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Alcala de Henares: Spain 2019, stop 4

This was to be our actual Christmas "stop" on the trip. I knew almost nothing about Alcala except for that our friends were from there and so was the well-known writer Cervantes. He wrote the famous Spanish novel Don Quixote (which I remember from High School as so many people do).

What makes any vacation better...traveling with locals. We saw so many things that we never would have seen (including this city) while meeting up with friends. Experiencing the history and the little intricacies of Alcala made it a hundred times more charming that if we had visited without them...a very special treat!

Our first stop was to pick up candied almonds made by nuns who never leave the convent at Convento de las Clarisas de San Diego. You never see a soul when you purchase, just a voice and the spin of a door to pay and retrieve.

These are amazing...worth a stop for sure!

We spent the day with friends hopping from place to place in crowded streets having a bite and a drink along the way. Families were out - the old - the young - everyone in-between. This was a time to reconnect with everyone.

We would have been too leery of pushing through the Christmas Eve crowds to have ever experienced the tapas at all the bars. Will we ever be comfortable being this close to strangers again?

Top left - Spanish tortilla - not the tortilla you know made of flour. This tortilla is like a super thick omelette made of potatoes and tasty.

Top right - El Hidalgo - charming and tiny - our friends frequented this one in their youth. Crowds spilled outside after ordering drinks and tapas at the inside bar.

Bottom left and center - Indalo - nice with hearty tapas - super packed!

Bottom right: Tapas on bread from La Tomasa - chorizo, tuna and peppers, potato salad.

Some details I could not pass up...

Left - Alcala de Henares is a part of the Camino de Santiago, one of the oldest Christian pilgrimages through France and Spain. Golden shells mark the path along the way.

Center - Alcala de Henares is home to actual storks! I saw no babies being flown around the sky - but I did encounter the legendary birds perched atop historic buildings.

Right - The downspouts/gutters in Alcala were fancy! Each (in the city center) was fashioned into a gargoyle-like creature.

The streets were SO festive all day long! Around 6-ish, everyone cleared out and went home to join family for Christmas Eve with family. It literally went from party city to a sparkling clean ghost town in a few hours.

Tidy Christmas decorations throughout the city.

Again, an experience we could not have had without our friends, Spanish Family Christmas dinner. They made us feel like part of the family and we now have memories to last a lifetime.

Left - Dinner was mom's family recipe for lamb, peppers and potatoes. It was amazing and filled the home with an equally amazing garlic scent.

Right - We started with charcuterie and seafood - gulas (imitation baby eels), shrimp and smoked salmon on my plate. Gulas were new to me! I tried them for the first time on our trip and highly recommend!!

Still checking the nativity scenes...and on Christmas Eve I did find baby Jesus in a salon window display alongside a golden box of Kerastase.

Plaza Cervantes - early on Christmas Eve before the booths open and crowds gather. I can't wait to see this square in the spring and summer with all the flowers blooming.

See you next time Alcala!

What an amazing Christmas experience!

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