From Alicante to Zaragoza

Our travels in 2019 found us exploring cities and towns from Alicante to Zaragoza and everywhere in between.

La Lonja Exhibition Hall

Built in 1541-1551, this former renaissance styled Merchant or Commodity Exchange has been a temporary exhibition hall for decades. The interior of the building is elegantly decorated with carved plaster, beautiful arches, ringed columns and a ceiling with ribbed vaults. We are always curious each time we come across a coat of arms. Based on what we have learned we can now begin to recognize symbols and who they belonged to in a coat of arms, at least in some countries and cities. The city of Zaragoza’s coat of arms was displayed in the museum’s entrance hall.

Ceiling of La Lonja

The evening we visited La Lonja, a local contemporary artist’s paintings we being shown. The show was called ‘The vigor of the doubt’ by Julia Dorado. (1941-) The show had 73 works she created over the past two years. A large collection of paintings are on canvases and a smaller collection of paintings on newspaper. Contemporary art either appeals emotionally to the viewer or not. Personally this artist’s work spoke to us and we enjoyed both the contemporary exhibition and the beautiful Renaissance environment of the La Lonja building.

“Not my blue prince” by Julia Dorado

Grande José Antonio Labordeta Park

The Grande José Antonio Labordeta is a park in the city of Zaragoza that officially opened to the public in 1929 by Miguel Primo de Rivera. For many years it was called Primo de Rivera park and popularly known as Grande park, but after the death of Zaragoza resident José Antonio Labordeta in 2010, a singer, songwriter and politician, the Zaragoza City Council changed the name of the park to honor his memory. In the background of the photo below is a statue of Alfonso I of Aragon, El Batallador (the Warrior), who captured the former Moorish capital of Zaragoza in 1118.

Grande José Antonio Labordeta Park

Mid November may not be the ideal time to visit gardens but having a generous green space in the center of any city momentarily offers a tranquil escape into nature. We discovered a handsome music kiosk, multiple pathways, appealing fountains, statues and monuments, a rose garden, a winter garden and a botanical garden with an attractive pond full of swans, ducks, geese and other assorted waterfowl. In the center of the pond was a small island where we admired an exotic water clock, the third we have come across this year.

Water Clock

El Instituto Aragonés de Arte y Cultura – IAACC

We spotted a bold black and turquoise building standing twice as tall as the buildings surrounding it when we were on the top of Basílica del Pilar. Both the unique shape and the striking color combination were compelling and we were delighted to discover the building was a cultural center and museum.

The Aragon Institute of Contemporary Art and Culture, popularly known as Museo Pablo Serrano opened in 1994. In 2005 the initial space was extended, tripling in size the usable square footage of the museum. Isn’t it a beauty?

El Instituto Aragonés de Arte y Cultura – IAACC

Exposition of Pablo Serrano

The Aragónese Pablo Serrano (1908-1985) was an abstract sculptor. His permanent exhibition consists of nearly 100 works, the majority of them being sculptures. His earliest works called “Irons” named because the artist collected rubble like iron and nails and meshes from scrap yards and created abstract shapes with them and his final series entitled “The Guitar and Cubism” – Serrano’s interpretation of the guitars of Picasso’s paintings.

Guitar #18 by Pablo Serrano

The IAACC also houses temporary exhibitions of contemporary paintings and sculpture. Currently on display are works from two Aragónese artists.

Antonio Fernández Alvira, (1977-) “Elements for a Speech” showed linear iron sculptures which complemented Serrano’s work. We liked how the shadows of each piece became a part of the art.

Antonio Fernández Alvira, (1977-) “Elements for a Speech”

Teresa Ramón, (1945-) “The cage has become a bird” displayed large painted canvases and one gigantic very cheerful mural that wrapped around the walls of two entire rooms. This artist uses intense colors and abstract shapes beautifully.

Teresa Ramón, (1945-) “The cage has become a bird”

Palacio de la Aljafería

Aljafería Palace is said to be one of the most important monuments of 11th century Hispano-Muslim architecture. Aljafería was used as a model for the Alcázar in Sevilla and the Alhambra in Granada.

Having visited all three sites, we felt that although this palace may not be as large as the other two, it has been extremely well preserved and reflects some of the splendour attained by the kingdom of the taifa of Zaragoza at the height of its grandeur.

There are magnificently reconstructed rooms and ceilings and we saw wonderful examples of Islamic art and architecture in Alfajería.

The small private mosque also reminded us of the glorious Mosque of Córdoba.

Interior of the Palacio de la Aljafería

Built by the Moors between 1065 and 1081 as a symbol of the power achieved by the Taifa of Zaragoza. The sultan called his palace “Qasr al-Surur” (Palace of the Joy) and his throne room the “Maylis al-Dahab” (Golden Hall). After the reconquest in 1118 by Alfonso I of Aragón, the palace became a residence for the Christian Kings. Over the centuries the palace has undergone many reformations and expansions. A final restoration was completed in the second half of the 20th century to share a corner of the palace as a permanent home for the Aragonese autonomous parliament.

The oldest construction of the Aljafería is a 9th century defensive tower called Troubadour Tower. The tower received this name from Antonio Garcia Gutierrez’s 1836 romantic play, El Trovador (The Troubadour). Then in 1853 Giuseppe Verdi created his opera ‘Il Trovatore’ based on Gutierrez’s play and Zaragoza’s Troubadour Tower. 🎶

Palacio de la Aljafería

Tradition and modernity merge successfully in Zaragoza. The contemporary style of the Museum of Caesaraugusta built next to the Mudejar style of La Seo Cathedral is one of many examples of how great these styles compliment each other. See our photo in our blog Thanksgiving in Zaragoza.

There were a number of principal sites we had hoped to visit but each is currently closed due to restoration work. First the pedestrian Bridge Pavilion that crosses the Ebro river that was constructed for Expo 2008 by Dame Zaha Hadid an Iraqi–British architect. It is the most interestingly shaped bridge we have encountered. It was designed to be shaped like a gladiolus, splitting into 3 branches.

Bridge Pavilion for Expo 2008 designed by Dame Zaha Hadid

Two other closures were the huge Central Market – built in 1903 right in the center of the city. Third was the Water Tower building, the symbol of the 2008 Expo, which houses Splash, a unique sculpture representing an enormous drop of water falling onto a surface. The header photo above, called the Palaces of Congress, also closed, is another example of the creativity of the architects from the 2008 Exposition.

Seeing these structures from afar definitely peaked our curiosity and we hope we may visit these sites if we pass through Zaragoza in the future.

Salud from these Zaragozano,

Ted and Julia

View our Aljafería Palace photo gallery here

View our IAACC Pablo Serrano photo gallery here

View our José Antonio Labordeta Park photo gallery here

View our La Lonja Exhibition Hall photo gallery here

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