I had an uphill climb this weekend in more ways than one. First off, I struggled my way through a few more chapters of Don Quijote in Spanish. Then I clamb my way up the seemingly vertical streets of Campo de Criptana, site of the famous knight´s strushie with the windmills.
In a life already dominated by Cervantes (living in his birthplace, hubbie working at the Cervantes Institute) here we went again. We drove past huge, streamlined, aerogeneradores, those wonders of eolic technology that are ever more present on the Spanish landscape, to visit their ancestors of stone and wood in the Land of Giants, Tierra de Gigantes, La Mancha.
We´d stopped off in towns such as Alcázar de San Juan, like most villages painted white and cobalt blue, the signature colour of the region, so as we left our stuff at our overnight accommodation, evening was threatening to ruin our view of the windmills. We hurried over the cobbled alleys up to the vast, natural esplanade where the windmills, much bigger than I had imagined, stood in no discernible relationship. We don´t mind being neighbourly, they seemed to say, but let´s not overdo it.
But we needn´t have worried. Dusk in Campo de Criptana falls, not against blackness, but deep blue, and the windmills were floodlit. We clowned around, tilting at windmill sails, immortalized our heads on a cut-out of Quijote and Sancho Panza, and checked out the one tourist shop, complete with its own cave house (visit 60 cents). The 360 degree, gold sunset over the vast plains of Castilla La Mancha took our breath away. Malassie inserted the phrase un vasto paisaje, a vast landscape, at every opportunity and later used it as part of the commentary of her upcoming Littlest Pet Shop “movie”.
Little lights popped on along the side of the planicie. It was Saturday night, after all, and even here, in magical windmill land, Spaniards were heading out for a good time. There was a restaurant, Las Musas, with the scariest, lifesize, pair of “muses” you ever saw on its white walls.
There was an ancient tavern where my bottom all but touched the floor on a bench that was so old it might have to be dated by Carbon 14. There was an epicurean shop of fine manchego wines and cheeses with a profitable little sideline of Quijote armour for visitors to dress up in.
I declined. So did hubby, but he bought a lovely silver pin of the head “armour” worn by Don Quijote – a barber´s bacía, circular but for an arc taken out for the user´s hand. (It´s similar to this without the hanger).
We were cold now, but as we left, sturdier and stylish españolas in fur coasts and high heels were picking their way up the cobbled slopes of cantos rodados to these few nightspots at the top of the world. Criptana´s buildings are trimmed in cobalt blue, apparently to ward off evil, but what evil could befall these people fortunate to live at the foot of these guardian giants?
We spent the night in one of those blue buildings, not five minutes from Sardinero, Infante, Castaño, Burleta, Inca Garcilaso, Lagarto, Culebro, Pilón, Cariari, ….Yes, they have names, like fighting bulls. La Casa del Abuelo José (Granpa Joseph´s House) is a neat complex of self-catering apartments around a small patio. The flatlets are not only top-notch, but economical. (No, nobody´s paying me to say that). Malassie declared she wanted to live there forever.
We loved it too. My favourite touch was that instead of the customary Bible on the nightstand, there was a copy of the Quijote.