It surprises me more and more how different Spain is to my expectations. As we drive through verdant valleys and plateaus I see is how much of the land is being used productively. Our road trip to Madrid was a pleasant drive where we saw vast rice paddies near Valencia, wheat and other crops growing in huge unfenced fields, so much cultivation of the ground ready for the next planting that would take place, olive trees and vineyards (of course), and poppies and wildflowers growing on the roadside and in the middle of the crops as well. It was such an interesting drive, for the range of terrain and richness of the land.

We had ten days between sits and decided we would head inland to Madrid and the countryside around. I had looked at maps and distances and worked out a route that would enable us to explore rural towns as well as some of the larger and more well-known places.

Calpe to Cuenca

Our first day started with a ride north along the coast toward Valencia, where the view to the sea was blocked by constant developments rising above the plains. But then we moved inland and saw more and more rural areas and started to enjoy the ride for the variety and richness of the horticulture. The roads were wide and straight, we are enjoying driving the “B” and “C” roads, avoiding the traffic and seeing the rural landscape.

Poppies growing wild

We are still having great fun with Ms Google as she takes us to places that don’t exist anymore, or on detours that make absolutely no sense, as when we tried to find lunch just west of Valencia. We exited the motorway and curved around onto… a farm track, or so it seemed, winding our way between groups harvesting the local crops until being spat out again into a town where we found a small cafe. We managed to communicate our needs in limited (Google translated) Spanish to the friendly proprietor, and enjoyed the tostadas and coffee –  the bill came to about 8 euro in total. Small town back street cafes are excellent value and often far better than expected.

Our destination for the night was a rural village just out of Cuenca. El Tablazo was set in an idyllic location, but not quite as rural as we expected as the village had a few bars and restaurants, and the hotel was obviously a destination for walkers. It was lovely and thankfully had a lift to get our bags to our second-floor room. It was located well for a day trip to Cuenca the next day to see the hanging houses and stroll the historic streets of this surprising town.

We enjoyed viewing the interior of the cathedral – climbing to the roof to see over the houses and valley below was worth the effort as well. There are similarities but many differences in the decoration and design of these cathedrals which often were the only story the locals could read, via the pictorial representation of the gospel.

After being caught in the rain while wandering the streets, we took a detour back to see the Ventana del Diablo (Devil’s window) rock formation and then on to a lovely village of Una where the rocks reminded us somewhat of the Bryce National park (but without the redness). We drove through another Natural Park to reach Una, along narrow winding roads but with great vistas and huge birds of prey calling and circling overhead. (Vultures? Eagles?)

Another interlude over we set off for Madrid, again trying to avoid the busy motorways as much as possible and, as we had plenty of time, we routed our journey via Guadalajara. Once more the land was lush and rolling, but we noticed variations as we moved further inland – in both the weather and the landscape. It became cooler again and we were threatened with a rainstorm that never seemed to actually arrive, before breaking through to weak sun closer to Madrid.

Thankfully, we arrived into Madrid on an early Sunday afternoon, and the traffic, although heavier than we had seen previously, was no issue to us – apart from trying to navigate to our Air BnB via road tunnels where the GPS dropped out often, leaving us hopeful but anxious we were on the right route. Finally to our apartment on a residential street with easy (and free) parking. But…

Our apartment opened onto a busy ring road!

More on our Madrid and Toledo experiences coming up…

 

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