Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha

Last week I spent my days deep cleaning my house and baking, believe it or not.  While at first the sense of accomplishment was invigorating, there's only so much happy homemaker in me.  Friday was a pretty run of the mill day for us.  We went to the base for music class, ate lunch up there with friends.  Same thing we do every Friday (not to say I don't enjoy this routine)... slightly different since there was also a potluck "bu-bye" party going on for one of our friends, but it wasn't too far off our normal routine.  I was settled on my picture of the day being of our Spanish-American breakfast... a bowl of boring mush... how apropos to my week.  Josh called me on the way home and said "let's go somewhere this weekend!" and I said "OK! where?!" and he said "doesn't matter, just pick someplace!".  Now, for someone who has been planning road trips for months on end these are magnificent words indeed.

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We sat down and looked at all our possibilities and decided to just do one tiny part of a road trip.  I had been sick the night before and still felt a little blah and we didn't want to spend tons of money.  Plus the dogs couldn't be left to their own devices for more than one night and it was too short notice to find a puppy sitter.  Josh booked a sweet little cabin not far from the main city and we were off to Cuenca!  A two and a half hour drive from Madrid.  Easy!  It was about 6pm when we got out the door.

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We didn't have to stop once on the way there.  No one whined or complained until maybe the last 15 minutes because they were all hungry.  It was 8:30pm when we arrived, perfect timing to get a little settled and head out for Spanish dinner time.  The hotel was pretty amazing.  It would have been a really nice place to spend more than one night, but we didn't have the time to do that.  We didn't get to use really any of the amenities, but it doesn't matter :)  We had a little snack and headed out to the city for dinner.

It was freezing outside so we didn't search very long.  We settled on a place called "Casa Marlo".  Josh had a pork leg that had been cooked for over 20hrs at low temperatures, falling off the bone, smokey and delicious.  I had duck breast on top of puff pastry with a fig and sweet onion marmalade all rested on a port wine reduction.  The boys tried ours and liked them both, but mostly filled up on the calamari we got them.  With full tummies we went straight home to get some rest so we'd be ready to explore the next day.  The boys played for a good hour in bed before falling asleep.  I took that as a good sign: they were excited and happy.

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We were all up by 8am, ready for breakfast.  Back out to the city we went!  We found the perfect place to park, under the theater and auditorium.  It was still too early for the sun to have broken through the cold air so we weren't too picky about breakfast.  Bars were just opening up at 9:30am, and that's early for Spaniards.  Quick sidenote: a bar here is not anything like a bar in the states.  While they do serve alcohol, they're frequented more for their food and coffee, like a cafe.  We had our toasts and coffees, grabbed a baguette and a few chocolate croissants from the bakery next door, and headed out to explore.

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Our first stop was the local park and playground.  Josh went back to the hotel to check-out (don't know why we didn't do it in the morning... wishful thinking for a 30hr day I guess haha).  I stayed with the boys while they played their hearts out for an hour.  I sat in the sun and soaked up all the warmth.  The boys had their croissants and play time.  They were ready to be cooperative by time Josh got back.  We explained it was our turn to do what we wanted and they needed to be good boys.  We started where most people do, at the San Pablo bridge.

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Once you get across it's all the historic Cuenca, which is what we came to see.  The boys were good and stayed away from the edges so I didn't have to suffer mini heart attacks.  The views from the bridge were quite stunning.  I can't imagine living in any of these hanging houses built into the cliffs, especially with 3 little boys!  They were really cool to look at though.  The boys beat me to the end of the bridge and were eager to get their picture taken.

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We slowly began hiking up the hill to the castle, stopping along the way at all the sites on our trusty tourist map (which we only glance at when no one is looking).  Cuenca has an abstract art museum so there are plenty of interesting modern pieces among the old historic buildings.  I would have absolutely loved to have gone in, but we don't do art museums with Brennan... it's just not a good idea.  It'd be way more trouble than fun.  You need time and freedom from distraction to experience art the way one should.  We got about halfway up the hill, bought a few postcards, and stopped to enjoy our baguette.

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The Catedral de Santa Maria de Gracia was the first structure built after the Spanish re-conquest over the Muslims in the 12th century... it was built on top of the razed mosque (this is a very common finding in Spain).  It stands right outside the entrance to their Plaza Mayor, which is surrounded by colorful row houses.

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I had recently watched a video about the current historic/scientific research in Spain and discovered that  in several points over the country they are unearthing necropolis' inside of their cathedrals from Roman eras that were completely undocumented (possibly a side effect of razing and rebuilding after conquests).  There was an obviously documented and previously shown necropolis in Cuenca, but the remains have since been moved, while leaving behind the signs explaining them.  Right next to this unearthed necropolis was a cafe with people having their breakfast on the terrace.

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We continued further up the hillside, the views becoming increasingly interesting, the boys becoming increasingly tired and hungry.  It was only 1pm which meant we had an hour until restaurants would begin serving lunch.  That gave us enough time to make it all the way up the hill and back in time to eat.  It was a great motivator as well, telling the boys once we made it back down we'd eat and go home.

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We finally made it to the top and none of us were disappointed.  WOW!  Josh and I took turns doing stupid illegal picture-taking in front of our impressionable progeny... they were happy to sit and rest anyway.  Noah was in the picture-posing mood and asked me to photograph him "knighting" Tristan at the base of the castle.

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We went back down the hill on a different route, and yet again, the views did not disappoint.  It took much longer to get down than it did to hike up.  Partially due to my photographing everything in sight, but mostly due to the turtle herding Josh and I were having to do with our tired & hungry offspring.

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We passed the science museum and another San Felipe Neri church, which was also oddly closed to the public.

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We passed tons of brightly colored row houses, upon which time and gravity had obviously begun to take its toll.

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Time had also made its way into the door of the Iglesia del Salvador.

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We ate at the Restaurante San Nicolas where Josh and Noah got to try migas ruleras (basically it's a stuffing, but with tons of meats and a little spicy).  The little ones and I had already had migas in Alcala de Henares with Mama C, but I didn't know that's what they were called.  For our mains I got the ox tail, which was very good but probably wouldn't order it again... too much fat.  Josh got the wild boar, which was sublime.  The boys played in the sun in the plaza below us the entire time and entertained the locals with their adorable antics like... laying in the sun on their jackets.  They also got a big kick out of the eyeballs someone had painstakingly painted on the mountains across from us.

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After our long, leisurely lunch we headed back along the river, towards the theater where we had parked.  It was 5pm when we got in the van, perfect timing.  Brennan fell asleep about 3 seconds later and didn't wake up until we pulled up to our house and I unbuckled him.

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Another successful trip to yet another beautiful Spanish city and UNESCO World Heritage site!
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