Early Tuesday morning, we took the train to Zaragosa. Just a quick visit to the Basilica de Nuestra SeΓ±ora de Pilar, La Seo del Salvador and the Palacio de la Aljaferia. As the train chugged through towns blanketed in white-out snow, we braced ourselves for low temps as we reached Zaragosa. We could feel the cold almost touching our spine as our hands touched the train’s glass windows. Beanies and mittens on!

From the Zaragosa-Delicias Station, we hailed a cab to take us to our hotel. Dropped our bags in the hotel and stepped out almost immediately to hail another cab to drive us to Plaza del Pilar where the Basilica and La Seo stand across each other. Walking in this cold weather was not an ideal option. Upon reaching the Plaza del Pilar, we found so much going on there. Looks like some festivity just ended (3 Kings, I bet) and the decor, Christmas booths, kiddie rides are all being dismantled and packed away. But the entire Plaza del Pilar is sooo quiet. Hardly a crowd. We had a field choosing where to eat in the restos lining the square.

No photography was allowed inside where gaping is a common occurrence. The chapels, the dome, the vaulted ceilings, the many antique and art pieces are simply mind-boggling. Between the Basilica and La Seo, we were “churched out”. I’ve read somewhere that La Seo’s interiors are even lovelier than the Basilica’s. I do not disagree. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos to prove this comparison.

But what surprised us most is the Palacio de Aljaferia. We walked from the Plaza del Pilar to here. Surely, the Aljaferia is one of the finest examples of Hispanic-Muslim art, or Mudejar. This style was later copied at the Alcazar in Sevilla, as well as the more-visited Mudejar masterpiece in Alhambra in Granada. I have been to both and the garden and palace similarities are unmistakable. The series of arches, carved ceilings, the elaborate and intricately designed windows and doors. It is hard to imagine this 11th century structure was a woeful sight in near ruins despite being declared a National Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest in 1931. Then UNESCO declared its Aragonese Mudejar architecture a World Heritage Site.

Having visited this Islamic palace, I am awed by its grand design — the oratory, the portico arches, the wooden and coffered ceilings, the tiled pavement, the corridor, the lavish plaster decor. No wonder this architectural wonder became the Palace of the Aragonese monarchs after Zaragosa was recaptured from the moors.

Mi piquena Alhambra. Odd that it actually was the prototype for that grand palace and gardens in Granada. But Mudejar art in Aragon truly flourished in its time. Magnificent is an understatement. The palace is a good introduction for those who have yet to visit Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada’s Alhambra.

The Palace of Joy. It was. It is. Its beauty does not overwhelm. Its grandeur does not intimidate. Impressive, without being so imposing. It’s a palace not intended to impress, but meant to be enjoyed. Both Moorish and Christian monarchs who took up residence here must have felt the same.