SPAIN - Castilla-La Mancha ... on Don Quixote footsteps

Italian version - Versione in Italiano -

And here we are with our 3 week of vacation reduced to 10 days between child diseases and problems with van insurance.
Finally everybody ok with body and spirit, van insurance solved so we can embark on a new adventure in the Cervantes region which was home of his character Don Quixote.

23-24 April 2014
I, her, el peque (the little one) and lo straciamarones (he always annoying everybody) are ready to start our journey on a hot Wednesday of April with Wesfino (name of our van) which is marking 50.016Km. Direction to Valencia to stop at a camping on the beach. We get there and we find the campsite in Moncofa at Monmar camping and stop when it is almost evening.

The campsite is definitely quiet, it has its own clientele and we are specifically requested to avoid unnecessary noise. Dogs are not accepted, children only if they behave properly; ours were fortunately quite tired so docile at the moment and have been accepted. It is the first time that we enter into a campsite with selected customers but it does no matter us, each one is allowed to selling his product and it is up to buyers to choose.
We enter, we park the van and bring the kids to the little playground inside; some people are taking an advantage of this last hour of sun, at the pool a couple is swimming and others around us are reading books under trees. (A little side note, all around us have a book in hand, truly I say all, we are the only ones who are not reading anything). Now I understand the reason of the initial request, a library is almost in the open air ... our journey begins in a very interesting and particularly themed readings.
After some fun and relax, we had a quick dinner at the restaurant (the best dish is the steak, large and well cooked the rest can stay in the kitchen in my opinion), and finally go to bed.

24-25 April 2014

The plan was to stop at Albacete but once we reach your destination, we discovered that the city did not offer much to see, also the local policia (police) not provided us with a parking place or a parking area suitable for our needs (we had to park in the street). We don't know why but quickly we decided to move to visit the famous windmills that Don Quixote believed to be giants and park at their feet. Direction of Campo de Criptana in full Castilla-La Mancha.
The landscape is desert, the sun turns the ground of the camps in rocks, agriculture is entirely dedicated to vines and olive trees, hundreds of kilometers of vines and olives, I can't believe it, I never seen so many grapes.
We are in April, is already hot and we will touch 32 ° C on this holiday, we are happy we came now and not in August when temperatures can arrive up to 43 °C and there isn't the sea where to find refreshment . We wanted to go to Morocco, well we have found here a part of it, I would say.
We take almost all day to travel the 350km of this stage, we stopped often to eat, or making children play or just visiting these villages that still seems back to the legendary '80 .. maybe even '70.
People carrying their fornitures (tables, chair) in the street and living and sharing the day-life together or working the fields still by hand: and always grape trees, vineyards, olive trees and vineyards on the landscape around us for all day.
We arrive at our destination in the evening, we park for free, next to another Spanish VWvan and go outside for an initial site inspection to figure out what and how to do the next morning. In fact there is a lot to understand, a mill is an information point, a second mill is a small museum and the third one is still original and is utilized to be visited inside, all the others make up a landscape of another era. Outside is blowing a strong wind and we decide we made enough for the evening so we return to the van for dinner. While we have dinner the Spanish VWvan owners return, we greeted quickly and then we go to bed.

In the morning we wake up early, have breakfast and go to visit Campo de Criptana. For 0.60€ each we enter to the open original mill: children are enchanted by the explanation of how the wind turns the blades face, gears and finally the mill and how flower filled the bags through a chute.
Left the mill we don't visit the small museum but we take a ride to the cheese tasting and we visit the old millers houses.
The village is really characteristic, situated on the hill, it is all painted in white with really bright blue window frames. Once at the mill without blades, we enter in to the shop and go to visit the millers house. Visiting this house make me think  how they were physically strong but undoubtedly their life were so short ... They were living in a house that seems to be carved out of the rock, with no windows, a large table in front of the only fireplace placed at the entrance and outside the wind was constantly blowing.

