Our friend Amparo has been wonderful at helping us learn more about Spain and how it works. She is friendly, open and easy to talk to and speaks and understands English excellently. She has also worked in the UK and has many English friends and because she has helped so many of them integrate into the Spanish way of life, she has decided to offer this service to others.
As we all know, it's one thing speaking a language when you are on holiday or even learning a language to enable you to live in a country and chat to native speakers as friends, but when it comes to the intricacies of officialdom and "techno speak" it's another matter! Often it's not even about the language, but about knowing your way around the system - something that is easy when you are a native of a country, but that can be like an unfathomable puzzle when you newly arrive. Sometimes even after many years, it's not easy to know one's way around the bureaucracy of a country. This is where someone like Amparo can help.
If you need advice, help or support with something and you are coming to the Valencia region, in particular around Xàtiva, please give her a call or contact her by e-mail. I have included her details and poster here.
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Thursday, 20 December 2012
Perhaps I should start by giving an idea of how we start one of these three day trips. It's a bit like a military operation, with advanced planning and sometimes advanced shopping! Where we are going to make a picnic or breakfast to take with us we prepare with rolls, cheese, hard boiled eggs, fruit, nuts and so on and everything is packed and ready the night before leaving including coats, leashes, dog food and everything that we won't need to use in the morning.
|The blue bridges over the autopistas|
work well with the yellow arrows. Often
the scallop shells are on this kind of
On this first day it was misty as we headed off and drizzling although we hoped to avoid the promised rain (and we did) but it was chilly and windy as we all headed out from the edge of Las Pedroñeras - avoiding walking through the town as we had promised ourselves last time. The amazing thing about the morning was that with the damp and the breeze, the heavy scent of garlic was all around us. Although we had learnt that Las Pedroñeras is the "capital" of purple garlic we had not seen much evidence of it on our last trip, but now, there was no mistaking it and a little later as I headed into El Perdernoso, a tractor passed me pulling a trailer filled with garlic bulbs.
|As you enter El Perdernoso|
|Church where the recommended|
bars are to be found!
|Ayuntamiento El Perdernoso|
|El Perdernoso's own "Park Güell"|
The arrows and way is a little difficult for a few hundred metres because they are not clear. In fact, we saw a faint yellow mark peeking out from under some paint on a wall as we were searching for the correct way. As the paint had not stuck well, it was starting to peel off and Michael helped it a little with the aid of a stone and sure enough - there was the arrow which we "re-exposed" so that others might see it a little easier! The guidebook mentions the road to Santa María de los Llanos but in fact you don't find the sign to it until some metres later. It is in fact a dirt road to the village and is obvious once you find it.
|"Positive Vandalism?" - Michael chipping away the|
peeling paint to reveal the obscured arrow!
|Take the right fork - the small sign|
has arrows and says "Santa
María de los Llanos"
Kaishi headed out with me from El Perdernoso to Santa María. Although the church and other official buildings were shut on our arrival (as it was Saturday - although the churches seem to be closed most of the time even on Sundays!) we were able to appreciate the architecture from outside and read the story associated with the town in the guidebook. I would have loved to have seen the figure of the Virgin apparently found in a field that is now displayed in the church, but it was not to be. The name of the town actually means "Santa Maria of the Plains" and very apt too considering its location. It's where an image of the Virgin was found by a local farmer the Ayuntamiento report the history as follows:
|The church on the left as you enter Santa María de los Llanos|
Puebla del Alijibe: It was the Arabs who gave the original name to the town of "Puebla" adding to it the description of the water near "The Cistern" the derivation of which is from the Arabic word "al-Yibb", meaning well.
|The way out of Santa María|
The farmer, according to the guidebook, also struck a small cross with his plough at the same time he discovered the small image of the Virgin. This cross is apparently eight finger-lengths long and is displayed in the church along with the image of the Virgin. A document gives the date of the discovery as around 1290.
|Ndzilo was my companion for the|
last part of the walk on Day 1
The region is not only one of wind and windmills but also of potters and there are many large earthenware jars to be seen around the countryside, some enormous ones which are used as works of art to mark gateways and entrances to houses. As we entered Mota del Cuervo there was a lovely little trough with frieze of jars above it and a pottery museum to our right. This is a modern two-storey building which houses a collection of traditional pottery moteña, photographs, explanatory panels and other activities related to pottery.
