October 2nd, 2011
It was announced this week that one of the newest museums in Spain is to close. The Niemeyer Centre in Avilés will shut its doors after only six months. The arts centre cost 44 million euros and opened to a fanfare. A new regional government in Asturias has said the building will shut because of “financial irregularities.” It may open again next year.
The people of Avilés took to the streets to protest. They had hoped the futuristic new building would do for that city what the Guggenheim museum did for Bilbao.
It is indisputable that, in some major Spanish citities, those working in the tourism industry are encouraged to send everyone to the same places. Hence why a few are packed and others are empty.
So here is my tribute to just a few of the lesser known, inexpensive museums of Spain. There are many more where they came from.
For some people Spain means sunshine, sand and sangria. Which is just fine. But for others, those for whom the beach is boring, it is the museums of Spain that are attractive.
But we surely all know about the most visited museums in Spain.
However, up and down the country there are museums of all sizes that deserve to be seen. I have come across attractions the local tourist office were completely unaware of.
Let me begin this tour of the all too often overlooked, or simply not known about attractions, in the province of Cadiz.
We know that the Costa de Luz has some of the best beaches in Spain. This high definition proves that and much more. We know that it is named after how light this corner of the country is. We also know that, at certain times of the year, it called also be called the windy coast.
Here you are on the road from Spain to Portugal and, en route, you can take in the marvellous city of Cadiz itself. A great place to stay that I call, Granada by the sea. So many aspects of the cobbled city remind me of the older and nicer back streets of Granada.
Then there is the home of sherry, Jerez de la Frontera. A place to sip sherry and see some of the finest specimens of the Andalusian horse. One of the best museums in all of Spain is that located at the Royal Andalusian Equestrian School.
From Jerez, drive onwards to the charming town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and visit a quirky museum. A mad tribute to the sea. This has to be the most informal of all museums in Spain.
José Garrido had the idea of creating the Museo del Mar, Las Caracolas. He spent decades collecting memorabilia of the sea and first began picking up seashells in the late 1950′s.
The rackity museum is home to all manner of quirky items that have one thing in common. Life in, on or around the ocean waves.
The roof of the building can be seen from the central Plaza del Cabildo in Sanlúcar (if you look up) or from the gardens of the Palacio de los Duques de Medina Sidonia (if you look down).
Look out for what appears to be a boat sitting on top of the roof of a house. You can’t miss it. It is not everyday you see a ship on top of a house. Even in Spain.
A more conventional museum in Sanlúcar de Barrameda is the ice museum. In times gone by it was from this building that blocks of ice were supplied to the fishing industry, for preservation of the fish landed along this coastline. The factory supplied ships and fish auction markets. The building fell into disrepair when methods of preserving fish changed.
But the people who manage the superb neighbouring National Park of Doñana restored the factory to its former glory and the building now operates as a museum that celebrates all that the Doñana park has to offer the visitor.
Go in to the ice museum and chill out. Learn about the history, culture, nature, landscape, sights and sounds of the park. Then, having taken in all that information, you can hop on the ferry to the park itself.
In my continuing mission to avoid paying parking charges at Malaga airport, I recently took a different turn at the roundabout at the entrance to the airport.
Having myself grown up close to an airport when it was a one terminal, one runway place; I know that somewhere near an airport is the original location for flight arrivals and departures. Look hard enough and you will find the original terminal building, if it is still standing.
Malaga airport has done the right thing (there’s a sentence you don’t see written too often). They have turned the original terminal building into a museum.
There I was seeking to be mean, and parking free in a road just behind the San Miguel beer factory, with the intention of a little plane spotting and lots of sunbathing; when I came across the Malaga airport museum. How can they not advertise this place more?. How come there is no sign for it at the said roundabout?
If you are there at the right time of day, it is a great place to while away an hour waiting for someone to arrive late on a modern day plane. In this museum you can see some golden oldies. Aircraft themselves, old fire engines, cockpits from yesteryear.
I grew up a plane spotter. When your back garden was under the flightpath of what is now Heathrow, you could be nothing other. But you do not have to be someone whose spirits rise when you breathe in kerosene in order to enjoy this quaint museum.
For twenty years, from 1948, this was Malaga airport. Airports never get smaller, i know, but this is a marvellous example of how flying has gone from being something special to an experience akin to removing a decaying tooth by tying it to a door handle with string! When this building was where you arrived and departed, there was a magic to flying. That spell has been broken by progress, but this unheralded museum pays tribute to a lost time.
Football has also changed considerably in recent years. If you are in to the game then get to Barcelona and take a tour at the ground of the best football team in the world. FC Barcelona are a class apart in football today. And there museum pays tribute to recent achiveements, but also to the history of the club.
It is a great football club but to understand why they have been so dominant in recent years you first have to understand how the club is run. How, for so very many years, it was the supporters themselves who had a big say in the structure of the football club.
It is a museum called the Camp Nou Experience. There are audio visual displays, cups to admire, an interactive mural and three floors dedicated to the club ethos.
The four key values of which are:- its Catalan identity, universality, social commitment and democracy.
In part two of my discovery of the sometimes overlooked museums in Spain, I shall visit Granada, Ronda and the villages and towns inland from the Costa Brava.
*additional photography courtesy of Tony Wright via Flickr: http://bit.ly/oPMkTP