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Pueblo de Cuenca: Amazing Madrid Day Trip (Be There in Two Hours)

imageNo doubt about it, Madrid Spain has tons of amazing places to offer that you’d be at a loss on which to visit first. In case you’re in the city for a few days and would love to see exciting towns that are a stone’s throw away from the capital, I suggest that you include Cuenca in your itinerary.

It is one of those beautiful pueblos situated right within the Castille La Mancha region of Spain you have to visit — a quiet and charming one, I have to say. What’s true is that the town reeks in so many sites and attractions – museums, churches, monastery, winding streets and alleys, cafes — and of course, its famous ancient houses called the Casas Colgadas. The latter appear to be clinging precariously on the cliff that looks over the narrow, shallow river called Hueca. This body of water moves along an area nestled beside the collosal Cuenca Mountain range.

If only for these breathtaking casas, or the Hanging Houses in Spanish, a visit to the town is all worth it — even if for just a day. However, for anyone with a fear of heights, it might be a herculean feat to get to the site since you need to cross a bridge that spans the gorge, which is a few hundred feet below.

No need to fret, still, as you have another option, a less exciting one at that. There is a street on the side of the cliff that goes up to the location of the hanging houses and into the ancient city.

My suggestion is that you take the bridge and just avoid looking below, and you’d be perfectly fine. In the first place, you would want to cross it especially if you must take the best photos of the houses.

Did you know that much of the cliff was once lined with many of these houses on its side. Over time, however, only a few proudly exists; the remaining ones now serve as historical remnants of such once glorious past of the Cuenca town.

Here are some truly amazing Cuenca, Madrid attractions that you must see:

1. Catedral de Sta María y San Julian de Cuenca
imageThe Cuenca Cathedral, or the Basilica of Our Lady of Grace, is constructed using a strong Gothic architecture. It has features that resemble other world-famous churches such as the Soissons Cathedral and Notre Dame de Paris. Like a number of Spanish churches, visitors are prohibited to take pictures. The cathedral has been mentioned by Notradamus in one of his predictions, identifying it as the sole bastion of Salvation during the End of days. In another legend, Rodrigo de Luz mentioned the church as the place where the Holy Grail is kept and preserved. The presence of the Holy Grail will save the church from destruction during the Final Hour.

2. Plaza Mayor (Town Square)imageTourists have a number of cafe and restaurant choices at the Plaza Mayor of the town. The Cuenca Cathedral is located within the square.

3. Casas ColgadasimageThe few remaining hanging houses in Cuenca. The edifice emits a yellowish glow from the incandescent lights that are turned on as the day moves into nighttime. Known as the Casas Colgadas in Spanish, they are found in the eastern side of the old town, just overlooking the Rio Huécar. Only three are existing, unfortunately, and it is the most popular and photographed house of the group. Every night, indeed, the house becomes a spectacular sight; but for me, it is more like a haunting image from afar.

4. Hanging Houses at NightimageThe Casas Colgadas become a enthralling sight as they illiminate because of the yellow incandescent light that glow from the interior. While in the beginning, the cliff was lined with these houses, but now, only a few remain.

5. Puente de San Pablo (Steel Bridge)imageThey say the St. Paul Bridge is the best location from which to take photos of the Casas Colgadas. And indeed, it is, albeit the cold wind and dizzying heights rendered taking pictures of the Hanging houses a difficult task. I actually crossed the steel bridge twice. The first time, I crossed it to reach the ancient time, while the second was at nightfall, in order to take night pictures of the houses.

7. Parador de CuencaimageFrom the Steel bridge of Cuenca, you may also enjoy a grand view of the Parador de Cuenca. A wondrous sight during night time, the parador is recognized as a treasure of the town, the Parador is actually a convent converted into a beautiful hotel for tourists who would love to have a breathtaking look of the town, the hanging casas, and the Hoz del Huécar.

8. Iglesia de San AndresimageOne of the more popular churches in Cuenca is the San Andres church, a 16th century church designed by master architect Pedro de Alviz. Numerous renovations were done to the church because of the ravages brought about over time.

8. Cuenca Arched GatesimageThe wide arched gates is the entrance to the plaza mayor and into the town. Also known as Los Arcos, it is part of a building that serves as the City Hall or Ayuntamiento building. The square is not totally pedestrianized — you would encounter light vehicles passing by the narrow plaza mayor and thru the arch gates.

