(This post is a continuation of my series on Day Trips: Click here for my post on Alcalá de Henares.)
“Just once, I’d like to begin a blog post without our travel troubles!” I said to GF as we walked around, confused and lost, looking for the bus to Chinchón. We’d just walked fifteen minutes in the wrong direction, and were heading back to the metro station now.
“Shut up,” she said. “I have it here on my phone.”
Indeed she did; and we were soon standing by the appropriate bus station near Conde de Casal, waiting to go to Chinchón.
Chinchón is a small town—its population is about 5,000—just south of Madrid. It isn’t the home of any big castles or cathedrals; it isn’t the place to take the best photos or hear the best music. Rather, Chinchón is a place to sit and eat, and that’s what we planned to do.
After an hour on the bus, we arrived. Immediately we headed for the plaza mayor, the most famous place in the town, a five minute walk from the bus stop.
This was the first week of January. We had this week off for Tres Reyes, the Spanish holiday celebrating the three wise men who visited infant Jesus. Instead of giving presents on Christmas, this is the day when most gifts are exchanged. And lucky for us, the combination of Christmas, New Year’s, and Tres Reyes makes for a long, long holiday.
We’d just gotten back from our Christmas trip to Andalusia, and were thirsting to see more of Spain. Unfortunately, Madrid and its environs are a good deal colder than the south of Spain. We were freezing. Added to this, the weather was awful that day, overcast, windy, with a bit of rain. It was the kind of dull, dreary weather than can make the Taj Mahal look dreadful.
But the plaza mayor of Chinchón didn’t look dreadful at all. It looked positively cute. Identical white buildings with green balconies and tiled roofs surrounded a circular area in the center. This center was filled with sand. A few guys were selling donkey rides to kids, leading a long train of donkeys with excited children bouncing on top of them around the square, while their parents walked cautiously beside. A plastic Christmas tree decoration sat in the exact center. Every building had a restaurant or two, which was good because we were already quite hungry.
Being a man of this modern age, I looked on my phone for the restaurant with the highest rating: it was called La Villa. Of course it was expensive (for a Spanish restaurant). But it was the new year, and we felt like living high.
I’m glad to report that I absolutely stuffed myself, and then ate some more. The house red wine was also just fantastic, dangerously so, for I drank too much of it. After I ate and drank my fill, we ordered dessert—also great—and then asked for the check. This came with two complementary shots of Chinchón, which is the local liquor, apparently. Since my girlfriend can’t drink, I had to have both shots. It was strong, I tell you, and had a subtle liquorish flavor, a bit like Jägermeister. As we walked out, we noticed a bunch of black-and-white pictures hanging on the walls. Closer inspection revealed that they were of bull fights in the plaza mayor of Chinchón. Apparently, it was originally a bullring, which explains its symmetrical layout.
After this, there’s not much to tell. Stomachs painfully full, we waddled around town a bit. We found a castle, ruined and empty, which we couldn’t enter. There were several churches, closed to visitors. And then there was a view of the countryside beyond, rendered a bit dour by the weather. An hour later we were waiting at the bus stop with a bunch of chatting old ladies, and an hour after that we were sitting at home, drowsy, relaxed, ready for our next trip.
Addendum: For any visitors of Madrid looking for a day trip to see a beautiful Spanish pueblo, Chinchón is perhaps the best choice. Small, intimate, easily accessible, and one of the most charming pueblos in the country, Chinchón is also famous for its gastronomy.
The liquor I mentioned above is Anís, which is simply referred to as “Chinchón” in Spanish, since this little town has long been the leading manufacturer of the drink. Chinchón is also famous for its pastries; its signature pastry has been appropriately compared to a breast, complete with a nipple on top.
The castle I mentioned above was built in the sixteenth century. Standing nearby, the visitor gets an excellent view of the surrounding countryside. Chinchón’s Plaza Mayor has not only been the site of bull fights, but also executions, comedy performances, royal proclamations, and many movie scenes. If you walk from this plaza up to the Torre Reloj, you will be rewarded with a marvelous view of the town.