Travelling in central Spain Part II

There are lots of things we love about Spain and getting ‘free food’ when you order a drink is one of them. We’d left Toledo going round by the scenic route just to have one more glimpse of the old city before heading off towards Oropesa.

We were taking our time and decided to leave the main road and head for a village to see if the castle there was open – it wasn’t. The ‘town’ itself, and this is the only way I can describe it, is very utalitarian in its layout. Row upon row of small, identical houses in a regimented grid. The factory was nearby and so this town was obviously purpose-built but seemed to lack any soul. As we only walked to the castle we might have got the wrong impression of the place but it wasn’t somewhere we wanted to linger.

A splendid castle on the edge of the town. (Perhaps its only feature)?

Back on the main road again and by this time we felt we needed a drink. We didn’t have to wait too long as we arrived at Talavera de la Reina. It’s a large city famous for ceramics. As we were driving round the ring road we spotted a cafe in the park. It was like an ‘Imbis’-style cafe you get in Germany. We only ordered two beers but along with that came a free tapas. It was so tasty, you really feel you’re getting lunch for nothing. It certainly set us up for the last part of our journey to Oropesa.

Free Food with a beer.

In Spain there are state owned luxury hotels that are usually located in historic buildings, Parador de Oropesa is no exception. This part of the 15th century castle was fully restored in 1930 and converted into the first Parador. It is a beautiful place to stay and is full of paintings and artefacts and lush furnishings. Price-wise it’s not as expensive as you would think. There are actually two castles on the site; the Parador being the 15th century Palace of the Alvarez de Toledo family and the other, looking more like a castle is a partially preserved Arab fortress built around the same time.

Parador do Oropesa
Parador de Oropesa (one of the castles).

I’m sure there are some great views from the parapet across to the mighty Sierra de Gredos but it was overcast and drizzling when we got up the next day and the visibilty was poor. Having said that we were given a warm welcome at the castle and were able to wander around on our own – we were the only visitors and paid a modest €1.50 each, the concession price which was great value. Every year in April the town celebrates “Medieval Days” with everyone, including riders on horseback taking to the streets to converge on the castle where much festivities take place and much alcohol consumed (by all accounts).

14th century castle at Oropesa
Castello de Oropesa

With the weather improving slightly we decided to stop at the medieval city of Plasencia. There is so much evidence of the importance of this area in those times. The old quarter includes ancestral homes owned by the noblemen and many signifiant religious buildings. Placensia has significant historical remains with ramparts enclosing most of the centre of the city. We were lucky that day as the weekly market was in full swing. All the produce was displayed beautifully on the stalls including one which was selling nothing but young vegetable plants to take home and plant in your own garden. Certainly takes the stress out of trying to grow your own from seed!

The only thing was, because there were so many stalls and shoppers it was hard to appreciate the main square which is lined with lots of splendid buildings including The City Hall. Placensia is well worth a visit. I wish now we’d gone into the Old and New Cathedrals but we did wander through several of the medieval streets with some interesting architecture. A good place for shops too.

Plasencia
Plasencia Market & part of its medieval walls.

And now it was time to head for the hills. Next stop, the little village of Candelario where we were staying the night. It’s a very historic place, steeped in history and is described as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. We were definitely going to include this one in our itinerary. Because we were there before the summer tourist season got into full swing it was very quiet. Come the summer tourist season people flock here to marvel at the traditional architecture, learn more of it’s cultural history and enjoy the beautiful setting. In the winter its a thriving resort being near to a ski station. Candelario nestles between high mountains and driving the winding road up to it we were grateful to our hotel for giving us such precise directions. There’s a car park at the top of the village and it wasn’t far to trundle our cases down the uneven street to our hotel, Posada de Candelario. More about this sweet little hotel in a moment.

On the right is our hotel, Posada de Candelario.

Originally the villagers made their living mainly from cattle. They slaughtered the animals in the streets by the many fountains dotted here and there and the blood was washed away down the narrow watercourses which run alongside the ‘main’ streets. That way the village stayed clean and the fast flowing water was always crystal clear.

Some of the interesing things we spotted on our walk round Candelario. The poster is advertising one of the many festivals which take place in this region.

The picture below (top rh) shows half a door in front of the entrance to some of the houses. Most of the villagers would have had one outside their house which protected it from the snow but also prevented animals from going in or out of the house. Days gone by animals used to live on the bottom floor in order to provide warmth to the house, also it was a way to keep the house ventilated during the season of slaughtering (it lasted during all the cold months, from November to February). Pigs were kept too from which sausages were made and sold throughout Spain.

Top left – one of the many medieval fountains. Bottom right – a view from the car park of the snow-capped Sierra de Béjar mountain range. The three central pictures show the cosy sitting room at Posada de Candelario, our bedroom and one of the hotel cats on Reception duty.

Our hotel couldn’t have been more different from the one in Oropesa. Posada de Candelario is located in an old Casa Chacinera built in the XIXth centrury. The building is full of character as you can imagine with oak beams, wooden stairs to the first floor and beyond. We were given a very warm welcome by Enrique and it wasn’t long before we felt very much at home. A spacious bedroom with a lovely, cosy bed was perfect.

The drinks and snacks in the sitting room are on a help-yourself-basis; simply write down what you’ve had and it’s added to your bill. The cats come and join you to have a warm by the fire in the sitting room and the breakfast was excellent with lots of home-made jams, warm croissants and as many cups of tea and coffee as you like. One of the reasons for mentioning food is that we weren’t able to find a restaurant in the village that evening that was open. We found the only pub in the village that was open. The food was limited as was the landlord’s conversation but we had some local ham and cheese and a beer which was something. The savoury snacks back at the hotel were very welcome too. In the tourist season the hotel serves evening meals and by all accounts, reading the reviews, the food is excellent.

We enjoyed our short stay at this cozy hotel in Oropesa and would have liked to have lingered longer but our next stop was the famous city of Salamanca. This UNESCO World Heritage city is one of Spain’s most beautiful and we were so excited to get there. More about that in the third part of this Blog on our tour of Central Spain.

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