A Travellerspoint blog

Manzanares to Jaen castle to Bag End

Things don't go to plan... again

Sunday 19th June
Bag End

Trying to remember what happened a couple of days ago has been a struggle!! But thankfully, going through our photos has got the grey matter stirring and it's all coming back. Or, at least, some of it is!

We'd failed to mention that we ate at the Parador at Manzanares on the evening of our arrival. As staff were still clearing up the mayhem from the two "celebraciones", the main restaurant was, rather annoyingly, closed and dinner was being served in the cafetería. It was very busy but, thankfully, one extremely efficient and friendly waitress looked after us, as well as all the other demanding customers.

We think we've cracked the problem of the expensive and often disappointing meals at Paradors by carefully ordering a selection of starters and sharing them. No expensive main course and, most of the time, no pud. We thoroughly enjoyed our choices here. A lovely and huge salad, some pate balls served with an apple sauce (in a jar, we had to ask what it was!) and a really good selection of Manchego cheeses. We've actually been quite good in avoiding puds (postres) but this time John couldn't resist the Manchego cheese ice cream which had a unique flavour (yes, of cheese, though it would have been difficult to place without knowing what it was) but was absolutely delicious. Try it if you get the chance!

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We've already described our adventure the next day in the last Blog and we left you with nowhere to eat in Manzanares. Curiously, the restaurant we'd gone to look at and which seemed to have gone out of business, eventually responded to a message we'd sent earlier, saying they were open till 11pm! By that time, we'd extricated ourselves from that town's tangled streets (with little help from our Navigator), so we had no desire to get involved again, and decided to eat at the Parador. We went back to the same waitress in the cafetería and chose from the cafetería menu. We both had a very poshly described dish which turn out to be jamón, egg and chips and very nice it was too.

Next morning, Bob packed our bags and we were on the road to Jaén. As we crossed the border into Andalucía and the province of Jaén the landscape turned to olive trees on virtually every square inch, with the odd field of cereals. Olives as far as the eye can see, and as high as they dare go up the side of sierras. Occasionally there would be a large cloud of what looked like dust or smoke, which turned out to be a tractor spraying the olive trees. It's mind boggling when considering how they keep such vast areas of trees so carefully tidied and tended.

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The motorway was busy and fast. John had been determined to stick to speed limits as much as possible to avoid getting caught by unknown cameras. So the whole world and his wife sailed past us. The motorway split and it was much calmer till we reached the environs of the city of Jaén with its magnificent castle and Parador looking down from on high upon this muddly city.

We had been here before and our Navigator had taken us on a "direct" route through the old town toward the Parador. We'd been prepared for this and carefully checked the route which should be taken. We even saw signs for the Parador and thought we were OK. Then the "Ronda Sur" seemed to peter out and we found ourselves on narrow, sometimes near vertical, streets, once again in the old town. We're not sure how, but we eventually got out of it, ignoring pleas from the Navigator to "do a U turn whenever possible" and "turn sharp right then sharp left" and another "do a U turn whenever possible", and found the winding road up to the Parador which is built (in suitable castillian(?) style) right next to and on the 12th-century Moorish fortress which was connected to the city by hidden tunnels. It might have been easier to negotiate the tunnels rather than the streets.

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The Parador was originally built in 1965 but 4m€ was spent on it and it re-opened two years ago. It really is a magnificent hotel in a stunning setting and, as such, apart from Spaniards, who, as ever, were in the majority, also attracted a sprinkling of Americans and other nationalities. It has baronial halls with valuable tapestries and paintings.

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We were given a "mini suite" which was far from mini. A sitting room with balcony. A bedroom with double balcony (though it was too hot most of the time to venture out there) and a splendid bathroom with separate WC and bidet (of course!). The aircon was very efficient and it was a lovely environment to spend time sitting, reading and relaxing in. We also took our books to one of the "baronial hall" type lounges and thoroughly enjoyed a good read. Bob is working his way through "Grapes of Wrath" and John is enjoying the actor, John Fraser's salacious autobiography.

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The first evening we ate in the magnificent dining room and again ordered starters to share. But we over ordered. How anyone is going to eat such a pile of "Papajotes de brenejenas fritas with miel de caña de la Axaraquía" we shall never know. They do make fried aubergine sound so complicated! But we'd ordered a full racion of Jamón Ibérico de bellota D.O.P... blah blah blah, Judiones estofados con chorizo, morcilla y panceta curada, which we and the waitress knew as "fabada" or bean stew. Plus a tomato salad or "Ensalada de tomate, aguacate, quinoa y gambón aderezado con mango" (with a couple of prawns on top).

The "black stuff", offered with a skewer of meat and veg as an aperitivo, was a black salmorejo, a sort of cold tomato soup, not unlike gazpacho. Many non-Spanish noses were turned up at this but we found it quite nice"

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Actually, it was all very nice but, firstly we'd ordered 4 instead of 3 starters, we ordered a full racion of jamón instead of a half, and the pile of aubergine, which would have almost fed the 5,000, so we had to leave some of the aubergines. We struggled up to our room for a good night's sleep in airconditioned luxury.

