Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Windmills of La Mancha

Ever since I read Don Quixote, I have wanted to see the windmills on the plains of La Mancha, and this summer I finally made it. Coming as I do from a country of small hills and valleys, vast plains have always seemed exotic to me, and one of the most pleasurable travel experiences of my life was driving across the Canadian Prairies. The plains of La Mancha are not quite on that scale, but they more than lived up to my expectations. When local wheat farmers switched over to wine production, the windmills, which once used to grind huge quantities of wheat, sadly became derelict, but now many of them are being renovated in the hope that they will attract tourists to this rarely visited area between Madrid and Andalusia. If you get the chance, go there, sample the Manchego cheese, ham and wine (La Mancha produces 50% of all Spain's wine and is now the most extensive wine-growing region in the world), but, above all, visit the beautiful windmills, the finest of which are near Consuegra and Campo de Criptana .