Spanish Road Trip 2022 - Cuenca to Nogueruelas 203km, 3rd August. Our last night on this years road trip, and unfortunately once again we could not book the accommodation we really wanted in Montanejos, so had to book what was available in the nearby village of Nogueruelas about 30kms away.
The journey from Cuenca was simply stunning, driving through the heart of the Cuenca Mountain Range with its majestic rock formations and miles and miles of thick pine forests.
The vast majority of our journey seemed to be following the course of the Jucar river where we came across the wonderful Emblase de la Toba, which is the largest lagoon in the Natural Park of the Serranía de Cuenca.
The Toba Reservoir was built in 1925 to regulate the flow of the Júcar River, bathing and canoeing is actually permitted in this reservoir so its a popular area during the summer months, and for those more adventurous there are various caves and canyons to explore.
We drove through a couple of places that may be worth exploring next time we are in this area, Albarracín, which we did try to stop at but it seemed to be very busy and there was no parking available and Teruel.
Spanish Road trip 2022
Nogueruelas - A municipality located in the province of Teruel, Aragon and was really just a stop over, so we did not expect much knowing it was just a very small village, in fact the village only had 227 inhabitants at the last count, all of which seemed to know each other and we were lucky enough to come across some kind of children´s party going on in the small square, with children of all ages participating in water games, nice to watch but slightly inconvenient for us as all the roads were blocked during this event, so we could not go anywhere even if we needed to.
This whole area is popular with hikers, cyclists with various routes available for those feeling fit, and of course skiers in the winter, as the ski slopes of Valdelinares are just a 35-minute drive away.
Night 10 accommodation - Hostal de Montaña La Cas Grande, 3 star 66.60€ including breakfast. Free Parking
Looking forward to our last nights stay and picking this Hostal simply because it looked nicer than some of the others available and had an onsite restaurant, this turned out to be a big disappointment.
The first thing we noticed about the room was that there were plenty of radiators but NO air con, to be fair this was our fault for not double checking when booking.
The room was a good size with a nice big comfortable bed and the bathroom was more than adequate for a one nights stay.
The outside terrace area which looked so nice and inviting in their photos, was sadly untidy and uncared for.
The only bonus was that this Hostal had a lift, which is quite rare, the only problem was we had to stand cheek to cheek, but it did get us to the 3rd floor.
The real problems started when due to lack of anywhere else to eat in the village, we headed to the onsite restaurant, we asked to see the menu del dia, which we saw another couple had and were told "no sorry, this is not available at night" not to cause any trouble we ordered from the normal menu, which did not have a great deal of choice and was expensive. Bread and our bottle of wine were delivered to the table, all ok so far, but I had ordered the sirloin steak, when it appeared, there was more fat on it than meat and it could not even be cut with the steak knife provided, when this was pointed out to the waiter, he promptly gave me a butter knife..... not quite sure how that was going to be better than a sharp steak knife, complaining again they offered to cook me another steak, was this any better.... NO just the same, fatty and inedible. To be honest this was the worst meal during our whole 10 day road trip, and such a shame as it was our last night.
Sleeping - You would think being in the middle of the mountains in a small village, it would be quiet at night, sadly this was not the case and we were both awakened at around 5am with dogs barking which sounded like something from the hound of the Baskervilles movie and the local council emptying the bins, going outside for a cigarette we actually discussed leaving and cutting our losses, (we had already paid, but would be skipping breakfast) but decided it was too early to really go anywhere, so back to bed and managed to make it until breakfast was served. This again was a bit of a disappointment, the baguettes were already pre toasted and cold,, so our tostada con tomate was not up to its usual standard and every other guest seemed to be served their coffee at the table where as we had to go to the bar for ours.
Would we stay here again? That would be a NO, we have no idea how they have a 3 star rating and a 9.2 score from the booking company, they certainly did not get a glowing review from us.
Next stop - Home via one of our favourite places, Montanejos.
Additional Pictures Below
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.
Day 8 of our Spanish Road Trip 2022 1st August - Puerto Lumbreras (Murcia) to Villafranca de los Caballeros (Toledo) 374km
Leaving behind our lovely hostal, which sadly was not available for a 2nd night we started our quite long journey to Villafranca de los Caballeros, for the 1st time in four years we were having to back track and drive on some of the same roads we had driven on in day 3, but you never tire of the scenery here in Spain as its constantly changing.
The main idea of our stop over in Puerto Lumbreras was to check out Lorca, a place we had driven past many, many times, unfortunately this was not really successful as there was no where to park in the town and although we could see a nice looking castle situated on the town boundaries there was only one sign post in the whole town, which did not direct us to the castle, so knowing we had quite a long journey ahead of us we headed onwards. Lorca will have to wait another year or two.
