Did you know that Don Quixote has been translated into more languages than any other book in the world, aside from the Bible? I suppose you could say that Miguel de Cervantes is kind of a big deal in Spain. So, it's no surprise that his hometown hosts a fiesta of epic proportions to celebrate his birthday every year.
This past weekend I ventured to Alcalá de Henares to celebrate Cervantes at their annual medieval festival. Just a 45 minute train ride away from the center of Madrid, this charming UNESCO World Heritage Site is where the acclaimed author was born and baptized.
Nestled between the picturesque buildings and lively plazas, one can find many homages to the iconic creator of Don Quixote. Alcalá de Henares is also home to one of the oldest universities in the world, and it's where Christopher Columbus had his first meeting with the Catholic Monarchs to receive funding for his voyage to America.
Of the festival's many attractions, the most prominent was the medieval Quixote Market. An abundance of colorful stalls lined the cobblestone streets, each selling handcrafted goods, mojitos, flower crowns and delectable fall treats.
The intoxicating smells of freshly grilled meats, sizzling crepes and roasted chestnuts wafted through the air, prompting us to follow our hungry bellies through the maze of mouthwatering temptations. As we hopped from stall to stall, vendors in period costumes sold us piping hot castañas, savory Manchego cheese, and pimientos de padrón fried and salted to perfection. I think it's fair to say that we were in foodie heaven.
Between the medieval costumes, music, processions and treats, the Cervantes festival in Alcalá de Henares completely captured my heart (and my stomach). I'd love to go back again when I have even more time to explore and admire the quaint town. While I still have much to discover, Alcalá de Henares has easily made my "favorite day trips from Madrid" list. Espero que nos veamos pronto, Alcalá!
Have you ever been to Alcalá de Henares?
What's your favorite day trip from Madrid?