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Day Trip to Ciudad Real
The city of Ciudad Real is in Castilla La Mancha and is one hour away from Madrid (200 km south) on the AVE. The AVE station is close to downtown and one can take a short taxi ride to downtown, with a cost of about 6 euros.
Ciudad Real was founded by King Alfonso X (the Wise) in 1255 A.D. to fight against the Military Order of Calatrava and other military orders and it became the capital of La Mancha in the 17th century. During the Middle Ages, there were four kilometers of walls, 12 meters high, and one hundred and thirty towers to protect the population. With time, the walls and towers were torn down. Today it has a population of about 73,000 and with the AVE, many residents now commute to Madrid to work, since it is an hour away on the high speed train. Ciudad Real is known as the home of Don Quixote, because it was here where he had his adventures. Besides the province of Ciudad Real, the other provinces in Castilla La Mancha are Toledo, Guadalajara, Cuenca, and Albacete.
The nice thing about Ciudad Real is that most of the downtown is a pedestrian area only and cars have to skirt the downtown, so visitors can walk downtown without worrying about getting run over by a car. The good thing about Ciudad Real is that you can see most of the important sights by just walking. The city is in a famous wine growing section of Spain, and the town of Valdepeñas is close by. It is a typical Spanish city of La Mancha and very restful, without any security problems. The people who live here are quite traditional.
What is enchanting about downtown is that there are many small parks with figurative sculptures and fountains, that are surrounded by hundreds of rose bushes. There is also a shade tree that is used extensively, called the amelia tree, whose blossoms also give a wonderful perfume. So when one is walking downtown, one is surrounded by very pleasant scents.
1. The Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is a big rectangular space and at one end is the very modern City Hall (Ayuntamiento), constructed in 1976 in a Neo-gothic style. It is popularly known as the Casa de los Picos (house of the peaks) because its construction reminds people of the peaks of the Nordic countries. Across the square is the Casa del Arco, which used to be the old city hall. In front of this building is the Fountain of Alfonso X. There is also the Reloj Carrillon at the Casa del Arco. This consists of life size sculptures of Cervantes, Don Quixote, and Sancho Panza, which are mechanized and go out on the veranda when the door opens, while the carillon plays. This occurs a few minutes before 12:00, 14:00, and 20:00H. The mechanism was made by the business Candido Valverde in 2005. This is one of the main tourist sights.
2. Puerta de Toledo
The Puerta de Toledo (Gate of Toledo) is a National Monument and it is a magnificent example of military architecture of the 14th century. It is the only gate that remains of the city walls and gates that King Alfonso X had constructed in Ciudad Real. The gate lead to the road going to the city of Toledo. The architecture is Mudejar. There are two towers, one on each side of the gate. There are six arches, two that are ogival, two that are horseshoe shaped, and two that are Gothic. The outside face of the gate has the Castilian coat of arms with castles and lions. The inside face has an inscription that says that it was finished during the time of Alfonso XI.
3. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Prado
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Prado has the Gothic style and has been restored several times in the past using different architectural styles. There is a doorway called the Perdon doorway, which was the main entrance during the time of Alfonso X, and this is Gothic with Romanesque elements. There is a rose window that was built in the 13th century. The southern door is decorated with three coat of arms, which represent the three military orders that influenced the city. The church has only one nave, but it is the second biggest nave in Spain. The main altarpiece is huge and was built by Giraldo de Merlo in 1617. At the base of the altarpiece is the choir that was finished in 1960. To the left of the nave is the Capilla (chapel) del Santisimo, and in front of this is the Capilla Penitencial. Below the high choir is the Capilla de la Virgen de los Dolores, with a Baroque altarpiece from the 16th century. The new tower was finished in the 19th century and has four sections done in stone.
4. Church of Santiago
The Church of Santiago was constructed at the end of the 13th century in the old Jewish quarter and is the oldest church in the city. The style is Castilian Gothic from the 14th century, showing the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic. The outside of the church is very sober. The central arch is painted with the apocalyptic figure of a dragon with seven heads, which apparently was an amulet against evil spirits. The ceiling is decorated with stones forming eight pointed stars.
There are two chapels, one dedicated to the Cristo de la Caridad and the other to the Virgen de los Dolores. There are mural paintings in the chapels, vaults and the central arch. There are coats of arms of the family of Don Pedro Muñiz de Godoy, the Master of Calatrava around 1370, the Coello family of Portugal, and the Order of Calatrava.
