Travel diary: Sun and sangria in Castilla-La Mancha

We’re back in A Coruña after a fantastic holiday in Toledo and Madrid, which started last week. It was great to get a bit of sun, and it’s also nice to be home.

Monday 9/7: Today’s excursion was a tour of Castilla-La Mancha. We made an early start and drove to Orgaz, where a friendly local walked with us through the town to point out where the castle was — while gorgeous, it was oddly hidden from view.

Next we drove to Consuegra, which has a beautiful town square and its own castle. We drove up the hill to have a look at it and the dozen or so windmills perched on the ridge — they’re famous for appearing in Don Quixote, and are really picturesque. We had directional problems twice in Consuegra — first we managed to almost get stuck in a very narrow street and couldn’t find our way out of the maze, and then we weren’t sure where to go after leaving the castle. Both times we asked locals for directions, and both times the local drove ahead of us to put us on the right road — people here are friendly!

Windmills

Windmills

We had lunch at the Tablas de Daimiel, a large national park with beautiful lakes and greenery, then walked around one of the lakes to check out the wildlife. We had another break (with lemon slushies, called granizados here) in Almagro, whose town square is striking with its green shutters.

Oliva had planned out a return route that passed through several small towns instead of just going by motorway, but sadly these towns weren’t very interesting. We managed to get lost several times and were only saved by more friendly locals and the GPS on Craig’s phone.

Tuesday 10/7: Our second day in Toledo was awesome. We started with porras (like big churros) near the Puerta de Bisagra, then wandered around the markets before heading back to where we’d left the car.

Since our previous day in Toledo had been so hot, this time we’d come prepared — with frozen sangria. Mauri had a simple but tasty recipe which we’d made the night before and left in the freezer overnight. By the time we got back to the car it had melted enough to be drinkable, and it was delicious and granizado-like.

Mmmm sangria!

Mmmm sangria!

After re-parking the car and finishing the sangria, we wandered around the city a little to check out the views then visited the Transito Synagogue and its museum. Lunch was a slightly disappointing menu del día, after which we headed to the Cristo de la Luz mosque.

Our final stop of the day was across the river at the parador hotel, where we had a drink and enjoyed the amazing views of the city from the terrace.

Wednesday 11/7: We’d decided that we needed a day off, so we spent the day in the small town where we were based. After a sleep in, Oliva, Guille, Mauri and I headed to the town swimming pool, and Craig stayed at home. It was a great day to go swimming — sunny and hot, like most of the days of this holiday, and the pool complex had excellent shady areas for relaxing in. I introduced the others to Monopoly Deal, which Griffin and Valerie had lent us, and everyone got addicted quite quickly — especially Guille, who was very good at it.

We’d planned to have an early dinner then walk up to the castle behind the town, but the high winds meant that it wouldn’t have been a good idea. Instead, we ate a little later (a tasty barbecue prepared by Craig), went for a short walk, then played a couple more rounds of Monopoly Deal before bed.

Evening walk in Almonacid

Evening walk in Almonacid

Thursday 12/7: We were uncertain about whether to go to Aranjuez or not, since the main attraction is the palace and the entrance fee is quite expensive. In the end we decided to go — and it was definitely the right decision. We spent the morning wandering around some of the impressive gardens, and took a break for sangria granizado near the famous statue of the Boy with Thorn.

Boy with thorn statue in Aranjuez

Boy with Thorn statue in Aranjuez

After a lunch of sandwiches, we walked through the town to the plaza de toros, but there wasn’t a lot to see. Much more interesting was the Royal Palace, which we managed to enter for free — it turns out that on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons in summer, entrance is free after 5pm for EU and South American residents. Since I still don’t have my residency card, we had to do a bit of fast talking, but luckily the ticket clerk was friendly and let us in.

The palace was incredible, each room more luxurious than the last. My favourite was probably a tiny corner room decorated in a middle-eastern style.

