So, we dragged ourselves away from the hills above Marbella this morning, well actually more like lunchtime really if you are still thinking in English time.
We fired up Samson the Skoda and we were off; we drove through the olive-covered hills of Málaga and Jaén, along the stunning (euro-funded, certainly) new motorway spaghetti in Andalucía, then on into Castilla – La Mancha, past huge bright yellow harvested wheat fields and their brick-coloured earth, up towards Madrid where the massive skyscape turned purply grey and was lit up from time to time by great lightning bolts.
We turned off eastwards just short of Aranjuez, and suddenly the road was narrow and twisting and we were heading up into the lunar landscape that borders the Comunidad de Madrid on that side.
We finally reached Chinchón at about 8.30pm, found our gorgeous hotel La Condesa de Chinchón straight away because it is on the main road into this Golden Age town and just before you reach the 15th century Plaza Mayor.
The hotel is an old building, decorated in 19th century style and with a certain air of faded grandeur, but the rooms are spacious and clean, with good bathrooms, air conditioning and wi-fi, and a little balcony with two chairs overlooking the inner courtyard – that’s where we will have our tea tomorrow morning! There is even a private underground car park for Samson.
We dropped our bags in the room, freshened up then wandered off up to the Plaza Mayor – what a delight it is. It’s sort of circular/oval in an attractively irregular way, with galleried three-floor buildings all around, and today it has been prepared for a corrida (bullfight) so there are a couple of curved grandstands, fences and barriers for controlling bulls and spectators, and the arena is covered in sand.
This hasn’t stopped cars parking around it, but we found a restaurant ‘asador’ (restaurant that specialises in cooking on an open fire) just at the edge of one of the routes into the arena and as we sat there other cafes and restaurants became obvious and by 10pm everything was filling up, including numerous restaurants using first floor balconies as extra dining areas.
We sat for a couple of hours and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Spanish people coming out on a Friday night to socialise, we also consumed some patatas bravas, some of the very nice Spanish black sausage made with rice, and some baby lamb cutlets. Julia found the Arctic conditions (21 degrees) harder than I did, but we both just enjoyed soaking up the history and the Spanish atmosphere.
We wandered back to the hotel about 11.30 and having eventually mastered the intricacies of the air conditioning, because unlike the rest of Chinchón our room had a temperature of 30 degrees when we returned, we are now going to rest before tomorrow’s long journey to the Spanish Pyrenees – more mountains, yippee!