Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spain, my ten favourite spots (2): Cuenca

It's taken me nearly four months to get this list moving along again.

Cuenca sits on top − or rather hangs over the edge − of a deep gorge where the Júcar and Huécar rivers meet, making it hard to detect a seam between the walled medieval town and its ancient geological seat.

It sports Spain's earliest Gothic cathedral and its famed "hanging houses" have earned it a place on UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites.

The town's name may come from the Latin conca, meaning river basin, or perhaps from that of its ruined Moorish fortress Kunka.

Driving back from the south, we decided to return to the east of Madrid and Cuenca is pretty much the only significant urban attraction on that route. Just the day before we has been basking in January temperatures of over 20 degrees, but on our approach to Cuenca up a winding hillside road our car was dusted with snow and the thermometer showed outside temperatures of below zero for the first time on that particular journey.

We discovered that Cuenca is one of the best places in Spain to buy top quality ceramics at very reasonable prices. The bedroom in our hotel, the Leonor de Aquitania, afforded us a spectacular view across the gorge of the local Parador, which occupies a well-situated building, formerly the convent of San Pablo.

Next time we pass through V is keen to visit the nearby Cuidad Encantada, a landscape of bizarre geological protuberances. (That's her standing on that particular protuberance overlooking the gorge.)

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