We recently did a trip up to northeast Spain (Girona), taking main roads instead of autovías and autopistas – the journey was just as much the holiday as the destination. As it was a long haul, we did a stop over in Cuenca and enjoyed a day there, too.
And this is what this article is about: Cuenca, a city in the centre of Spain with many attractions, amongst them the hanging houses of Cuenca and the Ciudad Encantada, which is a park of wind-sculptured boulders.
As we took a leisurely and relaxed pace to reach Cuenca, it took around eight hours, stopping for an hour or two for lunch, but if you want to use autovías, well you can probably do it in six with a lunch stop.
Soaking up central Spain; it’s changing landscape, is a treat and generally speaking, the main roads, barring a few roadworks, are top-notch: our route was the A-44 to the Úbeda turn off and then diagonally across to Cuenca using the N-322 heading to Albacete but taking the A-6203 at Villacarrillo and then leaving Andalucía and entering Castilla-La Mancha it becomes the CM-3129, going up through Villamanrique, where you pick up the 3202 for Ablaladejo, Villanueva de la Fuente, the CM-3123 at Viveros heading for Bonillo. From there you cross over the N-340 and pick up the CM-3019 at Munera…
All this is right through the heart of the country, using national roads with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and stop to take photos – if you go by autovía you miss Spain along the way. Anyway, you get the picture, but the route depends more upon the weather than anything else – if snow is forecast, keep to the autovías.
So, Cuenca the city is stuffed with historic buildings, amongst them the Hanging Houses. The cathedral up in the old-town square is the first gothic style Cathedral in Spain (together with Ávila’s). In fact, there are more churches than you can shake a stick at! On top of that there’s the monastery, the Bishop’s Palace and Spain’s best Abstract-Art Museum.
Talking of paint, even a colour-blind git like me was impressed by the way the facades of old houses were painted in the Plaza Mayor. Walk around Cuenca and soak it up!
Hungry? Well, the bars are small and a squeeze but the food is just what your stomach asked for. La Ponderosa is probably the best bar but it doesn’t come cheap and the other bars in the same street (Calle San Francisco) are not to be sniffed at.
There is a restaurant nearby called El Bodegón, up a narrow alley (Calle San Roque) where the food is excellent and far from expensive, but get in there early as there are queues. It’s small and the fights are to the death to get a table.
Somewhere to stay? Everything from chambers for the choosy to a cheerful room in a hostal – being the Gazette, we aimed for the latter: Hostal Buenavista (Tel: 620 008 390 or email@example.com)
Right, you can’t visit Cuenca without hopping in your car to cover the 28km to La Ciudad Encantada, which is a park containing wind-sculptured rocks – like a mini Monument Park in the USA but a tad closer.
It’s a long walk around it and don’t wonder off the path or you’ll get lost. It costs about 10 euros per person. The drive up there, by the way, is also a pleasure as it is mountain road with views along the way.
Finally, this is a long-weekend trip: day up there, day there, day back – enjoy!
(News/Excursions: Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha)