this week is the homestretch for us before we finally fly back to manila. and thank god, madrid was not affected by the ashfall! and yey! flights are slooowly resuming around europe. we have friends around europe who are stranded or hoping not to be stranded, as well as friends in manila waiting for confirmation of flights to europe. meanwhile, we decided to take another day trip out of the city, this time to cuenca, which is a couple of hours from madrid.
this UNESCO world heritage site is divided into the new town and the old town. it's located in the castilla-la mancha autonomous region. after parking our car at the tourism center, picking up a free map, and getting some tips from the guy behind the counter, we started our hike up this "vertical" town.
the old medieval town is built into the hillsides and so are the houses. called casas colgadas (hanging houses), the amazing thing is when you go in, the house goes several floors down—within the hill! this is one of the most photographed of the hanging houses:
unfortunately, these houses are all privately owned so we didn't get to enter any. possibly, during the weekend when there are many tourists, but we went on a weekday and there were hardly any tourists—just sightseeing seniors and bus-loads of students. we had to cross the puente de san pablo, a bridge 300 feet high and 133 feet long to get from one end to the other. scary!! the railings on either side are not that high. we kept wondering if anyone had fallen off this bridge!
but we had no choice but to cross it because lunch was on the other side hehe.. people who had been to cuenca recommended eating at parador de cuenca, which was built in the 16th century and used to be a convent.
the hotel interiors and courtyard:
this is the restaurant, which used to be the convent's chapel. look at the beautiful ceiling!
we decided to have the tasting menu called la mesa encantada, which featured bite-sized portions of the local specialties, starting with the appetizers. our favorite was something called morteruelo (in the little bowl, photo below), a paté made of game like hare, partridge, hen, and pork. it was served warm and is kinda stringy and is best eaten with bread. we have never eaten anything like it, so good!!
after lunch, we took a walk around the old town, which goes up and down narrow cobblestone streets and steps, making it easy to get lost—it was like a maze! we found the plaza mayor and the stunning cathedral (called the basílica de nuestra señora de gracia) beside it (check out the detail: a gargoyle!).
we just kept walking on and ended up at this fortress-gate-type of wall called arco de bezugo or el castillo, which you could climb up to get an unobstructed view of the town and the mountains surrounding the town.