In a day of unpredictable weather the sun was shining when we stepped out of the dark interior of the cathedral with only occasional summer cotton wool ball clouds in the sky and because it had been rather overcast when we first walked to the castle we decided to do so again.
This wasn’t too much of a chore because it was only a few hundred metres past the hotel on Calle Valencia which ran the whole length of the town. Outside the hotel an old drinking spring was bubbling and gurgling and splashing cool water like gentle rain from a fountain into an ornamental trough and we walked back up the hill to the very top of the town. And after we had satisfied ourselves that we had captured the pictures that we wanted we looked for an alternative route back to the Plaza Mayor and found a footpath that ran around the back of the Alcazar and then dropped down below the towering cliffs on which it stood looming high above us and looking proud and impregnable.
On the way we spotted a small market and sensing a shopping opportunity and so that we should get there as quickly as possible, Kim led me down a muddy and precarious path which came to an old bridge over the Rio Henares which even after the rain was barely a sticky trickle and then to the jumble of stalls that lined the river bank.
The first part of the market was vegetables and market garden stalls and in a second section there were second-hand clothing and junk stalls run by gypsies and the only one that mildly interested me was a stall selling various infusions as alternative remedies and reliefs for almost every known common ailment.
Leaving the market it occurred to us that we had practically done everything there was to do in Sigüenza and it was only just past lunch time so we walked to the railway station to see if there was any possibility of catching a train to another city on our ‘to visit’ list, Zaragoza. The station was curiously quiet, there were no staff on duty and the main hall was being used by a group of small boys playing indoor football. We found a timetable but it revealed a train service so infrequent that it was practically useless so we abandoned that idea and decided to drive to nearby Atienza instead.
The journey to the nearby town followed the western section of a circular tour which is part of the Ruta de Don Quixote, in fact stage ten of the route which sprawls across all of Castilla-La Mancha, and after a climbing section of hairpin bends with rear view mirror views of Sigüenza bathed in sunlight the road reached a plateau with a long straight road, a ribbon of charcoal tarmac cutting through the fields and riding the contours of the land like a gently undulating roller-coaster.
Either side of the long straight road there were vast open fields with the most attractive colours that rolled rhythmically and desolately away in all directions with a stunning vista of subtle hues and variations of tone; champagne and parchment, butter-milk cream, dusty olive, lavender grey, gleaming gold and russet red all lying crushed under the burden of what was now a vivid blue spring sky. We chased mauve and purple shadows as they shifted across the hills as the sun picked out towns and villages like a searchlight in the sky.
Eventually we arrived in tiny Atienza and walked through the stone town with its crumbling colonnades and rusting iron balconies and then eased the car to the very top of the town where a castle in a commanding position overlooked the plateau in all directions. The castle had played an important role in the Reconquista but had been destroyed by French troops during the War of Independence (the Peninsular War) and now two hundred years later it is waiting its turn in the programme of castle restorations and I got a sense that it might have to be patient.
There was quite a steep walk from the car park to the ruined towers and with rain on the next hill sweeping down the valley towards us like a curtain of chain-mail we quickly abandoned any thoughts of walking to the very top and dashed for the shelter of the car and drove back to Sigüenza through yet more changeable weather.
It was late afternoon now so after stocking up on wine and beer and olive oil crisps we sat in the room, read our books and waited for the fire to ignite. By six o’clock there was no sign of life so I investigated the controls and although they were all in impenetrable technical Spanish I stabbed a few buttons and generally interfered with the settings without having a clue what I was doing and eventually it made some encouraging noises and I achieved ignition!
As it approached evening meal time we left the Cuatro Canos and as we judged it too early to eat in a town where the restaurants didn’t appear to open until way past nine o’clock (being English we like to eat at about seven) we decided to walk the long way round to the town centre and we talk a third stroll to the castle under the waxy glow of the ornamental street lights and through the labyrinth of narrow streets, curious corners, dead-ends and intriguing alleyways, through the Plaza Mayor where there was a children’s candle lantern launching and live music and then below the exterior of the cathedral where the church bells were ringing in anticipation of Palm Sunday tomorrow.
We were right, it was too early for the restaurant to be open for business but they assured us it would open shortly and gave us complimentary drinks so that we wouldn’t slip away while they prepared the dining room and eventually it was ready and we enjoyed a second good Castilian meal at Le Meson and then returned to the room where the fire in the corner was forlornly standing cold and silent.
I thought all of that button pushing was going to result in some terrible volcanic like explosion. 🙂 The Spanish do like to eat late. When cycling there I could barely stay awake long enough for the meal.
I’ve not heard of any of the towns except Zaragoza, but you’ve made them sound well worth visiting.
There is a string of nice towns all the way from Madrid to Zaragoza.
The Spanish really eat late…😕
Too late for me Sue.
Good writing, Andrew. Fun to read. BTW, Peggy and I tend to eat at 6. By the time Europeans are seriously contemplating dinner, we are seriously contemplating Bed.
6 is about right for us too Curt.
All part of life’s rich pattern, Andrew, and a host of memories.