Just a reminder that these are selections from my diary of our trip last year, not truly trip reports as such. I've done a bit of editing but not much, due to time restraints.
Next instalment: Aranjuez to Valencia, via Cuenca & Albarracin:
Wednesday 1st May (2013)
On the way to Cuenca we climbed to 1175 metres, then there was quite a long steep descent through Jábaga on the other side. Saw a number of very small white villages, each one attractively surrounding its church, miles from anywhere. Red soil, green fields, sagey scrub and lavender with last year's seed heads still on it - all very attractive. Arrived in Cuenca at 12.45 just in time for lunch. What a fabulous place!! Breathtaking views and a wonderful town strung out like a belt around the cliff tops. We drove up to the top and walked across a rocky path to get wonderful views over the craggy cliffs with the town built right to the edge of them. From this point there was a clear view across and down to the Casas Colgadas, the hanging houses, a few of which are left, and which hang right over the edge of a very high cliff! I believe part of it is a restaurant - but I wouldn't be able to enjoy a meal in there for fear of plunging into the valley below at any moment! Cuenca was a real find and we thought at that point that it was the highlight of the day: but no - the road to our next stop, Albarracin, took us through some unexpected and very grand scenery. We soon found out how ignorant we were about Spain's incredibly varied geography!
We were gradually climbing upwards through breathtaking views out over the mountains until we were into the snowline at 1625 metres. No snow on the road luckily but it was so pretty. (I'd like to put some links to some of our photos here but don't know how to - any advice from experts on this one?)
We pulled over at a layby near the top to play in the snow briefly and enjoy stretching our legs and admiring the magnificent view, then pushed on to yet another delightful place: Albarracin, designated most truly as one of Spain's most beautiful villages. We got lots of good photos. Luckily we all did as the card in my camera aborted itself at this stage, and I lost all my shots of Albarracin :( But they can't do justice to the ancient atmosphere and charm of it all. Tiny narrow lanes with the houses leaning together over the top, quaint little nooks and arches leading you on to yet another courtyard or vista. I wonder what modern life is like in villages like these where everything is steep and cobbled, especially in winter. Very quiet, and you would either get fit very quickly or else never go out I should think!
We walked up to the top of the village and had a VERY strong hot coffee sitting in a tiny courtyard between two buildings. It was pretty cold but we were wrapped up so it was no problem. DB being naturally adventurous and energetic, decided to go right up to the castle ruins and the rest of us went and poked in a gift shop. Quite a lot of the touristy souvenirs are a bit rubbishy (as in any country) but there are heaps of very nice things too if you look.
When DB came back down (after having lots of fun walking or running along the top of narrow castle walls with hideous drops below and doing all the things I don't want to watch) we left on the final leg of the journey to València.
I forgot to mention that somewhere on the road before Albarracin we came to a waterfall called the Cascada del Calomarde which used to service an old mill. It was very peaceful and quite mesmerising as running water often is, and well worth the time we spent there - refreshing! Every part of today was a 'highlight', I wouldn't be able to choose between them.Edited: 22 May 2014, 09:54