 9. Ruins of Iglesia de San Pantaleonimage

In Calle San Pedro, just after the town’s Plaza Mayor is the remnant of what is known as the Iglesia de San Pantaleon. It is said to be the oldest church in the whole town, and is known to possess an ogival arch from the 1200’s that’s supported by columns. It also has a flat-shaped apse, which suggests that it was of Templar origin. The church ruins is closely associated with Spanish Federico Muelas, a major poet of the town.

How to go:

imageYou may take a autobus trip to the town via the Avanza bus service, which is stationed at Estacion Sur de Madrid. One of the city’s largest bus stations, you  can reach it via Madrid Metro Linea 6 Circular, at Mendez Alvaro. Ida y Vuelta ticket fares are at 25.00 euros. Duration of bus travel is more or less two hours.

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Go on a Day Trip Adventure to Segovia Spain [And Explore Its Alcazar and Roman Aqueduct]

Do you feel you’ve seen enough of Madrid, Spain and wish you could visit places outside the city? Raring to go to other beautiful Spanish regions but wary about the long hours of travel that your chosen destination demands? Fret not as there are many towns near the capital that you can go to, such as Toledo, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and Alcala de Henares. In other words, there are tons of amazing day trip options from Madrid.

Day trip means you travel to your destination, explore it to the fullest, and return to Madrid — all within a day.

Still another destination, and a highly recommended one at that, is Segovia, Spain.

imageThe spot I climbed at the aqueduct wasn”t even the highest point one can possibly reach, yet I was already afforded spectacular views of the town

Found south of the capital, lying atop an elevated land a mere 30 minutes away by train from Madrid is Segovia, small compared to other towns, but unique nonetheless.

Its tiny size is compensated by the many fascinating attractions. A quaint town overflowing in valuable history and enthralling beauty, it isn’t surprising that Segovia is a World Heritage site (as declared by the UNESCO).

What makes Segovia an ideal tour destination?

imageFor one thing, the Roman Aqueduct alone is enough to make your journey worthwhile. There’s also the Alcazar, that Castilian edifice with a fairy tale-book like facade. Enthralling is how one would describe the sprawling Cathedral of Segovia. You’d be in awe gazing upon the church from the town’s Plaza Mayor. And before going back to Madrid, remember to dine at a Segovia restaurant that offers conchinillo (which wouldn’t be a problem since most establishments include this dish in their menu).

I love traveling alone. But I need to go to exceptional destinations to keep me, as a traveler by his lonesome, excited and filled with energy all throughout. I assure you Segovia is one of them.

What to see in Segovia Spain

1. The Roman Aqueduct

The aqueduct is one of the most important structures in this town and perhaps the whole of Spain. Composed of perhaps thousands upon thousands of granite blocks, it is the most important symbol of the town. The today, the Romano Acueducto is determined to be well-preserved and still capable of transporting water from the Rio Frio river to the city.

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2. The Aqueduct, from Fernandez Ladreda Avenue

From the bus stop, I walked thru the Avenida Ladreda, a main Segovian street filled with touristy restaurants and cafes. Iglesia de San Millan is right along  the avenue. Ultimately it brought me to the magnificent site of the Roman Aqueduct.

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3. Catedral de Santa Maria

The Santa Madrid Cathedral is the last Gothic-inspired church to be built in Spain. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is such a magnificent site from afar.
Catedral de Santa Maria, Segovia, Spain

4. Plaza Mayor

The square may be small in size but is the town’s designated area for important local activities and events. One of the most frequented spots by tourists, the square boasts of old-town, rustic restaurants and souvenir shops.

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5. Teatro Juan Bravo

One of the attractions at the Plaza Mayor of Segovia, the town’s principal theater was built in honor of Juan Bravo, a  beloved local hero.
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6. Puerta de San Andres

On my way to the Alcazar Castle, I passed through this gate that dates back to the early 12th century — Puerta de San Andres. Its vicinity offers great views of Las Murallas (City Walls) surrounding the important sites of the town. The ancient gate itself leads to the Jewish Quarters.

