It was the day before my homeward journey. Weather forecast is cloudy, rainy day. So I made up my mind to stay home and start packing. Alas, the sun’s out by noontime! Packing can wait. And my itchy feet won’t.
While in line to enter one of the smaller museums in Madrid, I met this French mom and daughter tandem who told me about their trip to this university town. Alcala de Henares, just a half hour €3.20 trip by Cercanias train from Madrid’s Atocha Renfe Station. I love university towns! It also happens to be the birthplace of Miguel Cervantes of the Don Quixote fame. That’s it. I must go.
Glad I had a hearty breakfast. Lunch can wait. After all, this is Spain! When I got to Atocha Renfe Station, the train to Alcala is scheduled to leave in 5 minutes. I was fidgety as the lady before me couldn’t make up her mind. I made it with a minute to go. This is getting to be a habit! After a few stops, we reached the university town where Miguel Cervantes was born. Just a 10 minute walk from the train station to Plaza Cervantes.
It’s a lovely plaza. In the middle is a bronze statue of the town’s favorite son and a kiosk with intricate ironworks. Around the plaza are old brick buildings and churches with spires now serving as havens for resident storks. I sat on a bench and took pleasure just watching the storks going about their business in their “residential nests” and flitting from one rooftop or spire to the next. It’s a community of storks here in Alcala de Henares!
From the Plaza, I walked along Calle Mayor towards Casa Cervantes where the famous Don Quixote author lived. It’s a beautiful house, well-preserved with many interesting memorabilia. And it’s free! The bronze statues of Don Quixote and Pancho seated on a bench right in front of the house was a hit with tourists.
All around, it’s as if Cervantes still lives among the young population of university students. Young men and women manning tourist bureaus, souvenir shops, coffee bars, theaters. And the storks! Just look up and you’re bound to find their nests on rooftops and church spires. The Archbishop’s Palace is a favorite among these resident storks and it’s a challenge to find them in between the gargoyles!
It was an afternoon well-spent in Alcala de Henares. And guess what….. I took the train ticket- dispensing machine at the station with a minute to go!