Spanish Road Trip 2022 Day 9 - Villafranca de Los Caballeros to Cuenca
Day 9 of our Spanish Road Trip 2022 2nd August - Villafranca de los Caballeros (Toledo) to Cuenca (Castilla–La Mancha) 159km
It is now time to start heading back towards Benidorm, and we decided on Cuenca for our next overnight stop, having previously visited Cuenca during our 2019 road trip we enjoyed our stay although we booked accommodation in the wrong area, with more knowledge under our belts this year we wanted to spend some more time in this wonderful city.
The journey to Cuenca was uneventful, generally once you enter the region of Castilla–La Mancha there is an abundance of sunflower fields, sadly this year there did not seem to be many, and those that we did see no where near as spectacular as in previous years, blame global changes. We did however have some wonderful cloud formations to brighten up our journey.
Cuenca - Its name is thought to derive from the Latin conca meaning "river basin", which refers to the gorge of the rivers Júcar and Huécar, it is also known as the "Eagle's Nest" because of its very precarious position on the edge of the gorge.
Cuenca is one of those places that everyone should try to visit and it has been classed as a World Heritage UNESCO Site since 1996 The city is basically divided into 2 parts the "new" city which is fairly bland and the old, which is the area most tourists visit, on our last visit we made the mistake of staying in the new town, but this year we certainly made the right choice staying right in the centre of the old.
After checking into our hotel we headed to the Plaza Mayor to enjoy a fabulous menu del dia and soak up the atmosphere. Considering this is such a tourist attraction the prices were excellent 14.00€ for the menu of the day, including bread and wine, the views were free.
There really is so much to see and do here with one of the main points of interest being the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace and Saint Julian, (pictured to the left above) which is the main cathedral in the town. This was originally built between 1182 and 1270, the façade was rebuilt in 1902 from ruins due to the collapse of the former bell tower. In the early 1900s coloured glass windows were added. This cathedral is classed as one of the first gothic cathedrals in Spain (Avilla being another). The Cathedral is open to the public at certain times of the day but there is an entry free, which out of principal we chose not to pay.
The Mangna Tower - Another area of the old town well worth exploring and just seconds from our hotel. The origins of the Mangana Tower seem to be unclear but it has certainly been around since before 1565 s there are records of it being painted that year. It was hit by lightening during the 18th century and was badly damaged. It was then rebuilt in Neomudejar style – inspired by Arab decorative motifs – in 1926. Finally Victor Caballero gave the Mangana its current look, fortress style in 1968.
It has a clock on one of its walls with a recording of bell chimes which can be heard all over the old town every 15 minutes.
There are wonderful views from this area of the river Jucar's gorge.
After a bit of a siesta back in our hotel room, we were ready to explore more of this amazing place, unfortunately the weather had other ideas and whilst having a drink in the plaza mayor we were caught in a quite heavy thunderstorm, this did not dampen our spirits as we enjoyed our drinks and free tapas, squashed into one of the local bars, a few drinks and we are well fed.
Spanish Road Trip 2022 - Cuenca
The Bridge of Saint Paul
The original bridge of Saint Paul (Puente de San Pablo) was built from 1533 to 1589, over the gorge of the River Huecar and connects the old town with St Paul convent.
The current bridge made of wood and iron was built in 1902 after the collapse of the original bridge, it is still supported by the remains of the old bridge.
On our last visit, even though I was determined to cross this bridge, nerves go the better of me and I only made it a couple of metres, Derek got half way, but this year we were not going to be beaten and with knees trembling we both made it across the bridge in both directions.
Hanging Houses - Las Casas Colgadas These are considered the most famous buildings in Cuenca and are the background for millions of photos every year, and of course we were no different.
These famous houses were built in the 15th century and hang precariously over the rocks above the Huecar River gorge, sadly they are the only buildings of this type which remain preserved in the city although long ago they were a common sight. Today they house a restaurant and the Museum of Abstract Arts.
One of the highlights of our time is Cuenca was an open air Opera performance, that took place in the square right outside our hotel, the event was packed with everyone enjoying the singing, even though it was in Italian, with Spanish subtitles on a large screen, the atmosphere will be something we remember for a long time to come.
Night 9 Accommodation - Hospederia Seminario Conciliar de San Julian, 3 Star - 65€ including breakfast, car park and additional 14€ (discounted by the hotel)
This accommodation was in the most amazing building, built in 1741, had centuries of history and is actually the (working) Major Seminary of San Julian, we stood outside saying we can´t seriously be staying here, as it certainly did not look like a hotel. It was situated just minutes from the main square and all the tourist attractions of the old town, so was the perfect location. The whole building was just stunning.
The rooms were a good size, quite basic but with wonderful comfy beds and a great shower. Breakfast was served in opulent surroundings and the attention to detail was like nowhere else we have stayed, each guest even had their own set of tongs.
The only thing missing was a TV, but who needs a TV when you have Cuenca to explore.
This has to be one of our all time favourite hotels of the many we have stayed in over the years, we would have stayed for another night, but this year, unlike others we had to be back in Benidorm by the 4th, but we look forward to our next visit here and would highly recommend it to anyone.
Find more photos below.