Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Golden City on the Silver Way

We spent Semana Santa (holy week) in Salamanca. Easter is a really big deal in Spain and nowhere more than this glorious city which was brimming with Spanish tourists.

Built from golden sandstone, Salamanca is simply stunning. Boasting magnificent buildings, wonderful churches, a stupendous Plaza Mayor and an enormous gothic Cathedral (do you love all my adjectives?). Such is the size of the Cathedral, it can be seen from 20kms or more away. I wonder if you can see it from the moon???
Salamanca Cathedral
Inside is filled with soaring gothic columns reaching up to beautiful vaulted ceilings filled with light from the lantern dome. We’ve seen so many wonderful churches and cathedrals that we have stopped photographing most of them and I don’t usually rave about them – bit this one is something to behold. The old Romanesque cathedral (15th century) is adjoined and we did a wonderful rooftop tour that took us from the new to the old including balconies allowing us to look down into the naves of both.

Wonderful Cloister at San Estaban

Salamanca also boasts wonderful tapas bars. Really delicious food spread out on the bars, proving irresistible to hungry, thirsty tourists. One bar we had 6 tapas, 6 glasses of wine for around 18 euros. Too hard to describe them but incredibly tasty bits of goats cheese and of course black pudding!!!! (OK – I’m obsessed.)

They also love a good parade and every day there was something happening. Purple pointy hats (KKK style) on the first day, culminating on Easter Sunday with 3 processions coming together at the cathedral. The people were out in their thousands and the bars were heaving afterwards – great atmosphere.
The Virgin gets carted around the streets at every opportunity.
Jesus Christ!
Easter Bonnet Parade

We hired a car again to do some touring and did a side trip to Portugal – again. This time we headed to Ciudad Rodrigo a lovely mediaeval town on the border. Our destination was Guarda which we found to be completely uninspiring (we couldn’t even find a bar!), and we carried on to pretty Trancoso. It was so cold that we didn’t feel like wandering around the ruined castle and drove on.

With no real destination in mind we stumbled upon Almeida, which was not only a wonderful walled town but had a Pousada (similar to Parador in Spain – government run hotels, usually located in convent, monasteries, castles etc). We booked in and spent a rewarding couple of hours wandering around the star shaped walls (complete with moat). The temperature seemed about 10 degrees higher and the rain had stopped – very happy. Also managed a delicious dinner of goat with a few local vinos.
A plan showing the star shaped walls
Next day we drove home to Hilda via the Sierra, but the whole area was cold and foggy and heaving with tourists.

Our last side trip saw us in the mediaeval town of Avila, east of Salamanca. Inside the imposing city walls are tributes to Santa Teresa who founded the Barefoot Carmelites. I think she would’ve hated all the hoo-ha surrounding her as her philosophy was the simple life, getting back to basics, I mean she didn’t even own a pair of shoes!
The Walled City of Avila
We are now in Tordesillas in the Ribera del Duero wine region and will attempt to do some tasting, but wine tourism doesn’t seem to be big here. The town’s claim to fame is the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. The head honchos of Spain and Portugal got together here and rather arrogantly divided up the new world between them. Happily they hadn’t discovered Australia then or we’d be eating dinner at 11pm and speaking with a lisp.

From here we’ll head to Rioja Baja (a bit more wine tasting), then Pamplona and up through the Pyrenees to France.

Sorry for the rather long blog – seems we’ve been doing a lot!!

PS: Lawrence is cooking Risotto ai Porcini tonight with my home-grown basil!!!

PPS: It’s been so cold I’ve been wearing my puffy coat. In Spain. In Spring.

Lawrence supports Kate's Black Pudding addiction at the Salamanca Market

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