“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than most countries. How easy it is to make friends in Spain!” George Orwell – ‘Homage to Catalonia’
Eventually we left the A2 Autovia and took a minor road for the final twenty-five kilometres to Sigüenza and as we did we began to climb because we were entering the foothills of the Sierra de Guadarrama, part of the Sistema Central which is one of those east-west mountain ranges that extend through Spain that before high speed rail and modern motorways that have bored straight through them kept the Spanish people historically separated.
We climbed gently to over one thousand metres to an elevation that had suppressed the first signs of Spring and then without warning we turned a corner and there sitting handsomely in the natural folds of the landscape was a towering castle (a Parador hotel of course), medieval walls and a honey coloured cathedral surrounded by a mantle of terracotta roofs and ribbons of tiny lanes.
I inevitably got lost in the labyrinth of streets and a confusing one-way system but Sigüenza is only a small town so it didn’t take long to make the necessary corrections, find the well disguised hotel and get checked in. This was the Casa Rural Posada los Cuatro Canos and I had chosen it because of its high scores from previous guests, because it was inexpensive (naturally) and because of the one hundred and twenty-five previous guest reviews, one hundred and twenty-three were Spanish and none from the UK.
The down side of course to choosing a place not used to English guests was the language barrier and so checking in was a longer than usual process and involved the translation services of a mobile phone but the owner was friendly, seemed genuinely pleased to see us and invited us to settle in.
We had a charming second-floor room with stone walls and wooden ceiling beams, terracotta floor tiles, small window terraces with iron balcony rails and on account of the cool weather a large stove in the corner, a groaning monster delivering more heat than strictly necessary, spitting sparks and wheezing like an asthmatic after a long walk but it was cosy, very cosy and we liked it.
Normally on arrival at a destination we would make straight for the Plaza Mayor but on account of the rather disappointing weather Kim decided to stay put by the fire and I went into town alone to find a shop for some beer and wine. Coming from the UK where recent temperatures had struggled to get above zero I didn’t find it too cold but the local people were all wrapped up and well protected and in the bars and bodegas people sat in the windows looking mournfully out into the damp street – there were certainly no outside tables and chairs here today!
I found a shop and selected some wine, a Rioja of course, my favourite, and was talked into a second bottle of local origin from the winery of the Barcelona and Spain footballer Andrés Iniesta from Albacete and with his name on the label there was premium to pay and it was twice the price of the Rioja. I returned to the room and we spent the late afternoon and early evening enjoying the heat from the fire and the simple pleasure of being away from home after a very long Winter.
Later in the evening after it had turned dark we tore ourselves away from the comfort of the room and made our way into the town stopping first at the Tourist Information office to pick up leaflets and a map and then with our heads full of recommendations and advice we walked to the Plaza Mayor and the Cathedral square and we were comforted by a clear sky and a full moon casting flickering shadows through and along the narrow streets.
Eventually we agreed upon a restaurant that we both liked and although it was curiously empty for a Friday night the staff didn’t seem to mind that we were the only two customers and we selected traditional food from the unhelpful menu and chose well because we both enjoyed a fine meal.
It wasn’t particularly late when we left Le Meson but except for a few bars the town was clearly having an early night so we strolled back to Los Cuatro Canos where, as the fire had now gone out we had an early night of our own.