When we go out, we tasted and bought some cheese and two bottles of local wine: Cencibel (red wine) and Airen (white wine). Back to the van and off to the next stage after a bit of child relaxation.

25-26-27 April 2014
Les Lagunes de Ruidera (camping Los Batanes)
The guide describes these lagoons as a fantastic place (do not missed them!!!) missing in the mountains of this land almost flat, so we trusted the guide and we included this place in our tour. When we got there, we are realized that actually the guide was right. The lagoons are having a crystalline water inshore and an intense light blu color at the centre. Like the name is saying, is not just a sigle lagoons, but a set of them on different levels which are creating beautiful waterfalls where you can swim or just lying in the sun ... but during the summer!!! We are at 850 meters above sea level ... now it is quite cold for swimming but not for walking.

We will stop at the camping a couple of days, we do not like to move every day and in this way we really do enjoy the holidays with children. The campsite has a direct access to the lagoon, playground, supermarket and restaurant well attended also by external, there are restaurants and a big supermaket just across the street next to the departure of a couple of walking paths. We will relax, 2 days of relaxation. During our stay we went to visit a ruined castle, we drove on a road in a valley where even cell phones do not have good signal. The castle was funny especially for kids and walking  around we also found some asparagus, so we are planning to eat rice with them. But on the way back to the campsite we where attractive to a sample locals specialties restaurant and we, can say, we have done the best eaten choice during the hole holiday, no doubt!!!

27-28 April 2014
Today we buy wine!!!!  We filled up two cans of 8 liters (brought from home) to recover Cencibel (the red one we bought in Campo de Criptana), for the white wine we're going to stop in Valdepeñas, known for its wine production. We arrive at our destination, reported by two guides we had with us, but we find out that this place now is a restaurant ... from 10 years! o_O
Having a better look at the guides we discover they where printed in 2010 and 2012; now we can believe why the camp-area is closed! For cheering up us, I buy 4 bottles of wine and 5 liters of olive oil, and we head to the next scheduled stop on the same day, stopping just for a short walk in the town centre and then ... direction Almagro (camping Los Arenales)
Between one thing and another, such as counting how many jars were used to decorate the driveway to Valdepeña, we reach Almagro in the afternoon; we try to go to center of the village and look for a tourist office, but we find it closed.

Fortunately, we found out some interesting informations just looking through the window while children are playing and then slowly we return to the van and we park in the camping place and just go to chill a bit  with a drink for us and an ice cream for the small one in the middle of fields planted with corn and poppies.
Children play and run around ... we enjoy the sun and the good wine. Then dinner and bedtime.
This is vacations!!!

28-29 April 2014
In the morning we avoid to visit of the small village (apparently is really interesting to stay here during the time theatre festivals are on) and move instead to Puerto Lapice to visit the Don Quixote house.
Always traveling through small streets away from mass tourism, we notice a slight change in the landscape, agriculture is moving toward the grapes to olives and wheat. However grapes are not missing, we see them on the slopes of the hills at the distance.
The idea is to reach Puerto Lapice on late afternoon, and visit Almodovar De Campo for lunch.
We let the children play in the fields while we are setting up the van and in the late morning we start to reach Almodovar just in time for lunch. During the drive we found a special shop selling lots of cheese and sausages, arriving in Almodovar we buy some bread and we are ready to sit on benches in a square just in front of the main school where a playground is set, we have lunch while the children enjoy themselves. Relaxed time, we are in Spain, we are also faster than the villagers but we had a couple of hours for lunch.

After lunch we visit this anonymous little town that apparently is a meeting of religions: Arab, Muslim and Christian. Lets go and find them!!! In the pedestrian street immediately we crossed a doctor's house experienced and master of universal religions ... we founded the first!
After 200 meters walking we get in a square whit a massive church whose steeple staying undisturbed  lots of storks in their 3 nests (I better say we found the second). Continuing our walking around we bump in to a colored museum just outside to the headquarters of the Jesuits (I think we found another one).

