After a not terribly exciting included hotel breakfast in Almagro (where I chose to go the bad decision route and just have a few bites of a number of different pastries), we left the tampon room and the city, to drive through La Mancha. We tried to visit Ciudad Real and the Don Quixote museum, but it was closed, so after a few snapshots with some statues we drove onward to the windmills.
The drive was beautiful. Although we’d been warned by Rick Steves that it was flat. He apparently has never lived in Oklahoma and has no idea what flat is. It was beautiful hills and lovely colors. We bumped along down a very rural road towards Consuegra. They had an open windmill with a video explaining old windmill technology and the guts of the windmill. We hiked a bit and walked by and said hello to each of the windmills, named after Don Quixote characters. After climbing on as many things as I could, we went down to the town and had lunch.
Lunch was spectacular. Another highlight from my Spain trip. We started with cheeses, from fresh to semi-cured to cured to cured with oil. The fresh was my favorite, and the cured with oil I could barely stand. Not to my taste. I had a chickpea soup with fish, spinach, and a deliciously garlic matzo ball type thing. Aneel had pork with a creamy cheesy sauce and potatoes. The water brought pickled peppers for us to enjoy with the meal. The waiter was delightful. Very sweet, handsome, helpful. He tried very much to be helpful to my pescetarianism, wouldn’t let us leave without free dessert and an after dinner drink for Aneel, tried to answer questions about the liquor as best he could (it reminded me of a drink from Crete), and told us to tour the pottery room. I love sweet little interactions in Spain like this.
After Consuegra, we drove to Madrid. Easy drive pretty much the whole way. Our hotel, Hotel Ateneo Puerto del Sol was very nice. Right off the central square Puerto del Sol, nice room, nice beds, a little noisy, but the internet worked well. Yay.
I had bought dance tickets for Madrid and had received a reminder to pick them up before showtime, so we decided to wander about Madrid to pick up the tickets. We walked past the palace, the gardens, the cathedral, failed to pick up the tickets, but landed in Mercado de San Miguel, which was amazingly lovely. I had wanted to stop by another big market to try pickles on a stick that I’d heard about. This turned out to be fancy food stands instead of market shops. So we had dinner while there (broken up in tasty little bites). I’d been a little burnt out on tapas, but these were good enough to enjoy again for sure. I’m copying Aneel here, but we had oysters, cheese sandwiches, olive skewers, paella, fish pastries, yogurt shots, and arroz con leche (rice pudding). I had a glass of white wine and a mojito.
We meandered back to the hotel room, where I discovered (although Aneel had been warned by reading reviews) that our beds at the hotel only had duvets and not sheets. I do not think so. So I ripped the duvet out of the duvet cover and just used the cover. It was hilariously and startlingly fun to do in the dark because static electricity made little sparks shoot up everywhere.
Must dos for Madrid: Mercado de San Miguel. Be prepared to spend some money, battle some crowds at bars, and stand while eating. Totally worth it.