We are feeling quite accomplished this Sunday evening. Not only did we move into our home on Friday and since unpack everything (except books...so many books), we have also done four loads of laundry and road tripped to Arcos de la Frontera. Because while getting settled is important, so is taking advantage of a four-day weekend.
Arcos is one of Andalusia's white hill towns, perched high above the Guadalete River. As a tourist, the point of Arcos is to wander through impossibly narrow streets and soak in the sights of quaint white washed homes and imposing castles and churches. Rick Steves provides a bit more background on the village here. In February, the interiors of the churches were closed and the crowds were small, making it an ideal stop for a family of young children.
It took us about 50 minutes to reach Arcos from Rota. I couldn't help but think along the way about how spoiled we are to have GPS maps directing us. Or, are we robbing ourselves of the adventures of getting lost? Case in point, we drove right past our target parking garage, which forced us to drive down the hill where we had an amazing view of the old town from the bottom of the cliff.
Eat: Per a recommendation from our buddy, Rick, we ate lunch at Bar La Carcel ("The Prison"). It was by far the best meal I've eaten yet in Spain! Highlights included red wine, mushroom croquettes, bacon wrapped prawns, and a puff pastry filled with cheese, dates, and fig. The kids also split an amazing crepe with spinach and queso. Well, there was too much spinach for their liking, but I loved it! Even Henry ate enough to consider it a full meal, which is saying a lot.
See: We set off without much direction, and found it remarkably easy to find all of the main attractions in old town Arcos. There are two large churches, both beautiful, and most impressive to me how they are sandwiched in such small quarters. Outside of the Church of Santa Maria, there is a magical circle made of red and white stones set into the pavement. Before 15th century baptisms, parents would first bring their children to this circle for an exorcism. How about that!
There are several vantage points along the walk where you can take in the scenery of the Andalusian countryside. But if you are a kid, you might be more interested in the collection of fowl life on display.
Sweets: Cloistered nuns make and sell cookies at the Convent of the Mercedarias. Inside the convent entrance, there is a revolving window where you can place your order with the nun on the other side. Let me say that I really stumbled on ordering. Sister was patient, as a nun would be, and we decided on something chocolate. And the cookies tasted just like I imagine a cookie made by a small group of holy women should taste. So light. So, so good. If for no other reason, I will be returning to Arcos to sample some of their other offerings.
Kid-friendly score: A. We were in and out in four hours, including a stop for lunch. There were no stuffy museums. The people were friendly and pedestrian traffic was predominant. Our kids had fun, and I wasn't worried about them making noise or breaking things.