For Wednesday morning, we had carefully planned a trip back to an old favourite of ours, the historic town of Baéza. A simple drive up the N316, now A316 as it's been upgraded to motorway standard. It seems there are no easily driveable local roads in Jaén. They are either motorways or poor quality and narrow side roads. Of course, the Jaén effect came into play and, despite putting in several waypoints to keep us on course, the dear Navigator took us off piste to do a couple of U Turns, which we eventually ignored and found our way out of this dreaded city.

Baéza is a lovely historic and friendly town and, on two previous visits, we've been able to park in the main plaza. We'd put a couple of what appeared to be parking areas from Google Maps into the Navigator (we must give her a name, rather than all the rude words she's been called on this trip) but she insisted on continuing to go round the plaza ad infinitum. In desperation, John turned into a side road, where there were quite a few spaces to park and only a couple of minutes to the square.

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We enjoyed a coffee in one cafe and then coffee and toast in another. We strolled round the square and spotted a man we'd first seen in the Manzanares Parador. He'd followed us to the Jaén Parador and there he was, having a drink inside the cafe. We then saw him in the tourist office plotting a route to Bag End, no doubt!

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The heat got to us and we drove back to the Parador. We'd carefully looked at our route on the street map of Jaén and ignored pleas to turn off, as well as signs to the castle and Parador. We then found ourselves in the swirling city centre, with its trams and heavy traffic. We managed to get back to the route to Baéza and out into the country again. We turned round at the next junction and tried again. This time we followed the signs for the castle until they disappeared, of course. But by some stroke of luck, and trying to keep our cool, we followed the road we were on without diverting. Eventually more signs for the castle and Parador appeared and we found ourselves back in the same parking space we'd used before, right by the entrance to the hotel. Phew!

The rest of the day we spent recovering, relaxing and reading. And we ate Flamenquíns de Tenera in the magnificent and baronial "cafeteriá". These are usually rolls of ham, stuffed with stuff. But these were beef and were pretty good. But the chips were not up to those served at Manzanares!

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Thursday was the day for our journey home. We had a nice breakfast in the lovely restaurant

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and set out for Mazarrón. We decided to follow the signs for "Granada" etc out of the city, as soon as they appeared, ignoring any directions from the Navigator. We found ourselves back on the road North, to Baéza but eventually hit the motorway and followed the signs for Granada. All the time, at every junction, the Navigator was telling us to return to Jaén for more U Turns etc but she finally gave up and directed us off the motorway to cut a corner not far from Granada city, and on to the motorway to Almería. She got it right for a change!

We stopped at a nice, family, mesón and were home without further incident. Phew it's been hot but we have thoroughly enjoyed this little trip, and the various "incidents" and plans going awry all added to the fun.

We do hope you enjoyed it too and thank you for sticking with us and for the comments which help to keep us going!

See you in America in September! Take care and stay cool.

Posted by Johnash 08:00 Archived in Spain Tagged paradores jaen manzanares paradors

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Comments

Thank you, John and Bob for such wonderful stories and photos of your adventures! I am so happy that you made it back to Bag End! We have had the same issues with our Navigator (and her pronunciations of Spanish words and towns is horrible) so I could feel your pain as you were trying to find your way with the typical Spanish signage. Welcome back home!

by colette

As usual a great blog, I'm sorry it's ended! I hope to see you before America, but September is not that far away!

by Annie

Thank you both for such an interesting and informative blog, think we enjoyed it as much (if not more) than the American adventures maybe because we are familiar with the settings. Glad you arrived home safely and look forward to seeing you in the Autumn. Xxx

by dancing Jean

Welcome home and so pleased you got home safe & had a fun trip despite a few Sat Nav issues. I'll certainly remember the selection of starters trick in Paradores. Good to see the pics & hear about which I'll put on our must visit list.

by Maggie P

Glad you are safely home at Bag End after your latest adventures. I've thoroughly enjoyed your Parador Blogs - great reads & excellent pics too! Will be looking forward to your next American Blog series come the Autumn ...

by Ian T.

What a beautiful Parador in Jaen. We know what you mean about the olive trees, it's amazing to see them growing right up to the top. We went to an olive mill in Jaen and were told there are 68 million trees in the area. We can't verify this as lost count after the first ten million 😂. Glad you had such a great trip and managed to avoid the horrendous heat. Beautiful area and wonderful places to see. Look forward to joining you both on the USA trip xx

by Sue and Gordon

One day going to follow in your footsteps with a ready made itinerary and tour !
But just booked Valencia for September. !

by Fred Monk

As always, it is a real pleasure to "travel" with you through your words and photos. Thank you so much!
Looking forward to your next adventures in America!

by Gabriela

So enjoyed your blog and all photos. Just one question I hope it was Bob who took all photos while driving in the car. We have just come back from a few days away and Terry kept saying to the sat. nav. no not that way please I know a better way maybe did a few years ago but not now. Lesson learnt.

by Vivienne Sawyer

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments. You made us blush!!

Encouraged now to continue "stateside". See you in September.

by Johnash

Always enjoy traveling with you both! The descriptions of the Paradores has been wonderful - and I loved the pics of the ‘castle’- really beautiful. I chuckle at your frustrations with the Navigator - seems like that is a universal response to these ‘helpful aids’. In the early days of those devices, our son had one that had a choice of voices - one was a NYC cab driver (with expected rudeness and abuse) and another was John Cleese! I’m looking forward to your travels in the US later this year! Enjoy the rest of summer and thanks again!!

by Linda Ketterer

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