Lorca is probably most famous in recent times for its recent earthquakes which ocurred on May 11th, 2011 where two earthquakes shook Lorca, leaving nine dead and about three hundred injured. The first earthquake, of magnitude 4.5, occurred around 5:05 p.m. and could be felt in much of the Region of Murcia such as Cartagena, Águilas, Murcia, Mazarrón, Alhama de Murcia and even in numerous municipalities of Albacete, Jaén (including the capital and Andújar), Almería and even Alicante.
Spanish Road Trip 2022
Lunch at Riopar. On our previous visit to the famous El Mundo River on day 3, when returning to the car a friendly Spanish gentleman handed us a leaflet for a menu del dia at his restaurant, as we were passing we thought we would have lunch here, bread, soups, main course, drink and dessert only 10€ what a bargain, now the real reason I mention this lunch is due to the fact that our Spanish is often not quite perfect, but we generally get by everywhere we go, BUT on this occasion Derek did not hear all the dessert options correctly and only heard the word Manzana (apple) thinking he would get a wonderful tarta de manzana (apple tart, a very common dessert on a menu del dia), his face was a picture when the waitress arrived with a single apple on a plate, I can still see his face now, Derek loves every thing appley but not apples themselves, strange I know, anyway to save his dignity he proceeded to eat his apple and complimented the staff on the meal.
Continuing on with our journey north over the wonderful mountainous area and through deserted sleepy Spanish Villages, the landscape changes to rolling hills with windmills, and on our journey we encountered a thunderstorm which cleaned the car of dust and grime and was a welcome escape from the heat for a few kilometers.
Villafranca de Los Caballeros - is a municipality located in the province of Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Its economy is mainly based on agriculture, largely to the cultivation of cereals, grape vines, olives and saffron, the main tourist attractions here are the natural lagoons, which are areas of protected nature reserves called Grande and Chica, Laguna Grande is one of the largest river lagoons in La Mancha, the Grande lagoon covers 72 hectares, both lagoons were declared a Wildlife Refuge in 2006
The lagoons have been used from the times of the Iron Age to the present, in the eighteenth century they were exploited to make gunpowder.
The lagoons were formed by tectonic processes and are permanent waters, but they can become dry without sufficient rain. They have depths of about 2 meters. The Grande lagoon would be classified as hypo saline of magnesium sulphated waters and the Chica lagoon as subsaline of calcium-magnesium sulfated waters.
The Laguna Grande has various spas, restaurants and hotels surroundings its banks and is a popular area during the hot summer months as its a refreshing oasis in an otherwise quite dry landscape with handy picnic spots and peddle boats for hire. There are paths surrounded by pine trees that take you to the Chica Lagoon, which is a refuge and wintering and nesting place chosen by hundreds of waterfowl such as mallards, coots, red ducks, imperial herons and flamingos, sadly being summer season there were only a few ducks visible.
To be quite honest on arrival we were not that impressed with the area, but our opinion did change the longer we stayed, we did enjoy an evening in the local restaurant enjoying a glass or two of Tinto Verano which all the locals seemed to be drinking.
Situated just across the road from the beach, which was its selling point, I mean where do you find a beach in the middle of Spain?
Oh gosh where to start with this supposedly 3 star accommodation...... We arrived late afternoon to find no one at reception, after ringing the bell a few times, a half asleep receptionist stepped out to deal with booking us in, we had obviously woken her up from her siesta. We had originally booked a twin room with a patio but were happily informed that they would upgrade us to a double, happy days.
The room was situated on the 2nd floor (no lift), so no patio, it was a standard size with the promised, quite uncomfortable double bed, the bed linen, towels and furniture had all seen better days. The major problem was the smell, it was noticeable the second you opened the door and on inspection we had no idea where it was coming from, knowing we would not really get much response from reception we opened all the windows and decided to live with it, thinking it would either dissipate or we would simply get used to it, neither of which happened.
After a rather uncomfortable night due to the bed and the smell I woke very early and with Derek still zzzzing, decided to head out for a cigarette, taking my camera with me which turned out to be perfect timing as the sun was just beginning to rise over the lake and it was just beautiful.
Getting slightly carried away taking photos, I wandered further round the lake, thinking Derek would not even miss me, unbeknown to me, he had woken up, realised I was not in the room, thought I was just going to be outside having a smoke, so decided to join me, obviously I was no where to be found and he started to panic. I had the room key with me so there was no way he could get back in, there was no one on reception to ask if they had seen me, eventually I headed back to find a relieved, if not slightly annoyed Derek.
