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m the huge goatskins filled with wine and the barrels covered in famous signatures, tothe atmospheric caves underground, this is sure to be a memorable eating experiencewith delicious home-style cooking.
Café de la Iberia SPANISH( 91 894 08 47; www.cafedelaiberia.com; Plaza Mayor 17; mains 13-22) Thisis definitely our favourite of the mesones (home-style restaurants) on the Plaza Mayor perimeter.
It offers wonderful food, including succulent roast lamb, served byattentive staff in an atmospheric dining area set around a light-filled internal courtyard (where Goya is said to have visited).
Or, if you can get a table, you caneat out on the balcony.
Information Tourist office ( 91 893 53 23; www.ciudad-chinchon.com; Plaza Mayor 6;10am-7pm) A small office with helpful staff.
Getting There & Away La Veloz ( 91 409 76 02; Avenida del Mediterráneo 49; Conde de Casal)runs bus 337 half-hourly from Madrid to Chinchón (3.
55, 50 minutes).
Buses leavefrom Avenida del Mediterráneo, 100m east of Plaza del Conde de Casal.
Sitting 45km southeast of Madrid, Chinchón is easy to reach by car.
Take the N-IV motorway and exit onto the M404, which makes its way to Chinchón.
Alcalá de Henares POP 203,686 East of Madrid, Alcalá de Henares is full of surprises with historical sandstone buildings seemingly at every turn.
Throw in some sunny squares and a legendaryuniversity, and it’s a terrific place to escape the capital for a few hours.
Sights UNIVERSITY Universidad de Alcalá ( 91 883 43 84; guided tours 4; 9am-9pm) Founded in 1486 by Cardinal Cisneros, this is one of the country’s principal seats of learning.
A guided tour givesa peek into the Mudéjar chapel and the magnificent Paraninfo auditorium, where theKing and Queen of Spain give out the prestigious Premio Cervantes literary awardevery year.
Museo Casa Natal de Miguel de Cervantes MUSEUM( 91 889 96 54; www.museo-casa-natal-cervantes.org; Calle Mayor 48; 10am-6pm Tue-Sun) The town is dear to Spaniards because it’s the birthplace ofliterary figurehead Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.
The site believed to be Cervantes’ birthplace is re-created in this illuminating museum, which lies along thebeautiful, colonnaded Calle Mayor.
Eating Barataría TAPAS( 91 888 59 25; Calle de los Cerrajeros 18; tapas from 3.
50, mains 8-13;lunch & dinner Mon-Sat, lunch Sun) A wine bar, tapas bar and restaurant all rolledinto one, Barataría is a fine place to eat whatever your mood.
Grilled meats are thestar of the show: the ribs with honey, in particular, are a local favourite.
Hostería del Estudiante CASTILIAN( 91 888 03 30; Calle de los Colegios 3; mains 13-21) Based in the parador,this charming restaurant has wonderful Castilian cooking and a classy ambience in adining room decorated with artefacts from the city’s illustrious history.
Information Tourist office ( 91 881 06 34; www.turismoalcala.com; Plaza de los SantosNi?os; 10am-8pm) Free guided tours of ‘Alcalá Monumental’ (Alcalá’s monuments/architecture) at noon and 4.
30pm Saturday and Sunday.
Getting There & Away Alcalá de Henares is just 35km east of Madrid, heading towards Zaragoza along theA2.
Buses depart every five to 15 minutes from Madrid’s Intercambiador de Avenidade América (3.
60, one hour).
The C2 and C7 cercanías trains make the trip to Alcalá de Henares daily (2.
40,50 minutes).
Sierra de Guadarrama North of Madrid lies the Sierra de Guadarrama, a popular skiing destination andhome of several charming towns.
In Manzanares El Real you can explore thesmall 15th-century Castillo de los Mendoza ( 91 853 00 08; admission inclguided tour 3; 10am-5pm Tue-Fri, 10am-7.
