Pedraza, Spain – April 3, 2012
Leslie and I had an enjoyable outing today. She had recently been talking with a friend about places to go in Spain. The friend suggested the small town of Pedraza. We decided we would do that today. Tyler opted to stay home. At about 08:45, when we left the house, it was a chilly, gray day. Now and then there was a raindrop on the windshield, but it was not raining hard.
I decided that on the way to Pedraza, we would take the direct route (back roads) and then coming home on the Autopista (Interstate). To help accomplish that I sat the GPS for the small town of Miraflores de la Sierra. We had gone through there once before when we went to the small village of Rascafria. This time we decided to stop and have a coffee. After walking around a little, we ended up at la Parroquia Restaurante (Parish Restaurant). That was at about 10:00.
I ordered a café americano. Leslie asked for a café con leche. Also, we decided to have pan con tomate. That is toasted bread with a tomato-based sauce that goes on as a spread. They serve olive oil and salt with it. The tomato sauce is cold. While we were waiting for the toasted bread, the bartender gave me the coffees. I took them to our table and went back to the bar to get a small black pan with two cubes of bread. It looked like cornbread; however, it was sweet. I asked the waitress for the name of the bread. She said it was biscocho (biscuit). I told her we liked it, so she brought us two more pieces!
Just after we finished the biscocho she brought the pan con tomate. The bread comes dry, with a dish with the tomato sauce. The sauce also contained small diced onions. One drizzles olive oil on the bread first. The sauce is then spooned on and spread. Lastly, one lightly sprinkles salt on top. It was delicious. Quite frankly, that surprised me because I had tried it before and did not like it. It all cost only 4.50€ (US$5.50).
The restaurant atmosphere was rustic, with knotty pine paneling. Pine was the choice for the chairs and tables too. While we were there, at any one time, eight locals were at the bar.
When we left the restaurant in Miraflores de la Sierra, I set our GPS for Pedraza. That took us up the mountain via Puerto de Canecia (mountain pass) with a summit of 1,524 meters (5,000 feet). It was cloudy with a little drizzle.
On the way down the other side, we could see there had been a lot of trees cut down. We assumed it was done primarily for fire control. Then, around one hairpin turn, we encountered a logging truck with a crane/boom, and a giant bulldozer. The vehicle was on one side of the paved road. The other lane was taken up by several felled trees. We sat and waited while the workers cleared a path. The boom picked up several logs at once and placed them on the bed of the truck to open our way. The bulldozer pushed several other trees off the side of the road. When they finally waved us through, I had to fold in my driver’s side mirror to make it by the truck.
We ultimately made it to Lozoya, a small town, and began our trip over the next mountain range via the Puerto de Navafria. This summit was a little higher at 1,773 meters (5,816 feet). At the summit, we crossed from the province of Madrid to the region of Segovia. It was lightly raining.
In the forest, on the way down, we kept seeing a sign that said “Zona de Caza Controlado,” which means a controlled hunting area. I am not exactly sure what that means.
We made it to the Village of Pedraza at noon. We parked just outside the city walls and walked into the village through the only gate. Once inside the walls of the town, we walked toward the castle. Along the way, we stopped at several shops.
In one of the shops, la Tienda, located at Calle Mayor 6, we bought a postcard. The postcard was a drawing depicting one of the main gates into the city, Arco de la Villa de Pedraza. The coat of arms above the arch is dated 1561. At the arch, there is only enough width for one vehicle to pass at a time. Just inside the gate are two old wooden doors. They look like they could easily close at any time.
From our vehicle to the castle, we walked about one kilometer. When we arrived at the castle, there was a sign on the door that said the next tour would be at 13:30. It was about 13:00, so we sat near the door and waited. Massive four-inch iron spikes covered most of the door. It looked very formidable.
When the door opened, we paid a total of 12€ (US$14.64) to enter. As it ended up, it was mainly a museum for the painter Ignacio Zuloaga. I had not heard of him before this. He was born in 1870. It seems, he was good friends with the French artist, Toulouse-Lautrec in the 1890s. Beginning in about 1903 he became friends with the sculptor Auguste Rodin. A few years later he exchanged some letters with Pablo Picasso.
Our tour guide said some of the arches in the castle are from Roman times. The villa itself dates from the 15th century.
The tour went through some of the grounds. It included a trip into the cistern, originally used for a domestic water source. Much like the Alcazar in the city of Segovia, the castle is at the point of a cliff, so three sides are impossible to assault. The only possible entry is the one we used.
From the internal courtyard, we climbed the stairs to the upper floor. At that level, we entered into a room with several works of Ignacio Zuloaga on display. Some of my favorites included:
- Mujer de Alcala de Guadaira (Woman of Alcala of Guadaira)
- Retrato de Pepe Albaicin el Torero (Portrait of Pepe Albaicin, Bullfighter)
We returned to the ground level and entered into another room with several works by the artist. The one that struck me was:
- El Palco de las Presidentas (The stage of Presidents)
The tour, while interesting, was not worth 6€ each.
When we left the castle, we walked a few hundred meters and found el Corral de Joaquina. While we were walking toward the restaurant, we could smell the smoke from its fireplace. Since it was such a chilly, gray day, it really smelled good.
We went into the dining room and prepared for a good lunch. For the first course, Leslie ordered a mixed salad. It was huge! It contained lettuce, tuna, black olives, onions, tomatoes, and hearts of palm. I ordered the sopa castellana, a hearty soup. The broth is light brown containing bread, lamb fat, diced ham, and a boiled egg.
For the main course, Leslie and I split a bacalao plate. Bacalao is a firm white fish. A large piece, about two inches thick, was in the center of the plate surrounded by several mussels and a couple of roasted red peppers. It was all covered in a light red sauce that tasted like the red peppers. It was incredibly delicious.
When we finished lunch, we opted for coffee instead of dessert. Our total bill came to 35€ (US$42.71), including a half-bottle of red wine. We were delighted with our restaurant selection.
We walked back to our car and headed toward the A-1 Autopista. As we were driving the heavens opened up. It rained very, very hard. We were lucky this did not happen while we were out walking around.
We made it home at about 17:00.
For dinner, Leslie made a killer baked chicken. In the cavity, she placed 1/2 of an onion, 1/2 of an orange, and 1/2 of a bunch of garlic, then rubbed the chicken with herb butter. Over that were strips of bacon covering the chicken. She placed the other half of the onion and the garlic, cut-side down in the baking pan. About every 20-minutes she pulled the chicken out of the oven and basted it in its juices. After a little more than an hour, she took off the bacon and put the chicken back in the oven to allow the skin to get crispy. When the chicken was ready, she made gravy with the juices in the baking pan and served it with mashed potatoes and corn. Wow! It was heavenly!