Thursday, 20 December 2012

El Camino de Santiago Levante Route: Three days from Las Pedroñeras to La Puebla de Almoradiel

Day 1: Las Pedroñeras to Mota Del Cuervo
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
blue background.
When the alarm goes off (currently around 05.15) and the kettle is switched on for tea and the filling of a flask (as at this time of year, a hot drink on the walk is most welcome!) and we leap into action.  The last things are packed into bags, I stack them by the door and M loads the car.  Dogs' blankets are folded and stowed behind the car seats and I fill the water bottles and make sure the food is taken from the fridge to the cold bags, things are switched off (or on), dogs are let out and doors are locked etc etc.  M puts the dogs in the car I bring the last bags out with me and we hit the road.  By 08.00 to 08.30 we are walking.

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
As is so often the case when there is mist, the sound is muffled and things seem eerily quiet.  As I approached the autopista I could see the fog warnings on the signs across the road, but there was not a car in sight.  It was like a scene from the series "Survivor" where everyone took sick with a deadly virus which then kills most of the population leaving the roads and streets deserted.  I don't think I have ever seen such a main road, so quiet!  Also, looming out of the mist was one of the enormous cut out bulls you often see on roadsides in Spain, made all the more dramatic due to the weather conditions.

Church where the recommended
bars are to be found!
El Perdernoso was a perfect distance for our first stop and one little bar was open as Akina and I walked into town.

Ayuntamiento El Perdernoso
Coffee, eggs and rolls later I was warm, satisfied and ready for the next stretch out to Santa María de los Llanos.  As you leave the town the guidebook recommends a bar by the church, but this is currently being refurbished and the one opposite was closed, so we were glad that we had found the one earlier as you enter the village.  You actually leave by way of the Carretera General which becomes the Avenida de la Constitución.  You will pass the Ayuntamiento on your right - yet another lovely building as so many of them are and head on toward the CM-3102 crossing as mentioned in the guidebook.  It says to cross it- but in fact you do not, you actually turn left (the book says right!! so beware) and follow the arrows that are on the pavement.  The left road is in fact the Calle Las Mesas and then you will take the immediate right onto Calle Manuel Longa.

El Perdernoso's own "Park Güell"
The guidebook also recommends a quick visit to the park on the way out of town along the Avenida de la Constitución - a short distance from where you make the left turn to continue onto the Camino.  It will be on your right and you can't miss it as it distinctively pays tribute to the Park Güell (mentioned earlier in the blog on the La Gineta stage) of Barcelona.

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"
The day was clearing up a little and so far we had been lucky - not a raindrop had fallen on us and the wind had dropped.

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
It owes its existence to a farmer from a nearby village (Puebla del Aljibe), who stocked up water stored in a Roman cistern.  He found a small image of Santa Maria styled in copper and considering this a miracle, built a small chapel to the Virgin next to the cistern.  The population from Puebla del Aljibe worshiped the Virgin and settled there gradually until the old village disappeared and the new one developed as Santa Maria. "From the Plains", is due to the name of the place where the farmer found the image of the Virgin. In 1387, the Master of the Order of Santiago, donated the Uclés Convent to the village.

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
Everyone was very friendly as we entered this town too - saying good morning, one man asking me if I was walking El Camino and saying he thought it was a good idea to take a dog as a companion.  It is so interesting to note the different character of each village and town that one passes through - some friendly and cheerful, welcoming all who pass and others hardly raising a glance and making no acknowledgement at all.  The latter are of course few and far between in Spain, but they do exist, but the feel, the energy and atmosphere that one encounters on entering a village is almost tangible.  It's quite amazing how that energy of a local population seems to infuse the air of the whole place.  