Linda, Mauri and Oliva at the Almonacid castle

Linda, Mauri and Oliva at the Almonacid castle

After visiting another garden (del Principe), we headed home and straight out again — it was our last chance to visit the castle! The sun was dropping fast but we made it to the top of the hill just before it set, and enjoyed the fantastic views for half an hour or so before making our way down in the dusk. Craig hadn’t come with us, but he had the barbecue going by the time we came home for another tasty dinner.

Friday 13/7: The ermita where Oliva was baptised is closed for repairs, and the statue of the Virgen de la Oliva is temporarily housed in the town church — which is only open from 8.30-9am. We had to make an early start if we wanted to check it out, so we visited briefly before breakfast.

I delayed our departure to Madrid by checking my cellphone messages — I hadn’t been carrying it with me because I was on holiday, but it turns out I should have been paying more attention. I had three messages from the bank saying that they need a copy of my residency card URGENTLY, and the last message said that since they hadn’t heard from me they were going to cancel my account. Luckily I managed to make contact with the bank manager who said I could bring in the proof of payment form on Monday, but I was seriously unimpressed. I love Spain a lot, but I HATE the bureaucracy here.

At least Madrid was awesome. We spent the morning walking around checking out some of the major buildings like the Biblioteca Nacional, then had lunch in the Museo del Jamón restaurant in the Plaza Mayor. Next we’d planned to visit the Prado, but as usual, our plans changed. By the time we’d stopped for a sangria granizado in the gardens, it was already 4.40pm, and the museum is free to enter after 6pm — which we learned when we went to go in. We decided to wait the hour or so and save €12 each, and instead we walked to the town hall, which has a viewpoint on its eighth floor and from where we had excellent views of the city.

Views from the town hall

Views from the town hall

When we came down, we still had a half-hour wait until we could go to the Prado, so we made use of the air conditioning and free wifi.

We arrived back at the Prado right on 6pm and were surprised to see a queue stretching a good 500m down the street. Luckily it moved really quickly and we were inside by 6.15. We split up to make better use of the time — Guille, Mauri and Oliva chose 20 or so major works to visit and ticked them off on a plan of the museum, while Craig and I walked along the main corridors, stopping at works we liked the look of. The Prado is definitely worth more time than we could give it, but at least we got an idea of the amazing art that’s housed there.

Drinks in Madrid

Drinks in Madrid

In the evening, we met up with Oliva’s cousin and his girlfriend for a drink and a chat, then made our way back home.

Saturday 14/7: As always on the last day of a holiday, things got off to a slow start. We left the house at about 11.45 after giving it a thorough clean, and made our way to Segovia. In order to avoid toll roads, we took a minor highway, which gave us spectacular views as we curved through a mountain range.

Segovia was stunning. I knew almost nothing about it before we arrived, which means that my expectations were low and thoroughly exceeded. The 2000-year-old Roman aqueduct is in amazing condition and the Alcázar is like a storybook castle. We were only going to stop for an hour, but by the time we wandered around for a while and had lunch, we were there for about three hours.

Segovia aqueduct

Segovia aqueduct

The rest of the drive back to A Coruña was great. The first hour was on another minor highway with fantastic views (avoiding toll-roads definitely seems to be the way to go here) and the rest of the route was on the main motorway. The speed limit of 120kph means that we made excellent time and by 11.30 we were back in A Coruña — where we had to say a sad goodbye to Mauri, who’s heading to the US.

Sunday 15/7: After lounging in bed for most of the morning (working a bit, though), we headed across the hall to Griffin and Valerie’s place for lunch. Not only did they make us lunch and tell us awesome stories about their trip to Pamplona for the running of the bulls, they also gave us a present — Monopoly Deal! Woooooo! Have I mentioned recently that we have awesome friends? Well, we do.

I spent the afternoon working on videos while Craig relaxed, and he made us choripan for dinner. Yum.

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2 Responses to “Travel diary: Sun and sangria in Castilla-La Mancha”

  1. Gunnar Todal July 17, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    Nice pictures! It seems that you have a nice trip. The most picture I like is Windmills. This place looks so romantic.

    • Craig and Linda July 18, 2012 at 3:53 am #

      HI Gunnar, yes – it was a lovely spot: wonderful views and a castle up there too.

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