In keeping with its trio of gems, the whole place is a great place to visit. It is dramatically situated surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the cobbled old town meanders around ancient churches, historic squares, atmospheric bars & restaurants and sweet smelling, vibrantly coloured public gardens, whilst the stone walls & gates of the old town give the place a medieval feel to get you imagining crusader knights and invading Moors.
Gastronomy is also a delight there. All except vegetarians simply have to sample their defining dish of suckling pig. Be careful to stray away from the touristic set-menu restaurants on or just off plaza mayor and wander off down the small side streets to dine where the locals gather for tapas or to share a prime porker.
You may not even have to pay for your food with free dishes given away with every drink – tortilla, croquettes, calamari, black pudding, pieces of the aforementioned pig, salami or stuffed olives. You either take what you are given or can request non-meat if you wish.
We satisfied ourselves with gratis food one night and with a decent glass of local red under €2 a throw, you can be in for an inexpensive yet fulfilling evening.
So having visited the first two must do’s, what should we do on our last day? Rather than the obvious choice of the alcazar we decided to go for a walk as recommended by Andrew Petcher from Have Bag, Will Travel.
We scouted around the outside of the castle positioned at the town’s highest point before descending downwards and through the Santiago Gate, past the large and striking Convento de Santa Cruz la Real and down to the River Eresma.
We did enquire of each other why the Romans had gone to so much trouble to build a huge aqueduct when there was a river so close but figured they must have known what they were doing far better than we ever could.
Crossing a small bridge in the warm spring sunshine we then followed the tree-lined riverbank and soon found ourselves climbing gently up to the village/neighbourhood of San Lorenzo, which afforded fabulous views across the valley of its big neighbour.
It was midday which on holiday translates to beer o’clock and the main square provided no fewer than five bars to choose from, which appeared to be a ratio of one bar for every four drinkers going on the current statistics. Infinitely better than charity shops!
The beers came with spiced sausage, a perfect accompaniment making it completely necessary to have a second!
We traced our way back along the river once more, communicating with the same ducks near the old mill that we had quacked at whilst walking in the other direction.
Rather than cross the same stone bridge up to the old town that we had crossed earlier, we decided to carry on strolling so that we would skirt around the base of the rocky outcrop on which the alcazar was perched. Following the river, we passed the imposing buildings high up on the hillside of the Monasterio del Parral and the Convento de San Juan de la Cruz.
We traversed the river by way of a very impressive looking wood & iron bridge and were afforded an excellent perspective of the alcazar, so we could appreciate just how hard it would have been for any potential attackers to force its submission.
The path curved round to take us to the other side and we continued along, imagining arrows raining down upon us.
We soon came to the inevitable conclusion that we would have to climb upwards once more. Conveniently a sweeping set of steps leading up to the rear of the cathedral obliged in providing a gentle ascent.
We swept through the highly impressive San Andrés Gate and most pleasingly a small cafe bar with vacant outside tables revealed its allure as we passed through. It would of course have been rude to pass up the ‘invitation’. Beer and black pudding for €2.50? Don’t mind if we do thank you!
All in all a highly pleasant walk and despite the welcoming sunshine we hardly broke sweat. We did the whole circuit from hotel and back in around three hours with the beer stops accounting for about half of that time. Thank you Mr Petcher for the idea!