Just going down to the corner we pass to an Arabic meeting place (wow). Ok Muslims is missing but in a neighborhood of even 1km perimeter we really met a lot of religions. We think is really normal to find so many different religions only in one place, we have to think that this land was, for 2000 years, a theatre of lots of religion wars and battles not yet completely forgot, we will find the maximum memory in Toledo.
We go back to the van to continue our journey to Puerto Lapice. Once there, we note with pleasure, there is a new free park area for vans and caravan. It is a parking with loading and unloading near the municipal center; in the village there is a playground for children (at 10 minutes walking from the park) with a nice bathroom and a cherenguito open in the summer (we believe, because we found it closed at that time).

After we parked the van we went for a tour at this new village, Puerto Lapice. The Don Quixote's house is basically a court where you can have lunch; we arrived to late to profit this restaurant but we visit the museum and we get immerse ourselves in the memories of the novel. This place turns to tourism place, in fact here we found for the first time tourist bus coming from Madrid, Toledo  and others towns nearby here. Luckily it's afternoon and we are the only ones on arrival,all the others are going through the exit, and we are definitely alone during the visit and at the door exit.
We are not really hungry and the sun still shining in the sky, the village is really cute and hospitable so we have a sit in a bar in the Plaza de la Constitucion at Meson Cervantes drinking a fresh beer (cerveza fria) and a cup of wine (una copa de Blanco) while the children are having fun running around us.
The environment is agreeable, darkness falls, the children ask to eat but the kitchen of the places around here only opens at 20h. The desire to eat in our van .. there isn't, we like to stay here in front of the red wooden porch, in front of the fountain with its decorated benches by the novel steps.

To entertain the children, we decide to take a walk to the park with the playground and let them play to forget hunger; just for a little time, just enough to go and back to the meson Cervantes and sit down to have dinner.
An hamburger, a fried calamari for me, loin of venison for my sweeter while a gentleman at the table next to us reminds us of the importance of Spain in the history (the two Roman emperors born in this area and other important people: Trajan and Theodosius I. Maybe Seneca?), I let him know that I know just a little of history (I always preferred science) so he just change argument and star speaking about the big production of this area: cornicabra oil which is totally bought from the hill of Chianti to mix it with  other  oils with low quality and sell it as Tuscan olive oil extra virgin (however, while we were there, some British bought the Doleo Spanish Sasso with brands Carapelli and Bertolli). He also tells us he is working in a local consortium with a friend of him who is just arrived for doing some analysis on oils, and he start to explain how people has to taste olive oil how you can understand if it is good quality or not (as many of you know,  more is sour and spicy and better quality is).
Pleasant evening!! Children are tired so we farewell and we go for bed direction! The night goes quiet, the morning start arriving buses that take tourists, we make the kids play around us while we pack and then decide to go and find a place to buy wine.
We stop by the consortium and surprise, the man of the night before is the manager. I place the empty tank in front of him and he just start to fill it up and ... a present for us!! He just say goodbye to us refusing our money. Thank you so much Adolfo voy a estudiar historya ahora! (i'll go to study history now)
I love Spanish, warm people! Let's see if they are like this in Toledo too!

29-30-1 May 2014
Direction Toledo!

We drive along the road to Toledo always in peace, and reached the Toledo walls, arriving we where looking for a rest area or a camping. We needed to take a shower so, for the first night we decide to go in a camping.  As always, we took one day to move on and reach Toledo.
We start our journey  in the morning and arrive late in the afternoon but when we placed in the El Greek we could have a drink by the pool enjoying a lovely view of the beautiful city. Great, great view and great camping. Camping pitches of all sizes and some of them with wooden table and the possibility to load water, lots of trees , good facilities and public service to go in town.
The day after, early in the morning, we take the bus and went to Toledo, we take a small walking tour in the main square and then we decide to take the train which takes you around the city through  various interesting points. Ticket with audio guide for € 4 each person (There is also the hop-on hop-off bus doing basically the same stops for € 9 each person).

