Up and on the road by 9.30am and after a shop at nearby Carrefour we left Cordoba about 10.30am on the A4-E5 as far as Montoro where we took the N420 to Cuidad Real. Easy journey through the rolling wooded mountains and as Cuidad Real didn’t really appeal as a sightseeing place we decided to push on towards Toledo.
We have been to Toledo previously so we branched off on the CM4167 (scenic route!!) towards Consuegra where we wanted to have another look at the eleven Don Quijote windmills and stretch our legs! The road wasn’t exactly that scenic – just more of a 1960’s road/track with lumps, bumps and potholes but it was interesting to drive across the huge multi-coloured plains and seeing the wind whip up small tornados of dust!
The windmills stand out on a ridge, with a renovated castle (was there even a castle the last time we were here??!!!) and there was a couple of coaches arriving at the top with Japanese tourists, but it was interesting to see the windmills again – we even were able to climb up one of them to see the old wooden workings!
Carried on along the CM42 and then the N400 into Aranjuez where we found the campsite and chilled out for the evening and tried to plan tomorrow!! (ACSI Camping International Aranjuez)
Easy morning as we weren’t leaving the campsite until 10.30am on the Chiquitren (The baby train!) that offers a free ride into the Centre of Aranjuez and the 18thC Royal Palace. There is a massive complex of Royal buildings and Plazas with over 150 hectares of botanical gardens as well as the Jardin de la Isla and Jardin del Perterre which are more formally laid out. We started out at the Plaza Eliptica and then had a wander through all the vast gardens with their many statues and fountains (none of which were working!!) ending up at Jardin de Isabel II before lunch.
After lunch we thought we would pay the 5 euros each and took the Chiquitren around the town and along the Calle de la Reina into the Jardin de Principe to the Real Casa del Labrador and then stroll back through the Park in the afternoon looking at the various features, such as the Chinese Garden and fountains (still
none of them were working!!) Got back to the Royal Palace where on a Wednesday and Thursday there is free entrance from 17.00 – 19.00hrs.
The Palace itself is fairly impressive with a huge central marble stairway that then leads to the various rooms, such as Isabel II bed chamber – the bed being a wedding present in 1846, throne room, an arab room that is a very highly decorated mosaic room with a gold, beehive shape ceiling and a Porcelain room where the walls, chandelier etc are made out of ceramics in the Chinese style! Its a shame we couldn’t take any pictures!
Caught the baby train back to Casa de Marinos where we were allowed to use our free tickets to look at the old Royal barges/boats. Again we couldn’t take photos so cannot show what they looked like, but they were very impressive, decorated with gold, and had little balconies with curtains around where the Royal family sat. The oldest boat we saw was dated 1759 I think, so pretty old!
Walked across the bridge, fed all the duck families, and then walked back to the campsite for meal and relax!
I think, if you really had a good plan and didn’t mind an early start and a late finish, you could probably ‘do’ Madrid in a day – not if you want to go into the museums as well though!!
We were up at 07.00am and walked to the Renfe Train station (32minutes!!) and caught a train straight away at 08.45am so we reached the Plaza Puerta del Sol fifty minutes later! We had found a free walking tour of Old Madrid on the Internet that started at Plaza Mayor at 11.00am so we decided to walk down Alcala to the Plaza de Cibeles then along past the Museo del Prado and then back to Plaza Mayor. We had a slight deviation as the Gran Via was very impressive with magnificent majestic old buildings – in fact there were an enormous amount of architectural buildings to admire! Lots of fountains and statues along the way to look at – and with hindsight I think we should have spent the whole morning to the east of Plaza Puerta del Sol so that we could have also had a look in the Parque del Buen Retiro and the
Real Jardin Botanica!
However, time was short so we met up at 11.00am with Erik our guide in Plaza Mayor who then walked us through the old part of Madrid including Plaza de la Villa, Plaza de la Cruz Verde, Plaza de la Puerta Cerrada, adding lots of historical information and interesting little stories and folk tales! Very entertaining! For example, he told us that tapas originated because farmers came for their lunch and could only afford a drink OR food, so they had a drink and went back to work a bit drunk, therefore a law was passed that any drink had to be served with food – hence the tapas! There were loads more interesting little tales – but I cant remember them all!!!
The tour finished at about 14.00 at the Palacio Real and we then walked into the Jardines de Sabatini (Tried to walk in the Campo del Moro but not allowed!!) and over to the Parque de la Montagne that contains the Temple de Debod. This is an Egyptian Temple dating from 2,200 years ago which was devoted to the cult of Gods Amun and Isis, It was donated to Spain by the
Egypian Government in 1968 as a token of Egypts gratitude for the aid provided in rescuing the Temples of Abu Simbel in Nubia from the rising waters of the Aswan dam!! Anyhow it was closed so we couldn’t go in!!
Walked down to the Plaza de Espana where there was a huge monument of Cervantes that was quite impressive! Walked back to the Royal Palace where you can get in free Mon-Thurs 18.00hrs – 20.00hrs so we had a look inside the modern Cathedral (You can climb to the top – but only in the mornings!) and then walked over to see the Basilica de San Francisco El Grande.
Had a wander back up through the old town and then queued up for the Royal Palace at 17.50pm. Huge queues but it was a very efficient system and we were in the Palace by about 18.15 and duly wandered around admiring all the painted ceilings and ornate decorations and huge chandeliers! The Palace is apparently the biggest in Europe and has over 2000 rooms, but I guess we only got to see about 20 including a Chinese room, porcelain room, and of course the Throne Room!! We also
saw the room where Spain signed the documents to join the EU and also where the Middle East Peace talks were held. Erik told us that a wing of the Palace is being converted into a luxury hotel, but didn’t know what the rates would be ........astronomic I would think.
Pretty worn out by now so walked back to get the train via Plaza de Isabel II and along the busy shopping street Arenal! The Plaza Puerta del Sol was buzzing with mime artists, musicians and cartoon characters which we had a quick wander round and look at before we got the train at 19.15pm, getting us back to Aranjuez at 20.10pm and a taxi back to the campsite for 10 euros! Well worth it – I don’t think I could have walked!!!
A comparatively easy day today! We were first going to visit Chinchon – a place recommended to us by several people over the years and as it was only 30km from Aranjuez it seemed a good idea to visit now.
It was signposted out of the campsite so after bumping along for about 5km we reached the M305 that
took us straight there. Walked up into the centre and found a fantastic medieval Plaza Mayor square with wooden balconies and pillars with a view of two churches. Walked up to the churches before coffee time in the square. There was also a Parador there that used to be an old monastery so we had a quick peek at that as well.
Took the wrong road out of Chinchon (M311) but it was fairly interesting scenery over a small mountain and past poppy fields with olive trees and we joined the A3-E901 at Junct 41 where we headed towards Cuenca. Stopped at a sleepy little village with an impressive name (Alcazar del Rey) for lunch and got to the campsite about 16.30pm where we chilled out and did some washing (boring!!) at the very impressive Shower block!! ( Camping Caravanning Cuenca)
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