Medina del Campo to Salamanca

Quick look out the window and yes, something white on the ground. The sides of the underpass next to the hotel, used by many large trucks and cars coming into Medina del Campo, was soon just a little damp. If snow or hail had fallen it was soon melted. Maybe I imagined it! 

The train platform says it all. 

  The train is 10′ late and the only person waiting is a trainguard. The rest of us scurried back inside as a ‘train delayed’ announcement was made. Ten minutes in the warmth was worth it to avoid the biting cold. Amazingly one woman had stayed out, scrunched up in her fur coat beside the staircase rails. Brrrr.

The train is fast and the terrain to Salamanca flat. No snow on ground anywhere but lots of puddles in paddocks so it clearly had rained. As dams to the east of here are low, and irrigation plants are ready, I’m sure many welcomed this rain.

Salamanca

Two versions of the temperature when I arrived: 6C or 0.08C. Both are dubious. It’s below 5C, for sure, with the ear and finger biting. It’s not well below zero, as when I memorably landed in Kabul so many decades ago and it hurt to breath and the cold bit your whole face. 

So truly, it’s not that cold in Salamanca today. No wind helps. Weather forecast for the area focuses on the depth of snow, a few cm only in most places and, winds of 80km per hr. Here, so far so good. 

Change is everywhere here in a city that has lasted for a long time. Some shops are to rent and I’m very sad to say my favourite bookshop, Libreria with its 2 shops, is one. So is the wonderful bread shop to the north of the old town. Many competitors remain but that was different, patronised by locals, not just tourists.

On the other hand, Salamanca looks more prosperous than Avila and some other towns I’ve recently visited.

Hotel

Returning to the Eurostars Las Claras Hotel was an unmitigated pleasure. The guy on the desk recognised me, well, the combination of me plus pack. He was sweet. I was early and had to wait 2.5 hours if I wanted one of the higher, front, rooms. No problem. I never tire of the view.

  Walking along familiar streets in this city is such fun. I’d wondered if I was silly coming back here when I should have been serious-walking somewhere. No. Walking here, through the big, central plaza confirmed it was a great idea. Still busy despite the temperature and time of year.

  
I was looking for the vegetarian restaurant nearish to the hotel. Why, if it’s vegetarian, label something made of soy, ‘meatballs’? Or present other strange bits of culinary deceit and subterfuge. There are so many honest options for vegetables and fruit and nuts. The current menu there is both too creative and unimaginative for me. 

Found a better restaurant along the street past the Shell House. Thanks to Apple finally fixing the horrible thing it did with the iOS 9.3 update so I can now find out more about things around me.  I hate the thought of ever reverting to a pre-Internet world. It was a lot harder. A lot. 

Why would someone build and put so many shells on the outer wall of any building? Don’t know yet. And then there is a bit of stone carving I missed on the new cathedral: I’ve seen the astronaut and there is also a dragon eating something I must look for. 

Retracing Via de la Plata Camino route

Before touristing and chasing up on a museum I want to visit, I am walking this morning. Procrastinating, as the temperature is well below 5C and I’ll be wearing shorts. 

Finally off at about 9.30am. For the record, the temperature was about 1C. After a km or so, one by one:  gloves off, unzip jacket, polar buff off, then unzip vest and finally take jacket off. 

Yeah, I looked weird! Shorts and short sleeved t-shirt plus a vest would have been a prize winner had anyone cared! And of course they didn’t but I still didn’t do a selfie. Even I have limits! 

The yellow Camino arrows didn’t appear for ages. Good to see this style again, and this type of track with a village in the distance promising coffee. 

  The outskirts of the city were as horrible as I remember. Km of not much and then you’re in the country surrounded by unfenced paddocks, very soon after climbing over yet one more roadside barrier. Not a friendly camino at many of the big outer roundabouts. Again I forsook taking a selfie of my legging it over roadside barriers! ☺️

Loved the local bit of sculpture, a bull (always well hung here) and a dog (I’m betting a 3 legged poodle although the neck chain is a little heavy for one of them).

  Feel a bit better for having removed cobwebs-of-the-legs-and-feet. About 25km in total. Had I read the following ad on the way out i might have just tried the free 25′ session of electrical stimulation instead of plodding!

  
Real pilgrims today

I had a disconcerting encounter with a Korean pilgrim. I was surprised to find him in the bar at my turnaround point. I asked if he wanted to speak in english or Spanish. He said he only spoke english. Heaven help me it was awkward. He reminded me how I must look when it’s clear I’ve no idea of what was just said in spanish! He had many fewer english words than I have Spanish. And he had no Spanish. None. Plus he had a big pack for a little guy. 

Still, he’s walked 500km, from Sevilla and, my sympathies to him, he’s having problems finding the route. Showed him my great map app, Gaia GPS, the one that would have saved my sanity in 2013 as I wandered lost, again, around the inner parts of most Spanish towns I visited. Forget Via de la Plata being 980km. I did well over 1100km in parallel ‘explorations’. 😙
Walking back to Salamanca I met a pilgrim couple from Brussels. She looked like it was hard work but, again, they’d made it from Seville so far. And at about 2.30pm I saw a pilgrim by himself on the other side of the road. Seemed late to be heading out. 

Breakfast

Breakfast, coffee and toast with tomato, at the little cafe around the corner. 

  Jp would relocate the owner nearer home if she could. With good reason. It’s the usual size, old design, warm and, the woman who runs it in the morning is very personable. 

  
This morning I told her, in my execrable Spanish, how much I like breakfast at her place and how a friend and I had eaten there a year ago. She said she was happy about that. 

Dammit. I missed the critical word and had to ask her to repeat and then explain I am a bit slow when listening to Spanish. I could have said it’s like some people reading a thesis: the beginning and the end are essential. Except, you know my chance of getting that into Spanish in less than a few minutes….

Thinking of Spanish, I’m still searching for the ‘newspapers for idiots’, the ones that use low level language but not many colloquialisms. Think now they don’t exist so I pick bits out from a range of newspapers, whatever a cafe has. I’m doing better at reading now than I was. Still trying to spend time listening into conversations and watching TV. Many American programs are shown, synched. 
Lunch

I finally arrived at a restaurant for lunch at an appropriate time, about 3pm. Zazu’s was on my way home. So, why not. As always, the food is very impressive and the service average (or below). A vegetable mix, then pasta with tomato and chicken (wow) and then, a superlative strawberry soup. True. Oh wow. Even the coffee was very nice.

Ephemera

As a child I was always jealous of Prince Charles who had a little motorised car. This kid, whose father was busy preventing crashes into people, brought it all back. Sniff. Sad for me. 

  
And as a reminder of that very impressive Queen, Isabella:

   
discovery of America

   
and, conqueror of Granada (last bastion of the Moores in Spain). 

So far my favourite places this trip are Avila, Medina del Campo and Salamanca. 
Tomorrow: I’ll walk the opposite way along the Via de la Plata track, assuming the weather is ok. Rain is forecast for the weekend. Cross your fingers for me.

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