In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing. —Miguel de Cervantes
On the fifth day of our trip, after a morning spent exploring Toledo, our bus carried us into the dry, windy area of La Mancha. There, large white windmills stood like silent ghosts at the tops of hills, their blades unmoving. Everyone remembers that Don Quixote, fancying they were giants, took up his lance and fought the blades, which he thought were the arms of the giants. He lost. “Tilting at windmills” has come to mean engaging in a useless battle you can’t win but feel compelled to fight.
Poor Quixote, a retired 50ish businessman, had been reading too many books about chivalry and knights and battles and rescuing lovely put-upon women. He armed himself and set out to fulfill his destiny: become a knight errant. Errant wound up being the operative word. A fictional character created in 1605, he nonetheless seemed very present as we stopped to visit a windmill used by a local family to sell souvenirs, oil, and saffron to tourists. Our leader, Victor, had called to let them know we were coming, and he assured us the prices were fair. Never on our tour did we have reason to doubt him. Well, maybe the carpet factory in Tangier, but the mint tea was terrific. Anyway, as we left that chain of windmills, we were happy to see another hill on which a few actually in operation. Victor was surprised.
Then came our “rest stop” at a small, charming complex, the Venta del Quixote, with a bar and much-welcome rest rooms. Don Quixote was there to greet us. He’s invariably depicted as a gaunt, straight-backed, armored man with a lance and shield. We all lined up for a photo op. Even Lonzo, who also inspected a cart that looked very old and much the worse for wear. Somewhat like I was looking about that time, come to think of it.
I’m hoping Pat remembers what these enormous vats contain. Wine, perhaps, because this wasn’t olive oil country. After some time spent at the bar, we got the call to board the bus and off we went. Destination Cordoba, 142 miles due south. From Madrid to Toledo to Cordoba made for a long day, so there was a lot of snoozing on the bus. It finally disgorged us in front of our hotel, where a buffet dinner with wine awaited us. I don’t remember what happened after that.