Sometimes, even the best camera can’t capture the true beauty of something… (I’m not just saying that because I am documenting my stay here in Valladolid through the lens of my iPhone). During the last few days, I have had the opportunity to visit five impressive castles here in Valladolid, Spain. Although the unique history of each has been fascinating, I am most impressed by the breathtaking view from the top, the top of the world! There are fields for miles that look like a patchwork quilt, and people and cars below seem as if they are the size of little bugs.
Over the course of two days, we visited the castles of Torrelobatón, Ampudia, Peñafiel, Duques de Alburquerque, and Montealegre. Yes, I said “we.” I actually accompanied the students from JCC’s The World through Spain class on these excursions. Since part of their course curriculum is studying the rich history of Spain, we were enlightened with a brief synopsis of the history of each castle by our “guide,” Luis. Luis is the husband of Heather Espeso, a Warren, PA native who is a cofounder of the International Immersion Institute where I am interning.
Perhaps the most impressive stop was the Castle Peñafiel. This magnificent castle was originally built during the tenth century and reformed many times by the fifteenth century. It is perched above the Duraton and Botijas valleys and the Duero River. It is said that the castle would resemble a big ship if looked down upon from the sky, floating in a sea of vineyards. The area surrounding the town of Peñafiel is known as the wine region of Ribera de Duero, whose limestone soil and 200+ wineries produce some of the best wine in the world. In fact, there is a wine museum inside the Castle Peñafiel, the Provincial Wine Museum, which draws in over 100,000 tourists per year.
After visiting the Castle Peñafiel and the Provincial Wine Museum, we descended down into the town. Here, we explored the quiet, narrow streets of Peñafiel. The most significant part of the town is the Plaza del Coso. This plaza is a perfect square enclosed by buildings with only one entrance, because it serves as a bull ring during the Festival of San Roque in August. Unfortunately, we couldn’t experience the excitement of bullfighting during our visit, but we enjoyed refreshments at a local restaurant.
I had a wonderful time exploring these essential landmarks of Valladolid with the JCC students, and I will miss them during the rest of my stay. However, now it is my turn to take on more adventures that come my way!