This Friday, we followed in the footsteps of one of the oldest, greatest, and most insane protagonists in literature: el ingenioso hidalgo, Don Quixote. Except, of course, for the fact that we were in a tour bus instead of on horseback (or donkeyback), and that our excursion only lasted for one day. This school excursion, called La Ruta del Quixote, took us to the autonomous community of Castilla y La Mancha, where first we breakfasted at the inn which Cervantes himself supposedly visited and used as the basis for the scene in which Quixote is “knighted” by the innkeeper. We drank some coffee while sitting on hilariously tiny stools and then watched as some of our fellow students acted out the aforementioned scene at the water trough in the courtyard of the hotel. This was made very enjoyable by the fact that Don Quixote’s sword and shield were made of paper and his lance was, in fact, an umbrella.
Next we boarded the bus and traveled the remaining distance across the largely empty landscape of La Mancha until we reached Consuegra. Consuegra is notable for its windmills, its castle, and its vast variety of hot chocolate flavors. We filed off of the bus and posed for some very chilly pictures on the windy ridge with the windmills. Of course, the students from the literature class had to act out Don Quixote’s most famous scene, so we all got to witness a student, armed with only a red umbrella, valiantly charging a windmill-I-mean-a-giant.
Then, castle! I love castles. We have been fortunate enough to see so many castles while here in Spain, and I could visit many more without losing my enthusiasm. This castle was notable for its false doors, its water collection room, and its series of concentric walls to defend it from attackers from the time of its construction in the 10th through 12th centuries through the time when the reconquering of Spain was complete in the 15th century.
Next we got to go up inside one of the windmills and learn about how they functioned. The whole top of the windmill could move to adjust to the direction of the wind, and a series of interlocking gears within used the power generated by the wind to move a large grinding stone and crush grain into flour.
Finally, we took a lunch break down in the town of Consuegra, which lies at the base of the ridge, down below the castle and the windmills. There, we sampled some hot chocolate. My white chocolate café was delicious, but our classmates recommended against the whiskey-flavored hot chocolate, comparing it to drinking a substance that resembled melted plastic. (This made me very happy about my choice.)
Then we headed back to Alcalá, where snow is now visible on the tops of the distant mountains. We’ve been told that fall was mild, but this week, winter has decidedly arrived.