Finally our desired destination………….Penalver
The kind man who gave us a lift to Penalver drops us off and quickly drives away. We stand in the town square with our suitcases — the town square that was teeming with people two days ago – NOW VACANT – devoid of any living person and all the doors that were brimming with commerce a mere 48 hours ago, now closed and shuttered. What was to become of us? Were we never to explore this village; a village founded by August’s family in the year 900 and that still carries his name? Sme laughter emerged from a doorway above and we scurried off to locate the source — oh my a small bar — OPEN!!! Perhaps we would be saved. We asked when the apartments and stores would open their warm, inviting doors so that their owners would rush to embrace us — not on Monday — we were told — alas, again our hopes dashes upon these ancient stones.
From among the rubble appeared an old man who seemed all of four feet tall. “Come with me!”, he proclaimed — off we scurry through the narrow curing streets, around corners that are so ancient they carry the very stories of our existance……….from the looks of our guide he may well remember them all!
He finds a portal and begins to pull the rope attached to an ancient bell — NO ANSWER! I only imagine sleeping in one of the caves located above us in the hills — not so bad a happenstance, as this is where the local wine is vinted!
I ponder the night amongst the bottles that I will empty, but no he runs around another corner only to return within moments followed by a sleepy woman, wrapped in a house coat — the innkeeper — Mercedes, herself. She proclaims that the previous guests have only just left and that we must place our suitcases (yes, we have been dragging them up and down these hills and around these corners) within the habitation and she will have it cleaned shortly. Having had the experience of the past three nights, in our tiny rooms, we are a bit apprehensive, and I yearning for my cave full of wine, reluctantly follow her into the building.
She produces a key reminiscent of medieval times — about five inches long and open a door — behold, one believes one has entered Aladdin’s castle…..an apartment complete with kitchen — I feel I may faint for before me is a microwave, stove, sink, venthood, a dining room, living room all complete with fine furnishings and behold through the doorway a large bedroom, complete with a wardrobe and queen sized bed — and there behold hanging from the ceiling — a crystal chandelier!
To what gods have we prayed to be given such gifts?!!? My glance turns to my left and I feel that I may swoon — a bath complete with a walk-in shower and do my eyes deceive me – a towel warmer!!!!!!!!!!
We discuss the payment for rental of our palace and suddenly realize we have not exchanged our dollars for euros and in these small villages a credit card is unheard of. We have enough money to pay for our stay and no more! Again we find ourselves in crisis — what is to become of us by the end of this journey! There are no grocery stores, restaurants, banks, gas stations, corner markets of any kind in this village; we have no money and no food……..again my thoughts wander to the wine packed caves in the distance!
Our inn keep runs to her home to return with fresh eggs, potatoes, Iberian sausage, olive oil and sardines! She tells us to give her the equivalent of our rent in American dollars and she will return our euros! What a marvelous person we have encountered — our angel of Penalver!
We go into the town square to explore the ancient church — upon entering we find that mass is just to begin.
We decide to partake. It feels that we hae entered a cathedral from the middle ages — so magnificent is the interior; here in this small village.
I do believe that every one of the townspeople is in attendance at the mass; I notice one woman who is quite evidently one of the town busybodies and make a mental not — this one is important! We realize that this is a funeral memorial mass for one of the townsfolk, how has recently passed. After the service I tell Augustine to make contact with the local busybody to gather information. I know that by morning all will know of our presence and offer to be of assistance! I am correct, we are offered a walking tour of the city along with a great history!
We are guided to the ancient, crumbling, original city gates, from which August removed a small stone and kissed the portal to his ancient, familial fortress.
We walk down the entire original main street of the town, finding ourselves lost in thoughts of what once must have been. The original homes all standing, silently watching the return of one of their own and Augustine drawn into his history by the hands of his ancestors reaching across the millennium to embrace him.
At last we find our way to the other end of the original city with the obelisk containing the remnants of the family crest and rubble of the original wall surrounding the village.
What history stands before us, what grand pride and toil it took to have created this jewel in the countryside of Spain. I can only imagine what treasures of discovery tomorrow will hold, for today we return to our warm and inviting habitation to wash our clothes and hang them about the rooms to dry. I prepare a meal: a traditional Spanish torta of potatoes, Iberian sausage, Mancheco cheese and eggs. We eat to our delight with crusty bread and, of course, two bottles of the local wine, vinted in my much sought after caves!
Finally we are in the full embrace of Penalver and the ancestral arms of Augustine’s past. Tonite, I trust, we shall sleep in the arms of angels.
We find a plaque dedicated to one of the townsfolk who accompanied Christopher Columbus in the discovery of the Americas!
We have also located the site of the ruins of el Castillo Penalver!
We found a tapestry of the original castle and so wished it were still standing!
The Penalver castle! On a hilltop overlooking the city we can see the ruins of some grand arch.
The villagers tell us that they continue to use the cemetery that has always been part of the castle grounds.
We venture to the top of the hill overlooking the village. All along the roadside were cave entrances with doors. It was evident that they continued to be inhabited. The view of the village was magnificent — magnificent that is for those who do not suffer from acrophobia as myself!
Once we reached the precipice, it was evident why the ancestors chose this location. One can see down the entire valley and if one’s enemies were approaching, the Klaxons could be sounded long before their arrival. We wander among the tombs and find remnants of the old castle walls — oh my at one point we find a human vertebrae lying in the grass, most likely removed from a tomb by an animal.
We find the remnants of the great ach we saw from below and August walks through its opening.
We return to the village and visit the local market, a ten by ten foot room and purchase some items for our luncheon. Augustine had a local soup with two different kinds of sausages, and tripe (yuck!) in a rich tomato cream base. I had white beans with onions and Iberian sausage. After our luncheon we walked into the woods alongside the river for three hours.
Upon returning to the village we visited the famous statue of the honey gatherer. Penalver is famous for its honey production.
We also visit a fountain that dates to Roman times and bears the Penalver family crest.
Do you recognize the crest? Yes, Augustine’s family were the original Knights Templar. Lots and lots of stories there!