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
Leaving the village there is a wonderful new marker to El Camino de Santiago, erected in 2011.  It's nice to see the Way is still has special markers dedicated to it from time to time.  Because the walk had been easily split into three sections today and the last part was only around 5km, I decided to give Ndzilo a treat and asked her to accompany me from Santa María to Mota del Cuervo.  She does like to have a "special walk" from time to time and she was lively and up to the challenge.  Sadly the first part is quite a distance along the tar, although not a busy road, and takes you up toward the AP-36 and quite close to it - running parallel for a short way.  These stretches are never as comfortable to walk on but Ndzilo and I marched out hoping for some dirt road, which we did in fact encounter after some distance.  The book is not clear about where the route goes and it can look as though Pilgrims should head off on an earlier dirt track as the arrows do fizzle out a bit after leaving the village.  However, just stay on the tar road and keep heading up toward the AP-36 and a services that is on the hill ahead of you.  As you draw parallel with the main road, you will see an area that flattens out and where sadly a huge amount of rubbish has been dumped.  Here the tar joins the dirt road and you will start to curve away from the main road and to your right, where soon you descend a slope into Mota del Cuervo, with the windmills of Don Quixote on the hill opposite as you enter the town.

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
The Camino  is very well marked and signed into and throughout the whole town and you will naturally pass by many of these historical landmarks.  One is the small squire in which the Pottery Museum is located - the Plaza de la Cruz Verde, and as we learnt earlier on the walk in Canals, this "green cross" was a symbol 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 so-called "autos" were a public demonstration of the Inquisition. If the sentence was condemnatory, this implied that the condemned had to participate in the ceremony of an auto de fe (more commonly known in English as an auto-da-fé), that solemnized their return to the Church (in most cases), or punishment as an impenitent heretic. The autos-da-fé could be private (auto particular) or public (auto publico or auto general).  A proclamation was read out a few days in advance of the auto, inviting members of the public to attend.  So that there would be no "competition" no other religious festivities could be held on that day.  At 14.00 the procession of the green cross (the Holy Office's arms) would take place, and to carry this was a great honour.

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 Inquisition was extremely active between 1480 and 1530. Different sources give different estimates of the number of trials and executions in this period; Henry Kamen estimates about 2,000 executed, based on the documentation of the autos-da-fé, the great majority being conversos of Jewish origin. He offers striking statistics: 91.6% of those judged in Valencia between 1484 and 1530 and 99.3% of those judged in Barcelona between 1484 and 1505 were of Jewish origin. "In 1498 the pope was still trying to...gain acceptance for his own attitude towards the New Christians, which was generally more moderate than that of the Inquisition and the local rulers".  Wikipedia

A Little History of Mota del Cuervo:  

Mota del Cuervo seems to have suffered a huge depopulation in the middle of the 14th Century, possibly due to the Black Death.  

The Hermitage of San Sebastian 
In 1542, by providence of Charles I and preserved in the city archives the full name of "La Mota The Quervo" is shown.  From Philip II (1575) we have a valuable resource to understand the economic and social development of this period: the inhabitants were mostly poor workers "who make eating with his arms", the houses were low and small made of earth and stone.  There were ten houses of noblemen. At that time the town fell under the Kingdom of Toledo and litigation on appeal resorted to the Chancery of Granada. They were also under the jurisdiction of the Prior of Uclés, the town being in the territory of the Order of Santiago. 

Hostel Plaza - Cercado Alta, 4
Mota del Cuervo - 967 18 08 37
Once in the town, I checked into my accommodation which I am sure quoted 22 Euros per night on the phone, but I was charged 25.  As it was some time before and I could not be sure whether I misheard, I did not question it, but usually when I arrive I say the amount as I confirm I have a reservation.  This time, I did not and consider this my own error.  Regardless, the accommodation was excellent and had underfloor heating - so I'm happy for the additional 3 Euros to go towards the benefits of a wonderfully warm room all afternoon and evening!  It was clean, tidy, had a TV and private shower and decent towels and the lady and later on gentleman on reception were very helpful and welcoming.  In fact, I was given a little Christmas gift on arrival - a lady's lip balm.  It was such a lovely, warm touch and I would not hesitate to recommend others to stay here.  In fact, if we return to the town, I will most certainly stay here again.  It is a traditional Manchegan house and seems newly refurbished and inside there are lovely old pieces of furniture decorating the halls and corridors upstairs.  When I contacted them by e-mail I wrote in Spanish and as usual apologised for any errors and the reply came back very quickly and confirming that the Spanish was correct.  I also later got a reply in Spanish and English and on arrival they also offered a number of suggestions for restaurants depending on the budget that I had.

