Lleida is the Catalan name also known as Lerida in Spanish (you need to know these things when setting up the Satnav). We travelled there on my birthday 6th August leaving Zaragoza behind us and following the river Erbo. Having struggled to sit next to that river on the outskirts of Zaragoza the previous day it widened and at times was right beside us!
We stopped at a small town called Caspe to look at the church and have a walk around the town. The weather was hot and the church closed, so we grabbed a refreshing drink and continued on our journey. At Mequienza we crossed a bridge and stopped beside the road and a large lake for a picnic. I highly recommend this kind of day on your birthday! This place had once been a thriving port, but early in the 20th century the river was dammed and there was no need for the businesses and homes there. Excavation work once the river had receded revealed a medieval town. There was also a castle on top of the hill.
Onwards to Lleida, detouring briefly to a place not worth stopping at, least mentioning. This Parador was modern having opened only a couple of years ago. The restaurant is a converted church. The room was really spacious with a huge bed, just right for my birthday weekend. After our welcome drink in a rather large and soulless bar we went for a look around town and also in hope of a G&T.
Lleida is a much more multicultural place than most of the other places we had been to so far, with a huge ethnic mix. It was also a vibrant and lively place and it being early evening on Friday was just getting into it’s weekend vibe. We found a suitable bar with seats on the pavement and discovered to our delight that it was a gin bar.
Back at the Parador (we were half board), we shared a plate of ham and then I had slow roasted pork and Graeme Veal. The food was delicious, but the vegetables lacking, once again. Thankfully a fresh fruit salad saved the day for dessert. We ordered cava, but as the bar was just closing (11pm), we took it up to our room. A great end to my birthday.
After breakfast we set out to see the sights of Lleida. First we walked through the old Jewish quarter, which was excavated in 2015. The Jews were expelled in 1492, after a very torrid time. We have a hunch that our dining room might once have been a synagogue. There’s some really interesting information on the Jews in Lleida / Lerida here.
Next we went up to La See Vella. This is the site of a 12th century cathedral and fortification which was deconsecrated in 1707. The town and surrounding areas supported the wrong side in the war of Spanish Succession. So King Philip V ordered the cathedral be destroyed. Thankfully this didn’t happen. A new cathedral was built down in the town and the old one became a military barracks and prison. The area was heavily bombed during the Spanish Civil War. Restoration works began in 1950.
The cathedral now stands proudly above the town and is back in use. Inside we watched a very moving film about the restoration work. Much has been done as in the 1950’s the place was one of complete devastation. We both found this to be one of the highlights of our trip so far.
On our way up, we had walked half way and then taken a lift to the top. Now though we took the lift right into town. The town centre contains a busy shopping centre with some International as well as local shops. It is also the place where spaniards meet together. We found a pizza and tapas bar and had croquettes, paptatas bravos and goats cheese salad, all very welcome. Washed down with some lovely white wine.
We really enjoyed our stay in Lleida and found it though provoking and interesting. I’m glad we visited.