Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don Quixote Country

The town of Aranjuez was built as a royal playground in the mould of Versailles. The palace and grounds are truly wonderful and typically over the top in richness and opulence. Lawrence and I both thought it was much lovelier and grander than Versailles – but then again neither of us was much taken with the French King’s playground.
The Royal Palace - Arunjuez style

The Palace was built in the mid 18th century and redecorated by Isabel in the 19th. Her taste was questionable, but of the era – very ornate. There is one room that is completely oriental rococo – I’ll leave that to your imagination!!

The grounds, however, are lovely and enormous. You could spend days wandering through them. We are going to hire bikes to look at a section near our campground. After Isabel was turfed out, the new King decided that the area should be opened to the people and the town was planned. It is so lovely with very very wide tree lined streets that are a joy to wander around and find a coffee or a vino.

Today we went in search of wine. However typical of this region, all the major producers are co-operatives that buy in grapes from the endless vineyards. Sadly the whole La Mancha area has become very industrialised, so although there are still mile upon mile of bush vines, they are amongst factories and petrol tanks.
Some Don Quixote country still exists

The bush vines make you wonder how they actually grow anything, they look like Mallee roots sticking out of the ground.  We didn’t find anywhere to taste but did find a tank farm belonging to Felix Solis, one of the major producers. This is wine production on a scale you just don’t see in Australia, thankfully.
Felix Solis - wine anyone??

We had lunch in Valdepenas and made the mistake of eating in the first place we saw because I was about to faint from hunger. Of course at 2pm we were the first patrons. 5 courses for 16 euros – how can you resist?? Once again we ate so much that dinner is not required, and that was without desert. The wine was 11 euros and absolutely delicious. Lots of subtle red cherry fruit with soft tannins and great length. 11 euros!!!! You wouldn’t be surprised to pay $50 for it in Australia. The great value of the meal was offset by the 60 euro parking fine…

The weather is stunning but it is so cold in the morning you can hardly breathe. It was 2 degrees when we ventured out at 9.15am.
The Man from La Mancha - don't you love him?

Tomorrow Toledo…

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