On the back road to Aranjuez- Torcas de Palancares

Lagunas de Cañada

December 6, 2016

We set off on our journey from Valencia to Aranjuez at 7am on Sunday.  The train route takes you west through massive fields of grapes dotted by the occasional and equally massive wine storage units jutting some 25 meters toward the clouds, stopping in a seemingly endless number of small towns along the way.  Progress is slow and the it gets much slower as then we enter the National Park known as Torcas de Palancares, leaving the farms behind.

The ravines (barrancos) along the train route from Valencia to Aranjuez dig deeply into the rocky orange soil. Because it has been raining, itself a bit of a refreshing oddity, rivulets flow beneath the train as it slows to 20 kph as we inched across trestles, looking straight over the side at the rocky bottom far below.  You don’t feel confident out there in the middle.  They are going that slowly for good reason.

There are more people on the train – so vacant we practically got on a first name basis with the conductor- than live in the protected zone portion of the journey, judging by the total lack of dwellings and just the occasional dirt road.  A large bird, a hawk or perhaps even an owl, swoops across the tracks, looking for an unwary rabbit.  The boars are too big to lift so they are safe from his talons.

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Cuenca, Spain: City on a cliff

Cuenca, Spain: City on a cliff

Cuenca is situated northwest of Valencia and southeast of Madrid, just an hour from either on the AVE, the fast train.  It is known for the houses perched on the cliffs and for the Júcar and the Huécar, two rivers (well, streams is a better word) which encase it.  The town was first settled by the Moors, who sought to take advantage of its natural fortress qualities.  Nonetheless they lost it in 1177 to the Christians.

The area offers an interesting cuisine, which I will comment upon below the photos.

cuenca bridge
Looking at the town from across the bridge
Some of the famous cliff side residences
Near the juncture of the two rivers
Near the juncture of the two rivers
View from Restaurante el Secreto, Cuenca

cuena from above

Cathedral in Cuenca
Cathedral in Cuenca
Cuenca street
Cuenca street

The Cuisine

There are a number of interesting dishes, mostly tapas.

  • Ajo arriero, cod, potato and garlic, can be spread on bread
  • Morteruelo,  pâté made from hare, partridge, hen and pork or some combination
  • Pisto manchego, tomato, pepper, courgette/zucchini fried in olive oil.  Very thick.
  • Mushrooms, harvested in the forests near Cuenca.  Níscalo is common, but other species, such as boletus (long and large with a cap).
  • Mojete: traditional salad made of tomato.
  • Alajú an Arab cake made of honey, almonds, nuts and grated orange rind.
  • Resoli is an after dinner alcoholic beverage made from grape must, cinnamon, anise.

We had lunch at Restaurante el Secreto.  The Guide Routarde sign for multiple years including 2016 attracted our attention.  The Guide has served us well through the years and it did not disappoint us.  This restaurant has many game offerings.  Peg had the venison, which was superb-  even I thought so.  The wine was very good, local and reasonably priced, as was the entire meal including my ceviche trout.

The decor is worth a look!  Ceramics floor to ceiling.


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