Apparently pottery making has always been an exclusively female task. The women prepared and processed parts, especially pitchers for water and other beverages (hence the name cantareras), while men were responsible for removing the mud from barreros and transporting it to the house where they prepared the wall of the oven and fueled it. They then brought the prepared pots to the oven to bake after which they would sell the product outside the locality.
|House of the Inquisition|
|Over the door of the house of the Inquisition. It can|
be found at the junction of the
Calle de la Iglesia and the Calle Manjavacas
The rituals associated Inquisition began the day before with the "procession of the Green Cross" and sometimes lasted all day. Green was used as it distinguished the cross from those of other colours which represented the Christian Commonwealth. Green became the colour of the Inquisition, greenness denoted stability and eternity, was pleasing on the eye and was a sign of victory and triumph. The arms above show the symbols of the Inquisition - the cross would have been green on a sable (or dark, black) background with a green olive branch to the right and sword on the left. This was to show that the Inquisition mixed justice and mercy. (One should read the arms the opposite way to how you look at them - like stage left and stage right)
|Ayuntamiento of Mota de Cuervo|
with a tower dating from 1731
|The Hermitage of San Sebastian|
|Hostel Plaza - Cercado Alta, 4|
Mota del Cuervo - 967 18 08 37
|Inside the windmill with some of|
the local "pottery"!
|The mill's mechanism|
|Posing with DQ and Sancho!|
The restaurant was warm, smart, welcoming and with wonderful, friendly staff. It looks 5* but the prices are so reasonable. Our menu del dia was still only 10 Euros each which included a bottle of wine along with the three courses and coffees. They are open daily for lunch and every day except Monday and Thursday for evening meals. For the meal we had on the Sunday evening Michael tried their speciality of leg of lamb and the meat just fell off the bone. It's not my thing, but it looked delicious and so perfectly cooked and M said it was excellent. After this and while sitting the following day in a wonderful little coffee shop for breakfast, we decided that our idea for making a card that we leave along the route, letting the places where we enjoyed know that we are going to include them in the blog, must become reality before our next Camino walks. This we hope will not only bring more hits to the blog but will also bring more business to those places we visit and in turn they will hopefully welcome even more Peregrinos.
|Inside El Chuletero|
|Restaurant "The Loin"|
Day 2: Mota del Cuervo to El Toboso
We are now in the heart of Don Quixote country and the Ruta Quixote is with us every step. El Toboso holding great attraction as the town where "Dulcinea" lived. Getting up late - at 07.30, we discovered that there was not a single place offering breakfast (and it was Sunday, but often in tourist places there is a bar open) and as it was not raining, I decided I would walk to El Toboso and have breakfast there. After all it was only going to be 11km, although typically when one has not had breakfast and has left later it was a "long" 11km!
We made the decision to just go for the walk as the promise of rain looked to be holding off. It was actually quite warm and although I had my hat and neck warmer on, I was soon down to walking in only my T shirt with overshirt, rather than coat, wool shirt, snood, gloves, hat and additional neck warmer! Such a change from our frosty Caminos of the last couple of weeks.
The first part of the walk was tar road, although quiet but as we headed over the first road crossing - the N-301, we met the dirt road and an abundance of hunters. There are also a number of quarries in this area and next to the gate of one, the most delightful hat presented itself in such a photogenic way I could not resist!
