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El Toro

Before leaving la Almunia de Doña Godina we went for a coffee in the charming town square near the huge red brick church. The telly was on showing a bull fighting programme, my friend, who has expressed an interest in going to a bull fight then proceeded to say how cruel etc. ‘you are interested in zee bulls?’ Said the young man behind the bar. I said that I had seen El Cordobes in Barcelona in the sixties and he showed us the photographs and trophies around the bar – he came from a family of bull fighters. He was a picador and he got out his red cape and then went and brought his bright pink cape that he wore for the parade. By now we were sat outside and I got Lanky to take a photo of me swirling around in this historic garments, then he came out with his ‘picks’, decorated with the red and yellow of Spain and told me to be very careful of the points. More photos, stilted Spanish conversations and we left town for the long road across this spectacular country.

hour after hour we drove, at one stage we had a 180 degree view across the landscape painted browns, golds, and ochre, you could see parts of the road in the far distance as it appeared and disappeared and there was hardly any traffic. We circumnavigated Madrid and decided to opt out of trying to go all round the ring road and just go south. At the next toll booth we couldn’t work out what we supposed to and there was nobody about. ‘Reverse back up,’ I said to Lanky whilst I see if I can find help. I got out of the car and looked around for someone, anyone, and a man appeared, I now know that he was shouting at me to get back into the car. There was hardly any traffic but there were about ten kiosks to choose from. Eventually he got us through. At the next toll booth the same happened but this time we knew what to do and reversed quite efficiently and waited in a no go zone. On and on we went until we reached Orcano, where stopped and enquirer at a cafe about hotels. We were two. Minutes away from one. Two rooms 30 euros each, not bad. Last night we went out into the town and sure enough there was an ‘old’ centre and we could see tables and chairs laid out through the arch. ‘There must be a fiesta,’ I said to Lanky, but as we entered under the arch it opened up into a huge square reminiscent of St Marks in Venice. Obviously not quite, but it was magnificent and it was huge. There were cafés dotted around the cloistered sides and we sat down to drink and marvel at our good fortune at having found this place. Children played whilst their parents chatted and socialised with friends. Couples came and went and we ordered tapas and enjoyed the warm night. On the way back to the hotel we passed another small square and swifts were swooping and diving and whirling both high and low. It was quite a sight and we stood transfixed as these elegant birds whistled as they dived low in between us and then soared high again. There were, I want to say hundreds, but certainly dozens of them coursing up and down and in and out. We didn’t want to leave. The sun cast a gold and orange colour where it hit the white walls of buildings and we returned to our hotel very pleased that we had made this stop.