España 2004: Uncastillo

Saturday, 8 May 2004

Saturday dawned with clear, sunny skies in Barcelona. We were worried because the forecast for our destination (Uncastillo) was not good – cool and wet for the following three days. However, we lucked out and it was actually a very pleasant day for a drive – a solid 2.0 on the KWS scale.

We spent part of the morning packing then walked to the Europcar office to pick up our rental. There we had a little surprise. We rented the car prior to leaving Canada – the type of car we rented was supposed to be a Renault Clio or similar. At the time of our rental, we were given a free upgrade to a Volkswagen Polo – we were quite pleased. But at the rental office in Barcelona, we wound up with yet another upgrade, this time to an Audi A4 which is a very swish car. All our luggage fits in the trunk and it is lots of fun to drive – it’s actually bigger than our Corolla which is proving a bit of a challenge when parking in 14th century villages!

We had (a nondescript) lunch on the road and arrived in Uncastillo (population ~900) just before 5:00pm. Our hotel (Posada La Pastora) is a lovely small hotel and Uncastillo is charming. After unpacking the car, we wandered around the village and checked out various eating establishments. Dinner at Casa Fortún started with Revueltos con Verduras for Steve and una sopa de ajo, typical of the region, for Susan. This was followed by lamb (Susan) and bacalao (Steve).

Sunday, 9 May 2004

First, we toured the castle that Uncastillo is famous for – it has a fascinating history, starting out as a Moorish fortress in the 10th century. This is a very lovely area – valleys of rolling hills surrounded by small mountain ranges and we spent some time exploring. First, we checked out an old Roman site – baths and aqueduct Los Bañales). Then on to Sos del Rey Católico (which everyone calls “Sos”). Sos is similar to Uncastillo, but on one of the main roads. So, it is a little more “touristy”. Nonetheless, it is very attractive. We replenished our stock of orujo here. The small towns around here are very similar (generally speaking) to the hill towns in Tuscany and Umbria in Italy, although the countryside is quite different.

We lunched (menú del día) in Sos today (the highlight was Susan’s dessert – a whole peach soaked in red wine), and then had some raciones later for dinner at our favourite bar (Bar Cindol) in Uncastillo. The weather was quite good – a very solid 2.0 on the KWS.

Monday, 10 May 2004

More touring around the local area today. Extended walk through Uncastillo, exploring a couple of places that we hadn’t yet seen, including the area of the ancient Jewish necropolis and the puente de Judíos. Then, up to Sangüesa, via Sos for some exploring and lunch, which included alubias poches con guindillas, a local specialty which was extremely tasty. Dessert included tarta de Santiago, a wonderful dense almond cake.

The Camino de Santiago goes through Sangüesa and not far from there is the birthplace of Francisco Javier (Francis Xavier), one of the founders of the Jesuit order. Took the long way back to Uncastillo for a siesta. Then, we “split” dinner out – checking out one of the other bars in town (La Ronda) first. Our test is ordering papas bravas (a very famous dish here). La Ronda failed the test, so back to Bar Cindol for the balance of dinner and generally a better atmosphere. It’s quite a lively little place, and the night guy is very nice (as is the morning woman, who we see for our café). (We should mention that we’ve been washing supper down with the local wine, Uncastellum. Not bad!)

Another lovely day – 2.0 once again.