Having finished our tour of El Escorial we left and returned to the town of Guadarrama passing for a second time the Valley of the Fallen but this time not trying to make an uninvited appearance and then we took the quick route underneath the mountain via a tunnel rather than over the top and then a toll motorway towards the city of Ávila where we would be staying at the four star Palacio de Los Velada hotel.
Kim and I had stayed here before on a previous trip and it was so good we had wished it had been for longer than the one night stop over so we were pleased to be returning now for a longer stay. We parked the car in an underground car park outside the city walls and walked to the hotel in its perfect location right in the City’s Cathedral Square and we checked into our rooms.
It was about six o’clock and we needed some beer that was cheaper than the mini-bar selection so while the others settled in I left the hotel in search of a mini-market. I walked an awful long way in an unsuccessful pursuit because although there were shops of all types inside and outside the walls I simply couldn’t find what I was looking for. I had almost given up all hope and was returning to the hotel and the overpriced mini-bar when I chanced upon a tiny grocery store and inside there were a few cans of the Spanish beer Mahou and some cartons of cheap red wine which I snapped up and took back to the room.
Where there was a shock in store because there was the most awful racket coming from somewhere in the hotel which filled the room with loud invasive music which made it impossible to relax. Kim went to complain and came back with the good news that the hotel would move us and she had inspected a quieter room in a different part of the hotel so we packed our bags, exchanged the room keys and transferred to the alternative room which just so happened to be on the next floor directly above the first room and, as it turned out, just as noisy, which I found extremely amusing and gave me a good laugh at her expense.
Later we met in the hotel lounge which was the old Palace open courtyard but covered now and laid out with white furniture on a black and white tiled floor with a geometric design and with the two storeys of the hotel surrounding it on all four sides but with running balconies making it feel open and spacious. We stayed for a drink or two and then rejecting the expensive hotel restaurant walked out into the streets in search of somewhere to eat.
It was quite cool outside because Ávila is over a thousand metres above sea level and is the highest provincial capital in Spain. It is built on the flat summit of a rocky hill, which rises abruptly in the midst of a wilderness; a brown, arid, treeless table-land, strewn with immense grey boulders, and shut in on all sides by lofty mountains and this produces an extreme climate with very hard and long winters and relatively short summers.
Wandering through the main squares and back streets there were a number of places to choose from and we eventually agreed on a quiet place tucked into a corner of a small square where the staff seemed pleased to see us because I think we were the first customers of the evening. The food was adequate but not especially thrilling but at least we got through it without any dining disasters (no sea food nasties or that sort of thing) and when we had finished there were complimentary local liqueurs, which I always find very hospitable and then on account of an early start and a very long day we went back to the Palacio de Los Velada for a last drink and an early night.