Manzanares El Real: A Castle and a Cute Town

[Welcome to the vault of blog posts from the holidays that were unpublished – until now. Not wanting to spend the holidays crying alone in my apartment, I went on a mission to visit castles in the pueblos in the Community of Madrid. This castle was my favorite.]

“I thought the castle would be bigger,” I thought as the bus pulled into the village.

I mean, it is a big castle. Bigger than my childhood home. Bigger than my apartment. It’s probably bigger than fifty of my apartments.

In the pictures, it looked like a fortress. On the bus ride there, I imagined moats and dozens of horses storming out and spacious ballrooms and views that stared endlessly at the mountains. In real life, it was the size of a mansion. Maybe two mansions. Which is still impressive, but it put my daydreams of horses and ballrooms to rest.

Manzanares el Real is a village an hour outside of Madrid. It’s a great and cheap day trip: take ALSA 724 at Plaza de Castilla, and pay around 4-5 euros in cash as you get on the bus.

The bus ride was gorgeous, by the way. Spain’s landscapes outside of the city are coated in bright green plains that blend into green mountains, and as you drive further, views of the snow-covered sierra. It was so relaxing and beautiful that I would have been happy with just driving on this road.

But I came with a mission.

To see a castle.

We passed the castle as we arrived in the village. The bus driver dropped us off near the main village square. As I hopped off the bus, I saw … well, not a lot. It was nearing siesta hour, which, I’ve learned, is definitely a thing in smaller Spanish towns. Shops will close down for a few hours, and the entire city will fall asleep before reopening in a few hours.

I was able to get a coffee and red velvet cake, however, before everything closed down.

Immediately when I arrived in the city, the vibe felt different. The way the barista interacted with me felt more like the small town I’m from, or the small city I lived in Colombia. I can’t quite put things into words, but it just felt more … familiar, you can say.

As fun as it is living in a big city with endless options, you do feel invisible at times. Everything feels like you’re in a rush. Feeling known and acknowledged is what’s nice about small cities and towns.

Believe it or not, there is more to this blog post than red velvet cake and my latest musings on small town versus big city living: the castle.

It was far from disappointing.

Sadly, we could not go to the top for some reason. However, it was interesting to walk around inside the castle. It was interesting to think that, hundreds of years ago, people actually lived in these places.

This castle was actually the new one. The old one’s ruins look like this:

Outside of the castle is a garden. I can’t imagine how beautiful it must be during the spring, when all the trees and flowers are blooming with flowers and leaves.

And you can get fantastic views of the castle from outside.

The castle also gives you views of the reservoir near the castle. The path to the castle has several lookouts where you can take photos. And, as I walked around, the views and vibes gave me memories of a place I love so much…Imbabura, Ecuador. More specifically, the Laguna Yahuarcocha.

Do you see the resemblances?

The town itself, while small, had its charm. Cute wooden balconies and a square that I imagined was quite full of people during the holidays, pre-March 2020. Mountains surrounded the small town, which would have made a fun day hiking with friends.

I had a good few hours before heading back to Madrid. While I was there, it even started to snow. My first snowfall in two years. Too bad it doesn’t snow in Madrid, I thought.

Oh, if only I knew.

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