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Daytrip to Cuenca, A Secret Town in Castile La Mancha

For my next daytrip out of Madrid, I wanted to do something different.

Cuenca is a 'secret' town in Castile La Mancha, the place renowned for being the home of the fictional Don Quixote de La Mancha.

The locals pronounce it as "Wen-ka" not "Choo-en-cha".

I decide to visit for the following reasons
  1. Barely any tourists know about it (it's off the grid)
  2. It features the famous (to locals) Casas Colgadas or "Hanging Houses".
Cuenca can be reached by high-speed rail in slightly under an hour so train tickets were purchased online for the grand price of EUR56.30 for a return trip for Saturday 29 July at 8.40am.

The Atocha train station is a bit confusing, but it hardly has a fraction of the traffic that Tokyo station has.

 After you pass through a security screening (bags only), it's off to the boarding gates.

The Renfe trains are super modern machines!

Cuenca is on the way to Valencia. The train departed exactly on time. I'm impressed.

I must confess. I wondered if I was in the wrong class of carriage as the seats were leather and looked luxurious.

I was handed one of these by an attendant who didn't speak English. Of course, as an Asian, I am inclined to accept anything given to me free or charge.

Turns out it's a pair of earphones that can be used to watch movies. Pfftttt.

There was an awesome bar in the car next to mine. I was tempted to have a gin & tonic with a jamon boccadillo but it was only 9 bloody am so I had a diet coke instead.

We arrived in Cuenca at exactly 9.33am, 2 minutes earlier than scheduled.

The station was lovely but I was a bit disappointed to find it mostly deserted and in the middle of nowhere.

The trick to arriving in any Spanish demesne, is to hop into a random taxi by the roadside and petition the driver (in broken Spanish) to drive you to "Plaza Mayor" which is the default name for City Hall everywhere. So that's exactly what I did.

12 euros later, lo and behold - it was the Plaza Mayor of Cuenca!

On the way to the Plaza Major, I also realized that the warnings on the internet were true - this is a town on a hill, and the only way is up. So there is a crazy amount of walking uphill and is completely unsuitable for the elderly.

This is the Cathedral of Cuenca. It's the first Gothic church in Spain.

Roman ruins

Puente de San Pablo - awesome suspended bridge. Not recommended for anybody scared of heights.

And finally, the famous Casas Colgadas - "Hanging Houses".

Lunch was at a restaurant called el Secreto. Chosen because they had an interesting decor and also because they came out to ask if they could be of service.

Either Harry Potter was here, or there is some Poltergeist shite going on.

Eggplant Humus and chips. Fantastic. Humus goes well with everything!

Artichokes with prawn, spinach and bechamel. I am suddenly reminded that I loathe artichokes.

Codfish with black olives, truffles and red peppers.

Deer tenderloin grilled with blueberry and strawberry sauce. Tasted very gamey so I was so glad that I asked them to do it medium-welldone. Couldn't finish the last slice though.

After lunch, I had a great walk to the foot of the hill and made my way to the new town.

While walking around, I suddenly realized that all the stores were closed. And there were no taxis. So I had no way to get back to the train station to catch my train back to Madrid.

A local Spanish family saw me desperately trying to hail a taxi so they asked me in very broken English if I needed any help. To my surprise, they offered to drive me all the way to the train station which I accepted. They could hardly speak any English and I didn't know enough Spanish to make small talk so I just kept saying muchos gracias (many thanks).

I managed to catch my 5.43pm train and was back in Madrid by 6.38pm.

So what did I learn?

Firstly, Cuenca is a secret town - I saw like 2 or 3 other tourists but that was it. The rest of the visitors were mainly locals.

Secondly, Spanish people are warm and helpful. They will go out of their way to help a stranger in their town. Would I have done the same for a foreigner in my land? That's a good question and I don't have an answer!


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