Friday, 28 October 2011

Trip to the Medieval Sigüenza

Towers of  Sigüenza Cathedral
Sigüenza is  only one and half  hour form Madrid, where  you can have a perfect day out or weekend from the busy tourist attraction of the Spanish capital. Its just not an easy trip by road or by train, it  is a trip to the medieval times. Sigüenza today is a sleepy town in midweek and gets pretty busy at weekends, but not always has been in the same way. Since early time Sigüenza “the young noble man city” has been an important location to all the civilization of the Iberia peninsula, in the roman and Visigoth times was an important hub communication centre, then the Moorish transform the castle to a defensive strategic point and medina, later when the catholic re-conquest the city Sigüenza once more was transformed to an important catholic centre and even reached the status of episcopal city. With such history it  is not hard to imagine why Sigüenza is part of the Quixote Route, or where is believed Doña Blanca (daughter in law of Charles V of France) was imprisoned in the Castle after her husband king Pedro I of Castilla (the cruel) abandoned her two day after the wedding starting a civil war in the kingdom. This and another legend or histories like the young noble man are tangible in the street and building of the medieval town.

Castle Walls from the back
Views from Doncel House

Once in Sigüenza  there is nothing more to do that just stroll around in the medieval street discovering palaces, abandoned ruin houses, with the must stops in the Doncel House, the fantastic Diocesan Museum of antique art, the Santa Maria Cathedral of Sigüenza where several styles like romanic, baroque and gothic live together and where inside is a must to see the Doncel chapel where you can see one of jewels of the funeral of all the times.
Then is time to climb one of the street that go to the Castle, today a fantastic Parador where the best way to explore it or discover is staying in, unfortunately if you are not a guest little you can do more than be fascinated with the outside walls and enjoy a coffee in the interior gardens, but if you can book a room you will discover fantastic saloons and even a very charming chapel.
Also from the Castle you will have great views over the town, but even in Sigüenza every corner is history and full of charming corner even better to appreciate are the colours of the surrounding hills and smell of the pine forest of the near natural park.

Castle Courtyard
Sigüenza shop street

Also before to leave will be a nice idea going to shop to the commercial street Cardenal Mendoza for  get some of the best products in the little supermarket or in the butchery, Alcarria honey is just delicious like the cheeses and the pastry and sweets product of the Monastery located in the Paseo de la Alameda street.

Where to Stay and Eat

Parador Sigüenza.

Views from our balcony
This was my first experience of a Spanish Parador (Spanish luxury hotels run for the state in historical buildings). In Sigüenza the Parador is located in an ancient Castle from the 12th century with a commanding view of the town.
We arrived earlier than expected and our room was not ready so we decided to take a snack of fried eggs and chips and a tuna sandwich with some local red wine-simple and delicious. We returned to reception to get our room key to discover that we had been upgraded to a suite with a large balcony overlooking the countryside and the pine forest, in the night the silence is imposing
The room was very elegant with antique furnishings and a huge 4 poster bed with red velvet hangings. The bathroom was well appointed with a luxury jacuzzi bath.
The public areas of this Parador were just waiting to be explored and we discovered a chapel which we viewed from a first floor tiny doorway. The chapel had motion detectors which lit up the room momentarily which was a great surprise.
The other public rooms  were equally impressive and we took dinner in the restaurant that evening.

The famous Migas shepherds dish
Lamb kebab

We had various dishes including a typical Spanish shepherds dish Migas (see video min. 10) made with stale bread and garlic served with the best local products in the area followed by lamb kebab with potatoes and green vegetables in a filo pastry, lamb is very tasty and traditional in the area, but here was served with a distinctive Moorish touch, the another main dish was duck breast with celeriac mash, a bit up to the north are founded the best Spanish duck farming. The Sigüenza area is not wine traditional but they are not too far from the improving Castilla y la Mancha denomination, our Tempranillo Señorio deGuadianeja with cherry colour and soft to taste in the mouth was a great companion for our meat.
Service was attentive and the food was of very good quality and well presented.
A lot of time and money has been spent on refurbishing this Castle and I look forward to staying here again.

Hostal Doña Blanca

Hostal Doña Blanca stove and hall room
Situated next door to Parador Sigüenza this hostel is housed behind an old facade. The interior has been gutted to create a light and airy contemporary hotel.
We were unable to see the bedrooms but the public space was spectacular with a revolving wood burning stove as its centrepiece.
Serious money has been spent on fixtures and fittings and where possible reclaimed wood has been used to dramatic effect. The overall decoration is in white which creates a spacious and light feel to the main public area. If you want spend less and have exiting boutique experience this is your place!

Calle Major Restaurant

Calle Mayor dinning room
Situated in the medieval town of Sigüenza the Calle Mayor restaurant offers superb food in elegant surroundings where the food and service were superb.
To start we had artichokes stuffed with prawns and mushrooms croquettes. The flavour of both these dishes was amazing and the artichokes were the best I have ever tasted without being overpowered by the prawns resulting in a very delicate flavour combination
As a main course we had two meat dishes, a well-cooked steak served with homemade crisps and kid goat also with homemade crisps. Kid goat is another speciality in Castilla-La Mancha and is a must try .This was washed down with a couple of glasses of  Castilla- La Mancha red wine recommended by the house.

Kid goat leg with crisps

Apple tarte tatin

These dishes sound simple but often simple dishes are the best and these were excellent.
A dessert of apple tarte tatin served with the famous and tasty Alcarria honey completed an amazing meal. This restaurant well deserves the accolades it has received by numerous companies including Michelin

For tapas The Gurugu Tavern since S.XVII a charming and weird place at the same time specialised in mushrooms tapas from Spain and around the world. They also host art exhibitions.
For afternoon cakes and guilty breakfast Atrio cake shop just opposite the Cathedral offer a wide range of local delicatessen to die for!!

*Check for the Medieval train Madrid-Sigüenza. 
*In spring the local decorate their balconies with flowers.


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