Inside the windmill with some of
the local "pottery"!
The mill's mechanism
We decided to go exploring and head up to the windmills.  Michael had never been inside a windmill an we were struck lucky as they were just opening up the little museum as we arrived!  The man on the desk also told us that if we came back on Sunday we could see the windmill working!  It was freezing and blowing a gale, but then windmills aren't going to be much use in an environment where there is no wind (!)  We took various pics of us alongside the iron Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and then headed back to warm up in the car and have a rest before going in search of supper.  

Posing with DQ and Sancho!
Supper was fabulous and I can't recommend the restaurant highly enough.  It was so good that in fact over the next days we ended up going back four times!  I have added a photo of their info below.  They do a superb menu del dia and we had a delicious lentil dish to start with - very Don Quixote!  We followed that with delicious, meaty, firm and filling albondigas (meatballs) and a dessert of a chocolate cake and for M, arroz con leche, or in English, rice pudding!

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 was due to be an easy day - only 11km - so we decided to start a little later and maybe have breakfast first, see the windmills in action and then head to El Toboso.  M had found a place to camp out with the car and I took his muddy jeans back with me to wash the bottoms and lay them out to dry on the under heated floor!

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 museum
If you do find the lady, she will no doubt welcome you in and show you the secrets of her house before preparing a dish of duelos y quebrantos - literally, "griefs and groans", but in fact a local speciality of scrambled eggs with bacon and pork bits. These days, the peasant girl Aldonza Lorenzo, the unknowing model for the gentleman's idealised lady-love, will not be waiting in Dulcinea's house with such delicacies, but every corner of this museum is fresh with reminders of the universal couple, the product of the ingenious pen of Miguel de Cervantes.

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

The press referred to!
Don Quixote and Dulcinea in the town square
Tradition has it that this house belonged to Doña Ana Martínez Zarco de Morales, identified as Dulcinea in the novel Don Quixote. The museum is designed to recreate a 16th-century La Mancha farmhouse, with furnishings, rooms and utensils typical of this period. It contains numerous items of great ethnological value, which were used on a daily basis in the traditional rural lifestyle: ceramics, basketwork, iron and copper kitchenware, a wine cellar, a mill, farming tools and horse tack, equipment for making cheese, an orchard, etc. The courtyard houses a cart and a wagon, as well as one of the biggest olive oil presses in the province of Toledo, with a beam measuring over 15 metres long.

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.

Convent gardens

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 museum really is worth a visit and you learn so much about life in the time of Cervantes and how a nobleman's house would have functioned.  In many ways it was quite "modern" and very much a surprise!
The kitchen

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...
The basic foodstuffs produced through the seasons were stored in each house.  Oil was kept in large earthenware jars, especially in houses that had their own olive press, like the House of Dulcinea.  The potters of La Mancha specialised in pots of various sizes, including these large storage jars and they were marked with their stamp.

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!
Another favourite of the house was pigeon, and even today as I walk I still see many dovecots.  The design is amazing, all the little outside entrances and then great big doors leading to all the pigeon holes where the birds could be collected.
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
The main room of the house was the hall where interestingly in summer it was left bare and washed down with water to keep the house cool and in winter it would be covered in rugs and the walls hung with textiles and tapestries.  Heat was additionally added to the house by the burning of a brazier.  On this, olive stones would be burned in order to scent the room.  The hall would be used for business and greeting guests, each treated according to his "status" with the main emphasis being placed on the most important person.  The type of seat one was offered or on which one sat would indicate the rank of the person.  The owner of the house would for himself the privilege of sitting in the only armchair - the one with the leather covered seat and back.  He would then offer this up only to the most distinguished guests!  Others would sit on lower, folding stools that lacked a back rest.

Bedroom and writing desk - bed
also on a raised platform
In the museum they also have a display of the various types of furniture related to personal hygiene.  These were not the regular items of all households but were actually far more common that is often thought.  The commode enclosed a chamber pot and there was also a ceramic tub, of the kind that could be found in the 17th Century.  In the La Mancha region potters would make these deep containers so that a bath could be taken - but in the standing position!  Often a dais (estrado) could be found which elevated part of the floor level and this was taken from the Arab tradition.  This elevated platform would be made of wood or cork which provided insulation from humidity and cold and in winter would be covered with carpets and in summer with straw mats.  Ladies would sit on the floor on cushions and men would sit beside them on chairs.

