Manzanares el Real

Yesterday we left relatively early with Goober and Mama C to see another castle in nearby Manzanares el Real.  The castle was built in 1475 by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's personal architect Juan Guas (the style was dubbed "Isabelline Gothic").  This was only a couple decades before the unification of Spain in 1492 after the fall of Granada.  Josh is reading a book about Spain's history during this time period so I imagined Cristofero Colon walking through the archway to have audience with the King and Queen about funding his historic voyage "around the world".

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Upon arriving we thought it best for us to all empty our bladders at the nearby Repsol station, which held its own little surprise.  The Fuente de las Ermitas, built sometime in the 1400's, that was still in use until 1992 and was just sitting there outside of a junkyard... being historic.  We sat on the old stone benches (which Brennan called diaper changers) and mused about how astonishing it was that our jean-clad rumps were in the same place a victorian bottom once rested... next to a stinkin' gas station.  It's just astounding.  I love that Mama C and I feel the same awe about these bits of history.  I cannot get over the juxtaposition of the old among the new.  I just love it!!! 

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We saw a few interesting sights on the way up to the castle.  There was a line of hedges with all different shapes carved into them.  The boys really wanted to try sitting in the chair.  There were lizards all over the stone walls on the way there and back (always an exciting event for a boy).

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We have been in country long enough to know that if you don't get to a monument before lunch, you won't see it that day.  Lunch always takes at least an hour and places close at around 3 or 4 on week days, 5:30 on weekends.  The tourist information center is only open on weekends so we visited the Ayuntamiento (Municipal building), which had more than enough maps and was situated in the plaza mayor (as per usual).  There was a really old theater there that caught my eye right away.

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We grabbed a couple baguettes to hold us over until 2pm and headed for the ticket office with our tourist maps, one for each child (they insisted), that very shortly thereafter ended up in our purses.  God could not have given us a more beautiful sky.  We couldn't stop taking pictures.  Everything around us was just so amazing.  Though we did notice the Santillana Reservoir water level was very low, it was still a pretty sight.

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It took us Mom's a bit longer to pass through the arch, but we eventually stopped snapping and followed our excited boys into the castle.  They were running all over the place and it was difficult to get them to calm themselves before entering inside.  They weren't the best listeners, but given the awesomeness I guess I can see why they were so excited.

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Unfortunately we kinda sped through the inside without getting to read much of the history.  The attendants were on full guard and the boys were far too excited to listen or wait around for us to read.  Thankfully we got English information books all about the castle to take home with us.  Most of it was about the restoration and reopening of the castle as an exhibit, but that's what google is for ;)  There are theatrical presentations, done in full costume, for school field trips.  We saw a few classes going through and a few more waiting outside.  Somehow it seemed totally deserted while we were taking our own tour though.

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Every room we entered had benches at the window, and every little boy butt just had to sit on each available bench.  This at least was legal and gave us time to take a few shots inside.  The gallery exhibit was beautiful.  We both really liked the painter Francisco Javier Ballester Guillén aka "Montesol".  Of course we would have liked to look longer, but there were little boys all over the place and a very interesting staircase ahead.

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The climb up was nice and gradual, stopping along the way to see a few more rooms.

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The boys really enjoyed running from tower to tower, climbing inside, and sitting in the benches (again).

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The Mom's enjoyed snapping more pictures of the beautiful scenery around us.  The Santillana Reservoir on one side, the Guadarrama Mountains on the other.

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There were some suspicious looking rocks on the sides of the towers.  One nice thing was that the mention of a "butt rock" was enough to grab our little menfolk's attention again before heading back down the tower, which was much more difficult than the way up.  One long spiral stone staircase down.  The boys climbed and ran a bit more before we demanded calmer behavior so we could walk near roads again.

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It was 2pm, which is the start of lunch in Spain.  Perfect timing!  All the running and climbing the boys had done apparently depleted their water and food stores, and all they could do was whine about it until we got back to plaza mayor.  We stopped at one place in the center, but decided to check out the other more crowded restaurant on the edge as well.  What a great decision!  It was next to a fountain (to distract the kidlets) and the menu del dia looked much more interesting, though slightly more expensive.  I think my favorite part was my peppers stuffed with shredded roast lamb.  Awesome.  The picky little midgets filled up on bread and olive oil, a few chunks of my pork chops, and chocolate ice cream.

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By time we got the check it was after 3pm and we still had to "turtle-herd" back to the car.  This proved to be difficult because the placement of the sun yielded more lizards to try and catch.  The kids were tired and dragging their feet.  Brennan kept veering dangerously close to the road.  Needless to say, it took us at least 20 minutes to make the 5min walk back to the car.  Somehow we made it back in time to catch the big kids off the bus.  Another fabulous outing!  We want to go back and check out the natural park of La Pedriza, which takes us hiking into the mountains we'd seen from the castle.  With crazy active little kids... I don't know haha.
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