Another road trip beckoned with a week-long gap before our next housesit. This would be our final trip of the year and, with winter approaching, we decided to explore some of the small towns and villages of Murcia, Castille-La Mancha and Jaen provinces. We had
just finished a short four-day house sit in Freila, another beautiful location off the beaten track that we enjoyed exploring. Even small town Spain has ex-pat communities and in this village of around 600 there were about 60 ex-pats, a number of whom we got to meet our first night in as our hosts took us with them to the local bar for a birthday celebration.
Our charges for the week were 7 cats, including one that needed twice daily insulin injections. This wasn’t as hard as I thought it may be – it was helped by the cat being very used to the whole routine, allowing a stranger to collect her from the bed she spent most of her day on and another stranger to “jab” her. The other cats were easy care; as long as their food was put out at the right time and the litter trays emptied they were very laid back.
We enjoyed exploring the local area and the nearby lake was just stunning with amazing reflections. We could see that in summer it would be packed with many water sport enthusiasts, but in winter it offered lovely views and a very peaceful atmosphere.
From here we launched into our short six day break “around the mountain” that took us, first of all, north to Callasparra – a tiny town about 30 minutes from Murcia. This traditional town was typically Spanish with tapas bars and cafes buzzing from before midday well into the evening. We drove out of town to see the Santuario de Virgen de la Esperanza, a delightful cathedral built into the cliff face and surrounded by picnic areas and walking tracks that would be full of life in the summer.
Then to Caravaca de la Cruz, busy with a medieval market day. We climbed to the top of the town, crowned with a Basilica from which you got fantastic views of the town and countryside beyond. The roads back to our home base were flat and wide; Chris was looking forward to cycling on them later in the afternoon.
Next day we headed further north and west around the mountains towards Manzanares, a base for Manchego cheese manufacture. We are discovering more about the cheeses here in Spain and quite like the ‘mild but tasty’ Manchego. We enjoyed exploring the museum of cheese, looking at the development of its manufacture over the years, finishing with a wine and cheese tasting (and purchase too). Once again there are many little villages dotted around the countryside and we drove to explore one or two and find traditional cafes for lunch and dinner. So many of the roads here are straight and flat for miles and miles which made for easy cycling.
Our final destination on this trip was Cazorla, high up in the Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park, one of the largest in Spain. The roads became less straight and less flat (Chris said he needed some hill work!) but the views were amazing.
Now we were in Jaen province, the olive trees dominated the landscape as far as you could see. Our hotel offered amazing views across the valley below, and up to the peaks behind. Chris certainly worked hard on some of these roads but enjoyed the scenery and the chance to train for our next destinations.
We loved staying here off peak to enjoy the beautiful surrounds. Carolyn enjoyed an afternoon in the Hotel’s Spa as a special belated birthday treat and came out feeling very relaxed and very soft! Too soon we were on our way again, completing the circle as we drove past Freila once again on our way back to the coast for our next housesits.