Off the beaten path in Castilla La Mancha with the family It is the end of November and we were feeling like a weekend escape to get away from the city with the kids and enjoy something cultural. We decided to head to Castilla La Mancha. Admittedly, we know that Castilla La Mancha has a lot to offer but one of our objectives was to find a great place to learn more about olive oil production. While Granada and Andalucia can sometimes steal the show when it comes to reputable olive oils, we knew Castilla La Mancha was also an important contributer in the olive arena with a wide variety and wanted to discover some of the more famous places. All of our compasses pointed to Mora.
Located just 30 kilometers from Toledo, this makes for a great side trip in a picturesque town that for centuries has been on the map as a important olive tree producer. From viewpoints, outside Mora, you can see ¨el mar de Olivos¨ which the townspeople refer to as the sea of Olive trees and literally, the production is massive and you can see why the entire town depends on this agriculture tremendously. So much so, that they created a museum that illustrates the history and importance. Upon entry you can take a photo next to their most famous gems, millennium trees that are over 1000 years old and still producing olives. Imagine that.
The tour includes a collection of objects (tools and machinery) used for oil extraction during the first half of the 19th century until the early 20th century, and today's modern equipment used to produce olive oil. Our tour ended with a charming cata or olive oil tasting of which I learned the entire process of how to taste olive oil all by itself. No not with bread! Just the oil. We were so convinced of the quality, we ended up buying several liters that will at least get us through the winter, I hope! By the way, Mora also has companies that make soaps, shampoo, lotions that are all made with natural olive oil. We had lunch in Mora on the main square in a place that was a little touristy I am afraid. It was recommended to us, otherwise we would not have gone. We could see from the menu, the crisis had not yet reached Mora but we proceeded to order some very typical cuisine from the region. One of the most famous dishes is migas con huevos.
That is bread crumbs with an egg. Ok, it does not sound very appealing but after seasoning it with olive oil and different meats or sausage, it can be quite good and has earned its reputation. You cut the egg and let the yolk run all over. This is very typical and highly recommended anywhere in Castilla La Mancha. The other two main dishes we tried were chuletas de cordero and venado en salsa. Tiny pork chops and venison (hunted in the region) with a red sauce. The pork chops are something to write home about. I don´t have them back in Seattle and it is now one of my top ten dishes. If you like pork chops, these little delicacies are divine. Pick them up with your hands and dig in. The venison was tender and delicious in the red sauce, I would recommend it to anyone. And to finish a little bit of the tasty, aged 100% sheep, Manchego cheese.
Our next stop, Consuegra. This was not my first time. I have visited before but am glad I returned to show this very simple but iconic place to my kids. They loved the large and daunting windmills from the distance climbing up the hill and I explained their importance on the route of Don Quixote. In this picturesque place, a car is essential, of course, but halfway up we decided to get out and walk. The kids ran and climbed the rocks while we took photos. A castle and 400 year old windmills perched high on a hill with fantastic views, lets face it, the kids love it. We were able to tour the inside of one mill so we could explain the ancient process to the kids. We learned about some new things that are offered in Consuegra including a great live performance in the castle (only offered in Spanish) that depicts the different important events that have taken place since it was ruled by Moors. From Consuegra we drove on to Almagro. Before this weekend, I didn´t know it existed on the map but it was my husband´s choice and he had heard it was a beautiful city with a famous reputation for theatrical performances.
Located in the heart of Castilla La Mancha, it held very much the picture of a town depicted in Miguel Cervantes famous novel. What a city! Every other house seemed to hold tremendous history from a noble or a count. The architecture was very much in tact and reflected the power that must have carried this town for centuries. There are 3 highlights I recommend. Plaza Mayor is a gem, unique, colourful and carrying many authentic elements of old days past. Anyone could attest to the true feeling of Don Quixote´s spirit as you walk the parimeter. Tapas are delicious here and inexpensive and accompanied with lots of ambience from the local townspeople.
My second recommendation is another jewel, the old theatre located off of the square. It is a very special ¨corrales¨ style, which is a typical type of construction for the original theatres (very open) and this is one of the most important places where theatre was born. Comedies, tragedies, you name it, the playwrights wrote it and to this day, you can still see a performance if you are lucky. Inquire with the tourist office. Finally, a must see especially along the theme of the theatre, the museum is spectacular, comprehensive and interesting and worth a visit. True there are not explanations in English but they do give placards with info that is enough to get by and the material is sometimes self explanatory. I enjoyed this very much and now have a better appreciation of what I learned in terms of Spanish theatre. By the way, accommodations here are reasonable and if you do your research well, some of the hotels and casa rurales look amazing. Overall, if you try even one of my 3 destinations, you will be happy. Enjoy!!
Some ideas to tour this region include our:
- Jennifer Yglesias