the Posada (at around £10 a night each) we moved down to the much cheaper Fonda San Julianat the foot of the parte alta. We brightened up the room with Mass candles from the supermarket and with our washing strung up on a string outside the window. but it was no place to linger and our lifestyle became more active as we began a regime ofgetting up, breakfasting in bars and buying our picnic.Our favourite bar for desayuno was the Mini-Golf Palace Cafe’ Bar. where the coffee was strong and complemented by little cakes. For variety. we ventured into the parte baja proper and Cuenca’s high street. the Avenida de Jose Antonio. where the lively Bar Cafeteria El Pinar served a mean hot chocolate. thick as blancmange and to be sucked at through ‘churos‘ (like long thin do-nuts.)
For the evening, the Bar Alhambra near our Fonda was a must for its tapas. These are tiny platefuls of the local cuisine, varying in sophistication from crisps and olives to the Bar Alhambra‘s potato steeped in spicy tomato sauce. and something related to parsnip in a white wine and vinegar dressing. all served up free with each round of drinks (a glass of red wine setting you back about 17p). The canary theme deserves mention too: with one singing its heart out at the front of the bar and an empty cage at the back. poignantly still bearing its now unecessary notice. ‘No canto. pero
pito mucho’ (I don’t sing, but I whistle a lot.)
Eating anywhere other than in a bar proved unwise. The Meson Los Claveles. as described in our Digame text books, was a disastrous place. empty. even at 11pm. (prime eating time in Spain). and putting us through an elaborate meal. ‘tipico de Cuenca‘. featuring a lot of animal fat in earthenware soup dishes. My friend enjoyed watching the smarmy waiter spill most of his unfinished slop onto the floor as he took out the dishes, and the waiter. in his turn. enjoyed watching Daniel missing his mouth with the free liquor produced to cheer us up. To be fair, the glass watering-can it came in took some degree ofskill to manipulate.
Moving again. we found an odd building to stay in. empty and echoey. but as we lay on the rocks opposite. basking in the sun and the aroma of wild herbs. we were glad to have found it. No doubt about it. the Cuencan effect was beginning again. We were relaxing into apathy in the comfortable knowledge that we were sight-seeing just by looking out of our window.
Later. back in the bustle of Madrid we walked past a solid gridlock of cars and coaches. and arranged the usual ten pm meetings with friends in some trepidation that we could stand the pace. We could of course, but with that lonely villa waiting for us high in the Cuencan rocks. we began to wonder whether we wanted to . . .
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4 The List 24 June — 7 July 1988 61