30pm Sat & Sun) , a storybookcastle with round towers at its corners and a Gothic interior patio.
Cercedilla is a popular base for hikers and mountain bikers.
There are severalmarked trails, the main one known as the Cuerda Larga or Cuerda Castellana .this is a forest track that takes in 55 peaks between the Puerto de Somosierra inthe north and Puerto de la Cruz Verde in the southwest.
Small ski resorts, such asValdesqui ( 902 886446; www.valdesqui.es; Puerto de Cotos; lift tickets day/afternoon 37/21; 9am-4pm) and Navacerrada ( 902 882328; www.puertonavacerrada.com; lift tickets 25-30; 9.
30am-5pm) welcome weekend skiers from the city.
Information Centro de Información Valle de la Fuenfría ( 91 852 22 13; Carretera de lasDehesas; 10am-6pm) Information centre located 2km outside Cercedilla on theM614.
Navacerrada tourist office ( 91 856 03 08; www.navacerrada.es; 9am-5pm) Getting There & Away By car from Madrid, take the A-6 motorway to Cercedilla.
Bus 724 runs to Manzanares El Real from Plaza de Castilla in Madrid (3.
50, 45minutes).
From Madrid’s Intercambiador de Autobuses de Moncloa, bus 691 headsto Navacerrada (3.
70, one hour) and bus 684 runs to Cercedilla (3.
70, one hour).
From Chamartín train station you can get to Puerto de Navacerrada on the C8Bcercanías line (6, two hours with train change in Cercedilla, four daily), and Cercedilla on the C2 cercanías line (3.
20, 1? hours, 15 daily).
El Pardo Just beyond Madrid’s city limits, El Pardo is an easy escape from the clamour of thecity with a fine palace and lovely gardens.
If possible, avoid weekends when thewhole area can be overrun with visitors.
Sights Palacio Real de el Pardo PALACE(www.patrimonionacional.es; Calle de Manuel Alonso; adult/concession incl guided tour 9/4, EU citizens free 5-8pm Wed & Thu; 10am-8pm Apr-Sep,10am-6pm Oct-Mar; ) Built in the 15th century and remodelled in the 17th, thisopulent palace was Franco’s favourite residence.
It’s surrounded by lush gardens(which close one hour later than the palace) and on Sunday fills with madrile?ofamilies looking for a bit of fresh air and a hearty lunch.
Of the art on display inside,the tapestries stand out, particularly those based on cartoons by Goya.
Getting There & Away If you’re driving from Madrid take the M40 to the C601, which leads to El Pardo.the 13km trip takes just 15 minutes.
You can also take bus 601 (1.
60, 25 minutes),which leaves every five to 10 minutes from the Intercambiador de Autobuses deMoncloa in Madrid.
Buitrago & Sierra Pobre The ‘Poor Sierra’ is a toned-down version of its more refined western neighbour, theSierra de Guadarrama.
Popular with hikers and others looking for nature withoutquite so many creature comforts or crowds, the sleepy Sierra Pobre has yet to develop the tourism industry of its neighbours.
And that’s just why we like it.
Head first to Buitrago , the largest town in the area, where you can stroll alongpart of the old city walls .
You can also take a peek into the 15th-century Mudéjarand Romanesque Iglesia de Santa María del Castillo and into the small and unlikely Picasso Museum ( 91 868 00 56; www.madrid.org/museo_picasso/principal; Plaza Picasso 1; 11am-1.
45pm &4-6pm Tue, Thu & Fri, 11am-1.
45pm Wed, 10am-2pm & 4-7pm Sat, 10am-2pmSun) , which contains a few works that the artist gave to his barber, Eugenio Arias.
Hamlets are scattered throughout the rest of the sierra; some, like Puebla de laSierra and El Atazar , make for pretty walks and are the starting point for windinghill trails.
Eating El Arco SPANISH( 91 868 09 11; Calle Arco 6; m
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