Castilla-La Mancha

2014 Year in Review

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Since my blog has been on WordPress for over a year, I thought it would be fun to share my most viewed posts as a way to wrap up 2014. Actually, all of my top blog posts are from when I was living in Spain in 2013. WordPress even said, “Consider writing about those topics again” since they were popular posts. Oh, if only I could write about Spain right now! Oh well, someday. Anyway, I always love reading about old adventures, and I hope you do to! So here you have it, my top blog posts of ALL TIME (the past year and a half!):

IMG_13871. Things We Can Still Learn from Dr. Seuss – This one is my most popular post by far, and actually has nothing to do with travel.

2. My Spain Top 5 – I wrote this before I went to Spain and detailed my top 5 must-see attractions! I can also now say that I’ve seen everything on my top 5 list. Time for a new one!

3. Packing for 3 months?! Help! – As I prepared to go to Spain, I was trying to figure out the most efficient way to pack. I was surprised because there really weren’t many suggestions out there. Luckily, I found a fellow blogger’s site to help me out.

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4. Castilla-La Mancha Highlights – I wrote this post once I figured out where I would be living. It is similar in style to My Spain Top 5 post, but more specific to the Castilla-La Mancha region. The only things I didn’t see there were Belmonte and the famous windmills. Another trip then! 

5. My Visit to Alarcón – This post really doesn’t have much text, and I think it was initially popular because it was one of my first posts from Spain. However, it has some staying power and remains my fifth most-viewed post. Maybe it’s because of the awesome pictures of this medieval town. Be sure to check it out!


“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber

Photos by Megan Coffroth

Cuenca

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My time in Spain as a CIEE Language and Culture Teaching Assistant was spent in the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha, particularly the province of Cuenca. I lived in a small town about one hour from the capital of the province, which is, coincidentally, also named Cuenca. Many of my students often talked about taking weekend trips to Cuenca for shopping, family visits, etc., so I knew it was somewhere I would enjoy. One Sunday during October, my host family took me to visit this charming city. I was so lucky to be able to go on a beautiful fall day. The colors of the leaves on the trees were really quite stunning.

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We began our morning on the outskirts of the historic part of the city. In case your unfamiliar with the setup of cities in Spain, most of them have a central historic area with the newer, urbanized area surrounding it. I know, I know, it makes perfect sense for a city to be organized this way. However, I would consider the U.S. equivalent (downtown) to be very different from a historic city center. In other words if you love history, be sure to go to the city centers.

We parked the car along the bottom of a gorge. The oldest part of the city is surrounded by several gorges formed by the Júcar and Huécar rivers. After a healthy 15 minute walk, we ascended into the historic center. It was a very calm Sunday morning, and not many people were out in the streets, but we could hear some noise coming from the Plaza Mayor. FYI, someone, somewhere was playing an acoustic guitar while we were walking (I love Spain).

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Our first stop in the city center was the cathedral. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace and Saint Julian is in the center of the city, thus making it difficult to miss. Constructed from 1182 to 1270, the cathedral is the first Gothic style Cathedral in Spain. Certain features reminded me of Notre Dame in Paris. We decided to take a tour inside the cathedral. The mid-morning positioning of the sun allowed for some remarkable stained glass reflections. We also heard the haunting melodies of the monks singing somewhere in the cathedral. It was beautiful.

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Our next stop was the Museum of Abstract Arts. The museum is housed in the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses). These buildings are what many people think of when they think of Cuenca. The houses were built in the 15th century right on the edge of the gorge. The houses now contain the museum, allowing tourists to not only enjoy the arts, but also the picturesque view across the gorge.

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Brigitte Bardot, 1959 – By Antonio Saura – My favorite painting in the museum!

After enjoying the Casas Colgadas from the inside, we made our way to the Puente de San Pablo (Bridge of Saint Paul). This bridge was constructed from 1533 to 1589 over the gorge. The purpose of the bridge was to connect the city of Cuenca with the St. Paul Convent. The bridge allows a marvelous view of the Casas Colgadas.

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After spending some time on the Puente de San Pablo, we headed back to the car. I was able to snap some pretty cool pictures along the way. There are lots of other things to do in Cuenca – these are just some of the highlights I want to share. So, if you ever find yourself in Castilla-La Mancha, make sure you visit Cuenca!

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Have you ever been to Cuenca? If not, would you like to go? Which locations top your list? Also, if you’re interested in more of what Castilla-La Mancha has to offer, check out my post Castilla-La Mancha highlights.

