|Don Quijote, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor|
Cervantes was born in Alcala (where I teach), and every 9th of October there's a village fete to celebrate his life and work. Personally, I think that with a life as exciting as his, he would have been hard-pressed to do anything other than write - born in Alcala, worked in Rome as an assistant to a priest, then enlisted as a soldier in the Spanish Navy regiment, during which time he was captured by pirates. He spent five years in slavery before his parents were able to pay his ransom and he returned to Spain, this time to Madrid. Writing wasn't enough to pay the bills, so he worked for the Spanish Armada and also as a tax collector, but wound up in prison in Seville. Upon his release, he moved to Valladolid, at which time he had great success with Don Quixote. He moved back to Madrid, where his spent the rest of his days writing. See what I mean? His life is a novel in its own right.
You can visit his birthplace in Alcala de Henares. His childhood home is now a museum and has and exhibition of interesting editions of his obra maestra, as well as period rooms and a marionette theatre. Once you're done, the town is a lovely place for a stroll.
If you're not into reading or museum-going, there's a musical, a cartoon and a ballet, but I suggest checking it out on film. Go for the one directed by Peter Yates. John Lithgow gives life to our quixotic hero, Isabella Rossellini is the Duchess, and Vanessa Williams is the beautiful Dulcinea. Wow, flashback to high school Spanish class!