24 hours in Brihuega, the land of lavender (even in cakes and ice cream)

Brihuega is called the Garden of the Alcarria. And she tells him well. Because the Alcarria region is a bare moor. And Brihuega, to be contrary, is surrounded by orchards and groves (those of the Tajuña River), fountains (the 14 that are in the town) and shady parks: María Cristina, Molinillo, Prado de Santa María… To also take the opposite, this town in the province of Guadalajara is a garden that, when it is most flowery, is in summer. In July, the lavender fields of Brio burst with color: more than a thousand hectares of purple flowers that attract swarms of tourists. They visit them on their own or in guided groups, by car, on foot, by bike, by motorcycle… even flying in a balloon. In August the flowers are harvested, but their aroma, far from fading, multiplies: the distilleries then produce industrial quantities of essential oil and the local shops replenish their stocks of soaps, creams, candles, honeys, mikados, scented sachets…

But although lavender is always the protagonist, Brihuega is much more. And this route proves it.

09.30 Seven hundred meters of underground galleries

In the Plaza del Coso, the largest in the town, is the tourist office, where they inform about how to get to the lavender crops on our own and they will reserve a place for us in the guided tours that are carried out every day to them. It occupies what was the Royal Prison of Carlos III. They weren’t very tall in the 18th century, judging by the bathroom door. On the opposite corner of the square, under the Gutiérrez butcher shop, the Arab Caves (1): 700 meters of underground galleries, built in the 10th and 11th centuries, where wine was once kept cool, at a constant temperature of 11 degrees. It is convenient to go down with a sweater even in summer. Jersey in summer in Guadalajara! Who’d say.

11.00 A castle on the rock

In the Middle Ages, Brihuega was not a flowery garden, but a fortress on the rock: Castrum Brioca. From those days, the town conserves a good part of its kilometer-long wall and its main gates: that of the String and that of Cozagon. and keep your Peña Bermeja Castle (two). In the parade ground there is one of the most beautiful and romantic cemeteries in Spain, full of broken tombstones and tender epitaphs. And in the highest tower, a viewpoint to see it as those who go to heaven see it. The plain of Tajuña and the entire town, with its three temples (of the five that once existed) and, at the top, the Royal Cloth Factory (3)18th century.

Attached to the castle is the church of Santa María de la Peña (4), the main one in Brihuega, from the beginning of the 13th century. Its beautiful door stands out, in a transition style from Romanesque to Gothic, and its spacious interior, a perfect example of Cistercian architecture. Inside, the patron saint of Brihuega awaits, the girl and dark-haired virgin of La Peña, who, they say, miraculously appeared to the Moorish princess Elima in a nearby grotto, which we will also visit. Giant banana trees amaze and refresh passers-by in the neighbor Santa Maria Meadow, the most delightful garden of this town.

12.30 History and miniature museums

A little further on, in the Plaza de Manu Leguineche (the most illustrious neighbor that this Alcarria town has had), stands the old convent of San José, from the 16th century, now the seat of the Brihuega History Museum (5). It has an interesting section dedicated to the battle of Guadalajara, which was fought in these fields in 1937, during the Civil War. The convent also houses the Museum of Miniatures Professor Max (6)which treasures and exhibits (with the help of magnifying glasses) the more than 30,000 tiny pieces that Juan Elegido Millán (1913-1975), from Brioca, aka Maxhypnotist by profession. Hypnotized, one stays seeing two dissected fleas dressed as a wedding couple or The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci reproduced in great detail on a grain of rice. Booking, Max’s nephew, Javier Sánchez Elegido, will truly hypnotize us.

14.30 Memories of Camilo José Cela

A good place to eat, with views of the castle, is the restaurant The Bermeja Rock (7). You don’t eat bad either Villa of Brihuega (8), next to the chain door. It is the same inn where Camilo José Cela spent the night during his Trip to the Alcarria, in 1946. Next door, as he warned, there is “a shady, welcoming alameda”; is he Maria Cristina Park, ideal for taking a nap. But first, a dessert: the lavender cake of the cafe-boutique Celestine (9). The lavender ice cream El Tolmo Grill (10) is another hit.

16.30 The Blanquina fountain

This is a good time, when the sun falls like a stone, to cool off in the 14 fountains that are in the town, fountains with thick jets and waters so cold that, even in the rigor of summer, they anesthetize. In the tourist office they deliver a brochure where most of them are marked. Among all of them, the call blanquina (eleven), which has 12 beautiful pipes, not including those that, from the back, lead to the old laundry room. Formerly the neighbors used to say: “If instead of water it were quinine, Brihuega would be made rich by Blanquina”.

18.00 Aromatic ‘Souvenirs’

Lets go shopping. In Alquitara (Factory walk, 2) (12)we will acquire a kits of lavender plantation. In Lavender Corner (Senior, 8) (13), a liquor of the same. And in Aromas of the Alcarria (New Upper Town, 30) (14), masks decorated with flowers of the usual aromatic. Essences, air fresheners, cosmetics and bathroom products made with lavender can be found in the three stores. And in Apicultural Moreno (San Miguel, s/n) (fifteen), rosemary honey, forest honey, milflores, heather, eucalyptus, orange blossom and, of course, lavender. The latter is clear, light, very soft. Zero cloying.

La Celestina lavender afternoon.

La Celestina lavender afternoon.

21.00 Concert in the field

Write down this time and this date: nine o’clock at night on July 16. Just then, in the fields of Brihuega, the Lavender Festival 2022. With the last sun accentuating the color of the crops, Sole Giménez and Revolver will perform. The public will wear white, like every year. Then (or instead), you can go to dinner and sleep at Princess Elyma (16), an inn with Mudejar decoration, with an excellent restaurant whose specialty is roast kid. Niwa (17), hotel-spa with a zen atmosphere, it is a tempting alternative: pure relaxation.

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