From Cordoba Spain, we made our way to Ubeda Spain, a World Heritage town. It won the patronage of a number of powerful men through the 16th century, is a literally a museum of Renaissance architecture. Everything from the remaining city walls, to the churches, the former palaces and even the old city hospital are museum-quality showplaces. Among the most interesting buildings are:
- San Pablo Church, with its 13th-century apse and 16th-century chapel and tower;
- Parador de Ubeda, the palace of the chaplain;
- Cancel del Obisppo, you which was a jail on which the Bishop imprisoned errant nuns; and
- Iglesia de Chrito Rey, with its bas relief above the front entrance.
The most impressive collection of historic 16th-century buildings are those that surround the large Plaza Vasquez de Molina. These include:
- Santa Maria de los Reales Alcazares church
- Capella del Salvador, a personal chapel for Francisco de los Cobos, the foremost of the city’s patrons;
- Palacio de las Cadenas, yet another 16th-century palace, which now serves as the town hall; and
- Palacio del Dean Ortega.
Most grand, although probably the least ornate of all is the former Hospital de Santiago, built in an austere Renaissance style and now home to a conference center and rotating art exhibits. Among the most impressive sights are the mosaic tower, the serenely symmetrical courtyard, the chapel, the garden and especially the beautiful wall and ceiling murals that decorate the complex’s main staircase.
And if you want more history, there’s an archeological museum that traces the city’s history, culture and architecture back to Neolithic times.
Another, very scenic, non-historic spot is the pretty Plaza de Andalucia. With its flowers, fountain, and its setting among churches and historic buildings at a six-way intersection of commercial streets.
But, while many of the individual buildings are interesting, more interesting yet, as is frequently the case in such ancient towns, is simply strolling through the narrow streets and alleys and discovering hidden gems and pretty squares that are brimming with tables and patrons.
- Zeitum, a popular (certainly on the night we were there) restaurant where we began with a very tasty amuse bouche of a very tasty mushroom stock with cream, topped with parmesan cheese, ham and croutons. Then came our main dishes. Tom had a roasted kid goat leg; Joyce had baked corvina atop a mix of cuttlefish and beans. Although neither were quite what we thought we ordered from the English version of the menu, both were very good. The 2013 Douro Valley 2013 Emilio Moro tempranillo also worked, at least with a little time in a decanter.
- Asador de Santiago, was another nice meal in the dining room. After an amuse bouche of pumpkin with ham, we had two main dishes. The seabass with crab and tomato risotto was delicious. The lamb chops with cherry tomatoes was pretty good as European lamb chops go (very thin with almost as much grizzle sand meat). Tom just has to remind himself about this the next time he is tempted to order lamb chops. We had these dishes with another Rioja Reserve.
- La Estacion was a popular spot at which we enjoyed a multi-course tapas lunch despite not being able to understand the menu or communicate with our server. As we judged from the appearances and the tastes, we began with an amuse bouche of a mussel atop a bed of octopus ink pasta; followed by a plate that layered eggplant and smoked salmon, topped with grated parmesan and a béchamel sauce; a rack of dried beef dripping with marinade onto a tasty spread that we couldn’t begin to identify. These were followed by a less than interesting stir-fry of vegetables beef and sausage and a hamberquesa, a beef burger topped with a soft, tasty melted cheese and caramelized onions on a sweetbreads roll. We had this with another Rioja, this time a Fenandez de Pierola Crienza 2011.
We stayed at the Neuve Leyendas, Plaza del Lopez Almagro 3, Ubeda. The small hotel is in an ideal location in old town, a, easy 15 minute walk from the bus station and right near the beautiful Plaza Vasquez de Molina. We stayed in 2 different rooms during our stay. The first one had unpleasant smell in it—kindof like sewage but we couldn’t find the source. Was it coming in from the outside or was it from something inside the room? We could never figure it out. The air was turned off for the season so we had to keep the windows open for cooling during the night. As a café is right below the windows, we couldn’t escape the noise and cigarette smoke that came into the room. We live in a city and are used to street noise, but this was bothersome to us. We could also hear every sound from people in the other rooms near us, including the guy next door snoring (loudly). The second night we were in a much better room. We still had the street noise issue, but we couldn’t hear the people around us and the room did not smell. If we had this room for both nights, our review would have been 5 stars as this is a small intimate hotel run by a family who worked hard to please you. However, balancing the 2 rooms, we have to say this is an average place to stay and would try another place the next time.