5. San Pedro Church
San Pedro Church is a Gothic church built in the second half of the 14th century. It resembles a fort. In the main facade is the beautiful doorway called the Perdon and there is a great rose window. There are three naves in the church, with the central nave being higher and wider than the lateral naves. The most important chapel has the sepulcher of Fernando de Coca, who was the confessor and chaplain of the Catholic Kings, as well as the canon of the Cathedral of Siguenza. It also has the altarpiece of the Virgen de Loreto, done in alabaster from the 15th century. Another chapel is the Capilla de Jesus Nazareno, which has an Isabeline architecture and also grating. The church is also famous for the 18th century reredos made from tile from Talavera de la Reina. There is a tower that is crowned with a pyramid type of structure. The vault has the shape of a star and the choir chairs are from the 16th century. This church has been declared a National Monument.
6. Palacio de la Diputacion Provincial
The Palacio de la Diputacion Provincial is the most beautiful civil building in the city of Ciudad Real. The architect of this building was Santiago Rebollar and it was constructed in 1892. The facade has towers at the corners and the front of the facade has Ionic columns that are topped by a pediment. The lower part of the building was constructed with white stone, while the upper part has white stone and red brick. The principal staircase to the upper floor is very impressive and it has frescos done by Angel Andrade and Samuel Luna. The salon where the officials meet has very good portraits. The patios of the palace are beautiful and also have a permanent exhibit of the paintings of Angel Andrade and Carlos Vazquez, two famous painters of the city from the early 20th century.
7. Diocesan Museum
The Diocesan Museum has a building that dates from the 19th century. It houses an impressive collection of sacred art. One of the patios has a beautiful little fountain. Another patio has a life size wooden sculpture group called La Santa Cena (the Sacred Supper), done by the artist Faustino Sanz Herranz, finished in 1964. There is another sculpture called El Resucitado and both of these are used for the processions of Holy Week. Among the works of art are paintings from the 13th to the 16th century, choir books from the 16th century, and liturgical vestments from the 17th and 18th century. There are missals from the Ucles Monastery also.
8. Museo Manuel Lopez Villaseñor
The Museo Manuel Lopez Villaseñor is located close to the Cathedral and occupies the oldest house of the city, built in the 15th century. It belonged to a military man by the name of Hernan Perez de Pulgar, who participated in the siege of Granada in 1492. Later the building was restored and turned into a museum to honor Manuel Lopez Villaseñor, who was the most famous painter and muralist of the city, and who donated his works of art to the city. The patio is very beautiful and has balconies and flower pots that are typical of La Mancha.
9. Gran Casino
The Gran Casino is a beautiful building constructed in 1887, and is a classic building whose architect was Santiago Rebollar. It has beautiful moldings and art deco lamps. The building is now used for city hall offices and for cultural activities. It is located in the Plaza del Prado.
10. Quixote Museum and Cervantes Library
The Quixote Museum is located at the end of the Gassett Park. There is a beautiful sculpture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in front of the museum. The museum has ten paintings by the Jose Jimenez Aranda, who was the best illustrator of Don Quixote from the 19th century. There are also illustrations done by Felipe Garcia Coronado. The exhibits are audio-visual in nature, with statues talking like their characters in the book. There is also a short narration from the book. The first floor contains an impressive library of 3,500 books that is dedicated to Cervantes.
11. Gassett Park
Jose Ortega y Gassett was a famous Spanish philosopher and author, who lived between 1883 and 1955. This beautiful park is named after him. This is a big park that has a long walkway that is shaded with trees. The park has thousands of rose bushes and there are fountains and arbors where people can rest. It is a favorite place for mothers to bring their children. There is a monument called La Cruz de los Casados, which has a cross on top of a Corinthian column, built in 1929. It reminds people of the legend of the tragic love between Don Sancho and Doña Blanca, as written in Don Quixote.
12. Paseo del Prado
The Paseo del Prado is the little square in front of the Cathedral. It has a statue of the Pandorga, a man who takes part in the popular festival of La Pandorga, which takes place on July 30 and 31 of each year. On the last day the festival honors its patroness, who is the Virgen del Prado. The people wear jeans, a white shirt, and a traditional handkerchief.
13. Plaza del Pilar
The Plaza del Pilar is a small park very close to the Plaza Mayor. This park has a monument to Don Quixote, done in 1967 and the artist being Joaquin Garcia Donaire. It is surrounded by fountains and rose bushes. This is a very pleasant place for people to gather and enjoy nature.