Saturday, October 20, 2012

From Salamanca to Madrid, Redux

Salamanca, new
Salamanca is awesome! This elegant and accessible city is home to the oldest university in Spain (founded in 1218 by Alfonso IX of León). A bit of history: in Europe, only the University of Bologna (1088) and Oxford University (1167) and the University of Paris (1150) are older.  And the Temple of Literature in Ha Noi has them all beat as the oldest university in southeast Asia, founded in 1070.

Salamanca, old
We arrived on July 1st looking like ragged Camino backpackers, again without a guidebook or clue where we would stay... 

A page from Carol's journal showing the whimsical 
astronaut carved on the facade of the Cathedral
Spontaneous travel as we are doing led us to meet an awesome Brazilian couple also in their 60's walking from the bus station to a small hotel in the center of the city. We visited on the walk as they seemed to know where they were going --- to the Pensión San José which also had a room available for us. Serendipity continued to be in our favor!

Our new Brazilian friends had come to walk same path on the Camino as we had walked, and after that to take a course in Spanish language.  Their spoken English was way better than our non-existent Portugese, so we got along quite well.  The four of us went to dinner on an old street of restaurants, all of which had televisions set up outside, because on this very evening Spain and Italy faced off in the finals of the Euro Cup. It was an exciting night as Spain not only won, but completely dominated Italy 4-0.

Salamanca is beautiful interesting, stimulating, a university town of the nth degree.  We will have to get to know it better next time, because after the game, and most of the next day wandering around the city, we headed back to Madrid.

July 2-4 back in Madrid, the wonderful bed and breakfast in which we previously stayed was rented and Yvonne was kind enough to find another place for us, in the apartment of her friend Paula, also from Argentina.  Nicer people cannot be found!     

This time in Madrid we went to the Prado.  As famous as it is, it was, to be honest, a little disconcerting.  Lots of huge Renaissance oils of royalty and battles.  Hard to find our way around, even with a map.  And of course, to see everything well would take days, not hours.    Carol was especially entranced by Fra Angelico’s Annunciation

In Barcelona, with Annie and Nick, we had seen an original Picasso study of Velasquez' La Menina.  Now at the Prado, we saw Velasquez' own painting.

And we both enjoyed a street guitarist outside the Prado....

More street folks --- fun “performers” like this wherever we went.

And, oh yes, recycling.  Here, the recycling bins dump everything into underground containers that can be accessed from below.  They don’t overflow, and there are no big trucks blocking traffic and making noise as they remove the trash.  Very cool!

Our last night in Madrid we had dinner at a wonderful, small restaurant, Villa Rosa, with front table seats at a fantastic flamenco performance.  A guitarist and three dancers, two women and a man, performed individually and spectacularly together.

The next morning, after a wonderful breakfast, we said goodbye to our friends Yvonne and Paula.  That's one of Yvonne's incredible chocolate/dulce de leche cakes in the upper right. Yes, chocolate for breakfast, mmmmm.

 Leaving Madrid on the bullet train on July 4 to Lleida, in Catalonia. 

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