From Chinchon to Colmenar de Oreja!
They say that Orson Wells frequented this town and even made a few friends with its inhabitants. It was the time when the Americans came to shoot Hollywood movies in Spain, and ended up surrendering to the charms of the party in general, and bullfighting in particular. But Chinchón has more to offer than those bizarre black and white memories, being an easy and accessible getaway to do from Madrid, in one day. And you can enrich it with a perfect complement: Colmenar de Oreja, a town that will surprise you. You sign up?
Chinchón, the town of anise and garlic
Whenever I heard of Chinchón, anise came to mind. A great marketing achievement was achieved by La Alcoholera , the makers of Anís Chinchón, which entered the minds of all Spaniards, linking the product to the place forever. With the permission of Anís El Mono, which was actually the most present bottle in my house, if only for the reason that it was used as a musical instrument (or sound) at Christmas.
The fact is that this alcoholic beverage is already a centuries-old tradition that today exports to Mexico and South America, among other places in the world. A liquor made from the matalahúga grain . I have never liked it too much, it must be said, but this is not the point.
Then there are the garlic. I do like those, heh, heh. It is another of the products of the valley that you can very calmly associate Chinchón, and buy in its main square.
Did I say plaza mayor? Let’s get to the crux of this visit!
The Plaza Mayor de Chinchón is the reason why I wanted to go to this town, and why many tourists go year after year. Either to eat a good barbecue in one of its many restaurants, or just to contemplate and photograph it properly.
The Plaza Mayor de Chinchón and its entire historic center was declared a Historic-Artistic Site in 1974
The place used for cattle fairs gave way to the home of the Chinchón City Council . Since then it has been a meeting place, parties, bullfights, processions, and a comedy corral .
It was formed during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and it is resoundingly beautiful . With its arcades supported by granite columns. With its green painted wooden balconies and very descriptively called “clear”.
I was surprised by its irregular plant, much more than I imagined because curiously it is not well appreciated in the photos.
I was also surprised by some details such as the Fuente de Arriba . This fountain is relatively recent, although centuries-old, but in addition to not being out of place, it has a historical halo that I really like.
Combining granite with limestone, the beautiful pylon is very clean and dominated by the Chinchón coat of arms .
Why is it called Fuente de Arriba? because there is a Fountain Below that is at the opposite end of the square, in the courtyard of what is now the Tourist Office. It is actually the old laundry room and the pylon is still there, waiting for someone to go clean their clothes, although I am afraid they are waiting in vain.
Whenever I see an old laundry, I remember my mother’s town. I was small but I remember my grandmother and other women of her generation, hit her by washing clothes. Someday I’ll show you, but now let’s go back to Chinchón.
The square is beautiful, but the town does not end there, although this is by far the most significant point.
The tower without a church and the church without a tower
This I did not know until I prepared the visit to Chinchón. In this town they boast of having a tower without a church, and a church without a tower , there it is.
If you look up from the plaza, you will see that there is a tower standing out on the highest side of the terrain. It is the Clock Tower , the only remaining part of the Church of Our Lady of Grace.
It seems that it was the oldest church in the town since documents that speak of it dating from the 14th century are preserved. The fact is that it was destroyed in the Spanish War of Independence , that is, the war against France between 1808 and 1814.
They say that the French troops were cruel in this town and this is attested by one of Goya’s engravings , No. 37, called “This is worse.”
The fact is that the tower did survive and over time it has been restored not once, but several times.
It is highly recommended to go up to the viewpoint that accompanies it to enjoy the views of Chinchón. By the way, next to it is the Lope de Vega Theater , which they say is very beautiful, but I found it closed so I can’t tell you more. I hope you have more luck.
And the church without a tower? The church of Our Lady of the Assumption is the church without a tower and is a few meters from the tower. It turns out that it was built with stone from Colmenar de Oreja .
Inside there is a painting of Francisco de Goya presiding over the altar: a representation of the Virgin. Connoisseurs say that it is a bit irreverent because it does not have thorns and is surrounded by angels of both sexes . By then the teacher had already declared himself an atheist, so …
Another place to highlight in Chinchón is the Parador . It is located in an old Augustinian convent with a beautiful cloister. And then there are the castles , which has two nothing more and nothing less, although they are privately owned and cannot be visited.
To finish off the game, do not forget to take a good walk through the streets of the historic Chinchón, noting the details of doors, windows, coats of arms and balconies. You sure like it 🙂
How to go to Chinchón from Madrid
Chinchón is only 45 kilometers from the capital and you can go as many laps as you want, or as the navigator wants, but the road is easy, taking the A-3. Even if you eat a few more curves, I advise you to take one of the routes passing near Morata de Tajuña because the landscape is very cool, especially in spring.
If you do not have a car or do not want to take it, you should know that Chinchón is very well connected with buses that leave Conde de Casal every hour or less. The transport company is La Veloz, and it is line 337 Madrid-Chinchón-Valdelaguna.
Where to eat in Chinchón
The offer of restaurants is quite high for the size of this town and most are concentrated in the main square.
I’m not going to lie to you, they are not cheap at all, the menu from € 25 onwards predominates (at least on weekends).
Now, searching, searching, we found a place with a € 17 menu that was very good for us. It is the Mesón Casa Conrado . It is located just behind the Fuente de Arriba, you cannot miss it and there is an extensive number of dishes to choose from. I recommend the ribeye, the entrecote or the beef burger for the second course. The servings are more than generous and include wine or water, coffee and dessert.
Another alternative option is to eat a few servings or directly a sandwich. And it will be much cheaper to stop by one of the bakeries, get a local bread , buy some garden tomatoes at the stall in the square (be careful, don’t leave it until lunchtime because they will have flown) and a piece of cheese in some of the typical product stores. Success assured too 😉
By the way, if you like sweets, don’t stop looking and trying the novice’s boobs and friar’s balls , although you may not find them in summer …
Ear apiary, a good complement
If Chinchón knows you little, Colmenar de Oreja is only 5 kilometers from Chinchón . In other words, it takes a few minutes by car along the M-311 and in return you give yourself a ride through another of the southern towns of Madrid, which is very beautiful.
The town owes its name to the Oreja castle , whose remains are only a few kilometers away, already in Toledo territory. I say town but in reality it has a city title because Alfonso XIII granted it in 1922.
I have already mentioned one thing that made Colmenar de Oreja famous: its stone. The quarries around the town were the main sources to build the Royal Palace of Madrid and Aranjuez , as well as the “church without a tower” of Chinchón.
The fact is that between this and the activity of making jars of wine and oil in its ovens, Colmenar de Oreja had its good years and was one of the most populated places in the province of Madrid.
Following the signs that tell you where the center of Colmenar de Oreja is, you will surely find a great church right away.
It is the church of Santa María la Mayor , very grand considering the size of the town. Surrounding it you will find that a part of it is more a castle than a church , and this is because it was built by the Order of Santiago in the 13th century. In any case, a religious-military building should not be strange to us, these institutions have always been hand in hand.
To all this, beware of drinking from the fountain (pretty) that is in the small square behind the entrance of the church. In one of its pipes it says that the water is drinkable, but in the others it is not!
Nearby is the Plaza Mayor . It is different from that of Chinchón, more humble if you want, but equally precious and for this reason it won the award of Asset of Cultural Interest .
I could almost say that I liked it more for its simplicity, placidity, cleanliness, level floor and rustic, peasant air, from centuries ago. I leave it there.
A curiosity that I lost because I was absent-minded: under the plaza is the Zacatín tunnel and from there you can descend to the Fuente del Barranco , from where you can get good views to the south. I already have an excuse to return!