Getaway: Chinchón, Spain
Chinchón, Spain – Standing less than 45 km from Madrid, this picturesque little town with a story offers an enjoyable change of scenery and plenty of high quality food and drink to keep you entertained. When you visit this town it’s almost as if you’ve gone back in time. In less than an hour by bus, you’ll find yourself strolling cramped, crumbly streets and admiring another side of Madrid, all the while, sampling quality snacks and drinking well into the afternoon. This is a trip you can comfortably make in three or four hours and at the end of the day – after seeing the old plaza and clock tower – your trip back in time to Old Spain will be complete.
For several friends and I, the prospect of taking a bus or train to visit Salamanca was quickly shot down. 2.5 hours each way? Nope. 30-35€ ida y vuelta? No thanks. And so, as the saying goes…Next!
Chinchón was the obvious solution. When you ask the locals around Madrid for day trip suggestions, they’ll tell you to go here and go there and almost always on that list you’ll hear the word, Chinchón uttered with an italian gesture of the hand, fingers and thumb pressed together into a bundle and pointing up to the sky, or perhaps, a playful tap of the belly as if to say, in Chinchón – you will eat well.
As usual we showed up late to the bus stop, only to see bus #337 pulling away across the four lane highway. Without saying a word, we decided to make a run for it. Go! Luckily, the bus waited for us and we boarded in a huff: bowling over little old ladies with our backpacks. Sweaty and embarrassed, we looked at our feet and did our best to blend in with the seat cushions as the bus departed. The bus from Madrid took about 45 minutes. The driver waved goodbye as he left us at the bottom of the hill (clearly all was forgiven) and up ahead lay the city-center and the famous main square, Plaza Mayor.
Within 5 minutes of viewing the lovely square we decided to make this day all about eating and drinking, spending that 30-35€ on an over-the-top lunch and then wine tasting and then anisette tasting. And then death in the afternoon.
Now, you are free to choose what you would like to do while visiting, but here are a few suggestions which can easily be summed up into a few words:
Eat and drink. A lot. The photogenic plaza mayor is as good as a place as any to start off with a caña and snacks, while along the winding streets you will find offers for the menú del día at a reasonable price (10-12€ ).
If you’re looking for an elevated lunch – something to really impress you and offer a “changeup” from the standard Spanish bar fare – then head to La Recua del Pelicano. Strange name aside, this restaurant is refreshingly simple on the inside (white walls and simple decor) but the food is a burst of ingenuity, offering a twist on common dishes like little empanadas filled with duck confit or the savory oxtail ravioli. They offer a special tasting menu for two or three people for 48-65€ or plates ranging from 9-12€. The Pelicano is located close to the main square on c/ cuesta de quinones, 2.
Afterwards, go on a stroll up to the clock tower in search of history and check out the remains of the, “church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (1534-1626), which was sacked and burned by Napoleonic troops in 1808”. (Spain.info) History lesson now complete, your best bet is to duck out of the sun and head below ground to examine the cuevas, the labyrinth of dark and temperature controlled caves where the typical table wine of Chinchón is made in gigantic ceramic pots. Head to the Meson Cuevas del Vino and as the name implies, you can climb down the stairs into the abyss and sample a rough, chilled red wine. You can also sample the liqueur for which the town is famous, anisette. Another cave to visit can be found below in the Mesón Quiñones Cuevas del Murciélago, here you can sample the wine for 1€ with little tapas of bread and cheese (and they’ll let you keep the clay glass your wine is served in).
How to Get There:
From Madrid you can drive, taking the A-3 Highway or take the local bus #337 located near the roundabout outside of the metro stop Conde de Casal (line 6). The bus is less than 4€ each way and tickets can be purchased on the bus. Check here for bus schedule and fare rates.
This town is perfect for a day time excursion, complete with truly over-zealous day drinking, but this is not however a town with nightlife. Get back to Madrid for the evening.
If You Visit: 1.) See the Plaza Mayor 2.) Check out the Cuevas 3.) Try the namesake anisette.