Mill within the home
Bed and furniture on a dais (estrado)
In this household they also had their own milling area, this was next to the courtyard where the olive press was also kept.  It would be turned by use of a donkey or mule, walking in circles to grind the grain into flour.  From here we headed back to the windmills in order to film them in action and also to re-take some photographs as the memory card in my camera had failed and I had lost quite a few from the morning.  Of course, hunger was growing but we knew we had limited time but we were lucky enough to be able to catch the windmills in action!  We noted a place to eat and at least in Spain, with everyone eating so late, we knew we would be able to get some food on our return.

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
zebra crossing?!
The way to the Camino from
Mota del Cuervo to El
Day 3:  El Toboso to Puebla de Almoradiel (via Quintanar de la Orden)
Pet friendly at the El Quijote
925 568 006
We were so lucky that the hostel allowed us to take in the four dogs.  Although "pet friendly" they don't usually admit four - especially the size of ours!  However, after some discussion about "do they bark"... "no"... "hmmm - do they bark"... "no"...  the landlord said "OK" and let them in. Actually the access to the rooms is up stairs next to the bar and through a separate door, so you never really get to meet or pass through a busy area.  The dogs quietly made their way with us - burdened by blankets, bones and other dog paraphernalia - to the room and settled down nicely for the night.  We set the alarm for 06.45 as we planned to leave at 07.30 because although dark, the dogs end up going to bed earlier when we stay away, and therefore nature also calls early!

As we headed out into the street, dark was not the word!  Without a moon at the moment, things are even darker than usual and as I headed onto the dirt road of the Camino out of El Toboso, a torch was required to find the signs!  Amazingly, there were many little bars open and it would have been possible to get a bocadillo to take for breakfast but the plan was to make it to Quinanar de la Orden for coffee and desayuno.

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
my passport!  

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
In the two maps shown here, I have drawn the new route - well marked - but which (sadly) follows the main road all the way and at times goes actually along it.  After a few kilometres I got Kaishi picked up, because although brave and totally unphased by lorries zooming past and cars overtaking, it was just not pleasant to constantly be leaning away from the cars - especially on the bridges where one had to squash up agains the side.  Many vehicles did give a wide berth but it was still just busy and not a pleasant walk.  However, overall, there are few sections like this and they are in the minority along the Camino.  The path eventually crosses the road and enters Almoradiel by way of a lovely Paseo.

The beginning of the new marked route to Puebla de
Almoradiel - fabulous!
The first building one comes to on entering La Puebla is the "Chapel of the Holy Christ of Health"

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
of Health

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 current state of both the plant and the elevation, has a nave with a transept, covered with a barrel vault with lunettes and arches. The transept arms flow into two chapels: Chapel of the Immaculate which extends parallel to the nave, and in the opposite arm Ortiz chapel that houses the image of the Virgin of Palomares, with starry ribbed vault.Adjacent to this, appears a porch that shelters the entrance, entered this in a round arch, corresponding to one of the entrances of the church in the south. In the keystone shows the Cross of the Military Order of Santiago.
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
The Camino shells are again obvious all the way into the town and bring you right to the Ayuntamiento where they are happy to stamp your passport.  As I entered, a magnificent tapestry hung above the stairs, displaying the sword of Santiago, which along with the town arms, is displayed on many buildings and signs.

Ayuntamiento La Puebla de Almoradiel

In the town square in El Toboso
On the whole this was a great three days on the Camino, but with a three hour journey home we realised just how far we have come and how much harder it is to drive out early enough in the morning in order to start walking and still have enough daylight for any stops and sight seeing one wants to do.  We made the decision to therefore head out the night before our next walk and to ideally find a place that is pet friendly in Toledo, from where we can do day walks each day, similar to how we first walked from Chella.  We are likely to do this for the next two walks as we are only 96km from Toledo.  The next three days will take us from Almoradiel to Mora and the trip after that will take us into Toledo and a day beyond on the Toledo to Ávila section.  

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