Tag Archive: day Trip from Madrid



It’s that prized white garlic from Spain. And in dear España, ajo is a cook’s best friend. The cloves are finer and the aroma and taste more intense. It is a prized condiment grown in the tiny village of Chinchón, some 50 kilometers southeast of Madrid.

 

 

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Ajos (Garlic) : A Cook’s Best Friend

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The Iglesia towers over the Plaza mayor of Chinchón. Be sure to climb up to the Iglesia for a panoramic view of the entire pueblo.

 

 

Took the green La Veloz 337 Bus off Conde de Casal Metro Station. It’s easy to spot those green buses from the corner. Bus 337 bound for Valdelaguna takes you to Chinchón in less than an hour. Don’t fret once the bus drives out to “provincia” away from the “ciudad”. Before long, you’d zigzag along hills and reach the “pueblo”. The driver will let you off in the Convento which is just a 5-7 minute walk to the Plaza Mayor.

 

 

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The Bus 337 (La Veloz) drops you off , then picks you up on a spot with this view.

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A short uphill climb from the Plaza Mayor to the Iglesia and Torre del Reloj.

 

 

This picturesque village is quiet, off-the-beaten path, but certainly teeming with history and culture. Its grace matched by charming old ladies who’d chat with you like there’s no tomorrow. Old men unmindful of time, seated by a bench between the Clock Tower and Church, overlooking the pueblo. No need for maps. The locals are eager to give you tips — check out Goya’s house, the Ermita de San Roque and San Anton, try the coffee with the local anisette liquor and the pan (bread) con anis. Or just walk leisurely along the narrow streets lined with apartments with wooden balconies and joined by arches as the alleys spill into Plaza Mayor.

 

 

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Around the Plaza is the ayuntamiento (Town hall), many tabernas and panaderias with different shapes and designs of bread tainted with anis!

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The town hall of Chinchón.

 

 

One charming old lady convinced me to buy 5 breads from her. Anti-crisis, she kept saying, in that distinct, forceful Spanish intonation. She made my day! Claiming a seat in one of the tabernas around the plaza, I munched on my pan con anis with cafe con…… What else, anis! Chinchón is famous for its anis as much as its ajos. In fact they have separate garlic and anis festivals in this quaint village.

 

 

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Torre del Reloj. Clock Tower.

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Many houses are adorned with this red patch with an image of the Infant Jesus. I find the locals here more religious, more spiritual, more kind and welcoming.

 

 

No wonder Goya was enchanted with Chinchón. His brother lived here where he is the local priest. The house is very near the residence of the Duchess of Alba who allegedly posed for his Maja — naked or otherwise — portraits. Apart from Goya, there’s Orson Welles who loved Chinchón so much he asked that his ashes be buried here. What drew these 2 great men to Chinchón?

 

 

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Next time, I’d try this Taberna near goya’s crib.

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Walking around, I counted off just 5 tourists.

 

 

I wonder. As for me…. I think I had my monthly dose of anise in a single afternoon, and it’s threatening to give me a migraine. Could be the anisetto liquour in my cafe cortado or maybe the pan con anis I bought from the local panaderia. 🙂

 

 

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Joaquin Rodrigo. 1939. Concierto de ARANJUEZ. Classical guitar. His best known work. What could have inspired him to compose this most moving, soothing masterpiece?

 

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Rodrigo was blind nearly all his life. He played the piano, never the guitar. Yet he composed this piece for guitar as a solo instrument in an orchestra. He drew inspiration from the gardens of Palacio Real in ARANJUEZ. As intended, his composition captured the “rhythm” and “quiet melody” of the royal estate from the flower gardens to the ponds to the forest and hunting grounds.

 

 

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Don’t even dare walk the entire length of the estate. The royal gardens around the Palacio Real is fine. Meander through the tulip gardens, the magnolias and the plane trees lining the river walk. But hop on the “Chiquitren” to visit the rest of the gardens cum hunting grounds. It is said that members of the royal family had such diverse interests — hunting, boating, music, etc — and it looks like they each had their fill here. The tiny train plays the concierto while weaving around the estate. Nice.

 

 

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When you are done, head back to the Palacio Real and find a seat under the sun. Order the town’s famous Freson con Nata. That’s strawberry with cream for us. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Paid €8 just for the famous dessert (which I can easily whip up) and a bottle of agua PLUS a view of the entire length of the Palace. ☺

 

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I bet you’d be humming “Concierto de Aranjuez” upon leaving town. . As you do, take one last look at the Royal Palace, then hop back on that Strawberry Train.

 

 

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In an earlier blog, I wrote about our day trip to Avila from Madrid. It was the week before Holy Week. And I ended up doing Avila 2 days in a row. But that’s another story.

 

 

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There are many ways to tour Avila. The Tourist Office has several itinerary choices for visitors. The more energetic may want to round up the walls and visit as many churches and museums. The lethargic, exercise-deprived may opt to train in and around the 11th century walls. The first time around, it was a walking trip for us. Avila has enough churches ⛪and old buildings 🏰within its “murallas” or walls to fill up a whole day. The 2nd time around — which is really just the day after — we didn’t miss the chance to ride the green train that weaves around and outside the walled city. A good idea, sparing us from the leg cramps of the day before.

 

 

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Typically, every tour starts in the San Vicente Basilica, 💒which is right at the mouth of The Murallas. The basilica is where the young Prince, son of Ferdinand and Isabela, remains buried. Very impressive. Just before entering, take time to appreciate the wood carvings on the doors and the statues guarding the admission area. I spotted 10 apostles and wondered. When asked, the guide didn’t know which of the apostles are missing. Also, every pilgrim here won’t miss a visit to the Museo de Santa Teresa. Although Avila has another patron saint (well before St. Therese was born and sainted), there are many museums and relics of St. Therese, along with all those stores selling “yemas” named in her honor. If you ask me, those “yemas” taste like pure yolks sprinkled with sugar. Too rich. 😖

 

 

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On our 2nd visit, we visited the Convent cum Monastery where St. Therese of Jesus was once the prioress. Coincidentally, this Monastery of Incarnation opened its doors on the very day of the saint’s baptism, though it was 20 years after when she entered the convent as a nun in 1535.

 

 

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Inside, we spotted the exact site where St. Therese met the child Jesus. The child Jesus allegedly appeared to the saint right by the main staircase of the Monastery. The story goes that the child asked the saint “Who are you?”, to which the saint answered “Teresa of Jesus”. Then she asked the child, “Who are you?” And the child answered “I am Jesus of Teresa”.

 

 

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In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited this convent. The chair on which he sat is encased in glass and put on exhibit here. There are many relics inside the Monastery, and the cell where St. Therese of Jesus lived is well-preserved.

 

 

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The Monastery’s gate is actually outside the walls. If you are riding a cab, be sure to be dropped off right by the gate. Easily, you can spend an hour or less here. A small tienda or souvenir shop can be found as you exit the same door you entered.