Reports show that over 400,000 people participate in the floral offering and that more than 5 million flowers are offered to the Virgin. On the days to follow, there are different offerings, praying of the rosary and many other activities until the ninth day. It is believed that the Virgin, which is the patron saint of Zaragoza, appeared to one of the apostles and told him that a church must be built in Plaza del Pilar Square, hence the celebration in her honor. While hearing the story of “La Pilarica” I was imagining this beautiful, large statue of the saint, therefore, I was surprised to see a statue of about 2-3 feet tall. Don’t get me wrong, it is beautiful but very small.
The Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar is a massive beautiful baroque art structure built between the 17th and 18th century. With impressive beautiful frescos painted by Goya above the choir area and the most famous “Pilarica” statue. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the basilica. But, we were able to gather the beauty of the outside structure in the photos below.
We stayed at the Hotel Ibis Zaragoza Centre just across the Ebro River from the Basilica. It was about a 10-minute walk to the Basilica and museum among other places. The rooms were clean and again, no yucky carpet – which I just love! Unlike the Ibis in Madrid, this hotel’s bed was comfortable. For 50€ a night you can’t go wrong. And, we were fortunate to have booked our reservation months in advance because, due to the festival, there were no vacancies available in this or any other hotel nearby.
We ate at “El Molino San Lazaro” on Calle Cecilio Navarro. Excellent service and great food with spectacular views of the river bank Ebro and the Basilica. It was a bit pricey at about €50 including wine, but it was worth it. I recommend this restaurant and a visit to Zaragoza. And, when you do visit, make sure not to miss the Basilica.
Zaragoza was the 4th city visited in Spain and I must say, I was not disappointed at all. Every city is as beautiful – if not more – than the previous. In my next blog I will take you to Valencia. So, stay tuned in for more of Spain.
If you’ve visited Zaragoza, what was your experience like?
[Some photos are courtesy of https://www.spain.info/en]