27th February 2015 – Salamanca
Our guide-book advised us that we should allow two full days to fully appreciate ‘Salamanca‘, it also stated that it was the most ‘Graceful‘ City in Spain, so we were really looking forward to our visit, perhaps this would rival ‘Seville‘ for top spot on our list of most favourite Spanish Cities and Towns.
Fortunately the bus stopped right outside the Campsite barriers and would take us into the heart of the City for a mere €1.40 each. It was a bitterly cold morning and we went prepared by wearing several layers of warm clothing, we just hoped that walking around in the cold wouldn’t spoil our sightseeing. Shazza had already done a bit of ‘homework’ and it appeared that the ‘Historic‘ centre was located around the ‘Plaza Mayor‘ and so, quite conveniently, was the ‘Tourist Information Office’ where we would call first to get our ‘street plan’. Believe me, you need a street plan in Salamanca, it is quite a sprawling place with blocks and blocks of criss-crossing streets, without a plan you could wander around aimlessly for hours and still miss lots of the ‘must see’ locations.
Most of you already know by now that neither Shazza or I are really that interested in History, but we do like looking at nice Architecture and Gardens and Monuments. The very nice Spanish lady in the Tourist Office gave us our ‘numbered’ street plan and a separate piece of paper listing all the monuments, buildings and places of interest, along with the opening times and the ‘Admission Costs’ !! There is not a lot that is ‘free’ in Salamanca, not if you want to go inside the many buildings, churches, Cathedral and Museums so I suggest if you are someone who likes to visit all of the sights then build this into your budgets !! We, on the other hand, are a little more selective when it comes to visiting such places so are happy to stand outside and admire the views and keep our dwindling budget funds in our pockets. So with our street plan in hand we found ourselves a Cafe in a nice sunny spot in the large ‘Plaza’ and whilst enjoying two ‘Cafe con Leche’s’ we studied our street plan and selected a logical route.
Fortunately for us, as the day went on the sun got warmer, the icy wind disappeared and we had an enjoyable five hours wandering around the Historic part of the City, as well as a brief walk into the more modern parts. Okay so it only took us five hours, and that included stopping for lunch, I knew saving our budget on Admission costs would prove beneficial. The ‘new’ and the ‘old’ actually blend in seamlessly, walking first up the long pedestrianised shopping street with lots of ‘branded’ name stores, some price tags were so expensive that we couldn’t even afford ourselves the luxury of ‘window shopping’ !! This pedestrianised area gently funneled us in, under an archway, to the rather grand looking ‘Plaza Mayor’ with its pavement Cafes/Bars and Restaurants. Exiting, via another corner archway, we then entered the maze of streets where our numbered street plan came into its own and we just sauntered around looking at each building or monument on our selected ‘logical’ route. I was duty photographer and played ‘follow my leader’ as Shazza took charge of the route marching, well why spoil a proven system of operation that’s what I say, or I would if I had any say in the matter in the first place !!
After getting off lightly the previous day with just a mere 4km stroll, Shazza made up for it today with a foot aching 13km !! However, did it live up to expectations as the most ‘Graceful’ City in Spain ? What is that saying about ‘Beauty being in the eye of the beholder’ ? Let’s start with the positive aspects, the main historical tourist bits are all in the same area, no dashing from one side of the city to the next and therefore no need for unnecessary expenditure on open-topped tourist buses. The buildings are truly amazing and wonderful pieces of Architecture that even history heathens like ourselves really enjoyed. Taking lunch in the sunshine of the ‘Plaza Mayor’ at one of the numerous pavement establishments and enjoying a glass of ‘grape juice’ whilst people watching, first class !! What was sadly lacking was any decent walkway along the River and a distinct lack of ‘Green Space’. Whoever wrote the statement about it being the most ‘Graceful’ city in Spain obviously hadn’t got down as far as Seville. For us it was certainly worth this visit, but Salamanca offers no good reason for us to return, seen it, done it, ticked the box. How many times did we return to Seville on this trip alone, three or four, I think that says it all and for us at least, Seville remains top of the pile when it comes to our most favourite City in Spain, for the time being that is, we still have a few more to do yet but they will have to be saved for another trip.
We now had a small dilemma, we had allocated an extra day here but now didn’t need it, we could of course have a well-earned leisure day doing……. ? Well I guess we could sit outside the van in the sun chairs in our thermal underwear and arctic clothing getting acclimatised in readiness for our next eight months living and working on the Scottish Border in the North East of England !!
We could head for the Aire at Cabarceno a bit earlier than planned, but with cold days and nights and no EHU, that would use a lot of LPG and with grey overcast sky that would also mean a much reduced vital input of solar energy. Additionally, it was a bit ‘out in the sticks’, we had already driven around the massive Nature Park on last year’s trip so there would be very little else to do, No, that was not a good alternative. We had two viable options, travel a little further North, on our already proposed route, to ‘Valladolid‘. There was an Aire there and again we would need to rely on our own on-board facilities, not a problem as we could fill and empty ‘as appropriate’ before we left this campsite. The drive there would see our leisure batteries topped up, when we arrived we would do the normal, have a quick-lunch then visit the town and do some sightseeing, return to the van, stay overnight and then we would be back to the original schedule. The other option was to drive off the intended route and divert across to ‘Burgos‘, we had heard some good reports on this place and we knew that it had an ACSI campsite within walking distance of the town, a Campsite would mean EHU, hot Showers and perhaps even WiFi. However, if we opted for this choice then we would be totally off our intended route to Santander so we would need to stay at Burgos for our remaining two nights before heading, via a different route, to our ferry on the Monday. Both were completely viable options but neither of us could decide on which one to choose, so we took the extremely unusual decision, that was going to play havoc with my OCD, to not make the choice until we were ‘on the road’ !!
Later that evening, Shazza received a ‘general’ customer text message and an Email from ‘Brittany Ferries’ stating that the crossing to Portsmouth on the Sunday (1st March) had been cancelled due to a technical fault with the boat, fortunately not our crossing, however, our departure on the Monday would be delayed by one and a half hours and the arrival in Portsmouth on the Tuesday would be two hours later than scheduled. Not a massive issue except that we had pre-booked a Campsite in Salisbury and told them that we would be arriving at 5pm !! Campsites in UK are not generally as flexible as those in Europe when it comes to late arrivals and we didn’t know what time they would ‘close their gates’ !! I sent them an Email explaining the situation and that our anticipated arrival would now be two hours later than planned and hoped to receive a response telling me that it was not a problem !!
It appears that ‘the unanticipated events’ on this year’s ‘Big Adventure’ are going to continue right down to the wire…………………………..