Travelogue from Comida España
Albarracín: “The Greatest Muralla”
Albarracín is a beautiful medieval town located nearby Teruel. This amazing town is entirely surrounded by an ancient fortress “muralla” built during the last years of the Muslim ruling, during the XI century, to prevent invaders from reaching the city.
Albarracín is a village of intimate charm and incredible beauty built on a hill overlooking a valley. In this town you will find beautiful hanging balconies, a towering cathedral and an Episcopal Palace which was added later in the XVIII century.
We began our adventure by visiting the Toy Museum, which was a very unique and amazing place, displaying century old original toys. From there we walked the narrow streets with their beautiful balconies full of blooming flowers and reached the top of the city where the church is built. The panoramic view was just breathtaking! You see the surrounding fortress all along the ridge. Let your mind go and envision the intense battles that may have taken place in this area to acclaim this precious land.
Albarracín will forever be present in our memories.
Tembleque: “The Door of La Mancha”
Tembleque is a small town, south of Madrid, off Highway N-IV. I don’t know how we decided to stop there on our way to Granada, but we did and it was well worth it!
When you get off the highway, you drive through an industrial looking section, heading to the main square or plaza of Tembleque. As you drive, the buildings get older and older, with more and more character. As you enter the old part of town, there are some un-marked Roman ruins that look like a well and a small mill. There is also the typical set of men discussing the news of the day on park benches.
As you walk further into the heart of the town, you see a wooden arch that is the entrance to the “Plaza Mayor”. This opens up to a beautiful square that is a classic structure built in 1653. The square is wood with granite pillars topped with a tiled roof. On top of roof you notice a very large stork nest.
Within the Plaza, there is a museum that tells about Tembleque and the area. Our son wanted ice cream, so we went into a little bar inside the Plaza. After seeing their freshly made tapas, we all had a little more than ice cream! I have to say that they had the best Pisto Manchego I have ever tasted. Every tapa was home made with the ingredients from the garden of the bar owner. Even the ice cream was hand made!
What a way to start exploring the La Mancha region!
Madrid: Unique Museums
Yes, there is the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza and several others, but we have been to a few that aren’t necessarily on the tour radar that are worth your while.
The first is the Book Museum at the Biblioteca Nacional de España. It has books that are over 1000 years old. The intricate workmanship is amazing. Even the presses that are on display are an engineering marvel. (Helpful hint to better enjoy this museum: DO NOT bring a 4 year old!)
The second museum that attracted us was the “Museo de América”. If you know your Spanish history, expect a different perspective on the colonization of the Americas. There wasn’t as much gold as I thought there would be (it was probably melted down). The exhibits were very interesting and they ranged from prehistoric times to the conquistadors of the new world. My favorite was actually the “shrunken heads” display from South America. Not something you see every day…
The other museum that might not be on a “must see” list is the Natural History Museum or Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales. This museum’s displays have stopped in time from the late 1800’s. The Spanish natives that we talked to were not happy that it has not changed since they were kids, but, with all of the high tech interactive exhibits that are now part of most museums, this museum is like a historical site. Every animal and insect is so delicate, they look as though they are on the verge of decaying into dust. The museum even has a hint of formaldehyde smell in the air!
The war museum was on our list but it has moved to Toledo. I am sure this is worth seeing considering Spain’s history.
Like all museums, they have a day that they are closed and sometimes they are closed due to renovations. Best to check the websites. www.es.yahoo is Spain’s yahoo and most websites can be translated into English.
"More business than pleasure" trip
We just got back from Spain on a “more business than pleasure” trip. We did over 1500 kilometers in 4 days, therefore drove past or through many places that we wished we could have explored as touristas. Here is a list of the following places that we thought were worthy of future travel:
Eastern Jaén region of Andalucía, towards the Sierras de Cazorla Natural Park. The whole area is agricultural with alternating Olive Groves and Vineyards. The villages are small, each with it’s own character. As you travel east, the landscape gets more and more lush with the mountains in the forefront. We started traveling east out of Jaen on a country highway, and really, the only road out there. Progress is slow due to the tractors and other farm vehicles on the roadway.
Costa De La Luz and Doñana National park: There are many beautiful white washed villages off the highway heading south of Sevilla. One in particular looked like a postcard, El Rocio, on the northern border of the Doñana National Park. The park looked like it was right out of Africa on the side that we were driving. Fantastic bird watching even from “a husband driving as fast as he can” moving vehicle!
We went to the closest beach from Sevilla: Matalascañas, about one to two hour drive depending on traffic. Even though the beach was crowded, it was not as crowded as are time at the Costa Del Sol. The Atlantic waters were a perfect temperature and a great breeze from the ocean that was refreshing after the 95 to 100 degree F. days in Sevilla.
Merida: We were there for 2.5 hours in the hottest part of the day, making our way back to Ciudad Real. Que Lastima because of all of the Roman Ruins scattered throughout the city. We only saw the Arena and Amphitheater, which were right next to each other. Again, it was probably in the high 90’s, so we couldn’t really appreciate all it had to offer or we would have melted!