It is really fun to be living in a place right now where taking day trips and overnight trips is so easy to do. And Madrid (and Alcalá de Henares) is well-situated and well-connected; it's easy to hop on a bus or a train to go just about anywhere. On Friday we ventured to Cuenca, located southeast of Madrid; it's a simple 50 minute trip via the AVE, Spain's high-speed train system (and it's really, really fast--we were going 300 kmph, or 186 mph!).
I love Madrid (where I fell in love and got engaged) and Salamanca (where I spent 2 wonderfully fun months with Clemson students), and Valencia is just a great relaxed, Mediterranean city. But Cuenca, small though it may be, ranks up there as one of my favorite cities in Spain so far. It has a mix of stunning views (see for yourself below), nature all around, and this rambling, quirky configuration of streets and alleyways and overlooks that is so unpredictable and delightful. We stayed in a refurbished Dominican monastery, saw the city's hanging houses that sit perched over the river below, and wandered the streets aimlessly in the evening. For dinner on Friday night we ended up in the city center (the new town) where we crammed ourselves into any available space at teeny-tiny, standing-room-only Spanish and Argentinian bars, sipping on vino blanco and munching on free tapas (I always have to do a quick anchovy check; they seem to make their way onto tapas all too often). The vistas from the old town really were breathtaking.
I'd love to visit Cuenca again in the spring or summer, when we could enjoy any of the many outdoor terraces with great views, as well as some of the hiking trails around the city. Without further ado, some photos!