Everyone is familiar with those little Travel Books that help you navigate your way through foreign cities, help you avoid offending the locals, and give tiny little pictures that promise a romantic foreign adventure somewhere far far away. The European travel books are famously full of snaps of a historic architectural landscape that will form the backdrop to the holiday of your life, where you can momentously leave your pencil skirts, office politics and drab flat in the suburbs behind along with your name.  For a few weeks you’ll adopt a different more eccentric persona, and blissfully wander the ancient cobblestone streets of Europe brim-full with expectation. Then you arrive at the airport frumpy, smelly and sleep-deprived while being barked at by an unwelcoming customs official. You drag yourself and your super-sized and growing, once gleaming, now broken suitcase down the subway stairs (in the case of a South African budget traveller). Finally you arrive at your accommodation, which seems to have shrunk considerably in size from the picture on the website. The city looks like most of the rest of Europe and after the umpteenth neoclassical building, and the unhelpful waiter…you wonder what happened to the celluloid dreams you’d been promised while thumbing through the glossy pages of the travel guide.

This is not the case when visiting Chinchon which is just a stone-throw outside of bustling Madrid. The Plaza Mayor is dusty and surrounded by a Panorama of little places that are utterly Spanish from cobblestone to roof-tile. Content travelers and Madrilenos soak up the sun, even in chilly November, while sipping on Sangria or beer and nibbling on olives, while the kids splash cool water on their siblings from the plaza fountain. It seems like a place lost in history complete with it’s own medieval castle on the hill. Charming and friendly shopkeepers attend to your questions and provide beautiful local specialties from brightly painted ceramics to Chinchon Aniseed liqueur and cookies. Prices are also considerably closer to affordability than Madrid. It’s well worth taking the trip out to spend a few days getting lost in the narrow streets. Especially if you are hoping that your own snaps will be every bit as nostalgic as the ones you once stared at while paging through a Travel Guide.

Here are mine…

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