The road in drifts through blood-red poppy stained fields. I entertained the hope that the pretty girl behind me would strike up a conversation and we would get together, live together in a village and have curly-haired, blue-eyed, olive-skinned children. They would run around wielding their names Tarquin Baltasar Sanchez Darracott and Eva Emily Sanchez Darracott - Sanchez being the imaginary name of my imaginary wife. We would spend lazy afternoons getting tipsy with chilled wines and olives in the sun as we had no other worries but to remember to take the roasting lamb out of the oven before our friends arrived for the cool evening dinner. That didn't happen. Instead I got off the bus at the first stop that indicated my arrival into Chinchon and blasted away my silly thoughts. I walked in the direction of the large church that I knew, with the help of Google images, loomed dramatically over the famous picture perfect plaza mayor. The square in question is more of a ring. This is no accident as in the summer it doubles up at the town's plaza de toros.
I then spent about 40 minutes wandering around the beautifully beaten streets. There are whiffs of the prettiness of Cuenca's lanes and Toledo's backstreets but with more of a genuine, naturally scruffied and inhabited air about them. This day was hot. I stupidly chose a black t-shirt as a dry run for my upcoming trip in the summer. The annoying science behind why dark hues are a bad choice in the sun was present, although it wasn't as potent as I thought it could have been. I started to need things: water, a place to go to the toilet and a bank so that I could recharge my phone. I was about to call it lunchtime when I spotted a castle over in the distance, on the other side of the town. I like castles me. It wasn't open, or that impressive. It was a - more or less - large square 15th century blob of stone and turrets. What it did do well was command a good view of the bullet wounded poppy hills that formed the outer stretch of Madrid before it flumps into La Mancha. I found a water machine and head back to the main square. I then found an atm - always tricky in a small place - burnt my fingers on the sun-heated metal buttons and sent the texts I needed to send.
I finally buckled to the whim of both my belly and my bladder and found the most populated outdoor cafe on the plaza mayor - La Taberna Conrado, helmed by a waitress as ugly as she was efficient. And my she was ugly. I ordered a beer, some patatas bravas and two croquetas. The potatoes had one of the spiciest bravas sauces I had tried and were also coated with coarse salt. I don't really like all that much salt on my food but I found these little golden starch cubes strangely morish. My nose ran and my belly filled as I relaxed, reclusive in my little pool of shade. There is something inexplicable in the way one is able to pick out one's countrymen before they even speak. I think it's two parts physical and stylistic appearance to three parts mannerisms and body language. I thought about this as I regarded the green and white multi-tiered balcony-laden inner walls of the square. It reminded me of the hanging houses at Cuenca. I saw a prowling cat, walking like John Wayne, under the tables, well-fed and well-kept. No collar. Maybe a pet. Then I asked for the bill and an anis Chinchon. This a sweeter version of anisette liqueur that you can find anywhere. The famous, harder version is Sambucca. Anis is a typical drink of Chinchon. In fact it is the product of Chinchon. In fact it is the only product for which the Madrid Community has a denominacion de origen, giving it the same status as Rioja wine or Manchego cheese.
The smell is a heady mixture of vodka and liquorice. The taste is pleasant and delights in curling up around ice cubes.
The sky couldn't have been bluer as the hundreds of sex-mad swifts danced around the heavens trying to impress and catch and fight each other. My head started to spin lightly as the heat and alcohol cushioned me. I asked where the bus stop was, got on my number 337 and slept most of the way back to my capital.
It was my first little taste of wandering through Spain on my own. Eating on my own. Drinking on my own. Leading me to think and write there on my own. It's quite nice really.