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Report 1969: Five Wonderful Weeks in Northern Spain

By caplanco from Colorado, Fall 2011

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Page 2 of 10: Salamanca

photo by MEC

Plaza Mayor

The free Axor shuttle took us back to the airport in the morning and we picked up our rental car from Avis. It did take some time to find our car (a black diesel Leon) because all of the car companies share a large lot and the numbers for each company are not necessarily in order. Once we found it, it took several tries for M to get it in reverse. And then we were on our way to Salamanca. We’d brought our Garmin Nuvi which had the downloaded Spain maps. Unfortunately we discovered that it was not receiving power from the car, so had to use battery power for the whole trip.

We were on a toll road (E13) for part of the way and most was easy highway driving. It looked a lot like driving in the west: beige with patches of green, low shrubs, open space with a small cluster of red tile roof buildings every so often. And, of course, the bull sculpture. We made one stop at the good old AutoGrill for café cortado and a crema croissant. We could see Salamanca as we approached, kind of like you can see our town, Boulder, as you approach it from Denver.

It took three tries to get to the Hotel Abba Fonseca as we missed the first turn and had several “recalculating” opportunities. The hotel is right across from the Universidad and a short walk from Plaza Mayor. It’s an older hotel with fairly up to date furnishings and a good bathroom (€153 for two nights plus €14 parking per night). After unpacking we walked through the grounds of the Universidad toward Plaza Mayor. A menu del dia lunch at Rua Mayor (€12 pp), one of the sidewalk restaurants near the Plaza, served our need. We walked around the plaza and I was pleased to note the abundance of two things that are very important to me: ice cream/gelato shops and bakeries.

A most lovely evening began at 9:15 when we got ourselves out to Casa de Vinos Doctinos (C. Doctrinos 3) and had media racione jamon Iberico, with a glass of vino blanco for M and cava at for me (€18), obviously a very popular place. We sat at one of the three tables outside as the inside was packed and very loud.

Then we walked to Plaza Mayor where we saw a crowd gathered around a table of musicians. About 10 young men, graduate music students at the Universidad, sitting at a table with pitchers of beer except for the leader and the bass player. All were in costumes resembling those of doctoral candidates in the USA. The bass player had added dark glasses to his outfit. They played a wonderful variety of Spanish music. We stood there and watched for awhile, moving to the music. That’s what I love about Spain as compared to Italy: the music - and it is everywhere.

We left in search of more to eat and stopped at Rio de la Plata (Plaza del Peso, 1). Although there were white cloth tables outside, we went down the few steps to the small polished wood bar inside and sat on stools there. Not tapas, but raciones, so we tried the bonita with marinated red pepper with cava for me and vino blanco for M (€15). Delightful place; at 10:30pm people were still coming in.

The next morning we had café cortado, cappuccino, chocolate croissants at Caafe Bar Mandala, Calle de Serranos 9, (€8) which is a lively bar in the area, known for its huge variety of drinks of all kinds. Lots of students coming in as its right near the University.

The cathedral dominates Salamanca. You can see the domes from everywhere in the centro. The Universidad buildings surround it. We went to the “new” cathedral (maybe 14th century instead of 12th?) and walked through. Some of the private family chapels are as ornate as one expects in Spain, but the main area of the church is of stone, with stone carvings, and while the carvings are intricate and elaborate, since they are grey stone, the cathedral has a quiet feeling. The centro is lovely as most of the buildings follow the old pattern of golden sandstone and stone with red tile roofs so you get a feeling of simple continuity. We came across lone guitar players in different locations as we walked from place to place.

Our next stop was the Museo de Arte Nouvelle y Deco. This was a wonderful surprise and worth a stop in Salamanca. The collections include bronzes, ceramics, bisque, and glass of the eras. Of special wow(!) was the huge collection of dolls from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Fabulous! The building also has a terrific art deco glass ceiling and windows.

After completing the museo, we walked to see remains of the Roman aqueduct (not worth it unless you walk the length of the pedestrian bridge so you can see it over the river) and a hidden botanical garden (not worth finding) before going to lunch. We found Café El Corrillo, Calle de Meléndez, 18 the “most beautiful patio in Salamanca” which we’d noted the day before, and had a good lunch. The usual menu del dia, but ingredients and prep up a notch from the Rua Mayor yesterday. M: endive and Roquefort salad with shrimp and chicken, grilled calamari w/ potatoes and tomatoes, fresh orange; me: white asparagus with vinaigrette, stewed chicken in cider with apple and potatoes, flan. (€28 including the extra €2 per person for sitting on the terrace).

That evening we went back to the Vino Dotorinos. Inside at the bar this time and had chorizo and cava/wine and one tinto rosa to share (€13). It was fun watching the ham be sliced off of the leg, and lots of it. Then on to Rio de la Plata. The tiny dining room at the back was full, with only two people at the bar. We ordered calamari frito with our vino blanco, followed by grilled clams. Lesson for the day: If you want to order something without seeing the menu, be sure to ask how much it costs. M almost fell off the stool when the bill arrived: €26 for the calamari and €35 for the eight clams! Total bill €51!

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