As part of our 2012 summer holiday instead of spending hours on a thoroughly boring, straight and flat section of the A4 between Madrid and Andalucia we opted to venture off the motorway and explore some of the nearby area in search of Don Quijote. Our chosen route through La Mancha is below.
We first visited an Inn in Puerto Lapice which Don Quixote allegedly mistook for a castle. This was where he guarded his armour in a bath overnight. I took some photographs of the courtyard and church outside. We didn't stop for food, although I'm sure we would have been welcomed as all visitors tended to just walk around the courtyard and giftshop which we discovered was full of Japanese tourists who'd freshly arrived on a tour bus!
We walked across the street to another shop where we purchased some Don Quixote children's books and eyed up the prices of Saffron! We never purchased any as we have no idea how long these spices had been on the shelf for.
We then set off for Campo de Criptana to the "Land of the Giants" to see the remains of what used to be 40 windmills on a hillside, now 12. Some of these 12 have been fully restored. This is the location where Don Quixote imagined the windmills were giants and attempted to fight them...
I visited the tourist office here where I was informed 1 windmill was being used as a museum and another with full working machinery. I was given a map of the area, a poster and a DVD of how windmills work as a gift.
Next on route was El Toboso (the home town of Dulcinea) which we drove through, but didn't stop and then Belmonte Castle.
This town was quite interesting as the old castle walls were integrated with the town buildings. With castle gates being used to access the courtyard for the Ayuntamiento (town hall).
After visiting we backtracked through Mota del Cuervo and stopped to view yet more windmills! There was a shop inside one of these windmills where I purchased a book of postcards and made a donation as the chap let me go upstairs to look at the machinery of the mill. He told me on Sundays they run the windmill.
On route to the lagoons we found a campsite in Ruidera and since it was dinner time we decided to stop for the night. I walked into the site and asked if they accept motorhomes and have availability, the friendly warden said we could stay anywhere but would probably have difficulty parking the van due to the many trees near the bottom. He recommended a spot for us which we took and setup whilst the sun was setting.
As the campsite was near the centre of Ruidera, after dinner we all walked into the town square for a drink where we were given octopus tapas and Ethan was offered a bowl of crisps. I quite enjoyed the octopus, but Louise didn't! After some wine, beer, fruit juice (and tapa each time) we returned to the campsite.
We returned for another drink at the campsite where the warden and family were having their dinner. I asked for white wine for Louise and we're convinced he returned with his personal wine instead of 'bar' wine. At the table Ethan started whispering because it was night time but when I brought him up to my ear to whisper into it, he shouted what he said!!
The showers were very nice, but the water pump and heater made a loud rumbling noise and the lights dimmed every time it switched on. It was a bit weird being in the shower where the temperature was cooling when all of a sudden the lights dim, the pump and heater thunders on and the water suddenly gets warmer for a minute or so...
If we are in this area of Spain again, we'd definitely stay at this campsite again.
We then left to explore the nearby Lagoons, our guide book told us foreigners are rare around here despite its beauty, but many people from Madrid visit. It wasn't wrong, nearly every car was registered in Madrid! It reminded me of Loch Lomond and Glaswegians... Just warmer :)
We then travelled to Villaneuva de los Infantes to explore the town square which had a very large cathedral on one side and houses with wooden balconies on the other. Driving into this town was very pretty as the buildings were a red colour and the streets were shaded at rooftop level. We parked up very close to the square and had soft drinks before returning to the van.
After our tour, since it was still quite early in the day, we decided rather than stay another night, we'd head straight to Malaga which was only a few hours away. One thing we did realise, at every town and stop there were plenty of new things to explorer. You could easily lose yourself in this area of Spain for weeks! We have another route to explore on another holiday on the west side of the motorway.