Postcard from Zaragoza, Spain: Glowing glass floats honor La Senora del Pilar

Above: Thirty-thousand pieces of glass were cut and assembled to create a 14-foot-long illuminated reproduction of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar carried through the streets of Zaragoza every October 13th.

An annual 10-day fiesta honors Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza. Music, food trucks, clowns, carnival rides, folk dancing and lively parades of Gigantes y Cabezudos (larger than life-size paper-mache figures) fill the calendar. And, of course, fireworks.

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Postcard from Zaragoza, Spain: Renaissance landmark rescued from Paris

Above: Contemporary painting depicting Patio de la Infante (by Jacqueline Treloar?)

“Courtyard of the Princess,” F.J. Parceriso, lithograph, circa 1850

On the edge of the former Jewish Quarter in Zaragoza, Micer Gabriel Zaporta (abt 1500-1580) built an 18,000-square-foot house in 1549 in honor of his second wife. Zaporta himself was born into a Jewish family whose members converted to Catholicism in compliance with the Edicts of 1492 and enforced by the Inquisition. The elegant house built around a central courtyard with elaborate Italianate ornamentation reflected Zaporta’s success as a merchant and a banker who served as treasurer to King Charles I of Spain (1500-1558).

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Postcard from Zaragoza, Spain: Sampling menus from regional vegetables to Neapolitan-style pizza

Above: Casa Lac roasted pimientos del cristal with hake

We’ll start this post exploring a few restaurants in Zaragoza with a leisurely meal at what some claim is the oldest in Spain – Casa Lac – dating from 1825 but with a decor updated sometime during the 19th-century. While Casa Lac features tapas downstairs, upstairs offers old-school, formal, multi-course service – perfect for whiling away time on a cool, rainy afternoon.

The six-course meal suited our mood, but what really drew us was Casa Lac’s reputation for putting fresh vegetables, instead of meat, in the primary spotlight. Ricardo Gil’s restaurant group grows and harvests seasonal regional vegetables, such as borage and thistle, on its own farm on the banks of the Ebro River. Gil says: “Our dishes are full of tradition, but with lively flashes of innovation. This is how we understand our cuisine; this is how we keep it alive.”

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