Tag Archives: Knights Templar

Madrid – Spain



While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets.  This reason is perhaps why we so love to visit this magnificent city.  We always stay in the old section near the center so that we can walk to all the interesting places.  We find Madrid to be so clean, friendly and fun.

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Madrid  landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; a large number of National museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

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Many contend that the original name of the city was “Ursaria” (“land of bears” in Latin), because of the many bears that were to be found in the nearby forests, which, together with the strawberry tree have been the emblem of the city from the Middle Ages.  Whatever the derivation of her name, she remains a noble and beautiful city of the world.

When Toledo surrendered to Alfonso VI of León and Castile,

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 Madrid was conquered by Christians in 1085, and it was integrated into the kingdom of Castile as a property of the Crown.

This becomes important to us because King Alfonso has added Augustine’s family (PENALVER) to the Royal Court just before and given them the Cross of St. John, symbol of the Templars as their crest…

….which is also the Flag of the Country of Malta….where the Knights of Templar took possession of the island, a gift of the Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII.,

 including the Knight Penalver from Spain….

The Penalver Family has left their Castle in Penalver, Spain to join King Alfonso IV in re-establishing the Royal City of Madrid….


Madrid has a beautiful street named after the Penalver’s first Count……

El Calle del Conde de Penalver…


The perfect place to stop and enjoy a coffee….


 Christians replaced Muslims in the occupation of the center of the city, while Muslims and Jews settled in the suburbs…

The Calle de Conde de Penalver begins with this iconic street corner…


On this trip we began and ended our visit to eight countries in Madrid.  From the photos you will see the difference in the weather during those visits.  The initial visit was cold and overcast and the end visit was sunny and fair, as you can see from these photos of the Plaza Mayor…

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We always stay in the Hotel Ibis Prado, which allows us to exit the lobby and find ourselves in the middle of the old city.

The hotel has a Wine Theme, which works perfectly for our tastes!  We always stay on the top floor and have a private balcony, wonderful for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening…

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The colors and art of the hotel are so vibrant and reflect this wonderful city….

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One evening we were sitting on the balcony and suddenly the city erupted in firework, music and shouts from every direction!  We were astounded by the noise.

We had to go out into the streets to see what had transpired………they were PACKED with thousands of happy people…

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Oh……..Madrid had just won the world cup in Soccer ……….how we get it!!  Of course we joined in the fun!

I suppose our favorite part of visiting Madrid is the food……..TAPAS……..TAPAS………TAPAS……..

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One of a fast, fun, favorites is el Museo de Jamon, located near the Plaza Mayor…..there are many other locations; however, this one is always the best…

Here is the inside…………a world of culinary delights…….

We had to order EVERYTHING…..

Then of course there is Meson el Jamon de Gran Via…….with the best croquettes EVER….

………….oh and then there was this place…….I have forgotten the name!

…..but the Serrano Jamon and Seafood Delights were amazing…..

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Perhaps some crepes at Cerveceria Santa Ana…..

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At the heart of the old city lies the Plaza Mayor…..a center of continuous activity and to be entered through these marvelous arches….

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Once inside the world changes………

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the street performers delight and entertain…

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Here are some more shots of this most beautiful city…..

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…..one of our most FANTASTIC dining experience of our lives took place just outside the Plaza Mayor…

El Rincon de Madrid…an unassuming small place with a typical Tapas Bar….the difference…at the end of the bar is a stair case leading down into a vaulted chamber that dates to Knights Templar…

europe2 895The staircase open into this most marvelous dining area with four small tables….the owner shows us around…europe2 891

We have the place to ourselves………..

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The food is wonderful……….but the experience is over-the-top!!

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The Paella from his Grandmother’s recipe……..he said he is still trying to perfect it to what she prepared….a true passion and love for food…

We so love visiting this most wonderful city and look forward to returning again soon….

The Alcazar of Segovia – Spain


….and so it begins, our journey to The Alcazar of Segovia

She sits upon the hilltop guarding over the town, her steady gaze upon us.


Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship.

The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then.

The castle is one of the inspirations for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain , started off as an Arab fort, which itself was built on a Roman fort but little of that structure remains.

The first reference to this particular Alcázar was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands in the days of  Alfonso VI of León and Castile

Throughout the Middle Ages The Alcazar remained one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defense of the kingdom.

It was during this period a majority of the current building was constructed and the palace was extended on a large scale by the monarchs of the Trastámara dynasty.

Below is a picture of The Throne Room…..

In 1258, parts of the Alcázar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X of Castile after a cave-in and soon after the Hall of Kings was built to house Parliament.

The Hall of Kings is a most majestic place and carvings of all the Kings adorn the walls and these ancient Monarchs look down upon the visitors of today…

However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar is King John II who built the ‘New Tower’ (John II tower as it is known today).

In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I of Castile.

On 12 December news of the King Henry IV‘s death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of this Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia’s council.

She was crowned the next day as Queen of Castile and León.

There is a very large painting of the Coronation that is just breathtaking…

The interior of the Castle of Segovia is in perfect accordance with the magnificence of its exterior. Many apartments are decorated with delicate traceries and pendant ornaments, in the style of the Alhambra

The Templar Iglesia Vera Cruz (Church of the True Cross) is the most interesting of several splendid Romanesque churches in Segovia and is visible from the windows of The Alcazar

The Church was consecrated in 1208 and built by the Knights Templar to house a fragment of the True Cross

Inside, the round nave centers on an unusual two-story gallery, where the Knights are thought to have kept vigil over the sliver of wood, as it rested on the altar below….


The Church is patterned on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where according to legend the True Cross was found by St. Helena in the 4th century.

Such enchantment and history surrounded by snow capped peaks……

Wandering about The Alcazar, one is swept into the history that took place within her walls….

The ancients gaze upon you as you pass from their frozen images in the stained glass…

A world of enchantment…..with the most amazing views…


Penalver, Spain


Finally our desired destination………….Penalver

The kind man who gave us a lift to Penalver drops us off and quickly drives away. We stand in the town square with our suitcases — the town square that was teeming with people two days ago – NOW VACANT – devoid of any living person and all the doors that were brimming with commerce a mere 48 hours ago, now closed and shuttered. What was to become of us? Were we never to explore this village; a village founded by August’s family in the year 900 and that still carries his name? Sme laughter emerged from a doorway above and we scurried off to locate the source — oh my a small bar — OPEN!!! Perhaps we would be saved. We asked when the apartments and stores would open their warm, inviting doors so that their owners would rush to embrace us — not on Monday — we were told — alas, again our hopes dashes upon these ancient stones.
From among the rubble appeared an old man who seemed all of four feet tall. “Come with me!”, he proclaimed — off we scurry through the narrow curing streets, around corners that are so ancient they carry the very stories of our existance……….from the looks of our guide he may well remember them all!

He finds a portal and begins to pull the rope attached to an ancient bell — NO ANSWER! I only imagine sleeping in one of the caves located above us in the hills — not so bad a happenstance, as this is where the local wine is vinted!

I ponder the night amongst the bottles that I will empty, but no he runs around another corner only to return within moments followed by a sleepy woman, wrapped in a house coat — the innkeeper — Mercedes, herself. She proclaims that the previous guests have only just left and that we must place our suitcases (yes, we have been dragging them up and down these hills and around these corners) within the habitation and she will have it cleaned shortly. Having had the experience of the past three nights, in our tiny rooms, we are a bit apprehensive, and I yearning for my cave full of wine, reluctantly follow her into the building.

She produces a key reminiscent of medieval times — about five inches long and open a door — behold, one believes one has entered Aladdin’s castle…..an apartment complete with kitchen — I feel I may faint for before me is a microwave, stove, sink, venthood, a dining room, living room all complete with fine furnishings and behold through the doorway a large bedroom, complete with a wardrobe and queen sized bed — and there behold hanging from the ceiling — a crystal chandelier!

