The soporific combination of a dark room and a quiet street with only whispered footsteps outside meant that we slept until quite late and were only woken when the fire in the corner of the room cranked into life at nine o’clock. This didn’t matter however because breakfast wasn’t served until half past.
The breakfast turned out to be quite excellent consisting of tostado con tomate, ham, egg and cheese, pancakes and Madeira cake all served fresh. The only problem that arose was with the tea and this I concluded was a consequence of the absence of English guests staying at the Posada. I was offered green, peppermint or a variety of different fruit teas but no English breakfast or simple black.
We eventually established what it was that I wanted and I felt bad about that when the waitress was sent out hurriedly to the shops to buy some. After she returned I finally got my pot of tea but it was served luke warm and I was forced to conclude that in remote parts of Spain they are not very good at making tea! It didn’t spoil the breakfast though.
It was mid morning by the time we left the hotel and there was a simple choice – up the hill to the Alcazar or down to the Cathedral. We decided to start at the top of the town and make our way to the bottom. Lined on each side with caramel coloured houses with terracotta tiled roofs, the Calle de Valencia followed the line of the old medieval town wall and half way to the castle we passed through the Puerto del Porto Mayor which was once the main gateway into the narrow streets of the old town and from here there was a final twisting climb to the Plaza del Castillo and the inevitable Parador Hotel.
The Parador Hotels are classy places well beyond our limited budget and can be found all over Spain. These were originally a State owned chain and were luxury hotels in old castles, palaces, convents, monasteries and other historic buildings that were established to promote quality tourism, to act as guardian of the national and artistic heritage of Spain and to assist poorer regions to attract more visitors. They are no longer fully owned by the State and during the recession have begun to suffer financial difficulties but there didn’t appear to be a drastic shortage of guests this morning.
The present day castle was built in the twelfth century but there has been a fortress here since the Visigoths built the first in the fifth century. Later as the Northern Kings led the Reconquest of Spain the Moors constructed a new castle on the same site but in 1124, the crusading ecclesiastic knight, Bernardo de Agen took possession of the castle and began the Christian repopulation and the building of the Christian Alcazar.
The castle was extended and remodelled at various times between the fourteenth and the seventeenth centuries but was partially destroyed in 1811 during the French occupation. It again suffered damage during the Carlist Wars and during the Spanish Civil War when Sigüenza became part of the front line fighting during the Aragon campaign. It had to be almost completely rebuilt after that so although it now suffers the indignity of being a hotel at least we have the Parador initiative to thank for what we see today.
It was possible to walk around parts of the old external areas but there is no getting away from the fact that the interior of the old castle is a hotel so with little or nothing to see except the reception desk and a couple of reproduction suits of armour we didn’t stay long and made our way down a narrow stone street towards the Plaza Mayor.
The weather was proving very inconsistent and there was no way of confidently predicting which way it would go as it changed without warning through intermittent periods of sunshine, cloud, blue sky and then squally showers when rain fell like tiny lead fishing weights and the temperature fluctuated wildly.
To dodge the showers we reached the pedestrianised fifteenth century Plaza Mayor via a number of churches, historic houses and artisan craft shops until we eventually reached the central square of the town which although wouldn’t get into my personal top five Plaza Mayor was very pleasant indeed with renaissance architecture, teetering balconies and covered colonnades, palaces and the magnificent cathedral with history etched deep into every stone and dripping like honey off the walls.
There was no real activity in the Plaza today and it was too cold for the bars to set up their tables outside so it didn’t take us long to wander through the stone pillars and across the cobbles and we left the square and made our way to the cathedral which was where we were going next.