It wasn't until I saw the red and white striped "GR" route markers that I was reminded that we have not seen them for some time! For the last couple of walks, the Camino has been marked only by arrows and shells and the GR markers had disappeared. Now they were back in force and we sometimes found some every few metres! The way to El Toboso is flat but not uninteresting. As we approached a rest area on the Quixote route we passed a shepherd with his sheep, fluffy sheep dog and a donkey carrying some packs. Michael had let us know they were heading out way and it was quite a large flock. As the approached (large) donkey in the lead - it veered off the path and headed straight to me! It stopped peacefully next to me as though I was supposed to go with it. Then, before I knew it all the sheep were around me, sniffing curiously at Kaishi who was a little curled up, and overwhelmed by us being surrounded. The dog was superb - it did not even give us a second glance and the shepherd asked me what kind of dog I had and waved as he passed on his way. After a moment, the donkey turned and followed on, leaving us to film them as they passed.
At the rest area we feasted on our last hard boiled egg, some peanuts in their shells, some chocolate peanuts, a marzipan sweet and a clementine! Kaishi had Hill's dog kibble (her usual) and although it was not much, it gave us the "oomph" to "up and at 'em" again for the last couple of kilometres into El Toboso! We were certainly going to enjoy our breakfast! Or so we thought...
Entering the town Michael met us and pointed out the El Toboso Camino sign. I feel very much for the Spanish walkers of the Camino as they have to walk so much further than the English... (!!!???!!)
El Toboso is lovely and once must have been a prosperous town, not just a village as the old houses still stretch right to the edge of the urbanisation and it's quite a size even in this modern age.
The route takes you in via the house of Dulcinea or to be more precise, the house of the family on which the character is based.
The Museum of the House of Dulcinea:
According to the eponymous hero of the great Spanish novel El Quixote, El Toboso is where the peerless Dulcinea lived. He tells how on entering the town, you take two hundred steps until your reach a great tower, not, asQuixote first imagined, the palace where he would find his beloved, but the town's main church.
|With Kaishi outside|
The house is a traditional two-storey farmhouse, with a white-washed tower known as the Casa de la Torrecilla - "the house of the little tower" - and whose owner inspired the author to create the character. Inside you will fin displays of typical farm implements and tools, cheese-making apparatus, seventeenth-century furniture, large vats where wine would have been stored, and a large oil press in the courtyard.
If you follow on through the streets of El Tobosa, you will find, amid the typical houses of La Mancha, monuments that figure in the old story: the Church of San Antonio Abad, the Plaza Mayor (main square), the Trinitarias Convent, where the nuns display their skill in embroidery and wicker work. Finally you reach the Cervantes Museum where copies of the masterpiece are on display in every language imaginable. The final icing on the cake has to be the chance to enjoy a true Quixote-style meal with pisto manchego (a type of ratatouille), local cheeses and wines, and pastries as sweet as the lady Dulcinea herself.
taken from www.hellovisitspain.com
|The press referred to!|
|Don Quixote and Dulcinea in the town square|
The town also appears in Graham Greene's tribute Monsignor Quixote, where the heroes are a priest (supposedly a descendant of Cervantes's character), and the recently deposed Communist mayor of the town in the post-Franco era.
Father Quixote, a parish priest in the little town of El Toboso in Spain's La Mancha region, regards himself as a descendant of Cervantes' character of the same name, even if people point out to him that Don Quixote was a fictitious character. One day, he helps and gives food to a mysterious Italian bishop whose car has broken down. Shortly afterwards, he is given the title of monsignor by the Pope, much to the surprise of his bishop who looks upon Father Quixote's activities rather with suspicion. He urges the priest to take a holiday, and so Quixote embarks upon a voyage through Spain with his old Seat 600 called "Rocinante" and in the company of the Communist ex-mayor of El Toboso (who, of course, is nicknamed "Sancho"). In the subsequent course of events, Quixote and his companion have all sorts of funny and moving adventures along the lines of his ancestor's on their way through post-Franco Spain. They encounter the contemporary equivalents of the windmills, are confronted with holy and not-so-holy places and with sinners of all sorts. In their dialogues about Catholicism and Communism, the two men are brought closer, start to appreciate each other better but also to question their own beliefs.