This is Toledo. We fall in loved it, every corner is really fascinating and also you can get lost in its small streets and it does have a sense, it is really true if you do not follow the paths, it is like to be in Venice, and it is really magic and amazing.
We visit the small Templars museum, where is explain the war against the Moors. There is much, much more to visit in this city but with small kids we don't hazard to do so much so we decide to have a walk around and get a bit lost and at the end return to the campsite.
For the second day we could avoid being at the camping, we could move the van in a parking area (it's look like a normal car park) between the city walls and the station that we found to be popular and full of motorhomes, vans and caravans. Never mind, we'll go back to this magical city one day when we will return to do another tour: Toledo, Madrid, Extremadura or Castilla y Leon.

1-2 May 2014
Enchanted City (Ciudad Encantada) in Cuenca and stop in Cuenca.
We are always on Don Quixote footsteps and the signs indicate it very well.

We are going to visit a park where the wind and the rain seems to have modeled some rocks in form animals or artificial bridges. Let's check it!

Here we put the worst picture of all we have done just todo not spoil the beautiful scenery you will find there. You can do the whole tour in about 3 hours with the kids, and with calm ... we've done it in revers direction to avoid the procession of tourists (as we call it).
The nature, normally, doesn't produce statues, but in this case it went really close. Obviously it depends a lot on how you look at the rocks so  occasionally my lady was turning to see the real impact you should have doing the path in the right direction.
We believe that the forms are best seen on the contrary, however, 'as always' it is subjective.
There are some rare (strange) as they say here, while others are clearly recognizable (respect to the map the centre gave you at the beginning of the tour).
This is an experience you can easily make with small children, perhaps with the push-chair you might have some difficulties because the path has stone stairs and paths on deep gravel.
Leaving this amazing park just on time for dinner, between having dinner in the van or having dinner in the restaurant in front of the park door ... we decided for the second option!! We eat in 4 (2 adults and two children) for 32 € with 1 liter of red wine, water and 2 desserts, we chose the menu because was full of good meals ... the wine was good (I drunk all of it, and eat everything ...  the children and my lady have some face of disappointed).
We take the van to go back to Cuenca for the night, it is a few kilometers.
We enjoy the sunset along the way (it is already h21.00!!!) and we also see  many campers parked along the road and  some people come back to their vehicle or with back pack preparing to go on the trails (only later we find out the large amount of routes that has this area)
We will sleep in our camperino with all the comfort (not quite flat indeed but still ok) parked in parking place where campers can stay (40 ° 04'34.9 "N 2 ° 07'44.9" W), just below the hanging houses.

2-3 May 2014
Cuenca in the morning and then Ebro Delta

Today up early again, take a tour walking around this village, we cross it and start our tour from the cathedral
It is a small church .. but with a great face! Only the facade because behind it is empty.
Walk, walk and walk in this fascinating village and we reach the point of maximum heights to have a lunch with 4 sandwiches of inhuman dimensions.

From here we decided to go down by a path in a field which will take us to our camper. From our point of view Spain has got a lot to give about natureo, I think we will focus for some time in this kind of exits, at least until 'hell' will stop to be and summer will be back.
Yes because here the seasons are different. You have spring, summer, 'hell', the second summer and again the spring :)
Ebro Delta direction now, where we will stop for the night (40 ° 40'07.1 "N 0 ° 45'33.3" E) in an area with toilets, sink, barbecue accessory, loading and unloading for 5€ (if I don't remember bad) and try to have an half-day at the beach with children (we wanted!!! But ..... ).

May 3, 2014
A virus gastrointestinal brings a night of fever for el pequeno so we return to home really quickly. Fortunately we decided to stop for the night only two hours driving home, just in front of our house the odometer is marking 52,289Km.

2500km, with 205€ of diesel (about 185 liters).
I would say the Wesfino (name of our van) behaved well, he drank less of me in the land of wine :D

Have good Km!!!

The Don Quixote route (European Cultural Itinerary)

Italian version - Versione in Italiano -