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Report 1963: Through Extremadura, on to Madrid, into Cordoba

By kathyk from Michigan, Spring 2011

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Page 4 of 6: Castilla

Chinchon

We entered the town in the middle of the Medieval Fair in full swing. Walking up the streets, there were booths that sold herbs, artisan breads, clothes and all kinds of merchandise. Finally getting into the main plaza, we saw acrobats performing, demonstrations of birds of prey like falcons, more things for sale, games for children, troubadours playing music and King Fernando and Queen Isabel in full regalia making an entrance on horseback! What good luck to arrive on this exact day.

It just happened because our plan was to stage ourselves here for the night because I wanted to make the drive into Madrid on a Sunday morning with the least amount of traffic possible. I still got turned around but we finally got to our hostel in the town of Barajas, the town nearest the airport.

Madrid

Leaving the car in Barajas, we used the metro to get into Madrid center for only €1 each – no traffic, no parking, what a relief. With our half day, we wanted to visit the Prado, which has free entry on Sundays from 5pm to 8pm. I don’t know if I would recommend this way to see the Prado because there were so many people taking advantage of the same deal. Later, tired and with time to kill, we went into a beer joint (cervesaria.) There were several enticing ones on this street and area, all with old tile work and lively crowds. We chose, La Daniela, on c/ Jesus. Monday, and Madrid was a pivotal day for all of us, many pieces had to fall into place. Two of the American women were returning home, and my Catalan friend was flying in to continue the trip with us. Our hostel offered free shuttle service to and from the airport. I went on the shuttle to see the Americans off and be there to meet my friend. It all worked out and now three of us got back in the car and negotiated the Monday traffic to head South out of Madrid.

We would all be back here in 8 days. But before that...

La Mancha

Our destination was Andalucia but we did not want to make a lightning drive there, because there were things to see on the way. On the list was the castle in Tierras de Calatrava. It is located way South of Ciudad Real. On Monday, unfortunately, the castle was closed for visits but the drive up to the top and the view from there was formidable. It was built to defend Castilla from Moorish invasions and the defenders were probably successful in that endeavor, I mean, it was difficult enough in a car on a road.

On any road map you can see that we took the only obvious road to Puerto Llano where we expected to spend the night. Dropping down from the castle, we drove on a secondary highway through a gorgeous valley, following a river. But after many miles, our senses were assaulted by the site of an oil refinery – and it did not stop. It was about 10 miles of industrial complex, towers, fences, smoke stacks and cinder block residences for the workers.

The road finally led us into Puerto Llano. We stopped in the center and asked where we could find a hostel and what there was to see. An employee in a drug store told us that for diversion, many people in town drove back out along the refinery road to see all the lights of the complex. This, from an educated pharmacist, recommending the outstanding feature of her town! We decided NOT to stay there and drove on.

We tried two towns in the area and neither had a hostel. We were forced back to Puerto Llano to spend the night in a hotel there. I did not review that hotel, because I would not recommend visiting that town. This experience was a real eye opener for me, an ugly town in Spain with nothing to attract visitors. The whole area has been turned over to the refineries. I guess it has to be done somewhere. The next morning we headed out early for our next destination. It was a refreshing drive over the range of low mountains on the N420 South from La Mancha to...

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