|September 9, 2000
|Toledo to Granada
We're bound south, into La Mancha. If Barcelona reminded me of SoCal, La Mancha is a dead ringer for Calif's Central Valley. Along the way, we make the requsite stop at a hill in the middle of a plain, on which stands the ruins of an old castle, and several reconstructed wind-powered grain mills. La Mancha is, of course, Don Quixote's stomping ground. The locals built these windmills to capitalize on this association, though there probably were wind-powered grain mills up here for hundreds of years.
It turns out that Cervantes' work was not entirely a bunch of entertaining, silly stories. Remember that the ultimate in right-wing governments was in power at this time, i.e., the Inquisition was in full swing. So, social commentary was couched in allegorical stories, pointing out the silliness, corruption, arbitrariness, etc., of the society of the time. Shoot. Do I need to read Don Quixote again?
We skip the windmill tour, and hike over to the castle. Sorry, but it's closed and locked. Jack, Kathleen, Brig, and I stroll around before heading back to the bus (brief stop for a second group photo).
Just down the road, (Puerto de Lapices?), we stop at a touristy place to pick up some guitar tapes and (what else?) spanish saffron ($5.50 for 2g).
Lunch is at a roadside, self-service eatery. My cold has reduced my appetite, so despite this meal being included, I grab a sorry-looking salad with some bits of canned tuna, a plain yogurt (ick, it's sweetened!), some bread, and a bottle of water. I dearly wanted some fresh fruit, but the bowl of fruit looks absolutely hideous! Brig gets some mixed seafood (clams and fish pieces in a light sauce -- the fish was good), a soda, and, lo and behold, a nice big slice of persian melon! I just plain overlooked it! Brig was gracious enough to share the melon with me -- it was cool and sweet and juicy. Yum!
Getting closer to Granada Susan decides to explain about the olive industry. Apparently, Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil -- but much of it is shipped to Italy and is bottled and sold as Italian! Unfortunately, we managed to catch Susan in one of her few shallow areas of knowledge. We are left wondering how olives are made edible, and what are the grade differences between the various oils. No problem for me, I can always tease those facts out of the Internet, if I really care... It's tough to be a guide, but it makes for an especially strong contrast for us. Between Gene Openshaw and Rick Garmin (the guides for our '98 BOE tour) almost any question resulted in an authoritative answer. This is a very unfair comparison, though! Gene had been doing these tours for so many years!
I notice that Susan pronounces the name of this town with four syllables, "gerr a na da", Interesting.
Following a brief siesta (more Moby, when I ought to have been sleeping), Susan leads us over to the Capilla Real, where Fernando y Isabel are buried. These two were certainly fulcrums of a great deal of history, some good, some ill. I should be more impressed, but somehow, I'm not. Their robes, Fernando's sword and royal baton, and Isabel's crown are on display. There's no color left to the elaborately embroidered robes.
We hike up through the Arab quarter (past folks taking tea and hits at a hookah) to an overlook of the Alhambra (Moorish-era palace). The next day, we learn that this place was much favored by President Clinton during his Oxford days, so he returned here (accompanied by royalty, etc.) on a recent visit to Spain.
A wedding has just taken place at the church adjacent to the overlook. Everyone in our group hangs around to see the bride & groom exit the church, which they eventually do, to the accompaniment of much showering with rice. Funny thing, though -- no pigeons show up for the rice.
Dinner is at El Ladrillo. This was a fabulous meal:
Wine, [warm] soda, water, bread, and a mixed salad for folks to share; Andaluzian gazpacho (a very large bowl); Large plates of lightly battered and fried seafood, including calamari rings, sardines, squid tentacles, shrimp, and some kind of fish that has been bent around to bite its own tail (all are delicious, but we're getting full!); the main course is a huge paella mixta, with beef, chicken, mussels, freshwater crayfish, and baby clams; dessert (!) is stewed pear with coffee sauce (Brig goes for ice cream); coffee; and another of those super-sweet aperitifs as we had a couple of nights ago. Holy cow!
Back to the overlook for a night view of Alhambra, and then back to the hotel...