We had a very nice ride to Albacete, in first class on AVE (super fast train in Spain). The train is GREAT, really clean, outlets at every seat, and the best part is the service. They walk through with newspapers, then beverage service, then a 4-course meal, then more beverages and our favorite part – chocolate! The food was rather delicious and the staff very friendly. The ride was definitely worth it!
We arrived in Albacete train station and were greeted by our “old” friend Mamen and our new friends Monica and Adrian. Mamen was a guest in our home through home exchange (www.homeexchange.com) in November. The lady she works for as an au pair proposed a home exchange with me, while she was at a medical conference in Washington. I couldn’t go to Spain at that time so I proposed a hospitality exchange instead. So now we are going to stay in the house she lives in with Monica, the owner, and her 4-year old son Adrian.
Adrian was so excited to have someone to play with, as was Ellie. This is the greatest part of doing the hospitality exchange instead of home exchange – you really get to interact with the locals. Everyone I have stayed with has one child and I have one child – great for playing, no matter what age.
They drove through Albacete and I thought – just another city – but as we approached this view of an old village was a big surprise. The house she points to sits atop a big hill with a castle. I was very happy. We were in fact staying in Chinchilla de Monte-Aragon, a village dating back thousands of years. We pulled up to a typical Spanish house with a fantastic view of the countryside. They have a nice courtyard where the kids can play on tree swings or one can enjoy a cup of coffee. The living room was large and cozy at the same time, with a wood stove to enjoy cool nights. The kitchen was modernly renovated and had a very nice brand new eat-in kitchen for a large family.
Our hosts gave us Adrian’s room, which was perfectly adequate with a pull-out trundle bed that turned into a queen. We also had a great view from our bedroom window. Ellie and I slept there and we shared two bathrooms in the house. One thing that I really love about all the Spanish houses I have stayed in, was amazing water pressure in the showers.
Our hosts prepared a delicious dinner at home and the kids just played like the were old friends. We were really, really happy in “our new home” with “our new family”.
Day 2 – Chinchilla
We were really tired from our travels and adjusting to a new home but Ellie wanted to go with Adrian to preschool. His mom offered to see if Ellie could in fact spend the day with him at school but the school would not allow it. Too bad, I think Ellie would have enjoyed a fantastic experience (nothing more local than going to school).
Our co-host Mamen took us to Albacete to do some sightseeing and shopping. Our first stop was at a churreria. I didn’t like the churros, they were not hot and they were the small, skinny ones. I prefer the fatter ones and didn’t know there were different kinds. Now I know. We stopped by the very large and lovely park to play on the many different playgrounds. Gotta keep the little one happy. She had lots of fun and the weather was very nice – warm, but not hot.
We found a few little shops and then took the bus to Chinchilla – very cheap at only 1,30 euro. We walked a bit around the town and met up with some of the locals. The kids played in the town square, climbing on cannons and getting treats from the little local grocer. About 9 we had dinner at the house – delicious fish and salad.
Day 3 – Chinchilla, Spain
We went into town with Monica on her way to work (she is a doctor and teaches at the university) and walked around Albacete some more. We found another playground for Ellie then did a little shopping. I found a couple of pairs of shoes for Ellie for a good price. She was really tired so we went home for a siesta in a taxi. It was a little expensive at 22euro but it was worth getting my child home quickly for a nap!
Later on we went down the street to a little playground. They really have everything here you need. There are several people who just live here on the weekends. Great idea. Monica took us on walk around the town – it’s amazing to explore the cave houses built into the side of the cliffs. There was even a sign to buy one to renovate for 25,000 euro. Wow, so cool.
There was also a castle right next to Monica’s house. You can’t go in anymore but it’s really neat to walk up and around to see the drawbridge and moat. And the view from the top is PRICELESS!
So as someone asked us,”why are you going to Albacete?” – I say, to see my friends in town and in Chinchilla. Oh yes – my friends in town. Our last evening I took Monica to the Albacete Rotary Club meeting at Restaurante El Callejon. Not only is it the best restaurant in town, it is one of the most interesting. It is an historic building with little rooms tucked in every corner and every wall is filled with bullfighting memorabilia, including amazing costumes. We had an unforgettable 5-course dinner, every course fantastic. So nice to have a meal with adult conversation. The meeting went from 9:30pm til 12:30am, CRAZY!. Afterward we walked around the town for a bit just to let some of the food digest. I know they eat late in Spain but that was just crazy (good).
Oh yeah, my daughter had an unforgettable evening – her first sleepover ever (in Spain for that matter). They had a play date with friends and just clicked with a girl her age. She spent almost 24 hours at her house and didn’t want to leave. It was the first night my daughter slept away from me. Gracias Spain!
Day 4 – Chinchilla, Spain
I tried to sleep in after my late night and upset stomach, without success. I heard the sleepover went quite late so they were sleeping in and I had time for myself. Hooray again! I did some yoga then walked down to the bottom of the village where the sleepover took place. Ellie didn’t want to leave. We had to go back up the hill – great place to live if you like to be fit. We got a taxi to the train station and were off to Barcelona. It wasn’t the AVE, very disappointing. It was an old local train, 5:20 to Barcelona. Beautiful views though – wish I knew all the towns we were passing through.
Remembering all the great times we had in Chinchilla thanks to our wonderful hosts!