Chasing Windmills: A Spanish Adventure

IMG_2152“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?  Perhaps to be too practical is madness.  To surrender dreams — this may be madness.  Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!” – Don Quixote

Spain is a country very near and dear to my heart.  My time working there as a Language & Culture Assistant gave me the opportunity to travel, meet incredible people, make life-long friendships, and experience some truly special moments.  One of my favourite adventures continues to be a spur of the moment trip to the town of Alcázar de San Juan, in Spain’s Castile-La Mancha region.  A fellow Language Assistant was visiting Madrid from Barcelona and had an idea for a very interesting excursion.  The goal was simple: visit the windmills famous in that part of the country, as it is said that it was this setting that inspired Miguel de Cervantes’ story of Don Quixote.  Brilliant!  So, we hopped a train and set off in search of windmills.

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About an hour and a half later we reached our destination.  The trick then was to figure out where exactly were the windmills.  I think we assumed there would be signs pointing the way as it is a famous part of the area, however this was not the case, and we set off into the sleepy little town in search of windmills… and food.  We did find food in the form of a charming Italian restaurant, and on the way came across Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Las Cancelas turned out to be one special little restaurant, with great pizza and even better sangria.  It was run by a lovely, elderly gentleman who had a love of history and a knack for storytelling.  He spoke of his restaurant and the wall covered with postcards from people all over the world who had dined there.  He also gave us a bit of bad news in that the windmills were quite a hike away, and we would not be able to go there and back in time to catch the last train to Madrid.  That was disappointing.  But as luck would have it, our adventure wasn’t over yet.

The restaurant owner offered to drive us to the windmills so we would have enough time to see them and get back for our train.  He closed his restaurant early and we set off for our grand destination, while learning about town history and the controversy of the true birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes (not everyone believes it to be Alcalá de Henares).  At the windmills we parted with our very generous and informative guide, and finally reached our goal of finding the famous landmark.  It was definitely worth the trip.  I have found the  things not planned for end up being the most special, and in allowing yourself to get lost you may come across something unexpected and wonderfully memorable.  If you ever get the chance to visit this region of Spain, embark on a quest to the windmills.  And while you are there, make sure to stop for pizza and sangria. 🙂

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