Una mañana en la otra Guadalajara.

I’ve always been curious about the capital city of Guadalajara, population 84,803. Everyone always talks about Segovia, Toledo, Ávila and even Cuenca, but Guadalajara flies under the radar. It doesn’t have any hanging houses, it doesn’t have three cultures, and there is no aqueduct or alcázar to boast of. However, it does have its charm. Siempre he tenido una curiosidad de Guadalajara capital, población 84.803. Todo el mundo habla de Segovia, Toledo, Ávila y incluso Cuenca, pero nadie conoce Guadalajara. Ni tiene casas colgantes, ni tiene tres culturas, ni tiene acueducto para atraer visitantes. Sin embargo, tiene su encanto.

I’d been to the province a few times, to Sigüenza, to the Pueblos Negros and for a hiking excursion, but I’d never made it to the capital. While I was in Madrid in August, I decided to visit the city to see what it’s like. Había visitado la provincia unas veces. Ya conocí Sigüenza, los Pueblos Negros y también hice una excursión de senderismo allí, pero nunca había ido a la capital. Mientras estaba en Madrid en agosto, decidí visitar la ciudad para ver como es.

It was a hot day in the middle of August, and I felt the heat every second. I caught Cercanías from Recoletos in Madrid. The journey to Guadalajara takes about an hour, and the station is about 1.5 kilometres from the city centre. Era un día caluroso de medias de agosto, y sentí el calor cada segundo. Cogí el Cercanías de Recoletos en Madrid. El viaje tarda sobre una hora, y la estación está a unos 1,5 kilómetros del centro de la ciudad. 

The city has some quaint churches and the River Henares adds to the experience. The co-Cathedral Santa María is another highlight. La ciudad tiene muchas iglesias pintorescas y la Ría Henares añade a la experiencia. La co-catedral Santa María es otra cosa que hay que ver.

My plan was to stop in the more famous Alcalá de Henares, birthplace of Cervantes, but due to the heat and the fact I had been there once before, I decided to seek air conditioning before the afternoon. Mi plan era parar en la ciudad más famosa que está a lado, Alcalá de Henares, donde nació el Cervantes. Al final no paré dado al calor y como ya lo conocía. Quería buscar aire acondicionado para la tarde. 

The Spanish Guadalajara may not be as famous as the Mexican one, but it has its charm and would be a great day trip combined with Alcalá de Henares for Madrid visitors to discover a different Spain. La Guadalajara española no tiene la fama de la Guadalajara mexicana, pero tiene su encanto y sería una buena excursión combinado con Alcalá de Henares para los turistas de Madrid quien quiere ver una España diferente. 

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Madrid. City, province, autonomous community.

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I’m just going to be flat-out honest. I do not like the city of Madrid. Part of the reason is while I like to visit big cities, living there is different. I did not have a good experience living there. I don’t like either football team (in fact, I downright hate Real Madrid with a passion that I will support any team or anything that is playing them.) I find that some (note SOME, not ALL, before the angry commenters come in) people in the city proper are everything they complain that the rest of Spain is (lazier than the andaluces, faker than the andaluces, stingier than the catalanes, colder than the Spanish from the north coast…). They pride themselves on being “open” but I found it next to impossible to find actual friends in the three years I had to call the city “home”. I never felt more than a tourist (another thing I don’t like), whereas both Valencia and Bilbao felt like home immediately. Madrid is a city that never sleeps, and although they don’t understand the comparasion, I find it to be a Spanish New York City. Tons of people and things to see and do, but unless you have a good group of friends and/or family by your side, you’re always going to feel like an outsider.

On the other hand, the people in the villages and small towns in the province/autonomous comunidad de Madrid are some of the most friendly, most open and charming people you will ever meet. The mountain villages north of the city are incredibly beautiful and offer a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city that gives the province its name. Every chance I got, I went to visit a village near the city. I also worked in a village just south of the city (45 minute commute) in one of the best schools one could ever hope find. So I want to make clear that if I am complaining about Madrid, it is for the capital city and NOT the rest of the comunidad.