To what gods have we prayed to be given such gifts?!!? My glance turns to my left and I feel that I may swoon — a bath complete with a walk-in shower and do my eyes deceive me – a towel warmer!!!!!!!!!!

We discuss the payment for rental of our palace and suddenly realize we have not exchanged our dollars for euros and in these small villages a credit card is unheard of. We have enough money to pay for our stay and no more! Again we find ourselves in crisis — what is to become of us by the end of this journey! There are no grocery stores, restaurants, banks, gas stations, corner markets of any kind in this village; we have no money and no food……..again my thoughts wander to the wine packed caves in the distance!

Our inn keep runs to her home to return with fresh eggs, potatoes, Iberian sausage, olive oil and sardines! She tells us to give her the equivalent of our rent in American dollars and she will return our euros! What a marvelous person we have encountered — our angel of Penalver!
We go into the town square to explore the ancient church — upon entering we find that mass is just to begin.

We decide to partake. It feels that we hae entered a cathedral from the middle ages — so magnificent is the interior; here in this small village.

I do believe that every one of the townspeople is in attendance at the mass; I notice one woman who is quite evidently one of the town busybodies and make a mental not — this one is important! We realize that this is a funeral memorial mass for one of the townsfolk, how has recently passed. After the service I tell Augustine to make contact with the local busybody to gather information. I know that by morning all will know of our presence and offer to be of assistance! I am correct, we are offered a walking tour of the city along with a great history!
We are guided to the ancient, crumbling, original city gates, from which August removed a small stone and kissed the portal to his ancient, familial fortress.

We walk down the entire original main street of the town, finding ourselves lost in thoughts of what once must have been. The original homes all standing, silently watching the return of one of their own and Augustine drawn into his history by the hands of his ancestors reaching across the millennium to embrace him.

At last we find our way to the other end of the original city with the obelisk containing the remnants of the family crest and rubble of the original wall surrounding the village.
What history stands before us, what grand pride and toil it took to have created this jewel in the countryside of Spain. I can only imagine what treasures of discovery tomorrow will hold, for today we return to our warm and inviting habitation to wash our clothes and hang them about the rooms to dry. I prepare a meal: a traditional Spanish torta of potatoes, Iberian sausage, Mancheco cheese and eggs. We eat to our delight with crusty bread and, of course, two bottles of the local wine, vinted in my much sought after caves!

Finally we are in the full embrace of Penalver and the ancestral arms of Augustine’s past. Tonite, I trust, we shall sleep in the arms of angels.

We find a plaque dedicated to one of the townsfolk who accompanied Christopher Columbus in the discovery of the Americas!

We have also located the site of the ruins of el Castillo Penalver!
We found a tapestry of the original castle and so wished it were still standing!

The Penalver castle! On a hilltop overlooking the city we can see the ruins of some grand arch.

The villagers tell us that they continue to use the cemetery that has always been part of the castle grounds.
We venture to the top of the hill overlooking the village. All along the roadside were cave entrances with doors. It was evident that they continued to be inhabited. The view of the village was magnificent — magnificent that is for those who do not suffer from acrophobia as myself!

Once we reached the precipice, it was evident why the ancestors chose this location. One can see down the entire valley and if one’s enemies were approaching, the Klaxons could be sounded long before their arrival. We wander among the tombs and find remnants of the old castle walls — oh my at one point we find a human vertebrae lying in the grass, most likely removed from a tomb by an animal.

We find the remnants of the great ach we saw from below and August walks through its opening.

We return to the village and visit the local market, a ten by ten foot room and purchase some items for our luncheon. Augustine had a local soup with two different kinds of sausages, and tripe (yuck!) in a rich tomato cream base. I had white beans with onions and Iberian sausage. After our luncheon we walked into the woods alongside the river for three hours.

Upon returning to the village we visited the famous statue of the honey gatherer. Penalver is famous for its honey production.

We also visit a fountain that dates to Roman times and bears the Penalver family crest.

Do you recognize the crest? Yes, Augustine’s family were the original Knights Templar. Lots and lots of stories there!