The Journey Part 5 - Segovia to Jaén
OK, where had we got to? The last major leg of our journey south to our new home in Andalucia. When we planned the drive down, we deliberately tried to break it down into 4 - 5 hour chunks so that we would not get over-tired and we had time to have a little wander around each new destination.
The drive to Jaén was largely uneventful, apart from an expected increase in traffic around Madrid. South of Madrid the road seems to be one long, straight line through some uninspiring countryside. I say uninspiring, it is just not the mountainous landscape that we love. It is flat and rolls out as far as the eye can see; this is evidently one of the agricultural heartlands of Spain and it is vast. We passed Aranjuez on this leg of the journey, and as I play Rodrigo’s popular Concerto de Aranjuez, it registered on my radar. Had we had the time to take a detour, and knowing now what I didn’t know of the journey, this would have been a worthwhile excursion. The royal palace at Aranjuez looks spectacular, almost on a par with Versailles (you can take a quick look here http://www.aranjuez.com/). It is interesting that, when we think about beautiful castles and chateaux, attention focuses on France, Germany and the UK, and yet from our limited exposure to the architecture of Spain, the country has its own examples that rival the best, and yet as a country this tends not to be bragged about.
This reticence to brag about the cultural richness carved into Spain’s landscape is something that I admire about the country and its people. Since Franco’s day, and despite a turbulent financial history, Spain has seemingly undergone a quiet and modest cultural revolution. The cuisine is amongst the world’s greatest - simply look at the number of Michelin-starred restaurants in San Sebastian, for example, or remember the heady days when El Bulli dominated the restaurant world. Art and architecture is iconoclastic and creative - the Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao, the regeneration of Valencia, Gaudi’s hugely avant-garde autograph across Barcelona. There seems to be an understated confidence that I love, and I hope I am not being naive here as I do know that there are major societal issues surrounding employment and election of stable governments. Political history and socio-economics is something that we must get to grips with in our time here.
Anyway…..we arrived in Jaén, where we were staying at the Parador Jaén Hotel Castillo de Santa Catalina, a hotel formed from part of a Castle on a peak above the town itself. We didn’t venture into the town, as the setting of this hotel was too good to leave. The views from the castle walls are almost beyond compare, and the eye can scan vast areas of Andalucia.