|The church tower into which Don Quixote "crashed"|
with the Ayuntamiento next door
The kitchen information tells us how baskets were
made in various sizes and for various purposes, including small ones for cheese making and larger ones for carrying various farm produce. Foodstuffs were stored in chests, food cupboards and pots, especially pulses (lentils were very common are are mentioned in Don Quixote as a meal), cheese and meats. Spices were boxed as they were so expensive. Much meat was consumed - those listed were mutton, pork, chicken and game. Game birds and hares were very common and were hunted with birds of prey, ferrets and (continued to the present day) with greyhounds or the Spanish Galgo. The main vegetables consumed were cabbages and turnips.
|Oils, wines and grains...|
Wine was stored in skin bags and consumed in the same year that it was made because it degraded quickly and they didn't have the preservation techniques we have today. Only once wine could be preserved did the large storage jars for wine develop. Grain for bread was stored in a chest and was so valuable it was kept locked.
|Amazing lockable "grain" chest - that's the lock mechanism|
inside the lid!
|Pigeon holes - an exquisite food|
of the time
Doves were bred due to their prime nutritional value and were an economical resource in La Mancha. In rural areas pigeons were considered an exquisite food. Known as "columbiculture" (the pigeon holes are columbaries) pigeons were often bred in the houses of the well to do. The dovecot pigeons or domestic pigeon is the columba livia. Don Quixote "ate pigeons on Sundays". Dove eggs also formed a part of the diet and their guano was used to fertilise the vineyards. The importance of doves as food in the culture is reflected in the names of villages, with the name often being "Palomares" or "Dovecots"(paloma - dove in Spanish). In the story Don Quixote, Dulcinea is often compared to a succulent, delicate dove!
|The museum gives good explanations about the life of a noble household of the time|
|Hall with "armchair" and folding|
|Courtyard of the house|
|Bedroom and writing desk - bed|
also on a raised platform
|Mill within the home|
|Bed and furniture on a dais (estrado)|
The restaurant, La Noria, has a reputation for being good and comes recommended on a number of websites. The prices are match this reputation but sadly the food, to our mind, did not and neither did the service. Although they do offer food typical of La Mancha and our paté of partridge (perdiz) was delicious, we were left with the feeling that it was over rated, fancied itself a little and was greatly overpriced. Compared to La Chuletero... well, there is no comparison! We had planned, if the food was good to return to La Noria for supper, but it is not open on a Sunday evening and even if it had been, we agree that we would rather drive back to La Chuletero - which is exactly what we did. They also light up the windmills at night and they look eerily magnificent!
|Church in El Toboso looking golden|
in the evening light
|The sword of the Order of Santiago|
appears everywhere in this region
|The world's longest|
The way to the Camino from
Mota del Cuervo to El
|Pet friendly at the El Quijote|
925 568 006
It was hard at times to see the dogs running in the dark but they came back regularly to our calls and soon the first light of the day started to creep up behind us. The morning was wonderful and it was quite an amazing feeling to be walking out of the darkness and into the light. The farmers were up early, driving to their land with their headlights on and some tractors already rumbling along in the half light. This time of year sees the pruning of the vines and often there is a lone man or a couple of men or a man and woman together, clipping and casting offcuts aside and then dragging them up to a big fire.
|Burning the clippings from pruned vines|
Today again the way was very well marked with both arrows and the red and white GR route markers. Sometimes we had all three at once, shells, arrows and GR markers! Having left so early, we were walking into the outskirts of Quintanar at 09.30. Perfect timing! The route here makes a little change of direction although it is easy to follow and very well marked. Instead of going along the big main road of N-301 (ringroad around Quintanar) it now goes under the road and once in Quintanar, instead of taking you along the main road, it follows a much nicer paved way into the town and brings you in past some lovely old buildings to the main square with the Ayuntamiento and church. The old markings are still to be found in some areas of the town, so if you do follow the map and not the markings, you should still be able to find your way, but as they take you into the industrial area, I would thoroughly recommend just following the arrows as you find them and taking the route into town that we did.
|The new way "under" the N-301|
|Markers, markers everywhere...|
|... even markers on the "outer" side of bridges - not usual!|
|The way marked into Quintanar, this|
is next to a mechanic's workshop.
