In Don Quijote’s footsteps

Now that we’ve mostly decided on our route, we’re heading moving south. After having a few days of sunshine, we want some more and we know we’re getting closer to some good weather! But we don’t want to move too fast as there is still so much to see in Central Spain. 

First stop, Toledo! This town has a very rich Templar history, which is borne out by the countless tourist shops filled with swords and templar armour. Its city centre, up on a hill, is a maze of lanes around a very beautiful cathedral. Looking at it from below, the town is dominated by the Alcazar. Walking into the town, we pass through a medieval looking gate. This city truly looks spectacular! It seems to have everything. Except for 1 thing… A Motorhome aire. There is a campsite a few miles along from the city, and there are many large carparks at the bottom of the hill, but these are all chock-a-block full with commuters’ vehicles. Our Ritzy (being just a smidge longer than Rex was) is just a little bit too long to fit comfortably in a single space in these carparks. Eventually, we find a space near the football stadium, which isn’t too bad but it’s on a steep slope so it’s no good for staying overnight. We spend some time exploring the town but we end up leaving to find somewhere else to stay for the night. We definitely feel like we have unfinished business in Toledo and we will be back!

As we didn’t feel like driving much further, we decided to stop at the next aire south, at Mora. The aire itself isn’t the best, but it serves a purpose and it was OK for one night. We didn’t explore, but there is an ancient Castillo nearby so perhaps we will have to come back to Mora as well…

The reason we didn’t stop for long in Mora was because we were very keen to get to Consuegra! Consuegra is the home of a range of iconic historic Spanish windmills, set on the ridge of the hill. It is in the heart of the Don Quijote country, said by some to be the greatest novel ever written. Don Quijote references are everywhere and it’s clearly a big tourism hotspot, which coaches coming and going constantly.

We park up at the lower carpark, under the Castillo with a view of the windmills. The sun is out and it’s almost warm. The saffron croci are growing right next to our parking spot. It feels idyllic. We enjoy a nice walk around the hill and up towards the windmills. Some open as a museum, one has a restaurant and some have little shops. We spend a bit of time capturing these windmills as they really do make a stunning sight. The town is nice too, although it’s quiet at this time of year (the tourist coaches don’t stop long enough for their passengers to visit the town). 

After a quiet night, except for the barking dogs, we move to Campo de Criptana to visit another set of mills on the trail of Don Quijote. Set in a very lively town, they look almost as good as the ones at Consuegra. As we walk around on top of the hill here, we can see a new weather front moving in in the distance and as rain is forecast for the next few days, we try to find a comfortable aire to sit out the storm. 

In Puerto Lapice we find exactly what we’re looking for; an aire with all the services and even electric hook up.  As we arrive we have a lovely view of some more windmills, which are even lit up at night, although soon the low clouds take over and there isn’t much of a view of anything. Still, we’ve comfortably holed up for a little while. The little village is full of little bars and restaurants, all with a Don Quijote theme and it isn’t long before we find a huge carpark for the tourist coaches. In summer, these little towns must be heaving! It all looks fun though and it looks like a great way to support the local economy.

Next stop is Valdepeñas, although it is quite a tough decision to leave our comfortable little spot in Puerto Lapice, especially as it’s still raining. But we’ve probably seen enough windmills for now and we’re keen to get to the south coast where it’s rumoured to be sunny and over 20℃, something we dream of! So we push on… Valdepeñas is a slightly larger town with a huge aire in an industrial estate. As there’s no sign of the rain abating, we decide to find a cafe with WiFi where we can enjoy a glass of wine, some tapas and do a little bit of work online all at once. A pretty good way to spend a rainy day!

As we’ve decided to head to Málaga, we now have to figure out which way we want to go there… Another decision to be made: Granada or Córdoba..? We visited both last year and enjoyed both, even visiting the Alhambra twice! So it’s not an easy decision, but in the end we decided on Córdoba as there are some good stops along that route, the aire is free compared to the expensive aire in Granada (now over €30 for 24 hrs! And we can’t use the campsite as that would mean a bus into town and dogs are not allowed on the bus), and we hadn’t visited the Alcazar and historic arabic baths last time, so Córdoba it would be!

It really is a beautiful city and we had a great time exploring it again; enjoying tapas, visiting the little Christmas market, visiting the mezquita, the Alcazar and the historic arabic baths this time. We even decided to go see an Andalucian horse show… We found it to be an interesting experience but not one we will be repeating… A lot of the dressage was really nice to watch but we weren’t altogether sure some of the other tricks were that enjoyable for the horse. It’s clear the trainers do really care for these horses however, but perhaps animal shows are just not for us…

After a couple of nights in the incredibly noisy Córdoba carpark, it’s time to move on again, this time to somewhere as quiet as possible so we can get a good night’s sleep after trying to sleep in the city noises. We stop in Antequerra for Services and a nice lunch. We stopped here last year and we really like this town. We toyed briefly with visiting El Torcal again, the amazing rock formations in the mountain above the town, but the top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds so we decided to head to the lakes by Ardales instead.

Ardales National Park

The shores of these lakes are popular with vanners of all kinds and even though there are some remote spots, you’re rarely the only van or motorhome there. We found a lovely spot near the new, as yet unopened, Caminito Del Rey visitor centre, with beautiful views of the lake. Apart from a particularly noisy owl, it is super quiet at night and there are millions of stars to be seen. It’s a beautiful area with great walks to be done, apart from the obvious Caminito del Rey. 

We’d stay longer but we’ve booked into an aire near Málaga for a week by the beach in the sun so it’s time to move! Time to finally get warm on the Costas!

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