Madrid the city does offer a lot for visitors, I will admit. There is the Palacio Real, Parque Retiro, Museo de Prado, Museo de Reina Sofía, Parque de Oeste (so much better than Retiro), Templo de Debod, Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol and relaxing cafés con leche in Plaza Mayor. There are many barrios for partying. Chueca (for the gays pijos, or posh/snooty gays), La Latina (for everyone and more and more for the normal gays), Malasaña (the alternative barrio), or Huertas (for the tourists). The gardens at Atocha (the train station) are remarkable. The metro line, although always too crowded at any hour of day, will get you where you need to go.

However, I prefer off the beaten path. There could be Set Meravelles for the city, sure. (Gran Vía, Parque de Oeste, Chamberi Metro Station is a closed metro station that takes you to the past and only locals visit, Puerta del Sol, Prado, Gardens de Atocha, La Latina/Chueca/Malasaña, etc etc etc.) I’m going to suggest Set Meravelles outside the hustle and bustle of the city, the REAL Madrid, the places that will give an opportunity to escape the madness. Some of them are quite popular destinations already. Some of them aren’     t known to people who don’t live in Madrid. All of them are worth a visit.

Set Meravelles de la Comunidad de Madrid

La Pedriza

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La Pedriza is part of the Guadarrama mountains in the north of Madrid. It offers amazing hiking trails and scenery. It’s famous for its granite rock formations. I’ve been on several day trips here, and it’s located next to the village Manzanares el Real, which is amazing in its own right.

Manzanares el Real

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Speak of the devil. Manzanares is the gate to La Pedriza and a quaint village of 7000 inhabitants located about 45 minutes north of Madrid city. It has a well-preserved medieval castle. The first time I ventured here was on my 28th birthday. It wasn’t my last.

Chinchón

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Chinchón is a small village of around 5000 people located 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast of Madrid, and it has a famous circular plaza where that infamous Spanish tradition of bullfighting takes place from time to time. It’s also famous for its chinchón anis and a castle now closed to the public. It’s a great getaway from the city.

Pantano de San Juan

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The “beach” of Madrid. The Pantano de San Juan is located next to the village of San Martín de Valdeiglesias an hour or so southwest of Madrid and is a reservoir with beautiful scenery. It’s popular with families, and in certain areas, popular with naturists (I.E. there is a nudist part away from the families). It’s the closest you’re going to get to the beach in Madrid. It’s the only reservoir (embalse) that allows swimming in the entire Comunidad de Madrid.

Alcalá de Henares

Someone was an idiot and has no photos of the small city of Alcalá de Henares, which is 35 kilometres or 22 miles northeast of Madrid on the way to Guadalajara . I always meant to go back, but never got around to it. It is famous because it’s the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, he who doth wrote that great novel Don Quixote. It’s also the biggest city in Madrid outside Madrid. It also has a university and a population of white storks.

El Escorial

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El Escorial is a monastery in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a village of 18,000 people located 48 km/28 miles north of Madrid and is quite well connected with the capital by bus and Cercanías trains. Felipe II was the one responsible for its construction, which took many, many, many years. It is a World Heritage site with 500,000 annual visitors. I do agree with the popularity as it is amazing architecture, and the village is pretty damn cool itself.

Patones de Arriba

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 A village of less than 400 people located 60 KM (36 miles) north of Madrid, Patones is one of the coolest places I have seen in my life. It’s not well-communicated by public transport (you’ll have to get up extra early to catch the bus, but it is worth the effort to get here. The village is unique because it is constructed almost entirely from black slate, and to enter, you have to park the car outside the village and walk a few metres. It’s a popular day trip for the madrileños, but very few people outside the natives even know about it. It’s one of the best kept secrets. Sorry for spilling.