“I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.” – David Rockefeller

Photos by Megan Coffroth

Castilla-La Mancha highlights

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With 20 days to go until I head to Spain, I decided to take some time to research more about the area in which I’ll be living: Castilla-La Mancha. I’ve included brief histories and photos of some of the region’s highlights!

Don Quixote

Castilla-La Mancha is home to the famous literary hero Don Quixote. The book Don Quixote was written by Miguel de Cervantes in two separate volumes written in 1605 and 1615. Considered as one of the greatest works of literature ever published, the book portrays the adventures of Don Quixote and his self-proclaimed mission to revive chivalry with his squire Sancho Panza by his side. Castilla-La Mancha provides an excellent backdrop for Don Quixote’s grand adventure!

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Toledo

Toledo, the capital of Castilla-La Mancha, is a UNESCO World Heritage City and famous for its historical coexistence of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The influences from all three religions can be seen in the city’s architecture. Pretty cool!

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Cuenca

Cuenca has Muslim origins, but was overtaken by the Christians in the 12th century. Cuenca is also a UNESCO World Heritage City admired for its Moorish and Christian architecture, Spain’s first Gothic cathedral, and the “casas colgadas” (hanging houses).

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Belmonte

The town of Belmonte is famous for its 15th century castle which is notably one of the best-preserved castles in Spain.  The castle features a mixture of Gothic and Mudéjar architecture. Don Quixote is also known to have dined at this castle!


Los Molinos

Castilla-La Mancha is well known for its abundance of windmills due to the fame of its beloved hero Don Quixote. El hombre de La Mancha is known for his iconic fight with a windmill in Cervantes’ book. (Side note: Did anyone ever watch the episode of Wishbone that featured Don Quixote? Loved it!) Today, the towns of Campo de Criptana and Consuegra are known to have the best Spanish windmills.

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So here are some highlights de Castilla-La Mancha! Hopefully I can make it to all of them. What do you think? Have you seen/do you want to see the highlights of Castilla-La Mancha? Did I forget any? Let me know!

“Thou hast seen nothing yet.” – Miguel de Cervantes

http://www.whatspain.com/castilla-mancha-highlights.html

Packing for 3 months?! Help!

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I leave for Spain in less than 30 days! I’m traveling to the Castilla-La Mancha region to work as a CIEE Teach in Spain Volunteer for three months. Upon my arrival in Spain, I’ll be spending some time in Madrid and then attending a 2 day orientation in Toledo. Toledo is in the capital of the Castilla-La Mancha region. After some time in Toledo, I’ll be living and working in another city in the region.

I couldn’t resist including this picture. All Kansans nod their heads in agreement…

Preparing to live abroad presents a daunting packing challenge. I will be in Castilla-La Mancha September through November. As a resident of Kansas, I experience about every type of weather during the “fall” months. Actually, in Kansas one can usually experience multiple types of weather within a single day. So how do I prepare for 90 days? I consulted World Weather Online for some help! These are the average highs and lows for Castilla-La Mancha for the next few months:

September  High: 80     Low: 58

October       High: 69     Low: 51

November   High: 58     Low: 41

So September is basically summer, and November is almost winter. Great.  So I’ll need a variety of essentials…essentially. Upon Googling “packing for 3 months,” I came across the blog Hey Nadine. She provides an excellent 90 day travel packing list. With a few adjustments, here’s my 90 day travel packing list for Spain!

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Clothes

  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 1 sweatshirt
  • 3 cardigans
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of slacks
  • 1 pair of black leggings
  • 1 pair of sweatpants
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of athletic shorts
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 5 nice short sleeve shirts
  • 3 long sleeve shirts
  • 2 dresses
  • PJ shorts and night shirt
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • Numerous pairs of underwear
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 swim suit

Shoes

  • 1 pair of  running tennis shoes
  • 1 pair of sneakers/casual tennis shoes
  • 2 pairs of flats
  • 1 pair sandals

Toiletries

  • Makeup
  • Wash cloth
  • Medicine
  • Face wash
  • Travel shampoo
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Brush
  • Hair elastics

Equipment

  • Laptop computer & charger
  • iPad & charger
  • Cell phone & charger
  • Camera with memory card, 2 batteries and battery charger
  • Headphones
  • Electrical outlet adapter

Miscellaneous

  • Sunglasses
  • Mini first-aid kit
  • Pens/pencils
  • Passport
  • Photocopies of important documents (passport, driver’s license, debit card, credit card, travel itinerary, etc.)
  • Wallet
  • Books

So what do you think? Have you traveled for an extended period of time? Do you have any additions to this list? Things you wish you would have taken or left at home? Let me know!

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“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Photos courtesy of Megan Coffroth and Kansas Kollection.com