The Plaza was only a hundred metres or so from the hotel and when we arrived there we were surprised to find it being prepared for a bullfight. Now, I would like to see a bullfight but this trip wouldn’t have been the best time because Christine is an animal lover and almost certainly wouldn’t have approved. From the signs in the shop windows we established that the event would be on Sunday afternoon and we would be gone by then so we were relieved that Christine wouldn’t be here to get distressed about it.
The Plaza is in a marvellous location with a big irregular shaped square that is used for town festivals and the occasional bullfight; it is surrounded by a hierarchical arrangement of buildings of two and three storeys with two hundred and thirty-four wooden running balconies, called ‘claros’ and shops, bars and restaurants on the ground floor all spilling out onto the pavement. It was the location for one of the opening scenes, a bullfight as it happens, in the 1966 film, ‘Return of the Magnificent Seven’ and was also used as a location for the film ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’.
We spent a few minutes soaking up the atmosphere and the sunshine and then we compared menu prices in the bars and selected the cheapest on the sunny side of the square and settled down for lunch at tables compressed between the back of the bullring grandstand and the front of an interesting tourist shop selling a miscellany of local craft products.
This was a fairly nerve-racking time for me, Kim and Mickey because Sue has barely recovered from the unfortunate gastronomic experience of Portugal, especially the seafood salad at Peso Da Regua, so it was with some trepidation that we selected a combination of mostly safe and some unfamiliar items from the tapas menu and waited for them to arrive. We needn’t have worried however because it was delicious and we enjoyed tuna salad, hot chicken wings, fried potatoes and tortilla but I noticed that neither Sue nor Christine were tempted by the calamari.
After a fine meal and a couple of glasses of Spanish cerveza we set off to explore some of the tiny streets running off of the square. We walked first through narrow streets of whitewashed houses to the south and top of the town and to a castle with excellent views over the houses with brown, cream and ochre tiled roofs that were reminiscent of Tuscany. Beyond the houses there were the surrounding villages and the predominantly buff and grey coloured countryside stretching as far as the horizon. From this elevated position it was possible to appreciate that despite its close proximity to Madrid that Chinchón is essentially a small Spanish village and despite the Plaza, which grabs all the attention this is a living and working community.
The castle was in an extreme state of disrepair and closed to the public so we had to make do with a wander around the exterior and a peek through the keyhole of the main gate which confirmed that it was probably too dangerous to allow visitors to wander about by themselves. It was late afternoon, it was hot and we were all tired after a long day so we thought it best not to try and see all of Chinchón on this first afternoon and save some for later in the week.
From the castle we took the road back into town which took us through lazy whitewashed streets where old ladies in black dresses sat gossiping in the doorways and men folk sat on benches discussing important matters of the day. In the centre of town along streets leading off the Plaza there were a few shops, a mini market, butcher, grocer and a fishmonger, an electrical shop that didn’t look as if it had sold anything for a very long time, a florist and a photographer.
The town was very quiet and I was worried about finding a shop that was open for alcohol supplies for later but after a little bit of searching around we chanced upon an unusual little place with all the things we needed. It was a traditional mini-market with a random selection of goods set out in no particular order but with an especially impressive wine selection. We purchased some for later and went back to the hotel for some relaxation. Those of us that had a balcony enjoyed an hour in the sun with a glass of wine and those of us that didn’t stayed in their rooms. Actually we weren’t that mean and we offered Mickey a corner of our balcony to share but he was sulking now and turned the offer down flat.
After an hour or so we reassembled in a little bar opposite the hotel for pre-dinner drinks; all of us that is except Kim who had misunderstood the rendezvous arrangements and had spent half an hour wandering about the town looking for us. She was a bit grumpy but a couple of glasses of white wine calmed her down and after that we returned to the Plaza Mayor looking for somewhere to dine.
The town was still quiet with few people about and when it came to dining arrangements there wasn’t a great deal of choice. It was barely half past nine but most places were closed and we were lucky to find somewhere that was barely open but seriously thinking about closing until we put a stop to that by sitting ourselves down at a pavement table and calling for a round of drinks and the menu.
There was only a limited menu but we each made selections and then shared it between ourselves when it arrived. It was rustic and traditional but it tasted good and it was filling and none of us really cared because it had been a long day and we were all tired so soon after we had emptied our plates we left so that they could close up and we returned to La Condesa de Chinchón for an early night.
It had been an excellent first day, much hotter than we had dared hope for and there was clear sky that some of us enjoyed from our balconies that looked promising for the next day.