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Richard Frisbie: La Mancha

iconic silhouette of Don Quixote
Iconic silhouette of Don Quixote

The Land of Caballeros
Story & Photographs by Richard Frisbie

n Spanish, the word ‘caballero’ refers to a knight or a gentleman. Perhaps the most common place to see the word used is on a bathroom door, but more often it will read ‘senor’ to indicate the men’s room.

I just visited the Land of Caballeros. No. Not the men’s room – the Land of Knights. The La Mancha region of Spain is also known as the Land of Caballeros. It was a visit to Cervantes’ literary home of Don Quixote, filled with scenes and locations from his famous book, “Don Quixote de la Mancha.” It is the book behind the many musicals and movies the English speaking world recognizes as “Man of La Mancha."

Spanish tile art depicting Don Quixote in battle
Spanish tile art depicting Don Quixote in battle

I don’t know of any other work of literature that has so defined a region, or that is so much a part of a nation’s identity as Don Quixote de la Mancha is to Spain. You, too, can explore this national identity by following the Ruta de Quixote. It is a carefully defined self-guided tour of the locations made famous in Cervantes historical novel.

The locations are both significant to Cervantes and to his characters in the book, who are at times interchangeable. They illustrate how autobiographical, and how steeped in the people and history of a region the book is. A tour guide along the route remarked that it was required reading when she attended Spanish high school. Since it was written 400 years ago, she said students struggle with the archaic language, much as American high school students do reading Cooper’s nearly 200 year old “Leatherstocking Tales”. Yet both define a period and a culture in a nation’s history.

Struggle or not, the themes in Don Quixote of chivalry, the historic conflict between good and evil, and the madness of life and love, are universal. These are themes everyone learns, often by first being exposed to them in literature. Don Quixote de la Mancha is significant because it also defines a culture, a culture, as every Spaniard knows, that identifies itself with the image of a knight on horseback, holding a lance.

metal statue of Don Quixote with windmills in the background, La Mancha
Statue of Don Quixote ready to joust with the windmills.

To commemorate this iconic symbol of Spanish culture, the routes following the events in the book are laidout for hiking, bicycling and driving. The way is dotted with 12th century castles, windmills, inns, and, in at least one instance, a prison cell where the real and fictional characters met to play out the charade of Quixote. It was there Cervantes began his epic novel.

The Ruta de Quixote is a charming tour through the beautiful rolling countryside around Spain’s capital of Madrid, one I can recommend to everyone. To ease the way, the Spanish Government established a chain of hotels, called Paradores, at convenient intervals. Some are modern, some more like motels than hotels, and some are in creatively renovated historic properties, such as monasteries and castles. The accommodations are rated from 3 to 5 stars, and range in price from 100 to 200 Euros a night for 2 people, usually including tax and a sumptuous buffet breakfast.

A typical courtyard in one of the historic Paradores near Madrid
A typical courtyard in one of the historic Paradores.

Paradores are a reasonably priced and reliable place to relax and read yourself to sleep with a chapter or two of the ironically witty Don Quixote de la Mancha. Then, you’ll awaken to fill another day following his adventurous route.

Below is a link in English to the official Paradores site and their Don Quixote route section:

http://tinyurl.com/rutadequixote

There you’ll find details of a specially designed and economically priced trip along the route visiting six different Paradores for a total of seven nights in a standard double room, including bed and breakfast for about 800 Euros per couple.

Don Quixote is quoted as saying: “My destiny calls and I go.”

Your destiny calls. Go! You’ll see centuries of history, culture and adventure open up before you like a book - Don Quixote de la Mancha.

A note about car rentals: when booked through a third party, such as a travel agent or the airline, you have an ally to “go to bat” for you if something goes awry. Applying for an inexpensive international license might be a good idea, too.

Air Europa – http://www.aireuropa.com

International Driving Permit from Triple AAA - http://www.aaa.com/vacation/idpf.html

Related Articles:
Madrid Tapas; Memories of Madrid; Madrid and the Art of Armor; Tossa de Mar, Spain; Valencia, Spain; Galicia, Spain


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Let Richard know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Hey Richard - another winning series of words, all put together in your usual brilliant, and very creative format. And hey, love those glorious photos - Wow, what scenery - looks like some sort of paradise. What a super life you lead!!!

--- John Clayton, Palos Verdes CA

* * * *

I want to go there!!!!!!! Mmmmm! Yes! Love the photos and your article, Richard! Have read the book, seen the play several times and now dream of seeing these historic places. I've been wanting to go to Spain for some time. Now at 12:30 a.m. I'm heading off to bed with songs from Man of La Mancha ringing in my mind. Thanks!

--- Betsy Tuel, Rosendale, NY

* * * *

You are fortunate to have Richard on your staff. Richard is a fantastic writer and a wonderful person. Congratulations to Richard and to you.

--- Denise Dubé, New England


John Clayton's travel blog/review
Buckingham Palace – It's THE Most Popular Tour in Great Britain (Part 2 of a 2-Part Series)

Buckingham Palace exit
Is it more momentous for a Brit to do the Buckingham Palace tour than say an American or indeed any other nationality? Yes, I know that's an odd question, but if you grow up – as I did – in London back in the 1950s, getting inside Buckingham Palace was the stuff of dreams. Hence my surprise at touring BP in 2005.

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
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The first thing you notice is the fragrance. The intoxicating perfume of the tiare flower announces to your senses that you are in a magical place, overflowing with tropical vegetation and soothing trade winds. It is the same fragrance that the English seamen on the HMS Bounty also first encountered; but they came, not for flowers, but for breadfruit, intended as a new food staple for their slaves in the West Indies.


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