Travel: Valladolid, Salamanca – May 2014

Spain

Valladolid and Salamanca in north-west of Spain.  A good blast following in the wake of Morocco.

Travel photo - Valladolid Spain - memories of Santiago

Valladolid – Memories of Santiago

I came chasing the food and that is what I got. Cuts of meat as big as I’ve ever seen, cooked to perfection, red and raw in the centre and layered with flavour.

Valladolid is something of a hidden gem, I feel.

Somebody said, “Why have you come to Valladolid? People don’t come here normally, not tourists.” – I smile and reply something about friends and the Fellowship (a bunch of us who get to meet up every now and then in foreign locations).

Valladolid: only 1 hour away (by fast train) from the centre of Madrid. The architecture entrances your eyes.   A particular fusion of European moderna and historic culture. Campo Grande, a small but magical park near our hotel and just down from the quiet train station… peacocks strutting freely through the sun dappled paths, and a cute circle with brightly coloured chairs and a small cafe serving ice creams and coffee (usually).

Tapas, some of my favourites and in Valladolid they were magnificent each place we ventured into specialising in one particular type. I wonder if such an experience could exist in the UK with every business hungrily pursuing diversification and choice…?  Each place was ram packed, as a steady flow of people wander in, shoulder past the crowds of folks standing around, no chairs, no option of comfort as such, just tall tables and counters… the hubbub of people talking. The garrulous calls of the staff at the counter. I order, my food appears on a small plate, or a slate, or a tablet of wood; a glass of vino tinto, red wine, and I find a space where the rest of the Fellowship are standing; all of us eating, drinking, smiling, eyes wandering across the glorious chaos of it all. And only 3 or 4 Euros for a quick tasty bite and a glass of wine.

Salamanca is more tourist orientated but I miss it. A bustling, noisy, chaotic version of Santiago…. Santiago forever holds a special place in my soul, but drifting around Salamanca, sun radiating off old stone walls into narrow alleys like oven heat… and sometimes finding a quiet spot. Graffiti and anarchistic street art stencils, a sense of hush and the grubby reality on the edges…. and just as quickly, a few dozen paces sees you walking back into the main flow, the throngs of tourists. Moving. Sitting. Everywhere is the tableau of people outside of their normal experience. I am one of them. Special memories of Salamanca are the Knights Templar Church; climbing the immense towers of La Clerecia to enjoy spectacular panoramic views across the Old City… a real sense of walking in the footsteps of people who lived and died for what they believed in. But one of the best memories has to be the 3 hours we spent camped out in sun trap corner of Plaza Mayor – supping wine and watching the world… and then grabbing the late train back to Valladolid, and as I had hoped, being able to watch the beautiful landscape bathed in deepening fire of sunset.

Day One

Travel photo - Valladolid Spain - looking into the city

Looking into the city

Travel photo - Valladolid Spain - street scene newspaper stall

Street scene

Travel photo - Valladolid Spain - medieval details adorn the walls

Medieval details adorn the walls

Travel photo - Valladolid Spain - statue in center of Plaza Mayor

Statue in center of Plaza Mayor

Statue in centre of Plaza Mayor of Valladolid. Another classic example of old and modern. This square is a great place to spend a few hours sitting in one of the many cafes that line the edges. Supping coffee or vino tinto, building up an appetite for tapas. Did somebody mention tapas..!

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Travel photo - Valladolid Spain - Djr with his favourite food

Djr with his favourite food

Travel photo - Valladolid Spain - majestic architecture from bygone era of power

Majestic architecture from bygone era of power

Amongst the 20th century structures are large edifices of more ancient history, weathered and worn yet rising up to grab your gaze and hold it in rapture and awe.

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Travel photo - Valladolid Spain - dragon holding up window balcony

It pays to look up!

graffiti Plaza Mayor of Valladolid

Valladolid

Just away from the heart of Valladolid, towards the train station and opposite our hotel is this fantastic park. Tiny and yet with the impression of being much larger through the illusion of its layout. There, in the heart of it, not easy to find, is a small circular area with a hut selling coffee and ice creams. Grab a seat and enjoy the sun. Silence. Smiles.

