Talavera de la Reina is a city in the western part of the province of Toledo, the second-largest centre of population in Castile-La Mancha after Albacete; it is the largest in the province, larger even than the city of Toledo itself, although the more famous city naturally remains the capital.
This means that to a certain extent Talavera is a city with an inferiority complex and this isn’t helped by the fact that it isn’t really a primary tourist destination but we are keen to visit as many Spanish cities as possible and even if it was not on our most direct route between Toledo and Ávila we were not going to exclude it from our itinerary.
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Talavera achieved great recognition in Spain and beyond, thanks to its ceramics. Wonderful pieces of pottery and Talavera tiles are found in the main museums of the world and in the most luxurious palaces all over Europe. The city is internationally known for its products, which King Philip II used as tiled revetments in many of his works, such as the monastery of El Escorial.
The nickname of Talavera de la Reina is ‘The City of Pottery’ and Mexico’s famous Talavera pottery was named after the place. We could have guessed this because after lunch we walked through the old city towards the River Tagus and our route took us past a succession of similar ceramics workshops and shops.
Eventually we reached the river which is the longest in the Iberian Peninsula and the twelfth longest in Europe. It is just over six hundred miles long long and flows all the way to Lisbon in Portugal where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Along its course there are several dams and diversions supply drinking water to most of central Spain and Portugal, while dozens of hydroelectric stations create power.
The source of the Tagus is the Fuente de García, in the Montes Universales, Sierra de Albarracín Comarca. The main cities it passes through are Aranjuez, Toledo, Talavera de la Reina and Alcántara in Spain, then Abrantes, Santarém, Almada and Lisbon in Portugal.
To be honest there wasn’t a lot to detain us for more than an afternoon so after a short while we left. Driving out of Talavera de la Reina was not too difficult except that we emerged from the underground car park onto a one way street and managed to cross the River Tagus twice until we found the road that headed north towards the Gredos Mountains, but once out of the city motoring was straight-forward and the satellite navigation lady seemed to pull her self together so we didn’t have any fall-outs!
As we headed north we began to slowly climb as we entered an area of green scrubland littered with huge granite boulders where the verges of the road were a riot of red poppies and contrasting yellow daisies. Ahead of us we could see the mountains with peaks covered in a few stubborn streaks of snow in the protection of the shadows where the March sun couldn’t quite reach. We were still in bright sunshine but ahead of us the sky was a dramatic dark grey, brooding, threatening and angry and we worried that crossing the north south dividing line of Spain parallel with Madrid (40° 25′ 0.3900” N) that we were leaving all of the good weather behind.
A short way out of Talavera we crossed the site of a famous battle of the Peninsula War where Sir Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) won one of his most successful and famous battles. On 27th and 28th July 1809 the Battle of Talavera took place between the Anglo-Spanish army and the French. It was a total allied victory and during the fight Talavera was hardly damaged and Wellesley’s army expelled the French from the city and the surrounding area.
The battle is also the setting for the fictional event of ‘Sharpe’s Eagle’ the first book written in Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’ series.
Next time I will finally get back to Ávila…