We seriously have no idea how this hotel managed to get a 3 star rating, what they class as a patio is actually an inner courtyard which only a few rooms have access to, we will not be returning that´s for sure. But I fully enjoyed the sunrise, which made the nights stay worth it. On with the journey...... Next stop Cuenca.
Additional Pictures Below
Spanish Road Trip 2022
Spanish Road Trip 2022, day 7 31st July - El Ejido to Puerto Lumbreras 261km
With our original idea of following the coast road back to Benidorm well and truly out the window, due to lack of accommodation available at a reasonable price, we decided to head inland once again, towards Lorca but even here accommodation was impossible to find so we headed to the nearest place available Puerto Lumbreras, situated just 14km away.
Anyone who thinks that Spain needs British tourists, seriously needs to visit areas other than Benidorm, yes Benidorm new town certainly needs the Brits, but Spain as a whole does not. This year we have had serious problems finding accommodation in all the areas we have visited, most are fully booked and those that are available are asking very high prices, due to supply and demand.
Since leaving Benidorm we have seen NO British tourists and heard no English spoken, holiday makers have mostly been Spanish Nationals enjoying other areas of their country and many more French than we have encountered in previous years.
El Ejido to Puerto Lumbreras the Journey
After leaving El Ejido on the E15 one of the very few main roads we have travelled on over the last 6 days, we headed inland to Tarbernas, an area we had previously visited and it was a pleasure to return and enjoy breakfast in one of the local cafes.
This area is famous for being the only official desert in Europe, making it ideal for filming westerns, war films and fantasy adventures, most of the spaghetti westerns of the 50´s, 60´s and 70´s were filmed here including the Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood: A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More (1965) or the classic; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from 1966. More recently it has been used for Indiana Jones and Dr Who.
There are three individual film sets to visit in the area: Fort Bravo, Western Leone, Mini Hollywood having previously visited these a few years ago we decided to continue our travels.
As per usual spotting something of interest well in the distance and sort of in the direction we were heading, we decided to follow the signs to the Santuario Virgin De La Cabeza de Monteagud, hoping this is what we had seen, this turned into a nerve racking experience in the Sierra de los Filabres, and one neither of us will forget in a hurry.
To begin with the roads were great as we wound our way round and round the mountain, with the Santuario being visible one moment then seeming miles away the next, all was going well until the next sign post, this took us on to a very, very rough, narrow track with deep pot holes and covered in loose slate, as we began to climb higher at one point the car decided it had, had enough and we were suddenly stuck with a very steep drop to one side and the car not being able to go forwards on the loose slate. When Derek actually starts to look worried, I know I can officially panic. Finally after some very dextrous driving by Derek we were able to continue up the mountain. I can honestly say, this was one of the scariest moments EVER, what would we do half way up a deserted mountain if we got a flat tyre, I think it even beats the time in the Pyrenees back in 2019, when we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere on a fire track.
Thinking no one else could seriously be visiting this place we expected it to be deserted, but on arrival we could not believe our eyes as there was a well paved car park with several cars, and we watched in disbelief as other vehicles approached from the other direction on a well surfaced road, if only we had not followed that first sign and continued for a few more miles, we could have saved ourselves a lot of stress, but then we would not have had the adventure to remember.
As it turned out the Santuario Virgin De La Cabeza de Monteagud is a well known place in the area and the oldest data on the existence of the Sanctuary is on a tombstone dated 1638. It is also known as "Holy House of the Hill of Montahur", ( I can´t think why it got that name lol) the summit is 1350 meters above sea level.
The sanctuary is open for masses, pilgrimages, and other local religious celebrations.
Puerto Lumbreras is a municipality in the autonomous community of Murcia, located in the southwestern end next to Andalusia. This was really just a convenient place to stop for the night so we were not really here to see the sights, it was a place just to rest our heads and only 14km from Lorca which we fancied visiting.
It does however have some places of interest to visit if you plan on staying longer, such as Castle of Nogalte, Casa del Cura, built in the 18th century. Casa de Los Duendes and Augusto Vels Museum: The Casa de Los duendes, located in the historic centre of the town built in the 19th century. Astronomy observatory, located in the west of the municipality. The Cabezo de la Jara spot: Cabezo de la Jara is the highest mountain in the municipality and is 1,247 metres high.
We enjoyed a relaxing evening at a restaurant just a few doors away from our accommodation and the food, service and price were a real surprise, 3 soft drinks with a large bowl of crisps, 1 very very large portion of potato dippers with 3 different sauces, 1 jumbo chilli hot dog with chips and the largest pizza I have ever seen... the bill..... only 24€. We would come back here just for the food alone, shame I cannot recall the name of the bar.
There were also plenty of other bars and restaurants nearby and even one that was open 24/7 right opposite.
