Riding through Mancha with Don Quixote

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza drawn by Honore Daumier
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza drawn by Honore Daumier

Destination: Spain

Book: Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes

On the road south of Madrid, the names on restaurant and hotels begin to read: Sancho Panza, Dulcinea, Don Quixote–named for the characters in Spain’s most famous book.

As we travel through the flat, sun-baked landscape of La Mancha, we burst into song.

“To dream the impossible dream,

To fight the unbeatable foe,

To bear the unbearable sorrow,

To run where the brave dare not go.”

Stirring lyrics and a tune that climbs like the mountains surrounding these plains.

Cervantes story of the indomitable Don Quixote and his down-to-earth sidekick Sancho Panza, and the musical based on the tale, Man of La Mancha, have forever typecast the Spanish people. The men must be adventurous, dreamers, believers in fantasy (or stoically practical peasants). The women are so beautiful they even the poorest are mistaken for royalty.  Is Cervantes’ picture correct, or is our vision of Spain clouded by the dominant literary guidebook to Spanish culture?

Either way, the legend of Don Quixote ranks high as a must-read book in the traveler’s library.  Just try to drive across the dusty plains of La Mancha without thoughts of striving for  better worlds to conquer in the nearby mountains or across the sea.

Once you have seen the musical, Man of La Mancha (on stage, please, the movie disappoints), you will be singing, “To dream, the impossible dream…”

(See another post on Spain, Secrets of the Alhambra)

What books in your travel libary have defined Spain for you? Did you see Don Quixote in the windmills of La Mancha? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.