Hanging out in medieval Cuenca

The nearest major airport is in Madrid, about 90 miles west. From LAX, direct service (at least one stop, no change of planes) is on US Airways; connecting-service (change of planes) providers include Air France, American, British, Continental and Delta. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $661.

From Madrid's Atocha station, four trains depart daily for Cuenca. The trip takes 2 1/2 hours and costs about $9.50 each way.

To call numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (international code), 34 (country code for Spain) and 969 (area code for Cuenca).

Parador de Cuenca, Subida a San Pablo, S/N, 16001 Cuenca; 232-320, fax 232-534, . The top hotel in town. Formerly the convent of San Pablo. Many of its comfortable rooms have spectacular views of old town and the hanging houses. Doubles about $120.

Posada de San José, Julián Romero 4, 16001 Cuenca; 211-300, fax 230-365, . Less luxurious but more charming. Beamed ceilings, whitewashed walls and tile floors that slope with age all create the feeling of a Renaissance inn. Some rooms have balconies. Doubles with full bath from about $60.

Hotel Leonor de Aquitania, Calle San Pedro 60, 16001 Cuenca; 231-000, fax 231-004, . Views of gorge, pleasant rooms. Doubles from $82.

Mesón Casas Colgadas, Calle Canónigos 3; 223-509. Excellent regional specialties. Entrees include stewed partridge and grilled lamb chops. Reservations recommended. Lunch with wine, tax and tip ran about $45 per person — a worthwhile splurge.

Parador de Cuenca (see above) serves workmanlike versions of regional cuisine with a few standouts, such as migas con uvas, a combination of bread crumbs, sausage and grapes. Reservations recommended. Dinner with wine, tax and tip ran about $48 per person. Breakfast in the cafe was $9.50.

La Tinaja, Calle Obispo Valero 4; 231-891. Tapas bar specializing in grilled meats. Dishes from $4.50.

Tourist Office of Spain, 8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 960, Beverly Hills, CA 90211; (323) 658-7188 or (323) 658-7192, fax (323) 658-1061, .

Cuenca tourist information (Spanish only), .