We are still on the Ruta Quijote too
|Lovely old way into Quintanar - there is a shell on the|
wall here too
|The Ayuntamiento. I met a lovely|
man here who was very serious about
the Camino and who took me in person
to make sure the police stamped
|The church in Quintanar - of the Order of|
St James again, the sword is above the door
|Church door Quintanar de la Orden|
The way will take you right past a lovely little cafe where they serve a breakfast (desayuno) for 2.50 Euros, coffee and bolleria. It's called "La Gloria" and please do make it a stopping point. It's the perfect place, just the right distance from El Toboso when leaving early, to have breakfast! I had cheese, jamon and tomato - perfect and warmed up while checking out the guidebook and applying my first plaster! Although my toe had not formed a blister, there was a distinct rubbing. As I have had no sign of any blisters so far and my shoes are so comfortable, I can only think that perhaps there had been some grit in my sock. Anyway, the plaster just cushioned my toe enough to make the rest of the walk comfortable - phew!
When you leave the cafe, you will come to a roundabout with a strange kind of iron sculpture in the middle of it. It's not easy to initially find the route but the guidebook explains to leave by way the Calle Princesa. If you go straight across the roundabout and then turn left, you will actually be on this very road. Keep alert as there are markers from here but some are high on walls and some are of the new kind with a shell on a white background and they do not stand out so clearly.
**It should also be noted that the map of Quintanar de la Orden is only to be found in the guidebook! The map is missing on the looseleaf versions that accompany the guidebook!
|The Camino runs for the most part|
right alongside the main CM-410
|The beginning of the new marked route to Puebla de|
Almoradiel - fabulous!
It was built by Francisco Sánchez Roldán, a very influential character in our town in the seventeenth century.
There is no definite architectural style, featuring influences both on the facade and on the inside of the Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque style.
|Chapel of the Holy Christ|
The facade is divided into three sections: the bottom is overseen by a cover with arch, whose key fits in the cross of the Order of Santiago, the intermediate body has a single flat bay, the upper body has clear echoes of Romanesque architecture.Crowning the façade stands a belfry, with holes to accommodate the bells. In the apse is much venerated image of the Christ of Blessed Health.
|How could I resist? A statue with a dog has to have a place|
in this blog!
The Church of San Juan Bautista - next to the Ayuntamiento:
It is located in the Plaza de la Constitución de la Puebla de Almoradiel and next to City Hall. The mixture of architectural styles, due to the different phases of construction, endowment chronological difficult, and can be traced to the earliest stages of the Middle Ages, specifically in S. XII-XIV, showing stylistic remnants of Romanesque and Gothic, in parts both inside the temple as the facade. Examples are two arches of the transept and two splayed windows with semicircular arches paired.
|The Church of San Juan Bautista|
The wall, masonry, presents a compact and closed to abut three buttresses that can withstand the weight of the roof, the latter of Renaissance type barrel vault with lunettes and arches.
Stresses the starry vault ribbed covering warped apse where nerves and durados key highlights on the fillings. The altar is of modern aesthetics, the original Baroque, disappeared during the civil war.
At the foot of the church stands the choir, which is accessible by stairs leading to the bell tower also aesthetic Escorial. This same style is one of the front windows which is topped by a triangular pediment and ball ornaments.
|Tapestry at the Ayuntamiento|
|Ayuntamiento La Puebla de Almoradiel|
|In the town square in El Toboso|