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7. Centro Didactico de la Juderia

The Didactic Center of the Jewish Quarter located at Calle de la Juderia Nueva, is a reminder of the once active Jewish community in the city. Once thriving area for the Jews was at Plaza de la Merced. Another popular Jewish street is the Juderia Viejo.
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8. La Casa de los Picos

La Casa de los Picos is a 15th century mansion by Pedro Lopez de Ayala, and considered by many  as unique because of its granite-built facade that features more than 600 pointy peaks. It boasts of a classic Renaissance courtyard within its interior. Once, an opulent residence, it now houses an art school and acts as a venue for regular exhibits.
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9. Puerta de la Claustra

Puerta de la Claustra is a 2-arch entrance, the only existing one leading to quarter of the cloister. Note the depiction of the Pieta on top of  the arch. The other similar entrances were taken down to give way to wedding of Philip II at the Alcazar de Segovia.

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10. Iglesia de San Andres

Iglesia de San Andres, a charming Roman Catholic Church, is located at the Plaza de la Merced, which you will pass by on your way to the more popular Santa Maria Cathedral.

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11. La Iglesia de San Martin

A Roman-styled early 12th-century church, La Iglesia de San Martin continues to attract tourists everyday mainly because of its strategic location, between the Segovian Aqueduct and the Sta Maria Cathedral. Standing near this small church of Moor origin is a local hero, Juan Bravo.

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12. Monumento a Juan Bravo

The striking monument at the Plaza de San Martin, beside the Iglesia de San Martin, is dedicated toJuan Bravo. Bravo is a Castilian nobleman who played an important role in the war within the autonomous Castille region.
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13. Las Murallas

The town’s Murallas is the thick wall that surrounds the perimeter of the elevated land that cradles the town. The tallest structure in the photo is the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Asuncion y de San Frutos. Facing the Murallas and the town itself (not shown in photo) is an low-lying expanse of land where the Jewish cemetery is situated.image

14. Alcazar

The flag of Spain flies high atop the 12th century-built Alcazar or fortress. A former official residence of the Castilian kings of earlier times, the Alcazar is said to be the inspiration for the design and creation of Disney’s own castle. It has Romanesque and Gothic styles in its facade while the interior evokes a strong Moorish design.
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Time for Some Segovian Food

Going to Segovia give you the chance to taste its famous cochinillo. While Madrid has its share of asador restaurantes, nothing beats Segovia as far as the roasted suckling pig is concerned. It is a gastronomic haven where most restaurants are known to serve only the tastiest cochinillos asados.

Restaurante Meson Don Jimeno

I chanced upon this tiny yet quite cozy meson restaurant on my way to the Alcazar. I must have found the perfect spot to have lunch (and to taste suckling pig), since they boast of heavenly succulent cochinillo. But, what’s more important, they serve portions.

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Judiones de la Granja

Judiones is a bean-based dish with added chorizo slices. What I love about it is its thick consistency and rich flavor. De la Granja means from the Granja, which is a town near Segovia. I’m not sure if the beans ingredient is from the Granja, or if the dish itself originated from the place. What I’m sure is that judiones is delicious!

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Cochinillo Asado!

The sight of that golden-brown color of the roasted piglet’s skin makes one’s mouth water. You know that the dish was roasted just right by its perfectly crisp skin and tender yet moist meat underneath
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Natillas

I was stuffed yet I couldn’t allow a morsel of this homemade Natillas (custard) to be left uneaten. A Spanish dessert of milk and egg, the popular Segovian postre is perfect to cap off a deliciously filling lunch.
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How to go to Segovia Spain

imageThis is the Guiomar Train station, where your Renfe train from Madrid stops and your tour of Segovia begins. From here, auto bus no. 11 will take you to the city proper (and near the aqueduct). Fare is 2 euros.

By Train

You can buy Renfe train tickets online at their website. Or you can buy them at Chamartin station, which you can reach via auto bus no 5, among others.  While train rides are expensive, they’re the fastest and most efficient way of traveling around. I left Chamartin at 12PM and arrived at Segovia Guiomar station at 12.25PM.

By bus

Perhaps, you’re not pressed for time, and more importantly, wanted to save a few bucks in travel fare, I suggest that you take the bus instead. You will be able to enjoy nice scenery and views during your travel to your destination. Tickets can be had at La Sepulvedana office at Moncloa Station. Price for  ida y vuelta is around 17 euros.

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