Our first stop was Ubeda in the province of Jaen, home to 5 million olive trees in an area of 36,025 inhabitants. We booked in to our very centra l hotel just in time for lunch before we were whisked off at 4pm with local guide Maria Toni.
The city possesses 48 monuments and more than 100 buildings of interest, the most outstanding of which is the monumental Vasquez de Moline square surrounded by the Palacio de las Cardenas.
The following morning we set off for Valdepeñas, the biggest wine producing area in Spain. We were taken on a tour of the family bodega and learnt that they fill and box 8,300 bottles each hour. It takes 7 to 10 days fermenting from 250,000 kilos of grapes each year for red wine. The sediment goes into alcohol ‘Aruja’. We were then taken for the all important wine tasting.
we then travelled to Consuegra, a typical Spanish town with a nice plaza dominated by the medieval castle on the hill, and, of course, the famous windmills. We had lunch in a very quaint restaurant and then local guide, Jose Manuel, took us round a windmill and the castle, followed by the chance to buy local saffron.
We then continued on to Aranjuez on the banks of the river Tagus.
The next day we visited the magnificent 16th century Royal Palace with excellent local guide Mayte. This is the town that inspired Joaquin Rodgrigo’s famous ‘El Concierto de Aranjuez’ (Orange Juice in the film ‘Brassed Off’).
We has a leisurely lunch and set off for our last destination, Cuenca.
our guide in Cuenca, Pablo, was a very entertaining young man with a great sense of humour; he had the whole coach laughing before we set off.
We drove through stunning countryside to Cuenca Alto where we saw the old wall, or what was left of it after the mayor and the arhbishop had managed to knock most of it down with stone from catapults during their dispute.
We were told that Cuenca was most prosperous in the 15th and 16th centuries when the textile industry of the city flourished and this led to all the fine buildings being built. The famous ‘hanging houses’ are really something. The balconies just hang precariously out over the ravine. We walked over a large footbridge which takes you over the river to the Parador for better views.
The town was declared a world heritage site in 1996 and there are many fine museums to visit. While we were there they were blocking off a lot of the streets in preparation for the running of the bulls that week end.
On our final day we had an hour or so after breakfast to stroll along the river next to the hotel before we set off at 11:30am for our return journey We stopped for lunch and had a free raffle on the coach with the many prizes reflecting the places visited on our journey.
The journey home was very quiet, I think everyone was exhausted, but in a pleasant way.
The management of the trip was superb and I can’t wait for the next one.