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The evening was spent relaxing in the Plaza Mayor. Long sloping rays of syrup-like sunlight, nocturnal heat and the sumptuous state of mind that comes from being utterly relaxed.  Just before the sun set we wandered off to find a place to eat that had been recommended to us.

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Valladolid - La Parrilla de San Lorenzo - branding

La Parrilla de San Lorenzo

Tucked away in an isolated part of Valladolid, deep in the catacombs of a medieval nuns monastery is the modern restaurant La Parrilla de San Lorenzo. If you don’t like meat, don’t go there. If you love meat then this place is a MUST VISIT. The waiter took us down to our table. The size of the place is vast. As are the size of their steaks. I had my rare. Cooked over an authentic medieval charcoal grill the damn thing was the best tasting steak I’ve ever had in my life. Well-cooked outer layer sprinkled with salt sealing in the pink, almost bleeding interior. Carnivorous delight. And where would an evening such as this be without the devilish gifts of Bacchus…

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Valladolid - La Parrilla de San Lorenzo - eat fantastic meat in medieval catacombs

La Parrilla de San Lorenzo – eat fantastic meat in medieval catacombs

Valladolid - La Parrilla de San Lorenzo - eat amazing meat

MEAT!!!!

A portrait of Bacchus watches over diners at La Parrilla de San Lorenzo - Valladolid

A portrait of Bacchus watches over diners

Day Two

Travel Photo - Salamanca Spain - San Marcos church

Salamanca – San Marcos church

An early morning rise from our hotel in Valladolid, we walked the short distance to the train station and caught a slow train to Salamanca. Walk for 20 minutes through the heavily built-up urban areas and then plunge through the gateway of the Old City into a medieval delight, potent and rich in atmosphere.

The San Marcos church is associated with the Knights Templar and the Holy Crusades. Built in the 12th century. A Romanesque building with a circular floor plan and Baroque steeple. It has three naves separated by columns, all three ending in a semicircular apse that cannot be seen from the outside. Very interesting Gothic paintings are preserved here; from the 14th century they depict scenes from life of the Virgin Mary. Going inside, I spent quite a while sitting in silent contemplation. You get a tangible feel for the distant men who would have come here to pray before setting out towards a very hazardous and uncertain future.

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Travel photo - beggar and texting in Salamanca

Begging and Texting

Travel photo Salamanca Modern ornamentation demarking your transition from the modern city into the Old

Modern ornamentation demarcating your transition from the modern city into the Old

Travel photo Salamanca Cast your eyes towards heaven and see the angels smiling back at you

Cast your eyes towards heaven and see the angels smiling back at you

Travel photo Salamanca Unusual and distinctive window casements for this city

Unusual and distinctive window casements

And into Plaza Mayor Salamanca. Much bigger and much older in appearance that Valladolid. This place exuded history from the lichen covered stonework to the incredibly weathered ornamentation carved into every facade.

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Travel photo Salamanca historical students  wrote VICTORY on the wall so the city

To VICTORY

So the story goes, that students back in the day who wanted to celebrate succeeding in their studies would graffiti the walls of the ancient city with VICTORY.

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Travel photo Salamanca new cathedral interior David J Rodger All Rights Reserved

Interior of new Cathedral

New Cathedral. The construction lasted more than two centuries, which explains its variety of styles (Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque). The west front is divided by four large arches that correspond to the interior plan of the church. The north doorway is decorated with a delicate bas-relief illustrating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The interior is notable for its fine vaulting, delicate cornices and sweeping pillars. Beautiful!

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Travel photo Salamanca rooftop of old cathedral David J Rodger

Rooftop of old cathedral

Old Cathedral. Right next door to the new!  It is a good example of a Romanesque cathedral, and the lantern tower, with two levels of windows, is one of the most beautiful of its kind. The Chapel of San Martin is decorated with 13th Century frescos.

