I will remember my brief stay in Valdepeñas for the great tapas I had at Venta del Comendar and the best ever free wifi at Hotel Central. Unfortunately there isn’t much more to say about this quaint but unremarkable town even though Spain tourism would like you to believe otherwise.
I arrived at where the GPS reckoned the Hotel Central should be mid afternoon – but the hotel was nowhere to be seen. I checked with some guy in the nearest bar who I think was telling me it was further down the street – at least the GPS had got me with little fuss to the right street. There is no Old City in Valdepeñas so no cobbled and confusing one way street to content with. Back on the Family Truckster it was probably another block and half toward the centre of town. There was a small sign out front of this imposing building but sadly this was not visible from where I’d initially pulled over as instructed by the GPS.
An intercom buzzer alerted reception to my arrival and the front door was electromagically unlocked and I made my way across what looked like an office building foyer to an elevator that would take me to reception on the first floor where I checked in.
Hotel Central, Valdepenas – Main Entry
Before I knew it the Family Truckster was safely parked in the secure basement garage, my luggage was in my room, I was armed with directions to the town centre and a recommendation for a bar/restaurant with great tapas – all thanks to the exceptionally nice, friendly, helpful and English speaking lady at the front desk. My stay at Hotel Central was off to a good start.
The hotel is aptly named too – only a short walk to the Plaza de España described by virtualtourist.com as:
This smiling square is the center of life in Valdepeñas. Here you can find the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (XIII century), the town hall etc. It has a nice architecture with its typical white and blue houses with arcades.
(with thanks to Elisabcn – Updated Jan 10, 2010)
Fountain and church in Plaza de España
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
There were also plenty of restaurants around but after walking the Plaza surrounds several times I couldn’t locate the recommended restaurant – but I wasn’t going to be giving up that easily.
I ventured further afield to see what else was on offer in Valdepeñas and sadly there wasn’t much. Segovia was a hard act to follow – if only I’d had the time, weather and light there that was now available. I’d even gone to the trouble to venture out with my Sony NEX-5 digital SLR but sadly the smartphone camera would have done the job worthy of what Valdepeñas had to offer visually.
I did manage a couple of photos but nothing of any historical, scenic or architectural significance.
Pity that at that time I wasn’t aware of the Museo del Vino where I may have heard that:
It’s impossible to talk about Valdepeñas without talking about its wine!
We already find vestiges of the grapevine in this region in the Iberian city of Cerro de las Cabezas, inhabited between the 7th and 2nd centuries BC.
During Middle Ages the area was part of the Moorish Kingdom of Toledo and according to tradition the Caliphate gave permission to the inhabitants to cultivate vineyards and make wine which is prohibited by The Koran.
During XVI Valdepeñas Wine was the most appreciated wine in the Spanish Court of the Austrian in Madrid. In 1861 the recently inaugurated train brought daily more than 20 wagons to Madrid loaded with wine.
The best period for Valdepeñas Wine was by the end of XIXth century when Phylloxera appeared in France. They could take the French market too and enlarge the production. From this period we can find in the city lots of rich houses and small palaces built by the wine-producer bourgeoisie. Nobody thought that Phylloxera could cross the border but it attacked Valdepeñas vineyards only few years later, in 1911. Problem was solved with the introduction of the resistant American vineyard (only for “the feet”, the grape varieties were always the same).
Nowadays Valdepeñas Wine has its own Denominación de Origen (DO) and produces more than 50 millions of liters of wine per year, exporting the 20% of the production especially to Germany, the Western countries, USA and Russia (rising for Russians the wine graduation). The grape varieties allowed for this DO are Cencibel, Garnacha and Cavernet Sauvignon for tintos (red wines) and Airén, Macabeo, Chardonnay and Verdejo for blancos (white wines).
Wines can be “Gran Reserva” that means 24 months in the barrel and 36 months in the bottle; “Reserva” 12 months in the barrel and 24 months in the bottle; “Crianza” 24 months in the wine cellar from which 6 months minimum in the barrel. These are minimum times, it happened to me to find (and drink, eheh) a bottle of wine that had at least 50 years!!! The best harvest for Valdepeñas Wines are 1989, 1993 (the best), 1995 and 1998 even if I am still searching for more 50 years old bottles of wine . . . hip!
(with thanks again to Elisabcn – Updated Jan 10, 2010 see www.virtualtourist.com)
Although a little disappointed, I ventured back to Hotel Central to get more clarity on the location of the recommended restaurant, drop off my camera and get changed for dinner (it was a little cooler now the sun had set for the evening).
Thirty minutes later I’d found Venta del Comendar but I’d arrived a few minutes before opening time. I’d probably walked past it several time earlier and not even realised!
Great tapas served in the bar at Venta del Comendador
No problems – I’d wait outside until the opening time. As soon as my watch ticked over to 1930 I was again entering, assessing the best place to sit in the bar. Maybe I’d check out the restaurant upstairs after a pre-dinner drink or two. Finding somewhere to sit wasn’t a problem as I was the first one in for the evening although it didn’t take long for the local to start making their way in.
Started to fill up with locals soon after my arrival
As a man is not a camel, I was quick to order a beer to kick off the evening. No sooner had it arrived and I was presented my first tapa of the evening – didn’t order it or say anything but there it was, looking delicious and ready to be hungrily consumed.
My first of many great tapas in Venta del Comendador that Friday eveing
The bar continued to fill with patrons as I ordered more tapas and a couple of glasses of the local red wine couldn’t even tell you the grape variety let alone the label and/or year. The wine was most favourable but the highlight for me were the great tapas – I think I had half a dozen of them all up.
I can’t really recall much about the ingredients now but can assure you they were all delicious and the place was heaving as I politely requested “La cuenta, por favor”. To my complete surprise it was a mere €7.50 – just the cost of the three drinks I’d ordered. Brilliant! I left the barman who’d looked after me a generous tip and headed back to the hotel.
No surprise to me this place is so popular on a Friday night
On my return I connected all my devices to the hotel wifi and was pleasantly surprised by the speed of their free connection. Maybe I can watch the highlights of Australia’s Cricket World Cup semi final win against India. So out with the iPad, connect the VPN (I have an account with Strong VPN from Black Oak Computers Inc) and fire up the Sky Go app. Worked like a dream and didn’t drop out once – a sure sign of good speed and bandwidth. Highlights over (great win for the Aussies – they look like specials for the final against NZ), think I’ll watch the last episode of Fortitude while I have the opportunity. Again fantastic – just like being connected to my wifi at home in London. Best hotel wifi I’ve encountered on my travels – the standard that all hotels should aspire to in this digital age.
Very satisfied with my evening I hit the sack and enjoyed a restful night before waking in the morning around 8am, showering and making my way back to Plaza de España for breakfast – espresso and a croissant. Now back to the hotel to pack and load the Family Truckster before checking out. Here’s a quick look around my hotel room and secure basement carpark at Hotel Central.
I thoroughly recommend this hotel to anyone heading to Valdepeñas for a day or three – I doubt you’d need to stay any longer.
I’ll leave you with this brief motorcyclists perspective of Valdepeñas as I head out to the Autovia and then south to Benalmádena Peublo.
See you next time after arriving at my apartment base for the next 4 weeks as my Vuelta a Andalucia continues.