Spain, Thanksgiving 2019

A few years ago, my parents retired to Spain. My family has a long history with Spain, as my parents had lived there before I was born, and again when I was very young, and we have visited many many times since. It’s basically a second home to us, and retiring there had long been a dream of theirs. So, now that they live over there, it’s great to be able to bop over there to visit them whenever I want…

…or at least it was. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this would be my last trip out of the U.S. before COVID turned the world upside-down just a few months later, and I have already had to cancel two planned trips to Spain in 2020. Still don’t know when I’ll be able to go back. Just goes to show… enjoy what you have while you can, because you never know when it will be taken away.

Anyway…

I got to be there for a whole week. After I acclimated to the jet lag (7 hours ahead of Texas), we took a day drive out to a beautiful small town called Sepúlveda, while seeing a few other sights along the way. I’ve been taking road trips with my parents in Spain literally ever since I can remember, so this was a treat and a real taste of old times.

This is the pass of Navacerrada through the Guadarrama Mountains north of Madrid. The snow-capped mountain in the lower-right picture is Peñalara, the highest of the entire mountain range at 7966 ft/2428 m.

I’m kind of a geek about views and sightlines (www.heywhatsthat.com is great for this), so at my request we took a slight detour to this point to get this view. The low clouds prevented the views from being as spectacular as they could have been, but they were breathtaking nonetheless.

Looking back south toward the Guadarramas

I guess this is what windmills look like on panorama mode…

Finally we came to the town of Sepúlveda, perched on a hilltop overlooking a dramatic river gorge. I had never been before, but it’s certainly a handsome, classic old Spanish town with tons of charming, historic buildings and splendid views out onto the gorge. At the very crown of the hill there was a beautiful church that was unfortunately not open to visitors, but that’s where the headline picture on my homepage comes from.

We ate lunch in a spectacular asador (a restaurant specializing in roast meats), a real old-timey kind of place of the sort I remember from my childhood: tile floors, wooden chairs, white tablecloths, food that was simple but hearty and delicious. Spain has modernized and changed tremendously in my lifetime, but it made my heart happy to know that places like that still exist. Sadly I didn’t get any food pics, but between the three of us we devoured about half of a roast lamb, which was about as pungently flavorful and fall-off-the-bone as you can get.

On the way back from Sepúlveda, we made a brief stop at another incredibly picturesque little town, Pedraza. I’d been here before several times, but always enjoy seeing it again. It seemed almost deserted, but that only let us enjoy it all the more.

Just outside of Pedraza we chanced upon a tiny little Romanesque hermitage. It still amazes me that eight-hundred-year-old buildings are just lying around everywhere in Europe.

Taken from the hermitage looking back toward Pedraza. This countryside actually kind of reminds me of Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, or Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Another cute little town called Sotosalbos:

Later, on Thanksgiving Day itself (we had Thanksgiving dinner on Friday), my parents and I went up to the Seat of Philip II, a stone seat on the side of a hill the king allegedly had carved so that he could monitor progress on the construction of the monastery of El Escorial.

Finally, we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at our lifelong friend Gail’s house. She’s lived in Spain for many years, and moving around as frequently as I did growing up, her house has literally been the most constant place in my life. I can remember being there when I was five, and I consider myself blessed to still be able to have a home there after all these years.

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