Thursday, 15 September 2016

Finding Miguel De Cervantes in Alcalá De Henares!

On the day I went to Alcalá de Henares, from my hotel in Madrid, I took a short subway ride from the Sol Station (at Puerta del Sol) to Atocha Station. And since I already knew how to buy my train tickets from the ticket machine from my look-see the day before, I came, I bought, I wandered! Wandered through the station and caught my train to Alcalá de Henares, that is! 
             (The reliable Renfe train)

The train ride from Atocha Station to the Alcalá de Henares Station was just about 23 minutes, and I was surprised I was the only passenger in one of the cars!
          (I had the train all to myself!)

I got there at noon, and unfortunately, the tourist information kiosk next to the train station was closed; I needed a map! Instead, I asked for directions from the taxi driver waiting by the station. And thanks to his help, I was able to find Calle Mayor after 20 minutes of walking through the residential neighborhoods.

Alcalá de Henares means 'a fortress by the Henares River'. Yes, there's a river near the city.

         (The younger side of the city)

Alcalá de Henares has an ancient settlement that dates back before Romans came to Spain. It's about 35 kilometers east of Madrid. This is 'a city of three cultures' that include Moorish, Jewish and Christian cultures, and is a UN World Heritage Site.

                      (Calle Mayor)

                         (Fall sale) 

When I was planning the itinerary for this tour, I decided to include one trip outside of Madrid, and after studying the map, I decided on Alcalá de Henares because, one, it is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of the famous Don Quixote, and, two, I wanted to taste their rosquillas de Alcalá, a puffy, tall donut-shaped pastry bathed in egg yolk and sugar glaze! Yes, food and pastry should always be in one's itinerary, and not just history and palaces. 

      (The famous rosquillas de Alcalá)

Having covered on foot the younger streets from the train station up to the centuries-old Calle Mayor, I continued lazily around the old streets of Calle Escritos, Calle Sta. Ursula and ending up on Capilla de Oidor and Plaza de Cervantes. 
   (One of the oldest hospitals in Europe:       Antigo Hospital Beneficio de Nuestra              Señora de la Misericordia)
(An entrance to the Universidad de Alcalá)

Passing through ancient alleyways and stumbling upon a hospital dating back to 1483, I was so fascinated knowing that this old city was flourishing even before Fernando de Magallanes arrived in the Philippines! 

And inside the Capilla de Oidor at the Plaza Rodriguez Marin, which was right next to Plaza de Cervantes, I visited an exhibition of the life and works of Miguel de Cervantes. 
        (Visitors can climb the Torre de 
          Sta. Maria on weekends) 

Behind the Capilla was the tourist information center and I was able to get a map. I asked the señorita whether I could climb the Torre de Sta. Maria. Unfortunately, she said, the Torre was closed that day. The 360-degree view of the city up the Torre could have been fantastic. 

In the middle of Plaza Cervantes was the statue of the most famous son of Alcalá de Henares. It was past noon when I walked around the Plaza; a few youngsters playing around, old señores sitting and chatting, a group of tourists and one Filipino eavesdropping as to what they were talking about. Ja-ja-ja!
The statue of Miguel de Cervantes lorded over his plaza as if always waiting to lecture his visitors as to why his works remain the most popular in the Spanish literary world.

          (Art works about Don Quixote 
           are everywhere in the city)

In Manila, I studied at Instituto Cervantes to improve my Spanish, and that afternoon, in Plaza Cervantes, I stood there looking up at the statue of the writer after whom the Spanish language institute was named. 
      (Students posing with Don Quixote 
             and Sancho Panza in front 
                  of Cervantes' home)

I may never be fluent in Spanish, and I may never be able to read all the works of Miguel de Cervantes, but being there right in the middle of his birthplace and standing under his shadow should be a good start to learning about Spain's greatest writer.

                       *  *  *  *  *

P.S. Yes, I ate two rosquillas de Alcalá immediately. Ja-ja-ja!

Next stop, la casa de Miguel de Cervantes.

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