I can´t recall if I was ever waiting for any other trip that much as this one. I moved to Spain just three months before, and regardless of having the chance to travel a couple of times to Spain in the past and visiting a couple of obvious places, still the real country, the in-land, the less touristy parts were completely unknown for me. We agreed to dedicate 10 days in the end of July 2019 to travel around Spain with a Fiat 500. Just the two of us and our little car on the go, free as the birds. I was so excited!
Of course, we had some draft ideas in mind, where to go, more or less on which roads, and what we had known for sure since the beginning that in the end we wanted to reach Andalusia, but we just outlined a plan and decided to go with the flow. Since Spain is relatively a big country to travel around by car, we had known that we need to spend every night somewhere else in order to comfortably reach Andalusia and return to Barcelona within this period of time.
Not to mention that on the first day of our trip we could leave Barcelona only in the afternoon hours, therefore Dani decided to limit the number of kms for that day and booked a place in Aragon…
The plan was to make a Spanish tour to let Anna understand, even partially, the diversity of my country. Therefore, Aragon was the first region we were going to pass through. I checked on the map for a stopover, where I could explain some interesting things about Spanish history and I found an ancient town, whose past dates back to Roman times and hosts many of the best examples of the Mudejar architecture preserved in Aragon from the Muslim period. Its name is Calatayud and couldn’t be better for my purpose.
What to do
Where to stay
Besides the Obvious favourite
The room was super cute, very authentic and cosy. But since it was kind of late, we have decided quickly to go out and discover the centre of the town in the hope of having a bite somewhere. Since our accommodation was very close to the main square, “Plaza España”, our first idea was just to find a cute place there and observe the iconic houses of the square. There were a couple of bars open, and we have chosen one in the corner from where the views on the square were maybe the best. “El Pescadito Frito” was the name of the place, therefore we ended up with some fish plate, and of course accompanied with 2 (that became later 4) local Ambar beers. Somehow life stopped there, that was my feeling, but in a nice way.
There was a big sign hanging on the surface of one of the houses: “Noches de Verano”. For sure it was an advertising for some kind of cultural activity, or concert series, but for me it summarized everything there. It was summer, it was late night, the first night of our “Vuelta a España” trip, the whole journey was still ahead of us, but we already reached the first stop, and we were sitting among a couple of locals only, listening their conversations about the life there, we could observe the stars, a perfect “Noche de Verano” for us.
Eat and Drink
Calatayud was the new settlement of the old roman city of Bilbilis Augusta. That’s why locals are called bilbilitanos. When the Arabs arrived to the area, at the beginning of the 8th century, decided to set up their town in the current location, chose to Ayub Castle (Qal’atAyyub), which gave the place’s name.
Calatayud was located at the bottom of a complex defensive system made up of five strategic points, fortresses or castles, from the Arab period, considered one of the oldest military systems in Muslim Spain. Two octagonal towers remain from the Ayub Castle, as well as numerous canvases on the wall. The city concentrates an endless number of stately houses and Renaissance palaces.
The town was very convenient to explain to Anna about the Arab occupation in Spain that took place during almost eight centuries and along long peaceful periods of normal convivence, as well as in between many short wars that had to do more with private interests than with religion or cultural matters. Of course, there was a Cristian and Muslim identity and that ended up in the last centuries of the occupation in somehow a national, or many national projects, based in religion as a strategy for social cohesion. When Muslims were pushed away from the Iberic Peninsula in very bad conditions and no any kind of deal at all, some of them decided anyhow to stay and got converted to Christians, or they pretend so, but the Arab culture remained. That is very visible in on the patterns churches walls, we call the art and culture of those people Mudejar.
Nowadays the town is still a strategic point in the region even though its development is somehow irregular, consequence of the decadence in its importance in the big historical picture. It has a quite modern centre combined with some degradation in the old quarter, visibly on its way of reverting. That makes the town even more interesting to me and real. To take a stroll around the town is sweet, easy and safe, all is walking distance and you could feel immediately the vibe of authenticity. We didn’t see tourists at all but traditional products are available and you can find local atmosphere everywhere. Definitely, a town in a very interesting point, that you shouldn’t miss in a Spanish tour.
The next morning, we woke up with full of energy. After a lovely breakfast we were ready to continue our trip. We had many kms ahead of us and we couldn´t wait more to go and explore further this beautiful country… España.