Night 7 - 31st July Accommodation - Hostal del Sol 2 star, 40€ breakfast included.
Never be afraid to book a Spanish Hostal, (Spanish Hotel Star Ratings Explained) some of our favourite accommodation over the years has been in hostals, and this one was no exception to the rule. They just do not have all the extras that most hotels have, but for a one or two nights stay they are perfect, my only requirement is obviously no shared rooms and a private bathroom.
The room was spacious, with the cleanest of bed linens and comfy beds, the bathroom was basic but more than adequate and to top it all we even had access to Netflix. We were delighted to see two cartons of juice and two croissants with napkins sitting neatly on a tray until we realised this was breakfast, there was a coffee machine and vending machine in the lobby but the pièce de résistance was the wonderful roof terrace complete with toilet and its own vending machine, where we enjoyed a relaxing evening surrounded by fairy lights, listing to romantic music.
To be fair the fact that breakfast was not really included was not an issue and this to date was one of our favourite overnight stays on this year's road trip.
Would we return? Yes without a doubt, highly recommended if you are ever in this area.
Find additional photos below
Spanish Road Trip 2022 Day 6 - July 30th - Guadix to El Ejido 106km
The initial plan was to head to the coast to try and escape the heat, unfortunately the price of accommodation anywhere near the coast had rocketed to well over 150€ per night, so plan B book, somewhere near the coast with a swimming pool within driving distance of Almeria.
Leaving Guadix and looking for our breakfast stop we spotted a very impressive castle, this happened to be en route in the small town of Calahorra, before heading up yet another treacherous mountain. We enjoyed our morning tostada con tomate in a popular cafe/bakery with locals calling in every few minutes for their daily bread supplies.
On following the sign posts out of town on tarmac roads these soon led to farm tracks and then a very, very steep and narrow shingle road, becoming quite used to these now we just took a deep breath, managed to get as close to the castle as possible and worried about the journey back down later, once again we had the castle to ourselves and it was well worth the heart stopping journey, enjoying the silence (apart from the tinkle of livestock bells in the distance) and wonderful views of the surrounding countryside
Calahorra Castle. The first fortification on this site was a medieval castle of Moorish origin.
During the 15th century local Moors had converted to Christianity and offered the castle to the local Christian aristocracy. The basement cells were used as a prison during the Spanish Reconquest and are said to be perfectly preserved.
The interior of La Calahorra Castle was rebuilt between 1509 and 1512 and turned into a magnificent Renaissance palace, and is classed as one of the most important works of the first Spanish Renaissance.
Between 1568 and 1571, the local Christians sought refuge in La Calahorra Castle from rebelling Moors. After that the castle stood practically abandoned for centuries.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Castle was bought by the Duke of El Infantando and the Marquess of Santillana, after it had almost been bought and moved stone-by-stone to the United States.
Unfortunately the castle was closed and we later found out that it is now privately owned and the interior can only be accessed by contacting the owner's representative in the town.
The onward journey to El Ejido was taken well away from any of the main roads over miles of mountains and through sleepy villages.
Situated in the province of Almeria and only 30 minutes drive from the coastal town of Almeria. The economy of this area is based on intensive agriculture (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, melons etc), with most of the ground covered in the famous plastic greenhouses, which does not make this area particularly pretty and it has been described as a "sea of plastic" which is quite apt.
Night 6 Accommodation - El Eden, 2 Star, 63€, FREE Parking
To be quite honest the only reasons we booked this hotel was because it was the cheapest in the area, had a swimming pool and was driving distance for a night in Almeria.
The room was a good size and although there was a Spanish party in progress, once the doors were shut we could hear very little. We were slightly worried about its very close proximity to the main A7 but again didn´t hear any noise from the road
We had the swimming pool all to ourselves which was a bonus and there was ample free parking, now for the negative..... Feeling hungry we went into the restaurant at around 14.00 and were the only people there, were seated, given menus and bread but the staff did not seem particularly inclined to serve us and when we ordered the ribs were told that they had none in stock, as there was nothing else on the menu we fancied we said we would pay for the bread and drinks and be on our way, miraculously 2 portions of ribs suddenly became available.
The hotel had some great outdoor areas and a nice bar by the pool, but they all looked rather tired and uncared for, a bit like the staff.
Would we return? No.
After a quick swim and siesta we drove into the coastal town of Almeria to enjoy a night by the sea.
The promenade and beach were very busy, which was to be expected this time of year, but to be honest we were not particularly impressed, we ended up sitting in a ice cream shop watching the planes overhead coming into the local airport and the ferries docking. I am sure there is more here to see, but we did not really fancy another castle or walking round for hours. It is doubtful that we will be returning.
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