this week we were planning to fly out to düsseldorf to visit a relative. that's what you do when you're granted a schengen visa—try to squeeze in as many EU countries as you can while you have it. unfortunately, this ashfall has put everyone's plans to a halt. even if madrid has not been affected by it, germany has, and all their airports have been shut down. we feel for those people who are stranded in airports all over europe, who can't get to their destinations—or worse, home! especially if you have no money, no friends or acquaintances, no hotels, no other modes of transportation. but, at the very least, you're safe. we have a friend who was supposed to fly to valencia, spain to do shoot. he flew from manila to singapore, and while there waiting for his connecting flight to paris, the ashfall struck. he waited it out in singapore for a few days; then finally he was told that the shoot in valencia had to push through with another photographer. sayang...
anyway, we decided to just localize our travel plans and went on a day trip to a nearby town called chinchón. just an hour away from madrid by car, the route is so nice as you drive by hills filled with rows and rows of olive trees.
chinchón is an old medieval town with fortifications, narrow winding cobblestone streets, and clustered houses. its most distinct feature is its plaza mayor, which is round with a single lampost in the center. apparently, it used to be a bullfighting arena.
the plaza is surrounded by three-to-four-story buildings, and each floor has a row of wooden balconies.
most of the ground floors have been converted into cafés, bars, and restaurants. and even if it was a drizzly day, it didn't stop the owners from putting out tables and chairs. we couldn't resist! it was such a lovely experience just sitting there, sipping the local drink of anis (sweet anisette liquor) on ice (pretty strong stuff!) and just watching locals and tourists walk around.
we had lunch at the parador, which was an old convent converted into a charming hotel.
the specialty of the restaurant is cocido—that's all they serve! it was a tasty concoction of beef, pork, chicken, crayfish, and assorted veggies. it's like our pochero, which is actually the spanish name of the covered terra-cotta jar it's cooked in and which farmers back in the day used to take with them as baon when they went out to the fields.
after, we had a nice walk and bought some local souvenirs. the town is so small, a day is all you need!