When in Madrid our host is normally Tia Maria; Angel’s fun aunt who makes the best Paella in the world. Her bubbly personality and sense of adventure normally result of us having the best times with her despite the language barrier in my case. She is always asking if my Spanish has gotten any better and if I am capable of fluent gossip yet. No pressure at all; I am certainly working on it…
She wasn’t in her Madrid house when we visited this summer. Now that she has retired she had been staying in the town (as called by family members). The town referred to here is the village of “Villanueva de Guadamejud”, which is located within the province of Cuenca, about 2 hours from Madrid by car. The town is my mother in-law’s birthplace, and the city of Cuenca is where my father in law grew up. They both have told me numerous stories about their hometowns; so I really wanted to see it and finally put some pictures to the words.
My brother in law volunteered to drive (again) so we went to pay Tia a visit. We spent a couple of nights in the townhouse and ventured on a day trip to the city.
The town is small. Less than 150 people live in it; mostly seniors and I bet they all know each other. It is also simple; not in appearance, but the lifestyle is certainly old school. Doors are always open; you needn’t but yell a name before you make your way into a house. Not everyone has a car so you are welcomed to park yours in the neighbor’s garage if needed and there is no supermarket in the whole town. Food venders drive little food trucks around once or twice a week and people come out to buy from them. The one I saw screamed through a microphone: patata, melones dulces, sandia frescita!. Such an attraction for a Carrefour girl like me.
I have never slept in such a quiet place before; it actually made me a bit anxious at times. It gets a bit chilly at night, but we still left the bedroom’s window open for the air to circulate inside. When all the lights were out you could see every single star in the sky. When the entire town went to sleep (which is very easy to tell) I heard myself breath.
When you retire you can come to live here and work on your book said Angel. Or maybe before I replied…
We had eaten enough to stay warm until the next winter and slept in long enough to grow younger. With not much left to do in the town Tia Maria decided to give us the grand tour of the area. Our itinerary included a drive alongside the “Rio Escabas”, a stopover at the Solan de Cabras Resort and Spa, a look down the “Ventano del Diablo” view point in the Júcar gorge and a ramble around The “Ciudad Encantada” (Enchanted City) geological formations.
Pop legends told the story of the devil that built this viewpoint and used it as his witchcraft workshop. Whenever someone looked out of its balcony the devil hurled him down!
For lunch Tia Maria took us to this fabulous place called “La Casa del Tio Venancio” in the neighborhood of Caracenilla near Huete. There is Spanish food and there is good Spanish food; what we ate in this restaurant/hotel is superb Spanish food, especially the fried goat cheese.
The following day we visited the city of Cuenca. We planned to checkout its touristic sites then to meet up with a family friend downtown. The most visited site in this medieval city is the famous hanging houses or “Cases Colgadas”. The close by Saint Paul Bridge is another popular attraction that is well worth the visit. To access the site we climbed up to the highest point of the old town where we enjoyed the stunning scenery from the mirador (view point), then we climbed down a stairway built alongside the interior of the riverbed leading directly to the houses. Taking this route is much better than the regular walkway through the crowded city. It provides fantastic views of the Huécar River gorge.
Plaza Mayor is the central square of the old city. In it sits the Gothic Cathedral, which was closed at the siesta hour when we got there, but it was still a fantastic building to look at from the outside.
There are plenty of coffee shops and souvenir stores near the southern arched entrance of the plaza. When our friend arrived we enjoyed a cold drink together to cool us off since it was a very warm July afternoon.
Now that I know where everybody comes from I can’t help but feel a bit green; in a good way of course. Uplifting notions bounced between my ears; I liked what I saw and I like that it has now become part of my own family’s heritage.
There is something about visiting your spouse’s hometown that brings you few steps closer to him. Walking the streets where his parents grew up, first met, fell in love and got married brought me a bit closer to them as well. I would have felt the same if it wasn’t a charming little Spanish town where they come from too; but it makes it all the better that it is what it is.