Barcelona, Spain

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Once again, we began our visit to Barcelona with a walking tour.  We were told that Romans founded the city in 38 B.C.  In the first 200 years they built a walled city that defined the boundaries of Barcelona for the next 1600 years!  During this time they had to build higher since they could not build out, given that they could not extend the city beyond the walls.  Not until the mid-1850’s did they break out of their medieval walls.  People were dying very young from disease caused by the overcrowding.  Previously unknown engineer Ildefons Cerda created a plan for the expanded city that turned out to be extraordinarily visionary ultimately leading to him being credited as having defined “urbanization”.

Barcelona is part of Catalonia, an “autonomous community” in the northeast corner of Spain.  It is also referred to as a nationality for the people in this region who for centuries have been agitating for the creation of an independent state for Catalonia.  Before the 18th century it was a principality of the Crown of Aragon with its own language.  Today, Catalan, along with Spanish is the official language of this region.

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Madrid, Spain

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The city of Madrid has survived centuries of religious and political turmoil to emerge as a world class destination with beautiful architecture and art.  The Inquisition, Communist rule, a civil war and more recently, a deadly terrorist bombing in 2004, are all part of Madrid’s past.  Today, world class museums, beautiful parks and some of Europe’s most attractive plazas form a very appealing experience.  Clearly the world has noticed.  We were shocked by the volume of tourists pouring through the streets.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid

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Bourges, France

From Dijon, we headed west and stopped off for one night in Bourges (pics).  We spent the night in a nice small hotel, called Chateau Lazenay.  Driving a car affords us the opportunity to stay somewhere not in the center of town, also, provided parking is a consideration.  Chateau Lazenay is located alongside a small lake and surrounded by open parkland and walking trails, so it was very quiet and peaceful.

Bourges

Bourges is a nice town with a large Gothic cathedral that dates from the 12th century and in the historical section, many of the buildings are described as “half timbered”.  The upper portions have a crossed pattern of wood embedded in the exterior walls.  This building style apparently mimics a method first used in Medieval times.