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Travel photo Salamanca small bell in tower of Old Cathedral

Small bell in tower of Old Cathedral

travel photo Salamanca rooftop views from Old Cathedral like being in Prince of Persia for PS2

Like being in Prince of Persia for PS2

travel photo Salamanca

Heading away from the crowds

After doing the cathedrals with Sharky and Oj, I cut loose on my own for a while. Found a route that was deserted of tourists. Walked off through historic streets of tomb-like stone scrubbed as clean as new. Found myself in an area peppered with interesting street art, a lot of it stencil work.

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street art graffiti - Salamanca Spain - V for Vendetta

Vendetta

street art graffiti - Salamanca Spain -  Cabesa

Cabesa

Salamanca Spain -  Melmac is not Spain

Melmac is not Spain

street art graffiti - Salamanca Spain -  tojeiro's rules

Tojeiro’s rules

street art graffiti - Salamanca Spain - Donde Esta Camara

Donde Esta Camara

street art graffiti - Salamanca Spain -  Monroe

Monroe

street art graffiti - Salamanca Spain -  Feliz 1984

Feliz 1984

street art graffiti - Salamanca Spain -  DONK

DONK

street art graffiti - Salamanca Spain -  FURE

FURE

Travel photo Salamanca Moran 3

Marking the walls in another way…

Back to the Plaza Mayor for a prearranged RV. Everyone met up and shared stories of individual mini-adventures. Then we went to look for somewhere to eat lunch.

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Travel photo Salamanca Plaza Mayor

Street Lights at Plaza Mayor

Street Scene photo: Strange scene off the beaten track. Can see why the man doesn’t look very happy. Why are they sitting there? Ugly place.

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Travel photo Salamanca ugly eating

Ugly eating

I wasn’t into the choice of lunch venue so wandered off on my own again. Encountered some wonderful statues. Then found a series of small greens, bordered by low hedges behind a historic building with sun-dappled light spilling through the overhead trees. I lay down and fell asleep. Bliss.

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travel photo Salamanca - status of monk outside cathedral

Monk marches from cathedral

travel photo salamanca status of monk with book cathedral in background

In rapture

travel photo statue of lazarus and boy

Lazarus and boy

I woke up to find the others had tracked me down. Big smiles and me there with sleepy head. We all tramped back to Plaza Mayor, found a table at one of dozens of outside cafes that hugged the edges, and spent about 4 hours sitting in the lowering light of the evening sun, drinking and ordering nibbles as thousands of people trickled through the vast historic space.

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It’s not long before sunset when we pay our bill and walk out from the Plaza Mayor. A 20 minute hike to the train station and catch the slow train back to Valladolid. And this gives us an unexpected gem. I had been impressed by the landscape on the way there that morning. Beautiful fertile plains and gently undulating hills with lush forests. Coming back I had this again but this time the experience was enhanced by the incredible sunlight. Just beautiful.

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travel photo golden sunset on landscape between Salamanca and Valladolid rural scene

Between Salamanca and Valladolid

travel photo between Salamanca and Valladolid golden rays lancing through trees

Golden rays lancing through trees

travel photo between Salamanca and Valladolid wind turbines overlook rural landscape

Wind turbines

travel photo between Salamanca and Valladolid fiery sunset and church in silhouette

Fire and silhouettes

Final Day

Marta and David J Rodger after 20 years - Valladolid

After 20 years

Getting back to the hotel in Valladolid I jump online and find a response to my Facebook check-in from yesterday. It’s from Marta: “You’re here? In Valladolid?!!!!”

It’s one of those glaring oversights when your life is so busy. Marta and I knew each other in Bristol back in the mid 1990s. Then she moved back to Spain.

We arranged a rendezvous the next morning – final day in Spain. Met at the fountains at the base of the magic park. Wonderful moment when you see a friend from your distant past walking around a corner and coming towards you. We embraced and then looked at each other, arms held out, scrutinizing, grinning…”Wow, 20 years!!!”

Fantastic to catch-up. And great to connect into a comfortable groove. Marta gave me a whistle-stop tour of her city, which I am already impressed by. Then circled back to the Plaza Mayor to rendezvous with Oj, Sharky and Miss Scarlet.

And then that was it. Trip done. Return journey, easy. Fast train to Madrid. Plane back to England.

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