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All I want for Christmas is a log that poops

File this under strange Christmas traditions. In Catalunya (the region of Spain that includes Barcelona), a log named 'Caga Tío' appears in homes early December. Children are told to feed the log scraps in the coming days, and cover it with a blanket to keep it warm. On Christmas Eve they beat the log with a stick and sing a song, then pull back the blanket to reveal that the log has 'pooped' sweets or toys. And no one seems to know how this tradition got started.

Spain plans to open to vaccinated travelers

Spain joins France in announcing that vaccinated travelers from outside the EU will be able to visit beginning in June.

Tilting at windmills

In Miguel de Cervantes's classic work, Don Quixote, the aging, eponymous hero of the story spots a line of windmills in the distance. Mounted on his trusty steed, with lance in hand, Quixote charges at the windmills, mistaking them for giants attacking his beloved country. At Consuegra, just a few miles south of Toledo, Spain, you can see some of these windmills, and even climb to the top of one of them to see a restored mill in working condition.

I occasionally encounter a bus load of tourists when I visit the mills of Consuegra, but more often than not it's just me and my little group of 2 to 8 travelers, exploring Spain on a tour designed by Hand Crafted Travel. Off the beaten path from most tours, we can discuss Cervantes and Quixote, and enjoy the views, where the only other sounds are the whistling wind, and the slow creak of the mill's blades.

Segovia's Aqueduct

Just 60 miles north of Madrid, the city of Segovia is a great place to relax, and really enjoy the local atmosphere. The town's most striking feature is the aqueduct, built sometime during the reign of the emperors Augustus and Trajan (1st century AD). The aqueduct extends more than 10 miles, delivering water to the town center from the Rio Frio.

As the channel approaches Segovia it has to cross the valley at the base of the town, so the Roman engineers designed a bridge to carry the water channel. The span is more than 2000 feet long, over 96 feet high, and constructed entirely without mortar binding the stones together. The aqueduct delivered a water flow of over 8 gallons per second, and actually functioned as the town's back-up water supply until the 1980's.

View of Toledo, Spain

This is one of the most famous views of the city of Toledo, Spain. While not exactly the view immortalized by El Greco in his painting View and Plan of Toledo, this is just as dramatic. The entire city is laid out before, almost completely encircled by the Tagus River. To the left is the spire of Toledo Cathedral, the seat of the leader of the Catholic church in Spain. The big building on the right is the Alcazar. Once the site of a castle, the royal residence of the Visigoths who conquered Spain in the 6th century, the building was almost entirely destroyed in the Spanish Civil War while being defended by Franco's Nationalist troops. After the war the building was reconstructed, and now houses a military museum.

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