Daimiel National Park is a little known national park about two hours drive south of Madrid (it wasn’t even mentioned in my guide book!) The national park area was formed by the meeting and overflowing of several rivers, creating wetlands which are apparently a unique haven for bird life. I know nothing about birds but I can attest to the beauty of the place!
Yesterday was the first day of my holiday. I woke up and packed slowly, went to the pool for a swim and then picked up my hire car.
Two and a bit hours of getting very lost at first and then settling down to a long, straight, flat motorway and I ended up in the middle of Spain. For the first 100km or so from leaving Madrid the scenery was all slightly bla – flat, dry plains, ugly high-rise towns, industrial buildings. Then I noticed some hills on the horizon that gradually crept closer. The road wound between them and immediately the landscape became much greener. It was at this point that I branched off the motorway to drive towards Daimiel National Park.
I had a very easy run to do on my new triathlon training programme. 40 minutes at zone 1 HR, and decided to use this as an excuse to explore the park. Firstly, it is impossible to run (for me) in zone 1 or even 2. I kept trying but kept having to walk and eventually got frustrated. I kept running slowly but stopped looking so much at the heart rate monitor. I want to run, not walk!
Having said that, I kept stopping to take pictures. This was one of the most beautiful runs I’ve done. I just love Spain. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face, despite the fact it took me 40 minutes to run 5.5km (damn HR monitors!) So now you are going to be bombarded with hundreds of photos 🙂
My hotel was a hostal very near to the motorway and pretty cheap (25 euro for the night). I had picked it as I wanted somewhere roughly half way between Madrid and Malaga, near to the motorway and with easy, free parking. The Hostal Parador de los Gitanes pretty much ticked all of those. Cheap, basic, relatively comfortable and very easy to get to. Not a particularly nice place to spend an evening though, seeing as the hostal was above a garage and right next to the motorway… so I walked into Manzanares, about a 15 minute walk right to the centre.
I was a bit worried about this as neither tripadvisor nor google maps had found any restaurants whatsoever in Manzanares. Was there going to be anywhere to eat? And walking alone into a strange town shortly before sunset is always slightly nervewracking. The road took me alongside a small river, and quite quickly I felt at ease as the path beside the river was filled with teenagers on rollerskates, couples sat entwined on benches, walking hand in hand. I passed the river area and came to an empty street, took a right turning following a few people ahead of me and the sound of people talking… and then I found myself in the main square.
I couldn’t stop smiling. This sleepy, tiny, non-touristy town all seemed to be in the main plaza on the evening before the start of the long Easter weekend (the Spanish have a bank holiday Thursday and Friday). The church towered over the square that otherwise was edged with white buildings. There were a few bars and cafes that had outdoor seating spilling into the square and children played while their parents sat and enjoyed a glass of wine and some food.
The menu was so cheap that I ordered a pincho de manchego (cheese) and a pincho de chorizo. They arrived in huge sandwiches of freshly made baguettes and were incredibly tasty – one probably would have been enough but I gobbled down both of them! Plus a large glass of nice red wine, my whole dinner came to EUR6.30 – about £4.30. Basically the cost of a glass of wine alone in a London bar, and with nowhere near as nice an atmosphere! I read my book and people watched and generally had a lovely evening.